Thursday, July 14, 2011

Masks of our Fathers

Karen: We don't talk much about current comic books here at BAB, because we're focused on the books we dug in the past. But I can't help but notice what DC is now doing with their line. Soon, they'll be renumbering all their titles, starting at number 1, and there will be changes to the characters and the history of the DCU. It sounds like another restart that isn't a restart, in the same way that some books and characters were sort of rebooted after the original Crisis and some weren't. We all know how well that worked out. To me, it feels like DC is desperate to find some path to topping Marvel in sales. I have my doubts whether this will work, but time will tell.

The thing that surprised and disturbed me the most however, was to read that Superman will now once again be the first super-hero -which means that all those heroes from WWII, the JSA and others, no longer existed. There isn't even a JSA title announced. I've always thought that the multi-generational aspect of the DC universe was appealing -and also set it apart from Marvel. With the JSA, JLA, and the Teen Titans, we had three g
enerations of heroes all co-existing. There was an aspect of passing the baton, of the older generation helping to spur on the next . I for one liked that. I liked the Jay Garrick Flash meeting up with the Barry Allen Flash. Or Alan Scott's Green Lantern teaming with Hal Jordan. Heck, I even liked it back when there were two Supermen, two Batmen, etc! Of course, that was also back when the JSA was in a different reality...

I'm wondering if these characters are being shelved because DC thinks its too confusing for readers? DC hasn't said exactly what they are doing with these characters (not anywhere that I've read anyway) although Dan Didio said they will be "resting the JSA concept", whatever that means.

I'd like to hear your thoughts, how do you feel abo
ut DC losing the multi-generational concept that has been around so long? Or if you'd like, comment in general about DC's plans.


dbutler16 said...

DC thinks this will make it less confusing? How about not rebooting every 5 years instead?

Anyway, I’ve heard a lot of rumors, but I think I’ll take a wait-and-see approach with whatever DC is doing. I suspect this is another misguided attempt by DC to catch up to Marvel, however.

As far as the multi-generational teams, I do like that aspect of DC. I agree that Marvel doesn’t really have anything quite like it. Actually, the JSA alone is multi-generational. They’ve got Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and Wildcat, along with a bunch of much younger heroes. The older ones tend to mentor the younger ones. I was quite surprised that DC didn’t announce any sort of JSA title. This is one of the things I miss about the multiverse of old. You could have your cake and eat it, too. That is, DC could have Superman be the first hero, but still have the JSA exist, albeit on a different earth. The multiverse was another thing that set DC apart from Marvel.

Jonathan Stover said...

The most recent run of JSA established that the JSA also exists on one of the 52 parallel Earths (there's also a Charlton Earth and a Captain Marvel Earth -- we met the Captain Marvel and the Captain Atom of those Earths in FINAL CRISIS: SUPERMAN BEYOND). More confusion!

I'm actually happy with returning Superman to being the first big public superhero and moving the JSA off to its own universe.

Captain Marvel would also benefit from being left on his own jollier, more kid-friendly Earth --I'm not sure if there's any major character who's been less well-served by the last 25 years of DC continuity than Captain Marvel (well, OK, Power Girl and Donna Troy and Hawkman -- but Captain Marvel's a way bigger character historically speaking than those three put together).

Jonathan Stover said...

I should add that you really could have your cake et al., as Superman was the first major superhero on Earth-2 right up to the Crisis reboot, at which point all the universes went into the salad spinner.

Rip Jagger said...

Right now I'm engaged in a little summer project reading all those classic and highly excellent JLofA and JSofA crossovers in chronological order. It's totally fun and full of great storytelling.

Getting rid of the mutliple Earths and the rich history of the DCU proved to be a disaster which was mostly undone over the decades since the first Crisis.

Reboots are always problematic. They appeal to those who want jumping on points, but as many have shown a jumping on point is also a great place to jump off. I did that when Marvel revised the Avengers, a title I'd followed for four decades. When that title ended, I saw no need to follow the doppleganger that rose from its ashes. Sure it has proven to be a success overall financially, but for me personally as a former Marvel Zombie is was a breaking point. I left.

