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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Aquaman Begin Again

Its taken me a full day to grasp the enormity of the news DC released yesterday, pertaining to their wholesale restart of their line.

When I first saw the story, I sort of grabbed the nuggets I was interested in--there's a new JLA, a new JLA #1, and Aquaman will be part of it--and let the rest fall away. There was a time when the minutiae of DC's universe (both the stories and the books that contained those stories) was of paramount importance to me; but after the mid-90s obsession with new #1s ("Poly-bagged Holocrome Collector's Item #1!") I simply stopped caring about the historic angle on DC's publications; because they had seemed to no longer care, as well.

But the news that the entire line--even the venerable Action, Detective, and Adventure Comics--will be re-started seems simply enormous to this old school comics fan.

On the one hand, I feel as though books like Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27--publications that transcend their importance in the world of comics and approach being part of History--should never, ever be duplicated. There shouldn't be multiple "Action #1"s out there--DC should let that stand alone. They are fortunate enough to have published books this important, and should preserve them like the historic artifacts they are. Putting out multiple books with that title, that number, just dilutes the whole thing. I still find something very charming that Action Comics just published its 900th issue.

That said, its that slavish obsession with history, with continuity, with What Has Come Before that I think in many ways has put mainstream comics (let's be very clear--mainstream comics, not all comics) in a straightjacket that, to quote a great man, "Helped turn a mainstream medium into a niche market" (I'm paraphrasing). For an art form to truly grow, there can't be sacred cows--the old needs to be swept away to make room for the new.

I have complained for years that mainstream comics just try to keep aging fanboys like myself happy, ignoring younger potential readers with their endlessly complex back stories and self-congratulatory plotlines, which winkingly compliment the reader for knowing the bad guy in panel 6 page four is the same bad guy that once appeared in a 1987 comic that the writer grew up on--except this time he's super-dark and rapes people, ho ho ho. So maybe simply hitting the Reset Button and starting all over may just be the kind of bold move I've been hoping for.

I mean, I have to admire the chutzpah it takes to try this. If they do it right, DC will deserve all the credit in the world for giving mainstream comics a kick in the pants. If they don't, its Heroes Reborn but on a much larger scale which could be really, really bad. But you generally don't make great art--hell, even just great entertainment--if you don't try something different. Before even a single #1 is published, I give DC credit for rolling the dice, knowing how merciless their customer base will be if this is a bomb (see: DC's "Source" blog, comments, turned off).

That said, as an Aquaman fan, I don't have a particular dog (or is that fish?) in this hunt---us Aqua-Fans have had to live with endless Aquaman #1s (see collage!), so there's no decades-old Aquaman title to get upset about if it, too, was being swept away in this big change. Maybe if we were up to Aquaman #526 or whatever, I'd simply be too upset to really give this whole thing a chance. Maybe I'd be part of the problem. If this new Aquaman series doesn't work, it'll get cancelled, I'll create another label for the sidebar, and bide my time until the next Aquaman series. Probably more Colorforms posts.

The Aquaman Shrine is interested in hearing what all of you think about this; obviously, the news is still new and there aren't a lot of details to go on--and surely that will stop the comics fan community from engaging in wild speculation--but I've been seeing that a lot of the other DC character-centric blogs are taking this issue on, and the Shrine would be remiss if it didn't, as well.

Final Thought: Please forgive any incoherence of thought and expression in this post. I got the itch to write this put it up ASAP, so its probably not as well thought-out as it could be. And, despite the fact we just announced the taking on of three fine Aqua-Correspondents, if this piece ends up making little to no sense, rest assured the blame lies with me!

Final Final Thought: For further reading, I suggest you check out these sites, all of which are discussing this big news from different angles: Firestorm Fan, The Idol-Head of Diabolu, Siskoid's Blog of Geekery, and Jill "The Nerdy Bird" Pantozzi's "Hey, That's My Cape!" column on Newsarama.


BBNETMAN said...

Right now I am cautious. Way too many big events in the last few years from Marvel and DC. Identity Crisis, Final Crisis, 52, 52 Countdown, Blackest Night, and then Brightest Day and now FlashPoint. Hopefully this "revamp" will stick and we can finally move on without a big event that "will change everything" again. The bottom line is the story. If the story is good then I am in. But why do they feel the need to do a big event to write a good story? Time will tell but I applaud DC for at least trying. They just need to plan, plan, plan and then stick to it. On just the Aquaman news I am happy as a pig in crap!

rob! said...


I agree with your almost all your comments--after so many "nothing will be the same" events, it becomes a bit Boy Who Cried Wolf-y.

Also, yeah, in an ideal world, simply telling good stories wouldn't need all this marketing hoo-hah. But I think the realities of being part of a large, multi-national corporation that looks at these characters as potential revenue streams has to have an effect on how DC promotes its product.

The Flying Dachshund said...

Last I heard, Action/Detective may not be getting new #1's, as those 2 titles are unconfirmed due to the fact that they've been continuously published for over 70 years... I think it was comicbookresources that said it was unconfirmed as to whether they were going through with THAT one... As for the rest of it... Not too keen on some of the redesigns Jim Lee did... Specifically Flash and Cyborg... And don't really like how Superman looks more like his evil counterpart Ultraman...

KJ Sampson said...

Aquaman's back on the League and he's getting a new title. All I care about.

JasonMotesBowles said...

Hey rob!, great write up! I'm also torn on this subject and have written two posts regarding it and have yet another one coming tomorrow. On the one hand I hate it, on the other, I can't stop thinking and writing about it! Shameless plug: http://offmybirdchest.blogspot.com/

The Flying Dachshund said...

I do have to add, I still wish Arthur was keeping the beard...

JD said...

Oh No! rob! brought up Heroes Reborn, and it made me just cringe! I really hope this relaunch doesn't end up like that. There was a reason it only lasted one year, then all of the sudden Marvel focused on Heroes Return which returned the rebooted characters to their more popular pre-reboot status quo. The reason was Heroes Reborn was awful and poorly planned and executed and thus poorly received by readers. I thought we were supposed to learn from the recognizable mistakes in history or be doomed to repeat them, LOL.

Russell said...

I have been away from the majority of DC comics for years (i stopped everything except non-DCU stuff as soon as Birds of Prey etc was cancelled and Barry Allen returned)but like the majority of commentators here, I am excited by the prospect of having two monthly Aquaman appearances. What's more, I am a bit keyed for the digital markteting aspect. If I can download a new comic for less than $3 then I just might. Anybody know the estimated cost for these computer comics? If it's about $1 each I may go crazy and actually buy a dozen or so. For me, bad stories plus high prices have kept me away. If the cost goes down and the quality stays the same/goes even a tad higher, I may jump back on. So I can see DC's thinking on that side of things....I guess only time will tell.

This has been Aqua-Correspondent Russell Burbage reporting live from Columbus, Ohio. Back to you, Rob.

Wings1295 said...

Count me in as one of the fans excited about this fresh start for the DCU.

One of the things I liked when I got back into reading and collecting comics in the 80s was the DCU seemed like a place that had some coherence. That was lost to me, over time, with all the big events and crossovers and reboots.

I am hoping for the best with this restart. I will be on board for at least the JLA and Aquaman issues, but I am hoping to be pulled in for other comics, as well. Would be good to have a fun, enjoyable DCU again!

I wrote about this last night, too, on my blog!

Steve said...

You are dead-on about not messing with Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27; those should not be messed with just on a historical basis. There will only ever be an Action Comics #1 and I hope these clowns keep the numbering and revert back after this re-launch tanks. What's with all the high collars?!

Andy Luckett said...

I also agree about leaving Action and Detective's numbers alone, although I seem to remember Marvel restarting Amazing Spider-Man back at #1, then later returning to original numbering (I could be remembering this wrong however). So if people truly have a problem with that aspect it's an easy fix.

Here is what I want out of this:

1) New series by talented creators matched well to the concepts that appeal to new and old readers

2) An attention to moving the characters forward while at the same time strengthening their iconic statuses (sp?)

