Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | Robin, The Flash, changes and rollbacks

Tim Drake and Wally West, in Robin #62

This is not necessarily another post about DC’s post-Flashpoint superhero titles. However, since we superhero readers must deal with a climate of perpetual change, I often wonder just how far DC could go in rolling back its big changes.

In a sense, the first big set of changes started in 1956, with Barry Allen’s debut as the new Flash. Barry’s introduction acknowledged explicitly that there had been a previous (albeit “fictional”) Flash, whose name Barry took and whose costume was Barry’s inspiration. You know the rest: new versions of Green Lantern, the Atom, Hawkman, etc., followed; they all teamed up as an updated Justice Society called the “Justice League”; and they were joined by a number of new characters like Adam Strange, the Hawk and the Dove, and the Doom Patrol.

After that, though, DC’s Silver Age of the 1960s was exciting but uneventful, because (outside of a few marriages) its status quo was never really challenged. Accordingly, when the Doom Patrol was murdered (in September 1968′s issue #121) and Dick Grayson left Wayne Manor (in December 1969′s Batman #217), DC’s shared superhero universe moved into a new phase.

* * *

By my count, there have been several such status-quo shifts since 1956. The first was the aforementioned Silver Age (1956-69). Next came the 1970s (1970-79), which began with such updates as Clark Kent’s television career, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories, and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic; and ended with Iris Allen’s murder in July 1979′s The Flash #275. For the most part these changes reflected ongoing developments in the lives of the characters, which while not insignificant (i.e., Congresswoman Barbara Gordon) still didn’t alter them fundamentally.

The work of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez bookended the Pre-Crisis ‘80s (1980-85), which got going in earnest with New Teen Titans #1 (November 1980) and finished up with Crisis On Infinite Earths. If we want to get really nitpicky, we can argue about whether this phase ended with Crisis #12, or with 1986′s “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?”; but I tend to think Crisis works better to put a period on the shared universe (Multiverse, really) which DC had spent the past few decades managing. That aside, the first half of the ‘80s saw a number of significant changes to DC’s superhero line. A casual reader of 1984, surveying the books for the first time in a while, would find a new Robin (Jason Todd), a new regular Green Lantern (John Stewart), the Justice Society’s children starting their own costumed careers, and Batman leading the Outsiders instead of teaming up with the Justice League. Of course, Crisis brought its own set of changes and deaths, setting the stage for more radical revamps.

These were the hallmark of the Post-Crisis Period (1986-94), which saw Superman and Wonder Woman starting virtually from scratch, Wally West becoming the third Flash, and the Justice League embracing its global reach. If 1984′s casual reader popped back in during a fairly ordinary month like November 1990, she would find yet another new Robin, a very different Hawkman, new rosters for the (ex-)Teen Titans and Doom Patrol, and Justice League Europe. This period ended with the “soft reboot” of Zero Hour, which was facilitated by the apocalyptic guard-changing just a few months prior in Green Lantern.

In the Post-Zero Hour Period (1994-2004), the superhero line was able to build on all the changes wrought in the previous several years. Clark Kent married Lois Lane, the Justice League returned to its “original seven” lineup (including the current Flash and GL), and other super-groups like the Titans and Justice Society likewise went back to more familiar roll calls. There were still new faces with old names, like Jack “Starman” Knight, Hal “Spectre” Jordan, and Linda “Supergirl” Danvers; and there were new names in familiar roles (Impulse instead of Kid Flash, Young Justice instead of the Teen Titans). Thus, although this was a fairly stable time, it was significantly different from the DC of the ‘70s or ‘80s.

Next, in what I call the Crisis Cycle (2004-09), DC embarked on a somewhat schizophrenic strategy of “death and rebirth”: for example, Sue Dibny and Blue Beetle murdered, but the Green Lantern Corps and Jason Todd back in action. For me, Final Crisis — which, appropriately enough, featured the return of Barry Allen and the “death” of Batman — marked the end of this period.

Accordingly, we’re a couple of years into what I’m calling the Fifth Generation, personified by the fifth Robin, Damien Wayne. If we are at all interested in treating DC’s superhero history as a period of measurable time, then as a Robin, Damien is automatically significant, because his age is a direct clue as to how old his mentor(s) and predecessors are; and therefore how much time has passed since Bruce Wayne rang that fateful bell.