DC might find the same thing. They will find a dash of interest, and a wave of sales, but sadly I fear they may lose longtime readers in an unprecedented way. They might feel they have to do something, and maybe that's true. I hope I'm wrong for the good of the industry overall, but I fear for the worse here.

Rip Off

Dougie said...

I was just thinking today that Shazam(the Original Captain Marvel)is surely the ideal choice for a superhero movie franchise. It has all the qualities of Harry Potter: magic; plucky kids; a bald,ugly villain-even three heroes emblazoned with lightning bolts. Ah, probably a bit too wholesome for edgy, tattooed, moshpit DC.

Edo Bosnar said...

I'm not sure what to think of the re-boot. Since I do not follow any ongoing comics, nor do I intend to, I can't really say I'm overly concerned. If this truly lives up to the hype and marks a fresh start with great stories being told and rekindles interest outside of the current rather static fan community (doubtful), then more power to them (incidentally, I think the first Crisis back in the mid-80s did accomplish this, at least initially, before fizzling out sometime in the 90s).
As for DC's multi-generational aspect - yes, that was always cool (and I used to absolutely love the JLA/JSA team-ups), but if the JSA is defined as a team with its origins rooted in WW2, then I can see how it would become increasingly problematic to keep using them in "modern" stories.

Al said...

Now I know there are a lot of people who would hate this idea, but what if DC simply had Superman debuting as Earth's first superhero back in 1938. Afterall - he's Superman - he doesn't age as normal people. He could still be relatively young looking in the modern time, and carry with him a wisdom and experience of an older man. DC could explore his adventures in different eras and in different 20th century historical settings. Now this would call for some very creative writing when dealing with the Clark Kent aspect, and especially figuring out how to include Lois Lane in the mix. But who's to say that Clark didn't hit the scene until about 10 years ago? There could be a whole story line explaining why Superman feels the need for a secret identity after so many years as a public figure. Past love interests could also include Lana Lang and Lori Lemaris who have aged over the years while the man of steel hasn't. Anyway - it's just a thought.

ChrisPV said...

This reboot is gonna tank for one very important reason: the creative talent behind it. Seriously, look over the names here. Jim Lee. Bob Harras. Rob frickin' Liefeld. Those names sound familiar? They should. Who here remembers Heroes Reborn?

The other problem, almost as damning, is that it isn't even a reboot. If they did that, it'd be kind of cool. Give all of the extant versions of these characters their own version of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and start totally afresh. Maybe this version of Hal Jordan won't be dull! Maybe this version of Superman will marry Lana Lang! Maybe this version of Batman will actually smile on occasion!

(Incidentally, the fact that there isn't going to be any real proper wrap-ups to these already running series makes me think this was something that came about almost overnight. Hell, I've seen the October solicitations. There are already fill-in artists.)

But that's not what we're getting. Geoff Johns' titles (Green Lantern and Flash) are not only not being rebooted, THEY'RE MAINTAINING MAJOR STATUS QUO CHANGES from right before the relaunch. Batman still has four Robins running around, all with their own book. But, suddenly, Cyborg is a founder of the Justice League. So all of those great Teen Titans stories from the 80's? Yeah, they're probably gone. Superman as you know him? Sorry, you've got some kind of new social crusader thing going on.

And don't even get me started on folding in the Wildstorm characters. They're incompatible. Why, on God's green Earth, do you need gay analogs of Superman and Batman in a universe where Superman and Batman already exist?

Sorry if this got ranty. My big problem is that, as I've spent more time with them, I honestly think DC has better characters, as a whole, than Marvel does. But it's like the management has spent the last ten years doing everything in their power to flush it all down the drain. I'm beginning to think that WB thinks DC comics is a lost concern, and is actively trying to get them closed down so that they can focus on marketing the characters in other media.

Oh, and most of the redesigned costumes suck on toast.

ChrisPV said...

And it just occurred to me that, in my nerdrage, I didn't even really answer the question! As for the JSA, I never read a lot of their stuff beyond the odd guest shot in JLA, Flash, GL or the like, but I always enjoyed them. I like that Dick Grayson grew up, that there are four generations of Flashes, and the like. I think it adds a lot of unique color to the DCU that you just don't get at Marvel.

