DC are the undisputed champions of comic book reboots. Ever since “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, DC have been delivering sick clotheslines and powerbombs to continuity errors, paving the way for a glut of retcons, reboots and “not reboots” in superhero comics. Thing is, ever since the first “Crisis”, DC have kind of been chasing their tails with the whole reboot thing. It seems like every reboot intends to fix the last, bringing its own issues that need to be fixed with, surprise, another reboot! Some have been more concerned with costumes, some have tried to reinvigorate interest in dormant characters and, seemingly, some have just been for the hell of it.
Now don’t get confused, some DC reboots have been great. Green Lantern: Rebirth transformed the franchise into a lynchpin. The Wally West era of The Flash is a fan favorite. The latest reboot, Rebirth, has been well received by critics and fans alike. But, sadly, this isn’t a list of good DC reboots. No, this is a list of the reboots DC should avoid like an ex from a bad break-up. From bad costume changes to inexplicable creative directions, join us dear friends as we look at the 15 most embarrassing DC reboots. Don’t cringe too hard.
15. RED AND BLUE SUPERMAN
Red and Blue Superman are pretty prominent examples of how not to reboot your property. Interestingly, they’re actually a reboot of an old Golden Age concept, where Superman gets split into Red and Blue versions due to an intelligence increasing machine going awry. The concept was revisited in the ‘90s, where Superman loses his powers but is also split into two versions that have powers, which doesn’t make any sense.
Blue Supes was more intellectual and Red Supes was more punchy, but both preferred their new forms to the original Superman and showed a reluctance to join again to form original flavor Superman. Generally speaking, the whole thing was a debacle. Fans didn’t respond well at the time, with time and distance not softening anyone’s opinions. Ultimately Red and Blue Supes did become original Superman again, their issues cursed to languish in back issue bins and thrift stores.
In which Aquaman can’t speak to sea creatures, has his hand chewed off by piranhas, replaces said hand with a harpoon hand and generally abandons personal hygiene in favor of a beard and long hair. Admittedly, that’s a lot for one person to go through without turning a bit mental. The best/worst thing about this edgy reboot of Aquaman is the fact that when his famous orange shirt is destroyed in a fight with Lobo, Aquaman apparently takes it as a sign and just doesn’t put another shirt on.
You know you’re deep into an existential crisis when you lose clothing in a fistfight and don’t bother replacing it. This odd series of events killed the sales of the book and resulted in Aquaman taking a two-year convalescence, presumably on the orders of his doctor. It’s almost so bad that it flips into good again. Almost.
13. ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN
Frank Miller has provided some of the most iconic Batman stories ever. Year One is still held as a definitive take on his origins, no matter its canonical status. The Dark Knight Returns has been incredibly influential on not only Batman as a character, but the medium of comics as a whole. But All-Star Batman and Robin stands as the moment where you can see Frank Miller give in to crochety old white man-ness, resulting in an infamously awful series.
It’s sexist, homophobic and ableist. Its Batman is a scumbag who kidnaps a child and makes him eat rats. All-Star Batman and Robin is a burst of nonsensical rage that genuinely sullies the beloved character of Batman. Even the unintentional hilarity of Batman painting himself and an entire room yellow to screw with Green Lantern can’t save this book. If DC isn’t embarrassed by it, they should be.
12. JLA DETROIT
It’s often said that DC heroes are akin to gods, larger than life beings who protect us from gargantuan threats. It’s DC’s niche in the superhero market, opposed to the “outside your window” approach of Marvel. However, in 1986 DC wanted to “get down with the kids” and the JLA ended up in Detroit. It was essentially an attempt to rebrand the Justice League of America into a trendy, localized super-team in the X-Men/Teen Titans mold.
Supes, Batman and Wonder Woman left the team, replaced with characters like Gypsy (really?), Vibe (who?) and Steel (not robot-Superman). By the end of the series two of the new members were dead, with the rest fading into the background after the book’s cancellation. It’s since become a bit of a running joke, despite the characters being embraced in the CW DC shows. Funny how things work out.
Superboy suffers from reboot syndrome, a debilitating and terminal disease where the comic company that owns him can’t decide what to do with him and keeps altering/rewriting his origins and character in wild bids to strike lucky. Which is a shame, because he’s actually got a solid fanbase and could be fantastic, if they could only cure him of his awful affliction. Oh wait, they could!
Superboy’s been a clone duplicate of Superman, a hybrid clone of Supes and Lex Luthor and then a replication of Superman and Lois Lane’s son from one of many potential futures. Why all the tomfoolery? We’re patiently waiting for the reveal that Superboy is a genetically engineered approximation of a human version of Krypto the Super Dog. You can have that for free, DC.
DC have a Hawkman problem. In that they cannot for the life of them decide who and what he is. He’s been a reincarnated Egyptian Prince. He’s been a member of an alien race called Thanagarians that policed the galaxy and had a general affinity towards hawks, which apparently still exist on alien planets. Then there were multiple Hawkmen kicking around, so DC did the smart thing and introduced more of them. Wait, what?
Then they tried to merge everything together, like a kid making shampoo potions in the bath, and had Hawkman be the avatar of a Thanagarian Hawk God. Our head hurts just thinking about it. Hopefully DC take the opportunity that Rebirth has given them to solve their Hawkman problem once and for all, because we’re getting exhausted keeping track.
A list about bad DC reboots wouldn’t be complete without the New 52 rearing its misshapen head, would it? Lobo stands as one of the more confusing New 52 reboots, as it remoulded him into pretty much the antithesis of what made fans love him in the first place. