Rebirth: Everybody wins!
Sometimes, I feel like I have two children. Both are stumbling their way into the modern world, new and apparently ignorant of the cultural shifts happening over the last few decades. They stumble, they fall, and sometimes need a diaper change, but they do their best and we’ve had a lot of great memories together so I tend to look the other way when one of them spits up all over me.
But over the last few months, something remarkable has happened. One of the children, the older of the two, actually, suddenly started taking its first few steps towards maturity. It discovered things about itself that it somehow never knew before, like how great it could be just by being itself, and not trying to outdo it’s younger brother. Pretty soon, it was leaping and bounding, doing cartwheels and soaring high above his sibling. Everyone was talking about how grown up he was acting, and we are all just so proud of him.
Sadly, all is not well for his little brother. Even though he tried harder than his sibling, he just couldn’t get the same attention. And suddenly, all his old tricks suddenly started seeming dull and repetitive. His stumbles would look clumsy, his falls would appear due to his own arrogance, and suddenly, when he pooped himself, it wasn’t quite an adorable mistake so much as an embarrassing bowel expulsion. Also, he keeps banging his head on the corner of the coffee table and now I’m not sure if he’ll ever walk straight again.
What happened in the last three months? How on Earth did we get here? Let’s fast forward to a magical time, long, long ago. The before time! A mystical period few are even alive to remember. An age long past, known only as January 2016.
It was a simpler time. Men grew their beards out, women had yet to earn the right to vote, and children were left to fend for themselves in the wild. Marvel had just finished it’s big Secret Wars event, robustly showing it was at the top of it’s game while DC had farted out Convergence the year before and hoped nobody would notice. DC was struggling, attempting to re-brand itself with a new Batman, a Superman with less powers, and a same Wonder Woman? I guess? The point is, they were a mess, while Marvel was producing great comics and seemed to be going in the right direction.
There were problems, for sure, but lots of cool titles, and things were looking good for them. Then DC announced Rebirth. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, really. Sales were flagging and the New 52 just wasn’t quite working out as I have thoroughly discussed already. At the time, I wrote off Rebirth as them trying to stir up some sales. I was tired of the endless reboots, and you know what? I’ll say it right now. I thought Rebirth was a dumb idea. I made fun of it. You can go back and see the first video I made in response to what were then only rumours of the reboot and I was not kind nor optimistic for the company. And, I was totally, and completely wrong.
And you know, when it comes to being wrong about something, I’m quite happy to be wrong about this. Because Rebirth, in spite of every warning sign that it could go wrong – the bimonthly release schedule, the use of Watchmen characters, the idea of bringing back lots of old fan favourites – it all could have gone horribly wrong and it DIDN’T. My god, they pulled it off. And I mean, it’s all still fresh. We’re still in the early phases of this new direction. They could tank this thing very easily in a short a time as a month for now, or maybe things will stay this great for another ten years. Sooner or later, mistakes will be made, and it’s unrealistic to expect DC to stay great forever. But right now? With a few months down? We can safely say Rebirth has been an astounding success, commercially and critically.
Even though DC released a third of the comic titles Marvel did in July, DC still sold more comics. The sales for August were described as “embarrasing” for Marvel. And you better believe September won’t change much either. All-Star Batman #1 was a top of the line seller, having topped the charts with the biggest numbers I’ve seen since Amazing Spider-Man #1 a couple of years ago. And, unlike that comic, DC really didn’t have to work any gimmicks to sell that title. All they really had to do was just be like, “It’s Scott Snyder’s new Batman comic,” and BOM! Blockbuster sales. And you better believe that were it not for Civil War II pulling up sales slightly, Marvel would look even worse in comparison. Critically, most titles released under Rebrith have been great, or, at the very least, good. It’s been a fun time rediscovering titles that are getting back to their roots and telling some great stories, and the comics have proven to have attracted lots of readers with their high quality and accessibility.
The success of the bimonthly model has led to some interesting talk within DC as well. Originally, the plan was to do this for the first six months before going to a more normal monthly schedule, but now they might start rolling out more titles, like two Wonder Woman comics to reflect the dual story telling in that and other series going on right now, or to keep these coming bi-monthly but as mini-series or something. It all works, to be honest. Bimonthly comics usually don’t but DC has proven they can make it work, so they can pretty much do whatever they want as long as they keep pushing out good content like what we’ve seen so far.
Meanwhile… while DC is looking fresh, exciting, and authentic… there’s the troubled child. Poor Marvel didn’t really change during this time, but that’s the problem. For the last five years, they’ve been doing the same thing over and over – big events, stupid stunts, and soft reboots. In between all that, there are lots of great writers and artists trying to eke out a story, and some have managed to occasionally do so. But it feels like they keep getting interrupted by one event or gimmick after another. It’s getting stale, and, now that DC is showing it really doesn’t have to be that way – to wild success – within months Marvel has lost any advantage they may have had over their distinguished competition. Last month, we learned that once again, Marvel’s big crossover event Civil War II is being delayed and extended to eight instead of the seven planned issues. Which is the exact same thing they did last year with Secret Wars.
That’s a silly and amusing coincidence, but there are a lot of problems also being presented by this behaviour. The endless tidal wave of soft reboots, characters temporarily going evil, and headline grabbing changes has finally reached my critical mass of tolerance. I’ve defended a lot of these decisions before, but that was looking at them individually. There’s nothing wrong with changes and shaking things up, until you start doing it constantly and without end. Marvel gives no time for their characters to have their own stories and arcs, instead barraging their writers non-stop with this endless wave of over-hyped nonsense. I was on board for a long time, but these last few months have broken me. There’s been way too much way too fast over the last five years, and it’s turning readers off, myself included. There’s only so many “shocking changes” I can take before the effect it has on me becomes non-existent. And we are long, long, embarrassingly long overdue. Hmm… embarrassing. That word keeps coming up in this video. Just… pointing that out….
So there you have it. My tale of two children. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. These things move in cycles. It’s no big deal one way or another, and if anything, it’s just going to force Marvel to do something about all of this. Which is why I made the declaration in my title – everybody wins. Because we all win when a company makes quality content a priority. We get good comics, they get money, and even the competition is forced to just do better.
Ironically, much of this video could be weirdly mirrored to describe the current state of Marvel and DC in the world of movies, except in the exact opposite way. It really comes down to who happens to be in charge of which corporate branch. Marvel and DC have constantly been locked in this push and pull for decades, and sometimes one gets ahead of the other, but both always find a way back, eventually. It’s not the end of anybody’s world, it’s the start of something new and exciting. It’s worth noting, and applauding. I have no idea what happens next… all I can do is have faith that it’s going to be fun. Everybody wins. I want to jump up and down screaming it at the top of my lungs, and then awkwardly slink away when strangers wonder what I’m doing.