Of course, I could go into ANOTHER rant about how lame it is to bring back Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, and Ray Palmer in light of that, but we'll just save that one for another day. ;)

Karen said...

As I expected, a lot of interesting thoughts from all of you today.

My husband, who is more of a DC guy than a Marvel guy, has had all DC titles removed from his pull list at our LCS. His reasoning is that these last few issues of the DC titles before this new reboot won't matter, and the storylines may not even get finished. Makes sense to me. Whether he'll actually pick up any new titles is another question. As Rip pointed out, this is also a great jumping OFF point for readers too.

I just wonder, how annoyed will the readership be if this turns out to be a one year stunt, ala Heroes Reborn? What if this is just Earth 27 or whatever, and DC goes back to the old universe?

As I said, it reeks of desperation. All the events, arbitrary changes, etc, just don't mean a thing without good stories behind them. DC, the answer to your problems is this: hire talented people and let them tell good stories.


ChrisPV said...

If this tanks, and I honestly kind of hope it does, then I would be shocked if we didn't have a "Bruce Wayne wakes up in the shower" moment, and then we all just pretend this never happened. I just can't see this incredibly poorly done reboot picking up enough new readers to offset the ones who'll leave. The digital thing is cool, but who in their right mind will drop three bucks on a ten minute read they don't even technically own?

I firmly believe this is DC Implosion, Mark II.

Roygbiv666 said...

I love the jSA. The only "problem" with them is that we are fast approaching the 100 years since WWII started date (1941 for the Yanks). Having the characters not ages isn't a huge problem (it's superhero comics), but the gap between the end of the JSA (mid-1950s) and the next superhero group ('10 years ago'-ish) just grows an grows - wasn't there any crime 20 years ago?

Yup, a soft reboot is horrible. If they had actually planned this thing (it doesn't seem like they did plan it) they could have taken the opportunity to do "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? " storylines as you say. And they could do that over and over every x years when they want to reboot - talk about having your cake and eating it too!

"hire talented people and let them tell good stories." - amen, sister.

Of course, I haven't bought a new comic in over a year - space is running out and digital sounds pretty good sometimes...

William said...

Don't worry, DC may be able to erase their own "imaginary" comic book history and characters, but they can't erase actual history (at least I don't think they can). So, all those characters and stories still exist in the comics that they originally appeared in. For example, I still have issues of the Justice Society and the New Teen Titans sitting in long boxes in my closet. As far as I know, they will still be there for me to read and enjoy even after DC goes ahead with their stupid reboot.

Remember these are all just imaginary characters that exist at the whim of whoever happens to be in control of them at the time. Just look at it this way - If you suddenly found yourself the owner of DC Comics and all the characters therein you could, with a few keystrokes, undo any crap that has been done to them recently or in the past. You could even reset the whole universe to the time before the original Crisis if you wanted to. Simple as that.

My point is that creators come and go and nothing they do really matters all that much in the long run, because the next guy can just come along and put it all back the way it was before if he chooses to. Let's face it, the JSA of the 1940's ceased to exist a long time ago. I mean those characters would probably all be dead now anyway. Same goes even for characters like Spider-Man. The character that he was back in the 60's and 70's no longer exists. There's a new version of Peter Parker running around the Marvel U today who has very little in common with his earlier incarnation. I mean, for many years it was canon that Flash Thompson had served in Viet Nam. That would make him somewhere near 60 years old today (and Peter Parker as well). Obviously that's not the case, so as far as I'm concerned, all those great old Silver and Bronze age Spider-Man comics exist in a bubble and can't be affected by current continuity.

The same goes for any other long-time character/s at either DC or Marvel. So, don't let the bad decisions of a few bean-counters ruin your love and enjoyment of all the great comics you've read throughout the years. They still exist, no matter how many times DC tries to Crisis them out of existence.

Redartz said...

Well said, William! Whatever events transpire in current and future comics, the preceding classics still stand as good reading. Additionally, today's stories can be judged upon their own merits/drawbacks. I don't read many modern books, but still enjoy several immensely. I wish DC success; I'm very dubious but there will surely be some good books produced among the many.

Edo Bosnar said...

