Rebooting the Universe

Last week, Elinor mentioned how much she’d enjoyed the latest issue of Zatanna, which she’d just read. I darkly commented that the powers that be at DC Comics had just cancelled it…

In fact, at the end of August, DC will cancel all of their comics. 

And then over the following month they’ll bring out 52 new comic series, all #1’s.

(This is a bit harsh on Action Comics, which had been going since 1938 and had reached issue #904.)

Many of the new comics will have the same titles, and even the same characters, but things are meant to be very different.

The in-story reason is that the superhero, the Flash, has travelled into an alternative dimension and by doing so, he causes the universe shared by Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and other heroes to be changed. The old familiarities of their shared fictional world are gone, which means that the creators can reimagine these iconic characters without the constraints of 50 or more years of backstory. 

While a cynic may think that this is a lot of fuss to sell more comics (like the previous short-lived deaths of Superman and Batman), I do think that being able to tell stories without being a slave to continuity is a worthwhile aim.

The only problem is that it’s been done before in the DC universe. Several times.

It began in the mid-eighties with the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where they killed off Supergirl and the Flash and merged several alternative worlds together. Everyone agreed that it made things much simpler and easier to tell stories without the reader having to worry whether the story was set on Earth-1, Earth-2 or Earth-S…

The problem is that it didn’t stick. The new stories soon resulted in even more complicated back stories and characters who were killed off came back. (No one ever stays dead in comics. Except Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben.) 

So they had Zero Hour. Then Infinite Crisis. Then Final Crisis

But the new reboot  is meant to really change things, with a completely new start. (For instance, Superman will no longer wear his pants outside his tights.) 

And, as I said, the intention is commendable – if it works this time.

But even if it does, some enjoyable comics have been cancelled – no more Zatanna for instance. And some of the current creators whose comics have been cancelled didn’t seem to have felt constrained. The final issue of Justice League of America had the heroes reminiscing about previously unseen adventures – adventures that the writer had probably meant to have filled months of comics if the reboot hadn’t come along. Adventures that would have included a giant robot gorilla attacking Tokyo.

And any reboot that means I don’t get to read about that, can’t be all that good…

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5 Responses to Rebooting the Universe

  1. Al, you write so well.

  2. arricc says:

    Personally, for me I think the Christian Bale version of Batman will be the definitive.

    The whole reboot thing is a con, and I wish I could reboot certain aspects of my job but it’s just not possible.

    Of course, the whole thing would go out the window if the writers were to realise they could just construct self contained stories which did not need to reference and thus be contiguous with 50 years of back story. It’s the whole idea of “everything must be canon” that is a nonsense.

    A good story is a good story. So things don’t tie up all the time. Who cares?

    • While there’s a nerdy part of me that enjoys how comic writers track and use 50 plus years of continuity, it can become a noose around the neck of creative new stories.

      Back in the 50’s DC used to have “imaginary stories” where Superman could be absurd as they wanted, without it affecting next month’s comic. But as Alan Moore pointed out, aren’t they *all* imaginary stories?

      X-Factor is a comic that seems to find a middle road, using characters and history from other comics to tell new and interesting stories, but not being caught up in the crossovers and “events” that just annoy the readers.

  3. Pingback: The Ephemeral Year in Review – 2011 | Pointless Ephemera

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