3) Strong, relatable storytelling without an overabundance of gratuitous dark and grim plot points, i.e. a sense of fun

All of that's a tall order, but that's my wish list. If most of that can be accomplished, I can overlook some new numbering or Superman's missing red trunks.

Shellhed said...

A big positive for Arthur. As for the rest of the DCU . . . I'm taking a wait and see attitude. If they screw up Secret Six or Titans, then that's 2 less books to worry about.

Luis said...

But then, I too began to admire the guts of DC in doing this. The thing that comics in general need are new, young readers and this may be the start of a whole new generation of comic fans being born. I'm on board.
And yes, Aquaman No. 1 is at the top of my to-buy list.

Sergio Martinez said...

Right now I am excited. As much as I am the type of person who is obsessed with the continuity of things I guess I am not bothered because the Modern Day Age has been around for almost 30 years, and the previous big reboots were about 20 years apart. So it was expected and not something necessarily new. Another reason I could have no problem is that the other times that DC tried to frame some big changes to the DCU in other events like IC and OYL, they made some small retcons here and there that only led to confusion. Lastly, at least this reboot is a result of a story where the plot was that the timeline was messed up. It's not something cosmic and overly confusing to try to wrap your head around. It's easier to accept.

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Rob - Fantastic coverage and insight going on here right now! Such an exciting time!

Thanks so much for the shout-out! I really appreciate it!

The Irredeemable Shag

Anonymous said...

The reaction of DC’s fan base is very similar to the initial reaction of Trekkies (Trekkers) to the new Star Trek movie. So much had been invested in knowing all the minutia of that universe they did not want to lose it. However it was because of this obsession with minutia (back story, continuity, Star Fleet uniform design etc) that kept so many people away from ST. It became dare is say incestuous. There was a shrinking, all be it loyal, fan base not a growing one. Titles with good stories, whether #1 or #900 will be purchased and titles that don’t tell a good story will end. Your comment about us Aquaman fans going through reboot after reboot and so many #1 is a good point. Maybe we are the one of a few DC fans that don’t have our knickers in a knot over this. We are just happy Aquaman is back in the JLA and has his on title.
Also the popular press is talking about comic books. When was the last time that happened? That has to be good for the industry. The upset fans who say they will stop buying may be missing out on something very cool. With a shrinking market of 40 somethings DC needs to find an expanded audience or there will not be any comics for anyone to read in a few years. Bold move on their part hope it does not end up like the New Coke.
Again good stories are what sells. New packaging with good stories should work; new packaging with bad stories will fail. That is up to DC.

Boosterrific said...

You know, over at Boosterrific.com we've been tearing our hair out over how this renumbering/reboot/whatever-it-is looks to be killing Booster Gold's series short of the milestone issue #50 and redesigning the character to look like Triumph reborn. It is refreshing to see Aquaman fans excited that their champion is getting a boost from the event/market ploy/whatever-it-is. I'm truly pleased to see someone looking like they are coming out ahead in this chaos.

It should be pointed out that he latest Star Trek movie was terrible independent of the fact that it was a continuity reboot. That was new packaging with bad story, and it did very well. My point here is that there is little correlation between the movie industry and the comic book industry. It'd be great if this hype/promotion/whatever-it-is could get comic books a bigger audience, but that doesn't mean that I have to be happy about finding the characters to which I have grown attached become altered into grotesque simulacra of my beloved friends for the amusement of people who previously didn't care (and in all likelihood will continue not to care).

rob! said...

It should be pointed out that he latest Star Trek movie was terrible

...I know I'm kinda school-marmish on this point, but I really would appreciate it people refrained from stating an opinion LIKE IT WAS A FACT.

The Earth resolves around the sun: Fact.

The last Star Trek movie was terrible: Opinion.

I agree; there is little correlation between the movies and comics. If there were, comics would benefit from the literally BILLIONS of dollars comic book movies have generated; but they don't.

Movies used to kill themselves trying to replicate the spectacle of comics; now that they can, comics seem to want to replicate all of modern movies' worst traits.