Why The New 52 Reboot Is Different Than All The Rest.

Hey all!  Long time no see.  I’m sorry I’ve been absent for a while but I’ve been busy writing for another site called Retcon Punch!  If you haven’t already, you should check it out.  We write reviews for all sorts of comics and our favorite part is when we get to talk to all of you in the comments section!  As for A Wild Crisis Appears, I’m going to be trying a lot harder to get back into my groove here.  I really appreciate all of you who follow me and leave comments.  I want to let you know that I’m not going anywhere!

So, down to business.  I recently posted the following image from The Gutters on my AWCA’s Facebook page (“Like” it if ya love me…or you know… tolerate me).

In response to this, one of my Facebook followers, Joe Kontor commented “…more like 25. People seem to forget that Crisis was a reboot too…and that was after DC rebooted with Barry Allen and swept the JSA to Earth 2.”  I then proceeded to leave the LONGEST FACEBOOK COMMENT OF ALL TIME.  Well, that may be an exaggeration, but my point is, I felt the need to expand upon my thoughts here.  With that, faithful reader, I will now subject you to those thoughts.  So… apologies in advance!

First off, Joe is absolutely right.  The New 52 most certainly isn’t the first time DC’s pulled a reboot on us, but it is a bit different.  Before I get into that, I’d like to talk about the history of DC’s reboots for a second.  I’ve discussed some of this before in this article but I want to sum it up again here.  I promise there will be a point.  The first major reboot in DC’s history takes us all the way back to 1956 when DC reintroduced and reinvented many of its heroes in a new, Sci-fi colored light.  This was known as “The Silver Age.” Heroes like The Flash and Green Lantern became sleeker and their more “old fashioned” counterparts were swept under the rug.

It was a very large rug.

Fans of the original “Golden Age” versions of DC’s characters eventually demanded that they return which then lead to another reboot of sorts.  DC announced the existence of Earth 2 and said that all of the original heroes of the DCU existed there.  The multiverse was born and decades of fun was to be had.  Eventually, DC decided that the multiverse was simply too big of a sandbox for our heroes to be playing in and felt it would be too confusing for new readers to jump on the DC bandwagon.

What’s so confusing about this? Oh, now I see it.

The picture above is from Crisis on Infinite Earths, the 1985 mini-series that DC used to streamline their continuity and eradicate the multiverse.  With this reboot, DC merged the histories of their Golden and Silver Age characters into a cohesive whole.  The time between the original “Crisis” and the age of “The New 52” saw a few more revisions and reboots with the biggest one being Infinite Crisis in 2006.  Here, the multiverse (or at least a version of it) was restored and our heroes became aware of their own history of reboots.

As I said, there was a point I wanted to make by summing up the history of DC’s reboots.  If you’ll notice, all of the reboots I listed have one thing in common.  They actually maintained the histories of the majority of DC’s characters and simply reincorporated them into a new overarching history.  Now, this isn’t the case for everyone unfortunately.  In order to make the new streamlined continuity work, DC had to get rid of some things entirely.  For example, the Golden Age versions of Batman and Superman were completely erased during the original “Crisis” which had consequences for characters like Power Girl down the line.  Characters like Hawkman and those of the Legion of Superheroes also suffered greatly because of other changes made during the “Crisis.” Years of retcons and other tweaks were used in an attempt to fix certain continuity issues but it wasn’t until Infinite Crisis came along that those problems were mostly fixed.

It may not look like it, but this actually helped quite a bit.

When Infinite Crisis reestablished our heroes knowledge of the various reboots it made the defunct histories something that could be catalogued within the framework of the world that these characters lived in.  It made all of those rebooted stories count not just in the hearts and minds of its fans, but of the characters who once “lived” them.  “The New 52” reboot completely erased all of that in its entirety.  Sure, some things like Blackest Night or Killing Joke are still around, but even those stories have been tweaked substantially in order for it to fit within the new continuity.  However, when you consider other characters, like the Golden Age characters of the Justice Society of America, they aren’t even recognizable anymore.  They are no longer the original heroes of the DCU let alone the heroes of WWII, something I find that is so essential to the mystique of those characters.  That’s not to say I’m not enjoying Earth 2 (though it could certainly be better).

