JMS: "Reboot was DiDio's dream"

201106021010.jpgA veil — or vow — of silence has descended over DC Tower concerning the hows, whys and wherefores of Flashboot, leaving comics pundits and readers to merely twiddle their thumbs, froth with rage, start saving the $155.48 they’ll need to buy all 52 rebooted DC titles, or, as unlikely as it sounds, even post on the internet. Last night Jim Lee tweeted:

I have no news about September. There’s a plan and it will roll out in coming months. I’m on rt now to find out what ppl do at nite :)


…and that’s about all we’ve heard. Creators involved in the reboot have dropped a few hints, but know better than to say anything on pain of not getting paycheck.

So that leaves writers NOT involved with the relaunch. Or writers who are too big to fear a lost paycheck, like J. Michael Straczynski, who was asked about the relaunch on his Facebook page and responded with with his usual candor. Of the most note — to us anyway, even allowing for JMS’s own involvement — is that perhaps that SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE success was the push that Dan DiDio needed to pull the trigger on a long simmering plan. SEO, as it’s known, posited a newer, younger, no continuity Superman, and has been an GN hit for DC. Here’s what JMS wrote:

When Dan DiDio comes out to the West Coast, we tend to get a bite for dinner to discuss projects, ideas, books and just hang. Dan is a great guy and an energetic speaker, chockful of ideas and aspirations for DC. As part of that, he shared repeatedly on and off for really more than a year his dream of rebooting the DCU and starting over.

So I felt confident that it was coming soon (which is one reason why I felt there wouldn’t be a problem in the long run leaving the monthly books, since most of the things done in Superman and Wonder Woman would be erased by the reboot anyway, so ultimately it didn’t matter whether I stayed or left. I just couldn’t say anything at the time because I wanted to respect Dan’s privacy and his desire to do what he thought was right when he thought it was right to do it.

To a degree, I think the success of Superman: Earth One was very helpful in showing that you could reboot a major character in a very personal sort of book and have it become a real hit (27 straight weeks and counting on the New York Times Bestseller List for graphic novels).

That said: end to end, top to bottom, front to back, this is Dan’s dream, and he’s fought long and hard to make this happen. I think it’s absolutely the right move at the right moment in history. If you think about how well the Flash, Green Lantern and Atom were rebooted during the Silver Age, those books made the characters more contemporary, personal and relevant to the 70s. Imagine how much poorer the comics world would be without those reboots, if there had never been a Hal Jordan, or a Barry Allen.

Taking that approach to rebooting the majority of the DC line is a gutsy move on an unparalleled scale, and I think Dan deserves a massive round of applause for making it. The business part of the comics business has been languishing for the last several years, with decreasing sales and media attention. Something this big, this brave, is exactly the shot in the arm it needed. There’s a saying in some of the British special forces: “Who dares, wins.” I think this was and will be seen in future as a winning move.

Good on him for doing it.

Comments

  1. “There’s a saying in some of the British special forces: “Who dares, wins.”

    I am gobsmacked at the way JMS has presented the phrase “Who dares, wins” above. “A saying in some of the British special forces”? A saying? It’s the motto of the SAS, for pete’s sake!

  2. JMS did to the DCU what George Clooney did to the Batman franchise. He left it in such a state that it needed to be reinvented.

    I appreciate his candor, though. And his fedora.

  3. KillJoy says:

    Superman by JMS was in a format “civvies” might read and distributed in areas where “civvies” were more likely to find it.

    A “floppy” line-wide re-launch is in a format and a distribution model, and even a basic format understanding model, that only appeals to the existing audience.

    I’m excited for it, but I’m much more cautious and skeptical of it mimicking the Superman/JMS success.

  4. This increases my fears that the relaunch is another editorial mandate with writers handed plot outlines to work with. If that’s the case, highly likely I’m done with the DCU.

  5. @Killjoy: Regarding these ‘civvies’ you rudely and disdainfully refer to: aren’t digital delivery devices exactly where they will have tons of access?

    Again, another commenter missing the point of DC’s endeavor.

  6. There’s a difference between a reboot working for a one-off graphic novel, and working on an ongoing basis for an entire line which is (surely) going to have to be supported largely by the existing collector market. Not saying that makes it a bad idea, just that the analogy with Superman: Earth One is imperfect.

