After 50 years of super-hero comics set on several parallel earths / storytelling universes, DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover from 1985 streamlined the ‘DC Multiverse’: A cosmic crisis destroyed the parallel worlds and gave most heroes new, simpler origin stories in a common, shared, modern-day universe.
[good article on the Crisis and it’s fictional AND real-world/economic consequences at TV Tropes (Link)]
26 years later, at the end of this summer’s big DC Comics ‘Flashpoint’ storyline, 52 comic series starring the DC heroes will start with a new ‘No. 1’ issue in September and several – big, cosmetic, or earth-shattering? – changes: The first big, universal reboot in these comics since 1985.
In a letter to comic shops and retailers, DC comics Sales SVP Bob Wayne explained what will happen in September: “Some of the characters will have new origins, while others will undergo minor changes. […] Our characters are always being updated; however, this is the first time all of our characters will be presented in a new way all at once.” (Link)
In a USA Today interview, creators Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee further elaborated their plans. (Details and some discussion at the ‘DC Women Kick Ass’ blog, Link.): A new Justice League with 14 members. A new ‘Hawkman’ and a new ‘Aquaman’ series and more emphasis on non-white and non-straight heroes like Batwoman and the Blue Beetle.
People are pretty nervous about a de-aged, twenty-something Batman and Superman though and the possible dissolution of Clark Kent’s marriage to Lois Lane: Will author Grant Morrison make Superman date Wonder Woman in September? (Link to the rumor and more discussion.)
“I’m hoping DC has the cajones to do a real universal reboot. They might pick up new readers; older ones like me will stick on”, writes Scipio Garling of the (amazing) ‘The Absorbascon’ blog: “Mainstream comics have long since given up on the principle that “every comic is someone’s first”; instead they cling desperately to the principle that “this comic must NOT be someone’s last!” This gives us an endless cascade of ‘can’t miss’ cliffhangers to keep dying addicts addicted, rather than an endless parade of new stories to keep new readers interested.”
In Germany, staff at the Berlin ‘Grober Unfug’ comic book store is excited (Link)… while Tofu Nerdpunk has some warranted, sceptical questions (Link): If everyone is younger… what about the teenage heroes? The current and former Robins? And the bigger, ongoing storylines, for example in Gotham City? Will everything be erased / ignored?
If the reboot fails, there is one bright spot: In 1996 and 1997, Marvel comics tried a similar approach with their ‘Heroes Reborn’ crossover (Link). “The changes to the characters were controversial, provoking debates amongst fans. However, all of the titles experienced a large upsurge in sales.”
After the sales returned back to normal… the storylines wrapped up, and all the characters returned to the ‘normal’, former Marvel universe and their established continuity.
So if the experiment fails… the rebooot can be rebooted again. No harm done! 🙂
Update: Here’s an interesting IGN article about the 8 biggest potential problems the reboot has to solve (Link).