(NOTE: I originally posted this column on June 14, 2012 at 3:35 PM. Since then, I have learned more about the New 52, and have added some new paragraphs to this column reflecting what I’ve learned.)
Welcome to another installment of Why It Just Doesn’t Work (WIJDW). Here, I take a look at scenes and elements from various media and discuss why they are illogical, nonsensical, or otherwise just don’t work.
This will be another column inspired by DC Comics’ recent ‘New 52’ reboot and the fallout. For those unaware, this past year DC Comics decided to do a continuity-wide reboot of all their titles. This means that just as Christopher Nolan did with the Batman movies, they would be starting over without having to deal with both the good and the bad parts of their previous histories.
To be honest, I haven’t really been reading the ‘New 52’. I’ve been losing interest in DC Comics over the past few years. My reasons for losing interest boil down to the following: Way too many Aggressively Bad ‘event’ stories (such as Identity Crisis, Amazons Attack, Countdown to Final Crisis, and Cry for Justice.), writers I like (such as Gail Simone) being removed from their titles (Birds of Prey) just as they’re making the books interesting, and an over-reliance on big event comics in general.
However, I HAVE heard some things about what’s going on thanks to the Internet.
The New 52 reboot has made a number of fans unhappy. Several of their favorite characters have been officially exiled from DC’s continuity. Among the casualties are such favorites as Wally West, Donna Troy, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, the Helena Bertinelli Huntress, and the Golden Age Green Lantern’s super-powered offspring Jade and Obsidian.
As far as I know, these characters do not exist in any form in the ‘New 52’ continuity, and DC is officially ‘through with them’. Other characters from the old DCU (such as the Justice Society) may exist, but they are so different in their histories and presentation that they might as well be different people. The Alan Scott Green Lantern who is coming out of the closet with much media hype is not the same Alan Scott Green Lantern who was the Green Lantern in the Golden Age and who was the father of Jade and Obsidian. They may have the same name and the same appearance, but they’re as different from each other as Adam West’s Batman and Christian Bale’s Batman are different from each other.
Even though I no longer read DC’s new material, I am still sad to see all these characters go. Many of them were favorites of mine, and I sympathise greatly with their fans and fans of other characters who are now no longer part of DC’s official continuity and probably will not be seen again in officially-sanctioned books (or, if they are, they will be so greatly changed they might as well be different characters).
This, however, leads one to the following questions: Why did DC reboot their whole universe? Couldn’t they have only rebooted some of their series while still keeping those who weren’t dead horses and still had good story potential in the previous continuity?
To answer the first question: DC wanted to attract new readers without them having to worry about decades of convoluted backstories.
And to answer the second: DC tried that before, and it just didn’t work.
To elaborate, in 1986, DC Comics decided to reboot two of its long-running franchises, Superman and Wonder Woman (whether they were ‘dead horses’ before the reboot is a debate for another time). Both of them started out fresh, with no ties to previous continuity, thus allowing writers to take new approaches to the characters that they couldn’t previously. The problem was that Superman and Wonder Woman were part of a shared universe along with Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Justice League, and the Teen Titans, and all of those characters were NOT rebooted. Therefore, their old stories were still in continuity, while the previous stories of Superman and Wonder Woman were not.
This meant that due to the absence of the pre-1986 Superman and Wonder Woman from continuity, a lot of the old Justice League and Teen Titans stories, along with previous team-ups with the other characters, no longer happened the way they were originally presented. This led to all sorts of plot holes, inconsistencies, and so forth as DC writers and editors tried (and often failed) to make their non-rebooted characters’ histories make sense within the post-1986 DC Universe. Were Superman and Wonder Woman founding members of the Justice League or not? If Wonder Woman first showed up AFTER the Teen Titans were founded, then who was Donna Troy’s mentor?
And let’s not even go into how the Legion of Super-Heroes, the 30th century superheroes who were inspired by Superman and Supergirl and teamed with them several times via time travel, ended up having their history become incomprehensible thanks to Superboy and Supergirl (or at least the ones they knew) no longer existing in the post-1986 continuity. In short, they never really did recover and had to be rebooted two, three, or four times (I lost count).
The point is, as far as continuity reboots in a shared universe go, it’s either all or nothing. Trying to reboot only a few characters or titles and not others will just not work. DC found that out the hard way over the past 25 years, and it seems they may have learned from that mistake.
EDIT: As it turns out…Â No, they haven’t. From what I have heard (and I have not been keeping up as much with DC as I should), they kept Green Lantern and Batman’s continuity mostly intact, and also were NOT clear on who is who and what is what in the new 52 continuity. They are making mistakes similiar to the previous times they rebooted characters, and just went ahead with it without thinking things through and knowing beforehand just what the status quo is in the new universe, and who exists in it.
One would think that, being professionals and all, they’d learn from their mistakes of 20 plus years ago, but they haven’t learned a thing at all. Not a single thing. They just keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
As always, I welcome your comments.