  7. @Drew: I agree that they’re trying to push the relaunch as a jumping on point for new readers to the digital service – and in that context, the renumbering actually makes a certain degree of sense, in terms of how the books will be presented on the app. All fair enough in theory. But the sheer volume of material seems to be more than could realistically be marketed to a new audience. Most if not all of these books are going to be dependent largely on the existing audience for the foreseeable future. Even if digital is the game-changer everyone hopes for, that’s going to be a medium-term process at best.

  8. Synsidar says:

    From the editorial standpoint, it would be much better to just have FLASHPOINT end and then have all the relaunched series begin, with writers providing details about changes as needed within the stories. Since some series aren’t changing, and some will change only slightly — there’s not much point in forcing characters to react to something they can’t fully comprehend and (in some cases) won’t personally be affected by.

    SRS

  9. It’s a brave move, of course. But today’s comics are nowhere near what they used to be at the end of the golden age. Didio just wants to leave his mark and, as usual, care so little about his current readers.
    He will burn their current market at the stake just to get a kiss in the cheek by people who isn’t currently reading the books.
    I applaud the move to go digital, but they could have established something like “we move forward from here, continuity is there, but let’s not touch past stories”. This would have pleased old fans and attracted new ones.
    With this move all I can get is how little respect Didio has for DC’s current fans.

  10. perafan says:

    superman earth one just sucks balls

  11. “But the sheer volume of material seems to be more than could realistically be marketed to a new audience.”

    I think we need to stop thinking about this like typical comics fans. If they are trying to reach a new audience, I don’t think the expectation is that that new audience will buy everything. But I think one thing DC may have learned from some of the things that have been mentioned in the sales columns here and by John Jackson Miller, namely that the total number of comics sold a month doesn’t fluctuate as wildly as the performance of the top twenty books suggests, and that maybe the way to make succeed as a publisher is to offer 52 comics that might appeal to a few tens of thousands of readers than making 10 comics that sell to 100,000 readers. The mention by Didio that war, horror and western books would be included I felt was an indication that they’re not trying to sell this as an ‘event’, like they did Brightest Day, but instead offer 52 new titles that might appeal to several different readerships.
    They could still fail horribly, and I await more details, but I think the idea that ‘no new reader is going to want to buy 52 comics’ is an outdated way of thinking of things, nor is it likely DC’s ultimate goal.

  12. I find this revelation interesting mostly because I had assumed that this move was the result of a long-simmering plan based on the Diane Nelson-led reorg.

    KillyJoy: “A “floppy” line-wide re-launch is in a format and a distribution model, and even a basic format understanding model, that only appeals to the existing audience.”

    There’s no reason to assume that the same audience that sought out the S:EO hardcover wouldn’t seek out collected editions of these new relaunches 6 months down the road, though. And this way, DC gets the added benefit of the Wednesday crowd and the (hopefully new) digital audience off-setting the production costs to get that collected edition out there at a more palatable price.

  13. Ricardo Amaral says:

    His major mistake in comparing now to the 60s is that in Silver Age, characters were virtually re-created. They were brand new, with similar names. And that was it. New generation.
    Maybe that’s what DC should do, but won’t because current climate is all about movie franchising characters, so they must be recognizable.
    And, as I feared, it’s another great big idea from Dan “Identity Crisis was great” Didio, with lots of JT Krul books to boot.

  14. goofball814 says:

    I think the truth is that Dan Didio just wants so bad to beat Marvel, just once, that he’s throwing the proverbially $#it at the wall and waiting to see what sticks. I forget the exact month last year (September, October) but DC specifically targeted the next month to “win”. They held back issues of Batman & Robin, Return of Bruce Wayne, and Green Lantern, only to have them all double ship the next month, as well as all the Return of Bruce Wayne tie-ins. Dan thought it a shoe-in to “win”. I’ve heard from creators that when DC didn’t win the next month, the offices were hell for a couple weeks! Stuff was literally thrown against walls. Lots of yelling and swearing! Lots of “meetings”. Not a fun place to be for a couple weeks.

