Out With The Old, In With The DCnU.
August 31st, 2011
Friends, today my childhood ended.
Okay, so in any literal sense of the word my childhood ended over ten years ago. Stick with me though, I have a story to tell.
In June of 1938, Superman was introduced in Action Comics #1. Less then a year later came Batman in Detective Comics #27. Countless characters followed, but it was only when all these characters met for the first time did we have what’s come to be known as the DC Universe. A shared universe for all of our favourite characters; they could meet, fight, fall in love, team up for countless adventures — the possibilities were endless.
Unfortunately, after decades of exploring those endless possibilities, by the 1980s the result was an unwieldy mess of a multiverse, with dozens of variations of every single character and the contradictory burden of a 50 year history to account for in stories that were supposed to appeal to the youngest of generations.
Thus: Crisis On The Infinite Earths.
Crisis was one of the defining stories of the decade. It was the end of every DC story that had come before and a new beginning for every story that would come afterwards. A new Earth in a single universe, a blank slate to fill with new ideas and stories. Superman was given a fresh origin, Lex Luthor was now a much more modern idea of evil — a businessman — instead of a mad scientist, and Batman was, well, the same. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?) The Post-Crisis DCU began.
Two years into this Post-Crisis universe, my parents gave me my very first comic book. Superman #24 was the issue, and I don’t remember anything about it that the cover doesn’t tell us — Superman fought a bizarre, mohawked, orange lady named Rampage. What I do remember is the image that captured my imagination.
The issue ended with Clark Kent having a post-adventure chat with Lois, but in the very last panel, as he turned to walk away, we saw that his shadow wasn’t Clark’s — no — it was Superman’s. This may sound cheesy, but to 5-year-old Nimesh, it was the equivalent of Clark Kent turning to me and winking. As if the two of us alone knew his secret, and the rest of the world didn’t. A personal connection I had with Superman that no one in his own world even had. It might be the very image that ensured I would love comic books for the rest of my life.
There comes a time in every boy’s life when he has to leave childish things behind and start becoming a man, though. For me, it happened when I was six. The year was 1989, and my dad brought home Tim Burton’s Batman. Things would never be the same.
Over the years, I followed my two favourite heroes. (Okay, I admit, I never gave up on Superman… I love him to this day, even if he can never be as cool as our dear Dark Knight.) I could only rarely afford comic books, but I somehow managed to keep track of what was going on with my two champions through whatever means available. I knew Superman died (he got better), and I knew Bane broke Batman’s back (he got better). I knew Clark and Lois finally tied the knot, and that Gotham City was ravaged by plagues and earthquakes. But what finally brought me back to the comic store for good was this idea of the “shared universe” I mentioned earlier. It was the Justice League.
The aptly named “big 7,” Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter had never before assembled as the Justice League in the Post-Crisis universe — and therefore never in my lifetime. In my DC Universe the Justice League had been reserved for smaller characters who couldn’t maintain their own series, and used well to that effect. The time had come for the powers that be to bring out the big guns though, and apparently this was exactly what my teenaged self needed to become a gen-u-ine comic collector.
I adored Grant Morrison’s epic run on JLA, and the ambitious year-long, real-time story told weekly in the Batman books called No Man’s Land. I discovered classics like Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, and fell in love with new takes on old concepts like Gotham Central. I spent every dollar of lunch money and allowance I could on any cover that caught my eye. Those of us for whom the reality of high school was perhaps not what we had been lead to believe it would be, we all had our own forms of escapism. The DC Universe was mine.
As an adult, though I never left the comic book store… I admit, I drifted away from my favourite superheroes and their shared universe. I’d drop back in from time to time, when an event or story was cool enough to grab my attention or while following a particular writer I like. Whether I was in our out though, I knew one thing: the Post-Crisis DC Universe was mine, and so it would always be.
Today, that universe came to an end.
After 25 years of its own convoluted continuity (not to mention an overall decline of sales in the industry), a decision had to be made. What could DC Comics do to generate buzz, welcome new readers, and erase the conception (perceived or otherwise) that you need to be “in the know” to start reading comic books? Why when The Dark Knight makes over a billion dollars at the box office doesn’t that translate into more Batman books in the hands of kids?
The solution DC came to was a bold one. One that harkens back to that Crisis in the ’80s, but is far more drastic. Every single book DC publishes is beginning at issue #1 this month. Every single character will be new again, and everything we think has happened hasn’t.
When this was announced a few months ago, it rocked the comic book world. Unfortunately, that’s not very hard to do. The real question is whether the rest of the world will notice, and we’ll know the answer soon enough. But I give tremendous credit to DC for trying something new. There’s excitement in the air, excitement at the shops, and there seems to be a genuine buzz spreading.
Last night, I attended the fantastic Brave New World‘s Pajama/Midnight Release Party for the first title of the DCnU, Justice League #1. DC’s Senior Vice President Bob Wayne showed up to answer questions, which ranged from the nerdiest minutiae to the long-range business plans of this reboot. The thing that was most clear though was the hopefulness from everyone in the room that this is an opportunity for great stories to be told and for more people to show up and read them.
A few pictures from the event.
In another step forward for the industry, DC has announced that their comics will arrive day-and-date across digital platforms. This is a first for a major publisher, and rather than steal business from brick-and-mortar retailers, I think this just means there’s more chance for Superman or Batman to get some face time with the millions of iPhone and iPad owners out there looking for any app to kill time with at work, on the subway, or in the bathroom.
My purchase last night was the Justice League “combo pack,” which included a code to download the book in its digital format. I’d never read a digital comic, but what could be a better time to try? I read the issue on my iPad and thought it looked genuinely gorgeous, and digital comics could end up being a great way to sample the books I eventually want to buy.
To return to the crux of this story though, today, my childhood ended. But you’ll note — this is the Goodosphere, where you come for your daily dose of good, and nobody ever said endings have to be bad. My DCU might be finished, but the characters live on and I’m just as curious as ever to see what happens to them this time. I would like to think there’s a kid who’s just barely old enough to read, maybe even born today, who in 25 years will be writing a nostalgia-filled post about how their universe, the DCnU, is ending but that they can’t wait to see what happens next. I wonder which image will capture their imagination?
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 at 10:13 am and is filed under Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.