Reboot Hill

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.


  1. Gary Said,

    July 25, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    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.

    Wally’s definitely gone, no official word on the JSA but Cassandra is around, just not as Batgirl.

    At one point, Grant Morrison told female creators to submit their work to DC

    While I’m not a huge Morrison fan, I expected better than that remark – it just seemed like a really flippant thing to say.

    Seriously, Dan DiDio thinks Rob Liefeld is better than Amanda Conner, Nicola Scott…

    Totally with you here – why is that man still getting work?!

    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.

    Have to disagree here – what’s so confusing about comic A being set in the present and comic B set in the past?

  2. scottslemmons Said,

    July 25, 2011 @ 8:45 am

    I think it’s unlikely that Action and Justice League will open every issue with “The events in this issue happened five years ago.” That’s fine for comic fanboys who will keep track of this stuff — but they’re hoping to expand their readership to non-fanboys who will wonder why Superman dresses differently in different comics, why Batman has Dick Grayson as a sidekick in one comic and Damian Wayne in a second, why there’s no consistency from one comic to the next.

    The fanboys, of course, will be watching for continuity errors and will crow about ’em plenty.

    Ultimately, I think it’s just needlessly complicating things.

  3. Richard Said,

    July 25, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    I agree with all of the above, except for one point, and that one point is entirely speculation on my part. I can imagine the impetus for a line-wide shakeup being a desire to please corporate higher-ups, but the idea of a “continuity reboot” and the specific details thereof seem more likely to come from DiDio himself. I seriously doubt anyone higher up at Time-Warner would even be aware DC Comics had something called “continuity” or care whether or not it was in effect…much less specifying “Superman’s continuity will be reset, while Batman and Green Lantern will continue with their current status quo.” A hardcore fan may think “Batman and Green Lantern were the big hits at DC, so of course they’re being preserved relatively untouched while other series are rebooted” but a hardcore fan’s notion of a successful title is utterly ludicrous in real world sales terms. From a Hollywood perspective, the biggest success in print comics is an abject disaster. Time-Warner executive: “I nearly passed out from laughing so hard…but seriously, how many copies do you really sell?” I can’t imagine anyone at Time-Warner above Diane Nelson taking the slightest bit of interest in any of the creative choices. I could be completely wrong about this; the argument from credulity is always untrustworthy.

    (On a side note, it’s the half-assed aspect of this that most offends me aesthetically. I’d be glad to see the line restarted every twenty or thirty years, with an Earth-2 to Earth-1 type changeover and a totally new Flash and new GL, et cetera. If they’d used this current approach in the Sixties we’d never have had a Silver Age at all!)

  4. Buryak Said,

    July 28, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

    I can honestly say that they just lost themselves a customer in me. Everything about this seems surreal. From all the 90’s style art making a comeback(which I loathed then and especially now) to Grant Morrison saying and acting like he’s given up on writing things with substance and cashing in his intergrity to his bosses… Bizarro Grant, if you will. Seems very out of character for a guy who wanted to change the way people looked at and read comics.

    I hate Dan DiDio. I figured he was alright when I read that he loved the Metal Men as a kid, but it almost seems like he’s trying to destroy the DC Universe. Sounds like a huge statement (and a tad bit nerd jaded-ness… or maybe a lot), but it almost seems that he’s pandering to people who aren’t going to buy comic books anyway. People like to see superhero movies, but how many of them are going to go out and start collecting comics because of the movies? Some, maybe? But is that a reason to alienate the fans who really love the storytelling form and have supported them for years? Kinda insulting. It’s almost like he’s saying, “What have you done for me lately?” to the long time fans. Dick.

    I think there is some validity in the suggestion that Time-Warner’s stake in the matter has set this change… which will effectively wash away the charm which DC and it’s rich history once had for potential profit making. This seems like Marvel’s Heroes Reborn abortion from the 90’s to me. Are they going to bring back the foil variant covers too? I’ll just wait for the poor sales and the re-reboot, when they have yet another “crisis” to reset the DC Universe back to where Superman smiles and comics were written for people who like to be entertained by masked heroes punching the crap out of dastardly flamboyant villains… for JUSTICE!… not cash.

  5. Penny Dreadful Said,

    August 25, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

    Wally and Donna Troy are benched, not gone. My suspicion? Wally will probably return in 2-3 years with a new alias and origin story. Just a possibility. Assuming DC knows what they’re doing (which I kinda doubt).