  15. Sphinx Magoo says:

    See, the thing is, every time a comic character (especially those superhero comic characters) are presented in a medium, they are rebooted.

    Spider-Man, while bearing similarities to the comic version, is different in the movies, the cartoons, the TV shows, the video games, and even the newspaper strip. Even the action figures… really, when was Hydro-powered Spider-Man ever featured in a comic?

    Ditto with Batman. Ditto with Superman. Ditto with the Teen Titans, Captain America, the Avengers, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and on and on and on.

    This is another attempt to get these characters off on a fresh start. Like the recent Star Trek movie. Like the planned Buffy movie.

    The illusion is that the comics should always maintain a sense of canon, but comics characters have to freshen themselves up too sometimes to snap out of their routines, shake off some dust and try some new things. Julie Schwartz did this with not only Flash and Green Lantern, but with Batman and Superman.

    In fact, when Schwartz took over editorship of Superman, he and Denny O’Neil got rid of Kryptonite! No more red, green or gold K! Then they depowered the Man of Steel! Then they got Clark Kent out of the Daily Planet and made him a TV newsman! If there’d been an Internet back then, it would’ve split in half!

    And yet, Superman carried on. And we got cool stuff like Terra-Man, Mongul, Steve Lombard, a new Metallo and we had some fun. Plus we got nice art by people like Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez and Jim Starlin and Rich Buckler to work alongside mainstays like Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger.

    So yeah, there’s a feeling of “here we go again” again, but who knows what cool stuff might be coming our way?

  16. Synsidar says:

    JMS’s comments do raise questions about marketing. I and others were buying his WW series specifically because it was a new direction for the heroine, and promised things that readers hadn’t seen before. Then he left, nominally because of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE; now, we find out that the reboot would have wiped out the changes he’d planned anyway.

    DC wouldn’t market something as the “newer new ____” or the “newer than new ____!” When reboots and relaunches overlap each other, it’s fair to describe the editorial environment as “chaotic.” It’s not as if readers of the current WW series should demand refunds, but it’s reasonable to lack faith in the editors’ judgement.

    SRS

  17. killjoy says:

    @todd

    I’m not being rude about civvies at all. Shit I’d love if they started buying comics, it would be good for the industry overall.

    If you don’t like the term go yell at Hibbs, he used it all the time too.

  18. killjoy says:

    @jasongreen

    “There’s no reason to assume that the same audience that sought out the S:EO hardcover wouldn’t seek out collected editions of these new relaunches 6 months down the road, though. And this way, DC gets the added benefit of the Wednesday crowd and the (hopefully new) digital audience off-setting the production costs to get that collected edition out there at a more palatable price.”

    Agreed. It would be great if they did. But I am worried about those collections being dependant on positive floppy sales initially. S:EO did not have that problem due to going straight to collected.

    But you are absolutely right, that may happen, and it would be awesome.

    My bigger point though was that “normal people” are not going to buy floppies. The format is too bizarre. I actually think digital won’t help either, due to them not being even passingly familiar with the concept of 20-pages a month of story and story numbering. – Normal People might by digital full storylines (First arc of JLA) but I believe they will not buy 20-pages of JLA for $2.99 or $1.99. They won’t even understand what they are being asked to buy.

  19. Nick Jones says:

    “If you think about how well the Flash, Green Lantern and Atom were rebooted during the Silver Age, those books made the characters more contemporary, personal and relevant to the 70s.”

    Except this isn’t like moving from Alan Scott to Hal Jordan with an according change in personality, abilities, setting, and the like. It’s just moving from Hal Jordan to Hal Jordan with a very slightly different costume. If this reboot were being used to introduce new characters with old monikers as different from the silver age version as those were from the golden age it would be a legitimately positive step, but the folks at DC don’t want that kind of real change.

  20. “If you think about how well the Flash, Green Lantern and Atom were rebooted during the Silver Age, those books made the characters more contemporary, personal and relevant to the 70s.”

    Except none of those characters was really rebooted. They’re completely new characters who replaced characters that hadn’t been seen in 10 years anyway.

  21. OtisTFirefly says:

    >>>…but the folks at DC don’t want that kind of real change.>>>

    As has been pointed out, they can’t make “real change” now days like in the 50s because of the fact that DC COMICS exists now SOLEY as an idea factory/closet for merchandising and desperately wanted movie franchises.

