Here’s a controversial idea to throw out there, which many may totally disagree with: what if the two major comic book universes rebooted every five to ten years? Planned reboots. Total reboots.

Let me explain.

Walter White Breaking Bad

Remember  Breaking Bad? Great show, right? And what made it great was that when it started, you knew it was going somewhere—and then, when it got there, the finale was everything we ever could have hoped for. All of the seeds that were planted in the first season paid off in a huge way, so that fans felt rewarded for having embarked on Walter White’s journey.  Throughout Breaking Bad, we saw one man become something entirely different than what he was at the start, and it was believable. Unlike so many popular TV shows, which run too long and thus lose the very things that made them great in the first place—I’m looking at you, House MD—Breaking Bad had a five season plan, stuck to it, and was thus the perfect picture of how to tell a great serialized story.

You know why Breaking Bad was such a great story?  Because it was planned. Because it had an ending.

What if American comic books could tell stories the same way?

swampmanthing

What I’m proposing is simple. First, let’s clean the slate. Start all of the various superheroes fresh, right from the beginning—totally fresh, with no carryovers, no “some parts of continuity are still valid but not others,” none of that.

And then, once the clean slate is established, we start with a brand new comic book universe — let’s call it “World One” — and we set an END DATE.  For the sake of argument, let’s say five years, six years, whatever. So this means that World One has five years to play out.

And then, once writers are assigned to their various characters, let’s allow those storylines to play out with total freedom. This allows characters to grow, change, die, be reinvented, or what have you. Also, when the universe does reset, we don’t need to do some cataclysmic end of the universe crossover: we just need to say that we’re moving onto the next universe.

Consider the advantages of this.

wolv_ninjas

Let’s say that when World One starts, the writer assigned to Wolverine begins by depicting the Weapon X storyline. That writer then has the freedom to, during their five year reign over the character, bring Wolverine from that point all the way to being an old man, ala Logan. Alternatively, they might decide that they want to have this version of Wolverine take the place of Xavier, leading a new team of X-Men. Or, they may want to have this Wolverine sacrifice himself to save the world from Apocalypse. In a planned universe with an end date, all of these things are possible.

The stakes would be heightened. Individual events would matter. Characters would be free to change, grow, evolve.

If comic universes operated on a five-six-or-however-many-years year plan, all of these options would be open, and comic book deaths would have meaning again. If the World One version of Wolverine died, he would stay dead. The World Two version of Wolverine, whenever he appeared, would be an entirely new writer’s vision of the character.

Batman Begins

Because the end of World One was planned from the beginning, there’d be no feeling of betrayal when it ended. This is the problem with most reboots. When The Amazing Spider-Man rebooted Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, it caused an uproar of negativity that the new series never quite recovered from, and this was because the old trilogy still had a lot of fans who were expecting a Spider-Man 4, never thinking that Spider-Man 3 was the ending. In contrast, a planned reboot wouldn’t stab the old fans in the back, because everyone would already know it was coming. The third part of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was, from the outset, promoted as the end of the series. This left the door open for a new film interpretation of Batman to enter the door in a few years, without trampling on Nolan’s legacy.

Look, I love comic books, especially Marvel. As I’ve written before, I credit superheroes—especially Spider-Man—with helping me come out of my shy shell as a kid, and I’ve retained my love of them into adulthood.  The characters that Marvel and DC comics have brought to the world are iconic, and that’s why they’re now lighting up the silver screen and bringing in billions of dollars.

But let’s face it, comic continuity is a mess. Storylines can’t be shocking or exciting when they always, always revert to the status quo. Planned reboots would be different, because each reboot would herald the beginning of a new story. If a fan loves one version, they get to have that version. If they hate it, well, they can just wait for the next time around.

logan-jackman

Planned reboots would allow characters to have endings. Consider the impact of this year’s Logan: the reason that movie was so heartbreaking was because we knew it was the end of Hugh Jackman’s character. There might be a new Wolverine someday, sure, but at least we got a chance to say goodbye to the old one. Endings matter.

Endings are important, because endings are what gives a story deeper meaning. Without an ending, a story is forever unresolved.

We all know that the biggest American comic books out there aren’t ever going to end permanently: there’s too much money to be lost if Superman is suddenly gone forever, no more issues, done. But with planned reboots, an individual version of Superman could end, could be a complete, satisfying story. In a few years, the comic would still get to continue, without trampling on the work of the previous writer.

Would it work? Who knows. I’d imagine this might not be the most popular solution for the comic book continuity quagmire. But personally, I think it’d be worth trying out.

 

 

 

 

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23 thoughts on “In Comics, Reboots Aren’t Always a Bad Thing

    • Thanks Lucy, appreciate that! That’s totally my thought as well; it could allow a lot more creative freedom, more experimental storylines, and so on. Currently, the movies are able to tell more daring stories than the comics themselves, which I think this could fix.

  1. Interesting idea, it certainly has merit, and could revitalize areas in the comic book industry that are flagging somewhat. I’m an avid reader and reviewer of comics, and I’d argue that most reboots I’ve experienced in recent times have – for the most part – often been completely unnecessary. New titles always seem to get hit hardest, never getting the chance to flourish and grow. Marvel seem to reboot every other month or so, and only DC’s Rebirth and IDW’s Revolution have really proved worthwhile over the last year or so. Reboots are a doubled edged sword IMOP, they can inspire creativity and new ideas, but also fall back on simply trying to recapture glories of the past, and their worst are little more than an excuse to fleece comic book fans of the hard earned cash.

