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Three years ago I requested help from my fellow fans in compiling a list of all the reboots DC had done of characters or entire teams in the years since COIE. Recently I repeated that request on a few forums, asking for help in listing anyone who had received the Reboot Treatment within these past three years. Here’s how I think it stands at the moment, for anyone who was wondering.
Before I offer my current list of DC Reboots, I want to talk a bit about what I mean and what I don’t mean when I use that word “Reboot.” This has caused a bit of confusion in the past. Different fans had different definitions in their heads when they saw and used that same word in their responses. Let’s see if I can explain myself clearly this time, using what I honestly believe to be the same definition commonly used by a majority of those fans who really worry about “reboots” and what does or doesn’t qualify..
What is a Reboot?
Reboot = Everything from before gets thrown away!
All—or very nearly all—of a character’s previously published stories, that had him at the center of the action, get erased from continuity, leaving a clean slate for a fresh start. In the new continuity, they never happened and the other superheroes in that same comics universe don’t remember anything about them. Now a writer is “starting all over from scratch” with the essential character concept. That is a reboot.
If some bits and pieces of a character’s history get changed on the spur of the moment, that is a retcon. But if a lot of his old adventures are still supposed to be valid, allowing for some changes to various details, then he has not been rebooted.
Things that Aren’t Reboots
1. The character’s origin story gets retold with some new twists, but all of his subsequent adventures are still supposed to have happened, just about the way his veteran fans remember them.
For instance, Frank Miller’s “Year One,” published as four issues of the “Batman” title shortly after COIE, was a retelling, with new details and a grittier tone than usual, of Batman’s “origin story” and his first several months on the job as a costumed crimefighter in Gotham City. However, most of the old Earth-1 continuity from the Silver and Bronze Ages (lots of previous clashes with Joker, Two-Face, Riddler, etc.) still appeared to be canonical in the Post-COIE era, so Batman and all the associated characters (such as Jim Gordon, Dick Grayson, Alfred Pennyworth, etc.) hadn’t been utterly rebooted.
2. The old character dies or retires and someone else puts on a costume and starts calling himself the successor with the same name.
For instance, Barry Allen (the Silver Age Flash) died in COIE. Wally West took over the role of being the Flash. That was a big change, but not a reboot, because most of Barry’s old Pre-Crisis stories were still in continuity. People in the DCU still remembered that those things had happened.
3. A new writer comes along and makes some changes, giving the hero a new supporting cast, giving him a different attitude, telling his stories with a whole different style, but we are expected to assume that most or all of the previous stories still happened before this.
This happens all the time in the comic book industry. It isn’t a reboot; it just means different writers will have different stories they want to tell.
4. The hero’s old series got cancelled; he gets a new series with a new #1.
That isn’t a reboot unlessall the hero’s past adventures from the old series have just been erased from continuity, the way Wonder Woman’s were twenty years ago when her old series got cancelled and then a new one started up later. Most of the time, this is simply a Relaunch.
5. Changing the exact roster of the “Founding Members” of a team, but saying that the team actually still had most of the same adventures from its old series, is not a reboot.
For instance, in the Post-Crisis continuity regarding the original JLA, the official version said that Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman had not been Founding Members of the League. The second Black Canary had been, however, “replacing” Wonder Woman. Superman and Batman were apparently admitted to have lent a helping hand to the old JLA on various occasions if opportunity permitted. That was a major retcon to JLA continuity, but we weren’t being told that all those stories from the JLA title of the 60s, 70s, and early-to-mid 80s had “never happened at all.” They had just happened with a somewhat different set of members than we previously thought. That was not the same thing as tossing out the old JLA series and saying, “All that stuff never happened at all!” (It was a rather obnoxious thing to do to veteran JLA fans, however.)
The DC Reboots Since COIE
Superman. Rebooted in 1986 after COIE. All previous Superman-centric stories (Earth-2, Earth-1, or any other version) effectively got thrown away and forgotten. Although, because that same treatment was not being given to most of the other heroes who were formerly of “Earth-1,” it was kept in continuity that he had been a superhero for a few years already as “Superman #1″ (vol. 2) opened up, and that he had already become well-known to other heroes, and generally respected by them. (For instance, when Post-COIE Superman teamed up with Cyborg in an issue of “Action Comics,” it was clear that they knew each other from past experience, although I don’t believe we were given any details on just what that past experience had been!)
Wonder Woman. Rebooted at about the same time as Superman, around early 1987, shortly after COIE. Unlike Superman, she was rebooted as “I am just now appearing in public for the first time in the modern DCU, where the Justice League and the Teen Titans and others have already been household names for years before anyone heard of me!”
Note: Last year I saw a fascinating online rumor that when George Perez started plotting the initial story arc for the Post-COIE “Wonder Woman” title, he thought it would be the functional equivalent of Byrne’s “Man of Steel” mini or Miller’s “Batman: Year One” story, a retelling of her origin story which was mostly happening as a “flashback to several years ago” when Diana was just making her debut in the public eye, and then the title would subsequently “fast-forward” to “here and now,” with Diana already a well-established heroine with years of seasoning in the later stories in that series. However, the person mentioning this rumor didn’t cite any sources I could check. At any rate, some of what was done to Wonder Woman at that time has now been undone by her recent restoration (post-Infinite Crisis) to her old role as a Founding Member of the original Justice League, meaning she once again has about as many years of experience in superheroics as do Superman, Batman, and various other DC heroes.
The Legion of Super-Heroes. Rebooted in 1994 after Zero Hour. Rebooted again in 2004.
Note: I have not read the miniseries “Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds,” but I am told that the general effect of it seems to be to shunt the two “rebooted Legions” aside into other timelines and “restore” the version of Legion continuity which had previously been featured in DC publications from 1958 to about 1985 (the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths). If I’ve got this right, however, the subsequent 9 years or so of “original Legion continuity” (published from COIE to Zero Hour) does not apply to this “un-rebooted” Legion (or whatever it should be called).
The Doom Patrol. Rebooted in 2004. One rumor says that John Byrne did not “ask for permission” to reboot the Doom Patrol from scratch, but, on the contrary, was told that rebooting was the way DC had already decided it wanted the DP handled by anyone who did a new series about the “Doom Patrol” concept. Take it or leave it. I’m also told that within
On the other hand, I’m told that the reboot was thoroughly un-rebooted within two years or so of the reboot, with the events of Infinite Crisis serving as a convenient excuse, and I also hear that Dan DiDio has allegedly said that this was the Master Plan for the Doom Patrol all along.
Starro the Conqueror was apparently rebooted by Grant Morrison in 1997 in “JLA: Secret Files and Origins #1,” clearly set around the time of the early pages of “JLA #1″ (the first issue of the series which began around that same time). There’s this giant alien organism resembling a starfish, which uses miniature versions of itself to cling to people’s faces and place them under its mental control. It’s referred to in dialogue as “the Star Conqueror.” Various superheroes in this story (including Wally West and Wonder Woman) say things which make it clear they feel no sense of recognition at what they are seeing, despite the fact that Starro the Conqueror had used the same schtick in several previous stories (usually against one incarnation or another of the “Justice League,” beginning in the original team’s first published adventure). If they did remember meeting Starro or hearing about Starro from other heroes, then it would have been more logical for someone to say: “This sounds like Starro or one of his relatives. Refresh my memory: How have various incarnations of the League overcome Starro all those other times?”
Note: I just now checked, and saw that the Wikipedia entry on Starro simply asserts that Morrison’s “Star Conqueror” villain in “JLA: Secret Files and Origins #1″ was simply a different member (a green one) of the same species as Starro (usually purple). However, that interpretation of events does not fit with the way the heroes fighting “the Star Conqueror” are obviously drawing a complete blank as far as “recognition” is concerned. On the other hand, reading the Wikipedia entry gives me the impression (possibly inaccurate) that other writers working for DC in the past 12 years have not felt the obligation to write about Starro and/or “Star Conqueror” as if all the Starro stories from before 1997 had never happened. Perhaps this qualifies as a case where Grant Morrison tried to do a subtle reboot, but everyone else at DC just ignored the implications?
The Warlord. Rebooted in 2006. His previous regular series had lasted 132 issues back in the 1970s and 80s (and I have all those stories in my collection), plus a bunch of annuals, a six-issue miniseries, and all sorts of guest appearances in other people’s titles over the years. All of that is now gone with the wind.
At least some of the Charlton Comics characters were “rebooted” when they were integrated into the post-Crisis DCU.
For instance, Captain Atom started over from scratch in a series written by Cary Bates, in which he was becoming the superhero Captain Atom “for the very first time” and none of his old Charlton adventures had ever happened. I believe the same thing happened to Peacemaker.
I am told, on the other hand, that the Blue Beetle and the Question kept a fair piece of their pre-DC continuity (allowing for the fact that it had now happened to them as part of their retconned participation in the mainstream DCU instead of some other parallel world).
I believe that all of DC’s Impact line in the early 90s constituted “Reboots” of characters owned by Archie, since these heroes were generally being presented as people just now getting their special powers, etc., instead of seasoned veterans who had survived the events of all the stories previously published about them by another company or companies. That would include the following characters: The Shield, The Fly, The Comet, The Black Hood, The Jaguar, The Web.
I have heard that DC has once again acquired permission to publish stories about the Archie-owned stable of superheroes, but I haven’t seen any of those stories yet and I don’t know if any further rebooting is contemplated. (Likewise, I hear that the old Milestone characters are scheduled to be integrated into DCU continuity, but I have the impression that all of their old published stories will not simply be thrown out the window; ask me again in a year or two and I may know more about it by then.)
Captain Marvel—meaning the guy in the red bodysuit with a big yellow thunderbolt on his chest who keeps yelling Shazam!; not any of the heroes Marvel Comics has published using that same alias—got rebooted in the miniseries Shazam! A New Beginning in 1987 (written by Roy Thomas). Six years later, in 1993, Captain Marvel got his Second Post-Crisis Reboot in the graphic novel The Power of Shazam! by Jerry Ordway.
Note: Since I first wrote that entry, the idea that Ordway’s graphic novel (and the subsequent monthly title “The Power of Shazam”) qualified as a Second Reboot has been seriously questioned. For instance, someone pointed out to me that in the late 80s Captain Marvel spent some time working with the Justice League International in the early days of the Giffen/DeMatteis run, and he assured me that this was still supposed to be “in continuity” as something that had previously happened to Captain Marvel after the events of Ordway’s graphic novel and before the events chronicled in the later monthly title “The Power of Shazam.” The first issue of the monthly title plainly stated it had been four years since Billy Batson first gained the ability to transform by saying his magic word, and apparently Captain Marvel’s brief stint as a Justice Leaguer had occurred during that four-year gap. The person telling me this did concede, though, that just about anything and everything in the four-part mini by Roy Thomas got flushed down the toilet as “never happened; never could have happened” in Ordway’s retelling of Billy Batson’s origin story. I don’t think I had realized (or much cared) that it was still in continuity that Billy Batson had been part of the JLI back around the late 1980s. Although I now doubt that Ordway’s work qualified as a “full reboot, ” I decided to leave this listing in here (with this lengthy note) to explain what happened, rather than simply omitting any mention of Ordway’s work and then having other fans yell at me for “completely forgetting” about the putative Second Reboot of Captain Marvel.
Rip Hunter, Time Master got a big Post-Crisis reboot in the 8-part Time Masters miniseries published around 1990. I have heard that the rebooted version has been retconned and replaced by a different version, but I could have some of this wrong. Aside from reading that miniseries, I am no great expert on Rip Hunter’s continuity—and time travelers in general are prone to run into alternate versions of themselves, etc. (Think of Marvel’s “Kang,” for instance.)
Hugo Strange is a Batman villain who got rebooted, even though Batman himself didn’t. As near as I can tell, none of the story arcs that ever featured him as a villain in the Earth-1 Batman’s continuity have survived as solid historical facts in the Batman continuity of the Post-Crisis DCU. They have been replaced by various Post-Crisis story arcs. (Note: since I wrote those previous lines 3 years ago, I have seen some contention over this point in online discussions, and I have almost finished another post which attempts to outline my reasons for believing that the Post-COIE version of Hugo was a full reboot. The picture is complicated by the fact that his first Post-COIE appearance was one of the early arcs in the “Legends of the Dark Knight” title, and those arcs were notoriously “not necessarily in continuity,” so at the time the arc was first published, it was not at all clear if Hugo Strange’s Earth-1 continuity was “really” being changed or not!)
The Crime Syndicate of America (Superwoman, Ultraman, Owlman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick, characters from Earth-3 in the pre-Crisis Multiverse) first got heavily retconned, and then later got completely rebooted in Grant Morrison’s graphic novel JLA: Earth-2 in 1999. The earlier retcon had said that the oldtime JLA had still fought a Crime Syndicate of America, but they weren’t from a parallel Earth; they were from Qward. In Morrison’s graphic novel, however, the JLA met his version of the CSA for the first time without anyone ever saying, “Gosh, don’t these people remind you of that time when some of us fought five bad guys with the same codenames back in the early days of the JLA?” Thus we can deduce this was a reboot and the older Post-Crisis version no longer existed in continuity.
Supergirl is a very difficult case to analyze. By my count, there have been 16 Supergirl characters in stories that were “in continuity” in either the Pre-Crisis or Post-Crisis DCU. For the moment, let’s just recognize that the “classic” Silver Age, Earth-1 Supergirl—Kara Zor-El—died in COIE and then was retroactively erased from continuity, adding insult to injury. The Kara Zor-El Supergirl who popped up a couple of years ago in the Superman/Batman title was Jeph Loeb’s “Total Reboot” of the old Kara Zor-El character concept. We’ll just ignore all the other Supergirls for the time being. If anyone really is dying to know about the other 14 Supergirls on my list, just follow this link! (Bearing in mind that someday, after certain mysteries are resolved in the current comics, I’ll be updating that list yet again! I imagine I’ll post the Fifth Draft right here on CSBG when the time comes!)
I am told that Grant Morrison has effectively rebooted Klarion the Witch Boy in his “Seven Soldiers of Victory” stories published in 2005. Word has it that Klarion’s previous appearances, particularly the “Sins of Youth” crossover event from several years ago, simply never happened. Note: I wrote the previous lines of this entry three years ago. I hear that since that time, the new version of Klarion has met Robin in the latter’s series, and that Robin (Tim Drake) was written as obviously having no recollection of any previous encounters with anyone called “Klarion the Witch Boy.” This strongly supports what I had heard before, re: the “erasure” of the “Sins of Youth” event from the modern continuity of the DCU.
Hawkman. Initially the Silver Age Hawkman, Katar Hol of Thanagar, was believed to have survived COIE without any noteworthy changes to his continuity. Ditto for his loving wife, Hawkgirl (who had changed her preferred alias to Hawkwoman in the early 1980s). I’ve seen them in a John Byrne Post-Crisis Superman story when they used their starship to help him go get a close look at the remnants of his native world of Krypton, and I remember seeing them get some appearances in the earlier issues of the Giffen/DeMatteis era of the JLI, wherein Katar would complain about how the clowns now calling themselves the Justice League couldn’t hold a candle to the old-school JLA of the good old days. But then, in 1989, Tim Truman started doing Hawkworld. I think it was first a three-part mini, then an ongoing series, and the general idea (for awhile) seemed to be that all the old Silver Age/Bronze Age appearances of Katar Hol were now being tossed out the window.
I have never been a regular collector of any of the various series about Hawkman, Hawkworld, etc., so I’m going to leave it at that and hope my second-hand understanding is “correct” as far as it goes. I have no intention of delving into subsequent Hawkman-related retcons right now! (Do I look like a masochist? You don’t have to answer that question, actually.)
The situation of Jason Todd (Robin II) is ambiguous. He definitely received a brand new (and bad) origin story after COIE, but my definition of a reboot requires more than just “one origin story got replaced with another one.” I realized a couple of years ago that there is not a general consensus among Batman fans regarding how much (if anything) of his Pre-Crisis adventures as Robin (and of Doug Moench’s entire first run as a Batman writer in the mid-80s) managed to carry over into the Post-Crisis Bat-continuity as having presumably “still happened” to him at some point. I am inclined to believe that the Post-COIE Jason Todd, the guy who died pretty soon in “A Death in the Family,” was a rebooted version with none or almost none of his Pre-COIE adventures (as written by Gerry Conway and Doug Moench) having any validity in the DCU of the late 1980s, but I’m not sure if any of the Batman editors of the late 80s and 90s ever explicitly addressed that point.
