THE DC REBOOT

The big news in the comic world is that DC Comics is totally rebooting its universe, starting from scratch to create new origins, new stories and new connections for its old characters. Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman and a host of others will see their pasts erased as they reset everything back to zero in hopes of drawing in new fans and undoing some of the convolution that has alienated even long-time readers. Following the upcoming Flashpoint event, it all starts over again. CNN has the story!

Fifty-two superheroes are getting a makeover, and comic book fans can’t stop talking about it — even though they’ve seen this sort of thing before.

DC Comics announced Tuesday on its blog, and in exclusive interviews with USA Today, that come September, not only will many of its titles get a more modern look under respected artist Jim Lee’s direction, but they’ll also get renumbered, starting issue counts back at No. 1.
(DC Comics, like CNN, is owned by parent company Time Warner.)
For readers emotionally invested in the stories of superheroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, this kind of announcement can be threatening. Based on fans’ Twitter reaction, it’s obvious that anxiety, or at the very least skepticism, has set in.

“I’ve seen their attempts to revamp before,” said David Whitehead, a 39-year-old client performance strategist who has been collecting comic books for 20 years.

“So, I guess I’m going in with some guarded skepticism,” he said. He wonders what kind of stories DC has up its sleeve, and how interesting they could be. He hopes the iconic publisher can pull it off, he said.
“I was the biggest Jim Lee fan in the ’90s, and then after seeing what he did to the Wonder Woman costume, I’m a little hesitant to see what he’s done with the rest of the Justice League and the rest of the DC Universe,” Whitehead said.

Fans also know that any kind of reboot is, in part, a business decision for the comic book publisher.

“What they’re shooting for is the opportunity for readers to jump on at an issue No. 1,” said Kathleen Saracen, manager of Titan Games and Comics in Smyrna, Georgia. “New readers feel like, ‘Oh, it’s a No. 1, I could start reading it now,'” she said.

Comic book sales often jump up with a No. 1 issue, she said, “but I think it gets tiresome, from a collector’s point of view, to constantly have to renumber your collection.”

With comic books, she explained, many titles order story lines by volumes. At the beginning of a new volume, the issue number of a comic book may or may not roll back to No. 1. So for hard-core, superorganized collectors who have been following one comic book for a long time, she said, the chronological order of their copies isn’t always so logical.

And renumbering hasn’t always been appreciated in the past.

“One book that comes to mind is Wonder Woman,” said Erika Peterman, a DC Comics fan and blogger for girls-gone-geek.com.

The Wonder Woman comic book was relaunched by DC in 2006, and by last year the new volume had reached issue No. 44. After a fan write-in campaign, DC revised the issue numbers to reflect the original starting date of the title, resulting in the next issue being numbered 600.
“Fans were like, ‘Yes! (Wonder Woman) deserves that high number because she’s been around since the 1940s, this puts her right up there with Superman and Batman,'” said Peterman.

Despite all the apprehension, fans say they want DC to be successful in this latest endeavor. They know that more people reading comic books means they get to keep collecting. So even if DC’s across-the-board revamp isn’t engineered to please loyal fans, it’s a move that they understand — because it’s designed to bring new readers into the fold.

For the most part, said Peterman, comic book collectors are in their mid-30s, which may surprise outsiders who think comic books are juvenile. Younger people are not collecting comic books the way they were 20 years ago, she said.

Whitehead points out that comic books aren’t generally available at the corner store anymore, so the impulse buys he made at the drug store in his youth are less likely to happen. These days, comic books are sold almost exclusively in comic book stores.

That’s where the second part of DC’s announcement comes in: With the renumbering, they’ll be offering day-and-date digital. That means that the same day new issues of comic books are in stores, they’ll be available for download as well. Whitehead said he thinks younger readers are more likely to read comics electronically.

“We’re having a party,” said DC Executive Editor Eddie Berganza. “We want as many people coming to that party as possible. If day-and-date digital is a way to get more people involved in comics and see what we’re doing, I think that’s great.”

“It seems to be the way the whole world is going,” he said.

In addition to the announcement Tuesday that the comic book “Justice League” would be starting again at issue No. 1 in September, DC officials told CNN the publisher would also be renumbering and modernizing such titles as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, The Fury of Firestorm, The Savage Hawkman, Green Arrow, Justice League International, Mister Terrific, Captain Atom and DC Universe Presents.

