Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


DC Comics Relaunch Blues

This was originally written on July 12, 2011.

As many of you may have gathered from my Green Lantern v-log or just by knowing me, I’m a comic book fan.  I realize that the title comes with a stigma (one that it does not deserve), but it needed to come into the open to talk about this topic.  I respect people’s decision to avoid getting into the comic book trade because the feeling of having to go through 70 years of development and stories is daunting, though not required.  Why am I bringing this up?  Well, that’s also important to this topic, which has caused a lot of stir and upset in the comic community.

Recently, DC Comics announced that it was doing a massive relaunch of all of its titles, starting them from issue one again.  They’re allegedly doing this to pull in new readers that would normally be adverse to picking up something that, say, was the 600th issue of something, which most comics already don’t do.  This sounds all well and good, but the downside is what’s getting comic readers up in arms.  This isn’t just a relaunch, but a universe-wide reboot.  What this means is that the entire history of the world and the characters will be completely changed, some characters or aspects might be wiped from existence altogether and almost everything that’s been established for the past thirty-plus years will be gone in a flash.  In short, the stories that we’ve been following will be cut short and nothing will be even remotely familiar anymore.

This is upsetting to many existing fans who have followed the stories of their heroes for many years.  I myself have only been into comics for two years now, but even to me it feels like a slap in the face.  It feels like we’re being robbed of our opportunities to see our characters grow, maybe even pushed aside or ignored, for some people who may not even be interested.  It’s even more frustrating because it feels like we’ve wasted our time and money these past few years, since all of it might be written out of the history (DC is being very unclear about it).  But the worst part is that it’s impossible to describe how this really feels for us.  We can spend a long time talking about how we as a community feel, but the bottom line is that there’s no way for others to know how we really feel because it’s such a unique problem to comics.  Sports fan, business workers, even literature fans in geek culture would have no frame of reference for this.  You could say that it’s like throwing out the entire lineup and playbook for the Chargers so that they could bring back the original players and strategies, or like J.K. Rowling is throwing out all the Harry Potter books just so she can write Harry when he was living under the stairs again, but these don’t really do it justice mainly because there’s no logic behind it (in fact, I’m mostly sure that a good chunk of the original Chargers lineup is dead).

If you’ll allow me to be really melodramatic, this is the closest to what it feels like: You’re walking down a sidewalk on a busy street.  Further down the road, you see a close friend or a loved one crossing the street.  But further down the road, you see a car running out of control barreling right towards the person.  You want to run and push them out of the way, but you’re too far away.  It’s inevitable that the car will reach them before you do and you know that somehow, that car is going to affect them for the rest of their life.  Maybe it will cripple them permanently.  Maybe it will give them amnesia and they will be totally unrecognizable as a person.  Maybe the car will miss, but leave them traumatized.  Maybe it will just kill them quick and painless.  Now imagine the world slowing down around you so that it feels like two months before the car hits, but you’re still slowed with the rest of the world.  That’s essentially what this feels like for us, as we wait for the pen and ink to come down like a guillotine in September when this reboot is scheduled.

Pulling out of that, it’s not entirely like this reboot isn’t a little deserved.  Things in the DC Universe have gotten very messy and a lot of the heroes we’ve loved since we were kids have been treated rather shamefully in the past few years.  Superman renounced his U.S. citizenship in a gaudy publicity stunt and shameless plug for the writer’s personal beliefs, completely invalidating Superman’s status as the ultimate immigrant story.  Batman was temporarily killed after using a gun and now the first Robin has taken his place.  Captain Marvel got depowered.  Wonder Woman was put in a ridiculous costume that removes all majesty and presence from the character.  The Justice League roster is practically unrecognizable (though under a much better writer, this wouldn’t have bothered me as much).  Green Arrow became a murderer and his former sidekick Speedy became a drug-addicted villain after his ten-year-old daughter was brutally murdered.  The only titled character that has not suffered greatly is Green Lantern (movie aside), and that’s because current Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, has been working tirelessly for over a decade (before he got the head job) to produce top-notch stories for the character and succeeding.  All in all, we can see why a reboot would be a welcome idea around the staff table.  But this is writing around the problem, not confronting it.  As much as we want our heroes to be heroes again, we preferred they reclaimed their status in a glorious triumph, not because someone got screwy with the timeline.

