Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weighing in on the Upcoming New 52

The New 52's ACTION COMICS #1
Art: Rags Morales
There has been much speculation about what's happening in the DC Universe as a result of the big 52 Reboot taking place in September. It's a bold move the publisher has taken: effectively cancelling all of their titles and restarting the entire continuity over with 52 #1 issues. Yet, as big as a lot of these changes are, I also view them as cyclical. And I also speculate a lot of this started in a boardroom, with laywers and executives and editors gathered to discuss the fate of their cornerstone character: Superman.

When John Byrne and Marv Wolfman took over the writing reins of the SUPERMAN books in '86, that represented an enormous change for the characters' history. Byrne often stated that his goal at the time was to make Superman more like what he originally was. I chaffed at the notion then, but in time came to appreciate this choice, and many of the directions the writers went in.

Byrne's choice to keep Ma and Pa Kent alive seemed as radical then (twenty-five years ago!) as the choice to re-orphan Superman seems now. It's actually a testament to Byrne's creative instincts that we now consider the Kents as adult Clark's parents such a critical part of the SUPER-canon. I think Morrison is at least as smart a writer as Byrne, so...we'll see which (if any) of his own creative choices stick in the long run.

Regardless, Superman will eventually get stronger, Clark and Lois will inevitably become lovers and get re-married, and the Kents will come back in some incarnation. It doesn't pay off as a fan to be too married to any single continuity, because eventually it all comes back around, and in the meantime, we've still got back-issues to tide us over.

continued the numbering of the previous
series. (That's how you do it!)
Art: Jerry Ordway

I wasn't always so easy-going about such things. As stated above, I was pretty upset when the Superman titles were rebooted in 1986. I felt we were losing the canon, and that canon was all I had known up to that point. In time I've come to see that when you're dealing with characters this well known by the general public, not to mention something as ephemeral as the dedication of artists to a project, the gravitational pull of an entire Marvellous and DisContented universe always snaps the Supermen and the Batmen and the Wonder Women back into alignment.

You know what DOES make me more than a little ticked-off, though? This business of re-numbering everything, especially ACTION COMICS and DETECTIVE COMICS.

Those titles, more than any others, have truly stood the tests of time, including fickle fans and clueless corporate maneuvering. The fact that books exist which have been in continuous publication for so long should be a mark of pride for the parent company. Instead, they choose to, at best, obscure this detail with no acknowledgement, or at worst, promote the renumbering with glee. When I read DC touting their "first new issue of ACTION COMICS in 75 years!" I wanted to puke on their shoes.

It's a move that reeks of disregard for the fans, and desperation for a quick sales fix. Even if a good bit of what is produced is amazing, I don't see this lasting in the long run...and I don't have an answer for them either, at least not one they want to read. Nothing sells comics better than well-written stories with solid artwork produced on a regular schedule. If you can't deliver that, maybe it's time to acknowledge that you're Number Two because you didn't try harder.

And if they're not careful, they might become number 52. Sales positions may be cyclical too, but I wouldn't bank on it.

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