DC Comics has pretty much always been about changing things up. They rebooted their entire line more than a few times, they have replaced beloved characters with ones nobody cared about, they have dragged their icons through the mud on numerous occassions. They’ve let titles like JLA, JSA, and Teen Titans spend so much time floundering that it should be considered criminal. But there are a few things they’ve done over the years that drove me crazy, and I was able to narrow it down to the 5 most glaring (to me). Keep in mind that these aren’t the 5 worst moves DC has ever made, but the ones that I disliked the most. So, in no particular order….
DC has always had this thing that they do. First, they lose control of how streamlined their universe is. Then, they compound the problem by adding retcons, and new characters replacing old ones, and revamps. Then, realizing that this has left a bigger mess, they have a “Crisis” and come out of it with a new universe. After the first, “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, Supergirl and the Flash were dead (among others), and they relaunched their books (or at least their characters) with new origins, and the previous decades of stories no longer ‘counted’. Then, about ten years later, the same problem had happened. They had lost control of their universe, and the titles were suffering. Rather than doing the Marvel (aka ‘smart’) thing, namely getting top talent on your titles and telling them to go nuts, DC decided the real problem wasn’t the way the books were being made, but rather that they just all needed new blank slates (again). So there was “Zero Hour”, which led to the deaths of a lot of people, most notably the Atom, Hourman, and Dr. Midnite from the JSA. After Zero Hour everything was rebooted (AGAIN). Cut to 15 years later, and DC is doing pretty darn well. Their books are as good as they’ve ever been, they have A list creators working for them, and they’re exploring movie options for a number of them. But still, they decided they needed a clean start (albeit not a complete reboot, more like a… restructuring), so along came “Infinite Crisis”, which didn’t so much reboot everything as it let them fix some continuity problems that they had. It actually made the entire line stronger, but that wouldn’t last…
A few years later DC has squandered almost all of the good will they had built with fans from projects like Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, 52, etc. After “Countdown”, and the mind-boggling handling of the Flash, the Justice League, Superman, and the Teen Titans, DC decided it was time once again to have a crisis. Enter Grant Morrison and Final Crisis, a story about what happens to the Earth when gods from another planet start to manifest here. While that’s a cool story idea, the execution was, to say the least, flawed. Rather than a straightforward story, we got a metaphysical wankfest from Morrison, who had much more interest in writing about the strength of myths and stories rather than any kind of ACTUAL story. It was a huge mess, and really killed any momentum that was left from the Infinite Crisis days.
Not only was the story a mess, but it was completely forgettable. It had no real lasting effect on any of the DC titles, not even Batman, who ‘died’ in Final Crisis. Well, that is if you read Final Crisis. If you were just reading Batman, it was clear that SOMETHING happened to him, but damned if anybody could figure it out. Not that it was some super-well written mystery, but it just didn’t make any damn sense. Finally, the fans started to speak with their money, and started dropping DC titles like they were made of dead babies and AIDS. This led to Warner Bros, DC’s parent company, to do some corporate restructuring, including bringing in Bob Harras as the new Editor-in-Chief. Bob was once the EIC at Marvel, and promptly ran them into bankruptcy. As soon as he was in charge at DC we saw him implement HIS idea for how DC should reboot (again. For the THIRD time in less than 10 years)…..
Oh, boy. Where to begin? Originally beginning as just a Flash story, Flashpoint featured Barry Allen (the Flash) waking up in a world he didn’t recognize. The faces were the same, but everything else was different. If this sounds familiar that’s because it is (it’s exactly like the X-Men story the Age of Apocalypse, edited by Bob Harras, in which the X-Men’s Bishop was in the role Barry Allen is in here). Flash runs around trying to reach his allies, and after five issues of really nothing happening we discover that it’s all Barry’s fault. He tried to change the past, and in doing so changed the present. He tries to reverse what he did, but his doing so ends the DC universe as we know it. Even titles that have been going on since the 1930’s and 1940’s, like Action Comics, Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman, were all cancelled and re-launched with new number 1 issues. Now not just your old DC, the characters from Wildstorm are now fully entrenched in DC continuity, and everything you’ve been reading for the last decades no longer counts, unless you are reading Batman and Green Lantern, which somehow escaped from reboots, and were just relaunched.
There’s no denying that some of the “New 52” DC books are very good. Scott Snyder’s Batman, in particular, is quite good. But not one single book in this new lineup justifies the disaster that was Flashpoint and its fifty tie-in issues. The whole situation just reeks of Bob Harras and 1990’s comic mentality.
We will probably see another reboot in the next three years, if recent history is any indication, and they’ll probably follow Marvel’s ultimate line and make Superman into a Latino, Batman a black guy, Wonder Woman will be half Chinese, half Egyptian, and Green Lantern will be a gay guy with downs syndrome. Then, just to make sure that the entire rainbow coalition is represented, they will one by one go through their list of characters and make sure that every single race, background, disability, etc are all EQUALLY represented.
