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John Byrne
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 6:46am | IP Logged | 1  

Discussions in other threads got me thinking this morning about the whole thorny topic of "reboots", and how that term, like so many in comics, has been somewhat mangled and/or diluted by years of use.

As I see it, used properly "reboot" means in comics the same thing as it does in the computer world that gave us the word: a restart. On a computer, however, that usually means precisely what you would expect "restart" to mean -- to start something up again, "start" in the sense of starting a car, or starting a trip. Usually, there is no major change involved in the hardware or the software. (At least, so one hopes!)

"Reboots", as the term is used in comics, I think fall into two main categories, with some overlap that creates what might be viewed as a separate third. First, there is taking an existing character, scaping away such barnacles as may have accumulated over years, and declaring "Everything is brand new from this point." This can be done outside existing continuity, as with MAN OF STEEL, or inside as with WONDER WOMAN (and DOOM PATROL). Next, there is the taking of an existing name and nothing else, what might be called "coattailing", so that a potential audience is (in theory) brought in to check out what is really a new character entirely. The rebirth of superheroes at DC in the Silver Age is an example of this.

Finally, that elusive third, what we might call a "stealth reboot". This is where a character undergoes massive change, but it is over time, or subtly done, or merely presented with a "Yeah? So?" attitude that defies anyone to suggest it is a reboot. DARK KNIGHT and BATMAN: YEAR ONE are the most obvious examples of the "stealth reboot", but the "All New, All Different" X-Men functioned in much the same way, and Spider-Man is currently a character so different from the one created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko that he could be called a "reboot". The reason such "stealth reboots" are often accomplished without raising the hackles of those who yell the loudest about things like MAN OF STEEL is that they are presented "in continuity", and can be accepted as "growth" even if, very often, they are nothing of the sort.

Whether a "reboot" works or is accepted seems to depend entirely upon the capriciousness of those who read them. As I have noted on more than one occasion, I was quite surprised when YEAR ONE generated not so much as a blip of complaint from the "loyal Batman fans", as Frank changed about 90% of the backstory on the characters, far more than what I did in MoS. Eventually I realized that many of those fans, like Frank himself, did not actually realize the changes were changes. (Recall how Barbara Gordon came to be "adopted" because Frank had not "done the math" and when someone else did, it was too late.)

"Stealth reboots" are as old as the genre, of course, and often fall under the dread "retcon" label.

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Darren Taylor
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 8:01am | IP Logged | 2  

>I said in the other thread that I'm not opposed to "reboots", so long as there's a definable need for it. Whether I agree with that need or not is down to me and has zero effect on the reboot.

What I find distastefull is when "ego's" are employed to bring their "take" on a character into the mainstream. I've always liked your principle of writing Captain Fonebone stories for Captain Fonebone and not altering Captain Fonebone or his environment to fit a John Byrne story.

This sounds like common sence once heard but it's so dissheartening to look around and see characters that I used to 'know' transformed, like some future version of an "English" dialect...hauntingly familiar yet so very, very alien!

Do I think the reboot is to blame for this? "No!" But I think it may have provided an excuse for companies/editors or writers to make changes to characters and or history as they saw fit. As such these characters loose integrity. The integrity that it took the Fantastic Four 416 issues to build until some bright spark decided N=B, where "N" is New and "B" is Better! Then after a further 79 issues they cough and point in the opposite direction...then when you look back they've switched the numbering back to where it should have been;-)

I -personally- feel that characters can't walk around in flares forever and some updating is always going to be required else there will always be the same president in comics, the same understanding of technology and this is a self destructive course as the audience out grows the comic/character. How then did these characters make their merry way through the decades leading upto the popularisation of this term: "Reboot" ?

(Lost my train of thought had to go and change a dirty nappy (read: Dyper if you are American))

Comic book "time" seems to have been handled pretty well without any over definition of how to do so without following a three yearly "reinvention" protocol.

Slow and steady wins the race. (Edited to add: Whether slow and steady brings coffers into the company bank account who can say.)


