I have been mulling writing a review of DC's new limited series Flashpoint for a while now, but had thought that I should wait until the second issue came out to really have something to say. Granted, a good deal of what I was going to say had nothing to do with the content of that exact title but with the direction it and its associated mini-series were taking, but still, I thought two issues of content would give me a solid footing for whatever opinions I might have. In the meantime, I was working up reviews of Babylon 5 and Kung Fu Panda 2 that would be coming out this week.
And then I got to work this morning and someone said to me—what do you think about DC rebooting their titles?
If only we were talking about this kind of Reboot.
Some background: DC decided to end their ongoing title Flash and follow it up with a mini-series called Flashpoint, in which something goes horribly wrong in time and Everything You Know Has Changed (comics trope #1). And while the main mini-series was being released, DC was going to have some ancillary mini-series as well, such as Flashpoint: The Canterbury Cricket (I am not making the title up) that would help establish the universe that was created when something had gone wrong with time. The problem was that there were TWENTY associated mini-series running three issues apiece! So, at $3 a pop, that's nine bucks for a mini-series, times 20…$180 dollars for the associated mini-series alone. Add that to the main mini-series, running five issues at $4 a pop and you end up having to fork over $200 before taxes to keep up with what is going on. And this doesn't include the regular cost of your monthly comics which were going to continue running as Flashpoint ran its course.
I, something of a monumental comic geek, hemmed and hawed. Of course I could obsess over owning all of them, but when it came to reading them, the quality could be all over the place. And given DC's recent editorial direction, they probably WOULD be all over the place. I finally decided I couldn't pay $200, even with my discount at the local store. So I subscribed only to the main mini-series at my local comic book store, much to the chagrin of its owner, and tried not to feel guilty about keeping money out of his hands and trying not to feel smug about finally fighting off my completist tendency.
And then DC announced that the final issue of Flashpoint would be one of only two books released that week (bearing in mind that most weeks see an average of around 10 books being released), and that they weren't talking about September yet because Everything Is Going To Change. As you might expect, speculation started immediately about what that might actually mean, and the leading contender was that DC was going to reboot some part of their continuity. For the comically ignorant, rebooting means relaunching a series, going back to #1 and assuming that a majority of what had happened has not happened. It's a way of sweeping away the detritus and inertia of an ongoing series, giving the creators free reign to do something relatively new with an existing character, without breaking all the continuity that has gone before. It's also a way to increase sales because, wouldn't you know it, the #1 issue of a comic book usually sells a whole lot. But the theory was that DC wasn't just going to reboot one title, they were going to reboot several.
And, as it turns out, they intend to reboot every single one of them that is in their main continuity, 52 titles in all. The new Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman would have some resemblance to what audiences know about them nothing should be taken for granted. To quote a related article (http://tucsoncitizen.com/usa-today-news/2011/05/31/dc-comics-unleashes-a-new-universe-of-titles/),
In September, an additional 51 first issues will make their debut, introducing stories that are grounded in each character's specific legend but also reflect today's real-world themes and events. Lee spearheaded the costumes' redesign to make characters more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old.
"We really want to inject new life in our characters and line," says Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC with Lee. "This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."
Never mind that I already am a member of today's audience and I kinda like the characters the way they are…rather the way they were a couple of years ago. Oh, and to top it all off, DC also announced that they are going to add a digital format for all these titles, making the digital version available on the same day as the paper copies are available. So let's take a peek at the past and then conjecture a little bit.
I've made no bones about how much I think a lot of DC's work has sucked recently. I cut two thirds of my subscription list. I've complained about bizarre editorial decisions both here and in conversation. And now part of me wonders how much of that lack of (I just got to call a spade a spade) giving a damn about the product was based on the knowledge that it was all going away anyway. Superman goes walkabout in a "major change of direction" and, predictably, nothing happens. Wonder Woman gets mixed up in some sort of time thing and people forgot that she exists. And predictably, it's not very well written. Everyone thinks Batman has died, but now he's back and there are two Batmen, plus a whole corporation of international Batmen, and it just doesn't have any logic associated with it. The Justice League, supposedly the group of the greatest heroes in the DC universe, is now made of sidekicks, also-rans, and a gorilla. And I ask myself if creators were allowed to do this because it was the end of the titles and we'd be starting it all over soon anyway. As I write these things, I'm very cognizant of appearing as though I am wearing a tinfoil hat, but then I am reminded of one of the worst fiascoes of the last couple of years—a horribly disjointed comic titled 52. And how many titles are getting "relaunched" in September? 52. So while that may be a coincidence, it also puts an exclamation point on what has been a particularly bad run in the past few years, in an economic climate where people did not need much persuasion to spend their money on things like gas and food.
But what about going forward? If the above paragraph didn't make my point too clearly, the editorial decisions of late have just been abysmal, and I'm left to wonder why I should give a darn about this latest one. It's hard not to see this as yet another Big Event, and DC hasn't pulled off one of those in a long time. And now, instead of perhaps messing up just a few titles, they have put the whole line in danger if they are not more thoughtful about the editorial decisions being made.
And so, bearing in mind that I have been flirting with just dropping comics altogether, I've got to decide what to do next. If everything is being relaunched, August would be the absolute best time imaginable to cut the cord. I've also been pondering the whole digital comic issue—there is a great deal to be said for not having to store comics any longer; I've already got 32 boxes of comics in storage and every week just adds a few more books to the pile. If the comics are going to come out digitally ON THE SAME DAY and if they have the same price point (though I have heard cheaper actually), suddenly I could be in a position to avoid having to drive to the next city over to get comics, cut storage costs dramatically, and actually keep ALL the comics I buy on relatively inexpensive digital media.
What are the drawbacks to either plan? Well, if I drop comics altogether, all I can think about is the face of my local comic book store owner, who also happens to be a friend. It's not his fault that DC has made idiotic decision after idiotic decision, but he also will end up paying the price if I stop buying comics or purchase them in some other fashion. And, if I go digital, there really is something to be said for actually holding a book in my hands and seeing the full drawing in the format in which it was intended.
So, I have some really big decisions ahead of me, lifestyle-changing decisions. What do I think of DC's reboot? What I would really like is if DC backed up about four years and started from there, giving a damn about the stories they were writing and as a side effect keeping me interested. But that doesn't seem likely and I am left to decide, as I approach the ripe old age of 46, am I cool enough to appreciate the hip new things DC is trying to do?
Man I miss Reboot.