One of the Big Stories out there this week is how DC Comics is apparently planning a hard reboot of their entire universe, re-launching everything as #1 with 52 different series.
Whenever news like this comes out, I try to approach it with a healthy dose of skeptical optimism. It could prove really interesting, or it could fail horribly, but I want to believe that it’ll prove interesting.
For me, the most interesting aspect is the fact that they are going all in. When Marvel did Heroes Reborn or their Ultimate line, they didn’t stop publishing their regular universe. They were both toe-in-the-water experiments, with varying degrees of success. DC, in some ways, had intended to do exactly this back in 1986 with Crisis of Infinite Earths, giving an in-story reason for a hard reboot. The problem was there wasn’t full commitment to the hard reboot, and there certainly wasn’t a cohesive editorial vision behind it. Here it seems that DC is doing a full jump-out-of-the-plane bold move that could soar or crash, but they aren’t hedging their bets.
Now, for me this sort of idea can work a lot better for DC than it would for Marvel, because when you come down to it, DC’s characters are more iconic. The proof comes when you try to parallel the DC characters to Marvel counterparts: the main DC characters tend to embody a iconic Big Idea, and the equivalent on the Marvel side is somewhere in the C-list. The Flash is super-speed, while Quicksilver is a superfast guy who is more known for being a creepy, possessive anti-hero. Aquaman is the ocean-based hero, while Submariner is… more known for being a creepy, possessive anti-hero. (I would argue the only major DC hero that has a solid Marvel counterpart is Green Arrow, who matches Hawkeye, both being definitive bow-wielding heroes in their universes.)
My point being, the DC universe is one where you can boil down the characters to their core, restart them and do something very interesting with them. That was the core idea behind Marvel’s Squadron Supreme and Supreme Power. (And it should be noted, DC has never really successfully done the same sort of treatment with Marvel’s characters.)
So can this idea work, and be a huge success? Absolutely. Will it? Hard to say.
I have to admit, I do have a twinge of jealousy towards the writers on these projects. The opportunity to write these iconic characters, but starting from scratch? That’s potent. If I had my druthers, do you know who I’d want to take on in that context? Aquaman. My big idea there would be to change Atlantis into a far more complicated political landscape– many nations with loose alliances and straining relations. Cast Aquaman as the Ned Stark in an underwater Game of Thrones, if you will. Throw in some environmentalism and intrusions from the surface world, and set the whole thing on a low simmer. Oh, yeah. That would be fun to write.