The New 52 was meant to be a way to jump start the DC Universe. It was a way to take the familiar characters and make them more new-reader friendly. A lot of the characters have been around for close to seventy years. Even though the last major reboot of the DC Universe in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS was just over twenty-five years ago, so much has happened and today's comics can be daunting for new readers.
The answer was to start things over in a way. It wasn't a complete reset or do over as some of the characters retained their previous histories and we've seen some others that have remained pretty close. The problem is we haven't been completely told what has or hasn't happened with many characters. We're not sure what is staying the same or whose origin is going to be completely changed. The comics may be new-reader friendly but they don't really seem old-reader friendly. Some changes we're seeing feel like they were a last minute change and we've already seen conflicts within titles in less than two years.
We were given a rough 'five year' time period in which most of the superheroes were established. In that period, we've been able to, for the most part, assume that most of what happened before could have somehow still happened. As the new stories unfold, we're seeing that isn't always the case and in other situations, we're discovering that there's no way key events could have happened. What DC needs to do is firmly establish the history of the New 52.== TEASER ==
Some may say we shouldn't get hung up on the past. Worry about continuity is just a way to nitpick at the stories. It's difficult to look forward when we're not sure what has happened in the past. What was Batman and Poison Ivy's first encounter like? Did Superman die fighting Doomsday? If so, how much did it affect Lois? Did Nightwing ever lead a team of heroes? What changes happened to the Blackest Night and Brightest Day stories? Was Coast City destroyed? What was the Flash's first encounter with the Rogues?
These questions could be answered in the regular comics. Sometimes we'll see little mentions such as Dick Grayson saying in NIGHTWING #1 that he just finished filling in for Batman. But why did he decided to wear read on when going back to his Nightwing persona?
We've already seen some back peddling in some stories. We know about the change of Tim Drake never having been called Robin and was always known as Red Robin despite mention in BATMAN #1 and TEEN TITANS #1. The fact that the reference was erased in the TEEN TITANS trade is insulting to readers and makes us wonder why the change was needed. If there is a bigger reason and an upcoming story, that's fine. It just feels as if changes are happening with no rhyme or reason. It's hard for readers to have faith in the characters and their histories when what we've seen DURING THE NEW 52 is already being reverted.
Then there's other changes to characters origins that feel like they've just been thrown at us. Are we going to see a bigger reason why Catwoman's history has been completely retooled? If you know her history over the decades (or watched our 3-Minute Expert video), you know she has had a few different origins in the SIlver and Golden Ages as well in BATMAN: YEAR ONE. When changes like this are made, is everyone on board with them? We're starting to get the feeling that everything we know or think we know about the characters is susceptible of being completely changed.
Change isn't always a bad thing. If handled properly, it could be a big benefit in fleshing out and modernizing characters. Seeing Barry Allen's early days or Mr. Freeze's origin have been highlights in the New 52. Wonder Woman has been going through big changes and I can't remember the last time people raved about her series this much. What many readers simply want are answers.
Last September DC had their 'zero month.' All issues had a zero issue looking back at the characters' origin or early days. It was one way to give us some of the answers that we've been looking for. If you look at the Diamond sales estimates for August, September and October, you can see that sales did go up for most titles. People do want to know where their favorite characters are coming from. I've proposed a year ago that I'd love for one of the Batman titles to go back and explore the early days. Maybe a full fledge 'year one' series might be too much but there are too many questions and last minute changes happening.
What we need is a firmly established outline for the characters. If changes are going to be made, I want everyone on board with them. Seeing Catwoman as a Russian orphan or Tim Drake having a different last name just feels like it was thrown at us without a clear explanation. Instead of seeing random obscure characters given new titles in the next 'wave' of New 52 books, maybe we should have something explore the early days. Perhaps DC could bring back SECRET ORIGINS to firmly establish what has or hasn't happened.
You can only do a character's origin once. At least that's the idea. Having changes made a year or so after the New 52 started just feels sloppy. Having the histories written in stone now may limit what future writers may want to do but established histories are pretty much what we always had in comics. Even Marvel's attempt to jump start their comics with Marvel NOW! isn't retooling characters' origins. DC needs to lay down the framework for their characters rather than have a random change occur that could result in a disaster.
Some of us may be hung up on the past but these characters have always had rich histories. It's time to sit down and iron out all the details. We can't have changes made left and right whenever a writer or editor feels like it. It's undermining the aesthetics of the DC characters we all love. You have to have a strong foundation before you can start building. If DC wants the New 52 to last, they need to convince us there is a framework for the entire universe. We don't need all the answers. There can still be some surprises. We just need some answers and an indication that there is a plan for everything.