* * *

Damien also represents the inherent impermanence of (for lack of a better term) the “sidekick identity.” This is a concept which, at least in regular continuity, arguably did not exist before Dick’s retirement as Robin. Starting in the mid-‘60s, the Earth-2 Robin was shown as Batman’s adult successor; but even in a gray-and-black costume, he was still recognizable as the former Boy Wonder. That Dick remained Robin until his death in Crisis, and throughout the ‘70s there was no real thought that the Earth-1 Dick would grow old any differently. However, the notion that “Robin” was portable opened up a whole range of legacy characters, enabling DC to perpetuate familiar names and costumes while switching out the folks who played them. In this context, the current thinking that circus-star Dick is actually “performing the role” of Batman brings a unique, almost satirical, layer of shading to the cape and cowl.

So Dick becomes Nightwing, Jason becomes Robin, Wally takes over as the Flash, Kyle carries on the GL legacy, and a whole generation of Justice Society kids steps into the boots of their parents. Occasionally there is backsliding: Jesse Quick briefly took up her late mother’s Liberty Belle costume, Guy Gardner and Hal Jordan both spent time away from the GL Corps, and Bart Allen went from a murdered Flash to a revived Kid Flash. It’s also not impossible — although I imagine right now it is unlikely — that Dick will be Nightwing again, or (not that I wish ill on Damien; far from it) that Tim will be plain-old Robin.

Indeed, many of the changes visited upon these characters over the years — even death — have since been rolled back. Iris Allen and Bruce Wayne weren’t really dead, just in other time periods. Clark’s TV career was over long before the 1986 revamp put him squarely back at the Daily Planet. Justice League International gave way to a new Justice League of America. Even the original Doom Patrol, for a while DC’s most prominent martyrs, has been brought back to life. (Too bad their book was canceled.)

Thus, part of me always wonders whether DC will pull the trigger on a real rollback — back to the status quo of its Silver Age heyday, when there were only the adult heroes and (where applicable) their adolescent sidekicks, when marriages were new if they existed at all, and when the stories were accessible because nothing ever really changed. Scipio at the Absorbascon practically dares DC to do a “universal reboot,” starting everyone from scratch a la the much-beloved “Timmverse” and/or the “Brave and the Bold” cartoon.

I don’t think that’ll happen, for reasons I’ve explained before. Besides, DC’s already started a from-scratch universe called “Earth One.” It’s only one (published) book old, but a Batman book and the second Superman installment have already been promised. Before that there was the All-Star line, which apparently was the victim of office politics.

It’s not that rebooting would be hard — just pick one of the 52 Earths no one seems to be paying any attention to — it’s that at some point, you have to decide whether some changes are inevitable. Chief among these changes are the careers of Dick Grayson and Wally West: either they grow up to be Nightwing and the Flash, or they don’t. Granted, that’s assuming you start with a sort of Silver Age-ish, hero-and-sidekick status quo. If the sidekicks never grow up, you risk losing readers who want at least the acknowledgment of time passing. If the sidekicks do grow up, though, you risk the same kind of legacy structure the reboot probably sought to avoid.

Regardless, the thing about Dick Grayson is that he’s managed to transcend his original sidekick role. A lot of armchair psychology has gone into analyzing Batman over the years, but a good bit has been directed at the junior partner too. Wolfman and Pérez clearly enjoyed using Dick in New Teen Titans, so much so that they found a way to separate him (almost literally, in fact) from the red vest and green briefs. That, in turn, opened the floodgates for the proliferation of legacy characters from the mid-‘80s forward. It also encouraged DC’s creative teams — for good and ill — to focus more on the people in the suits than on what the suits represented. Thus, Dick’s motivation to “play” Batman is vastly different from Bruce’s (although I would argue that Bruce also “plays” Batman); just as Tim’s initial motivation to be Robin was different from Dick’s. As temporary as some of DC’s changes may be, this is why I don’t see them putting Dick back in the short pants permanently, even if he’s a teenager again as part of some grand global reboot. “Robin” may have been created as a way for Dick to cope with his parents’ deaths, but it has become the transitory role of Batman’s partner. Likewise, because it represents Dick’s independence, the Nightwing identity is as inevitable as emancipation itself. Dick may go back to being Nightwing (even as part of Batman, Inc.), but he can never go back to being Robin.

To me, this is a big part of what worked about the Wally West Flash, as well as what many fans seem to resist about Barry Allen’s return. While each of DC’s major characters got some psychological tweaking over the years, much of that — at least, much that fans and professionals pay attention to — came in the past twenty-odd years, when Barry was out of commission. (I hesitate to say that the most radical, if not the only, change to his character resulted from Iris’ death; but that may not be to far off.) Indeed, during this time Barry became “DC’s patron saint,” the bland, square, crewcut-coiffed speedster who fought goofy bad guys and spent the end of his career as a criminal defendant. By contrast, Wally grew up as one of the most powerful Teen Titans, went through some puberty-related problems with his superspeed, and spent his early Flash career perpetually trying to do right by Barry’s memory. Sometimes he was a womanizer, sometimes he was rich, sometimes he was living with his mom. Through it all, though, he was never dull — but readers were reminded frequently that Barry was.

