Zen and the Art of Comic Book Reboots

Indulge me in a half-baked theory, won’t you?…

Meesa a Symbol Now!Despite how it may feel as you scroll through some web forums, I was thinking this weekend that comic books may actually bring out the best in us.

If you’re in our target demographic around here, it has probably not escaped your notice that the Star Wars movies came out on Blu Ray at the end of last week, and if you know there’s been a Star Wars rerelease then you know there has been tinkering. Until the day when his neck heft grows so unwieldy that it finally plunges him into the earth’s core, George Lucas will be going back under the hood and fiddling with his movies every time the opportunity presents itself. He’s like your dad puttering around with his models down in his workshop, only every time he puts a ship in a bottle he makes a billion dollars. A new special effect here, another minute of footage there, a musical number that will start to seem dated even while it is happening to you… all these decades later, the man seems obsessed with the idea of making these films better and, oh my God, do his fans hate him for that.

Relatively early in my iFanboy tenure (after the honeymoon was over) I defined the word “fan” as “someone who hates something so much it’s all he can talk about,” and whenever Star Wars makes the news I end up thinking of that definition. Lucas gave shape and direction to millions of childhoods– continues to, actually– and those children have grown up to resent him bitterly because he went back and made the Ewoks blink. Right before the new discs hit the streets, some tweaked footage leaked online and thousands of people lost their marbles because Darth Vader says one more word now. I got a couple dozen more chances to read the #1 phrase that makes me want to shake someone until he sustains a brain injury, “they have raped my childhood,” thanks to these three seconds of video.

Meanwhile, somewhere nearby, a Batgirl fan is reading about this controversy and chuckling ruefully. “They changed two lines of dialogue and a millisecond of Greedo’s death. I see. Must be nice.”

Can you imagine how the public would react if it were announced that Lucasfilm was going to try to appeal to a new generation of potential audience members by starting the entire saga from scratch? And, I don’t know, Luke and Leia aren’t related and Obi-Wan lives and Han dies? (You’d better be able to imagine it, by the way, because this is going to happen within your lifetime. Possibly twice. Might as well start battening down the hatches now, emotionally speaking.)

I guess we don’t have to imagine all that hard. Remember how bonkers people went last year when it was announced that they were rebooting Buffy the Vampire Slayer without so much as offering Joss Whedon the traditional Stan Lee Cameo? (You’ll notice that after the initial press release you never heard about that project again, by the way.) Trekkies seem to have survived the Star Trek reboot without too much tumult, but by that point I imagine Trekkies would have gladly settled for anything that wasn’t Enterprise.

It’s apples and oranges, of course. Whenever a comic book universe gets thrown in the wood chipper, we always sigh and say, “We’ll always have the stories we loved. They can’t take the classics away from us,” and a case could be made that George Lucas has found a way to do that. Still, after the initial nervous breakdown/conniption fit, you’ve got to admit that the comic reading community as a whole has reacted a hell of a lot better to the death, erasure, and upheaval of entire characters and sagas than Star Warriors have to the fate of the Yub Nub Song.

I almost cannot believe these words are coming out of me, but you know…? In the grand scheme of things, comic book fans are pretty laid back (once you allow us our initial reactionary tantrum and a half). By making crisis and change and cataclysm the status quo, superhero comics have trained us to be utterly Zen. You love Captain America? We just shot Captain America through the heart; how d’ya like them apples, hotshot? Your favorite character is dead. What’s that? You’re okay with it? Everything is cyclical and he’ll be back eventually? Well, then, guess what: your favorite book is canceled.… What? You’ll buy something else by the same writer until they inevitably relaunch it in a couple of years? Curses! You are an unshakable rock.

Meanwhile, over at Star Wars: Hey, guess what? When Obi-Wan roars to scare the Sand People away now, his roar sounds a little different than the roar the last time you saw the movie oh my God he has returned from the kitchen plunging a carving knife through his own sternum.

We still freak out. We freak out over pants and collars and whether the webs come out of a device or he… produces them. But generally speaking, we don’t nurse that freakout like a bum on a barstool. Collectively, we shriek “Agh, change!” but unless Mephisto was involved we shake it off and keep right on reading. If Mephisto was involved, we protest-drop the book for a couple of months until it makes us feel impotent and then we slink back and keep right on reading. And when they put out the same story in another format, we don’t act like stormtroopers came for our wallets at gunpoint, either. If we liked it in issues, we can’t wait for the trade. We ask the clerk if they’ve announced the Absolute Edition while we’re in line with the trade. We’re enjoying ourselves. It’s all going to be okay.

So yes, sometimes the internet brings out the worst in us. It does that to everyone. The internet is a cesspool where people who’ve had too much coffee are trapped with people who haven’t had enough coffee. It’s too late to do anything about that; the dynamic has been established. But I submit to you that, while you are reading the message boards and comment threads this week, think back to all the tempests in teapots you’ve witnessed over the years and realize how few of them became actual grudges or causes or vendettas. Feel good about yourselves this week, o comicdom. You may actually be well adjusted. May the Force be with you.


