Trade Perspectives: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the DC Comics Relaunch

Friday, June 03, 2011

I've been reluctant to write about DC Comics's announcement of a "historic renumbering" of their superhero titles in part because the details seem to shift and grow so rapidly that any post might be immediately outdated (I started writing this, for example, when all we knew about was Justice League #1; I'm continuing amidst news of Savage Hawkman, Justice League International, and others; and just a second ago the news of the digital "combo packs"), and in part because I'm not quite sure what to think yet.

Again, I'm not sure what to think yet. I'm not sure anyone can be.

My worst-case scenario is that DC is going to reboot all of their titles back to the beginning. Superman fights an all-new Parasite for the first time; Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad save R. J. Brande's life and become the Legion of Super-Heroes; Green Lantern re-discovers the threat of Parallax. This becomes an opportunity for writers to basically tell the same stories over again with just slightly different trappings.

Other worst-case scenarios, solicited on Twitter: kanenwriter, that Superman might end up in a relationship with Wonder Woman; ElfGrove, that what emerges might be a less diverse DC Universe; SpeedsterSite, TheFlashReborn, Bullseye1984, and TomatoSurprise are concerned for the fate of the Flash family, Oracle, Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes, Question Renee Montoya, Batwoman Kate Kane, Batgirls Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, and others. All perfectly valid fears.

My "ah-ha moment" about my own worst-case scenario was that my worst-case scenario was personal to me. Of course I'm concerned about a line-wide DC Comics reboot; I'm a big continuity fan. And so I took what little information DC has released about their post-Flashpoint plans and concocted a surety in my own head that the very worst thing I could think of (comics-wise) was absolutely going to happen -- and I even considered, momentarily, whether my own comics reading time was at an end.

But the bottom line is, I realized, that I just don't know whether DC is restarting their continuity or not. We don't really know a lot of anything. It sure seems that Firestorm and Hawkman and Green Arrow are all starting from scratch. Then again, Booster Gold and Guy Gardner in Justice League International look pretty much the same, and I'd be pretty surprised if Batman Inc. goes under, or Gates of Gotham doesn't lead to anything, or the Batwoman series never emerges. Let alone the sheer inexplicability of the forthcoming Chase collection if there's no more Cameron Chase, or a new edition of Batman: No Man's Land if "No Man's Land" never happened.

So this is my statement of waiting and seeing, in essence. Most certainly there will be more to discuss, even perhaps by the time this post sees light, and I'll be back on this topic with a more trade-waiting-centered post not too long from now too (along with your weekly business-as-usual dose of reviews and analysis). And I'm eager to hear your takes on all of this as DC's news unfolds -- your worst-case scenarios, your hopes and fears for the new DC Universe, and your own take on all the hoopla; please chime in below.

Fingers crossed, folks. Just imagine.

UPDATE: This morning, DC has released information on the Green Lantern family of titles that really seem like continuations of the previous books, plus Geoff Johns's statement to the Associated Press that "Green Lantern #1 picks up a few months later" from the previous issue of the book. So maybe my fears were indeed unfounded ...
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22 comments:

  1. My worst case scenario for this would be the same as most I assume, that it would be a total reset of the whole DCU. I just wouldn't like seeing Dick Grayson as Robin again after reading the latest hardcovers and it would be a huge mistake to "erase" good material like Batman Inc. With the new Green Lantern news I'm now more hopeful that scenario wont happen. I'm keeping a positive attitude on the whole situation and I'm actually looking forward to what DC has in store for us

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  2. I, for one, am not worried about the new relaunch (I reserve the right to change my mind if no Batman title by Grant Morrison is in the Sept. solicits). I have hopes that, in the same way DC is changing their publication plans to be more digital-friendly, DC also becomes a little more book-store friendly (a more cohesive book-store strategy). Something along the lines of the Superman: Earth One campaign basically running all the time ("Come to Borders and see the all new, all different Wonder Woman, launching today" or something a lot better than that).

