With the end of the year fast-approaching, it’s a perfect time to look back at the year that was in comics, and talk about the developments of the year in the world of comics, and look at what ultimately shaped the past year. Inevitably, the topic of discussion can’t help but fixate on DC Comics’ radical move to restart their entire line of comics in September, under the banner of The New 52.
Produced to much fanfare, gossip and excitement, The New 52 restarted not just all the books in the DC Comics stable, but in many cases the characters as well, showing that they all existed in a new reality, unlike the one that we had been used to before Flashpoint changed everything we thought we knew, and led into the creation of the new reality of the The New 52. As we say goodbye to the fourth month of the grand experiment, I’ve started to realize something, and I’m going to share this with you readers out there- I’ve realized that I have to learn to stop worrying and love The New 52, and all the changes it brings. And this realization has also made me realize why I’ve had such a hard time accepting it to begin with.
This past week, I was at my local comic book store with a good friend, and I was thumbing through a DC comic that was in my pull list. He was scanning some of the pages as I thumbed through, and he stopped me when he saw an image from the relaunched Superboy comic, which I believe was the cover to issue #1. He scoffed at this, and said that it looked stupid, which made me ask why, and he couldn’t answer at first, until he mumbled that that just isnt’ what Superboy looks like, and thus looked stupid as a result.
Therein lies the issue. When Crisis on Infinite Earths occurred in the mid-80s, it touched every DC comic, every character, and afterwards a very clear line could be drawn between before and after the event, and it was made quite clear that everything that was now wasn’t, and things would be new going forwards. Ostensibly Flashpoint’s ending attempted to be the same thing for this new modern generation, but because DC couldn’t quite commit to this wholly, some things changed, yet some things remained the same. In particular, the Batman and Green Lantern franchises barely changed at all, as their stories pretty much continued forwards, but characters like Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman and many teams had major changes, which seemed to invalidate prior events. All of which somewhat undermines the fact that all the stories are supposed to now be new, what you used to know doesn’t matter anymore, it didn’t happen. Unless it did, for some titles. Which is why some of the readership can’t make peace with the changes, because it wasn’t as clear as Crisis on Infinite Earths. That event took everything away, and then rebuilt it. Flashpoint attempted to put things back together, and somehow ended up with a completely different continuity.
My friend didn’t necessarily have a problem with that version of Superboy based on the actual merits of the issue, or who that character is, he had problems because he ISN’T the Superboy he’s known since he was ten years old. When I first started to put this altogether in my mind, I think it made it easier going forwards to enjoy the books that have resulted from The New 52. It has also made me confront the real reasons why I might not like certain books. It’s made me a more relaxed and understanding reader, because so much of what I may not like is rooted on the past, on what the books AREN’T, instead of what they ARE. My dislike of Cyborg being part of the founding roster of the Justice League has nothing to do with that particular story that is being told, but because to me he’s a Teen Titan first, and putting him above that, in the Justice League, from the beginning, is wrong. It’s taken time, but I’m finally allowing myself to more fully enjoy The New 52, from Lois and Clark not being married, to Barry and Iris not being married, to the Teen Titans not being the institution it was previously, to Starfire suddenly being a much more alien character who has sex with other heroes pretty haphazardly, and knows people by scent/touch. Well, maybe not the last part with Starfire- no matter how the character might have been before, there’s no excusing what’s been done with her now. I can learn to live with most of these changes, but in the end, I’m only human (and a comic fan, whose primary characteristic is being resistant to change).