DC Comics announced today that it will be rebooting its universe with 52 titles with Issue No. 1 in September, after the current “Flashpoint” summer crossover, in which the Flash deals with an alternate reality (one of many parallels).
While this may get some attention in the mainstream news media, it’s too soon to tell whether this will be good or bad for DC’s iconic characters or the comics industry in general. I’ve noted before how superhero stories have been fodder for popular movies, even as print sales decline. DC’s announcement that digital versions of its comics will be available on the same Wednesdays as individual issues is a strong attempt to address this decline.
I also doubt that this will have the same long-lasting effect as Crisis on Infinite Earths, which reset DC’s timelines in the mid-1980s, just as I was returning to comic books and graphic novels as a young adult. Marvel Comics tends to reboot individual characters (see One More Day for Spider-Man) or teams (such as the Avengers Reborn) rather than its entire continuity at once.
The reason for such reboots is simple: Fans want their favorite characters, such as Batman or Captain America, to be relatively unaging, while real-world and fictional events (such as the maturing of sidekicks) pile up around them. To bring in younger or more casual readers, a periodic housecleaning makes sense.
In “comic book time,” how long has Superman or Wolverine been a costumed vigilante? Is Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, or Damien Wayne the youngster in the Robin costume? Which president is considering the Mutant/Metahuman Registration Act?
I don’t mind clearing the cobwebs around continuity, as long as it leads to fresh looks at characters without changing their core concepts (most superheroes don’t kill) or to mere rehashing of well-known or recent stories. “Nerd rage” will focus on Jim Lee’s costume redesigns, the economics of renumbering issues, and the impermanence of any historical revisions. I prefer to wait and see how drastic DC’s reboot will be.
On a related superheroic note, I watched the latest episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the direct-to-video Thor: Tales of Asgard this past weekend. The animated feature focused on a young god of thunder, and was a decent parallel/companion piece to the live-action film.