Reboot to the Head

Yeah, the DC Reboot is still going on. And it’s still looking like a disaster.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t see the future, and it might turn out fine. Always beware geeks pronouncing DOOOOOOM. And I have no idea what DC’s secret plans may be.

Having said that, I still say it’s looking like a disaster.

Let’s be optimistic and start with stuff that looks good. Because there are a number of comics on the list that sound good and that I’ll probably pick up.

Yeah, I’ll pick up “Batgirl.” I complained about moving Barbara Gordon out of her role as Oracle, but it’s written by Gail Simone, who is one of DC’s best writers, and who has made it clear that she cares about Barbara as a character and is aware of and sensitive to all the issues involved in de-handicapping a prominent handicapped character. I trust that Gail is awesome enough to make this a great comic.

I’ll read the new “Wonder Woman” title, entirely on the strengths of Brian Azzarello as writer and Cliff Chiang as illustrator. I loved what they did in “Dr. 13: Architecture and Mortality,” and I think they’ll do excellent work again.

I’m overjoyed that there’s going to be a new “Blue Beetle” series, starring Jaime Reyes, with what looks like his original costume intact. And it’ll be set back in El Paso. It’s going to be written by Tony Bedard and illustrated by Ig Guara.

I’ll pick up “All-Star Western,” written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. It’s basically gonna be Jonah Hex with some Western guest stars, and that sounds pretty good, especially in the hands of Palmiotti and Gray.

I’ll read “Static Shock,” because I loves me some Milestone characters and because it’s written by John Rozum and Scott McDaniel, and because the art by McDaniel and Jonathan Glapion looks excellent.

I don’t want to fill this up completely with images of covers, but I’ll also read the new Batwoman ongoing, several of the Batman series, Swamp Thing, and maybe Justice League International. I might pick up some of the supernatural-themed comics, but I haven’t decided if they just look too freaky for me or not.

Of course, some of these comics just look awful. And now we shall look at them.

Well, hi there, new version of Superman. Yes, they got rid of the underwear-on-the-outside — and the costume still sucks. Why does Superman need armor? I do not know. But just seeing it makes me not care. I’m really unsure that even Grant Morrison can make that guy interesting.

Well, hi there, new version of Superboy. Apparently, you’re a robot now. I will not be reading you.

Here’s another image of the new versions of the Teen Titans. See, it’s just as bad as you feared. This Superboy has a completely different costume than the one above, and he doesn’t have a logo on his costume at all. There are also three characters who no one can identify. This is going to bite the wax tadpole.

There’s the new Suicide Squad. Harley Quinn is the one in front. Paul Dini should punch someone very, very hard. Oh, and King Shark is now a hammerhead. Apparently hammerhead sharks are cooler than great whites. DC doesn’t know anything about cool, do they?

They’re putting out a new “I, Vampire” comic. You should refer to it as “I, Twilight,” and you should not read it at all.

Besides that, we’ve got comics starring new, high-tech, hyper-violent versions of Blackhawk — I’m sure the kiddies will love reading about these characters who haven’t been interesting in decades. We have a comic starring the grandson of Sgt. Rock — instead of, say, reading comics about the original Sgt. Rock, who was legitimately awesome. We’ve got high-profile comics for characters who haven’t been popular in ages, like Hawkman, Captain Atom, Deathstroke, Jason Todd, and Aquaman. Wildstorm characters like Grifter and Voodoo are getting books, as well as Stormwatch, which will, oddly, co-star the Martian Manhunter. And we have the absolutely insane fact that DC is going to let Rob FRICKIN’ Liefeld draw a comic book for them.

It’s looking a lot like DC’s plan for becoming more successful involves trying to make their comics look like 1990s-era Image Comics. Good luck with that, guys. Not even Image looks like ’90s-era Image anymore.

Let’s also consider that the new DC, supposedly a much more diverse universe, has only one female creator — the aforementioned and impossibly awesome Gail Simone. (CORRECTION: notintheface at Stars and Garters points out that Amy Reeder Hadley will be handling art on the new “Batwoman” series.)

Let’s also consider all the series that we, for some reason, will not be seeing. No Justice Society. No Power Girl. No Secret Six. No Stephanie Brown or Cassandra Cain. No Captain Marvel. That’s a lot of stuff I really, really liked getting tossed on the junkpile. “Secret Six” was one of the best comics being published, the Justice Society books were bestsellers for years (not recently, granted, but still…), and Bryan Q. Miller’s “Batgirl” was an amazingly fun comic. And I’m really a bit astounded that “Power Girl” is getting cancelled. I mean, Jason Todd, Voodoo, and Hawk and Dove get comics, but Power Girl isn’t popular enough? Is it possible that DC Comics is actually just pranking us?

And with this many of my favorite comics getting the axe, do I need to start worrying about whether or not “Tiny Titans” is going to make it?

Ultimately, what irritates me the most about the Reboot is the staggering marketing failure of the entire enterprise. Yes, DC is getting a lot of publicity, but they’re also doing serious damage to their brands. I assume Time-Warner knows what Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, and Jim Lee are up to — and that means either they’re mad enough to think this is all okay, or they think DC is such small potatoes that they just don’t care.

Okay, here’s how I would’ve handled a reboot at DC.

First: I would keep in mind that I was rebooting DC Comics, not re-creating ’90s Image. That’s going to be a serious problem going forward for DC.

Second: costumes. Limit the major costume redesigns to minor characters. You can redesign costumes for Booster Gold, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, and Captain Atom all you want. But you don’t give Superman armor. You don’t give Wonder Woman long pants.

You have to remember that most merchandising of your characters is going to include the classic costumes. You don’t have to make ’em look exactly like they did in the ’70s, but you’ve got to try to keep most of those classic looks intact, partly to keep the marketing folks from killing you, and partly to make sure that new comics readers actually recognize the characters in your comics as the same ones on their Hot Topic shirts.

Ya know what else? Don’t have a single artist redesign your costumes. Jim Lee is a good artist, but when you have him redesign everyone, you end up with a lot of superheroes with pop-up collars, and that looks silly.

Third: Remember that your goal is to sell more comics. Not to get written up in USA Today. Your goal is to sell more comics. So yes, do what you can to bring in new readers. But don’t alienate your current readers. You have to remember that you need them, too. Will they still yell and complain about every single change you make? Yes, they will. But make sure your changes can be defended as something other than publicity stunting — and don’t make them all hate what you’re doing.

And finally and most importantly: Remember that your reboot is absolutely guaranteed to fail. None of them have ever managed to permanently change the status quo. “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was undone. Same with “Zero Hour,” same with “Infinite Crisis,” same with all of them. The DC Reboot is going to be undone, because, well, how could it NOT be?

You have to design your reboot so that, when it’s eventually reversed and the old ways are brought back, the un-reboot doesn’t end up making you look too embarrassing and clumsy. Do it for the sake of your comics, do it for the sake of your readers. Do it for the sake of your own dignity and future job prospects, comic creators.

Thus endeth the lesson. Let they what has eyes to see and ears to hear and noses to smell absorb the teachings and go forward into the glorious future.

EDIT: Some corrections above — and I wanted to point out this list of all the Reboot titles — which includes not only the many characters and titles that are being abandoned, but also the very, very many creators who are getting left out in the cold.

1 Comment

  1. JD Said,

    June 12, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

    As someone else said elsewhere, if they’re going to do this, take a year, and give your current line kickbutt endings.

    Then do more or less what you just said.