The characters brought to the fore with the reboot will be interacting in ways they never have before in the DC universe, said DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras.

“For me, I wanted to get into the Cyborg character, who will be part of the Justice League,” Berganza said. “He’s always been one of my favorites from the Titans and now to see him step up, really take his place among the bigger pantheon of heroes is excellent. He’s such a cool character.”

“We’re doing a book called ‘Savage Hawkman’ and to see the excitement between the artist (Philip Tan) and the writer (Tony Daniel), taking a classic DC character, and to see what they’re doing with it is so amazing,” said Harras of the energy he sees in the pages of the rebooted title.

“It’s an epic that we’re putting together, and we’re incredibly excited about it,” he said.

Even so, fans still have unanswered questions about the upcoming reboot. As DC continues to announce its 52 superhero titles getting the treatment, fans can’t help but wonder what will change. For example, after giving Wonder Woman pants, what will Lee do to modernize DC’s other heavy hitters, Batman and Superman?

DC wouldn’t tell CNN. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Of course, while you’re waiting for all the changes, you might want to relive the old looks and the old stories through some of the awesome figures we’ve got over in our DC Section! Check ’em out while they last.

The Wonder Woman Redesign

So that’s the new Wonder Woman? Well, for now anyway before her outfit invariably goes the way of Superman’s lightning-inspired blue outfit or those horrible days where he rocked (or really, failed to rock) a mullet. Jim Lee’s responsible for the redesign and I have to say I’m not a fan. She looks young and hip for 1990, but nothing like the Amazonian warrior she is meant to. And while I am the first to suggest that many female heroes need costume updates to add some of the Nolanverse-Batman practicality above the “how does my cleavage look in this?”-motivated outfits they’re currently sporting, Wonder Woman is one of the few whose revealing outfit actually makes some sense with her roots and her back story.

But anything I could add to the critique of the look is more than covered in this brilliant article by Comic Book Resource’s Sonia Harris (click to visit her page on CBR). It’s an awesome, respectful and intelligent response and I love it.

As a designer, I love clothing. It is basically packaging for humans. Just like packaging, the function is two-fold; 1) Packaging gives a clear indication of what is inside, and 2) Packaging facilitates the use of whatever it contains. Extending this to clothing then, the primary function of any item of clothing is to convey something clear about the wearer to world, and then to create ease and efficacy of movement. In many ways a superhero costume (or more realistically, a uniform for work) must do this even more blatantly. People must be able to immediately recognize the job and stay out of the heroes way.

A pet peeve of mine is people who can use design software, and so they call themselves designers, (despite no experience or training in the field.) Even though I am able to cook, I would never call myself a chef. Similarly, just because a comic book artist is able to draw clothing, that does not make them stylists or fashion designers. When was the last time a woman asked a geeky man to help her buy clothing (other than maybe some fetish wear)? Men have a tendency to take one glance at mall fashion in their teens, and never look again. Never was this more obvious than in comic books, and the new Wonder Woman costume has to be the pinnacle of this kind of folly. In comic books luckily men are rarely called upon to draw civilians, but when they do, men consistently draw women in clothing that would only have worked 10 or 20 years ago. Sadly, none of them think to employ the advice of stylists or designers. Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood have designed superheroic clothing that is 20 years ahead of it’s time. For the first time in history, fashion is looking to comic books for inspiration, so why is Jim Lee throwing out everything that is so super about Wonder Woman’s costume now? Let us dissect some of the most egregious errors that have been made here:

1. The Jacket:
At the moment, while fashion is pretty eclectic, I personally like the military influences and fitted jackets that are going on, they are neat and tailored while still showing a woman’s waist. I have broad shoulders, so I’m always happy when clothes like that are in because I look better with well-tailored jackets instead of slouchy ones. What I’m not seeing anywhere are oversized cut-off bolero jackets. This is something that was briefly fashionable in the 1980’s, and it only ever looked good on very thin women with no asses (hence the short-lived appeal. Wonder Woman is an Amazon warrior. As an Amazon, she’s got a nice muscular ass (or I want to know why not) and she’s not going to dress like a teenager from Flashdance.

