Starting April 1, DC Comics is launching its new meta-Crisis series, Convergence, in which characters from different planets and timelines will be thrust together on the Blood Moon to fight fight fight. In May, all of Marvel’s multiverse will go blooey with bits and pieces being recombined into a single place called Secret Wars: Battleworld and, no doubt, every one will fight fight fight. Worlds/characters will live, worlds/characters will die, and nothing will ever be the same yet again.
It’s the same concept as DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985 (and Convergence, at least in part, is a thirty year Anniversary celebration of that event). For you young’uns who weren’t around, COIE was a 12 issue maxi-series with a very real purpose – to modernize and re-boot the DC Universe and continuity.
To be honest, I think that’s a necessity every so often for every continuity. Over the years, narrative barnacles form on characters and concepts and its good every so often to scrape them off and get back more to the basic concepts that attracted us to the characters/books/universes in the first place. That’s what the movies and TV shows made from comics have been doing – they take what is essential, respecting the source material without being bound to every bit of it, and re-interpreting it and presenting it fresh for a large audience, as if those stories were being created today. Fanboys may protest, fanboys may cry, but nothing remains the same.
IM-not so-HO (to steal from Mindy Newell), that’s a very good thing. It makes the characters and stories accessible to a larger audience, usually a much larger audience. It has the potential to grow the audience for these characters – except that the versions they see on TV or in the movies bear no resemblance to the versions they find in the comics. For example, if you like Chris Hemworth’s Thor and go to the comics, you’ll find Thor is now female. Remember that cool character the Falcon in the last Captain America movie? He now is Captain America.
It’s hard to make the comic characters track with their movie/TV versions but not impossible. When Jan Duursema and I were doing Star Wars set on the time between Episodes II and III before III came out, we had access to an early version of the script for III. We had to sign stiff non-disclosure statements but we were able to make our stories work within that time frame.
Of course, DC has said that the cinema versions of their characters do not match up with the TV versions but Marvel has gone out of its way to make TV and movies all part of one version of the Marvel Universe.
Marvel Comics has always disdained the reboots that DC has done, claiming they don’t need them but, in fact, they do. One of the really interesting aspects of Captain America is that he was frozen at the end of WW2 and wakes up in a modern world. That became a trope that you couldn’t keep repeating as the comics aged; it was no longer the Sixties and having Cap whine about being out of time for 50 years would be very tiresome. But being able to say he was thawed out in our day revives that trope and that makes it interesting again.
Continually re-inventing the characters can make them fuzzy and blurred. I’ve heard artists talking about “noodling” a page to death or erasing your pencils so often that you only get muck on the page. Doctor Strange has suffered that as every new writer coming on wanted to give their version of his origin with the “Everything you thought you knew is wrong!” schtick.
Crisis on Infinite Earths suffered from not having a clear idea of who the characters should be once you finished deconstructing what you had. To my mind, reboots need to get back to core ideas – what is unique about a given character or concept. Write them for modern audiences while capturing their essence which is what many of the movies and TV shows have done.
What will be most important about the two events – Convergence and Secret Wars: Battleworld – is what comes next. How will the companies and their writers and artists re-interpret their classic characters so they seem fresh and new and relevant for the here and now. Capture our loyalty again not with stunts (which may fuel sales but not imaginations) but with new visions of who these classic characters are. Make them familiar and yet new.
Good luck, Marvel and DC. Sincerely. Good luck.