Well, probably not final thoughts. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the New 52 later on. More like looking back on it now because it’s over.
I’ve been collecting comic books since 1989. In 2011, DC announced that they would be doing a line wide restart and revamping their comics. All of these characters change and evolve over time, and the versions that I grew up reading and enjoy, aren’t the originals. Therefore, I reasoned that we had over 25 years with these characters since Crisis on Infinite Earths, and I was fine with a reboot. To be honest, I was excited about the prospect of something new.
However, I don’t feel like we ever got the reboot I was looking forward to. There were some new concepts that I liked. Blue-collar Superman was one I really enjoyed right out of the gate. Even though that called back to the earliest days of the man of tomorrow. (See my previous post about the Golden Age Superman Omnibus.)
The problems arose when we didn’t get the revamp to the degree that the company produced in the 80s. Ever since, the New 52 has been referred to as a “soft reboot.” I don’t know about you, but I prefer my reboots hard, even throbbing. Turgid, if you will. I was never happy with the limp results of the New 52.
It was later revealed that each editorial team was left to determine on their own how much change would be needed. That meant that books that sold well like Batman and Green Lantern, didn’t change at all. Green Lantern basically continued Geoff Johns’ stories intact. I think if you gave someone the stories with out the new numbers on the cover, they wouldn’t know anything had changed.
Then they announced a “5 year” timeline for the “new” universe. That put the bullet right through the foot of the Batman line. Since Batman’s world hadn’t changed that now meant that his entire history (basically literally with the way Grant Morrison was developing Batman Inc.) had occurred in the short span of only 5 years. Shortly, editorial backslid on the timeline to say that Batman had been operating in secret longer than the 5 year history.
How did they expect to attain new readers with a continuity this complex? I had several Marvel-guy friends ask me if they should pick up these new DC books. I couldn’t wholeheartedly tell them yes like I wanted to. Like I should have been able to. I explained to them what DC was doing and would just see their eyes roll. DC has a reputation with outsiders for being hard to crack continuity-wise. Marvel changes stuff all the time too, they just don’t announce it or have a big event around it, so DC gets the bad rap for doing this.
As the years go by, and people who were there loosen up a bit, I think we’ll find that a lot of this came down from the higher-ups at Warner Bros. With as much planning that DC puts into a crossover event, there were so many things hastily put together in this once-in-a-generation revamp. Dan Didio admitted almost immediately that it was not his idea to renumber Detective and Action Comics. Just that one thing shows that this was being handed down from on high. Sidenote: I’m pumped they are returning those titles to the previous numbering with Rebirth. We all knew though that there was no way DC was going to pass up doing #1,000s for these titles.
With DC Rebirth, it seems like DC is throwing out characters that may never have really gotten a chance. Decompressed storytelling, with the aim of being collected in a trade, means that for a lot of these titles we only got 2 stories a year. The New 52 is being ended before even getting to the 5th anniversary. That means, compared to the 25 years we got of the Post-Crisis universe, that we barely had any time for these characters to grow and develop. Or more importantly, care about. These versions of the characters are being cut off at the knees and tossed aside for Rebirth.
Right now, it looks like Rebirth is going to be reestablishing a lot of things from the Post-Crisis universe. Ultimately, this feels like a step back, not forward. It also feels like maybe this is what DC would have done as opposed to the New 52 if they had enough time to coordinate it.
Online, I’m already seeing where younger fans are denouncing Rebirth for getting rid of “their” DC. Tossing their versions aside to make way for the favorites of middle-aged men. It’s hard to argue.
In the long run, I hope that Rebirth will be managed better than the New 52 was. Hopefully we get new concepts and storylines that propel these characters into the future, not just trade in on the nostalgia of the past.