MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Why I Don’t Like The New 52
For those following along with all of the columnists here at ComicMix, no doubt you checked out Michael Davis’ article “Why I Like The New 52”and Michael made some great points. DC’s reboot of their entire line of superhero comic books was, as he so eloquently put it, ballsy. Oh, but the self-proclaimed Master of the Universe sadly is mistaken. To have completely rebooted 60+ years of continuity would take serious juevos. The fact is, DC hasn’t done anything close to that. It’s a point I’ve been jumping up and down on now for months… and who am I to disregard my own nerd rage over the issue. Let me get my soapbox, megaphone, and crazy pants. It’s rant-time, kiddos.
DC didn’t reboot much. In fact, they merely slapped #1’s on all their issues, and placed a gigantic asterisk besides nearly every single one. To call this the “New 52” is akin to calling Gus Van Sant’s Psycho completely original. You see, DC may have changed the numbering, but they haven’t reset their backstories. That is to say, they did – to a point.
Nearly every book they’ve put out has carefully chosen to pick events, mannerisms, and relationships established over the last half a century… and take us into their continuity mid-stream. You know David Copperfield didn’t actually make the Statue of Liberty disappear, he used a sly game of bait and switch. DC did the same thing. Whenever the fans asked the powers-that-be if a major event from continuity occurred in this new DCU or not… they waved their hands, misdirected us, and said “just keep reading.”
As Michael said, that takes serious balls.
Break it down. The New 52 reset a handful of the major players. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman were all spit-shined and given a thorough makeover. And their books are better for it. Superman’s series had been crushed under event after event. From his “death” to the his “electric blue and red” days, to the rise of New Krypton to its eventual fall, casual fans could hardly hit the shelf and feel like they could relate. Wonder Woman’s title was bounced from several amazing writers, who all tried in their own ways to add depth, class, and angst to Diana’s stories. But aside from murdering Maxwell Lord, what kid on the street could tell you what she did since?
And Aquaman? Where do I begin? Water-hand, squid-head, Sub-Diego. I rest my case. Putting a #1 on those books and forgetting the last 10-15 years, isn’t such a bad idea when your parent company starts clamoring for more widespread appeal, is it?
And other books? Still confusingly convoluted beyond reproach. In the Batman corner of the DCnU, there’s Bruce’s bastard son-turned-Boy-Wonder, Nightwing, Tim Drake, a Black Batman, Batman Inc., a Joker with a misplaced face, Batwoman, and Babs “Miracle on 34th Street” Batgirl. You can put all the #1’s you want on those books, but find me a kid who bought them who didn’t immediately take a stroll down Wikipedia lane to make sense of the countless callbacks to continuity which is now unconstructed. In Batgirl alone, all we know for sure is there was an accident, she lost the ability to walk, she got it back. Did the Joker shoot her? Well, all DC says is “keep reading.”
In Green Lantern’s sector, we have no less than four active Earth Men wearing the emerald ring. For those who picked up their shiny #1’s of GL, GL: Corps, and GL: Emerald Knights were treated to the following backstory: At some point there was this thing called Blackest Night… maybe. Hal Jordon killed a Guardian of the Universe, who had a Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet power set… maybe. Kyle Rayner was the last GL… at some point? Sinestro now has a Green Ring. Again, these plot points were all in their respective #1’s. If you had no knowledge of these characters before starting these books, how would you approach getting your bearings on all this backstory? Ask DC, and they’ll gladly tell you “keep reading.”
Now, let me be clear and fair here. I read a ton of DC books. I love many of them. Of the New 52, Action Comics, Batman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, Animal Man, and Justice League Dark barely make it home before they’re read with near rabid fervor. As a fan of all of these characters, I have a great understanding of their mannerisms, backstories, and relationships to fill in the gaps that their respective books have yet to cover. Because modern comics are written more cinematically, their creative teams bank on the fact that their fan base isn’t coming into their books completely cold. In the case of newer characters, or transplants from Wildstorm, these books aren’t fairing so well. With 3 issues in, November’s top sellers were Justice League, Batman, Action, and Green Lantern. Blue Beetle, Omac, and Voodoo? 89. 104. 105. Without the allure of “read and see what continuity we kept, and which we threw out with the bathwater…” fans weren’t as kind.
Before the books all came out, we fans debated hotly how much of our continuity would be thrown into this potluck reset. DC cleverly keeps moving the target on the answers. The truth of the matter is this: The allure of a universal restart in comics is a pipe dream at best. At the end of the day, comic books are a business first. The DCnU was a stunt that paid off in spades.
To end 60+ years of backstory, and start all over simply will never happen. The industry thrives on the soap-opera format; keep what works, and forget the rest. If you pay close enough attention you’ll just go mad. I started this out as a rant on Michael Davis’ kudos to the DC’s testicular fortitude, but in looking at the stack of their books, and my dwindling bank account? It tells me Michael was right all along.
DC, you made me madder than hell, and took more of my money than you ever did before… all so I could make a grand sweeping point. And now, after I’m done shouting from the rafters, I realize that’s all you ever wanted me to do in the first place. Good for you. That took serious balls.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander