Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Reboot Eve!

So after all the hype, doom-decreeing, dread, scorn, speculation, confusion, misinterpretation and pants turning into shorts, tonight at the stroke of midnight, a giant DC logo --> will descend from the heavens and Clark Kent will go to kiss Lois Lane, who will then slap him (possibly breaking her hand in the process) because they aren't married (and may never have been) and she has a new fella. Yup, the dawn of the DCnU is nigh! Let's cut the bullshit. This is gonna be huge! We're going to see record numbers on these books. NO ONE, no matter how pissed off they are, is NOT going to buy the shit outta these books! I mean, we can't complain if we don't actually read the books, right? Yeah, a certain number of fans have already made up their minds... they're either all on board or leaving DC forever. Those that will be exiting Earth left, have already decided that these are abominations and that's exactly what they'll see when they look at Justice League and Lee's stylized, hyper-detailed art and they will decry that Geoff Johns is an overrated hack and just Dan DiDio's goon.

Where do I fall in the spectrum of DC has always been lame! It's about time they updated their characters! and Fuck this new shit!? I dunno... in the middle? I'm not thrilled with it, let's just get that out of the way. I'm not! But DiDio's been pretty frank that they were hemorrhaging readers as-is. People were leaving the hobby (and technically, it is just a hobby) in droves. A lot have transitioned from monthly "floppies" to "wait for the trades." I do that with certain titles, because it's nice to have the whole story there for the enjoyment. Then there's the recession. Let's face it, money doesn't stretch as far as it used to, and at $4 a pop for something it takes you fifteen minutes to read (at most), comics are kind of an indulgence.

So, I suppose SOMETHING had to be done. And let's face it, when was the last time DC has EVER generated this much buzz? Have they ever? The death of Superman, maybe? But EVERYONE is talking about this and reacting to it. Marvel attempted to drum up interest in its current crossover, Fear Itself, by offering comic retailers the option of tearing the covers off of their unsold DC Flashpoint (the lead-in to this relaunch) titles in exchange for an ultra-rare Fear Itself book, that they could sell at a considerable mark-up. Every comic message board and fansite... THIS has been the leading topic of conversation since its announcement, yea or nay.

I'm in a weirdly zen place with all of this. I love my classic DC Universe... including tons and tons of classic, silly Silver Age tales. I have a small collection of Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane comics, many of which consist of Lois turning into some monstrosity or traveling through time or gaining super powers... none of which "really happened" in the (until midnight) current DC Universe. See, I came of age during the Crisis on Infinite Earths era. I started ravenously reading comics, old and new around the age of eight, so I quickly discovered the long and rich history of DC Comics and how it was explained that any stories prior to the early 50s took place on Earth 2, so there were two Supermen, one old (Earth2) and one young (Earth 1). Only the young one had his own comics. The older one just popped up in guest appearances every so often. Ditto Wonder Woman. There had been two Batmen, but the older one died, and his daughter continued fighting crime on Earth 2 as The Huntress (-->). There were also older parallel Earth versions of The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom and Hawkman, but those were different people altogether, with different alter egos, costumes and powers. Black Canary was originally from Earth 2, but came to live on Earth 1 (yet she remained remarkably youthful compared to her former allies). Ah! It was then revealed that Black Canary was actually NOT the original heroine from Earth 2, but rather her daughter! Thaaaaat's better!

And there were MORE! There was Earth 3, where instead of a Justice League of America, there existed a Crime Syndicate of America, featuring evil doppelgangers of Superman and friends! And the stars of that Shazam! cartoon I watched on Saturday morning? They lived on Earth S (later renamed Earth 5, which looks like an S in comic book font) and occasionally met up with the heroes from the mainstream DCU. In one of my earliest comic books, Wonder Woman teamed up with other female heroes from different Earths, including Phantom Lady, who it turned out, lived on Earth X, a world where the Nazis had won World War II!

