Come with me. I am here to save you.
This is all about the R word. Reboot. I can’t stop the DC Universe digital-wrapped reboot from happening but I can help you come to terms with what it actually means. You are going to go on a vacation from your fears. Let’s tackle the statements I have seen thrown around since all this hullabaloo began. They all tie in together so let’s just get them out in the open.
The stories I have read don’t count.
The books I love now are going away.
They are just going to reset the universe in a couple years anyway.
Do not panic, they count the same as they always have. The basics won't change all that much and no one can make you forget your favorite Batman story. The story also can’t just be erased. It exists, you remember it. Someone else is going to read it. It will become their favorite story. There is nothing that DC Comics can do stop that process. In fact, their future success depends on the continuation of that process. Trust me; they want to continue to sell Showcase reprints and Deluxe Hardcovers of the Killing Joke.
I love DC continuity as much as anyone. A large amount of my free time is spent shining a light on the weirder moments of DC Comics lore. (Topo’s hammy nature ruins circuses, etc.) Continuity fascinates and tickles the old history bug I have in my brain. Continuity is not what got me to read comics. I read a couple imaginative and exciting stories, wanted to read more, and got sucked into a bigger universe. Many of us have been reading comics for years and we may have lost a bit of that explorer nature. That feeling usually blooms when you first start reading comics and you are just absorbing everything like a sponge. That is exactly what the Big 2 are good at, catching your eye then giving you more than you can handle (in a good way.)
Continuity is a thin veneer that we as fans through over the stories to give them a cohesion that appeals to “the inner kid who wants to be older” in all of us. Almost all events that happen to a comic book character are forgotten or willfully ignored by creators. To which I say: THANK YOU! Mopee was a terrible idea. It all ties into one big history, because we as fans want to look at it that way. Continuity makes our fantasy stories seem just a touch more real. It also wasn’t meant to last for years on end with characters being worked on by a multitude of creators.
There used to be a time where the fan base refreshed itself every five years. There would be all new kids who hadn’t read the last 20 years of Superman stories. No reboot was necessary because no one was all that bothered with exactly what happened in the past. Supes fought Luthor but the exact details weren’t terribly important. Writers could cherry pick the best parts of the past and draw them into the light to dazzle the kids. There would be a quick justification and BOOM! You have continuity Modern comic fandom and the creators have thrown that technique out of whack. It is now expected that creators seamlessly tie everything together. At times our evaluation of their work hinges solely on that rather boring and wasteful exercise. Continuity was a loose network of explanations to justify different takes on characters and explain exciting twists. Now it is baggage that every DC character carries around from story to story, If Hawkman shows up at your house without his bag, you ask why he hasn't got anything with him. I think a reboot is probably in order. A change of numbering doesn’t really have any direct correlation to the quality of the book. But, a number one may be a good opportunity to start fresh. It is just an opportunity not a guarantee.
While we are speaking of reboots I have to mention that Pre-Crisis continuity isn’t quite the mess that it is perceived to be. It is a trope that fans throw around, just like how Marvel is more like the real world. How many talking ducks have you seen walking around?
It wasn’t like the DC writers were attempting to trick you at every turn with Earth-2 Superman pretending to be Earth-1 Superman. In fact the first time I read a story with Earth-2 Superman I was completely blown away. THERE WERE TWO SUPERMEN! Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Why does he have grey hair?
There will be books that you love that are going to get shuffled off. As a fan I can sympathize, but the book wasn’t going to last forever and neither were you. You can be comforted by the possibility that maybe the new DC will have a book that scratches that itch, or maybe two books that can get into those nooks. There might not be any, but that is life in the world of comics. Enjoy what you can get when you can get it. Also don’ worry because everything that is old becomes new again!
Of course another reboot will happen. If you read long enough everything will be reset again. Your favorite character will die and come back. So will your least favorite character. That is the name of the game and is the healthiest state for the Big 2.
If that last paragraph irks you then you need to have a hard look at why you read Big 2 comics and if you should stick with them. If the shifting sands of Superman and Spider-Man bother you then it is time to look towards the world of creator owned comics. You will find titles like Savage Dragon and Invincible where there isn’t going to be reset when the creative winds change. Don’t order the hamburger every time you go to a restaurant hoping it turns into a steak. Learn to love both for what they are. It will be more fun, I promise.
The books you love count because you love them; whether it is Batman, Walking Dead, or the Muppets. If you have been reading comics for any other reason than you enjoy the content between the covers then you have been conned. Enjoyment is all that counts.
I have cautious optimism for DC’s plan. If executed properly it could mean a revitalization of the fan base. It could mean the eventual breaking of the worse restraints of the direct market. No longer would comic sales be a function of convincing a comic store owner that a book will be IMPORTANT in three months. The book will just be there to download, to be judged on its own merits and not against the expectations stoked to generate pre-orders. It might signal a return to a time where the best way to guarantee sales on the next issue was to tell a really good story in your current issue. It means that the Big 2 are starting to realize that the Direct Market isn’t the future of the industry, but that industry actually does have a future.
Doug Ramsey is Tom Katers's favorite mutant. Happy Ron?