    The big rumors floating out there - younger Superman, Clark no longer married - are actually okay by me. I find "the timeline was changed by a maniacal villan" a lot more palatable reason for the dissolution of a marriage than "the devil tempted me". As long as they keep Lois a strong reporter/character, and never fall back on the "Lois could never figure out why Clark always left at the first sign of danger" trope, I think the idea has a lot of potential to be something we haven't seen before. Maybe Lois will be more like Chloe in Smallville - covering for Clark and having adventures of her own. I would read Action Comics featuring Lois Lane by Paul Cornell . . .

    Given the amount of lead time involved in Flashpoint, I refuse to believe that DC is going to throw the baby out with the bathwater - the stuff that was working will get minor tweaks (e.g. maybe some subset of Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown get relegated to non-existence, but Dick Grayson won't suddenly be Robin again), and the stuff that wasn't working will get wildly revamped by creators that love those characters. I have never had any interest in Firestorm, but Gail Simone and Ethan Van Scriver working on it has me interested because of how enthused Gail is about it.

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  3. I think the solits are saying Batman Inc finishes in sept,which explaines the delays and re-wrights. This seems like a corporate control method to make the comics and movies all interlock more,but who knows.

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  4. I'm making my way through Morisson's Batman (my third time) and it's great. It would be sad to disregard the work he's done -- and others creators. I understand revamping titles that haven't gone well but GL, GLC, BoP, and others that do well I think they should be left alone or if revamped, very little because there was nothing wrong with them.

    I'm trying to stay positive about this announcment. Already, there are some good things from it: Johns and Lee on JLA (though I hope Lee has quite a few issues in the can because I don't want this to turn into another ASB&R). WW by Azarello looks to be interesting, and who isn't excited for Aquaman -- Brightest Day is driving making drool for more Aquaman now!

    Off topic, I just read JMS Brave and the Bold trade and it was fantastic. Issue 33 is probably one of the best comics I've ever read. You should check it out CE.

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  5. Cue extreme parsing of words. As in, what does "[not a] reboot" mean? And does Green Lantern restarting "in a very different space" mean "space" as in mindset, or "space" as in universe?

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  6. We have confirmation from Comic Book Resources that the GL books will continue their ongoing saga in the aftermath of both Flashpoint and the War of the Green Lanterns:

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=32612

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  7. Maybe I'm/we're all being too picky, but I *don't* see that as pure confirmation yet. It seems that having four titles with Hal, John, Guy, Kyle, and the Red Lanterns would be a continuation of current continuity, but DC hasn't confirmed that straight out; further, again, when Geoff Johns says "different space" to the Associated Press, I think that's open to interpretation.

    Bottom line, I think this is what DC wanted. They clearly wanted the fans to worry for the continuity with the original announcement, to get us riled up and *caring*; maybe, further, they wanted to make it seem as though current continuity was out the window so as to attract new fans that are put off by continuity. And even with this Green Lantern announcement, they're not saying specifically "this is still the same as that," possibly because they want the overall public sense of this to be "new continuity."

    With the Green Lantern announcement, I agree that it *really* looks like the same continuity at least in some places -- but I for one wouldn't use the word "confirmation" yet.

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  8. Continuity is the PROBLEM. DC continues to produce incomprehensible line-wide events that don't just touch on continuity but are ABOUT continuity. It's bad storytelling, alienating even to the hardcore fan, and one reason the comics market is shrinking, and fans are growing ever older on average. The big thing here is digital distribution in my mind, but a return to simplicity in world-building would be a huge win.

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  9. The nice thing about time-travel stories is that it's pretty easy to shuffle some things and not others. Comics fans are well-enough versed in the sliding timeline concept that very few of us will bat an eye if the Nu Earth is one in which Bruce Wayne is now 10 years older than Clark Kent.

    This is my current theory/wild speculation - Bruce stays near 35 and Dick is the "face" of Batman in JL, etc. Clark will get a bit de-aged, so that the active trinity in the JL are all under 30, but Bruce gets to be old enough that Batman, Inc. can stay the course. GL will be basically the same - the "different space" might very well refer to the GLC reforming so that each GL doesn't defend their own sector of space (the perfect edict to enact if Sinestro comes back to the Green side).

