There are a lot of varying reactions out there to the DC re-launch coming in September. While it is not a complete reboot, we do know that some characters are going to go through some big changes and major overhauls. I have gone up and down about it over the last few weeks. As a long time comics fan, my biggest concern was for continuity and how the characters that I love would be affected. We get attached to our characters and have an emotional investment in them and their stories. We don’t like the thought of a re-launch threatening the status quo because we feel DC is going to ruin or betray the investment we have put into them. I have a good enough grasp on the business side of the comics industry to understand that sales are not good, comic shops are closing and becoming more rare, and there are a lot of good titles failing because of a lack of readers. DC needs to sell comics to say in business and they need to lure in new readers for that to happen. As much as you may not like the re-launch, we need it to succeed. I have finally settled on being very pro re-launch and think that the examples of Batman and Superman show how it can be viewed as both good and bad.
Batman is probably one of the characters that didn’t experience a lot of change after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Other characters were rebooted completely, but not Batman. We saw a retelling of his origins in the “Year One” story arc, but the Batman universe did not go back to square one and start from the beginning. Dick Grayson was still Nightwing and his past history as Robin was intact and happened in the past. It looks like his continuity won’t be changed too much now, but there will be some change. It has been said that major story lines like “Death in the Family” and “The Killing Joke” will remain intact. There has been a natural growth and progression of characters in the Batman comics more so than any other titles. Dick has gone from Robin, to Nightwing, to being the Batman of Gotham after Bruces death in Final Crisis and continued as such in Batman Inc. Jason Todd died while serving as Robin. This had a big impact on Batman and his return via lazurus pit and evolution into a vigilante who isn’t afraid to kill stands as the polar opposite of the non-lethal Batman. Barbara Gordon was paralyzed by the Joker and because one of the first major characters with a disability. She continued to be a hero but in a different capacity as Oracle. We have seen these characters grow up and evolve and I would hate to see that tossed aside.
Luckily there doesn’t appear to be a ton of change coming to Batman, but what is changing is mostly for the better. Grant Morrison has told some great Batman stories and done some great things during his run, but I have hated Batman Inc. I was ecstatic to learn that it looks like there will be one Batman and it will be Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is Batman and the billionaire playboy is the mast that he wears, so it never made sense for there to be multiple Batmen. I was also glad to learn that this isn’t happening through a tweak to continuity. Dick returns to his Nightwing persona, but the press releases about it acknowledge that he was Batman for awhile. Damian will remain as Robin and Tim Drake will be Red Robin still. Even Batman Inc. is not going away and will return with Morrison still at the helm in 2012. While it looks like most things are intact, we also know some things are changing. We know that Barbara Gordon will be Batgirl once again, but how can this happen. “The Killing Joke” is still going to be acknowledged continuity and she was paralyzed and has remained so in the present. It is hard to see how this can happen without a tweak to continuity. I like the idea of Babs becoming Batgirl again, but want it done respectfully in regards to her being paralyzed and not through a continuity tweak. We can only hope that questions like this will be answered in the conclusion of the current story arcs in August or in the early issues of the re-launch.
While Batman’s continuity looks like it is going to remain largely intact, I think a good example of a character that needs to be revamped in a big way regardless of what it means to continuity is Superman. Superman was my first comic and the first character that I started to read regularly. I started reading comics post Crisis on Infinite Earths with the “Man of Steel” mini-series and the re-launched Superman title in the late 80’s. I have a preference for Batman today, but still love the character of Superman. That being said, I don’t regularly buy Superman titles anymore. Superman stories have not been good for a very long time and the character. In a few short years (75 issues) Superman went from being introduced anew to the DC Universe in Superman Vol. 2 No. 1 to revealing his secret identity to Lois, getting engaged, and then we saw the death of Superman in issue 75. I can name great story arcs for almost every other title that I read, but struggle to come up with any Superman. I can’t even come up with many that I would consider good. Most have been ok, but there have been a lot of bad stories in the Superman titles. To the point that as I stated earlier, I stopped picking up Superman comics regularly and they are not on my pull list at the comics shop. For such a great character, who was the first true superhero, his stories have become stale and there isn’t a lot to excite us about Superman. Anything good, like All Star Superman, has been done out of continuity. If anyone character is in need to a major revamp or reboot, it is Superman.
While I was pro-Continuity in terms of Batman, I just made the argument for Superman needing a reboot and it looks like that is exactly what we are getting. There will be 3 titles featuring Superman, Superman, Action Comics, and JLA. The reboot looks like it is going to be presented to us in Action Comics being helmed by Grant Morrison. It was rumored that when Grant went from DC to Marvel a few years ago, he left because he wanted to do Superman and wanted free reign to do whatever he wanted. DC did not want to give him that control, so he left. He has since come back and had a successful run on various Batman titles and has been the architect over the Batman Universe for the last few years. His stories may be complicated and take a few reads and need to be read in collected trades to fully understand, they are for the most part great, if not brilliant. He has had free reign over Batman and has proven that he can be trusted with such control and I am looking forward to what he can do with Superman. Why it looks like a reboot, is that Action Comics will go back to Superman’s beginning and tell the origin story and start at the beginning of Supe’s career as Superman. What also appears to be different is that it is rumored that his powers will return to what they were in 1938. This means no flying and no heat vision. What is interesting is that in the previews for JLA and Superman, he is very clearly shown flying and in one of the images his eyes are glowing read like they would when uses heat vision. I wonder if we will see a progression or discovery of new powers after Superman is already an adult.
Superman has had his origin story retold and tweak so many times over the years, especially in the last ten, that you have to ask “Why the F@#% are DC doing it again?” They just did Superman: Secret Origin not too long ago and “Birthright” a few years before that. Man of Steel remains the definitive Superman origin for me. While I would like to think that it is being retold because Morrison has come up with something amazing and he may have, but the real reason is probably because of the lawsuit with the families of Sielgel and Shuster. It has been rumored that DC needs to change some things such as the origin in order to avoid legal problems. Another big thing that is changing and has pretty much been confirmed, is that Supes and Lois will no longer be married. This makes sense if it’s a reboot of the character. I was against this at first as the Superman – Lois relationship is so important to the mythos and character, but then realized that they don’t need to be married or even in a relationship. It is Superman’s attraction to Lois and him wanting her to love Clark and not Superman, conflicting with Lois’ love for Superman that has always been important, not their being married. Their marriage plays such a minor role in the comics, that nothing would be lost by it being erased from continuity. Superman needs a clean slate and DC is giving it to him.
I intended to make the argument that the pro DC re-launch people can user Superman as their rallying point and the people that were against it can use Batman as the argument against it. What I ended up showing is that overall it looks like the re-launch is being handled in a very good way in regards to these two characters. Batman shows that they are going to make some minor changes to get the character back to the status quo with a respect to continuity and the history of the characters. It has a very “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” feel to it. Superman on the other hand, shows that they are willing to revamp or reboot the characters that really need it. I couldn’t be more excited for what is happening in September with DC. I know not all fans feel this way and this is what I have to say to you. Don’t boycott the re-launch because you don’t like the idea of it or the changes it may bring. You will just be making the problems with the industry worse and the whole reason behind the re-launch the titles is to bring in new readers and make the industry stronger. Get the first couple issues of the titles you like before, give it a chance. If you don’t like them after that, then fine, you gave it a chance. Pick up some titles you weren’t interested in before, maybe you will find them appealing and more interesting after the re-launch. I am sure DC expects to lose some readers, just don’t let them lose you due to your own ignorance.