It is safe to say that the entertainment industry is obsessed with reboots. Almost every movie franchise is going to be or has been rebooted (Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, etc.), even television (with the new Hawaii Five-O and upcoming shows like Charlie's Angels), all the way to video games (with upcoming reboots of such storied franchises as Tomb Raider and Devil May Cry). Now, within the past few years we've seen the comic book industry get in on the action, with Marvel in essence rebooting Spider-man a few years back at the hands of Mephisto, and just the other day the news came from DC Comics that every character in the DC Universe is being reimagined and rebooted come September.
Unlike Marvel's Ultimates line, this will not be an alternate storyline that tries to give a more modernized take on these classic characters, it is just completely erasing over 75 years of history and starting anew. To be fair, this is not the first time DC has done such a thing. After the event, "Crisis on Infinite Earths," in the mid-'80s, all of DC's characters were rebooted then with new looks, new origin stories, and other changes. Now, they are doing the same thing again in 2011 with the event, "Flashpoint," presumably leading to this reboot. As much as I love comic books, I am baffled at this decision.
While DC sees this as the best solution to keep the stories fresh, creative, and interesting, I don't think younger versions of these classic characters, will in the long run, fix any of these problems. I mean, how long will it really take for DC to remarry Lois Lane and Superman (assuming they will be unmarried when Superman #1 hits shelves in Sept.)? One just has to look back 26 years when DC did this with, "Crisis on Infinite Earths," and they're doing it again, now. Now, the thing with reboots, in any medium, is that they are sometimes warranted, and sometimes are even good, but a reboot on this large of a scale just seems like a risky endeavor, and a poor idea in trying to boost sales.
While knocking each issue back to #1 is always a good idea to draw in new readers, if the new readers miss issue #1, they wont pick up #2, or #3, so on and so forth. Using the crutch that this will help create new readers is bogus. Sure, it may seem comforting at first no longer having to contend with 75 years of continuity in order to fully have a grasp on the story, but how much longer will it take to build up a new continuity that will scare off new readers two to three years down the road? The bottom line is, how will this change the characters we know and love?
When Marvel did something similar to Spider-man a few years back, it did in fact make his books more fun to read than they had been in over a decade, but can the same happen to DC, and will some characters be left in the cold? As it is, characters like Superman have had a real hard time remaining relevant within the past few decades, where as characters like Green Lantern and Batman are in what most would consider their Golden Ages (with Batman the best I think I've ever read it).
Ultimately, both the Green Lantern line of comics and the Batman line of comics, stand the most to lose from this change. So many good stories have happened to these characters just within the past five years, that not only forever changed these characters, but it actually worked in adding new layers to these characters and made them better than ever. With the return of the original Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, a Golden Age of Green Lantern stories started, and the stories are still super powerful month to month. Same for Batman, with Bruce Wayne having a son, then him dying, Dick Grayson becoming Batman and Bruce's son the new Robin, then Bruce comes back and founds Batman, Inc. (an idea to have multiple crimefighters around the world fighting under the Batman symbol). Even Wonder Woman and the Flash have had a renaissance of sorts in the past few years. With so much fresh storytelling going on in the DC Universe, why reboot?
It all seems to boil back to Superman. Currently a lawsuit is raging between DC and the estates of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (the creators of Superman), over who actually owns the character of Superman. As it is, the lawsuit is working out in such a way that one side owns certain aspects of the character, while the other owns the rest. So for example, while Siegel and Shuster's estates may own the origin story, DC owns his power of flight, etc. Some have speculated that this reboot is merely to try and safeguard the character of Superman if such a split in rights does ultimately happen. While that may be part of it, seeing as how Supes is DC's flagship character, I don't think it's all.
As I mentioned earlier, Superman's comics have been stale for years, but I think it is not because he isn't relevant. Superman is about as relevant as he's ever going to get. As director Richard Donner said of the character, he is as American as Apple Pie, and that will never change, nor should it (I mean, no one's ever gonna make Captain America become Captain Earth, instead). So relevancy is not an issue, but rather I think it's the editors at DC being unwilling to try and find creative solutions to make the stories fresh. I mean, try something like Green Lantern or Batman did. Have a big, forever changing thing happen to the character that cannot be undone, like when he married Lois. Let him and Lois have a kid (if Batman can have one, and if any superhero should be a father, it should be Superman), I dunno, do something that will forever change the character but still keep his core intact and without erasing everything that has ever happened to him.
A similar approach could be made to all of the other DC heroes who have lost appeal over the years, all it would require is some work. In some cases, as mentioned earlier, a reboot can sometimes be good, and I wont say this new direction from DC will be flat out awful, it could be amazing. On the same side of things, reboots can often be warranted, with a franchise running its course, like Star Trek, and needing a shot in the arm and some reimaginging to keep it going. However, if the Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman, or Flash comics have shown us anything in the past few years, is that these characters have not run their course yet, and that this reboot is simply a cop out by DC in order to keep from having to be as creative as they were when they reinvigorated all of these other heroes. We'll see when September rolls around if DC's gameplan works, but for now, here is a look at the redesigned Justice League: