When I first read the news of the DC reboot planned for September, I went into panic mode. When I read that my hero would be reverted back to the cape and right out of the wheelchair I had come to identify with her in, I panicked more and swore to never buy another DC comic.
Then I stopped, took a breath, and actually thought things through.
I followed the beginning and the progress of news regarding the reboot for the first month or so. Still, I’m following Twitter accounts and blogs posting updates, but I’ve stopped obsessing over it and I’ve stopped panicking. However, a lot of the internet still seems to be stuck in panic mode. Yes, I still think it seems redundant given how often DC likes rebooting and retconning continuity and characters, but you know what? I know why they’re doing it and I think it’s a smart move.
Why? Because DC is a business, therefore they run on money, as businesses do. Their goals involve, overall, making profits in the long-term and sustaining themselves financially so they can continue to pump out material and product for years to come.
Comics are big in the media right now. No, correction, not comics. Superheroes are. Thanks to superhero movies, TV (Cartoon Network and shows like “Big Bang Theory”), the web (Twitter, Tumblr, media blogs), and the coverage therein, superheroes are in the spotlight. Many non-comic readers who are going to see “The Dark Knight”, “Green Lantern”, “Captain America” and enjoy them (insert cries of “GREEN LANTERN SUCKED!”) will decide that they want to check out the comics behind these characters. But making the jump from a movie to a comics universe is like driving from a one-lane road in Anniston, Alabama, to the 405 running through Los Angeles. You’re going from one succinct story that provides most of the context and backstory you need to enjoy the story you’re given to a convoluted web of characters, histories, origins, arcs, and relationships that have been established and built upon for years. In the past year I’ve had dozens of people say something along these lines to me: “So I’ve been wanting to start reading Batman/X-Men/Green Lantern/Avengers/Superman comics… where should I start?” This question leads to me staring at them while I mentally try to land on a comic title that isn’t in the middle of a long-running and complicated arc that would require hours of wiki-walking and research for a new reader. Can you think of many? Probably not. Context is necessary to read most comics nowadays, DC or Marvel.
Let’s face it, it’s not easy to just jump into reading comics if you haven’t been doing it for years. I can say this as someone who has only been reading comics for less than a year and a half. Yes, I admit it. I started officially reading comics steadily in March of last year. I was a fan of many characters for much longer than that, most especially the Batfamily and Barbara Gordon, but I had a working knowledge of the universe and its characters. But I was intimidated by the dozen or so Batseries out and it took me some guidance from comic-friends to figure out where to start. Now I’m even more immersed and well-versed in the histories of my favorite characters as well as many others, but again, it wasn’t easy to get to the point where I could pick up a DC or Marvel book without being completely out of the loop of what was happening.
This is the problem the reboot is trying to fix, though I know most people don’t see it as a problem. They want to make it easier for new readers to buy comics and to understand the characters and their worlds. It’s about making comic books accessible to people who were intimidated by the sheer volume of choices beforehand. Accessibility is key to a business putting out a product like this, and it’s something DC was lacking.
No, I don’t fully understand why this means that Barbara needs to become Batgirl again but I know that if you ask the average person who Barbara Gordon is, other than those who say “… Who?”, they will probably say Batgirl. My generation grew up with their Batman knowledge gleaned from “Batman: The Animated Series” and, tragic though it may be, the Schumacher movies. Because my generation are the primary consumers of media and entertainment, this is the best way to present these characters to them: in their most public and widely understood forms.
It doesn’t make a lot of fans who have invested years of reading and hundreds of dollars (or more) into the company and the characters and storylines we know very happy, but frankly, they’re okay with that. Because people are still going to buy and they’ll adjust to these new stories and character interpretations just like they have in the past, while at the same time DC hopes to bring in new readers who will pick up and continue to buy books for years to come.
But even though people are angry at the changes, a lot of them are missing the bigger point. This reboot is presenting fans with the opportunity to have input and tell the creators what it is we want to see in the coming months and years. Starting fresh means that they can actually try to incorporate popular opinions and what the fans are asking for without worrying about stepping in other plot lines and established ideas. When DC starts with a blank slate, it gives us all the opportunity to help fill in the gaps, and I would like to see fans making the effort to present their ideas (in a calm and rational manner) so new readers can experience the best possible collaborations and interpretations of the characters we’ve all grown to love.
Though I want to add: Responding in rage and caps lock isn’t the answer. When people saw that Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown weren’t immediately visible in the reboot, the Tumblr posts flew. Just because someone isn’t starring in their own series doesn’t mean they’re gone. If anything take it to mean that they don’t have an established place in the DCnU yet and send emails, Tweets, and, um, Tumbles about where you would like to see them. Don’t respond with caps lock and cries of sexism and racism until you know for sure. Just for the sake of everyone else.
In my efforts to start blogging more I’m also working on a post about women and comics, talking about the impact of female comic fans on the ‘net and how the reboot relates to them, et cetera. It promises to be loads of fun, let me tell you.