If that sounds somewhat unfair to Wally and his caretakers, it’s not meant to be; it’s just a byproduct of a status quo they probably thought would last forever. Now that Barry’s back, however, he can’t afford to be compared unfavorably to Wally. He must justify his existence, whether that’s through the retconned tragedy of his parents, or merely by demonstrating that he wasn’t all that dull to begin with.

The point is, it’s not enough anymore simply to say “Here are Batman and Robin fighting bad guys,” or “Here is the Flash obliterating a tornado.” Readers want to know the people in the suits. Many readers have spent the better part of their own lives watching the lives of these fantastic others unfold. I don’t want to be That Guy — that “you’ll pry my continuity from my cold clammy palms” guy — but rolling back those lives, even for the laudable goal of accessibility, isn’t automatically the answer.

That said, I do agree with Scipio that DC shouldn’t treat every comic as if it were someone’s last. Thankfully, a number of titles have been doing fairly self-contained storylines, from the year-long arcs in Superman, Wonder Woman, and Action Comics to the more compartmentalized arcs in Batman and Robin and Detective Comics. Newer series like Zatanna, Xombi, and THUNDER Agents exist in their own little corners of the superhero line, and at the other end of the spectrum (see what I did there?) you’ll find the ever-evolving Green Lantern epic, whose roots go back at least to the 2004 relaunch.

Admittedly, all this could change come September, but I remain hopeful. DC’s great strength is in its willingness to experiment with different approaches to storytelling. If the big changes open up the superhero line in those ways, I’ll be happy. Otherwise — well, I’ve been grumpy before …

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37 Comments

Just put the Aquaman iteration from “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” cartoon into whatever the new (dis)continuity is for some permanence of a while, and I’ll be happy.

I grew up with “boring” Silver Age Barry Allen Flash and I loved it. To this day when someone says “The Rogues Gallery” I think Flash, not Batman. Flash fighting a tornado (from the Weather Wizard) was more than good enough. I hate the retconned violent death of his mother. It destroys the basic happiness of the character and gives us another Batman. It doesn’t make him deeper, it changes his identity, and needlessly so.

Grumpy enough for you?

Very good article. Impressive in its definition of the different periods of DC history and all make sense.

Based on personal experience, I don’t think complex and long-running backstories prevent new readers from jumping-on. Quite the opposite: when I started reading comics as a little kid in the ’80s I always dug the references to old stories and the history of characters. That’s why I’m opposed to a line-wide reboot: there’s nothing preventing creators from telling self-contained stories right now, so why throw out all those accumulated deeds and exploits that inform both the characters and (certain) readers enjoyment thereof?

On the other hand, DC’s legacy heroes (who are indeed often a lot more interesting than their bland Golden and Silver Age predecessors/inspirations) will forever be butting up against the desire of a specific segment of fans who want to see the originals back in action. Me, I got hooked on DC Comics because of the Tim Drake Robin and Morrison’s JLA, so in a lot of ways the current DCU is a pretty alien place to me, with few characters I can really get behind: the new adventures of bland dads Hal Jordan, Barry Allen and Ray Palmer hold little interest to me.

I do really like the Dick & Damien Batman & Robin, but that’s because it’s something completely new and forward-looking, not to mention a nice inversion of the traditional dynamic with a more light-hearted Bats and a grim little bastard of a Robin. However, with Bruce Wayne back in action (not even retired or operating behind the scenes, but as an actual second Batman) I feel the potential of doing something new with the franchise has already been squandered. Couldn’t they have given us a couple of years (say, 5+) with the new set-up before returning to the status-quo?

In the end, all I know is that having all these various versions of the same character running around (how is there even any crime left in Central City with five generations of the Flash active at the same time?) is making the DC Universe a very crowded, very unfocused place, and making it even harder for DC’s already under-exploited yet excellent stable of lesser and weirder characters to shine.

(sorry if this is a little unfocused: anti-inflammation medicine is making me a little fuzzy)

A Different Paul

May 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Great analysis.

DC’s overall willingness to move things forward with its characters is really what sets it apart from Marvel and keeps me coming back.

I’m a Wally West fan, and as you say, his relegation to obscurity was my only hesitation about Barry’s return. However, I trusted Geoff Johns. I’m not quite ready to say definitively if that trust was justified or not. I think/hope the retcon of his mother’s death was a larger piece in the Flashpoint puzzle.

