What Fans Want (And Why They Can’t $eem to Get It)

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Recently, even the most respected online sources have been getting confused about what has been changed in the DCU due to “Rebirth.” For example, Greg Burgas at CBR thinks that all of Modern Age Birds of Prey has somehow been canonized. Where was that ever advertised or even remotely inferred? Here’s what we learn in Batgirl & The Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1: Babs became Oracle after Killing Joke, kept it a secret from Batman, and then organized a Birds of Prey team, the only confirmed member of which was Black Canary. It’s literally all right there. (Remember when some internet peeps somehow mis-read a Burnside Batgirl comic and mistakenly believed that Killing Joke was erased? Another case of “huh, what are people seeing?” I called those mis-readers out months ago. Just saying.) Moving on. Helena isn’t Modern Age Huntress. She’s New 52 Huntress, the former leader of Spyral, who knows everyone’s secret IDs. Comics Alliance has things even worse, totally not getting that Wally West is not Modern Age Wally West. It’s New 52 Triple W (White Wally West). “Rebirth,” at least so far, has NOT been a reboot or a bunch of reboots. It’s merely been a collection of jumping-on points. Although, the “Rebirth” issues function pretty poorly as jumping-on points since, one, so many comics journalists seem to be perplexed by them and, two, they continue directly from previous continuity-heavy arcs without much explanation.

Well over a month’s worth of “Rebirth” issues have been published thus far. I’ve read ’em. And guess what? THERE HAS NOT BEEN ONE SINGLE RETCON SO FAR. Nothing, not even slightly, has changed from the New 52. Nada. In fact, most of the “Rebirth” issues have solidified New 52 continuity and filled in empty gaps in New 52 history! The only time a reboot of any kind will happen (and this still isn’t a guarantee) is when the Dr. Manhattan plot-thread comes to a head. And that won’t be for a while, kids. Two years, they tells me. Oh, and for anyone claiming the “obvious,” that DC must be in a brand new rebooted universe because Amanda Waller gained a bunch of weight and went from skinny to fat overnight, I hardly think this stands as a trial-by-jury-case-resting-moment, your honor. Seriously, this is yet again more bogus story analysis from teh interwebz. And don’t get me started on Bleeding Cool, which is literally ALL bogus hot takes that don’t make a lick of sense any way you spin them. (UPDATE: There has been ONE retcon with “Rebirth.” But it’s minuscule AND it’s Scott Lobdell, so it’s barely worth mentioning. Jason Todd’s initial meeting with Batman has been changed from a pill-stealing affair back to the original Modern Age tire-stealing affair. Bear in mind, people, nearly all of Lobdell’s New 52 stuff had really funky continuity to begin with. This change is maybe the least noticeable since 2011.)

There’s a reason for the confusion, though. If you want to understand the über-narrative, you have to read ALL the stories that are published. And there are way too many. To know about New 52 Huntress, you’d have to be well-versed in Tom King’s long-running Grayson series. To know about the nitty-gritty details of New 52 Wally West’s return, you’d have to be caught up with six issues of Titans Hunt. DC, for a long while now, has been less about telling individual stories and more about building the over-arching world, more about expanding the sandbox. It’s a different beast and different mentality compared to Marvel, which is more character driven at its core. The very fact that I run such a complex and dedicated website dedicated to making sense of all this continuity muck should tell you something. The way DC Comics is structured narratively is either a red flag/warning sign, a bright and shiny Pandora’s Box that you just can’t help but open, or that welcoming sandbox full of your favorite toys. None of the options are easy. I think a lot of people want to be able to pick up a book here and there and get the gist of what’s happening. But the way DC is constructed, you really do need to read A LOT to get it.

And with that in mind, it’s no surprise that we always hear or read that fans are longing for a time when comics were easy or simple. But that’s not the real problem here. I don’t think fans really want simplicity. (Maybe they want less grim-n-gritty, but that’s a separate conversation.) After all, the 1940s were simple, and they don’t want the 1940s. Instead, the curmudgeonly fans always yearn for the 70s, 80s, or 90s. Last time I checked, comic book universes were just as confusing and time-consuming and complex in the Silver and Modern Age (if not more). The big difference: there were LESS TITLES. But it’s not about being able to compartmentalize or manage narrative. It boils down to economics. What people really want is to not have to burn a hole in their wallets.

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Even Burgas starts off by saying that his store credit is running low and he’s barely caught up with all the titles he needs to read to get the full picture. Burgas KNOWS his stuff inside and out. He’s got a mega-sized comic book brain. But when you have to spend a whopping wad of cash to get the whole story, it prevents even the most seasoned comics journalist from being able to properly engage with and then write about the stories. If Burgas can’t keep up, how the hell can the average fan. Capitalism is ruining comic books. We (the fans) don’t really want old comic book eras to return, either thematically or in actuality. And we don’t want simpler worlds and simpler characters. We LOVE the vast complexity of superhero comics. WE LOVE IT. The desire for something more manageable really is the desire for something more affordable.

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About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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