By Scott Tibbs, September 6, 2011
This month, DC Comics will be relaunching dozens of titles with a new issue #1. Some characters will get new origins and a number of costumes will be redesigned. The idea behind the reboot is that because these characters have so many decades of history, it is difficult for new fans to jump on.
This is not new. Back in the 1980's, DC decided that all of the alternate universes were too confusing and everything was to be condensed into one universe. Some characters were wiped from history while others were folded into the new universe. For the most part, the original Crisis on Infinite Earths was a good idea.
But now, DC is starting over again. This is an unnecessary move that will not only annoy fans who have been following these characters for years and even decades, this is at best a temporary fix.
Here is the inherent problem with the "logic" of a universe-wise reboot making it easier for new fans to jump in. After all of the characters have been rebooted, years will pass and those characters will develop years of history.
Marvel started a new "ultimate" universe (separate form the existing universe) and launched new titles with new origins and no history for some of their most popular characters. Now, that "ultimate" line has a full decade of history. As the years ago by, the reason for the "ultimate" line to exist becomes less and less relevant.
In ten years, DC's rebooted universe will have a decade of continuity and it will allegedly be "difficult" for new readers to jump in and read about those characters. In 20 years, they will have 20 years of continuity that will make it "difficult" for new readers to jump in. And so it goes. Will DC need to reboot again?
A well-written comic book does not need to reboot in order to be accessible to new readers. It has become fairly common to include a "what has happened so far" page so readers can get caught up on current storylines.
As far as the history of characters, modern comic fans have an advantage that did not exist in 1985 - the Internet. With a few mouse clicks, fans can get caught up on decades of history so they can better understand what is currently happening in the stories they read. Wikipedia was useful in helping me figure out the tangled mess that is Hawkman's history when I started collecting Justice Society trade paperbacks.
Bottom line: Tell good stories and people will buy your comics. It really is that simple.