DamiAn, not DamiEn, it’s DamiAn. My god, you could al least learn how to spell the name of the character that, according to your article, “is automatically significant”. That’s how the name’s spelled in Spanish and that’s how Morrison chose to name his character.

You’re completely right, sorry o_o

Don’t sweat it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I loved the article… but, being a journalist myself, I tend to think articles really suffer from things like these.

A long time ago, somebody (I really don’t remember who) remarked that comics production is driven by what the creator liked as a kid. Maybe it was John Byrne–there were very selective things about Superman that he liked which drove him to fundamentally alter the character in the 80s. What those selective things were, I don’t recall–but it somehow led to a significantly depowered Superman who was never Superboy, and a Lex Luthor who was basically the Kingpin.

Anyway, I think the “Johnsing” of DC has been pretty illustrative of this idea. It’s clear that he has a certain “fundamental” notion of how DC should look: Barry as the Flash, Hal as Green Lantern, and so forth. Elements that most people are used to get shoved aside for the writer’s preference–or maybe it’s the editor’s…I just don’t know anymore.

I look forward to the day where somebody who grew up in the 90s decides to recreate the DC universe again in his rose-tinted vision of that era. Which might not be a bad thing, if we suddenly had a massive revival of Starman, Resurrection Man, and Kyle as the prominent Green Lantern.

I don’t want to sound like a “grumpy old man” but the only thing wrong with ANY of these characters, is that the writers are not doing them justice. Barry Allen, or any other fictional character, is only a vehicle for a writer’s imagination. How this logical and obvious fact escapes the average comic book fan is beyond me.

Since DC never capitalized on the potential of 52 Earths (e.g., new OMAC, SHAZAM, and Kamandi stories) one approach would be for DC to collapse everything donw to only three Earths. Earth 1 could have the JSA fighting Nazis, Earth 2 could feature the current Superman, and Earth 3 could be a blank canvas.

Of course, the best approach would be for DC to leave everything “as is,” ignore the parts they want to forget, and just tell good stories that don’t rely on 70+ years of continuity.

LL

Tom — I look forward to your column every week. Great, as always.

My biggest hope for Flashpoint is that Barry Allen realizes he was never supposed to come back, and that the only way to restore the proper timeline (such as it is) is for him to go away again, paving the way for Wally’s return. Kyle might have been relegated to second (or thrd) banana with Hal’s return, but that’s NOTHING compared to what happened to Wally, once the biggest success story in the DCU. Of course, that’s silly.

I used to love almost everything Geoff Johns wrote (especially JSA and Wally Flash), but the aimlessness of Flash: Rebirth with no discernible, compelling reason for bring Barry back at the expense of Wally, has almost completely soured me on him. But I think it started with Infinifite Crisis.

The only way that Barry’s return will make me happy is if it leads to Flash being adapted in other media more easily (that is the plan, right?). Where are the animated and live-action movies? So far, Johns/DC has not been able to replicate the success of the return of Hal Jordan.

I recently re-read Green Lantern: Rebirth — that was a solid story with a clear purpose. Hal was redeemed, everything was tied together, the Corps was re-established and Guy, John and Kyle all had a place.

As intrigued as I am by the concept of Flashpoint (love alternate history stories), there are too many tie-ins for me to want to get engaged. I’m very curious as to the outcome, but frankly my favorite part of the new solicitations at this point is to see what classic series are getting collected in trade (still waiting for All Star Squadron, dammit!)

This is weird. I wrote almost the same exact thing about the Flash in an article for Geek Girl on the Street last week. Therefore, what we say must be true.

Lawrence Kangas

May 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Great article, but the one mistake that I caught was the mention of Jesse Quick taking over the mantle of her “late” mother Liberty Belle, the original is still alive and currently a member of the JSA. I know nit-picky, but I love the original Liberty Belle. Still waiting for the All-Star Squadron to be reprinted.

Glenn Simpson

May 29, 2011 at 9:19 am

If I’m not mistaken, Damian was raised in a test-tube and aged quickly, so his age is actually no reflection on any period of time having passed.

YraniGami
“I don’t want to sound like a “grumpy old man” but the only thing wrong with ANY of these characters, is that the writers are not doing them justice. Barry Allen, or any other fictional character, is only a vehicle for a writer’s imagination. How this logical and obvious fact escapes the average comic book fan is beyond me.”

EXACTLY! Readers were never bored with Kara Zor-el, Barry Allen or Hal Jordan. They were bored with how terrible their stories were.

