- Infinite Crisis
- One Year Later
- Bart Allen as The Flash
- Superman's Silver Age reboot
- Wally West as The Flash
- Final Crisis
- Barry Allen as The Flash
- Wonder Woman's soft reboot with pants
- New 52
- Five Years Later
I would love to have heard the conversations that occurred between Dan Didio and Paul Levitz in the years before Levitz was shown the door and Didio and Lee became co-publishers.
At some point, I have to think Levitz was beginning to detect a pattern in Didio's planning and plotting.
What I'm getting at is that beginning in 2005, Dan Didio has more or less been playing the same card, over and over and over. The one trick he has had up his sleeve has been the reboot (and I've guessed he was going to "reboot" Watchmen as well with prequels for a couple of years before they actually went ahead and did it).
Under Didio's supervision, DC was never particularly tied to continuity. That was when we saw the rise of editors like Eddie Berganza who weren't even trying to maintain continuity in the Superman line of books, and were, instead, focusing on 6 issue arcs with new creative teams brought on every few issues, many of whom seemed baffled by their assignment in Newsarama interviews. The interviews always read basically the same: I'm a semi-hot writer, DC is offering me money, I don't know anything about Superman, but I am told he's the first and greatest. And: For Tomorrow.
At one point around 2005, it seemed the Superman books suffered from a near constant state of soft reboot as each creative team came and left. All of that left the Superman books a mess, with the number of Superman titles tumbling from 4 to 2 on the stands. And so it was that Infinite Crisis felt very welcome as it came along beginning in 2005 and ending in 2006.
But here's the interesting bit - it came along not all that long after the Superman books, recognizing what a mess they'd become, had attempted a soft reboot in just the Superman titles with an explanation of a "time storm" as Superman briefly swapped places with Wildstorm's Mr. Majestic (see Superman No. 201 from March 04). Likely this was done to merge Mark Waid's well received Birthright into the Superman mythos, an origin which didn't paint DC into multiple awkward corners the way the Byrne/ Wolfman mythology had done, and enabled for Lex to have had contact with Superman at some point in his youth (considered a necessary part of the lore by many Superman fans, and which had become popularized on TV's Smallville, which had millions of viewers versus the comics 10's of 1000's.).
It wasn't enough that DC then began to align their universe to bring us Infinite Crisis (a comic which got us where we needed to go, but which didn't actually work as a story). In order to modernize, rewrite the DCU and bring it up to speed and, I suppose, compete with Marvel, DC introduced the One Year Later concept. DC had the opportunity to redefine their universe, but apparently nobody told the talent and editorial actually working on the books, who clearly grappled horribly with the situation, and who were writing stories to get us back to a familiar status quo within 6 months.
In all the ways that mattered, One Year Later was a failure and a forgettable blip that could have, with proper planning, shuffling of titles, etc... gotten the DCU to the point Didio seemed to be seeking. Instead, it had the feel of a random reshuffling of parts instead of a concentrated effort from a single point of leadership.
It also led to the Flash debacle, with Bart Allen briefly appearing as The Flash for 13 issues before being killed (an unpopular move to end an unpopular series which had replaced a well respected, if moderate selling title).
Superman was rebooted again, and I can attest that folks at the Superman Homepage, many of whom had grown up with the Byrne version, were very confused. The confusion was not helped along by the production problems in the Superman office (which never received an explanation) as DC mainstay titles like Action Comics disappeared from the shelf for months and DC waited until October of 2009 to release the first issue of Superman: Secret Origin, which was intended to replace Man of Steel as canon.
All that said, its hard not to look at the build up to Final Crisis, with Didio's personal touch on the DCU of the utter debacle that was Countdown to Infinite Crisis, a year-long, weekly series that went absolutely nowhere, included a dozen spin-off titles that went nowhere, not the least of which was the offensively executed Death of the New Gods, which was a creative and narrative mess and actually served to contradict and screw-up mainline DC books as well as the actual Final Crisis title.
Final Crisis hit in July 2008, and ended in approximately March 2009 - six months before Superman: Secret Origin arrived. I bring this up partially because (1) Final Crisis was announced well before it saw print, leading many to speculate about massive production problems, not the least of which may have been Didio misreading the script for the first issue of Final Crisis and spoiling it so badly for Morrison with all his extra mini series, etc... that some suspected Morrison didn't want to do the series now. (2) I still think Final Crisis was intended to be the end of the DCU before what Didio hoped to be his reboot of the entire thing.
