Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Comic Book Confidential: The Great Reboot of 2011

It's official.

DC Comics is going to reboot their major superhero titles this August 31, restarting them at #1, with modified designs, new updated origins, and hopefully clear up their convoluted back-stories in the hope that it will stop them from being completely impenetrable to new readers.

I've been saying for years that this has to be done. Comics, especially superhero titles, have a lot of influence on pop culture that is directly inverse to the sales of actual comics. There are two main reasons for this:

1. Kids don't read comics anymore. It's not just because they're all planted in front of their Playstations and Xboxes and playing with their Wiis. It's because if a kid was to casually pick up a comic* they wouldn't have a frikking clue as to what the hell is going on because the story hinges on them having intimate knowledge of a major "event" that could possibly have happened before their parent's birth.

2. Regular comic buyers are an aging group and will soon become a shrinking group. The average comic book reader is in his thirties. Without kids getting into comics this group will age, die out, and get smaller and smaller.

Now people will go to comic book/superhero movies because they are one and done, complete stories all wrapped up in a neat little bow. They don't have to wade through decades of back-stories that are treated like holy writ in the comics.

This reboot has to be done if DC Comics and the rest of the comics industry is going to win new readers and remain viable in the 21st Century.

Now we know that it has to be done, the question we must ask is if this thing is going to be done right.

I have to ask this question because DC has tried to do this sort of thing before, and only dug the hole deeper.

In the 1960s DC Comics wanted to fix continuity problems between their original Golden Age characters, and the revived but often very different Silver Age characters.

To get it to work they created "Earth 2" an alternate reality that was the home of the Justice Society made up of Golden Age characters who would occasionally cross over and interact with their mainstream "Earth 1" counterparts.

By the 1980s the concept of alternate universes and alternate heroes and villains got really, really, really convoluted, creating as many problems as it solved. The powers that be at DC decided to clear it up in one big crossover even that would fix everything, and the characters, as well as the company, could start over fresh.

That event was Crisis On Infinite Earths, and it really didn't much of anything. Especially since the people writing, drawing, and editing the post-Crisis DC Comics spent the next two decades undoing everything accomplished during the crisis.

Now comes the big reboot.

Will DC Comics have the will to make it stick?

That will have to be seen.

Another question that has to be asked is about the timing.

They just announced it, giving readers, retailers, and the general audience just 3 months to prepare.

Will the currently running stories get a chance to wrap up in that time?

Is this enough time to get audience anticipation going, especially among new potential readers?

Personally, I would have gone for almost a year to do it. Put ads outside the usual comics media that are only read by people who already read comics, and find a way to get the damn issues in stores where non-comic fanboys and fangirls go. I'm talking places where regular magazines can be bought by regular readers and have the sort of stories that casual readers can enjoy.

If they don't, then this whole thing is just another publicity stunt trying to sell hymns to the choir.


*That is if the kid lives within walking distance of a specialty comic book store, which is highly unlikely, actually goes inside, and has the money to buy the book and the will to do it. The days of picking one up off the spinner rack at the local convenience store are long over.

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