While I think Hal Jordan should always be Green Lantern, “Hal Jordan” is just a name and a face. Each writer infuses him with their interpretation of Gardner Fox’s character.

Superhero comics are a small medium, so its been easy for the regime of small minded hacks to take over DC (and Marvel) and dictate the past 30 years of mediocre nonsense, starting immediately (or with?) the first Crisis.

So, we get a DC Universe where time travel is only possible ’3 times, each with a different method’ (!?!), and a Superman with a mullet, 20 years after they were ever hip (if they were ever hip). And a DC Universe that half-started in 1985, and half-started in 1955. So, Superman has been around “for years”, and Wonder Woman’s career started ‘recently’.

They’re STORIES, not text books. Stop explaining, and start having fun.

No one likes Batman. They like good Batman stories. We must learn the difference.

I think DC’s approach of constantly replacing characters with new versions of those characters with a different identity is part of why Marvel consistently outsells DC. Yes, Marvel will occasionally give the illusion of change with another character briefly taking over an identity, but for the past 50 years (with short term substitutes), Peter Parker has been Spider-Man, Bruce Banner has been the Hulk, Tony Stark has been Iron Man, Steve Rogers has been Captain America, Clinton Barton has been Hawkeye, etc.

Of course, there are rare exceptions in the c-list characters like Ant-Man, but all the major characters, in the long-term, remain in the same identities.

Each new iteration of identities at DC have fractured the readership to an extent.

I highly doubt DC would ever resort to a full blown reboot. It runs too high of a risk for them. They want to get new readers interested in their comics, which is understandable. However, a complete reboot won’t necessary draw in new readers, and it might push away the pre-existing readers. In the past, DC used it’s Crisis events to altered bits and pieces of their continuity (resulting often in continuity confusion), but never resorting to a complete and total alteration to all things. Fans were willing to accept that because the major concepts remained while only the details were different or events were arranged differently.

But a complete reboot would completely reset everything and remove characters like Tim Drake, Conner Kent, Cassie Sandsmark, Stephanie Brown, Damian Wayne, and many other popular characters who are 3rd – 5th Generation characters. I know that DC has a habit of reintroducing their old “classic” characters, but even with Barry and Hal, they never deleted the Wally or Kyle to do it. They kept them around to keep the fans moderately happy by being able to say “Well, he’s not an important character anymore, but at least he’s still around somewhat, right?”

DC should know that a main continuity complete reboot won’t guarantee new readers. And removing all the currently popular character in exchange for their Silver Age counterpart would very likely alienate their current fans to the point of dropping DC altogether, because they’re being denied their favorite characters. So I’m not too worried about the Flashpoint Plot. In the end, I think all the changes will be directed primarily at Flash’s family, and will not destroy all we love about the current DCU and with any luck, it help the character in a positive way.

@Scott

I think its a myth to say DC’s continuity is any more inpenitrable than Marvel’s ebcause of legacy characters, the X-men are plenty confusing on thier won. Marvel does better in the comic book market for sure, but there are numerous reasons for this outside of continuity, of which I think matters little.

Anyway, I don’t expect a reboot, are we not forgetting that Batwoman and other titles are still due after Flashpoint? Its strange how much debate its caused based on no evidence of a reboot actually happening. Thats said, I’d like for the books to progress, characters to age and such but I know that will never happen realisticly.

Apollokid9000

May 29, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I think the “bombshell announcement” about DCU coming on June 11th and the misson statement for Flaspoint besides having a event starring Barry Allen is this: some characters will be getting new ongoings. The characters ranging from Superman to Kid Flash to Shade the Changing Man and so on.

A line wide reboot is a bit unlikely. Flashpoint is a vehicle to reboot or “rebirth” characters not considered B or even C list. For all the jokes made about him, Aquaman is not a C list character.
In the DCU, he’s one of the dons.
To the knowledgable comic reading fans, he’s a prominent hero who’s been out of the spolight til recently.
To many all over the world, he’s one of the 10 to 15 superheroes that they can name and summarize Ina sentence or 2.

So is the Flash. The Green Lantern is nearing that level.
Hal Jordan? Not so much. Atleast not yet.
Barry Allen? Nah.

Outside of Superman, Batman, Spider Man, the Hulk, and Iron Man, superheroes secert identities are still just that – secret to the genral public.

Many think Wonder Womans’ secret ID is Linda Carter if the think she has one at all.
The Fantastic Four are instantly recognizable. The man on fire, the orange rock man, the stretchy guy, and the half drawn blonde. The secret identities not at the tip of peoples’ tongues who only saw the 2 movies or the various cartoons.
The X Men don’t have secert IDs so much as code or nicknames, which only makes them more appealling and identifiable.

