The Reboot: Continuity's Cancer
By Ray Tate
Well, after reading Hal Roth's column, all I can say is what utter rubbish. The reboot is the last resort of the desperate. Rarely is it needed, and mostly it can and should be easily avoided. The whole idea of a reboot is DC's Frankenstein’s Monster, and it forever split their comic book universe into two camps: pre-Crisis and post-Crisis. I have railed against the post-Crisis for most of my reviews and exalted the pre-Crisis, which I will continue to do, but I do not do this out of stubbornness nor capriciously. I do this because one is the superior fictional cosmology.
Consider Batman. The pre-Crisis Batman has a fairly straightforward continuity. Both the earth-one and earth-two Batman have the same origin. Both of their parents were shot by versions of Joe Chill. No, don't bring up the Zero Hour. I shan't listen. Both of their parents were shot by versions of Joe Chill. Got that? Good. The earth-two Batman killed. The earth-one Batman didn't. At a certain point on earth-two, Batman stopped killing criminals and followed suit with the relatively younger earth-one Batman. The younger Batman joins the JLA while the older Batman by this time has served many years in the JSA. Around the time Batman resigns from the JLA because they will not intervene in the civil upheaval of Markovia, the earth-two Batman dies protecting Gotham. His death leaves the Huntress, his daughter, as the sole, consistent vanguard of his city. It is an interesting side-note that even before the Crisis there was only one Batman standing.
The history of Batman has consequences. Because Huntress' father died, she frequently visited the Batman of earth-one. Because Batman interacts with the woman he considers his niece, he becomes lighter in character. She is family for him. We see Batman because of this history as more than his role but as a man with deep feelings that can be hurt and rekindled. A similar effect can be seen in his frequent team-ups with Wonder Woman, Superman, Black Canary and Kara—the earth-one Supergirl. Batman knows these heroes. He has worked with them for years. Continuity is not just a plot device. It strengthens character. In Brave and Bold, when Linda Lee Danvers bursts in on Bruce Wayne and begs for him to contact--"wink, wink, nudge, nudge"--Batman so he may find her adopted father, she is doing this out of a sense of friendship. Batman is Supergirl's friend. He is Superman's best-friend. Besides her cousin, he is the one man she knows on whom she can rely.
Now let's turn our attention to the reboot. It's often claimed that Chuck Dixon reintroduced the Huntress. It's true that he's probably the author who worked the second most with the character, but in reality, Joey Caliveri and Joe Staton reintroduced the Huntress in an experimental comic book series that essentially ran parallel to the DC post-Crisis universe. There was no mention of other heroes existing in the new Huntress' world. There was no indication that any hope touched her grimy environment. However, Keith Giffin brought her back into the post-Crisis universe. She guest-stars in an issue of JLI in which she successfully beats the brainwashed Blue Beetle who stabbed Oberon and intends to assassinate Maxwell Lord. Batman misinterprets her actions, but this is where the two heroes meet for the very first time. Remember, the new Huntress is not Helena Wayne, and it's that fact that puts a puzzling spin on the whole escapade.
Why did the Huntress meet Batman again? Continuity no matter how much tampering done reasserts itself. Continuity should be considered a highly powerful force. I do not put much stock in Jung's Theory of the Collective Unconsciousness, but there is a cultural subconscious. If you ask any comic book reader in their early thirties who is Power Girl? They will know the answer. She is the cousin to the earth-two Superman. It's litany. Continuity cannot be totally destroyed. Huntress will always be associated with Batman because originally she was his counterpart's daughter. She will also always be associated with the JLA and the JSA because that is the place where many first encountered her exploits; for those interested, her other adventures are recounted in Wonder Woman and All Star Comics. You see continuity is a strong force. It's why Batman returned to his old costume and why Superman finally cut his hair. It's why Luthor has no hair.
The reboot damages continuity. It sucks the premise from the continuity and leaves in its place an empty shell. You see Helena Bertinelli really has no reason to exist. This character serves no purpose. There is no reason for her to have dark hair like the old Huntress. There is no reason for her to wear virtually the same costume as the old Huntress or rely on her color schemes. The old Huntress' purpose was to be a legacy. She was the daughter of the Bat, and she inherited his mantle. She fought the good fight. She was loved by the comic book reading public. The only time the new Huntress worked is in Grant Morrison's JLA because he characterized her as near as possible to Helena Wayne. It is here where she works side by side with Batman. Continuity reasserts itself, but if it's going to do that anyway, why bother to make the character weaker than the original?
Hal wants to save the comic book industry. Personally, I've never seen its demise. It's been around since the thirties. Seventy years later, it's still here. Television also didn't kill radio, and I really don't see what the fuss is about when somebody keeps tolling the death knell of comic books. The super-hero genre's longevity is so powerful that it branched out to books and television. You're a fool if you think Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Xena or Sheena or Queen of Swords are anything but super-heroes. They are. The new improved models to be sure, but super-heroes definitely. I have lately been seeing if not a demise then certainly the infirmity of DC Comics. Their stable of writers keep scripting offal and calling it treasure. Something that may help is to simply to admit defeat and split up the earths or at least give back the heroes their memories. Why this was done, I'll never know.
The reboot undermines the very nature of a series. In a series, history is required. Characters in a series must share a common history, and once you reboot then nothing can be definite, and nothing matters. Consider again the Huntress. She was created to be Batman's daughter on earth-two. When she was obliterated—not killed--Joey Caliveri and Joe Staton reintroduce her in a series existing parallel to the DCU. Keith Giffin brings her back to DC. Continuity reasserts itself, and for their remaining issues, Caliveri and Staton acknowledge her return by having Batman guest-star. They also imply strongly that these two characters have met. Now, Chuck Dixon comes along. He reboots the character again! Batman has heard about the Huntress but he has never actually met her. This is phenomenal. Never would this blunder occur in a pre-Crisis comic book. We now have two competing reboots in the same post-Crisis DCU! We have one where the Huntress debuts and operates in New York City. She meets the JLA and the Batman who is actively seeking her--probably to apologize for his misjudgment. When they locate her, we learn that Batman has recommended her for the JLA, and in a few issues, she once again fights side-by-side with him. Continuity reasserts itself. Then we have the second reboot existing simultaneously where Batman meets the Huntress who operates in Gotham City--which is completely unnecessary--and resents her mainly because Chuck Dixon characterized Batman as a male chauvinist pig. To muddy the waters further, Alan Grant and the editors of the Batman books have Batman working alongside the Huntress, both heroes have no issues about the other. Batman even leaves Gotham in her care when he hunts for the cure for the Clench. When Dixon gets these heroes in his sights, it's back to the oil and water relationship. Well, thank you, Mr. Reboot! You've saved comic books once again.
The reboot is not the answer. Pre-Crisis comic books of the eighties are ten times stronger than practically anything written today. They formed a history that was known sometimes even better than actual world history, and yes, perhaps it made comic books insular, but it was a world that anybody could hop onto and with a few scant back issues catch up. Indeed, there was always usually a scene in a book dealing with earth-2 which explained briefly how a vibrational plane separated the earth and the counterpart heroes on both worlds. Most of the strong memorable stories that appeared immediately after the Crisis used the back history to bolster these characters. Because the creators knew, "a man is a sum of his memories..."*
The DC heroes exist because of their history, and a reboot that destroys their history results in them not existing at all.
* The Fifth Doctor--Doctor Who: The Five Doctors
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