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  10. I agree with Anonymous. One thing I liked about Blackest Night, and Identity Crisis for that matter, is that it was a story about the characters and something that happened to them -- they were not stories about the Multiverse, and they weren't stories that had as their goal to alter continuity. Infinite Crisis was, and so was Final Crisis. I had hoped that Final Crisis put the nail on crossovers-as-continuity hammers, and that Flashpoint would be a Flash-centric crossover like Blackest Night was a Green Lantern-centric crossover. No indeed.

    I tend to wonder how much of all of this relaunching is just trappings, and if DC's real goal here was the digital distribution. It stands to reason that if DC is going to roll out large-scale digital distribution, they ought do so with a slew of new #1s -- but would there be the slew of new #1s, or the entire event even, if they weren't trying to go whole hog into the digital market (a move I wholly approve of, by the way)?

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  11. Something that catched my attention is that, according the next link, the idea to reboot (or re-launch) the DC titles comes from a while ago, but never came to be because Paul Levitz was adamant about it. Check this out from another site:
    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/06/03/the-secret-origins-of-the-dc-relaunch/

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  12. Rumor has it that Geoff Johns admitted to some comicbook retailers that no one creative is happy with this latest reboot. he said that the WB liaison pointed out they hadn't outsold Marvel comics in six years and if they didn't change that soon, there would be a major house cleaning. so fire Dan DiDio ass. i'll take DC over MARVEL anytime i grew up on DC but i see why MARVEL says "crisis no we don't need a crisis to reboot our universe we got it right the first time"!!!.

    Check this one out:
    http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000245774&tstart=0

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  13. Regarding the Johns/Lee teeming up for JLA?. I don't know what I feel about it. I mean, I love Geoff Johns as a writer, and Lee is a great artist, but let's face it... I would rather them making something already exist, like Green Lantern or Flash, or even the Aquaman title that Johns was supposed to write.
    Something on the ongoing titles that makes it even greater, but NOOOOOOO, they have to reset things and do JLA of all things.
    Lets see if Lee, and his ever-busy agenda, can finish something for once.

    I would much rather he finish what he started on Batman: Boy Wonder than a remake of the JLA.

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  14. I find these suggestions very interesting: http://siskoid.blogspot.com/2011/06/flushpoint-dont-call-it-reboot.html

    I definitely don't think everything is getting rebooted, but as much as I sorta deplore this whole idea, I'm interested to see how it develops and I think I will pick up some "#1s" despite myself.

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  15. It certainly is sounding less and less like a full reboot. So far, it sounds more like a post-Crisis revamp; some things are remaining on course (like the Green Lantern stuff), while others are starting over (like Firestorm). Again, very much like the pre-Crisis/post-Crisis changes. Superman changed fairly significantly post-Crisis, but as far as I know, Batman didn't. Wonder Woman started anew, but if I remember correctly, the Green Lantern Corps didn't change one bit. A lot of characters post-Crisis history is the same as their pre-Crisis history, while other characters were totally rebooted. I'm getting the feeling that this is what we're seeing here in the "new DCU", and that we'll be talking about "pre-Flashpoint" and "post-Flashpoint" histories in a few years. :-)

    I also think they're going to take the opportunity to de-age a lot of their heroes (with Bruce/Dick being the trickiest, as they probably want to keep Dick mature, without making Bruce too old). I haven't read the new Flash stuff yet, so I don't know how they're addressing Barry's age, or the fact that his grandson (albeit, from the future) is running around at the same time, but it wouldn't surprise me if Barry's made significantly younger. How that affects Wally and Bart will be interesting (and I can see them as potential "casualties" in this). I'm sure they also want to reduce the number of redundant/legacy heroes running around.

    Overall, I think I'm okay with it, in that it doesn't instantly wipe out the history of the DCU (just alters parts of it, which they kind of do fairly often anyway).

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  16. Here's what I want. I want DC to produce a guide that tells me what changes and what remains the same. I can then make a decision on how I want to approach the relaunch. I'm not interested in spending lots of $$$ on books just to see what the big changes are because a)I'm not currently a fan of the relaunch and b)I hate the grade school way that information about significant changes is being teased. This information is crucial to maintaining continuity going forward into any new DC universe for fans of the previous DCU.

