Stick world wide of superhero comics fandom lengthy sufficient, and also you’re certain to listen to somebody complaining about reboots. Or retcons. Or relaunches. However what do these phrases imply? Aren’t all of them the identical factor? Must you even be complaining about them? (Nah, I’ll do it for you.)
Right here’s a fast and soiled information to those associated phrases:
Let’s begin right here, because the different phrases are partially outlined by whether or not they do or don’t contain retconning. “Retcon” is brief for “retroactive continuity,” and it principally means altering beforehand established info in a story.
As you may think, with 80 years of historical past, superhero comics do that on a regular basis. For instance, Marvel Lady’s origin story was as soon as carefully tied to World Struggle II, and Iron Man’s to the Vietnam Struggle. Since each heroes are purported to be vaguely 30ish in that nonspecific comics manner, their backstories (and people of many different characters with related origins) have been retconned many occasions through the years to maintain them younger and spry.
Different occasions, a retcon is likely to be finished to patch over an error (Hawkman is a superb instance of this going very, very unsuitable), to take away dated and problematic parts, or simply as a result of the author feels prefer it. The retcon is likely to be laboriously defined within the comics, or it’d simply be dropped in there like “We’re altering issues, cope with it.” Retaining observe of comics’ infinite retcons is principally not possible, however I hold attempting to do it anyway as a result of I’m cussed. Don’t be like me.
Ah, reboots, probably the most reviled of those phrases. A reboot is principally when a writer hits the reset button and begins telling their story over once more. The time period has crept over to motion pictures and TV, and it’s principally the identical as changing Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man with Tom Holland — all of the outdated stuff will get thrown out the window, prefer it or not, and the entire shemozzle begins over once more with the identical important premise (“younger man has spider powers, nervousness”).
DC specifically may be very keen on reboots: they’ve finished main ones in 1985, 1994, 2011, 2016, and 2021. These will be laborious reboots, like 2011’s New 52, which fully wiped the slate clear and began each single ebook over from zero, or softer reboots like 2016’s Rebirth, which gently smooshed the pre-52 and post-52 continuities collectively in a complicated sandwich of “each are true without delay! one way or the other!”
As you’ll be able to think about, they trigger loads of frustration when beloved tales, characters, and relationships are rendered out of date, but in addition provide loads of potential for dynamic new storytelling. Reboots are themselves probably the most large of retcons, and likewise typically require many smaller subsequent retcons to scrub up the fallout. Now you see why I defined that phrase first.
Publishers know that many readers don’t like reboots, so that you’ll typically see them saying “This isn’t a reboot, it’s a relaunch.” (DC used this language for each Rebirth and 2021’s Infinite Frontier.) What precisely it means varies every time, nevertheless it usually implies that though all of the books may get canceled and begin over with new #1s, and continuity will in all probability be tweaked right here and there, it’s not the wholesale cleansing home you get with reboots. Generally continuity doesn’t even actually change, it’s simply a chance to publish an entire bunch of recent #1s and seize some headlines. Which brings us to…
#1’s promote higher than another challenge of a comic book, which is smart when you think about what number of readers (and extra importantly, comedian ebook shops) may check out a model new ebook to see in the event that they prefer it, versus leaping on with #8 or #15 or #379. Lately, publishers take principally any alternative to publish #1’s so as to see that spike in gross sales. Reboots and relaunches will do it, however you may as well simply…cancel the ebook and begin over with out altering anything.
Marvel loves doing this. Whereas DC can’t cease rebooting, Marvel will simply cancel their complete line and launch a brand new wave of #1’s each couple of years, typically with the very same titles and artistic groups. This will have ludicrous results: in 2015, for instance, they printed two fully totally different problems with The Unbeatable Squirrel Lady #1, one in March and one in October, with the identical inventive staff, persevering with the identical story. It’s very humorous and likewise irritating in the event you’re attempting to get new readers into comics with out complicated them.
There may be additionally a sure cache in very excessive numbers, as a result of whenever you hit #500 or #750 or #1000, you may make an enormous fuss about it, fee a dozen variant covers, and promote it for like $15. For this reason, for instance, the numbering of the 2014 quantity of Improbable 4 goes #1-14 after which instantly jumps to #642. You recognize, like numbers do. (The subsequent and present collection, which started in 2018, began at #1, in fact.)
In conclusion, no, it’s not you, comics are simply Like That. Hopefully this helped clear up some questions for you! If you happen to’re nonetheless confused, my recommendation is, as all the time, to embrace the confusion. Comics are ridiculous and byzantine, however they’re nonetheless fairly nice, rebooty warts and all.
Even when they don’t know tips on how to rely.