It’s a crazy thought. Honestly, I think it’s a crazy idea to even try, because I think that reboots eventually necessitate retelling of old stories because a character is more than the sum of his or her origin. (You couldn’t even write a completely clean “Hawk and Dove”, for example, because the character of Hawk is defined by the loss of his brother and having to deal with the rage and grief that he can’t control, and the character of Dove makes this explicit by never quite fitting into his life the way that his brother did. So either you have to rush through Don’s career and retell his death, or you’re not really rebooting the character.) But if I did it, acknowledging the fact that it’s crazy and unworkable and probably in the long run not that commercial (yes, the #1 issues are selling well. #1 issues always sell well. Call me in a year when it’s gone down to “The DC 37!”) …then here’s what I’d do.
1) It wouldn’t necessarily be a shared universe. I know that I’ve argued passionately in favor of shared universes, and as a general rule I’m in favor of them because they make coming up with story ideas easier, but I really do think that this is something I’d take a long hard look at before I signed off on it. MGK had a long and excellent post about how some characters don’t belong in the same universe, and if you’re restarting everything from scratch, this is one of those things you can decide not to do. Batman seems a lot less like a crazy person living out his childhood revenge fantasies when you don’t have to keep explaining away why he doesn’t just recruit a couple dozen superheroes with actual powers to help him keep the peace in Gotham. Adam Strange became an explicit nightmare to write once you had to start trying to figure out ways to keep him away from Rann in a shared universe where every third person had a spaceship. And so on…it might be fun to organize the universes by thematic consistency.
2) It would be more ethnically diverse. There really is no reason, apart from nostalgia and white male privilege, why the Big Seven heroes of the DC Universe should be six white guys and a white woman. Aquaman could have a look more reminiscent of a Pacific Islander, while Green Lantern could be Chinese. Wonder Woman could actually look like she comes from Greece instead of having classically WASPish features, and the Flash could be Hispanic. Really, the only one of them that should be a white male is Batman, because his origin is tied up in being Gotham “old money” and the sense of struggling against a background of white male privilege that didn’t save his parents from being mugged and killed informs the story. But yes, even Superman could be any ethnicity you wanted him to be.
3) It would break with tradition. Not so much in the specific details of the stories; the last thing you want is gimmicky “You thought Sinestro would be a bad guy, but in this reality, it’s Kilowog who gets a yellow ring!” twists. But honestly, the usual stable of reliable comics pros are the last people you want writing these series. Get some people who aren’t big comics fans, writers who come out of a different background and aren’t as likely to want to get their favorite stories back into continuity. The original Crisis benefited greatly from having people who were writers first and fans second picking up the reins after the universe changed, and a new DC Universe needs more Alan Moores and fewer Grant Morrisons. (And yes, Grant Morrison is a traditionalist. Anyone who thinks Grant Morrison is constantly innovating and coming up with new ideas just hasn’t read enough Silver Age comics to know what stories he’s homaging.)
4) It wouldn’t just be a bunch of superhero books. This is one thing they’ve done pretty well in the new DC Universe. There’s a fantasy series, a few horror comics, some war stories…we’re still light-years away from the era where only a few superheroes could carry their own books and Jerry Lewis was a major seller, but they made an effort. There’s still room for improvement, though. A relaunch of Adam Strange wouldn’t hurt, for example.
5) It would actually be a reboot. Despite claiming that this is a fresh new start and a jumping-on point for new readers, the DC Universe is picking up about five years into the story, and furthermore, it’s very clearly picking up where the old universe left off in a lot of cases. It’s hard to even pretend that the “new” Green Lantern isn’t meant to be just a continuation of the old, and Hawk and Dove is more or less taking Brightest Day as a part of its continuity…and that says nothing of the fact that Batman is on his fourth Robin in five years. DC either wants new readers to feel welcome or it doesn’t. “Rebooting” while keeping the same convoluted storylines and lack of exposition is the worst of both worlds. (OK, that was just blatant editorializing.)
That’s for starters, at least. Any thoughts on how you’d reboot a 75-year old comic book universe? Share them in the comments!