Saturday, July 5, 2008

When Reboots Go Wrong

Publishers try to keep characters fresh and relevant. It can happen by either introducing some new love interest, powerful new villain, or create some new weakness in that hero. Every so often though, a publisher may decide the best thing to have happen is to reboot that character altogether. Sometimes it's as simple as a change of direction for the book, but then other times it's much more severe. Very quickly, here's my list of the worst reboots in the past decade.

Hawk and Dove
Don and Hank Hall were brothers who had completely different ideas of violence. Hank was more outspoken, while Don was a pacifist. Some strange voice gave them super powers and they became Hawk and Dove. While neither could fly (despite being named after birds that could), they both had very cool costumes and could fight crime with boosted strength and agility. Unfortunately, Don died during the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and Hank went into a downward spiral. It wasn't until a new female Dove was introduced that he got a grip on reality again. Unfortunately, DC had already made plans for Hank to be the supervillain Monarch during Zero Hour and killing him off. Though they changed those plans later and made Monarch Captain Atom (before later reconning that and making Hank Monarch after all), Hank wasn't long for this world. He eventually died by taking the place of his mother on a plane that he knew was destined to crash. DC's plan on this one was to reboot them with a sex change. Now sisters instead of brothers, DC brought this pair back and they are now members of the Titans East. They bicker, they fight, they're siblings...DC really made a stretch on changing these heroes.

The Blue Beetle

This character actually went through two reboots, but it's the second and third one we'll focus on. Ted Kord was just a normal guy with cool gadgets and a desire to help people. Originally a Charleston Comics character that DC bought (and the inspiration for "Nite Owl" in "Watchmen"), Kord was relegated to second-tier status for most of his stay at DC. He and Booster Gold made this unlikely hero pair who played off each other well in Justice League International. Unfortunately, DC needed a strong statement to begin the Infinite Crisis and that meant a hero had to die. BB's number was up and they gave him this incredibly cool double-sized issue adventure that finally turned him into the awesome fighting/thinking hero he was always meant to be. Then they shot him in the head and killed him. Great, make him cool and then kill him. DC's reboot of this character involved the mystic scarab finding another host (this time a teenager) and giving him weird new powers. Why this scarab never did a blasted thing for Ted Kord we'll never know. Now we have teen angst and those wonderful light-hearted moments as the teen discovers he's a hero and how to deal with his powers. Thanks DC, you've really done it again. Where do you guys get so many knives to stick into the readers' backs like that?

The White Tiger

Hector Ayala found the mystic amulets from the Sons of the Tigers and became the first major Puerto Rican hero, The White Tiger. While wearing one of the most understated costumes in comics, he was awesome! Wearing the amulets gave him fighting skills and speed he never had before. He fought alongside Iron Fist, Shang Chi, Spider-Man, and others before Marvel decided to retire him. First through cancer and later through a gunshot after being framed for murder. The amulets were eventually passed on (by Daredevil) to a new keeper. Angela Del Toro became the new White Tiger. Not really interested in being a hero, she eventually came to her senses and has run with it ever sense. Sporting a newer, flashier costume than her predecessor, she still manages to find time to fight crime (though in a more violent title than the standard Spider-Man fare). What's wrong with this one? It's simple: it was unnecessary. Why kill Hector off? If you were going to stick with the Hispanic hero theme, why not stick with the character who had an established history in the Marvel universe? Bringing Iron Fist back with a new title would have given a golden opportunity to make this character a guest star or recurring role as they'd already been partners. This was rebooting just for rebooting's sake.

And our grand prize winner...

Remember that scene in Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswald finds out his Christmas bonus is the "Jelly of the Month" club? Remember that tirade he goes off on describing his boss? That's exactly how the readers of Spider-Man felt when they finished the last of the 4-part "One More Day" story. This was the biggest, back-stabbing move Marvel has made in...ever. While we were willing to stick through the Clone Saga and even Spidey's reboot into Ben Reilly and back again, the "One More Day" storyline killed all hope for the hero. Ok, Peter unmasks during the Civil War and his family suddenly becomes a target. While I didn't agree with the idea at the time, this one incident changed the dynamic of Spider-Man stories for the better. It was killer! Suddenly, Spidey was having to protect his wife and aunt while avoiding Iron Man's registration cronies. One incident in particular stick out: Mary Jane is in a restaurant being told by a SHEILD agent to get her husband to turn himself in. It eventually turns out that everyone in the restaurant is actually an agent and they've laid a trap for Spidey. Mary Jane never bats an eye, just saying her husband will come and get her--and he does! Smackdown through a load of agents gunning for him and spectacular escape with the wife who never lost confidence in him. I was loving Spider-Man comics again!

Then someone shoots Aunt May.

Let's be honest here: that old bat is Marvel's favorite character. She could have a nuclear bomb go off in her purse and she'd still live through it unscratched. And even if she did die, how would that leave some huge hole in the universe? She's a security blanket for Peter Parker, that's all. Mephisto gives Peter a chance to get his aunt back by giving up his love and life with Mary Jane, including all remembrance of such...and Peter does it without blinking an eye! With that one move, Peter backstabs the one woman who loves him and has stood by him through every stupid decision he's made in the past 20 years and single-handedly proves he didn't deserve her loyalty in the first place! He also shows himself the ultimate momma's boy by choosing his aunt over his wife! And with that simple move, Marvel says to the fans "Hey, all that stuff you've read over the past 20 years? None of it counts. It didn't happen. Nanny nanny boo boo!"

Never mind the fact that they had the Skrull invasion coming up and could have easily explained away Peter's unmasking if they were so concerned about the status quo of the comic. That would have been too easy. No, I imagine the tequila was flowing freely during that executive meeting. How could rebooting the linchpin character of the Marvel Universe seem like a good idea without some serious problems with numerous other stories that had been told in the past 20 years? And yet none of those other titles (with the exception of New Avengers) even gave a passing mention to the event.

In this category, hands-down Marvel is the winner. There's not even a close contender for second.

Next time, we look at the flip side of the coin. There are actually more occasions when a reboot goes right than you might think. And the top spot? Well, that has to go to DC.

1 comment:

Rick said...

DC and Marvel have to understand when you reboot you need to work with the characters that you already have. Maybe introduce a new one but don't kill anyone off. Sure it makes headlines and on a slow news day may even make the major papers but that is just a short lived PR stunt.
I long for the days when death in the comic books was rare. Now it is all too common.

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