[deleted superfluous Quote]

Edited by John Byrne on 22 March 2005 at 9:24am

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Matthew Hansel
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 8:54am | IP Logged | 3  

If the majority of the audience changed over, like it is supposed to damn it!, then we would probably not even have a need for reboots?  Would we?  Or would they be of the "subtle" variety because we would have a majority of readers that have no experience with the characters other than the basics?

I fear that for as long as we have those who insist on "growth" in characters that they've been reading since they were kids, that we will have to endure reboots at the expense of the character and at the will of the ego of the "cool brit" that has been brought to "revitalize and reimagine" the franchise.

Gone are the days when the super-hero story was a mini-morality cue for kids and the good guys did the right thing for the right reason and the bad guys were evil through and through and without apology.

Damn!

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Ian Muir
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 9:07am | IP Logged | 4  

 Matthew Hansel wrote:
I fear that for as long as we have those who insist on "growth" in characters that they've been reading since they were kids, that we will have to endure reboots at the expense of the character and at the will of the ego of the "cool brit" that has been brought to "revitalize and reimagine" the franchise.

Gone are the days when the super-hero story was a mini-morality cue for kids and the good guys did the right thing for the right reason and the bad guys were evil through and through and without apology.

As a 'cool brit', I must say I'm looking forward to my invitation to revitalise and re-imagine something soon. Anyone have any plans for Millie The Model?

In the majority of comics that I'm reading, the heroes are heroic and the bad guys are evil. Am I reading the wrong comics?

 

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Matthew Hansel
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 9:23am | IP Logged | 5  

In the majority of comics that I'm reading, the heroes are heroic and the bad guys are evil. Am I reading the wrong comics?

************************

I'm not sure what you are reading.  I look at a majority of the stuff and see heroes doing things that they normally wouldn't/couldn't/shouldn't do.

Magical lobotomies anyone?

Matthew Hansel
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Ian Muir
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 9:32am | IP Logged | 6  

 Matthew Hansel wrote:

In the majority of comics that I'm reading, the heroes are heroic and the bad guys are evil. Am I reading the wrong comics?

************************

I'm not sure what you are reading.  I look at a majority of the stuff and see heroes doing things that they normally wouldn't/couldn't/shouldn't do.

Magical lobotomies anyone?

That's one comic, hardly a majority. Astonishing X-Men, Adventures of Superman, Doom Patrol, Gotham Central, GL: Rebirth, Hawkman, JSA, JLA, LSH, Teen Titans, Superman / Batman, Wonder Woman, all feature heroes doing the right thing, for the right reasons.

Even in New Avengers, you can tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Flash is possibly an exception to the heroes being evil rule. And possibly Hulk is an exception to your heroic code.

So, where else are the unheroic heroes to be found?

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John Byrne
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 9:32am | IP Logged | 7  

If the majority of the audience changed over, like it is supposed to damn it!, then we would probably not even have a need for reboots?  Would we?  Or would they be of the "subtle" variety because we would have a majority of readers that have no experience with the characters other than the basics?

******

This is exactly right. Superhero comics, like much serial fiction, were created with the assumption firmly in mind that the audience would "turn over" every five years or so. The notion that the same people would be reading the comics for 10, 20, 30 years was utterly alien to the folk who produced these books for about the first 3 decades of their existance. It was not, in fact, until the scales began to tip, and more people than not of those producing the books were fans-turned-pro that it started to be in vogue to tailor those books for an aging audience. (The people writing and drawing the books began producing the work for their own amusement, in other words, rather than for the audience intended. Thus, twenty-somethings writing Spider-Man see no problem with him becoming a 20-something, and married 30-somethings see no problems in Superman becoming himself a married 30-something.)

Meanwhile, the vast bulk of the original target audience slowly disappears, finding nothing to hold their attention long, and the cycle repeats itself, all the while with those responsible wondering why.