    • Oh yeah, I totally agree with you there; I think Marvel’s current approach of giant-event-after-giant-event, followed by restarting every comic with a new #1 over and over again, is definitely sucking the stories dry, and with little in the way of natural storyline progression (I still think Spidey comics have never recovered from One More Day, which strikes me as the worst kind of reboot). What I’ve liked so far about DC Rebirth is that it hasn’t been afraid to take chances, tell new stories, give Superman a kid, etc., which is what I think could be improved with a lot of the industry: allowing genuine plot progression.

      • Indeed, Marvel’s approach has been more like lets throw everything at the wall and see what sticks – and very little has. Spider-Man comics need a new direction completely as well. DC Rebirth has done some excellent things, they’ve really revamped their characters in fresh and different ways. My only gripe is the twice-monthly shipping, which I feel doesn’t give quite the same expectation between issues as a story is over in a few weeks now instead of a few months, and it can work out expensive if you collected a lot of titles. Big crossover/ tie in events are a bane now in every respect, few live up to the hype, and I think consumers are becoming more discerning about what comics they choose to spend their cash on now.

        • Oh yeah, I absolutely agree with that in every way. Those constant big events are pretty much the worst thing ever; repetitive, confusing, crazy expensive, clogs up every title, makes it impossible for new readers to jump onto ANY title… and just burns out the whole line. And yeah, Spider-Man comics definitely badly in need of a complete revamp!

          • When people ask me where do I start reading comics, or which titles I’d recommend, I always say go for books and characters you’ve always liked. No even I struggle to take my own advice! So many of the characters I love are a shadow of their former selves, or completely unrecognisable – Spidey, Captain America, even the main Batman title is so poorly written now. There is still lots of great stuff out there, but its harder to find amidst all the reboots ect. I think the comic book industry needs to get back to telling strong character driven stories rather than the next big all consuming epic!

            • Agreed completely! That’s exactly what the industry needs to do; let the character have their own strong, smaller stories, instead of blowing up the world every other week. It just gets harder and harder to sort through the noise.

  2. I totally agree but realize that over-exploitation is part of the American fiber. After all, there are those last few dollars to squeeze out from the audience with tired story line sequels, right? Breaking Bad was such a great series. Aside from one person’s emotional and moral evolution, it also was a study in the connection Walter and Jesse had with each other. Fascinating dynamics.

  3. I think that the history of the characters is a major appeal to a lot of readers, so I’d be wary of something that gets rid of that. However, this idea would work just fine for alternate imprints. Like the Ultimate Universe. Have a line of maybe 5-10 comics set in their own universe, with a planned run of 5-10 years. But with the main universe still going on, doing its thing, at the same time.

    • Yeah that could work, you make some great points; I think the Ultimate Universe absolutely got off to a great start back when it began, and as it went on just needed more thorough planning. It was definitely one of the most influential comic runs ever — Ultimate Marvel’s fingerprints are all over the MCU.

  4. I think this is an interesting idea and would absolutely love to see it. Though I can’t imagine the main lines ever doing this, maybe we could get an “Ultimate” series with these finite timelines?

    • Thanks your for your thoughts! I agree, I think it’s highly unlikely that the main lines would ever get on board with such an idea, but I do think it’s worth considering. I’d definitely be onboard with an Ultimate-type line that did finite timelines: the inspiration behind my idea here actually WAS the Ultimate line, which I think was extremely well done at first, before it began to diverge into too many weird, left field storylines

  5. I’m loving this idea, It always bothered me with their usual ‘reboots’ where you can get pretty lost in the continuity of it all. Scheduled reboots would be amazing. Few downsides to that would be: if you really enjoy a character, only to have them killed a couple years in… you’d have to wait for the reboot till they are brought back. Likewise, if one of your favorite characters just happens to be written poorly… you have to wait till the reboot again.
    I think your idea is great, maybe have like 2-3 parallel universes being written at the same time to keep a wider variety of audiences engaged and pleased haha!
    An idea that I’ve had, definitely not alone here, to have a universe that is written using fan recommendations. Let the fans choose what happens, via polls or something, and then have a group of writers working on those stories. You’d get a ton of interesting stories like that! Thoughts?

    • Thanks! I agree, those are the potential downsides, definitely, though I think I prefer those to having one “real” version of a character who gets destroyed by a particular creative team, who make changes that then either need to be retconned, ignored, et cetera. I actually really like your idea of there being 2-3 parallel universes running at the same time, as well!

      A fan-chosen universe could be really interesting; have fans choose the outcomes of enormous events. I’d imagine it could result in some really new, unique storylines.

      • Totally agree, so many characters have been ruined for me because of the wrong writer being behind them. Your post has got me thinking about a bunch of different ideas haha, cheers.

        • Yep, same here! Especially the case with Spider-Man for me; he’s easily my favorite comic character ever, but I’ve been unable to read him ever since OMD/BND. But thank you, glad to get the wheels spinning!

  6. Sounds great to me. I think half the problem with standard Marvel and DC stories is that the continuity issues and crossover issues strangle creative freedom. If they followed your proposal I would buy a lot more comics.

    • Thank you, and yep, same here! The best stories are the ones that take risks, and I really believe that freeing these characters from the shackles of too much continuity would allow for some amazing stories to occur.

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