DC’s Retro-Active: A Trip Down Memory Lane or Nostalgia Gone Wrong?

While the current Flashpoint event is about a alternative version of current events in the DCU, another event coming up tries to look back into the publisher’s past. Dubbed Retro-Active, this series of one-shots summons back classic writers from previous DC eras and partners them with likewise classic artists (or erstwhile equivalents either in age or style) to return to work on the characters that they were most known for. But can it live up to the expectations that have been built for it by their absence?

After its initial announcement at WonderCon, it was later revealed that Retro-Active was planned to give more lead-time to the 52 new DC titles launching in August and September. Being used as a defacto palate cleanser to a new age in DC is interesting to behold, but also one ripe with speculation.

We live in an unprecedented time for comics readers; one where these decades-old tales aren’t rare and over-priced in back-issue bins, but easily available in collected editions and digital archives. With the original stories that these nostalgia-based one-shots of Retro-Active easily available and in reader’s minds now more than ever, is putting these creators back into service to ape their decades-old work just setting themselves up for failure?

Don’t get me wrong; I’ll be buying Dennis O’Neil coming back to Green Lantern one more time and Mike W. Barr's return to Batman sight unseen. But is it fair to put them in this position, not just to do more stories, but to do it in the shadow of work up to 40 years old sounds like it could run contrary to these writer’s current inclinations.

I’d love to go see the Rolling Stones on their inevitable next tour, but I don’t want them to dress and act like their 1960s version of themselves. Much like the creators used in Retro-Active, they’ve grown and lived long lives. What I want to see is Dennis O’Neil’s modern thoughts on Green Lantern, not something hampered by looking through the lens of his earlier work.


  1. What I want to see is Dennis O’Neil’s modern thoughts on Green Lantern, not something hampered by looking through the lens of his earlier work.”

    Could not agree more.  If I want to read Dennis’ on Green Lantern due to nostalgia then I’ll go re-read one of my old Green Lantern books.

    Comics companies complain that they want to make these characters acceptable for today’s audience and that today’s audience is having trouble because of the decades of books and past continuity, yet, that’s exactly what they [the comics creators] keep focusing on.

    That’s why Barbara is Batgirl again.
    How does it make sense to make Batgirl acceptable for a modern audience by making Barbara Batgirl again?  A modern audience never knew her as Batgirl.  So why is it important for the creators to make Barbara Batgirl again?  Simple.  Its because Barbara as Batgirl is what they want and they’re using “getting a new audience interested in comics” as an excuse to do what THEY want.

    I’m all for nostalgia, but this is going to far.
    I say keep Stephanie Brown as Batgirl and create a new sense of nostalgia for a new generation.  Something that they can look back on 20 years from now and hate DC comics when they introduce a new Batgirl.

    I want to see things grow and move forward.

  2. @thehumaneclipse  A modern audience has seen Barbara Gordon as Batgirl in film and cartoons. Just like to most people in the world–before the movie–John Stewart is Green Lantern, to most people in the world Barbara Gordon is Batgirl.

  3. The truth can now be revealed.  I engineered the whole Retro situation so that I could have a ‘new’ tale of the JLA satellite years.  Yes, it is true – I, alone in the universe, enjoy reading DC comics.  I do not fall and worship at the feet of Grant Morrison.  I laugh in the face of grim, gritty, belts and buckled heroes.  I am … Onlyman.

  4. I think this is an interesting excercise.  The new story will be followed by a re-print of the team’s previous work.  I share the concerns about these being written in a past style of writing, but in many ways I think this move could be very refreshing.  I’ve recently found love with Jonah Hex and quite enjoy the single issue story and apparent lack of concern for continuity.  That’s what I hope for these issues.  Single issue story telling from some classic teams.

  5. From the covers atleast- it looks like it Will be somewhat of a different take.

    So you should partly get your wish Chris. 

  6. Give me a break Chris. these are one-shot stories, not like they’re abandoning telling new stories in lieu of this teeny tiny “event”.

    Did the retro Bob Haney Teen Titans special from a few years back  impact the regular TT stuff at all? Did it make Haney’s previous body of work less interesting? 

    When Eisner drew his final 6 page Spirit story with The Escapist for Dark Horse, did that ruin his Spirit run? Or improve it? 

    Much ado about nothing.  

    Whether these stories are fun exercises, or failures, they won’t diminish what these creators have made in the past when telling these stories were their daily jobs.


  7. @educatexan  Meddle with things to much and Rex Hunter and company will come spank you.

  8. Anything that gives Norm Breyfogle a chance to do new Batman work is a good thing.

  9. @leigh  Word.

  10. Look, the sky is falling, the sky is faling! The emperor has no clothes! Quite frankly, I don’t get the point of this “article.” You skirt making a hard statement (as the books have not yet come out so at the best, any points are baseless) but seem to have already decided this is some how anti-art. It’s disappointing and embarassing that this “I only want stories that count”-esque fan rant blog post got published on a comics news site. 

  11. @leigh: The original comment I wanted to post was something along those lines.

    But yes, these Retroactive books are being produced just to be fun for people to read and maybe remember some great old runs. Surely it’s okay to greenlight a project like this? 

  12. I have a few on my pull list (JLA giffen era, the Superman crisis tie in) and I’m looking forward to them a fair bit. Any new story of the Bwah-ha-ha day of the league is good in my books.

  13. I just like seeing that old DC logo again. Why is there not a t-shirt with that on it?

  14. I’m not really sure what the complaint here.

    We get a chance to see old favorites return on books. Also, people who may not be so keen on reading old school comics might get interested in a modern day story from their run. So it could be totally beneficial for readers in that regard.

    I don’t think your hating on the thing Chris, but I’m confused why you seem so offput by the whole thing. 

  15. holy smokes! TNC is wondering why people are complaining, it must be opposite day

  16. @edward  –FLASHPOINT IS REAL!!! 

    haha all in good fun 

  17. I’ll definitely check out a few classics on the flip but couldn’t agree more with the last two paragraphs of this article.

  18. The impression I got from DC was that the new stories in each RetroActive book is going to take place in the same period as the classic story in the book.

    If this is done right, then I’ll be very interested.  It could be like all the Golden Age flashback stuff Robinson did in Starman, and something we don’t get often enough: combining the fun style of Golden Age comics and filtering out all the *ahem* stupid and boring stuff to see the character through a modern eye but a classic point in time.

  19. It’s just a bit of fun, if they’re great, great; if they’re not, they’re probably more faithful to the originals.

  20. On iFanboy’s own Word Balloon podcast, the excellent Martin Pasko said he’s not writing the Seventies Superman book in the style demanded by then editor Julius Schwartz. He’s taking a more modern approach to the script while aiming to capture something of the situations and sensibility of the times.

    (And apologies to ‘Pesky’ Pasko if I mis-paraphrased.)