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Aaron Leach
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 9:34am | IP Logged | 8  

I don't know if there is really an accurate term for what comics has termed a reboot. I will say that I liked the changes made in MoS. The toning down of some of Supermans powers, and there only being green K instead of a rainbow of colors. I think keeping Ma and Pa kent alive made for some great story dynamics. As for those who yell the loudest when these type of stories happen. I was rereading X-men ( 94 and up ) and ran across a letter from a yeller, who did not like Chris's writing, and claimed Dave couldn't draw. He also stated that he felt the book was now doomed to be canceled. I wonder how this person feels now? BTW the letter was published right around issue 100. 
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Anthony J Lombardi
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 9:36am | IP Logged | 9  

Reboots,Retcons anything else that they maybe called aren't brought about by a part of comics.Some have been good others have been bad."Growth" isn't responsible for the stories sucking or not .The writers are responsible ,If it sucks blame the people creating it. The blame should be on them. Lets face it the face of comics has come along way from which it began and a great deal of what's out there is crap,Thank you Marvel and to a lesser extent DC. I don't blame Image but i don't let them off the hook either. The ball was well into motion before Image picked it up and ran with it. Creators like Byrne perhaps they are a dying breed. I certainly think they shouldn't be for now more then ever they are needed. They need to show this 'new' younger generation what the heros of myth should be like.
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Matthew Hansel
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 9:47am | IP Logged | 10  

So, where else are the unheroic heroes to be found?

********************

You can still tell who the good guys are in comics...they are usually the ones left standing.  It is the ACTIONS of those "heroes" that defines what makes them a hero, not merely the writer telling us "this is the hero".

And...even the listing of books that you contained are NOT a majority of the books being published that contain super-heroes.

The characters have wandered far away from the place that once were.  The lines between good and evil have been blurred.  The Batman has wandered away from being the Dark Knight Detective to being some CRAZED guy in a Bat-suit who is portrayed as being INSANE or on the brink of that insanity most of the time.  Spider-Man is FAR and away from what he was created to be.  To cite but a few examples.

The villians are "explained away" and are made less evil by the fact that they have to have these terrible back-stories placed on them in order to justify there existance.  A Joker who is evil just because is FAR more scary than a Joker who was a failed commedian etc...

Matthew Hansel
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Ian Muir
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 9:52am | IP Logged | 11  

 Matthew Hansel wrote:
And...even the listing of books that you contained are NOT a majority of the books being published that contain super-heroes.

The characters have wandered far away from the place that once were.  The lines between good and evil have been blurred.  The Batman has wandered away from being the Dark Knight Detective to being some CRAZED guy in a Bat-suit who is portrayed as being INSANE or on the brink of that insanity most of the time.  Spider-Man is FAR and away from what he was created to be.  To cite but a few examples.

And you'll note that I don't currently read any Bat or Spider-titles. So, perhaps I'm reading the right comics, rather than the wrong ones...

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Lars Johansson
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Posted: 22 March 2005 at 10:04am | IP Logged | 12  

 John Byrne wrote:
As I have noted on more than one occasion, I was quite surprised when YEAR ONE generated not so much as a blip of complaint from the "loyal Batman fans", as Frank changed about 90% of the backstory on the characters, far more than what I did in MoS.

Just like you mentioned that Spider-man had gone through a reboot, even Batman stayed in his own continuity, and the rebooter probably knew that the old Batman stories were something that the readers hadn't read, so he could change 90 percent of it and not raise an eyebrow. The readers just could check the current regular Batman and Detective Comics and see how Year One evolved in their Batman.

With MoS it was a completely different thing for me. What we see in MoS, does not lead up the Superman known at the time, which to the reader would be Superman, they know that Superman works at the WGBS, that this parents were old and then he became Superman when they died. The Superman after MoS is a completely different person. That I believe is what stirred up peoples minds (until they learned to know him).

Another thing about Spider-man, the clone saga was based on something that no reader had read at the time, as far as I know a complelety irrelevant little episode, please correct me if I'm wrong. The fact that this would be Spider-man (Ben Reilly) made people crazy because suddenly the back story didn't lead up to their Spider-man, the one they knew, Peter Parker. The only difference here, to me, was that MoS was one of the most brilliantly written pieces in comic book history, the latter probably not. And Year One didn't stir up anything at all.

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