2. Leggings:
Similarly, legging are currently so abused and so heinous a fashion crime, that even American Apparel (that bastion of irritating hipster-wear) have had to clearly label their leggings as tights, and not pants. Wonder Woman is timeless and godlike, not a trashy teen

3. Gloves:
In a similar militaristic influence as the fitted jackets, people have been wearing wrist wraps and cuffs as fashion accessories for a while now. Finally, after 70 years of being drastically unfashionable, why would Wonder Woman suddenly stop wearing them and move on to some glove-things which could inhibit wrist mobility? It’s nonsensical. Wrist cuffs are finally a mainstream fashion accessory, so let’s get rid of them? No, it’s ridiculous.

4. Choker:
Chokers were kind of big in the early ’90’s, remember that? It was to sex up the fact that grunge for women was pretty hideous at times. How do you remind people that you’re hot when you’re generally wearing plaid shirts and jeans which are 4 sizes too big? Throw on a choker. I do sometimes still see them on underwear models, so that’s probably where Lee got the idea.

As an emissary of the gods, a brave warrior sent to do battle in a foreign land, Wonder Woman comes from a race who cut off a breast to be better bowmen. No matter how this character is changed, she is not going to stop being an Amazon, so what is the thinking behind this feeble attempt to clothe her? I’m having a very hard time with Jim Lee’s take on Wonder Woman’s new costume.

As an art director, the idea of simply throwing away 70 years of strong brand recognition of this first lady of super powers is an absolute horror story. I am consoling myself with the idea that this is probably just a temporary marketing idea (and as despicable as I find that, it makes some sense.) Other characters have been through similar phases, for example Superman’s blue period, or Spider-Man’s black suit, but in both of those instances, they looked simply strange, otherworldly even, which made some sense in their universes. This low-rent anti-fashion statement cheapens the brand of Wonder Woman, and it’s a brand which cannot take this kind of abuse.

I’ve always sort of liked Wonder Woman’s ludicrously old school costume. The subtle tweaks that it’s had over the years are perfectly acceptable to me (a higher leg on the pants, or hipster shorts, small changes to the bodice, etc), but it always remained essentially the same, and spoke volumes about her power. Most superhero costumes are revealing, after all, they’re physically perfect (though even the Blob wears a form-fitting costume, so maybe it’s not about the physique, but the job), whatever the reason, a lot of the most powerful heroes are practically naked. Complete nudity is almost always a sign of incredible power, for example the Silver Surfer and Doctor Manhattan do not wear clothing because they’re all-powerful. By dint of the same logic, I like the fact that Wonder Woman shows some skin, it implies that she is so strong that she never even considered wearing restrictive, protective garments.

On the rare occasions that Wonder Woman dons her ceremonial white robes for royal functions and ambassadorial duties, or her battle armor in times of epic battle. She is aware that her simple, daily uniform only fulfills some functions and isn’t appropriate for all situations. She’s not crazy. But she also knows the power of a god-like legend, and doesn’t work mess with it. The costume she has is like that of the emergency services, it is unchanging and functions to let people know what she is and what she does. Yes, it is a fantastical creation, and it is unrealistic. So are Amazons and superheroes. She is our link with Greek mythology, and her brash, obvious, American flag-inspired costume cements that bond. Drastically changing Wonder Woman’s costume is absolutely criminal, and to do so to a geeky man’s specifications is doubly criminal. She is a brand, and icon, and a hero.

Of course, we remain an action figure blog despite the urge to go Tumblr and reblog articles like this one, so here’s a link that I hope provides a little bit of refreshment in the form of…well, the now-old-school Wonder Woman in action figure form. She appears in a number of the lines that you can check out if you’re in the mood for the original iconic look.

And one more thing, also pertaining to women in comics not getting a fair shake: did you know Bruce Timm and co. were planning a Batgirl movie but have since seen the project cancelled for no reason but that a female superhero couldn’t draw a big enough crowd? It’s true, and it’s the reason why you should consider grabbing the 2009 Wonder Woman animated film, an underrated but brilliant movie I was lucky enough to see when it premiered at NYCC. It’s a really great film, stars Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina and Rosario Dawson and it might just help make a difference in DC’s perception of its watchers.

Wonder Woman 2009 [Blu-ray]

Wonder Woman 2009 (Two-Disc Special Edition)