Ever since DC announced their upcoming massive do-over, where all their books will stop and start over at #1. 52 books coming out altogether, and there will be changes aplenty.
Superman is losing his red trunks and his wife — because making Spider-Man’s marriage go away made so many fans happy over at Marvel — and he’ll almost certainly get a new origin, again. Anyone who’s ever been a (male) Robin will be out there somewhere in one of the dozen-odd Batman books. Wonder Woman will become… I don’t actually know what she is now, come to think of it. Many heroes will change, or be teamed up differently. Everyone gets new uniforms created by Jim Lee, so they’ll all be shiny, even the fabric ones. Possibly the most shocking change, Barbara Gordon will become Batgirl again after 20-something years of being the handicapped (and cool) Oracle. And forums and comics shops and Twitter have been on fire with arguments and accusations and praise and proclamations of doom.
My position: Hey, don’t look at me. They lost my loyalty years ago the last few times this was tried. Or, rather, they displaced it.
I understand the need for reboots. When you write characters for decades, you get a lot of backstory. You get new writers who want to try different things, even though they violate continuity. You get a drop off of new readers because there’s just too much history to understand before the new books make any sense. But if you start over…
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” was DC’s first attempt at full-scale restructuring, and it worked reasonably well, until writers kept sneaking back to use plotlines and characters from before and muddying the whole thing up again. And a few years later they tried again, and again… Both companies also fell in love with the huge summer crossover event, because fans will buy more comics if their favorite characters are pulled into a huge, complicated story arc, right? And sometimes those big events accompanied reboots.
And they lost me. Not completely, I still read comics. But the multiple-reset of characters and story arcs, the regular wiping of histories and the wholesale changes to comic lineups kicked me into a different appreciation of the art. Gradually, I stopped following the characters, and started following the writers.
I used to buy every Spider-Man book there was. After he got complicated and reset a few times and I had to keep track of which of my favorite Spidey stories now actually happened in whatever current reality he was in, I realized what I really liked was not any story about a web-slinging wiseass, but a good story about a web-slinging wiseass. Ditto Hulk, ditto Batman, ditto all the zillions of other comics I read. And the range of good writers is much, much smaller than the number of books I used to buy. Why waste my time reading a mediocre book just because I like the hero? I’m not missing anything; any major plot points will be retconned away in a few years anyway. But I know if I pick up a book by Peter David or Mark Waid or Warren Ellis or a dozen others I know I’ll enjoy it no matter who’s on the cover.
I’ve also found myself, over the last decade, preferring creator-owned comics or comics with defined story arcs with endings (Terry Moore’s “Echo,” Brian K. Vaughn’s “Y the Last Man,” etc) because I get a complete story with a single vision and an ending.
Which sounds like a good attitude, but it doesn’t help DC because now that I follow writers, I follow them everywhere. And sometimes they write for other companies…
So keep playing with your universe, DC (and Marvel). I hope it works for you, I have nothing against reboots — they worked wonders for Doctor Who and Star Trek — but I’ll just follow Gail Simone to whatever book she’s on now and give most of the rest a miss. Have fun! See ya next reboot!