3. Flash (Barry?Wally?Bart?)
For 20 years, Barry Allen was the Flash. Then, in the first Crisis, he died. His former sidekick and nephew, Wally West, took over the mantle and for the next 20 years, he was the Flash. Then they decided that Wally and his wife Linda should have twins, and retire by going hundreds of years into the future to raise their kids (the medical facilities would be able to help their kids’ metabolism, or some stupid shit). So the new Flash was Bart Allen, grandson of Barry Allen. Bart lasted about a year as the Flash, before they decided to kill him off and bring back Wally.
The problem was, Wally now sucked as Flash. His wife and kids are annoying as hell, and he became annoying always whining and worrying about them. So DC decided to bring back Barry Allen. A few years earlier they found great success by allowing Geoff Johns to relaunch Green Lantern and to return Hal Jordan as the main Green Lantern. So they got Johns to try the same thing with the Flash. The problem was that Hal Jordan still had a ton of fans from his days as GL, whereas most DC readers knew Wally as their Flash, and didn’t really want the old guy back. Anyway, DC brings back Barry, but promises their fans all over the place that Wally wasn’t going anywhere. They brought Bart back, now as Kid Flash, and with Barry AND Wally as the Flash. One wore the original suit (Barry), and one wore the same thing, but with a SLIGHTLY different color (Wally). It was clearly going nowhere, and after 12 issues (around there) of his series, Flash was cancelled (along with the rest of the DC line).
In the reboot there is just Barry Allen as the Flash, and Bart Allen as Kid Flash. No sign of Wally West anywhere, not even a mention that he still exists in this new DC. So, in the last five, six years, DC has given the Flash kids, moved him into the future, promoted (and aged) Bart Allen to the Flash, killed him, brought Wally back (now with new Whining action!), brought Barry back, had two Flashes, brought a de-aged Bart Allen back as Kid Flash, scrapped everything, and rebooted it all, just without the guy that’s been the Flash in the comics, cartoons, and video games for the last 25 years. Oops.
What’s next? Robin taking over as Batman? Batman having a kid? He- wait. Nevermind.
4. Superman origins (again!)
At the same time a lot of the Flash stuff was going on, DC decided that it was time to re-tell Superman’s origin again. Superman’s origin has been told and re-told so many different times, in so many different ways, in so many different mediums that he’s got like forty origins. The common elements, and really the only elements that always need to be there, are that he’s an alien from the planet Krypton, sent to Earth in a rocket as his planet was blowing up, and that he ended up with a nice couple in Smallville, Kansas that raised him to use his abilities to save people and to make the world a better place. Other than those things, his origins are usually wildly different, and after being revealed are what DC sticks with for at least a decade (a generation of readers).
Thanks to all of the Crisis stories, Superman has had his origin’s details changed around a lot. Particularly his time in Smallville. But, with the creators on the books now having grown up in the Pre-Crisis days, when Clark was having all kinds of adventures before ever going to Metropolis (particularly spending time in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes. The first retelling was John Byrne’s Man of Steel reboot, which took place after Crisis On Infinite Earths, and that stuck for quite a while. But after time (and a decade of Smallville on TV), DC felt like the time was right to tell the story again.
Mark Waid and Leinil Yu told Superman: Birthright, which was as good an origin story as you’re likely to ever see. It told the story of Clark Kent, and how he really became SUPERMAN and grew into his own. It’s pretty much perfect, and culminates in Superman having to save Metropolis from invading Kryptonian forces (or so it seems), thanks to Lex Luthor (dick).
About two years later, they did it again, and had Geoff Johns and Gary Frank tell Superman’s origin in “Superman: Origins”. It’s a good story, but not as strong as Birthright, and ultimately doesn’t matter at all, because less than a year later Flashpoint happened, and Superman’s origins are changed. Again.
The entire design of these reboots and new origins are to get new readers interested in these characters, but even as someone that’s been reading comics since 1989, I have to say they’ve just made things more confusing than ever. When I worked at a comic book store (Best. Job. Ever.) and someone would ask about Superman’s origin story and if we had it in stock, I would have to show them four or five different ones and explain the differences. That shit’s confusing for someone like me, I can’t even imagine what a new reader would think.
5. Electric Superman (WHAT THE SHIT?)
Speaking of fucking around with Superman, this is maybe the biggest “What the hell?” decisions I’ve ever seen when it comes to the Man of Steel. For a time in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Superman had electricity based-powers, and looked like anyone BUT Superman. He had blue skin, and a blue body suit with stylized white decorations, including the “S” on his chest. He looked absolutely ridiculous, and the fact that it was supposed to be Superman was just mind-boggling.
Why in the world would DC ever do this? Why would you take Superman, one of the most recognizable images on the entire planet, and make him unrecognizable? Who the hell was running that meeting? Who approved this?
And then, to make matters worse, they revisited an old silver age story where Superman was split into two separate beings, and there was a blue electric Superman AND a red one! GAAAAH! What fresh hell?
It would be bad enough if it was just in the Superman titles, and was for just a few months, but this shit went on for over a year, and he looked like this all over the DC universe. The Grant Morrison JLA run is considered a high-point, not only for Morrison, but for the title, and while those stories are really great, there are a few trade paperbacks’ worth of stories in the middle of the run in which Superman looks like a giant twat. These stick out like a sore thumb, and completely justify the worst cases of fanboy rage I’ve seen this side of Joel Schumacher’s Batman films.