The changes in question are also raising a lot of eyebrows.  What little information has been leaked from DC has been met with controversy.  Despite what I said before about Batman’s mistreatment, I’ve been told that Dick Grayson has been very good as Batman and that Bruce Wayne’s new series, Batman Inc. in which Bruce Wayne goes around the world and tries to find a Batman in every major city, is phenomenal.  So the news that Bruce will go back under the cowl, Dick will go back to Nightwing and Batman Inc. will be not be relaunched (the writer says it MIGHT go back up in 2012) is getting a lot of deserved flak.  Even more controversial is that the romance between Superman and Lois Lane is being dissolved.  The two have been happily married for at least a decade, so breaking them up so that Superman can pursue a romance with Wonder Woman is really not sitting well with anyone.  It was a bad idea when Spider-Man scrapped his marriage with Mary Jane in a deal with the devil (seriously, given the crap stories that Marvel’s produced for the past decade, they should consider a reboot) and it isn’t looking much better here.

But the biggest point of contention is Barbara Gordon going back to being Batgirl after many years of being Oracle.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain.  Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, was the first Batgirl and cemented her role as such in popular culture via the Batman animated series.  But all that changed in the 90s when the Joker shot her through the spine and paralyzed her from the waist down.  Not one to be stuck just because she was in a wheelchair, Barbara became The Oracle, who served as an information broker to the other heroes.  Accusations of fridging aside, she has since become one of the most important characters in the DC Universe and an inspiration to people with disabilities everywhere.  And now she’s going back to Batgirl.  Naturally, you can see how this would be upsetting to a lot of people, not only for undoing such a pivotal thing in the world of comics, but also for removing some of the diversity in the universe’s heroes.  And the worst part about it is that the counter-argument is perfectly valid.  Gail Simone, who will be writing Barbara Gordon and who previously advocated for her disabled status, had this to say:

“Arms and legs get ripped off, and they grow back, somehow. Graves don’t stay filled. But the one constant is that Barbara stays in that chair. Role model or not, that is problematic and uncomfortable, and the excuses to not cure her, in a world of purple rays and magic and super-science, are often unconvincing or wholly meta-textual. And the longer it goes on, the more it has stretched credibility.”

The truth of the matter is that she’s right.  Barbara was not born disabled nor did she receive brain damage, so there is no reason she should not be healed, especially considering that there is a character literally called Cyborg.  Arguments to keep her in the chair, while valid from a purely need-for-diversity-or-disabled-representation standpoint, now can sound really insensitive in a practical light.  The issue is quickly becoming a Terry Schaivo-level can of worms and it stands as the most controversial part of this reboot.

And yet, somehow the word reboot is not entirely accurate.  Despite the fact that a lot seems to be changing, it’s clearly not taking things back to the 1970s.  Many of the titles are dealing with issues and concepts that did not exist all those years ago.  Among the new titles are Red Lanterns, which only came into being within the last decade.  Similarly, Static and the new Blue Beetle, two characters that I absolutely love, are getting their own series, despite also being recent additions to the universe.  Even it’s talked about like a full-on reset button, it’s clear that they’re not resetting everything.  It’s a glimmer of hope that the entire history might not be erased, but until September, all we can do is speculate.

So the question at the end of the day is: Is this reboot a good idea or a bad idea?  My conclusion is that it’s just an idea with some very volatile things attached to it.  Personally, I don’t see the need for a reboot because of all the mythology changes, but I just have to wait and see if it’s handled well or not.  In fact, if I had to be honest, I’m actually a little excited for this relaunch.  I’m well-aware that it could go very wrong, but it really won’t do me any good to worry about it until then.  I know I mentioned a lot of bad stuff connected to this, but there’s probably a lot of good stuff that hasn’t been leaked yet.  While I think it’s a bit of a double-standard that the stuff Geoff Johns worked on in the past is the least hurt by this, I also know from personal meetings that he is a well-meaning guy and a great writer.  It’s a bit of a shame that his taking of the editorial seat got fans so excited, but that this is the first landmark of his reign of power.  I feel like they should have done this as more of an Ultimate Universe line, like Marvel did, but if this really doesn’t work out, they’ll probably pull another retcon to put things back on track.  I hope this weird little three-page ramble has given you a bit of insight into the goings-on of the comic world, if you weren’t walking through the door.  If you have any questions or concerns, just shoot me a line and I’ll be happy to answer and clear anything up.

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