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The DC Relaunch

Posted onJune 24, 2011 by     Leave a comment

Over years, many comic fans have become a cynical bunch – and for good reason. Continual events with the hype saying “nothing will be the same again”, only for it to be pretty much entirely the same; shock – and, more recently, often violent – deaths for no real narrative value; reboots and retcons of characters with whole ideas removed from their history and, perhaps the worst: the lack of permanency of death. So, sooo many characters have now died and returned that there really isn’t such a thing as a shocking death anymore. Nobody believes it.

So it’s maybe that earned mistrust which has created the online ire surrounding the DC relaunch. By September, all current comics will have wrapped up their stories and DC will relaunch 52 titles, all simultaneously starting at #1. Additionally, digital versions of the comics will be available on the same day as the print versions for the first time ever.

That’s quite major. There’s a lot about it over at Bleeding Cool.

There are things I can understand – if your favourite comic is not in the new line-up, for instance (Secret Six and JSA a reason for many people complaining). Or major changes to characters – Barbara Gordon back, roof-hopping as Batgirl, rather than the wheelchair-bound Oracle is source of much fuming (and I admit that I’ll miss Oracle). On the upside it did lead to a heartbreaking illustration by Phil Noto.

Phil Noto's Oracle Au Revoir

These comics aren’t even out yet. We’re promised that changes in the Bat-titles will all be explained in-story and Batgirl is in great hands with Gail Simone. Some of the JSA are bound to be around, even if it takes a while; probably some of the Secret Six, too – King Shark in Suicide Squad already, for instance. So why not look to new stories and new ideas that might be as good or better than the current crop?

And of course, the mentioned cynicism has many wailing that it’s all just a gimmick and it’ll all be changed back in a month/3 months/year. Maybe. But I doubt it.

But some of the hatred – genuine hatred – I just don’t get. There is a sense of ownership about some of the characters and comics that is quite baffling. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, “DC is not your bitch”. Some of the anger is just the witless barking of Marvel fans that despise DC (I’ve never understood this – and there are just as many people who feel the opposite way, equally ridiculously. It’s like saying “I only watch Paramount pictures”. Or  “I hate soup”). Some of it seems to be by people who really just hate comics, but seem hell-bent on turning up on forums to tell you so.

And there’s the specific reasons. OK, if you don’t like the costumes, that’s your opinion but why does it make you so mad? Most of what has been seen isn’t really that terrible; some of it’s rather good (Batwing), some of it odd (Zatanna with fishnets on her arms??), some of it bad (Midnighter) and some of it just a bit dated. But then, these are superhero costumes: what would a modern one look like anyway? Mostly, there’s actually little change.

Except for Superman, of course: no pants! Well, no pants on the outside.

Is this such a terrible thing? It’s been a joke for decades. Why not change it, exactly? Cape and S-shield intact will do me. I’m yet to see whether the concern about armour is really a misunderstanding of a revamped costume. You know: the costume that’s been unchanged for the best part of 70 years (and yet the same people angry about the change are saying that other costumes are too 90s?).

But that’s nothing compared to the renumbering. Action and Detective Comics starting from #1. Are they mad? Constant renumbering and restarts, as some titles – Marvel and DC – seem to have had, is, at worst, annoying. But the response to Action, especially, being renumbered is crazy. Why does it matter? I’ve heard comments as broad as “it’s disrespectful”, “a slap in the face to fans and creators”, “these hallowed books should not be changed”, “how can I sort this in my collection?”.

Step back and think about such comments. They’re comics. And it’s JUST A NUMBER. Yes, there’s a definite “badge of honour” sense when Action got to #900 recently but it wasn’t a sacred moment or anything (and was a disappointing issue, truth be told, which was a bit more relevant for me, at least).

So are comic fans just afraid of change? Their clutched and hoarded toys will no longer be the toys they remember? Your 500 issues of Action won’t seem as wondrous because any old Joe can get a copy of Action #1 in September?

Here’s the thing: less and less people read comics and the demographic is ageing all the time. The entire industry needs new readers. Younger readers.

Superman remains iconic and it’s a good idea to restore him as the first superhero – because he is. Now that means the JSA can’t really exist because, unlike most superheroes, they are tied to a specific era – World War II. So if you’re modernising the DC Universe, can you really have lots of 80yr old superheroes? Does WWII even mean anything to the current youth? And even if it does, would they want to read stories about their grandfather, let alone their dad being a superhero?

I doubt it.

So DC is going to relaunch its entire line. Wildstorm and Vertigo characters incorporated, some changes, some continuance. And digital, too – to try to entice new readers that might prefer the new delivery medium. More comics in the major shops so that the (sad) misconception of what a comic shop is doesn’t put people off from walking in. TV advertising for comics in August.

Mediaeval demons, westerns, war and plenty of superheroes. And Resurrection Man. Hot damn!

And Grant Morrison on Action, set a little before all else. Maybe giving us a weakened Superman, gaining in power over 5 years as he absorbs sunlight, tieing up with All Star, developing new powers, deciding on his look.

That’s speculation, of course, but what fun, if so! Comics haven’t got long to live if they don’t build a market soon. And of course it’s about money, bottom line, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be about great stories and art.

So you can keep all your ire and complaints. I choose to be excited by the change. Bring it  on.

If it all sucks I’ll walk away. If it’s all great I still might eventually. But not yet. And not before seeing for myself. I’m 44. If comics are still being written for me, that’s a bad thing. If I’m out of here because I don’t like them anymore but meanwhile, Action is selling 150,000 a month, that’s good. Like a friend I no longer see often, I’ll still be happy for their success.



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