Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Out With the Old

As I write this, the clock is slowly approaching 4am. And how am I dealing with these few sleepless moments? Well, I'm thinking about all the things that are going away today. That's right, I'm thinking about DC Comics' ginormous relaunch of their entire line of comic books.

For months the event has been hyped. They want us to believe that it's an even larger undertaking than the continuity reboot that followed the classic story Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1986. There's a part of me that wonders if people 25 years ago were feeling about DC the way I'm feeling now.

I grew up on DC Comics. In a way, I'm still growing up on DC Comics, even though I'm now 31 years old. In a lot of ways, the only DC Universe I know is the one that was created when the writers decided to eliminate the old multiverse idea and simplify things by having a single sandbox in which all of their characters could play. There were flaws in the system, as there are with just about anything, but it seemed to work for the most part.

From what I can understand about the pre-Crisis DC Universe, it was complicated and confusing. It was difficult for people to get on board with the stories because they were stories that had been playing out for 50 years. There was an unlimited number of universes where any number of stories could have taken place. It was hard to tell if stories should be considered canon or if they should be considered imaginary or if they simply happened on Earth-79, a world where nothing we know to be true was true.

But there must have been people who enjoyed that aspect of DC Comics. There had to have been those who loved that complicated continuity. Maybe they got angry when the Superman they knew and loved went away and was replaced by a less powerful version created by John Byrne in the now classic Man of Steel mini-series which rebooted the Man of Steel's origin story.

And now you have me. You have my generation of comic book geeks. This is the Superman that I've grown up with. This is the Superman I know. This is the Superman that was really, at the heart of things, Clark Kent. This was the Clark Kent that wasn't just some wimpy kid who was pretending not to be Superman. He was a confident, charismatic reporter for the Daily Planet who met and fell in love with Lois Lane. And as Clark Kent, he didn't have to compete so much with his alter-ego for Lois' affections. She fell right back in love with him, not because of his super-powers, but because of who he was: a boy scout from Smallville.

Now that's going away. In a lot of places in America, it's already gone away. As of midnight, DC Comics has officially launched their New 52, which effectively eliminates much of the continuity that we've come to know over the last 25 years or so. They've decided to do away with the old numbering system and start each of their titles at #1. Action Comics, which recently passed its 900th issue, is being relaunched at number 1. Detective Comics, which was so close its own 900th issue, is being relaunched at number 1. Some would argue that these are just numbers, but to a lot of people, these numbers indicate history and have a great deal of meaning.

The powers that be in the offices at DC Comics will probably make speeches about the importance of that history and the impact that the old numbering system may have had, but what it comes down to is that they're getting rid of it. It must not mean too much for them if they're willing to throw it out and start all over again.

I'll admit, there's a part of me that wants to be excited about this. Without the need to rely on what's come before, the writers are free to explore new options that they may not have had. With Lois and Clark in a situation where they've never been in a relationship, maybe there will be a new and exciting way for them to fall in love all over again. Maybe with Barbara Gordon getting out of her wheelchair and finally regaining the Batgirl costume, there will be new and exciting challenges ahead for her character. But it still feels a little like a cop out.

As someone who likes to write, I kind of feel that part of the challenge of writing is being able to take what you have and go with it. If you don't like the story that's been presented, change it. Find a creative way to deal with the situation and move on. Flushing the past down the toilet seems like the easy way out. And the way these creators are doing it really feels like the easy way out. They've picked and chosen which pieces of continuity they've wanted to keep moving forward in this new DC Universe. The Batman family is remaining virtually the same (except for that little huge issue of Barbara Gordon and her new lack of paralysis), as is the Green Lantern Corps. And why is that? Because their books were already selling pretty well. Since those titles were doing well in the market, we can leave those the same. But since Superman's family of books weren't consistently hitting the tops of those sales charts, his entire origin gets another overhaul. For what seems like the billionth time.

I'm trying not to be bitter. And like I said, I'm really trying to be excited about this change. But this is what fans do. We rant about the things we don't like and geek out over the things that we do. And how will I ultimately react to this great change to the status quo? I'll go by B&D Comics after work today and I'll pick up my comics like I always do. I'll give this new universe a shot. The writers and publishers at DC may be making a lot of people angry, but they've piqued a lot of curiosities at the same time. Honestly, I hope it pays off for them. If it doesn't, it might just be one more nail in the coffin of the printed word.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Loving comics for as long as I have, there are a lot of points you make that I agree with whole-heartedly. I too am a little scared as well as a little excited and want the best for the industry (and my store!) DC comics grew me up, and I still love 'em more than anything else. I'm along for the ride, no matter what! Where that ride takes me remains to be seen. Terry Baucom B&D Comic Shop