My point is that for the first time in DC’s history, the characters that we are reading are starting over from scratch more so than they ever have.  Before “The New 52” reboot, the heroes of the DCU were a part of a much deeper and more complex history that had been built up over decades.  Even if that history was retconned and rebooted countless times, it was sill maintained in some way.  Now, with the events of Flashpoint, the characters of the DCU have entered a completely new era of “The New 52,” a reboot that is different than any other as it’s the biggest “tabula rasa” the DCU has ever been subjected to.



15 thoughts on “Why The New 52 Reboot Is Different Than All The Rest.

  1. Agreed, while one may not like all the changes with a re-boot, all comics need a good flushing every 20 years or so, to keep them relevant to the current times. Changes in most Tv series, that are done are a good example of this, where source material is tweeked, and it works…

    …and no one seems to mind.

    i.e. – All the animated series from 1989 and on, Smallville, Dark Knight, Arrow

    • Exactly, all of these reboots and retcons are needed to ensure that these decades old world are kept relevant. Take Punisher for example, or any hero who was once a soldier who fought in a war. If this were a hundred years from now, would it make sense for Punisher to have fought in Vietnam? If they want to keep him human and not some kind of extra-normal person who was genetically modified to stay young then they’d have to update/retcon his character to keep him relevant and sensical.

    • That’s interesting — I see comic book movies, animated series, and video games (and, confusingly, the comics they inspire) as having entirely separate continuities from the comic book universe. This is why Jason Todd can continue to exist in comic books, even if he doesn’t appear in any other Batman-related media. Each media is a product of its time, but I don’t think they ever feel to tied to previous continuity.

      To me, slcttr, what you’re describing is more like the way James Bond is approached. We expect certain things from a James Bond movie (guns, gadgets, Bond girls, etc) which may have nostalgic, throwback appeal, but can always be dressed up in the style of the time. They kind of acknowledge that the previous films happen, but only a little.

      I wish DC treated continuity more like the Simpsons: they never age, so Bart is always a ten-year-old right now. That is to say, he’s not a time capsule of a ten-year-old from 1989. The fact that he liked Michel Jackson 20 years ago doesn’t affect the fact that he has an email address today. In this way, his present isn’t tied to his past — he’s just always Bart Simpson, a ten-year-old troublemaker who lives in Springfield with his family. The same could be said of Batman: He’ll always be Gotham’s dark knight, avenging the murder of his parents. To me, it’s those overarching elements that make Batman compelling (and what make his movies, tv shows, video games and comics so great). I understand, as comic fans, why continuity is also important, but my favorite Batman stories will always be the ones where all you need to know is that he’s Batman.

      • Hi Drew, welcome to AWCA! I know exactly what you mean. Some of the best comic stories are those are told in a bubble. You really don’t need decades of continuity to tell great stories. On the other hand, there is something about having a long running continuity that just gets me involved with these stories that much more!

      • That’s a great point. Bringing it back to Batman, Tim Drake’s origin story (and relationship with Bruce in general) means a LOT more if you’re familiar with what happened to Jason Todd. As a fan of Jason’s character, I totally accept that it’s pretty tied-in with continuity, from his origins to his death to his resurrection etc, and I don’t think a story like that could be told in the kind of static sitcom continuity I described. It’s not that I hate continuity — I agree that it can enhance our understanding of a story immensely — I’m just wary of when familiarity with continuity becomes a cost of admission rather than an optional enhancement. Again, it’s not that the latter is inherently bad — I love a number of HEAVILY serialized comics and tv shows that essentially require consuming everything in order — but I would absolutely hate it if those were the only comics/tv shows available.

        All of this is kind of beside your point though, Mik, that the New 52 is fundamentally different from the previous crises, which I absolutely agree with. I also agree that it’s a shame that we’ve lost characters and continuity in the relaunch, but I also think there may be some value in streamlining and simplifying everything. My hope is that this will all be relegated to Earth-New-52 or something like that, which allows for old continuity and characters to be restored somewhere down the line. It’s probably the solution that would piss off the most people possible, but it’s too bad they jettisoned such great continuity to make things more accessible. There’s no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater when you can do LITERALLY ANYTHING in your stories.

      • I absolutely agree with you here Drew. I hate it when continuity concerns strangle creativity. It can be used for good and bad, that is for sure.

