DC Comics announced their plans this week to relaunch the DC Universe this summer renumbering most of its current series and giving almost every hero a makeover to make them into heroes that would fit into the modern world. You can read about on USA Today, CNN or Facebook and probably even on DC‘s very own website. Most of the fanboys I know are not very happy about this news – we’ve seen it before and it hasn’t gone well and usually ends up screwing up the continuity even more than before.
I started reading super-hero comics quite by accident really. My Mother would have copies of Archie or Casper the Friendly Ghost and the like but it was never anything like Superman or Spider-Man. Then one visit to my great aunts I found a beat up copy of the X-Men – by beat up I mean this thing had no cover, was missing a few pages and was ripped here and there. What was inside though was beyond my imagination – heroes unlike any that I had ever seen before on panel after panel and all working as a team. I was immediately most in love with Ice Man – and this was before he became all glossy and sleek, he was still more snowman than iceman but he was my favorite. I was really confused about all their powers and didn’t have a clue about their origins but my whole universe changed as a result of that comic book – it became an obsession.
For the next few years I would search out comic books wherever I thought they might be – the grocery store, Ben Franklin, magazine stands at road side cafes anywhere that might have the slimmest I would scour the store for an issue of anything that looked remotely entertaining. When I was fifteen, living with my grandmother I was fortunate enough to find a local store that not only sold comic books, but didn’t realize they should be taxing me for them – this lasted for about 2 years before the merchant caught on and then was nice enough to let me know why the prices went up – I didn’t know they should be taxed either. It was in that store that I found a copy of Crisis on Infinite Earths – which I only bought because I had read everything else the store had to offer. Back when I first started reading comics were about .35 cents each.
What was inside for me was absolute confusion – I didn’t know any of these heroes and the infinite earth thing was really a lot for me to try to wrap my mind around. I think this was the third issue, I eventually found a copy of the first and tried to piece together what was going on. There were heroes in the story that I did recognize: Flash, Batman, Superman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Robin, Green Lantern, Spectre… but there were also alternate versions of some of these characters which kind of kept me in the dark for a while. I did manage to collect all the issues and I honestly cried when Supergirl sacrificed her life for her cousin Superman – for me it was a defining moment, there are somethings worth dying for. It made superheroes something more for me than just some silly drawings on a page, they stood up for what was right and made the world a better price, no matter what the personal cost may be. It mattered to me at 15, and if I reread those issues today it would still have an effect on me – it was a great story.
Crisis was supposed to help clean up some of the notorious continuity issues that DC had for the last 50 years or so – they were going to make Superman more super and really make him the last survivor of his destroyed planet, Pre-Crisis there was Superman, Supergirl, Power Girl, Superman from Earth II (which was really the first Earth)… well there were suddenly an awful lot of Kryptonians for a planet that had been destroyed when Kal-El (Superman) was rocketed to Earth as a babe. One of the ways to do this was by killing Supergirl. She wasn’t the only hero to die during this series, we lost The Flash (Barry Allen), Kole, Robin and Huntress (the old ones not the new ones) and a bunch of others…
However, Supergirl is not dead anymore – I’m getting off track here, go read my post about dead heroes not staying dead: “…and it sold comics“.
In 85 or 86 I met my friend Ted who introduced me to a darker side of comic books that I had not yet known. He showed me Cerebus, Magic, Hellblazer, Nexus (which helped me get the US Military recruiters to quit calling – long story) The Titans (ok, maybe not dark, but definitely outside the scope of what I was reading), Swamp Thing, (Mike Grell’s) Green Arrow – it was pretty amazing. We would read for hours on end these spectacular stories that took us to a different world, away from all the troubles that happen to trouble two teen outcasts in rural Wisconsin. Ted even introduced me to the Dark Phoenix saga, which I had missed – most of the X-Men issues were not regularly stocked at the store where I got books. Ted also introduced me to Westfield which delivered comics to his home – wow, unheard of for me. Ted was also the guy took me to my first comic book store – geek heaven, let me tell you (In my adult life I’ve been to much larger comic book stores across the country but the one in Eau Claire was pretty amazing for a small town boy). Ted and I had dreams of writing comics and owning our own store when we were young… sometimes you grow up and dreams change.
Present Day: Books and Comic books can be read on portable devices – some of you may remember the movie with Tom Hanks in 1988 called Big. During that movie Tom had a job at a toy company and he proposed electronic comics way back then and today it’s a reality.
I can read DC, Marvel, Image and whatever other companies are out there making comics on my phone, my iPad, and even on my computer screen – and the comic book companies are charging me the same price they would charge for an actual comic that I could hold in my hand and read smell and touch. This technology has to change the way that comics are made and distributed – and I’m sad to say that it’s probably for the best, but I’ll miss the old ones.
So back to the point of my rant here, DC is relaunching 52 titles over the next year and giving almost every character in the DC universe a makeover. They say they’re doing this to clear things up for new readers and bring in new readers as well as keep old readers. I don’t know that that’s what’s going to happen nor do I really believe that that’s their sole purpose here. See some people think all of these #1 issues are going to be worth big bucks, but I’ve been around long enough to remember all the “Alternate Covers” back in the 90s that they printed hundreds of and sure enough suckers bought em, but I don’t think most of them are worth what they paid for em.
If you want to know why some comic books are worth a lot of money from way back when you really need to see a documentary about it from the History Channel (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373763/ ) and realize that those comics were around during the war and parents (and children probably) donated them towards the war effort making the remaining copies the rare finds that they are.
So to DC I say, good luck guys and gals. I’ve been reading DC and Marvel comics since that first X-Men book and chances are I’ll continue to read them until my eyesight fails. But I hope for their sake that this isn’t a gimick, that this wont be like the episode of Dallas when Bobby was in the shower – change is necessary for everything, but meaningless change wont help you here . Also, as a 15 year old boy I cried when you killed Supergirl not just because it was a tragic sacrifice, but because at the time you had made the story so engrossing I actually cared about her – return to those days with your stories, return to the days when a death had more finality and a hero was believed in because they brought a sense of hope and wonder to the minds of readers. Make us care again and make it worth out $2.99.