I love comics. I also really hate DCU and Marvel continuity. It’s not that I dislike big, serialized stories. I don’t. But with long-running continuity, nothing ever really sticks and that makes everything matter less. When dramatic changes happen in either comics line, they don’t feel real because they’ll inevitably get erased or smoothed over.
Superheroes have a sort of “zero point” that they always have to bounce back to. Spiderman’s zero point, for example, is that he wears a red and blue costume, keeps his identity secret, and has a girlfriend named Mary Jane. Some years ago he donned an Iron Man-esque costume, publicly revealed his identity, and was married to Mary Jane. All of those elements have been erased- he once again wears the red and blue, keeps his identity secret, and Mary Jane (I believe) is his girlfriend again in current continuity. Everything reset- I think Marvel blamed it all on Mephisto or something stupid like that.
This happens to every superhero. They bounce back to their set point of pop-culture expectations. This is aggravating, and robs the drama from comic book stories. I didn’t care when Captain America “died” because I knew he’d be back in a few short months.
This is why I actually like superhero reboots. One of my favorite Superman stories is Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” because it wraps up a given continuity. It was a rare time in the DC Universe where it seemed that things actually mattered because there wouldn’t be a story later that reversed it. It has a climactic tension that is sorely lacking in most superhero comics.
Here’s what I’d like to see: DC and Marvel rebooting their continuity all of the time. Every five years or so. This would allow changes to actually stick inside smaller, more self-contained continuities.
Let’s say that DC reboots their universe now, and then ends it five years later. In that five years, they can introduce us to Batman, Wonderwoman, the Flash, etc., and then actually put them through some pretty dramatic changes. Inside that continuity, let’s say they killed the Flash. Not temporarily killed him- killed him for good. For real. Lets say the Flash were allowed to be as dead as any other character in any other book or movie.
That would actually make me care about what’s going on and actually worry about what happens for a change. There would be tension and suspense where there’s now none whatsoever. If the Flash could die, that means that maybe Hal Jordan could, too. Or Hawkman. I might actually start to care.
This continuity could continue for a while, and then DC could wrap it up. Superman, Batman and the rest could have a big, climactic finish and the whole line of comics could come to a conclusion. Then, DC could relaunch everything again and re-introduce their characters back at the zero-points where we’re used to them. In the new continuity, the Flash would be back and maybe they could kill Batman or something.
This wouldn’t be that different from what they’re doing now with superhero movies. In the Christopher Nolan Batman continuity, Ra’s Al Ghul and Two-Face are both dead. This doesn’t negate all the other things with Two-Face or Ra’s out there- those media stand on their own. In the Nolan continuity, though, things matter way more than in any Batman story wedded to the zero-point that all superheroes inevitably get dragged back to.
So, DC, thank you for rebooting your continuity. Make it end with a blast, and go ahead and kill off a few beloved characters. A few years down the line, though, I hope you do it all again.