I second William's sentiments as well. He very eloquently stated some of my own inchoate thoughts on the whole matter.
Karen's point about talent is crucial; whatever one thought of the first Crisis in the mid-80s, the fact was that DC had an entire stable of top talent (Wolfman, Byrne, Perez, Moore, DeMatteis, etc., etc., etc.) who were above all producing really good stories, and this kept the ball rolling for quite some time. While I'm not as familiar with the work of most of the writers involved in this DC reboot as most of them appeared after "my time," some of the artists with whose work I am familiar (Lee, Liefeld) do not give me much hope.
By the way, I kind of like Al's suggestion, possibly because we've already seen a sort of trial run for it in Byrne's Generations stories, which I really enjoyed (well, the first two series anyway...) It would have been cool if this new reboot involved turning the DC universe into something like the Generations setting, with storylines featuring different generations of heroes taking place at various points in history from 1938 to the present.

Dougie said...

I was reading a review of the new Torchwood tv series earlier, where a poster expressed the same concerns as ChrisPV: "Maybe the BBC are deliberately spending money making something really bad that no one will want." With the greatest respect, I think this conspiracy theory is an absurd idea.

However, I am disappointed that DC seems hell-bent on pitching 90s creators and styles on Silver Age properties,rather than growing a new audience with new characters aimed squarely at,you know, actual kids.

Jonathan Stover said...

A Captain Marvel movie has been in development for, well, almost forever. The last time news of it surfaced, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnston was alleged to be up for the role of Black Adam. And then the whole thing vanished again.

Given how messy the current DCU is, I've got no problem with a reboot, though I'd prefer something truly 'gutsy' such as a completely clean reboot-by-editorial-fiat: no explanation, no soft reboot. Then when the old DCU turns up as the new generation's 'Earth-2' in three or four years, some people might not feel so cheated.

I for one welcome the new continuity, if only because it erases GROUNDED from continuity, and hopefully from my memory, along with all the other crap that's turned the Superman titles into a less fun version of Superman titles in 1984, ridiculously convoluted mythology, cast of characters, and everything else...

It is interesting how inexorably the post-Crisis DCU mutated into Earth-2 circa 1984. The JSA soon had a stable of legacy heroes, Superman married Lois Lane, the original Robin became an adult crime-fighter...insert your comparison here!

Inkstained Wretch said...

I agree with pretty much everything that has been said, especially Karen's comments about the need for good creators, Rip on the problematic nature of reboots and William on the fact that the reboots don't really change history.

I'm certain I've made this rant on this blog before, but it bears repeating: I've never understood the purpose of the original Crisis. What was so confusing about parallel Earths to begin with? Why did they need to ditch decades of history? And how has this made things less confusing?

Now, I understand the need to refesh things and update them from time to time. As several people have noted the Silver Age heroes should be well into their 60s now.

If DC wanted to start afresh with new takes on classic characters then why didn't they just create a new parallel earth in 1985 - Earth-5 or -6 or whatever - and start from there? If they were dead-set on not having cross-overs they could have had the Crisis end with the sealing of the barriers between the worlds or something like that. Then just let their creators start writing new stories without having to reconcile them with an ever-changing history, and ...

Oh, what's the use? It's been 25 years. Now there's almost as much history since the Crisis as before it. Maybe a complete reboot is the only way to go ...

Wait, what? It's a soft reboot? But the JSA doesn't exist all? Nobody existed before Superman?



Anonymous said...

I agree, I never understood the reasoning behind the original Crisis. Sure, there was some funkiness around mythohistoric Atlantis and Aquaman's version, but a lot of that bathwater could have been recharged without throwing the baby out with it.

I found nothing particularly confusing about multiple universes, even ones time displaced from one another.

Superman was always more plausible as a 1930s-1960s construct, and I thought the E2 version had a lot of dignity as a gracefully aging hero.

Supergirl was always terribly underplayed (I always liked the idea of a happy little girl from Krypton being able to force Mongul into a hammerlock until he sniveled and cried "Uncle!") and by the rate they've kept bringing her back in avatars I sense the DCreative realizes the mistake they made in "erasing" her. You know, they could have just sent her onward into the 30th Century.

