A question for comic book fans about the whole DC Comics renumbering thing

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I’ve never read comic books.

Well, maybe once or twice when I was a kid and someone gave one to me, I might have skimmed it, but I never really got into them, certainly never voluntarily bought any, and never collected comics. This is nothing again comic books. I was just too busy with other things: science fiction, Little League, and the usual trouble that a 10-year old will find himself in. By the time I became a serious fan of science fiction (that is–by the time I recognized there was a fandom and I was part of it) my preferences had been molded. Given the choice between a new science fiction novel or a new comic book, I’d always choose the former over the latter.

On the other hand, I’ve always been a fan of Superman. When I was a kid, I’d watch reruns of The Adventures of Superman. I’d run around the house with a towel hanging from my shirt like a cape, pretending to fly. I watched reruns of Superman: The Movie and Superman II on HBO endlessly. I was delighted by the Lois & Clark series, watched every episode of Smallville breathlessly. I even enjoyed the Superman Returns reboot of a few years ago. To this day, however, I’ve never read a Superman comic.

Part of the reason is that I didn’t grow up with comics. But my interest in comics has increased over the years. Comics are a big part of fandom, and besides, I’ve gotten to know people who are big comic fans–and have even written for the comics. But the biggest reason that I haven’t read a Superman comic is probably because I’d want to start at the very beginning. And that is virtually impossible. As I understand it, that Action Comics that featured the first appearance of Superman is extremely rare. But then, DC Comics announced this renumbering

Not being a comic book fan, I’m not sure what this means. It read it as meaning a number of possible things:

  1. DC is reissuing all of their comics with some kind of consistent number scheme.
  2. DC is “rebooting” all of their comics with a more contemporary story line, in much the way that Smallville was a contemporary re-telling of how Clark Kent became Superman.
  3. None of the above

On the Interwebs, comic book fans seem to be upset with this move by DC Comics and as purists, I can understand that. But as someone who has never read comic books and is looking for a way in, this seems like it would provide a perfect entry point for me. It has the added bonus of making the comics available in digital format the same day they are released in paper format. I must say that I am impressed by the DC Comics app for the iPad and it would be nice to be able to subscribe and receive the comics in the same way that I subscribe and receive Analog and Asimov’s for the Kindle. Digital clutter is easier for me to manage than paper stacks, and it fits nicely with my paperless lifestyle.

So I have a question for comic book fans about the whole DC Comics renumbering thing: what exactly does it means? Keep in mind I know nothing about comics, but from what I’ve read about this change, it is aimed at people like me, who want to get into a particular comic from the beginning. Am I understanding this correctly? Is it a renumbering? A reboot? If I get the new #1 will I really be starting at the beginning of a new story line? Or is it the same story line, “renumbered”? Help a fellow understand what this all means. I’d appreciate your expertise and insight on the matter.

2 thoughts on “A question for comic book fans about the whole DC Comics renumbering thing

  1. DC is being cagey about many details, but I think I can safely say two things:

    1. It doesn’t completely start from Square One by having all the heroes go through their origins again — we do not have to see Batman’s parents gunned down for the umpteenth time. The announced line-up contains several versions of Robin, so it’s safe to say that Batman has been around long enough to have had several kid sidekicks who grew up and went solo.

    2. On the other hand, it looks like DC is going to throw away a lot of back history to make their universe more accessible and welcoming to new readers. They’ve said that their survival depends on attracting new readers (especially younger ones) and that’s the major reason for the relaunch. I believe this will mean new takes on many characters: retaining elements that are well-established in the popular imagination, but aiming for fresh approaches on everything.

    My guess is that they’ll have some history-altering event in the current version of the universe that will lead to the new version. This will mean that some existing continuity will remain intact, but they’ll have the freedom to change whatever they want.

    As for Superman, they’ve promised a mix of new and old, but haven’t given specifics. For example, they’ve been careful not to reveal whether Lois and Clark will be married in the new version. They’ve also hinted at a new vision for the Daily Planet. All in all, the writers seem very excited with their new approaches, so I’m keen to see what they come up with. I’ll definitely check out many of the new titles to see where things are going.

  2. Jim, thanks. It sounds like it could be a good time for someone like me to jump in. I think your idea on the “history-altering event” is an intriguing one. I’d be interested in that story line should they choose to go in that direction.

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