Wednesday, June 08, 2011

In Which I Go Comic Book (It's like that Brian McKnight song---but worse)

Yesterday, I had a chat with a comic book aficionado friend who was able to shed some light into what DC's setting back to #1 this Fall actually means to the Comic Book World. In his opinion, this impending re-boot will simplify characters and storylines and move everything in each individual comic book universe back to a clean slate.

Character development, thus, completely washed away. Years of meticulous and thought out narrative trajectory? ..Wiped clean to ensure a new and engaging drawing board from which to re-boot characters and plots and storylines.

When I first read about the upcoming move for DC to move back to #1 I must confess that I gave it a quick glance. I didn’t know if it meant any real change to the content of the stories, or was just a Y2k digitized effort to re-boot a franchise ---- I mean, ignoramus that I am, I thought perhaps the numbers were running out ( As said, I didn’t give this much thought: I have dappled in comics ---more so as a child and teen--- have read my share of the popular graphic novels--- and keep a close eye on the film versions; but I am certainly not as well-versed as the friend who directed me to this article. I am also blonde). According to the above article: “DC is launching 52 titles at No. 1 in September featuring scores of its characters ranging from Wonder Woman to Green Lantern to the Justice League”

What is so poignant, potent and outraging about this particular article (sent as an example by my friend) is that it speaks to the loss of character development. Here, years of storyline devoted to the rather amazing Oracle (formerly Batgirl Barbara Gordon), will be completely obliterated.

This example was made more poignant, potent and outraging when I transplanted the idea into some of my favourite literary serializations.

People feel quite strongly about the fictional worlds they imaginatively inhabit. For comic book readers who invest hours of thought and mind-painting into the universe of their choice, they become as attached to character development and progression and relationship as the 19th Century Dickens reader on tenterhook for the next installment of, say, Great Expectations ( the most comic-booky of the Dickens’ novels, perhaps).

In contemporary times (and by contemporary, I point out the dime serializations of the early 1900s through Louis L’Amour, James Bond--- anything with a recurring character and “’verse”, especially in mystery, thriller and fantasy genres) we love the created sphere of character. We step in and let the world overtake us, the characters materialize in depth before our eyes, the nuances of the fictional world seep into our psyche.

So what would happen if George R R Martin (whose eagerly anticipated book awaits fans this summer), were to say “Scrap that! I’m going back to #1” --- all character development and emotional and imaginative investment wiped clean?

For examples closer to my literary taste and heart ( though I love me some fantasy sagas, don’t get me wrong--- hello Locke Lamora!) , what if on book 15 of the Aubrey/Maturin canon, Patrick O’Brian decided that he had had enough with the world he created for Jack and Stephen and decided that their relationship and all meticulous development thus far needed to be scrapped so, like painter with fresh easel and palette, he could start again?

Sherlock and Watson, to name another passionate following of mine….. or any mystery series that we read 10+ ( or even 20+ ) books of because we enjoy the characters and the world far more than we care whodunit.

I stretch a bit when I wade into comic territory because, as mentioned, it is neither my forte nor my expertise. But, literary passion, fictional obsession and careful eye to well-crafted character and world development is a niche of mine.

I stepped into the shoes of a comic book lover for a moment and realized that, to many, this is an issue that will spark fury and outrage.

Have you all heard about this? What think you? Is there ever a reason to scrap a well-developed and rounded world for the sake of starting fresh? What about the many different variations on several of the same universes ( there are different artists and writers for Archie, Batman, etc., )


ducKy Boyd said...


I generally tend to DISLIKE reboots to franchises, for a variety of reasons (of which you've mentioned) and can only think of one which I actually "like", but with a disclaimer - the JJ Abrams Star Trek. I have to rationalize my intense "like" of this film by asserting that it involves a new parallel universe, as opposed to obliterating the current canon. Therefore, both stories can exist at the same time.

When franchises are rebooted, I can only HOPE that it's really just a parallel universe, because to take an established canon that spans years (decades in some cases) and suddenly render it null and void is a disservice to the fandoms.

Court said...

I posted my rebuttal here. It actually doesn't bother me that they're going back to the beginning at all.

blake said...

well written, R!