It’s been about year since DC relaunched it’s entire superhero line. If you’re reading this, chances are you listen to the show that I co-host with one of my closet friends and the only other person that’s read DC comics for maybe a little longer than I have. OK, to be fair, Joe (the aforementioned co-host) has probably read more and loves DC comics more than I do and, like me, has said a lot of positive things about the DC relaunch on our show. When all the Internet trolls were screaming about their continuity being trampled, and my angry-hater friend Joel was saying “F this relaunch business,” I put on my rose-colored glasses and went as far as to award DC “Best Publisher” as part of our 1st Golden Beppo award show last year (our yearly comic-themed best-of show) for having the stones to relaunch their universe.
Well here we are, one year later, and I find myself…angry. It finally hit me. Like a slow moving tsunami. I sat in my office (the place I read comics and record my podcast and sometimes smoke weed and listen to death metal) and read two of the latest DC zero issues and just got mad. Batman #0 and Batgril #0 specifically. And to be clear, it wasn’t the story in Batman #0. Scott Snyder is doing an amazing job on Batman and I honestly don’t remember reading better bat stories recently. What hit me was the Who’s Who page in the back of the comic. The idea of the Who’s Who is a short bio to explain each DCU character’s brief new history in the relaunched world. There was one specific line in the Batman Who’s Who that hit me, and it didn’t even involve Bruce Wayne.
Tim Drake was my Robin. Growing up reading comics in the 90’s, DC forced Tim Drake on their readers as the new Robin. Jason Todd, who replaced Dick Grayson as Robin, got blown up by the Joker in the Ethiopian desert (later, Superboy-Prime beat on the walls of reality and brought him back form the dead) and BOOM! Tim Drake was your new Robin. Not long after that, one of my favorite writers – Chuck Dixon, who was also writing Batman at the time – would launch a Robin series starring Tim Drake that would quickly become one of my favorite DC comic runs.
Well, post relaunch, it never happened. According to the Who’s Who page in the back of Batman #0 Tim Drake started his crime fighting career as Red Robin. It started at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con when Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell said, during a panel, that Tim Drake’s origin had been slightly changed. He was never Robin, even though in the pages of his own title, Teen Titans #1, we see an image of Tim Drake as Robin. So the series that I loved, written first by Chuck Dixon and then by Fabian Nicieza (which was also great), no longer counts. Didn’t happen. Poof…
But that’s not all. Another one of my favorite Chuck Dixon series starring another of my favorite bat-characters, Barbra Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle) was also blown out of continuity. If you know anything about Barbra Gordon, it’s probably what happened to her in Alan Moore’s Killing Joke story, when the Joker shot her in the stomach and the bullet hit her spine, paralyzing her. After that, it was Dennis O’Neil along with John Ostrander who established Barbra’s new persona as Oracle, but it was Chuck Dixon who wrote her best in the pages of Birds of Prey. During his run on the title, even Batman called on Oracle for her expertise. She was DC’s premiere IT expert and arguably the best written and established handicapped character since Daredevil. But apparently, that too never happened. Batgirl #0 came and went, and with it, no mention of how she overcame her paralysis and no mention of her time as Oracle. Nothing. Poof… Gone.
It’s hard not to look at these changes and wonder if they were direct personal attacks on Dixon, who was very vocal about the reasons he left DC. I’m not trying to drum up controversy here, something Joe accuses me of on a weekly basis, but honestly, what do these changes add to the characters? Why was Tim never Robin? Did he hang out with Batman as Red Robin only? Why would Batman let him have his own different Robin name? Did Batman even train him? Does DC really think that erasing Barbra’s time as Oracle makes here more interesting? What part of Babs’ new history wouldn’t work with her time as Oracle? Oracle was one of the most interesting and unique characters in the DCU (and not just because she was a handicapped woman).
And don’t get me wrong, I like Batgirl. Writer Gail Simone is doing a great job on the title. If DC wanted to tell me Barbra was Oracle but then a “miracle” (one that they DIDN’T reveal in this week’s Batgirl #0) happened and she’s feeling much better and running around as Batgirl again, fine. Make her younger too so she’s not a full grown woman calling herself Batgirl. Whatever. I’ve dealt with much larger character ret-cons (that’s comic-nerd speak for “retroactive continuity” changes).
These are just two problems I have with the relaunch and again, there’s still plenty of things I like about it. Aquaman is a shining example of a new title for an established character. Green Lantern and Batman are amazing titles. Demon Knights and I Vampire are two wonderful new series. Animal Man and Swamp Thing have almost completely reinvented the characters while still holding on to ideas and history that I love about them both. But none of these titles I’ve mentioned couldn’t have taken place in the previous DCU. In fact, I would argue the reason that Batman and Green Lantern are as good as they are is because they haven’t changed much at all.
I get why DC relaunched their super-hero line. It’s an idea that looks good on paper and it did boost their sales on titles that never would have sold at those levels pre-relaunch. But, here we are a year later and titles are already being canceled and more are already in trouble. I’m not going to go into my feelings about Hawkman, Firestorm, and Deathstroke here, but they’re also glaring examples of what happens when creators or editorial pick and choose what continuity carries over into the new DCU. By the way, does anyone even recognize Superman anymore?
Again, that’s another bitch session entirely. I just want to know what Chuck Dixon did that was so egregious that DC editorial found his actions punishable by banishing some really great character growth and stories in favor of simple, extreme shlock. Just under a year ago I was waving a torch to hold back an army of Internet-relaunch-hater-trolls and now, here I am joining them. I’m angry. I’m confused. And I’d rather read my Marvel heroes. I think I hate the DC relaunch.
Matt Baum is the co-host and producer of the Two-Headed Nerd Comicast. He is short and has a big mouth.