The world of superhero comic books can be daunting to anyone without a glorious neck-beard.
These comics are entrenched in a long, complicated cannon that literally can span decades and be completely impenetrable to outsiders.
DC Comics, publisher of “Justice League,” “Superman” and “Batman,” realized this and planned a major reboot to wipe the slate clean and restart all of their 52 comic lines at number one, starting with “Justice League No. 1” which came out on Aug. 31.
DC’s new release was dubbed “New 52” and they began a campaign to get the word out, which included actually marketing to people other than hardcore fans by using TV commercials.
A reboot in the comic book universe usually entails killing off “frivolous” characters that don’t have as much broad appeal as the heavy hitters such as “Batman” or “Aquaman.”
So far they’ve been pretty successful. “Justice League No. 1” had a print run of more than 200,000 copies, making it the best-selling comic book for the month of August, according to a statement issued by DC.
Local comic book stores have seen positive reactions to “New 52.”
Ed Katayama, owner of A Hidden Fortress in Simi Valley, said that despite initially receiving a lukewarm reaction from the fans, sales picked up.
“Overall it’s done very well, I’ve got more people who want to reserve copies, more people coming in and buying it,” Katayama said. “Now will that continue? That’s going to be hard to say.”
Katayama said that the media coverage has definitely helped out.
“A lot of the time it has everything to do with media coverage, there’s a lot of media coverage then it just excites a lot of people,” Katayama said.
While sales are a good thing in an industry that has had a slow couple of years, reboots can be a tricky thing to sell the hardcore fans.
This is because to a lot of them, the most important thing in a comic book universe is canon. Characters and stories evolve over years in a way that really takes advantage of the medium.
Another problem with a reboot is that it never lasts long.
Usually when a new readership comes into a title they hear about a bunch of characters that are now either dead or just written out all together.
The new readership then becomes interested and wants those characters back and then slowly but surely everything goes back to the way it was before the reboot, until once again the main comic book storyline becomes too complicated for new readers and everything has to be rebooted yet again.
Personally I’m a fan of giving people a kind of entry point into a series.
I only really began reading comics regularly when I discovered “Ultimate Spiderman,” a more modern take on the “Spiderman” character that existed outside of the main storyline.
Of course I eventually lost track of that continuity until I learned that the original “Ultimate Spiderman” was dead. Sounds pretty complicated now.
We might need an “Ultimate Ultimate Spiderman.”
Still, I can understand why other comic nerds would be irritated by having to constantly relearn how to ride a bike.
Fans might be willing to forgive all that if the new comics are worth the paper they’re printed on.
According to Mike Sweeney at Dreamworld Comics in Simi Valley, the new number ones have made a convert out of him.
“I haven’t picked up a DC (comic) book in years and years and years, so I’ve gotten several since this relaunch,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney mainly read Marvel up until “New 52,” a migration that he’s seen a lot of the store regulars embrace.
“It’s getting fans. More like taking fans away from Marvel towards DC instead of towards comics in general,” Sweeney said.
Even though Dreamworld hasn’t seen much of a pick up in sales as a direct result of the reboot, it has made the fans happy. In the end that might be more important than bringing in sales.
The comic book nerds are the ones who will stick things out even when Spiderman is replaced by a clone and Batman is killed and brought back as a pirate.
God bless those people.
Published Sept. 28, 2011