I mentioned before that I've been struggling in writing about the DC Comics relaunch, at least in part because we don't know all that much. The fate of numerous characters still remain unspoken, not to mention exactly what shape this new DC Universe will take and what its heroes relationship will be to its public, and I'm keenly aware of that lack of information as I write.
I've also struggled because, if my perception of what DC Comics is trying to accomplish with their reboot is accurate, I've come around in large part to favoring the relaunch. This, as numerous commentators and bloggers whom I respect are still struggling with the relaunch, and while I also appreciate and share some of their concerns.
To that end, the following list of three "issues" regarding the DC relaunch, with "for" and "against" arguments following, reflect my own indecision about DC's endeavor -- how I think it can benefit DC overall, but how I think it could be perceived as slighting loyal fans in the process. My hope is that you'll share your own thoughts on the relaunch below, positive and negative, not in the least to help me clarify my own take on the matter.
ISSUE: Flash Wally West has been written out or somehow removed from the post-Flashpoint DC Universe.
FOR: As the new DC Entertainment positions itself as not just a serial storyteller, but an incubator for viable multimedia properties, their characters must become streamlined and more readily understandable. A telling of Wally West's origin must necessarily include the death of his uncle, former Flash Barry Allen, and this story within a story is too complicated to translate to other medias. Barry Allen, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Green Arrow Oliver Queen, and others are the definitive versions of the characters and the ones DC should spotlight going forward.
AGAINST: Wally West has been the Flash for over the past twenty years, and remains vastly more popular than Barry Allen. DC had no problem translating Wally to other media in the Justice League cartoon, so the same ought be true for a Flash movie or other endeavors. Comic books are not just the breeding ground for movies and TV, and the characters' histories ought not be dumbed down just for those purposes.
ISSUE: DC is giving the Justice Society concept a "rest," so says Dan DiDio's Facebook page, returning Superman to his status as the DC Universe's first superhero.
FOR: Most of the wider audience that DC Comics wants to reach correctly understand that Superman was one of the first comic book superheroes. They also associate him with DC Comics's most enduring team, the Justice League, and likely believe those heroes were the first of their ilk, too. When DC combined their Golden and Silver Age continuities after Crisis on Infinite Earths, they gave up Superman's "first" status, letting the Justice Society heroes predate him, in favor of Superman's Justice League membership. This creates an ongoing disconnect between what we understand as comic book fans and what the larger world knows to be true -- and both groups are a little bit right. This is a sticky continuity issue created over years of reboots, and simplifying it restores some of Superman's grandeur and removes an inevitable confusion for new readers -- where confusion, as with derivative origins, threatens to scare away new readership.
AGAINST: The Justice Society was DC Comics's first and one of their most enduring superhero teams. The team and its characters, including Green Lantern Alan Scott and Flash Jay Garrick, remain popular still today, letting alone that the Justice Society lead to such successful modern franchises as James Robinson's Starman. One of the cornerstones of the DC Universe is its legacy heroes, and to believe the concept is too complicated for new readers is not to give those readers enough credit.
ISSUE: DC will return Barbara Gordon to the guise of Batgirl with the September relaunch.
FOR: As with Superman, public perception is that Barbara Gordon is Batgirl, and the time it takes to disabuse a new reader of that notion risks losing the new reader entirely. Further, the origin of the now third Batgirl Stephanie Brown rests on understanding the origin of the second Batgirl Cassandra Cain and then also the original Batgirl Barbara Gordon. Barbara as Batgirl remains the simplest and most translatable origin for the Batgirl concept, with the greatest ties to the Batman mythos as a whole.
AGAINST: As Oracle, Barbara Gordon remains one of DC's most popular characters, aside from and including her enduring role as a symbol of strength and diversity (written about eloquently in Jill Pantozzi's Newsarama column). We've already seen that the Oracle character can translate to other media without problem, as in the short-lived Bird of Prey TV series. Again, old and new readers are more than capable of understanding the concept of legacy heroes; in Batgirl's case, the latest collection of the third Batgirl's adventures made the New York Times Bestsellers list. What readers lose in Barbara Gordon's return to Batgirl is far outweighed by anything they might gain.