Ever since DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee tweeted out a teaser prosming a "Rebirth," fans have been wondering what the word could mean.
What's being reborn? Who's being reborn? And what kind of rebirth is it?
Most industry watchers anticipate something beginning in May or June, probably launching into a summer event. But what? Looking at some of the clues so far (there haven't been many), and maybe dreaming up some ideas of our own, Newsarama takes a stab at what Rebirth might be about.
#1 Returning the characters to their core
If we're to believe the Twitter-based teases from Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, the two creators are involved in Rebirth, maybe even at the helm. Reuniting the former Green Lantern creative team would make the title "Rebirth" even more meaningful, because the two united more than a decade ago to make comic book history with Green Lantern: Rebirth.
The six-issue Green Lantern: Rebirth mini-series, which resurrected beloved Green Lantern Hal Jordan (and many of the perviously long-gone Lantern concepts), was a sales and critical success, and it made former Flash scribe Geoff Johns one of the more recognizable names at DC. More importantly for DC and its franchising father Warner Brothers, it restarted the Green Lantern universe, combining former concepts and characters with a slew of new ideas injected by Johns and Van Sciver into a licensed property that needed new life.
A few years later, Johns and Van Sciver resurrected yet another DC character with The Flash: Rebirth, bringing back Barry Allen from the dead. Again, Johns and Van Sciver attempted to revive old DC characters and concepts while giving them a fresh new take (and for fans who read the series, it sure does seem like threads from the story have inspired some of the current Flash TV show).
So what clues do the pair's former "Rebirth" experiences give us about a new Rebirth?
If the same idea were applied to DC's other major characters — particularly high profile (right now especially) characters like Superman, Supergirl and Batman — it would be easy to imagine Johns and Van Sciver overseeing a soft reboot/retcon that emphasizes returning the characters to their best-remembered versions.
This doesn't necessarily mean returning every DC character to the way they looked in the past — sorry Wally fans. Keep in mind that Geoff Johns is the key consultant in the DC offices for all the TV and movie incarnations of DC superheroes at Warner Brothers. There's probably no other comic book writer (or executive for that matter) at DC who is more aware of the approach being taken to these franchise characters through the rest of the company.
Instead, this Rebirth may be more of a "streamlining" of characters to their core, returning them to the same type of versions that mainstream audiences are seeing in TV and movies— not dumping past continuity, necessarily (after all, Johns has won fan favor for his incorporation of past continuity in his stories), but instead taking those things from the past that made sense and heightening them in a new, fresh start.
How could Johns do this? The same way he accomplished his other "rebirths" — by writing a story that allows the current continuity to morph into something new — similar to how the writer was able to bring back the multiverse with Infinite Crisis and while co-writing 52.
As Johns told Newsarama back in 2006, when he'd just finished Green Lantern: Rebirth and was overseeing Infinite Crisis, "I like streamlining characters while still utilizing everything that has come before." Perhaps DC is handing Johns the keys to the DC car — save, perhaps, Scott Synder's Batmobile — and letting him decide what direction to go next.
#2 Event shake-up
But perhaps we're expecting a little too much out of this DC event. Nobody ever promised a major overhaul, and interviews with some current DC writers indicate they have storylines that will continue into the distant future.
Even Johns himself has said he'll soon be telling the "Rise of the Seven Seas" story in Justice League that he's been planning for years now (he teased the story all the way back in 2013 at the end of his Aquaman run). If there's a reboot coming, with major tweaks to DC's characters, how could writers be making long-term plans beyond Rebirth?
With that in mind, the more probable function of Rebirth is to simply shake things up. DC's "New 52" event happened almost five years ago and some of the line-up is, quite frankly, feeling a little stagnant.
Maybe Rebirth isn't so much a reboot as it is a re-engineering of the entire DC line, along with the creative teams (and maybe even the editorial staff? It has been a few months since they moved West, after all). The company has been trying new concepts from time to time — in October 2014 in the Batman line, and again in June 2015 with some new offerings. Maybe it's time to really make it official and give all these comics a new #1 to go with their fresh, new directions.
With most major storylines wrapping up over the next few months, it would make sense for a new batch of writers and artists to launch titles with Rebirth. In an interview on Newsarama, Grayson and Robin War writer Tom King said that readers are "starting to hear the drumbeats" of "something big" that's coming — something he's working on with Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder. He compared the event to "those awesome events that happened before the weekly 52 launch."
Perhaps Rebirth is the major event that leads to the retooling of the DC line. Much like last year's "Convergence" event involved the entire DCU with an ending that allowed DC to start new series and creative teams in June — or even reminiscent of how the Infinite Crisis event allowed creative teams to go "One Year Later" and shake-up their books — the Rebirth story could also have the entire DCU involved, ending with a shake-up and a slew of new #1 issues and new directions for DC's titles.
3) Alternate earth(s)
But who's to say the "New 52" Earth is the only one experiencing a "Rebirth?"
Dan Jurgens told Newsarama that the "old" Superman and Lois he's writing in Superman: Lois & Clark is going to be affected by Rebirth. What if the old earth is the entity that's being reborn somehow?
In another interview we mentioned earlier, Tom King said that readers are "starting to hear the drumbeats" of "something big." Could the addition of "classic" ideas in books like Titans Hunt and Superman: Lois and Clark be the type of "drumbeats" he was talking about?
There's no doubt that the Rebirth event will give DC the chance to tweak its "New 52" universe — and it probably wouldn't make sense to dump the new altogether, since so many new readers came on board in 2011 — but could DC be tweaking other Earths as well, giving birth to a new version of the Earth? And dare we ask, but could there be another Earth where concepts like the original, World War II-spawned JSA could be resurrected?
It might be a longshot, but it would certainly give new meaning to the term "Rebirth," and it would make sense that the team who brought back the Silver Age versions of Green Lantern and The Flash would be the ones to resurrect other concepts as well.