DC Comics has erased almost 75 years of continuity and rebooted all the storylines in all of their superhero comic books. Last week, they released Justice League #1, which featured a story where Green Lantern meets Batman and discovers that he’s just a “guy in a freakin’ bat suit? Are you freakin’ KIDDIN’ ME?” In the story, both Batman and Green Lantern seem about 22 years old, and they meet Superman in the last panel, who looks about 15.
This initially ticked me off. But now consider me unticked.
Long ago, I wrote about how comic books bugged me – you can read the post here – because they’re all running on a treadmill. No one ages; everyone who dies comes back within a year or two; nothing really changes. It wasn’t until I read this article that I realized that, rather than being an annoying anomaly, the constancy of these characters is what makes them work, and even a reboot can’t really change them.
As the guy from Houston said:
No DC reboot is going to do something like resurrect Batman’s parents. Or if they try it, it will only be temporary. Why? Because the death of his parents is Batman’s story. It is integral to who he is and who he becomes. By changing that, you make him no longer Batman, and the world wants us a freakin’ Batman.
Consider the post-Christopher Reeve attempts to reboot the Superman movie series. Prior to the abysmal Superman Returns, which continued/remade the original movie with strangely tepid results, several directors and scripts were proposed, including a weird Tim Burton/Nick Cage collaboration that gratefully never saw the light of day. (Come on. Who wants to see Superman wearing a toup?)
The one script that attracted the most attention/vitriol was one by wunderkind J.J. Abrams, the man who would later be responsible for the ingenious Star Trek reboot. The problem was that the script severely monkeyed with the Superman mythos. To begin with, Krypton didn’t explode, and Superman’s alien parents were still alive. Second, Lex Luthor was a Kryptonian, too – there’s a big aerial battle between Lex and Supes at the end of the flick. (Can you imagine Nick Cage in a Supes toup battling a bald dude? So wrong. SO wrong.) Much of the rest of the script was well done, but purists couldn’t get past the blasphemy of an intact Krypton and a SuperLuthor. Superman is too iconic for any Johnny-come-lately to start rewriting his history.
The Spider-Man movies are getting rebooted, too, and many are complaining, because two of the three preceding films were outstanding, and they weren’t made that long ago. But the third movie was dreadful, and it left the characters with no place to go. So as long as the reboot is true to what Spider-Man is, it will be a welcome addition to the character’s rich history.
(As a Spider-Manic side note, I’m convinced that one of the primary problems with the troubled Spider-Man musical was that the director and the writers had no respect for the world of Spider-Man, and they tried to co-opt the character for their own artsy purposes, including focusing the story on Arachne, an ancient Greek mythological figure, instead of Peter Parker. What they didn’t realize is that, while they had the legal rights to the character, they didn’t really own him. He is too ingrained in the public consciousness; he can’t be rewritten.)
It’s also important to note that no one complains about reboots when the originals go awry. People welcomed the Batman movie despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that it completely ignored the campy Adam West Batman series. And when the movie series fell apart with Batman and Robin, the Batman Begins reboot was hailed as a work of genius. These characters are truly icons, and the problem isn’t that they appear in multiple iterations. The only question that matters is whether or not the new iteration is any good.
So far, with Justice League #1, the jury’s still out. But I’m interested enough to pick up a copy of Justice League #2.