Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Everything old is new again. . .again.

This should be an easy piece to write. And on most comics-related blogs and webforums I'm sure it is. The recent decision by DC Comics to reboot their entire line in September with brand new 'first' issues and a (mostly) completely clean slate continuity-wise is doubtless meeting with the fan community in the same way a steel-toed boot would be warmly received by a hornet's nest. And I'll admit freely the temptation to give in to the nerd rage is powerful indeed. But if I had to sit down and analyze my feelings over the reboot, and really look at them beyond my nostalgia and my desire for things to be exactly as I would have wanted when I was first reading comics, I come to an uncomfortable conclusion: I actually don't really mind the reboot all that much. In fact, I can even understand the reasoning behind why it's being done.

DC Comics is a business. Businesses require money. Let's say you have a relatively small but loyal base that provide you with a steady (but not overly abundant) source of income. Yet you have the potential in the wake of certain business decisions (i.e. movies in the cinema/direct to DVD, video games, television shows, etc) to bring in new revenue. So you reconfigure your existing product to be as open to new people (and new money) as you possibly can. Will this irk your existing base who've enjoyed the product as-is for years? Ohhh yeah. But without risk, you're playing a steadily losing hand, your audience dwindling as it ages and then shuffles off the mortal coil. From that perspective I can see what DC is trying to do. I may not completely agree with it, but I can understand it. They want to entice the iReader generation, and if they have to shake hands with the devil of Reboot in order to do so then so be it.

Another thing that has me making my (albeit grudging) peace with the new status quo is the simple fact that I'm thirty-five years old. I can't work up the ire and the bile necessary to get up in arms or protest at San Diego comic con in a homemade Batman costume. It doesn't make sense to me. The comics you read and enjoyed aren't going away. Brigades of Bradburyian Firemen aren't going to come to your door to burn your copies of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Legends, The Man of Steel, Birthright, No Man's Land, Blue Devil, or Justice League International. Those stories are as valid in September as they were ten or twenty years ago. They're not 'real' anymore? Who determines what's 'real' and what isn't but the reader?

Much like professional wrestling and soap operas, superhero comics undergo waves of revisionism and experimentation every so often. DC has a new editorial staff and a new head of publishing, so they're naturally going to pop the hood and try to trick out the engine. Will it work? I don't know, but let's not be quick to rush to judgement in the tradition of The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy. Nobody wants to be that guy. That guy doesn't want to be that guy. If you don't like the new direction, there are literally hundreds of back issues and collected editions you can explore set in the previous continuity, or you can even blaze new trails and experiment with titles from Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, or other independent companies.

I'll be trying out a couple of DC's new titles in September (they've got a book featuring the Grant Morrison Frankenstein, so that's some of my money spent right out of the gate), but I don't feel that this change for the future invalidates the experiences I've had in the past. I could choose to wallow in my nerd rage, or I could choose to give something new a chance. It's a stretch outside my comfort zone, but I'm willing to give it a try.


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