I'm sure DC wanted to do something "really big" with COIE and, if you thumb through the first several issues they were well on their way. But I don't think they had to merge up with the single universe that they've found trouble playing and staying in ever since.

Yankee Cowboy said...

My take-

DC ruled the Comics world from the 1930's through 1964 or so. Marvel then quickly took over the throne. From 1964-1984 DC remained a strong second to Marvel, offering a mostly good quality alternative. By the early 80's DC was desperate to shake things up and Crisis on Infinite Earths was going to be the vehicle to do it.
However, COIE essentially created as many problems as it "solved" and left the DCU with a huge mess of continuity contradictions.
An internet quote I saw kind of sums up the Crisis pretty well:

"DC COMICS CELEBRATED ITS 50th ANNIVERSARY by blowing itself up."

Since Comics as a whole and DC especially have long occupied a much, much, smaller world then they once did, the companies basically have no problem in making massive changes every few years in order to pick up a few new subscribers along the way.
Its not like all these changes are affecting millions of readers. Back in the "good old days" there would probably be hundreds of thousands outraged by these radical moves. Nowdays, its only a relatively select few that buy comics and really care.

Btw, any "confusion" I had when I was reading DC comics in the late 70's-early 80's about all the different Earths and how they all fit together was minimal and didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the story I was reading.
I just don't buy "reader confusion" ever being a valid reason for all the massive changes in comics since 1985.

Jonathan Stover said...

I don't think there was "reader confusion", at least among most readers. DC wanted to justify trying to make its universe more like the Marvel Universe.

Remember how confusing the actual post-Crisis universe was, though.

The Superman reboot didn't occur until almost a year after the Crisis.

Wonder Woman, for reasons no one ever explained, had her origin moved to the "present", thus removing her from JLA continuity and subjecting we the readers to one of the longest origin stories ever (for the time).

Jason Todd stuck around, but his back story completely changed. Batman: Year One established that Catwoman was an S&M prostitute prior to becoming Catwoman, something DC pretty quickly retconned out of existence.

All-Star Squadron ran for about a year while remaining steadfastly in the pre-Crisis universe thanks to some temporal shenanigans.

And so on, and so forth. I haven't even mentioned Hawkman, whose origin proceeded to change every three years or so...or the Legion of Super-heroes, which got royally discombobulated by the Crisis...

Of course, Marvel now does a soft reboot every two years or so (House of M, One More Day, Secret Invasion). Whee!

ChrisPV said...

Crisis really was a big mistake, methinks. Some characters really didn't come out of that all that well. Captain Marvel springs to mind. Poor guy goes from being the Big (Red) Cheese of Earth-S, and suddenly he's not only just a second-banana to Superman, he's always been that way.

I think the reason reboots annoy me so much is because I'm really into comics for the overarching metastory. The story of the whole universe, and the people within it. That's really the only thing that comics, as a long-form serialized medium, have going for it over other media these days. Animation and film can produce the visuals and stories at least as well these days. The DCAU managed to tell great stories, and a lot of them were better executed than the comics.

And they never once rebooted.

Dan said...

I think the JSA is home to some of DC's best characters and concepts. Hourman, Spectre, Dr Fate, it really is a treasure trove of cool comic concepts, and the reboot-e-verse is definitely duller for it's absence.

While I get the fact they all served in WWII creates a hard sticking point, allot of the legacies involved had been passed down and in doing so were doing just fine.

Does being the first really add that much to Superman's mythos?

Will be interested to see where this goes...

Anonymous said...

The Superman mythos was mostly destroyed the *last* time they rebooted to make him the first and only... only survivor of Krypton, that is.

They smashed the bottle city of Kandor, killed his dog and cousin, wiped clean his years in Smallville, etc.

What DC was left with wasn't very interesting, really, and hence the obsession with the Lois romance and the Christ allegories. They had to turn him into a deadbeat dad stalker in the last film just to inject any interest in the character; whereas pre-Crisis you could write whole tales (albeit at times silly) around his mythos alone. The fact that almost everything they tossed has been reintroduced is telling as a cautionary tale.

So be careful what you toss out, DC.

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