December 16, 2011

Is “Reboot” The Right Word?

Category: Opinion — By @ 12:00 pm

After fans learned that the DC Universe would be massively revised after Flashpoint, DC insisted that it was a relaunch, not a reboot. But with a complete line-wide new start, with many characters being reimagined and given new backstories, it certainly falls under the conventional meaning of “reboot” as applied to a fictional universe. It’s at least as much of a reboot as the DC Universe that emerged out of Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s.

But I’m not sure the metaphor’s correct. It comes from the idea that when you reboot a computer, you start fresh…except usually when you reboot, you have exactly the same “universe” (the operating system, the apps, the files, etc.) as you had before. That’s not the case with a fictional reboot, which tends to alter the settings, characters, histories, and more.

A better comparison might be an operating system upgrade. Going from Windows XP to Windows Vista, or from Vista to Windows 7. Lots of things change about the way the system works. Some apps are altered. Some stay the same. Some might not be compatible and need to be removed until new versions are available. You might even lose some of your data (or access to it). Some changes are improvements, but there’s always something you wish they’d left alone.

The New 52 fits this metaphor. So does the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths relaunch, which took characters from DC’s Earth-1 and Earth-2 settings, plus the characters they had bought from Charlton, Quality and Fawcett, and merged them all into a single timeline. Some characters were erased (Supergirl), others were changed significantly (Superman, Wonder Woman), some stayed more or less the same (the Flashes’ history was mostly unchanged). Most of Superman’s villains were reimagined and introduced as if they were new.

Smaller retcons, those that affect a single character or team, can be looked at as patches. The John Byrne Doom Patrol, which quietly relaunched the Doom Patrol as if they were new characters, but left the rest of the DCU unchanged. The Time Trapper/Glorith mini-reboot in the “Five Years Later” Legion of Super-Heroes, and the Threeboot Legion.

Really, anything that could be explained by a “Superboy punch” can be treated as a patch.

In between are the events that retcon a bunch of characters across the line, but only change the distant past and behind-the-scenes events. The DC Universe after Zero Hour was very much like the DC Universe after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The DC Universe after Infinite Crisis were very much like the DC Universe after Zero Hour. Zero Hour…aside from the reboot Legion, most of the retroactive changes were details. Infinite Crisis may have set up the return of the multiverse, but it happened in a way that no one in the main universe noticed for over a year. I’d compare these to service packs.

So in a way, DC’s right: it’s not a “reboot.” It’s a reinstall.

10 responses to “Is “Reboot” The Right Word?”

  1. Kyer says:

    In my case I look upon the whole thing like I do with my reality:

    For years I adored Mac OSX and their machines and eschewed PC’s. When my Leopard reached the typical age that my computers start to die, I naturally went to Apple to look at the new Lion minis. To my horror, they’d changed not only the osx but also the hardware so much I could not tolerate it so after much hand-wringing I purchased a Windows 7 instead. I still use the Mac, but increasingly less and less until sometimes I forget to turn it on at all…something unthinkable back in mid July.

    Yep….for me that’s a good comparison: not a reboot or a reinstall….a different life altogether. One where Flash is only minimally in my life rather than a vast percentage of it.

    The pain of it is I still wish I could have kept with Macs forever, as I did prefer the osx…just like I preferred DC characters over Marvel.

    Damn you Apple, and damn you DC for making yourselves second-best in my eyes.

  2. Lia says:

    And like a computer upgrade, plenty of the alterations annoy the hell out of me and I never end up liking, while others are okay and even better. Heh.

    Haven’t found anything I prefer about this one yet, though.

    • Penny Dreadful says:

      Well, a handful of books are promising to me (Birds of Prey, Demon Knights, Swamp Thing). But those seem like continuations and new takes on characters. They didn’t throw out any babies with the bathwater…which is why I like them.

  3. Zachary Adams says:

    I’ve still been calling it the Reheat.

    And I can think of one thing I prefer so far: Ryan Choi not having died in an incredibly stupid way.

    • Kyer says:

      Dude! The *Reheat* is perfect! All the old is being rewarmed only in their careless haste some of the food got thrown out with the aluminum foil. Sure, they threw out some of the rotten stuff, but they also tossed a lot of the choicest bits. They also decided to add some ‘spice’ that left me choking and in tears.

      Maybe we should call in that cooking critic guy on TV? 😛

    • Penny Dreadful says:

      I think rehead is good, too.

      Here is my guess: the decision for this so-called “reboot” came when Didio and Lee’s bosses called them into the office, showed them some DC sales charts compared to Marvels and told them to make some changes or people would lose their jobs.

      So DC’s staff gets to keep their jobs and maybe they get nice bonuses.

      I still think the reboot will gradually go the way of “Heroes Reborn.” Wouldn’t be surprised if Wally and Donna come back soon, either.

      I’m not pissed about the continuity changes, per se, simply the broken promises and general lying coming from the DC staff. To be honest, if they couldn’t care less about the Flash, why should I? Too many wonderful books to worry about the umpteenth Flash reboot.

      PS: I thought Flash 1 was okay but not great. Art was lovely, but it was one of the books I dropped after the first issue. And as I’ve said, I simply don’t trust anything DC says about its direction for the book.

      • Realitätsprüfung says:

        Actually, Didio has gone on record as saying he intended to reboot the DCU several times before, but management above him didn’t feel the timing was right.

        He’s said that Final Crisis was originally going to lead to a line-wide reboot, but WB / Levitz were iffy on the idea, and they had to shift gears midstory to go back to the old DCU. But that’s why Barry was brought back in that story – to herald a reboot.

        It’s actually been Didio’s plan to reboot since at least Infinite Crisis, which explains a lot of their moves – shuffling Wally and co. off to another dimension in IC, hinting that Barry was coming back with One Year Later and Lightning Saga, killing Bart off, Final Crisis, etc.

        Several of those instances were likely intended to be the start-over point, but they didn’t get to the finish line until Lee and Didio got promoted.

        • Penny Dreadful says:

          I know that’s what Didio says, but I tend to take a lot of what he says with a grain of salt. He also at one point (ca. 2007 or 2008) said that Barry Allen wasn’t coming back. He and writers have said conflicting things about, say, 52. Then there’s the timing of the reboot/reheat/whatever, soon after the start or retooling of several series. It was obviously rushed.

          • Realitätsprüfung says:

            It’s not just Didio or what he says/said, though. If you line up most of the “big” changes DC’s done with its primary JLA characters since about 2006, it’s clear, in retrospect, that they kept building towards a start-over.

            Morrison has also talked a bit about that initial plan for Final Crisis. I mean, it’s even hinted at in the name – the Final Crisis. It was designed to hit the reset button.

            And looking back, it’s clear that 52 / One Year Later was a second-best option to soft reboot lots of franchises, such as Flash with Bart, until they could go full boar with a “Final” Crisis. Which (ironically) ended up being the second-to-last.

  4. Penny Dreadful says:

    Even if they had a vague idea, they seem to have gone in without a plan of what shape a reboot would take once it was underway–or what previous continuity would be like. And it was suddenly rushed through instead of gradually unfolding. I just wonder about the timing/execution of it, especially with all the mixed signals about DC history coming from these guys.

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