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  17. It's going to be a quiet 6 months or so for us DC trade waiters :o)

    D. Mark is understandably worried about Wally and Bart being potential casualties (don't even start me on the Wally situation), but there's a part of me that feels that Barry is already one to some degree. I wish Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato all the best (http://www.newsarama.com/comics/Manapul-Buccellato-DCNu-Flash-110603.html) - their enthusiasm for writing the title is undeniable - but can't help but feel a bit cheated that Johns isn't hanging around to guide Barry further into the DCU as one of their canonical members. Sure, Flash will get some time under Johns in JL, but nonetheless this feels to me like a bit of a Flash momentum killer. I'm trying to keep an open mind here and am more than happy to give Francis and Brian their chance; it's just that I know what Johns is capable of in bringing Barry back into his rightful place in the DCU. I know this must seem ungrateful with some incredible Flash work behind him ... but most of that was a different Flash, and Barry was my Flash well before that.

    One thing I wasn't so wild about in the above interview is the emphasis on "... showing the character learning who he is, and learning what his limitations are, so you'll see much of this through his eyes. Our Flash is learning. Barry is learning, personally and as a superhero". While you can never stop learning, Barry is no noob ... unless post-Flashpoint he is indeed a noob ? If the GL lineup is any guide, it's the same old Barry. Barry had 246 issues to learn about himself and the use of his powers. The 'personal' side I get - it could do with some added depth. But in other ways his learning curve isn't gonna be anything like that of the new writing team.

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  18. This 'reboot' strikes me as equivalent to the streamlining of continuity that happened post-Zero Hour, albeit perhaps a larger one, or at least more hyped.

    The similar 'bad-guy messes with history' plot made me assume this would happen from the off.

    What seems odd is that Geoff Johns along with 52 co-writers Morrison, Waid and Rucka seemed to be championing the 'it all happened' brand of continuity post-Infinite Crisis. I'm annoyed that he's gone back on this idea.
    The DCU is fast becoming the Geoff Johns Universe.

    There's a lot of concern regarding Morrison's Batman, and although I want Inc to come to a natural rather than forced end I feel Morrison's run has kind of exhausted the current Bruce Wayne's potential, what challenges does he have left to face?

    An younger Bruce or even Dick as the only Batman could have more story-telling possibilities.
    SPOILER: In Batman Inc Bruce says someone will not survive, could it be himself?

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  19. Just a note on Xavico's post above. That story has been debunked. That's not how it went down.

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  20. I appreciate the measured, well thought out post.

    I'm cautiously optimistic about the renumbering, and I call it a renumbering rather than a reboot because it still remains to be seen how much will be rebooted. In the last year or two I've started collecting post-Crisis DC trades and have amassed a pretty large number, and while it would be a shame to have them reboot so soon after I started reading, I'm not a lifelong reader so it wouldn't necessarily crush me. In fact, even if they do pull a complete reboot I'll check out what they change. I don't plan to rush to judgement because it seems like we still really don't know very much.

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  21. As an old school fan[i bought my first dc book in 1975, the jla jsa crossover that had the writers and artist as the villain...i know] and I have to admit, that it almost feels like Dc is telling us old timers " its been great, but you need to go" I was around for the first reboot in 1986 and i was for it. but i was also 16. Now im 41 and I feel like im on the outside looking in. sort of like Homer Simpson in the Homerpalooza episode. A freind of mine who is equally old and despensable feels the same way. I understand the evolve or die mindset, but why do they have to kick us to the curb? For the record, has anyone looked at the ideas for Deathstroke or the teen Titans and think maybe jim Lee had some old Image sketches laying around and said " f--k it ...no one remembers cyberforce"? seriously, whats with that sword slade? X-force have a yard sale. egad

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  22. The sentiment that DC is ushering out the "old timers" is one I've heard a bit, and it's understandable, especially if even some of twenty-five years-worth of continuity is about to change. I guess two things you can take comfort in are (1) the actual writers at DC aren't changing all that much, so even the newest characters can't be all that unfamiliar from the old; and (2) Geoff Johns is about the same age as you, and I don't imagine he really wants to ostracize his own peers, reports to the contrary notwithstanding.

    As for the Teen Titans and Deathstroke costumes? Yeah, I don't know.

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