And so forth and so on. Then came Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC streamlined its continuity, removing all parallel Earths... not only did they no longer exist, but they never existed to begin with. Extraneous characters like the older versions of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman were removed from all continuity. There never had been a Superman or Wonder Woman or Batman in the 1930s-40s. Period. All those wacky adventures the heroes had had during the 50s and 60s? Never happened. In fact, Wonder Woman's ENTIRE history was wiped out and she debuted as a brand new characters that no one had previously encountered! The Huntress (and Earth 2's Robin) were killed... then quickly vanished from everyone's memory... they never existed either.

It was a jumbled mess, but fans rolled with it and DC saw sales skyrocket with the reinvention of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. Both Superman and Batman had their pasts revised to make them more contemporary and realistic. Gone were some of Superman's goofier powers like Super Ventriloquism. Batman's history was darker, grittier and more urban. (His supporting cast was likewise grounded. The former "bored socialite," Catwoman, was now a former prostitute.)

It all made sense with time... okay, some of it never made sense, but they did what they could to explain away the loss of Superman's time as Superboy and its impact on the Legion of Super Heroes. If Wonder Woman was just debuting as a hero, then what's up with her sister Wonder Girl who still has a history with the Teen Titans? Power Girl was the Supergirl of Earth 2. Now there's not even a Supergirl of Earth 1! They cooked up their "Pocket Universe Superboy" who served with the Legion and revised Wonder Girl's origin, removing Wonder Woman and instead making her a disciple of the "Titans of Myth" and renaming her Troia. And Power Girl was the descendant of "an ancient Atlantian sorcerer."

But ya know what? All those silly old stories from the 50s and 60s? They still existed. They didn't magically vanish into the either like The Huntress and Earth 2's Robin. I kept buying and reading those quirky, charming old tales and enjoyed the hell out of them, just as much as I did the modern comics of the time. Okay, so the "real" Superman and Batman never had to deal with that time Bat-Mite gave Batwoman super powers and she made a mess out of things. But A Superman and Batman did. They were a more jovial and friendly pair. They smiled a lot and had barrel chests and told kids to drink their milk. What can I say, I'm a sucker for nostalgia (even for a time from before my parents were born) and Americana. Heck, I was a kid! I was still reading Archie comics and these wacky tales were certainly no more silly than those!

What's more, the Super Friends comic, the one that got me into comics to begin with, that was its own universe! The Dark Knight Returns, the blockbuster book of the late 80s that everyone was fawning over? That was also not part of DC's official continuity. So even though they'd eliminated parallel worlds, they kept popping up, to the point that in the 90s, DC established its own imprint called Elseworlds, which featured alternate takes on its heroes, such as a Batman in Victorian times, matching wits with Jack the Ripper. And several characters like Swamp Thing and the Sandman, that had existed in the mainstream DC Universe, were then established as living in a separate comic line, Vertigo and were no longer part of the DC Universe. What's more, suddenly they never had been!

But I'd read the story where the Justice League interacted with Swamp Thing. Suddenly, that no longer happened? It was still a great story. So were all those Justice League stories that included Wonder Woman... they weren't cannon, but that didn't make them not exist. The Super Friends wasn't "real?" I still loved them.

And thus in a few short hours, everything that has happened since Crisis on Infinite Earths until the present will suddenly "no longer have happened." Or "maybe happened, maybe didn't." Or "happened, but in a different way." Been there. Done that. Further more, got over it. I survived the first Crisis and DC's slightly bungled aftermath. I think I can handle this. Worse case? Shitty comics. I can just not read those. Best... hell even just okay... case? Good comics. Fun comics. Fresh comics! Maybe even... great comics? Could that happen? These heroes have endured one continuity Crisis after another and they always manage to come out okay in the end. Supergirl? Died in the first Crisis. She's back. Different, but back. Batgirl? Paralyzed after the first Crisis. Oh hey, look who's back in her own book! Huntress? Back times two, actually. It might take years, but these guys are tough. They can handle it. Can we?

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