Before he gave his life to the service of the Church, the Reverend Peter Organ dedicated his passion to spaceships, sticker albums, orcs and laser-swords. Now married with two children of his own, he’s yet to find a cassock which covers the geek completely, and wonders how he’s going to explain his Warhammer collection to the Bishop…
Welcome to Blessed Are The Geek #1. In the spirit of recent comics news, I’ve decided to renumber the columns and start a fresh continuity to encourage new readership (hello Mum!).
DC’s announcement at the end of May has certainly caused ripples in the world of comics. Many a geek has dropped to their knees inna-Anakin-stylee and screamed an anguished "Nooooooo!" at the stars. (And the rest of the world got on with their business, shaking their heads in bemusement). So what is this major disruption in the DC Force ("as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly putting their comics collections on eBay")?
From September the comics publisher will be resetting those of its titles set in the universe of Superman, Ambush Bug, Batman, Wonder Woman, and their less well-known buddies. It’s not clear yet if this will be a complete reboot, starting from scratch. Dan Didio, co-Publisher of DC was quoted as saying that it's "...a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience." (source: USA Today). Over 50 titles will restart at issue #1, with fresh-looking takes on the old heroes many have grown up with, including new cossies.
The redesign of outfits is nothing new. As recently as the beginning of this year Wonder Woman got herself controversial new, 90s looking threads. Batman’s costume has been tweaked gradually over the years, and there are currently two versions in continuity together, with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson sporting slightly different designs.
Resetting continuities is not new for DC, or the comics world in general either. Marvel has two continuities on the go with its Ultimates universe running alongside their longer-running timeline. DC periodically resets to varying degrees following summer cross-over spectacular events, that would leave most geeks penniless if they tried to buy all the titles concerned. This reboot too is going to follow on from a big Flash event over the summer (that’s the red costumed superhero, not a bunch of heroes dropping their tights in unison).
The advantage of the reboot is that it theoretically allows new readers to pick up titles without having to research decades of continuity to understand why Superman is allergic to lemons on page two, or where Green Lantern’s latest Nemesis, Ferret Man, came from. In all seriousness, I've been wanting to introduce my eldest sprog to Batman for a while, but whilst the current run has been entertaining for me, there’s no way I’d be able to get him up to speed on events so that he could follow the plot.
Renewing characters also enables the publisher to widen the diversity of superheroes to better represent modern society, and we already have a lesbian Batwoman, a female Question and an Hispanic Blue Beetle as a result of this. Plus, the business model of a reboot is hard to resist when you’ve seen the figures. Sales can triple when you reset to #1 on a long-running title, as people use the opportunity to start picking the comic up without needing to know oodles of back-story. The downside is that long-term readers feel that they've been wasting their time reading up to the reset, since all the events they've been following disappear into the ether/parallel world/fan fiction.
But the fact is we should be used to reboots by now. The film adaptations of our heroes have done it often enough, allowing new audiences to discover and enjoy Batman, the X-Men, Hulk and Ghost Rider afresh. In some cases the reboot has come as a relief, since the earlier cinema outing may have sucked a bit (okay, maybe more than a bit in the case of Ghost Rider - fingers crossed for the sequel reboot, eh?).
In another attempt to attract new readers, all titles post-reboot will be available online on the day of publication. Personally, I like the monthly trip to the Planet of Forbiddeness to catch the latest titles, partly because it gets me out of the parish, but mostly it’s an excuse to meet with mates over pints in town. Ultimately I'm guessing online will be the future for comics, in the same way as even I've started getting music from iTunes (which probably means it’s due to be replaced by new technology soon).
No, the only thing that narks me about this whole announcement from DC is the renumbering issue. Why it should bother me that the numbers of titles are going to be reset is beyond me. But there’s something kind of nice about buying a title that’s been going as long as Action Comics (AC) (900+ issues) or Detective Comics (pushing 900). It’s like buying comic heritage in a weird way. As someone has pointed out, DC will no doubt flag up issue 1000 of AC when it reaches it, reset or no reset. Wonder Woman is (again) a case in point where they reset to #1 in 2006, only for the old numbering scheme to revert when it hit the 600th publication since the original in 1942.
But that niggle aside, if the stories are worth reading I’ll still be picking up the same titles, whatever the hero's back-story is, whatever they are wearing, and regardless of the number on the front, because good comics make me happy. So there.