Really, the end of Final Crisis is screaming to be the plausible end of the DCU in a typically Morrisonian way. I really don't know how else to read it. It both reinstitutes the multiverse in a big, big way and takes every single character of the DCU and puts them in stasis for safekeeping. That's how it ends (after Superman, the first great DC superhero, saves the DCU with a song in the key of life).
But instead, once Final Crisis ended, the book and the massive after shocks it should have left, went ignored completely in the DCU.
Something... happened there. That was not what somebody had in mind when they planned the book initially. I have to think DC just rolled it out because... sales and money. Not because it made any sense any more.
Somewhere in the aftermath, DC revamped Wonder Woman for no reason, and attempted to relaunch the character by giving her pants. The comics fans argued the suit, the general public failed to recognize an iconic, highly licensed and well-known trademark. Another reboot, another misfire.
In September 2010, Diane Nelson took over at DC Entertainment. Dan Didio and Jim Lee were made co-publishers. Levitz was shown the door and allowed to contribute books, but clearly kept out of the loop, debuting a Huntress comic clearly written for the Old DCU shortly after the Nu DCU premiered. Friends, yes-men and supporters suddenly found themselves in jobs such as "Editor in Chief", and in September 2011, we got the DCU hard reboot.
After multiple soft reboots, after a few attempts at hard reboots, we now have our Nu DCU. This is the DCU that Didio long dreamed of making.
In some ways, I can only imagine the sales pitch Didio and Lee made to Nelson, quoting figures from the 90's comics boom for her, pointing to disgraced Marvel Editor and architect of the Scarlet Spider debacle, Bob Harras, toiling in DC's collections department. "Levitz is old school," you can almost hear them say. "We have Jim Lee, who sold, like, a million X-Men comics and Bob Harras on our staff, we can bring back the 90's".
And so they are trying to do so.
The one other thing I always suspected Didio had up his sleeve was the Watchmen reboot. Frankly, I'm shocked he cashed that in so early, but it'll keep DC in the spotlight for a while longer as the long game of the DCNu plays out.
Its a shame. For the last seven years or so, DC actively became much more about managing their continuity than doing what Marvel was doing whilst beating the crap out of DC, and that was working to build a cohesive Marvel U. Perhaps too cohesive, as I quit reading Marvel once it felt like I had to read too many ancillary books to keep up with their major events, even as they were running the prices of their titles to ridiculous levels.
What DC hasn't worked to do is cultivate talent or work to build loyalty to any of their characters. How could they expect for anyone to begin to understand or like Superman with how many reboots in the last decade and more than a year of Superman comics in which he wasn't even in his own titles (see: New Krypton) and then a year where he failed to appear in Action while walking the Earth in Superman?*
Its just... dumb. And it reeks of bad logic, a lack of leadership and vision, poor understanding of character and story, and a disregard for the audience you're courting.
I understand sales are still okay for DC. I expect that many, like myself, were going to give DC six months on a lot of books. But I also know DC did manage to pull in a lot of new readers with the effort, at least pulling over Marvel readers who weren't necessarily hyped on DC. No telling if it'll last, but what I would say is this:
I remember the 90's. I remember the short sighted silliness that went with Image's first wave, some of Marvel's excesses that put the company in bankruptcy, junk like the Malibu books and the undeniably bad wave of exploitative comics that gave comics its bubble. Stuff that individual, vocal internet folks will still wax rhapsodic about, the way you do not want to get me started on The Heckler. But none of that stuff ended up working for the longterm even if it momentarily gave some folks a pay day or heyday.
But its not a longterm strategy. And you can feel the gears turning and popping from behind the scenes in every issue of every DC book. That shouldn't be the case.
What concerns me is how much the content being created reminds me of that period, a period in which, if I can be honest, I didn't read superhero books all that much.
Also - this is it, I suspect. This is the DCU that these guys really, really thought the DCU should be. This is what multiple crises couldn't produce, One Years Later, soft reboots, and pants on an Amazon couldn't muster. This is the new state of the DCU, and while in many ways it looks familiar, there's also a bit of a "oh, that's it?" sort of feel to it all. "I thought you would, you know, at least paint the walls. Yes, I see you removed the Kents. Sure. But... yeah. I don't quite get what you're doing with that yet... Five years? You'll tell us later? Oh. Okay. We have to guess until you can think of what fills in the blanks? Ah. I see."
I'm patient. I can wait for the next reboot.
*oddly, Roberson's wrap-up of JMS's clumsy mess of a comic turned out to be some of the best Superman comics of the past 15 years.