Jim Mroczkowski was interviewed on the local news about the cart full of Phantom Menace figures he was buying the day they came out. He had not seen the movie yet. Should this newscast ever appear online, you will know he was unable to pay the blackmail.


  1. i’m still getting the blu-rays. i wonder after all the extras they can cramp into the special edition dvd’s, if they will start releasing movies in the original film. i don’t need 60 hours of bonus material of mostly desert and how Lucas thought that Jar-Jar was a good idea.

  2. This is the best sentence I have read in a good long while

    “The internet is a cesspool where people who’ve had too much coffee are trapped with people who haven’t had enough coffee.”

    Well, played, sir.

  3. Well said. It’s true, I am still bitter about the first round of alterations Lucas made. In MY trilogy, Han shot first, the only entertainment at Jabba’s palace were dancing Twi’leks (and whatever the six boob lady was) and Rancor fights, and Ghost Vader was an old man, not Hayden Christensen. But the thing that really gets my goat isn’t the changes they made, it’s the marketing of the Blu-Rays. The only way to get the full cache of bonus features and behind the scenes footage is to buy all 6 movies? Eff that. And then to further smack fans of the original trilogy in the face, the box art is Jake Lloyd taking a pensive stroll through the desert? Eff. That.

  4. Fantastic article, it was a great read. Thought it would have more to do with comicbook reboots but still cool ha ha.
    I discovered this site yesterday and this article made me join the site! Very excited to be a part of this iFanboy community!
    Look forward to reading more from you guys!

  5. Excellent plus enjoyable post!
    While I’m glad the comics community has a ‘laid back’ perspective on change, the question for me is more about what drives the change? Is it solely change for the sake of churning the money machine and reaching into our pockets? In which case, why be laid back about that? I think a little distance & time can expose many changes as without any (or very, very little) substantive basis or artistic aim. They are merely following the formula of taking a known commodity and repackaging it motivated only by creating revenue streams.

  6. Way to go Jimski, you snagged a new one

  7. I’m not quite sure I agree with your analogy. Lucas is going back and changing the original movie for people who want to own it. That’s not quite like reboot that DC is doing. A more apt comparison I think would be if in the reprints of Watchmen from now on they started using the ending from the movie, by a different artist, in the book instead of the original. He’s not rebooting Star Wars, he’s changing his original work. And you better believe that comic fans would freak out if they changed Watchmen.

    I’d be okay if they rebooted Star Wars though.

    Oh, and all the rage and hate could have been avoided if he would just put both versions on the disc, original and new.

  8. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    Technically he says two words – it’s just the same one twice.

    Nice article! And DMaggot, I’d love to see a re-release of the original theatrical release.

    I love the on-line community. Without it, I would have no like-minded friends.

  9. New favorite quote: “The internet is a cesspool where people who’ve had too much coffee are trapped with people who haven’t had enough coffee.”

  10. I think comics fans on the internet are a lot closer to Sports Fans in terms of the daily/weekly freakout and praise displays. On any given week, the sky is falling, that player/coach/gm is the worst/best thing to happen to that franchise in 50 years. Crazy trade scenarios and stat comparisons aren’t unlike creative team speculation and continuity arguments and people unhappy with the current story arc.

    Also for the Star Wars fans…sure they’ll freak out over one word, but they only do that once or twice a decade when Lucas releases something on a new media format. Comic fans freak out just as hard on any given week.

    The criticsm of art and writing ranging from “OMYGAWD i am drooling over this art” to “That art is disgusting…you can’t even call him an artist” is such a fine line….its like we (collectively) are splitting hairs over different brands of bottled water.

  11. Well said Mr. Mroczkowski. No offense intended to anyone else but it is your articles that keep me coming back to this website.

  12. I like what you’re saying, but I also think that it’s a little different in the case of the Star Wars films because Lucas is literally fiddling with the original films. The new ‘Action Comics’ issue 1 wasn’t the original comic with some shitty sound effect changes and CGI added; it was an entirely new comic. As much as I did not love the prequel Star Wars films, I don’t mind them half as much as the awfulness that was added and added and added to the original trilogy. Lucas should just give us the original trilogy on blu-ray. Maybe he will in a few months, after we’ve all bought his “updated” one.

  13. Summing it up as “Darth Vader says one extra word” is pretty simplistic, as that one word completely takes the subtle complexity and emotion of the scene that worked so perfectly the first time and turns it into an overwrought, obvious piece of melodramatic crap.

    But the usual outstanding article from Jimski! Comics fans, at least the ones on iFanboy, do tend to be somewhat more reasonable than fans of other things on the internet.

  14. Really enjoyed the article. All i want is the original films to but i’m still getting the blu-rays, it really doesnt bother me if they change a few little things here and there. No matter how much they change i’ll always know that Han shot first and with that knowledge i’ll be happy.