Monday, June 06, 2011

DC do over

As some of you may have heard, DC comics is relaunching everything in September. They will have fifty two comics out, each will be a #1, each will be written to be accessible to new readers, each fill feature heroes updated to be contemporary, and each will be released simultaneously online. For those of you who regularly read comics (even some of you who don't), this is nothing new except for the impressively larger scale and the internet thing.

Collars for everyone. Even Wonder Woman, who's missing the top half of her shirt.

It won't work. That’s not nay-saying; I’m proud and excited by what DC’s doing. It’s a ballsy move and I hope it pays off and I’ll do what I can to help that happen. No, it won’t work because even whenever you relaunch Superman and start writing stories about Superman that don’t reference earlier Superman stories, those stories are still there. The problem is decades of preexisting canon attached to one character. DC was on the right track bringing Kal-L back during Infinite Crisis; for a while, there were two Supermen with different histories drawn up from the same base, storytelling clay, but shaped by the different experiences they had. Whenever they reinvent Superman, Batman, Wonder Wonder Woman, etc., in September, they’ll still be The Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. and that continuity will be attached to them, even if it's done outside of the narrative by fans and onlookers.

For example, this is Batman. This is a part of what happened to Batman.

Fans have long made strong proclamations about how Batman from one source isn’t “their” Batman and depending on who you ask, some one-off stories aren’t considered part of the character’s history, but ultimately, there isn’t an official cutoff point between the Silver Age zany Batman, the grim, nineties Batman, and the current, ubersmench Batman, besides for a few hasty, inconsistent pre and post Crisis declarations. They’re all masquerading as The One, True Batman.

Here's my solution for DC: Ragnarok. The renewing cycle wherein the gods die and are born again in a new age. Except instead of “new age,” it’s “a different multiverse set a few years later.” Let’s take Final *snerk* Crisis; what if, instead of returning everything to the status quo with a few changes, Darkseid wins. He rules Earth…say…6; Earth-6 and surrounding Universe. The heroes aren’t all destroyed, the battle isn’t over, but no one wants to read about a post-apocalyptic universe week after week, well, some people do, but not most. So you wrap up the stories of the guys on Earth-6, give them their tearful farewells and their heroic sacrifices, then next month, Earth-7.

Victory, but at the high price of karaoke.

Earth-7 is the present, but the heroes are just starting out and have none of the history dragging them down. Yes, it’s a reboot and you do it every few years, but it’s a clean breakaway that tells fans new and old when to get on and your characters and stories have bite-sized back stories that only go back to the beginning of the latest universe. As a bonus, you can actually give characters a satisfying arc from beginning to end before you wrap up Earth-7. Instead of being an endless litany of updated canon, Batman can be a story, well told, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Whenever a fan says "That's not my Batman," they can add, "The Batman of Earth-7 is my Batman." Whenever someone dies, they stay dead until the next turning of the wheel and the death of characters can actually be a relevant event that doesn’t make fans roll their eyes.

The end of Earth-7 doesn’t have to be a disaster. Maybe the heroes overcome their crisis. Maybe they win, defeat the God of Evil and make the universe a better place. They can retire or go back to stopping the occasional bank robbery. The good guys can actually succeed in this scenario. Then, after all of the stories have been told, Earth-8.

You might say that means that by default, the old characters are gone. That The Batman of Earth-6 was hit with Darkseid’s Omega Beams and he’s dead. But that doesn’t matter, the point is that Earth-5 and Earth-6 are still there, in the background and ready to be used again, but their time as the backdrop of The DC Universe is over. Even in the Omega Beams scenario, it can justify The Batman of Earth-6 showing up in a different Earth for more adventures, or in a different time of his own universe, either as a one-shot, a mini-series, or just a simple crossover. Is that any more ridiculous or confusing than having Batman simultaneously in three titles a month?

With this proposal, you're labeling the chaos inherent in the system and making it look like part of the master plan.

Do it fellas.
Pictures via Comics Alliance.

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