Monday, June 20, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the DC Reboot

Now that some of the dust has settled on this DC non-reboot reboot, I figured it was a good time to reexamine DC's crazy ass stunt. Not for nothing, the DC brass has certainly captured the attention of the comic reading public. They've grabbed the limelight away from the House of Ideas, and it'll be theirs to lose if this thing doesn't pan out the way they're hoping. Let's break it down.


Between the attempts at overly tight publishing schedules (see Countdown), the rapid reversals (See the death and return of Bart Allen), and the unclear, piecemeal nature of their in-continuity history (I'm looking at you, Power Girl), DC was in desperate need of a continuity overhaul. Things were getting a bit overly convoluted. For me, no other character exemplifies this convoluted continuity more than Jason Todd.

I dig the idea of Jason's return as much as the next guy, but I always cringe when I have to explain how he came back: Superboy-Prime, the recently powered Clark Kent from "our" Earth, got bored in his pocket dimension - that he shared with a different Superman, different Lois, and the good Lex Luthor - and started beating on the walls of reality, sending shockwaves through the fabric of time and space which resulted in the sudden un-death of Jason Todd.

You can imagine the looks I get.

It's shit like that that keeps people from diving into comics. When you have to know something from 25 years ago just to start to understand the insane reasons why another character is suddenly around, people get understandably squeamish about jumping into the monthly grind. DC recognizes this, I'm hoping, and are attempting to make things a bit easier to understand.

Plus, as I read in an interview with Scott Lobell (incoming writer on Teen Titans and Superboy) over at Bleeding Cool, most of the old continuity that worked will still be around. It won't be a wholesale reboot, so you don't have to worry about trying to figure out complete new histories on your favorite DC characters.


If you're not going to do a wholesale reboot, then what's the point?

As happy as I am that I'll still be able to talk about those characters I haven't read about for ten years, DC shouldn't be concerned with what I think. When it comes down to it, this not-reboot reboot ought to be more similar to Crisis on Infinite Earths - where everything basically starts over - instead of the significantly less effective method that was Zero Hour.

Do you remember Zero Hour? When they tried to clean up the lingering continuity issues left over from the then-ten year old Crisis by explicitly resetting the timeline and instituting small fixes along the way to make everything more cohesive? Do you remember Triumph (one of the founding members of the JLA) and Alpha Centurian (The first hero of Metropolis)? Of course you don't. No one does, because everything went back to the way it was within two years of Zero Hour. And if things continue like this for DC, this new non-reboot reboot will end up the same way.

The root of all of this, though, is rebooting in general. If you're trying to make your published books less convoluted, adding on yet another qualifier is not the way to do it. For instance, right now, if I want to talk about when Triumph was a member of the JLA, I need to specify that I mean the post-Zero Hour, Pre-infinite Crisis JLA, as opposed to Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis Pre-Zero Hour, or soon the Post-Non-reboot-reboot JLA. It's problematic.


The politics of reboots/restarts aside, the most fun part of this whole thing should be the new costume designs. What a great opportunity to tweak their icons to make them look their best for a new discriminating reader.

Or so I believed until I saw this:

As much as I want to sit here and rip on these costumes individually, other, better writers than myself already have. You should check out their reactions because they're all totally spot on. Instead, I'd like to focus on the global issue here: These aren't DC Costumes.

What I've always admired about DC is that every great hero in their roster is backed up by one glorious, instantly recognizable (for comic fans) symbol. Hell, they just did a big line of variant covers showing off that fact. They've been able to access world wide recognition with the simple awesomeness of these symbols, that I'm sure every other publisher wishes they had.

You can see the progression of those strong iconic symbols through the major publishers. DC, because they came first, have the strongest, simplest, most well-known symbols. Thrown in almost any context, you know what those symbols mean. Marvel came next, and while they have a few icons (The X, The Skull, and the 4), they're individual characters don't have the same appeal. For example, the spider needs the red and blue behind it so you know it's not just bad clip at, The star needs the blue and the stripes underneath it, and so on and so forth. Instead of iconic symbols, Marvel instead had iconic costumes (purple pants, red and gold, four circles) to make their characters pop. And then there was Image...

When Image came around, things like symbols and iconic costumes were somewhat passe' and you can see that in the majority of their original character designs. Everyone looked generic, with splashes of color underneath their overly complicated accouterments and grimaces. In veering so far away from the simple, they made their characters too much work to care about, which is why, I contend, that no one's clamoring for Spartan, Badrock, or Brick to return to anything... ever.

The point is, these are Image costumes, not DC costumes.

DC's on the verge of screwing up the best thing they have going. If I were them, I'd seriously consider getting someone other than Jim Lee (Who's normally fucking awesome when it comes to costume designs) to simplify these needlessly complicated and ultimately forgettable costumes.


In the end, I'm really intrigued to see how this all plays out for DC and the rest of the industry. Given the track record though, I'm going to be preparing for the worst though.

Good thing I only read Marvel books, right? I just hope they don't get any 'bright' ideas.


  1. You praise Jim Lee and bash him in the same breath. Though, I don't think you realized it. These costumes look like IMAGE costumes, because they are. Jim Lee originally left Marvel to start Image and very likely had a lot (if not total) creative input to the designs of those characters.

    And.. they're okay..

  2. That's totally intentional.

    I dig 90% of Jim Lee's designs, or at least 90% of his redesigns. From the underrated Kyle Rayner suit to the amazing Jason Todd up there, and even all the 90s X-Men stuff he did, when his stuff is good it's fucking awesome. Hell, I still dig his Wonder Woman redesign.

    However, some times he's just not quite there and falls back into that Image way of thinking (Or the people he works with are of that ilk, because I don't think Lee was the one that designed all the Teen Titans, I believe that was Ken Lashey).

    I think Lee works best in spurts. A Green Lantern here, a Cyclops there, he's awesome and knocks them all out of the park. However, sit him down to redesign everything and suddenly his work suffers a bit. I'm just saying, I've seen better and expect better from Jim Lee.

  3. The main problem with the reboot, in my opinion, is that it's a marketing decision with a story loosely attached after the fact. It was obviously conceived as a way of boosting sales (fifty-two new #1 issues! YAY!), but it doesn't seem like there's any real overall story to go along with it. From the sound of it, some comics will be starting fresh while others will continue right where they left off. That doesn't sound like a particularly cohesive narrative strategy to me, and that's something I would think you'd consider when trying to pull off a reboot of this scale.

  4. Well said, Marc, I totally agree.

  5. I'm glad you pointed out "Zero Hour," because I feel like it got lost in all the hysteria. The fact is that DC has done this before, and it didn't work. It won't work this time, either. As much as they want new readers, they can't afford to lose their existing readers, who are too emotionally invested in the existing chronology.