My LCS owner and I were doing our regular news-of-the-week chat when I started griping about the Earth One projects DC has planned for Superman and Batman. Gripe is probably too strong a word, because I’m a big fan of Gary Frank, who’ll be illustrating the Batman arc. However, I said something about being annoyed with the repetition of two very well-worn origin stories, and that as much as I love Batman, I don’t need to see him crouched over his dead parents’ bodies ever again. That’s when the owner pointed out the obvious: “Well, you’re not the target audience for these books.”
When I got back into comics in a serious way three years ago, I promised myself that I wouldn’t become the kind of fan who considers a reboot or revision as an affront to his or her childhood. And since I write for a living, I can appreciate the difficulty of keeping a beloved character fresh while being confined by lore and editorial dictates. But there I was, throwing shade on books that aren’t even out yet. God forbid a publisher try to bring newer, younger readers into the fold! While I’d much rather see a great writer breathe new life into a less familiar character, I’m already reading comics. Someone who isn’t in that world is more likely to enter (or re-enter) through a familiar door. And it doesn’t get more familiar than Batman and Superman.
That comic shop exchange reminded me of a Dragon*Con panel about the future of comics that I attended back in September. Panelist Darwyn Cooke, one of my favorite writers, kept it extremely real, referring to modern comic book culture as “an over-35 club.” He pointed out that comic books were never meant to be read by the same audience for 20-plus years. But because the average reader today is more likely to have a mortgage than a homeroom teacher, the demand for continuity, among other things, hangs over many titles. So naturally, someone like me — as opposed to, say, my 9-year-old son — is over Superman’s origin story because they’ve been paying attention to superhero titles for decades. As Frank himself put it, the Earth One project “is a blank slate.”
It’s nice to be reminded that there’s room under the tent for everyone — and that if it doesn’t move me, I don’t have to read it. Besides; despite my grouchy old geek act, they had me at “Gary Frank.”