Reboots and Relaunches

I listen to a lot of podcasts. The cover a variety of topics, from Doctor Who to Broadway to technology to comics. And usually I’m content to sit back and listen to them while I’m doing other activities. But once in a while, one of the podcasters makes a comment that leaves me replying out loud. And yes, I’m fully aware that the originator of the comment can’t hear me.

In this particular situation, I was listening to Comic Geek Speak episode 1271, and I found myself trying to have a conversation with my ipod. Which, of course, confused (and probably frightened) the other people at the gym. I considered replying by feedback, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that my feedback could take up far more time than was justifiable.

So here I am. Talking about the DC reboot, one year later.

“Where Star Trek started out with no history, this is starting out with a history, whether they say it’s there or not. And saying that there are people that want Wally West, but Wally West doesn’t exist in this, well, you didn’t have people wanting Picard before Star Trek existed.”
–Comic Geek Speak, episode 1271

Rebooting a universe is hard, for both the creators and the audience. You don’t want to confuse the new audience, but you don’t want to alienate the existing fans.

I’m not going to discuss the new fans today, because they don’t necessarily know the history of what came before the reboot. Long time fans, however, do know the history, and even after a reboot, that isn’t information that can simply be forgotten. New versions of characters will be compared to their pre-reboot versions, and fans will always be looking for call backs to previous events.

I wasn’t a comic reader before the DC reboot. But I also didn’t start reading them because of it The New52 was already well underway when I was mainlining Teen Titans comics from the 70s and 80s. While people were discussing the presence, or lack of, certain characters, I was reading about Tim Drake as Robin. And when fans were debating the success of the reboot, I was falling in love with Wally West as the Flash.

None of which happened in the New52.

But back to the Star Trek comparision. Rebooting 70+ years of history is nothing like starting a brand new series that may someday have as long a history. The comparison is close, but not quite accurate. The DC reboot is more like the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Fans weren’t waiting for Picard to show up during the original series, but I’m sure many fans were hoping Kirk would appear in TNG.

And when the new Star Trek movie was released in 2009, fans immediately compared it to the original Star Trek series and speculated about which characters would eventually make their way into the new continuity.

The same thing happened in 2005, when Doctor Who was relaunched. While that wasn’t a reboot, like the DC reboot, it was aimed toward bringing in new fans. But fans of the classic series weren’t just going to forget what came before 2005. And they’re going to keep hoping that some of those characters appear… and sometimes those characters do.

So reboots. It doesn’t matter how many times a creator says that everything is new and the past we remember didn’t happen. Memory doesn’t work that way. We still remember what we read, and we still hope that someday some of those characters will come back.

As for me? I’m enjoying reading both the New52 and the pre-reboot stories. But I’m definitely still crossing my fingers and hoping that we get Wally West back. Someday.

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