Hey, That's My Cape! - DC Revamp: What's in a Number?

William Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Does the same thing apply to comic books and numbers?

Yesterday, DC announced they would be renumbering their entire DCU line with 52 number one issues.

And then the Internet exploded.

It’s safe to say most of the comic reading public was stunned to hear the news. I know I was. Even though DC had been super hush-hush about what was coming after Flashpoint I never expected a company-wide reboot. But then I realized, they said renumbered and revamped. No one from DC has said the word reboot, everyone else is calling it that. When I hear reboot I think serious levels of change, like completely new origin stories serious. Will a lot change? Sure. But let’s not get too crazy. (Too late.)

I can’t tell you how many comments I read from DC readers yesterday proclaiming they were completely done with DC Comics after the drastic news. (I think I even saw a few of them on mountain tops). Even that this would be the start of the fall of the industry. Seriously? Taking a phrase out of the recent Marvel playbook: What do you fear? What makes this move so terrible? Put aside for a moment the fear of the unknown, what is wrong with what DC is doing?

This is true for a lot of fan communities, but it unquestionably applies to comics fandom. We tend to forget — We don’t own these characters. Seriously, though. We don’t. If you don’t like the stories being told, stop reading them and go write fanfic. The company owns these characters and we get to enjoy them for $2.99 a pop. Am I personally worried about which direction some of my favorite characters and stories will go in post-Flashpoint? Abso-freaking-lutely. But you know what? I’m going to read the new books when they come out and *gasp* stop reading whatever I don’t like. It’s really that simple, folks. Always was.

The biggest gripe I heard, besides the ridiculous one that number ones mess up everyone’s collections, was that years of continuity and groundwork would be ruined with this revamp. Justice League of America is starting anew with Geoff Johns and Jim Lee at the helm. The characters are purposely being skewed younger and as Dan DiDio put it in his interview with USA Today it’s, "a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."

If new stories are told, does that mean the old ones cease to exist? No. You can still enjoy them how you always have. These characters aren’t real people, as much as we’d like them to be. We just took it for granted they’d always stay relatively the same. But in business, staying the same can mean eventually getting left behind. To me, this seems like just another stage of evolution rather than destruction of the things we hold most dear.

I agree with something Ron Perazza, who recently stepped down from his role as VP of DC Comics Online, said on Twitter yesterday, “I have a hard time accepting that a for-profit business must voluntarily hobble it's growth & prosperity for the sake of nostalgia.” It’s one thing to listen to fans likes, dislikes and concerns; it’s another to let it completely guide the destiny of your company. DC would be idiotic to do so. Writer Ron Marz also made a great point on Twitter, “Comics are about story and art and imagination. Not numbers. If you're upset about DC re-numbering, I think you're missing the point.”

Everyone has their own idea on how to “fix” comics, but no one is 100% right. Quality storytelling over stunts? Sure, can’t argue with you there. But quality storytelling is objective anyway. There have been lots of good comics that haven’t sold and were canceled as a result. The point is — this is it. This is the move DC is making. It’s happening. You can be upset about it sure, I know I am (to a point), but when September roles around you can either keep reading DC titles, or not.

Of course there was another major part to the announcement. It’s enough for its own op/ed piece but I’d feel neglectful if I didn’t at least mention it. DC is going same day digital with all of their ongoing titles. (Before I continue, would everyone stop calling it "day-and-date"? That’s a ridiculous term, not to mention redundant.)

You’ll be able to download comics digitally the same day you could pick it up in stores. A lot of people are worried about how this will affect retailers and rightfully so. One of the Big Two finally making this move might push some readers into the digital realm completely. But not all. Two important things to remember there. New readers aren’t just young and while older readers aren’t all stuck in the stone age a good chunk won’t be reading digitally. So some people jumping on board with this new direction will undoubtedly go to their local comic shop to start reading. Then of course you have the collectors who will come in to collect. Regardless, shops have known this move was on the horizon and just like many other industries (hello music, book and video stores!), they’ll have to find their own way to evolve. Set up their own digital store fronts perhaps? Some have already started brainstorming.

Look, I’m a fan, just like you. Does a drastic change in the comics I know and love so well make me angry? Yes. I mostly like the way things are now but I’m trying to play devil’s advocate here and see this for what it really is. A company that has been around over 75 years would like to continue doing successful business for another 75, at least. That’s not going to happen if things stay the same forever. Jim Lee told USA Today, "It's part of our jobs to make sure that these characters stay dynamic and relevant. And that's what drove us on a creative level to make these kinds of changes.” Dynamic and relevant. I challenge any fan to prove that every DC character are those two things currently. They aren’t (and aren’t alone) and you know it.

All that being said, I totally reserve the right to contradict myself in the next few months once I find out what’s actually happening to my favorite characters (because fans are fickle like that) but this is how I see it right now. Change needs to happen, let’s see where DC takes us. At least with these new costumes everyone seems to be getting, it’ll open up a whole new slew of cosplay opportunities. Yeah, that’s me, looking on the bright side.

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For all of Jill Pantozzi's past columns, check out the Hey, That's My Cape! topics page! 

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