The idea of rebooting a single world in a universe with 51 others is less likely when a mini series set to explore some of the other worlds is right around the corner.

As far as those stating that the changes to Barry Allen were done only because he is too boring, I don’t believe so.

Some were done to boost up Barrys’ level of swag, specifically making him the centerpiece of the Speed Force.
Others ( the murder of his mother in particular) seem to be part of the plan.

Barry stating that his being back doesn’t feel right is largely due to the actions of his biggest Stan, Eobard Thawne.

Just like Superboy Prime, Prof. Zoom is probably being used as a commentary piece by Johns about over intitled fan boys. Ironically, that’s the claim many fans have made about Johns and how his views on the DCU inform his work.

Johns once stated that superheroes and their stories can be metaphores.
Something that struck me was the description of Keystone City and Central City in the secret files and origins issue that proceeded the recent Flash ongoing.

Keystone is labeled as a blue collar town, the “bedrock of the automotive industry.
One can clearly see that, under Johns watch, Keystone is “metaphorically” Detroit.
Detroit is where Johns grew up.

Central City is a “city obsessed with speed”. Full of coffee houses, above average speed limits, and wrongful convictions, it’s a city too fast for its’ own good. Somewhat like LA, where Johns happens to live and work currently.

In an issue of Flash from Johns Wally-centered run, a character made a comment about LA and how superfical it was. Johns highlighting that Central City is a finacially fine but morally corrupt place and thinking back to that older issue ( found in the Rogues trade collection of Flash) , it becomes more obvious what informs Johns artistic directions.

With all that typed, I don’t think were in for a massive change while we may see a fairly large shift.
No need for online petitions to save Vertigo. No utter shock after hearing that the line is going digital and paperback only.

Same as it ever was, no real difference from what it always is.

I don’t need to analyze the characters to know their won’t be a full reboot. I just need to know two words, Red Lantern. There is a Red Lantern comic on its way with the team making it already announced, which means there must still be red lanterns to write about post flashpoint. So Green Lantern is not getting a reboot(thats 3 books right there) there is the Aquaman book on its way(1 more) and while lots of story lines are trying to wrap before flashpoint Batman Inc is not one of them(so that’s 12 batman books)

Boom reboot averted.

Great work on the article!

They never should’ve destroyed Earth 2.

I just can’t see a wide scale DC reboot happening as long as the only people that would notice are the current comic readers. There’s too much risk of people jumping off versus the possible benefit.

Personally though, I would love to see a total reboot. Not just a Zero Hour, not just a Crisis, but something akin to a new silver age, (even going further; no exemptions for Batman and Superman). The thing is, there just isn’t any point to doing a reboot if you’re just going to reset, (with slight modifications), to an older status quo. Additionally, until someone outside the current market would notice, the risk is too high. On the other hand, when they figure out a way to properly market digital, the opportunity for a successful reboot will be available. I hope they do it.

Wow!
Fantastic stuff! Very clear and concise!
Barry was never boring. He was CSI before Gil Grissom, Horatio Caine and Mack Taylor were.

As far as I’m concerned, Barry Allen sacrificed himself to uphold the fabric of a single, coherent, unified DC Universe; home of the Twin Cities, Keystone and Central. The Return of the Flash was already done once with the Reverse Flash as an imposter. There may have been a clear way to undo Hal’s death, but not Barry’s.

Mister Blisterfists

May 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I agree with Prowler 100%

I’m one of those readers that’s hoping for no reboot. Also no renumbering either. That’s one of the things that has set DC apart from Marvel. The fact that Action, Detective, Batman and to some degree Superman have been constant with their numbering. I hope that it stays that way. From stuff that I’ve read about Morrison’s take on Batman, everything counts from Batman # 1 to now at Batman # 710 , I like that. There’s no need to restart Batman as right now it’s really great ! GL is also doing great. Superman & Wonder Woman have had some setbacks due to the current storylines, but all they need is the right creators on their respective books. There’s no need to re-tell Superman’s origin again and start over, we all know it. I actually started reading comics with Superman # 75 and didn’t know anything that had taken place previously( well I knew his origin before picking up Superman #75 ). But I did my homework and took the time to get to know the characters. If they reboot the whole line and start out with all #1 s, and everything starts from the beginning, I have to say that I’m out. If they say that Knightfall never happened, I’m out. Now having some new titles after Flahpoint , that would be cool. Well I might be in the minority, but here’s hoping anyway….