    Also, they’d probably like to continue to be able to go to conventions without being crucified, which I would participate in gladly if they “changed” Superman and Batman and GL and WW to be politically correct (read: non “beloved by stale old white guys” characters.)

  22. Nick Jones says:

    “As has been pointed out, they can’t make “real change” now days like in the 50s because of the fact that DC COMICS exists now SOLEY as an idea factory/closet for merchandising and desperately wanted movie franchises.”

    If Warner Brothers wanted to make an Aquaman or Hawkman movie based on the “classic” versions they have decades of stories to go back to, they don’t need to relaunch both series with the same played-out characters. Actually rebooting the comics with new characters who only share the name would serve to deepen the intellectual property pool and provide potentially profitable protagonists.

    “non “beloved by stale old white guys” characters.”

    Those “stale old white guys” should let their favored versions of characters rest in the past so a legitimately new generation can enjoy superhero comics, whether it’s the result of an update (a la Teen Titans Go!) or a complete golden-to-silver age style ‘back to the drawing board’ scrapping. To borrow and rework a phrase: Bam! Pow! Comics should be for kids again!

  23. Did JMS really say the Silver Age switchover happened for DC in the 70s? The characters changed to new ones in the the mid 50s, early sixties!

    (message: learn some comics history!)

  24. Here’s my paraphrase of JMS on Superman: I left early because it didn’t matter.

    Moving on: in defense of DC, they also keep the core characters very staid because of copyright — it may not allow for a variety of new stories, but it has also kept these characters in pop culture for 75 years.

    That being said, I think the next shoe to drop will be their June 12 Superman announcement. After seeing all this stuff in the last 48 hours (what happened? really?) I can actually see them going ahead with a new-origin Superman. Or a “mysterious origin” one. Start wrapping the duck tape around the Internet now.

  25. When your entire business is based upon taking a few tired old heroes and updating them endlessly, with nothing specific you are trying to say with them, and no end in sight, then naturally there will come a point when you have written yourself so far in circles that the only thing to do is ‘reboot’ and start again.

    Notice how nobody has this ‘when is right to reboot everything’ problem in other media? That’s because other media aren’t based on an insane, sausage-factory-style storytelling process that is contrary to all reasonable wisdom, which is that all good stories come to an end.

    So this reboot will probably suck, but that’s not because it craps on old fans or panders unnecessarily to new fans, nor because it’s not the right time, nor because it’s not the same situation as the silver age. No, this reboot will suck because it’s the only way to perpetuate a storytelling system that sucks.

  26. OtisTFirefly says:

    >>>Those “stale old white guys” should let their favored versions of characters rest in the past so a legitimately new generation can enjoy superhero comics, whether it’s the result of an update (a la Teen Titans Go!) or a complete golden-to-silver age style ‘back to the drawing board’ scrapping. To borrow and rework a phrase: Bam! Pow! Comics should be for kids again!<<<

    … and why is it again the "stale old white guy" versions have to go? Because Spiderman, Batman, Thor, X-Men, Superman, Wolverine, Iron Man etc etc have done SO HORRIBLY in comics and movies over the past decades? Yeah, you're right.. chuck 'em. Never mind the fact the overwhelming majority of kids see comics as unbelievably boring and old-fashioned. You think a "new generation" is going to buy Superman comics if they toss out 75+ years and, what, make him Asian or something? Suddenly millions will buy Spiderman if they kill Peter Parker and bring in a new guy (or girl) and revamp the origin? Really? Seriously?

    There ain't no going back to those days, regardless of how many characters old white guys love are flushed and replaced my hip-hop spouting eminem/jay-z versions. Clark Kent is suddenly Em Kent, a rapper with superpowers… YEAH!! The new generation of kids will FLOCK to that!!!

    …………

  27. Omar Karindu says:

    It’s also worth recalling that he “old versions” come back in pretty quickly once the revamped or entirely re-created guys are established. The 1950s and 60s reboot characters may have been radical reinventions, but how long was it before Barry started meeting Jay every year, Hal met Alan Scott, and the JLA and JSA had annual team-ups?

