State of the Universe: Thoughts on DC’s New 52 (pt. 1)

Well, as you may have noticed, I did not live-blog the Golden Globes, because I most unfortunately had work. Someday, I will have a normal job, with hours during the day. But alas, that time is not now.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to do a post on the DC Comics Reboot for a LONG time now, but wanted to give myself time to really form an opinion about it, and the results. I realize this isn’t something my general audience is clamoring to hear about, but it’s my party and I’ll nerd-out if I want to.

First, some background information. DC Comics started a long time ago. A long time. There have been hundreds of writers writing thousands of issues about hundreds of characters for decades. This means that comic books have become an extensive mythology, filled with supporting characters, years of drama and tension, epic battles and love triangles. It also means that there is some SERIOUS conflicting information, silly plot lines, and controversial material that would be better off forgotten.

One of the early ways DC (and Marvel) has dealt with conflicting information and such was to create a “Multiverse.” This is a convenient way to say “Oh, well, that story took place in another universe, so yes it technically happened, just not to OUR heroes.” It’s a bit of a cop-out, yes, but opened up the door to tell really creative stories where anything could happen, without regard as to consequences. It was liberating for authors.

Eventually however, DC decided that having so many universes and different versions of their characters was confusing to current readers, and daunting to new ones. So, in an effort to make the line more accessible, they merged all these disparate universes into one – seizing the opportunity to erase troublesome elements (for example, at one point there was a Super Dog, Super Cat, Super Horse, Super Monkey, pink Kryptonite that made Superman pretty gay… literally…), and re-write origins of certain heroes. DC has done this a few times since the 80s, to generally diminishing success.

So, this past year, DC told a new story. The Flash went back in time for some reason (I can’t remember why).  By doing so, he completely changed his world into one where Superman was imprisoned by the government as a child, Bruce Wayne was killed as a child – prompting his father to become the Batman, and Wonder Woman is fighting a world war against Aqua Man, killing millions in the process. Obviously, this distresses the Flash, who then decides to go back in time and stop his past self from trying to correct things (yes, this is confusing). He’s more or less successful, but still changes the world a TON. In this new iteration, everyone is about five years younger. They’re less experienced at fighting crime. They’re less powerful, and less wise. They are still forming relationships with each other. Some relationships and characters have been completely written out of existence.

So, what do I think? Well, first let’s talk about how I felt about the IDEA, then we’ll talk about the execution.

The big idea in comics lately is “accessibility,” i.e. the ability for a new reader to pick up any issue and immediately know more or less what is going on. This is the reason Marvel has started branding the first issue of a new arc with a .1. So there’s issue 19, followed by issue 19.1 – signifying that a new arc has started. I find this asinine. This is the same reason DC has re-booted their characters’ origins like three times in the last decade. Which is also asinine.

As a fan of television, I find this whole obsession with accessibility to be totally bogus. I can’t tell you how many times I have started a show half-way through, liked what I saw, and then gotten caught up as quickly as possible. In an age with hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and illegal online streaming, it’s easier than ever to Marathon Mode four seasons of LOST before the season premiere [Which I never had to do because I  was there from the first episode, not that I’m bragging]. But anyway, I have done that with countless shows, as have most of my friends. In fact, one time I read a book series, assuming it was the first, and absolutely loved it. It referenced so many past events without outright explaining them, I found myself having to really read between the lines and use my brain. I felt so respected as a reader, because the author was expecting me to piece together fragments of information. I later found out there was actually an earlier series about all that stuff. I read it, and enjoyed it, but the magic just wasn’t there. It felt more rote, and less rich.

My point with all this is to say that if you put out a quality product, people SHOULD read it/watch it, and get caught up without you having to make it “accessible.” Of course, history is full of quality products that people did not watch or read, that got cancelled too soon. That’s an unfortunate possibility. But for every Firefly, hopefully there’s a LOST out there, with people getting caught up on six seasons in two weeks just so they could watch the finale.

Well, this went on a lot longer than I expected, so I’m going to put this into parts. Tomorrow you should be able to read about my thoughts on the execution of DC’s Reboot, and not just my expectations.

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