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Home » Articles » Just What Went Wrong With DC’s New 52?
Saturday, 19 Oct 2013

Just What Went Wrong With DC’s New 52?

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Just What Went Wrong With DC’s New 52?

By: Lambert M


It seems today we can’t look at a comics news site without stumbling upon an article chronicling the latest blunder perpetrated by DC Comics. I won’t go into details because everyone has heard of them and some can be subjects for a whole other article. Still, it makes me wonder just what in tarnation went wrong with DC Comics’ New 52 reboot of 2011.

As a guy writing on the internet, I have a theory: DC’s New 52 started horribly. Before we go headlong into it, there are some facts that need clearing up.

1- DC reboots and retcons. It’s a thing they do. In the 1961 story The Flash of Two Worlds, they explained that the heroes of the Golden Age of Comics lived on Earth-2. This explained why the Silver Age Flash and Green Lantern were so different than their Golden Age counterparts. The Golden Age characters could still cameo in some stories, and even get their own comic about their adventures in Earth-2, but they were never going to be the main focus of publication ever again. In 1985, DC published Crisis on Infinite Earths as a way to do away with the multiverse and unify a lot of the characters and concepts that had appeared since the creation of Earth-2. That they would decide to yet again reboot their universe is not surprising.

2- The reboot could not happen quietly . However fantastic and well done the reboot could have been, it would still have been met with anger and indignation by fans. For a lot of them, the reboot signifies the end of an era. An era they had invested time and money into and appreciated. I’ll come back to that later, but we need to understand that people bitching on the internet is now part of the comic book geek culture.

3- I’ve never met Dan Didio . I’m not saying he should be run out of town with tar and feathers, or that he takes sick pleasure in making readers scream. I’ve never met him. I’m pretty sure he’s a nice guy when you get to hang out with him. Am I about to say he’s made a bunch of mistakes while trying to breathe new life into his company? Yes, yes I am about to do just that.

Now, without further ado, let me get the ball rolling by saying that DC Comics’ New 52 reboot of 2011 was a badly executed good idea. The idea of starting everything over with the creative teams of today isn’t a bad idea. On a business level, with more and more of the general public turning its attention to superhero stories, it makes sense to offer a fresh jumping on point that was detached from previous continuity. Oh…But that’s just it, isn’t it? The New 52 was supposed to be free of previous continuity. We know now that it really didn’t work out like that. If I were to point fingers, I’d point Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns and both for the same reason.

Before Johns wrote Flashpoint, the series that introduced the reboot, he had been writing Green Lantern. Now, before he took the helm of the series in 2005, no one gave that much attention to it. Johns revitalized the concept and turned the series into a blockbuster hit that was required reading for any fan of the DC universe. Geoff Johns ended his tenure on Green Lantern in 2013. As for Grant Morrison, he was in the midst of retooling Batman, taking the separate events of 75 years of continuity and making them fit into a cohesive biography of one insanely dedicated caped crusader. This sometimes tragic, sometimes bombastic, sometimes postmodern narrative began with 2006’s Batman 655 and ended with Batman, Inc. 13 in 2013.
The reboot happened in 2011.

How does that all work? Not well. See, regardless of the rest of the universe, Johns and Morrison’s respective stories were allowed to continue. To continue, they had to bring in the old continuity they had either set up by themselves or were mining from the long forgotten past. In the case of Batman, this allowed the rest of the creative teams on the different books to request that some of the stories from the character’s past be used. This leads to Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake having worn the Robin costume before Damian Wayne. It leads to Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing and to Barbara Gordon having been shot in the spine by the Joker in Alan Moore’s The Klling Joke, but recuperating and being allowed to be Batgirl again. Obviously, it also means events from Green Lantern titles past can still be in continuity in the New 52.

How do you deal with that? By having the first story of your starting title, Justice League, take place 5 years in the past. This allows you to explain why certain events from the last continuity are still relevant, because they happened in the five years between the first meeting of the Justice League and the start of their second published adventure.

Problem solved? Nope. No when Grant Morrison’s Action Comics seems to take place sometime before and sometime after the first meeting of the Justice League. It also doesn’t help that Teen Titansstarts by saying that it is the first team by that name while Red Arrow and Starfire talk about their past as Teen Titans with Dick Grayson in Red Hood and the Outlaws. Both books are supposed to take place more or less at the same time.

These discrepancies popped up throughout all 52 titles of the New 52 and a great deal of them have not been properly explained. The foundations of the new universe are riddled with holes. While I love Grant Morrison’s writing and am very pleased with the result of his narrative experimentation, I can’t overlook the problems the reboot inflicted to it as well as the problems it inflicted to the reboot. A friend of mine is a huge Green Lantern fan and is happy to see where the title is going from where Geoff Johns’left.

What of the other fans? Those who were ready to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of flame war? I agree with them, until I disagree. I could write articles about every single thing that I feel are wrong with the reboot. From the costume designs to the disappearance of legacy or minority characters, there’s a lot I could cover. I chose not too because this article here is not about blunders. It’s about an uneasy feeling that no one really thought this thing through. That is what I believe get fans riled up. Some may just hate the fact that the stories they were reading have had to end. That is something I can understand and sympathize with. If they feel DC pulled the rug from under them and they prefer to leave, that’s ok.
Some may get angry at the confusion an ill-defined universe brings. I get it, I feel it, but anger about a fictional universe can only grow so much before it becomes ridiculous if not a tad pathetic.

The rest are those who go that extra mile, those who call out for blood or call people involved in the New 52 ‘’whores’’ and other such nice names. To these I can only shake my head in silence at. DC Comics is a business under the Warner Brothers umbrella and we have to accept that our favorite characters can sometimes mean big money and there’s nothing we can do about that.

In the end, the New 52 should have been a clean cut from the past. Instead it stands there wobbling like a jenga tower with titles like Red Lantern minding the past and titles like Wonder Woman deciding to start from scratch. I don’t want it to topple. I’m a Marvel guy, but there are enough characters I care about at DC that I don’t want to wake up one morning and discover the ‘‘House of Ideas’’ has now become the only game in the mainstream town. The fall of the New 52 would also signify that new ideas are not welcomed in superhero comics and that…That would be the worst.

I hope this helps you get started. More articles on the way. Leave any question or request for particular articles like this in the comments at info@ComicBooksFTW.com

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