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This past May, DC Comics announced that they were going to relaunch all of their superhero titles this coming September. This included not only starting over from scratch with their characters (mostly), but also rebooting their continuity and restarting 52 titles with a new issue #1 (including the longest-running continuous comic titles Action Comics and Detective Comics). This has caused some stir in the comic book fandom. I’ve been wanting to write up an opinion piece about this relaunch for some time (and I’ve been promising Zack that I’d do it), but I wanted to wait and get more information to create an informed opinion (unlike the rest of the internet).
Honestly, I’m all for it. I think this can bring in some new readership in the, lets face it, dying entertainment source that is comic books. As a long-time comic fan, I am excited to see what they will do with some of my favorite characters. While I’ll admit that some of the decisions being made are questionable (more on that below), I think this will really get DC’s readership up and give a boost in comics overall.
A lot has been made about the fact that they are rebooting the continuity because it has become too convoluted to follow. DC did this once before for the same reason in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline. I honestly disagree with that and feel that nothing was overly messed up this time around. However, the old stories are not going anywhere, and readers can always check them out with either digital comics or by getting the trades (or by buying old, back issues – lets face it, modern era comics are not going to be worth anything and will be cheap to acquire).
While I am excited about what is to come, I am disappointed with a few of the changes they are going ahead with. One of which is is the dissolution of Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane. That was one of the most interesting things they did with Superman in his 75 year existence. However, at least they didn’t pull a One More Day and magic it away. It is a clean cut. Plus, from the preview pages of the different Superman titles, I get an late 80s/John Byrne-era interpersonal, human drama vibe from them. That is a good thing as that is something I really enjoyed in those comics.
The second thing I am disappointed in is the fact that Barbra Gordon is resuming her role as Batgirl. Now, while I am a Barbra Gordon Batgirl fan, for the past 20+ years, the character has been wheelchair bound and crafted a new identity for herself in the DC world. For many, she has been seen as a positive character for the disabled. Now, that’s gone and it has provoked a negative reaction as depicted here. I realize I mentioned before that DC is starting over, so, logically, it would seem she is starting over too. However, Batman, his supporting cast, and his stories are staying pretty much staying in tact, continuity-wise (when sales are high, you don’t change much). Granted, no explanation has been given yet as to how she is walking again, so it is too early to tell if the transition back to Batgirl will ultimately hurt the character.
One last bit of criticism is probably a very trivial thing, so take it with a grain of salt. Artist Jim Lee redesigned many, if not all, the superhero costumes in the new relaunch. Many of the changes are terrible, I feel. Lee really needs to stop it when it comes to drawing seams on costumes. Seriously…stop it! Superman’s redesign looks awful (why does he, of all characters, need what appears to be armor?), Flash has a awkward chin strap thing, and Wonder Woman is sporting some sort of choke collar. There are others, but many of the changes seem to be for the sake of change. I’m sure I’ll get use to them, and if the stories are entertaining, the costume won’t matter. To end this point on a positive note, I do like Tim “Red Robin” Drake’s redesign.
The part of the relaunch I’ve been very curious about is the fact that new comics are going to be available to purchase digitally (think iTunes) on the same day they are available in the stores. This is a new concept. Before, one would have to wait a few weeks before being able to get the “new stuff”. Personally, I think this is the biggest reason for the relaunch. It ties in perfectly with a reboot as tech savvy folks who haven’t read comics can be encouraged to get into them as they are released. Also, considering that the comic print industry is slowly dying, this is going to be the next generation. It was only a matter of time before this happened, so DC decided to take that leap forward.
While I won’t be downloading comics anytime soon, I was very curious how comic shops felt about it. If this stuff goes digital, the logical conclusion is that it will eventually kill the comic shop. I’ve talked to a few shop owners I know, and they don’t seem worried about it. They feel that the buyers who they already have will continue to buy print issues. This makes sense, but I can’t help but think that, eventually, this will cause shops to go out of business.
So, what are my final thoughts? Well, I’m excited by it. I think this is going to be a good boost for DC and comics in general (at least for the next couple of months). I am also eager to get into a “starting point” for several figures. Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run seems promising. Morrison is a polarizing writer. He has his share of good (All-Star Superman) and bad (Final Crisis). However, when his stuff fails, it is an interesting failure. George Perez’s Superman seems interesting for the reasons mentioned earlier. Francis Manapul’s The Flash looks good as well. I’ve been wanting to get into this character for a while now, and Manapul’s artwork is absolutely fantastic.
DC has their hands full with this new endeavor. I think it will pay off for them. I hope, in a few months, to do a follow-up piece on the relaunch to examine how things have played out. The “New 52” begins on August 31st. Will you be checking any of it out?