The best argument I’ve seen for DC’s upcoming reboot is still a weak argument

Comics columnist Greg Hatcher makes the best argument I’ve seen for DC’s upcoming reboot not being a disastrous mistake.
His view: Sure, it will inflame hardcore fans to have characters they love replaced by new versions with the same names (this isn’t happening to all characters——it appears the degree of rebooting will vary widely). But nobody in other mediums would settle for keeping the fans you have: The goal is to reach out and grab the mass audience, even if it alienates classic fans. As witness movie reboots (JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, Casino Royale) and TV (Dr. Who, Hawaii 5-0). The revamp is drawing media attention which might bring in viewers and it opens DC up to the kind of anything-goes attitude that generated past successes (as Hatcher discusses at the link and also here). And new readers won’t be intimidated by picking up comics referencing years of continuity or ongoing complicated plotlines.
Sounds logical. But it isn’t.
To start with, almost none of the announced changes seem geared to bring in non-comics fans. Announcements that Wonder Girl is now a “powerhouse thief,” Dick Grayson is back as Nightwing (after a couple of year’s in his mentor’s Bat-suit) and Barbara Gordon is Batgirl again aren’t going to interest anyone who isn’t already reading comics (and Babs as Oracle would be much more interesting to a new reader, I think, than Babs back in the Batgirl suit).
There’s nothing as drastic or novel as Grant Morrison’s revamped Doom Patrol (which didn’t require any sort of reboot to create) or Captain Atom’s 1980s reboot (in which his original identity as a nuclear-powered super-hero turns out to be a cover for a federal agent infiltrating the JLA——probably the best reboot concept of the past 30 years).
Second, a reboot, younger characters and a continuity-free starting point won’t mean a thing if the stories aren’t good. Casino Royale could with very little tweaking have followed directly in continuity from Die Another Day. It would have worked anyway because it’s a very good Bond movie. Quantum of Solace? TYG can’t bring herself to finish it. JJ Abrams’ Star Trek: Also a terrific film in its own right.
And in both cases, the characters stay the same even if their history doesn’t (okay, Spock’s affair with Uhura aside). In contrast, the DC reboots ahead don’t simply start the same characters over, they rework them (except those that stay completely the same): Babs is Batgirl, Tim Drake is no longer Robin (and apparently never was) and so forth.
And all Hatcher’s examples are just wrong. TV makes it easy to watch a reboot: You don’t have to pay extra for 5-0 if you get broadcast TV, and Dr. Who is available if you get BBC America, SyFy or Netflix. Quite different from $3 per comic to look at the reboot.
Casino Royale? Even people who’ve never seen a Bond film have probably gone to the movies; that’s a different situation from starting an entirely new medium as a non-comics reader would have to do. Plus whatever problems the Bond series may have had, the don’t include that the series is hard to get into or follow the threads of: All you need to know to watch a particular movie is that he’s a British spy with a license to kill (and everyone knows that already).
If Hatcher’s right and I’m wrong, that would be a good thing: If comics readership swells, that’s wonderful, even if I stop reading them (because I love that comics exist, and it’s not all about me).
But I don’t think he is.


1 Comment

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One response to “The best argument I’ve seen for DC’s upcoming reboot is still a weak argument

  1. Pingback: Backstory and the DC reboot « Fraser Sherman's Blog

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