        As for Earth-New-52, I’ve had very similar thoughts. I hope that Grant Morrison’s Multiversity will be able to give a home to some Pre-52 worlds/characters. And coincidentally enough, that is actually the next topic of AWCA!

      • “I understand, as comic fans, why continuity is also important, but my favorite Batman stories will always be the ones where all you need to know is that he’s Batman.” I totally agree. I particularly like comic books when they seem to be out of time. That’s why, generally speaking, I don’t like references to the continuity, references to modern society, references to social networks and so on.
        The thing I hate most is when I see a superhero entirely relying on modern technology to get out of trouble. You’re a superhero, man! You’re supposed to make it using only your brain and your physical gifts, you shouldn’t need anything else!
        Anyway, sometimes the use of modern technology in comics doesn’t bother me at all. For example, Batman used to rely on Barbara’s talent as a hacker very much when she still was Oracle, and, each time he called her help, I never felt peeved. Maybe it was because the informations he used to get from Oracle didn’t help him getting out of trouble: they simply speeded up some of his investigations. Or maybe it’s simply because I’ve always loved Barbara.
        Also, I think it’s funny that before the reboot Oracle seemed so important that all the Gotham vigilantes used to call her on a daily basis, and after the reboot they suddenly learned how to make it all by themself. Funny in a “hahaha” way, not in a sarcastic way.

  2. I don’t think it’s totally fair to say that all pre Flashpoint continuity has been wiped out. Just as in previous reboots, the n52 universe was created by the merging of realities. Other than a few little side stories featuring Pandora, we haven’t really gotten a bigger meta-continuity story – nothing that justifies the narrative nonsense – but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t coming. It’s that inevitability that makes me kind of nervous.

    Don’t get me wrong. Long-running superhero comics books may be the only medium in which a stories like the various Crisis are even possible, let alone tolerated. So I get their value by sheer novelty. But I don’t always want to read about parallel realities collapsing into one, or the fates of worlds decided by publishing decision. I want to see characters motivated honestly and interacting with eachother in ways that are recognizably human. So for me, it comes down to whether I want read another story that justifies rejiggered continuity – and I’m just not sure that I do.

    • Hey Patrick! It’s nice to see ya on AWCA! I definitely recognize that some Pre-52 stuff is still floating around. It’s mostly evident with Batman and Green Lantern and other characters like Animal Man. But I think the distinction that The New 52 has made is that they’ve made a much more definitive break in what’s come before than ever before. Dan Didio’s proclamation that the “Crisis never happened” tells me that The New 52 is intended to be much more of a fresh start for our characters than any of the previous reboots have been. Or at least, that’s the feeling I get. After the original Crisis, the characters of the DCU always made references to “The Great Crisis” which always gave me a feeling of connectedness to the events of what came before (even if most of the characters forgot a lot of the details). With The New 52, these characters have no memory whatsoever of any Crisis and by extension have no connection to the events that came before.

      You are right though, that can change at any moment. All it takes is for Rip Hunter or Booster Gold to say something like “Boy, that Flashpoint was a trip wasn’t it?” and then boom, all of that continuity comes roaring back.

      I don’t blame you for not wanting to read continuity changing events like Crisis or Flashpoint over and over again. I think those stories can be very interesting but should be used sparingly. DC has a habit of doing it every 10 years or so, so I hope that’s not too often for you!

      • Hey, speaking of – it’s not just Rip and Booster that should have memories of Flashpoint. Barry should too AND he talked to Batman about it (leastwise, if the end of Flashpoint, which takes place in the New 52 continuity, is to be believed). You think that’s ever going to come back to haunt us?

      • I certainly hope so! Booster Old told Booster that Rip has the ability to erase entire conversations from ever happening so maybe that’ll explain away the conversation between Flash and Bats that you mentioned. It’ll be interesting to see how this all goes down. Johns definitely has something up his sleeve here.

  3. “Fans of the original “Golden Age” versions of DC’s characters eventually demanded that they return which then lead to another reboot of sorts. DC announced the existence of Earth 2 and said that all of the original heroes of the DCU existed there.”

    Fans demanded it? What’s your source for this?

    • Don’t really have an official source man. That just comes from the thousands of conversations I’ve had throughout the years about that era of the DCU. It may not have been a “demand” per se, but there were definitely fans of those characters that wondered where they got around to. Why else would DC feel the need to reintroduce those characters?

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