The big San Diego Comic Con was this past weekend, with comic publishers and movie studios showing up to make big announcements and try to generate positive buzz for new projects. There was, of course, more attention than usual going to DC Comics, as they made multiple announcements and conducted numerous panels about the upcoming DC Reboot in September.
And the more I hear about it, the less I like.
First, I really do try not to give in to the desire to scream “THEY CHANGED IT, NOW IT SUCKS” because that’s such a pitiful nerd stereotype. I mean, there are lots of things about the Reboot that I like. I like seeing a new “Blue Beetle” series. I like seeing a new “Static Shock” series. I like seeing a new “Batwoman” series. The previewed “Wonder Woman” art looks incredible. I don’t even mind all the costume changes — I can deal with a Superman who doesn’t have the red underpants, and I can deal with a Wonder Woman who wears pants. Granted, most of the new costumes are spectacularly bad (Hello, Flash. Hello, Arsenal. Hello, Starfire. Hello, every character in “Teen Titans.”), but most of those costumes will only last ’til the artists decide they want to draw the classic costumes again.
Nevertheless, the more I hear about the Reboot, the more I think it’s going to be a colossal failure.
How bad are things looking? Well, there was a report this weekend that Wonder Woman was going to have retractable pants. I’m pretty sure that was a joke — but the real announcements coming out have been so bizarre, I’m not really sure whether they were kidding or not.
Among other things:
- There’s still no indication that the new DC Universe will have a place for popular characters like former Batgirl Cassandra Cain, former Flash Wally West, or anyone from the Justice Society.
- Superman is going to be pushed as a grim, brooding, anti-social loner. In fact, Supergirl and Superboy look like they’re going to be brooding loners, too. This is completely counter to the past few decades, where one of the Man of Steel’s most unshakeable character points was his optimism and charisma.
- Batman has been active for just five years but has already burned through four sidekicks of varying ages. This is going to cause huge continuity problems — for example, Damian, Bruce Wayne’s son, is about 12 years old, but I doubt Bruce tangled with Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter (and Damian’s mother) Talia prior to becoming Batman.
- And something that just infuriates me. Remember Lian Harper? The five-year-old daughter of Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow — adorable and much-loved supporting character — who was shockingly killed at the end of the reviled “Cry for Justice” miniseries. Well, Dan DiDio announced that, in the rebooted DCU, the character never existed at all. What the heck is DiDio’s problem with the character? Jason Todd gets brought back to life, Deathstroke gets multiple unsuccessful series, Sinestro gets shoehorned into the Green Lantern Corps — but Lian Harper is apparently so hated by DC’s top brass that they have to basically kill her off twice? Seriously, DiDio, this next bit is just for you.
Other problems? DC’s PR blitz for the Comic Con seemed at times to focus less on promoting their new comics and more on insulting fans who had legitimate questions about the Reboot. People who asked why DC chose to hire an alarmingly small number of female creators were shrugged off and sneered at. At one point, Grant Morrison told female creators to submit their work to DC — despite the fact that DC doesn’t accept unsolicited submissions. DiDio insisted that DC only hired the best creators, implying that there were no female creators who were good enough to work at DC. I mean, last year, Marvel filled up three issues of the “Girl Comics” anthology miniseries with nothing but work from women, but DiDio doesn’t think any of them are any good.
Seriously, Dan DiDio thinks Rob Liefeld is better than Amanda Conner, Nicola Scott, Kathryn Immonen, Colleen Coover, Marjorie Liu, Devin Grayson, Ann Nocenti, Trina Robbins, Stephanie Buscema, Jill Thompson, Louise Simonson, Molly Crabapple, Nikki Cook, Ming Doyle, Faith Erin Hicks, and Carla Speed McNeil.
That’s not how you do PR. Any normal company would have your PR manager scrambling to fix the damage over the weekend, waiting in your office the next morning ordering you to stop speaking to the press, and telling his supervisor he needs a raise if he’s going to fix your disasters anymore.
I don’t wanna keep rattling on about this forever, so let’s hit another couple of serious issues about the Reboot and call it a day.
First, there’s this from Todd McFarlane. Now listen, I’m not the biggest fan of McFarlane’s comics — but he’s been running an immensely successful company for a couple of decades, and I think he’s making tons of sense in this interview, where he outlines his reasons why he believes the Reboot isn’t going to be successful for the company or for retailers.
Second, there’s an issue that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but which I think could cause major troubles for the Reboot. While most of the superhero comics are set in the present day, Action Comics and Justice League are both set five years in the past. It seems to me that’s something that’s going to cause tons of confusion for readers, especially new readers. Why is Superman a nonflying superhero wearing a T-shirt and jeans in one comic, but a flying, armored powerhouse in the other? Besides confusing readers, you’re also guaranteed to cause even more continuity headaches down the line.
And finally, there are the $64,000 questions: Why is DC being rebooted, and who ordered the reboot? The members of one of the Superman panels said the Reboot hasn’t been planned for that long — probably not much more than six months ago.
I don’t think this was an idea that came from within DC Comics. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Reboot was cooked up after Time-Warner started taking a stronger interest in the comics division. And I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the changes being made in the Reboot — dark, brooding Superman, weird costumes, increased emphasis on “dark comics” like “Justice League Dark” and “I, Vampire” and “edgy comics” like the new Wildstorm relaunches — sound exactly like what you’d expect a clueless Hollywood movie exec to come up with in an attempt to make comics “hip.” I think the whole Reboot was ordered from the higher-ups at Time-Warner — either from Diane Nelson, in her role as the head of DC Entertainment Inc., or from someone even higher up in the corporate hierarchy.
Is that a good thing? I mean, we expect the folks running Time-Warner to know how to make popular entertainment, right? Well, I do hope that they can re-create the success of the “Dark Knight” movies within comics themselves — but on the other hand, these were also the people behind the recent film versions of “Watchmen” or “Catwoman.” On the whole, I’m not particularly hopeful.