It’s all over the web now. The DC Universe is being wiped clean and restarted in September 2011. New costumes, new characters, and, of course, a whole slew of new #1 issues. In total, 52 new first issues of the DCU’s superheroes and super teams will be released over a 5 week period. This includes new issue #1’s for both Action Comics and Detective Comics. Reportedly, the characters will be more hip, tech savvy, visually updated, younger (in several cases—including Superman), and more relatable to according to by the comic book reading public according to DC Comics masterminds Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. In a letter sent to comic book shop owners and retailers from Bob Wayne SVP Sales DC Entertainment, Wayne states, “In addition, the new #1s will introduce readers to a more modern, diverse DC Universe, with some character variations in appearance, origin and age. All stories will be grounded in each character's legend - but will relate to real world situations, interactions, tragedy and triumph.” (The full letter can be read here.) This sounds pretty good overall, and at first I felt that it just might be what the DCU overall might be in need of. Then I saw this…
"Flash Smash!" (Too many muscles.) Where's Hal's ring? Silver instead of gold for WW? The high collar on Superman must go. Looks like the Red Son Supes...
…and read some disturbing things about my personal favorite hero. A hero that I have followed religiously since 1986 (and before, but in a much more child-like way), and who is in many ways the cornerstone foundation of the DCU, will have his story heavily revamped. Superman most likely will not be married to Lois Lane anymore and rumors around the web comic book community are hinting that he and Wonder Woman will be an item. This may be simple wishful thinking on the part of some fans, but a horrible fear to many others. Essentially, everything that has been published about the Man of Steel since 1986 is going to be wiped away. This major reboot, which is essentially looking to be the most sweeping changes to DC Comics’ heroes since Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), just might go down in history as the COIE of the 21st Century. This reboot will not only affect Superman though, every hero’s origin and story will be tweaked. If I’m reading this right, you can completely forget relevance of the recent published Superman: Secret Origin, Green Lantern: Secret Origin, Green Lantern: Rebirth, Batman: RIP, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis (forgetting this one isn’t such a bad thing), Flash: Rebirth, etc, etc. Granted, aspects of these series will be carried over. The Color Corps currently dominating the storylines in Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, and Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors aren’t going anywhere. The real motive behind this reboot is, of course (and completely understandable), to generate sales. Herein we come to the most important questions: Will these new titles sale and will the long term (and moneyed) older readers continue reading? The answer to these questions can possibly make or break DC Comics.
It never happened...!
I am one of those long term reader/collector of comic books, current DC Universe titles being the titles I spend the most on. When I was very young, Marvel Comics were the titles I read the most. I left them very shortly after X-Men #1 (1991), which started out brilliantly but went downhill very fast, was published. All things in the Marvel Universe began to mirror what was going on in the X-Men titles, and the quality of their long term heroes such as Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man were hitting all time lows. I came back to Marvel Comics briefly with the introduction of the Ultimate Universe and the replacement of Steve Rogers with Bucky Barnes, but these story lines didn’t keep my interest overall for a long period. Marvel Comics’ continuity has become so convoluted (see Wolverine’s incredibly complicated and downright annoying back story), that Marvel Comic’s heroes would actually benefit from something like what DC Comics is trying to do with their heroes…except that Marvel Comics already tried this and failed miserably. With DC Comics and Superman though, I never found a reason to leave since COIE. This time might be coming. I have literally grown up with the post-COIE Superman. His battle with Doomsday, his marriage to his life long love Lois Lane, and everything else that has shaped him over the years has shaped my view of, and reading relationship with, the character. Now, with apparently a great deal of this to washed away or (worse yet) retold, will I find a reason to keep reading and more importantly buying?
This never happened either...?
Hopefully, I will find what they are doing with Superman (and consequently Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Green Lantern) to be incredible, relevant, fun, and mature. Possibly, I will find myself waiting for the next installment of Superman: Earth One so that I can have a Superman that I can relate to and want to read about (again, as a major spender on DC Comics—Hey, by the way DC Comics…how about some comp issues of these new series’ first issues? I’ll write on every one of them. Convince me that I want to read issue #2. I’ve been a pretty proficient writer about Superman and Green Lantern…oh well, doesn’t hurt to ask). Irrevocably, I will have to close the door on the Superman I have enjoyed reading about for 20 plus years. Is this how Silver Age readers felt about the demise of their Silver Age Superman? I really have to wonder…were there readers as dedicated to that Superman, a character who really, really, needed to be updated?
Time is going to tell how this reboot works out. It might garner a whole new readership, and that would be great for DC Comics. It might end up driving its most moneyed fans (pre-middle age adults in their 30s like myself) away. I will read the rebooted Superman and Green Lantern series for a while at least. If I like them, I’ll keep reading. If I don’t, then I’ll no longer be a source of revenue for DC Comics. I know that I speak for a great deal of my generation’s comic book buyers, but not all of them. Again, time will tell how this all pans out. Change is good, sometimes even necessary, but a revamp or reboot isn’t technically a change. It’s a gamble. It’s a gamble that I want DC Comics to win, but am not convinced they will.