    By the 1970s, the JSA even had their own comic again, short-lived though it was; the thing even picked up from the Golden Age numbering, much as the first revamped hero, the Flash, had done when he got his own title.

    Similarly, Denny O’Neil may have changed up the Superman franchise, but by the time characters like Terra-Man were being introduced, writers like Terra’s creator Cary Bates were already bringing back Kryptonite and writing Superman with his old, nigh-infinite power levels.

    On of the really interesting things about serial fiction in general is that the reboots in multiple media end up slipping the old stuff back in as references, retold or updated versions of old “vanished” stories, and so on.

    Spider-Man may be rebooted in every medium, but somehow the Green Goblin is always still Norman Osborn and he always manages to drag a girlfriend onto a bridge; Superman turns up all over, but a bald maniac named Luthor and a bunch of lethal glowing rocks inevitably seem to come along at some point too. Canon tends to survive even the ostensible erasure of continuity.

  28. IMHO, perafan has stated an empirical truth.

  29. Nick Jones says:

    “… and why is it again the “stale old white guy” versions have to go? Because Spiderman, Batman, Thor, X-Men, Superman, Wolverine, Iron Man etc etc have done SO HORRIBLY in comics and movies over the past decades?”

    Comics are actually doing horridly at this point, if you go by the sales figures. Movies are clean reboots unburdened by decades of muddled continuity, and sometimes the characters have only the vaguest similarity to their comics counterparts (Nolan/Ledger’s wildly popular Joker is to the comic book Joker what the silver age Green Lantern is to the golden age Green Lantern, for example). When adapted to television the heroes are often wildly different and/or much younger than their comics counterparts. Clearly, success only comes when you move away from catering solely to the tastes of die-hard fanboys.

    “Never mind the fact the overwhelming majority of kids see comics as unbelievably boring and old-fashioned.”

    The entire manga boom was the result of kids reading comics. I’m sure that kids do indeed see characters who were created more than forty years ago (and have not developed, grown, or changed substantially in the interim) as boring and old-fashioned, but given the erosion of the reader base that extends to a lot of adults as well. Toss out another book starring Hal Jordan and kids won’t care; trash the old continuity and give a Green Lantern ring to a new, young character that kids can relate to and you might get their attention.

    Heck, does anybody know if DC Comics accepts unsolicited scripts? I’ll just go and write the series bible on Kid Green Lantern myself.

    “You think a “new generation” is going to buy Superman comics if they toss out 75+ years and, what, make him Asian or something?”

    It’d be big in Japan, at least. ;p

    You’ll recall that there was a big push to have that Donald Glover fellow cast as Spider-man for the next movie, so I don’t think that there’s as much resistance to changing a character’s race or ethnicity as you might want there to be. See also: Ultimate Nick Fury, Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle, Young Justice’s Aqualad.

    “Suddenly millions will buy Spiderman if they kill Peter Parker and bring in a new guy (or girl) and revamp the origin? Really? Seriously?”

    The clean continuity and revamped origin of Ultimate Spider-man made it a huge hit, and when I worked at a bookstore it was a relatively easy sell to kids who didn’t normally read comics (or anything else). Unfortunately, Jeph Loeb went and killed the whole line with his terrible writing. :/

  30. Synsidar says:

    The clean continuity and revamped origin of Ultimate Spider-man made it a huge hit, and when I worked at a bookstore it was a relatively easy sell to kids who didn’t normally read comics (or anything else).

    Continuity is, or should be, like correct grammar. It’s only noticed when there’s a mistake.

    When someone writes a standalone story, all the characters in the story have pasts, but the writer provides only the details which are needed for a reader to enjoy the story. The same principle applies to serial superhero stories. Someone shouldn’t need to have read n issues of UNCANNY X-MEN to enjoy a current storyline. The writer should provide explanations for the character’s use of powers. motivations, etc. in the text.

    If a writer accuses continuity of being a hindrance, it’s likely that he wants to use a formula for the story, and the state of a character prevents him from doing that. If the writer is creative, he won’t use a formula and continuity will be a non-issue.

    If references to “continuity” have negative implications for a reader, it’s because lazy writers and editors benefit from them.

    SRS

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