Glenn Simpson

May 29, 2011 at 7:33 pm

@comicfan

Hal Jordan originally met Star Sapphire (now Violet Lantern) like a year or two into his run. Why couldn’t there be Red Lanterns already around at the beginning of his career?

Also the new Aquaman book could be a book that features him just starting out. And just because they have a few issues left of Batman Inc doesn’t mean they can’t go ahead and reboot the rest of the Batman books.

I’m not so sure they are going to do it, but the reasons you give are not necessarily true.

Eric Qel-Droma

May 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm

The place DC really needs a reboot is Editorial. Their books have been dreck for YEARS now. I used to really care about what happened to Bruce, Clark, Kyle, Wally, Diana, etc., but almost every single one of those characters has been so fundamentally screwed up by some stupid storyline OR taken out of the picture to satisfy Johns’ need to boringify the DCU that I just don’t care anymore.

The post Zero Hour era was the best IMO. I really loved how fun and upbeat a lot of the line was. I think that’s when my attention started to shift away from Marvel and towards DC, because honestly I got into comics with Marvel and Image and I always had kind of thought DC just not exciting enough. But that era for all its corniness and difference from 70′s & 80′s DC it was the best for me. Its when teh books started becoming darker that things changed.

But I agree with everyone who says that the characters are just the vehicles of the writers’ works. Its not the characters who suck but the writing or the attitude of the people working on those titles, and consequently the cartoon Brave & the Bold is a perfect example of how a character can work and coexist in the same market that has something like the films of Chris Nolan. I’m a fan of both, just as TIm Drake is my favorite Robin but I still like Damian Wayne. A smart DC would find a way to please fans of both without excluding one or the other.

My prediction for the major announcement is that there will be books set or focusing on alternate earths. Perhaps its time to stop relegating them to the background and start exploring them, no?

Whatever happens I hope DC succeeds in bringing in new readers without alienating those of us who are still here, because it doesn’t have to be one or the other, its better when its both.

I have to completely disagree with the people who think DC would lose readers over it (at least in total numbers). Yes, they would lose some readers but they would gain more than they would lose. I think the Ultimate books at Marvel showed that. People flocked to the the early Ultimate titles because it was a from scratch reboot.

It would alienate some DC fans, but fans followed the first Legion of Super-Heores reboot for more than a decade and it started everything over from scratch.

All of that said, I really hope they don’t do a full on reboot.

Hey, great article. As I’ve gotten older, what has really drawn me to DC more and more has been the “generational” aspect. There are so many sidekicks in the DC universe. Whereas, when I was younger, I never liked sidekicks, I’ve really started growing an appreciation for them… when they are handled correctly. I mean, justifying Batman’s choice to take on a twelve-year old as a partner, and then rationalizing their relationship, is not an easy story to tell. But, if it’s done with care, it is quite compelling.

In my mind, DC started getting it right first with Wally West. They really demonstrated that a sidekick could come up to take over their mentor’s mantle. You said it best in your article, so I don’t see a need to repeat it. But, post-crisis, Robin was still just that formula sidekick, and nobody was really reaching any deeper, as Bruce Wayne was still front and center. The death of Jason Todd didn’t change that. In my mind, that was just a reaction by the fan-base, not necessarily to the unpopularity of Jason Todd, but to the unpopularity of Batman having a sideckick. The character of Robin wasn’t really lending to any interesting stories. Dick kept hanging around in the background as Nightwing. I think people just knew there was a really good story to tell about the circus boy, but the stage just wasn’t set yet.

I think things started to change with the introduction of Tim Drake. I do not find Tim Drake more interesting a character than Dick Grayson, or even Jason Todd. BUT… I feel that Tim was used effectively by the creators to cast a light backward upon the older Robin’s, “re-upping” their significance in the Batman mythos, reminding us that Batman is a very different character than he would have been had they never existed, AND that their characters are interesting and complex in their own right.

And now, what have you got? Dick has taken over the role of Gotham’s Dark Knight, and you have yet another, perhaps the best yet, Robin moving in behind him. My hope is that Dick is developed in his role of Batman for several more years. I really think their is ALOT of untapped potential with him. I mean… a kid who was raised in the circus, as one of the world’s greatest acrobats, among freakshows, beasts of all kinds, traveling from city to city… This is all taken from him when he sees his parents die (gruesomely) before his eyes, and is then adopted by the wealthy, but somewhat queer (owing to a similar tragedy in his youth) playboy who’s family fortune funds the growth of the dark, immense city Dick was performing in when his parent’s died. This man, Bruce Wayne, turns out to be nuts! He’s runs around as a vigilante, dressed up like a bat! Dick ends up getting pulled into this weird world of Cosplay mixed with REAL violence and consequence…. WELL!!… this is all just a GREAT set-up (IMHO) to an even BETTER story than the story of how Bruce Wayne became the Batman. Handled right, Dick could ABSOLUTELY become the Michael Corleone to Bruce Wayne’s Vito.