The Creeper got the reboot treatment in 2006 with a miniseries in which Jack Ryder became The Creeper “for the very first time, right here and now, in the modern continuity.” Thereby erasing all previous stories of Jack Ryder being the superhero known as The Creeper and occasionally teaming up with other heroes.
The Yellow Peri had a total of 4 appearances in Pre-COIE continuity in the 1980s, meeting Superboy and later Superman (the same character in those days, remember; at different times in his life). Then she went for a little over 20 years without being seen or heard from. Since she basically had “only existed” in the Pre-COIE continuity of Clark Kent, it was a very safe guess that she had been erased from existence at the same time Superman was rebooted in the Post-COIE era. However, she has recently been rebooted in the DCU—as far as I know, her new stories have not referred to any of her appearances from the Pre-COIE era as still being in continuity.
I am told that, within the last few years, there was a story in the “Superman/Batman” title in which Doc Magnus and his Metal Men guest-starred, and Batman claimed to have never met these people before. This would imply a recent reboot, since Batman had previously met the Metal Men (and their creator, Will Magnus) on various occasions in the older continuity; and the Post-COIE Superman has also bumped into them before. On the other hand: When I was asking for feedback about recent reboots, at least one other fan argued that other comic books’ portrayals of Magnus and his Metal Men in the last couple of years have not been consistent with that “Superman/Batman” story’s implication that all of their previous adventures never happened. I haven’t been reading any of their recent appearances, so I can’t swear from personal observation which interpretation is more likely to be correct—”they got rebooted recently,” or “someone may have tried to reboot them by having Batman not recognize them, but the attempted reboot isn’t really sticking”?
Isis. I still haven’t bothered to read “52,” but I am told that it introduced a new girlfriend for Black Adam; a woman named Adrianna Tomaz who has gained supernatural powers and calls herself Isis. She was effectively a reboot of the heroine called Isis (Andrea Thomas) who had a TV show in the 1970s, and—more importantly for our purposes—a DC series which lasted 8 issues. Apparently the 1970s version never happened in modern continuity.
General Zod. I’ve heard that in the wake of “Infinite Crisis,” the editors of the Superman books announced that Superman had never met anybody named “Zod” in his revised history, and thus would be taken off guard by the events of the “Last Son” story arc. In one fell swoop, that declaration erased several stories about four different Zods from the Superman continuity which had developed in the two decades between COIE and Infinite Crisis, with the newest Zod effectively being a reboot of the basic character concept!
It’s been suggested to me that some of the “new Earths” in the Multiverse created at the end of the “52” series could qualify as cases of certain character concepts getting “rebooted” in their own timelines. However, since I have not yet bothered to read “52” (nor its sequel series “Countdown”), I’m not prepared to commit myself on any of that at the moment. Especially since, by and large, I’ve been paying more attention to characters whose rebooted versions are still supposed to be part of the main DCU timeline. (Likewise, I ignore any “Elseworlds” takes on old familiar faces when I’m thinking about “Reboots.”)
Whew! When I look back at this haphazard “reboot some of this and then reboot some of that” approach to rebooting bits and pieces of the DCU, I find myself with a renewed sympathy for those fans who have argued that DC should have just bitten the bullet and rebooted everything at once in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and then perhaps should have set a policy of doing the same thing all over again every 10 or 15 years, to keep the continuity from getting too cluttered or otherwise incomprehensible. Certainly I can see potential problems with that suggested approach, but I sure can’t say that it would have turned out any worse than the way DC has actually been attacking these things on a piecemeal basis for over 20 years now!
As usual, I welcome constructive criticism if I made any mistakes or completely skipped anyone who belongs on this list. Bear in mind, though, that I took it for granted that if I listed a certain hero as getting rebooted at a certain time, I took it for granted that this implicitly included any of the lesser characters in his “supporting cast” who clearly got rebooted around the same time. For instance, the Superman reboot of the late 1980s includes what was done with Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Brainiac, Metallo, and all the rest. Likewise, I didn’t feel the need to list every single member of the Legion of Super-Heroes when mentioning each of their reboots!
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