Some completely biased speculation on the DC reboot

DC Comics recently shocked fans by announcing that this September the DC universe will undergo a massive reboot, quite possibly the biggest in the publisher’s history. Such big changes with so little time to adjust have led many online fans to condemn the move before it even happens. Meanwhile, rumors suggest many comic retailers are unhappy about the way DC is handling the change, with sales of current DC titles dropping as fans abandon stories that could be completely disregarded in September.

I have been personally following the “Reign of Doomsday” story currently filling the pages of Action Comics. The story is set to end in August’s Action Comics #904, which, it turns out, is going to be the last issue of the current volume of the title. Come September, Action Comics — along with 51 other DC titles — will be starting over with issue #1.

While the renumbering suggests major new beginnings, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio was quoted in USA Today saying, “This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.” If that idea of making characters appeal to “younger” readers made you roll your eyes, you’re not the only one. Sounds like DC is trying to be “edgy” and as history has shown, people love when you mess with long-established characters to make them edgier. Remember when Warner Bros. (who happen to own DC) tried to make Looney Tunes edgy? No? Google Loonatics Unleashed and see what happens when marketing people think taking anything “to the extreme” is automatically cool.

Electric Superman

It's happened before.

There’s nothing wrong with making changes to characters and storylines, but the new numbering is bad move. It might make a few new readers feel more comfortable starting a series with issue #1, but DC is risking alienating their current readers with the move. Some might see resetting everything back to #1 as telling current fans the time they’ve invested in current series doesn’t matter. Others, myself included, see resetting the numbers of the most famous comic titles in history for the sake of a marketing ploy as disrespectful to those who built DC’s empire. Action Comics #1 is the holy grail of comics. The comic world does not need a second volume with the same title, and the move disappoints me as fan.

Sure, DC characters have had their histories rewritten numerous times in major crossover stories such as “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and “Zero Hour,” but this one is different. Prior rewrites had genuine purpose in cleaning up sloppy continuity and bridging the gaps between the various ages of comics. This new one isn’t even trying to hide the fact that it’s nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Perhaps that’s because it is more and DC is less reluctant to talk about that. DC has not being doing all that well in a long-fought legal battle with the estates of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster over copyright issues relating to the Superman character. So what better way to eliminate some of the red tape than to revamp the character?

new Superman costume

The new Superman costume

The are two Superman solo titles currently running that are being “rebooted,” and rumor has it Action Comics will be set in the past exploring changes to Supes’ history while Superman will show the hero as he is today, complete with a “modernized” costume. The changes to the costume are minor, but they look ridiculous. Not as ridiculous as the short-lived “Energy Superman,” but ridiculous and unnecessary nonetheless. A few new lines here and there give his suit the look of cybernetic armor, which seems unnecessary for a man who is already indestructible. The signature red tights are gone, and it looks like Supes is rocking a blue turtleneck under his armor, which should make it harder for Clark Kent to hide his secret identity in the summertime.

Even though Superman is my favorite character, I’m not one of those fans that is against changes to him in principle alone. Real people change over time so why shouldn’t the ageless superheros we read about? But the reasons for those changes do matter, and if the only reason Supes is getting a makeover is so DC execs can avoid legal problems, I’m expecting ham-fisted adjustments.

cyber-supes

Superboy's new look. Edgy.

But it’s Superboy whose changes best symbolize why I am skeptical of this reboot. Besides the fact that the Superboy title just restarted earlier this very year, the new post-reboot Superboy looks like he woke up from the Matrix inside the Tron universe. That’s right comic collectors, there will be two completely different issues of Superboy #1 in 2011 alone, and Superboy, is ditching his t-shirt and jeans for a cybernetic bodysuit. These changes just reek of the contrived “edginess” I mentioned earlier.

But at least Superman and Superboy are sticking around. I spoke with the sales clerk at a local comic shop about his thoughts on the sudden changes, and while they seemed intrigued by a few, they seemed more annoyed that instead of a reboot, several characters are simply getting the boot. We both agreed it would have been better to see these changes form an alternate universe (think Marvel Ultimate) rather than replace the existing characters. Who knows, if the new characters are not well received, DC may attempt to revert things back by doing just that.

Like I said, it’s happened before, and it will likely happen again, but only time will tell how permanent these drastic changes are to the DC Universe. As a longtime fan I am not seeing anything to be enthusiastic about, but I won’t be boycotting the new series either. At least not at first.

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