Well, it is official. The DC reboot will be a truly line-wide one. Even Action Comics will not be safe. The bright spot in this is that the book will be by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, two people who can do great work! Morrison is likely best know in recent years for All-Star Superman and the current Batman Incorporated storyline, and Rags Morales has done piles of great books. The book that stands out for me is Identity Crisis, the best of the various DC Crisis books in my opinion.
This is a slightly scary and slightly thrilling idea for me. I didn’t get a chance to buy a copy of the first Action # 1 as I would not be born for three decades when it originally hit the stands, so yes, I will most likely buy it just for the geek factor. There are some concerns though. This will be, for all intents and purposes, a full reboot. It sounds like they will be de-power Superman, assuming Morrison continues some of the ideas about the character that he has expressed in past interviews. I have an issue with too much of a de-power though as the other books are not all changing to the same degree. It looks very much like some of them (Green Lantern) are not really making any significant changes. If that is the case, will Superman, as his name needs to imply, still be the most powerful hero in the DCU? It also looks like there may be a real return to the “social crusader” that Superman was in his earliest days.
The two images of Superman that I have seen so far have been very different. The George Perez preview image for Superman # 1…
Superman # 1(?) by George Perez
…looks very different to what we have seen as a preview image for Action # 1…
Action Comics # 1 (?) by Rags Morales
The differences in costume could be that one or both are not the final look. The Action image is a clear homage to the original Action # 1, and the superman one has some similarities to the original # 1 of that title, but that may only be because I want there to be. These are both fairly big redesigns if you know what you are looking for. The loss of blue tights entirely on the Morales design, the angular Perez look that loses the underpants on the outside and simplifies the “S” somewhat. These could be responses to the legal issues of copyright and trademark thanks to the various legal battles that have been going on, almost since the first Action # 1. (See my post on this from May 29th)
Another, more concerning possibility is that the two books may exist in slightly different continuity. This last one is concerning to me as it defeats the purpose of the intended, jump on friendly nature to the reboot, but the official statement regarding the book makes me wonder if that is not exactly what the plan is. Action will start the DCU off and tell the earliest possible days of Superman. DC’s official statement for Action # 1 is “This momentous first issue will set in motion the history of the DC Universe as Superman defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero.” The reads to me like it is the true start point for the entire line. You can’t have Superman show up one day and then everyone else the next. Doesn’t work. Is this book, at least from the start, in an earlier timeline, that will become the rest of the main continuity? An intriguing possibility from a story standpoint, but maybe a little less new reader friendly. Then Superman # 1 is the current continuity that Justice League etc all exist in? The change in costume from Action to Superman would lend credence to that possibility. Bleeding Cool seems to be painting the Action Comics Superman as a “liberal activist”, basing that opinion on Morrison’s own statements from recent interviews. That would certainly be in line with the original concept of the character as created by the two kids from Cleveland. I don’t think that would be all bad either. It would certainly make the stories more relevant for a modern audience, regardless of which side of the liberal line you come down on, and the media will certainly grab onto whatever will stir up the most controversy. There is a lot of upside to making the character more relevant not least of which is the greater potential for projects outside of the comics medium, like the upcoming Man of Steel movie, currently with director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and Chris Nolan (Batman Begins, Dark Knight) as producer.
I will always give Morrison a chance, as he always make the ride an interesting one, even if I don’t always like the end result. And George Perez doing Superman? Where do I sign up? But these look like two VERY different books, at least given the small amount of info we have been given so far. That may well be the key to this reboot working. Give fans a clear choice, and a bit of variety. Marvel has never managed to keep multiple books fresh and different for very long. Pick up any Spider-Man book out there and, to a casual or new reader, there will be very little difference. Maybe a change of pace is in order. For this to be the game changer it is intended to be, it needs to not only change the status quo for DC, but the entire industry. They need to re invent the rules of comics publishing, and hope the readers like it enough to inspire the other publishers out there (I’m looking at you Marvel) to up their game and do it not only better, but differently too. This reboot is make or break. More people who I speak to, my friend Kurt started me on this fear, believe that if the reboot fails to put DC back on top of the market, or at least make it a much tighter race, that it could kill the line. I think that is worst case, but at least it could seriously cripple the publisher. And anything that is bad for one of the big guys in the market, is potentially bad for all.
UPDATE: As of the next day at the LA TIMES HERO COMPLEX, the reveal in an interview with Jim Lee and Geoff Johns is that the new JLA book will start in the past and then jump forward into the new continuity. This makes me think my theory above is getting more plausible.
SECOND UPDATE: George Perez made a comment on his Facebook page to clarify his involvement on the new Superman: Man of Tomorrow book. He is writing and doing thumbnail layouts for artist Jesus Merino to work from. He will also be supplying covers. Bit of a bummer there and now not as exciting. Merino is pretty good though, so I imagine this will still be quite a book.