While I do agree with everything in the article you never really pointed out the alternative careers of each hero that never really took off. For instance Dick was a detective and quit. But if he didn’t he could have been easily fit into the roll of the new question in place of Montoya. There are others like blue devil lost his powers and was bound to a desk job. That took all the fuel from the engine of that character having the only story line available is his conflict of interest to help the Teen Titans but getting back into the boots would possibly cause more trouble then it worth. That isn’t a bad story line but it could have easily taken a batgirl to oracle swing (which I am glad it didn’t as I would have not liked the character if he abandoned the possibility). This and other possibles are what really form that destiny and fate aspect of DCU. Like I will not say that Hal Jordan would have never been able to be Specter if Batman killed joker or if Oliver never picked up the bow. But because they did the things they did it makes a history that newer fans walk into in a big world and old fans feel the substance and reasoning for many comics and heroes even the ones they do not read. This is why I don’t think a true blue reboot would benefit the new or older readers as much as some believe it will. But then alternative roles for flash and boy blue make sense which is why I like the idea of many earths because there was alot of oddities and random events that made these heroes who they were.

Realitätsprüfung

May 31, 2011 at 9:13 am

This article assumes the big changes of the past 10-20 years is going to – or should – influence the future direction of fictional characters. It won’t.

For example, the great Wally-being-demoted debate, or the question of Dick as Nightwing-vs-Batman. Look around OUTSIDE comic shops – where for the last 3 decades these legacy characters have “mattered” to 30-50,000 fans each month. Look on TV and the movies, such as Batman Brave and the Bold, or Young Justice; they’re already back in their original identities; Wally as Kid Flash, Dick as Robin.

So let”s be realistic: It’ll happen again in the comics as well. Because whatever’s left of the comics audience of 1985 or 1995 isn’t going to be catered to. Which, as a longtime fan, ruffles my feathers a bit too. But c’est la vie.

You glossed over the outrage that greeted Zero Hour within the comic book community as Dan Jurgens callously and for no reason knocked off a handful of original JSAers and shredded the entire run of Hawkworld to create the “avatar” Hawkman and launch a new series which he then only wrote for a short time. All of this heavy handed tinkering occurred when Jurgens was told he couldn’t have the “classic” Hawkman guest star in the Superman book he was currently writing.

It was not too long after killing off original JSA members and detonating the existing Hawkworld title and then stranding the new Hawkman in the middle of low sales valley that he jumped/was pushed out of DC altogether to Marvel so he could “fix” Spider-man.

As these things go, Zero Hour was a pretty toxic event for DC and the damage was caused by one guy. Only the arrival of Geoff Johns began the true fixing of the damage caused by Zero Hour.

Nice analysis of the recent “mini-eras”, Tom! As it turns out, DC is “braver and bolder” than most expected. Let’s hope it pays off from them and for us.

The thing I noticed in the teasers for JLA & Global Justice. JLA will have Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Global Justice will have Batman (Dick Grayson). Since JLA will have the Flash (Barry Allen) why not put the Flash (Wally West) in Global Justice. Dick & Donna are already in that team… Why not have Wally as well?

I still think there’s a lot of story potential for Wally as a super-speed Dad trying to raise a daughter with super-speed and angsty young son who had and lost his powers. It’s not enough for an ongoing but there is enough there to work with as subplots with Wally as a member of a team.

The writing on the wall for Wally was way back in Flash 232 (or was it 231) back when DC initially “ended” his run (before restarting it after Bart’s short run as The Flash). They essentially retired Wally so he could spend his time raising a family. With Barry back as the full time Flash– I get that he’s the guy who will have the stand-alone title now. But Wally is still deserving of a place in the DC Universe and NOT as a demoted and de-aged Kid Flash.

And DC JUST made Irey West Impulse II in Flash Rebirth. I don’t think they went to that trouble just to turn around and retcon her Dad back to being a teenager and her, her brother, and mother out of existence (they already kind of tried wiping Linda’s existence once during Wally’s run during the Dark Flash saga).

Here’s what I’d LIKE to see happen with the Flash and Batman titles in particular:

Wally in Global Justice (but he needs a complete costume revamp/reboot to further distinguish him from Barry– akin to what Wolfman & Perez did with Dick Grayson when they retired him as Robin and made him Nightwing)
Tim Drake continuing as Red Robin.
Dick Grayson continuing as Batman.

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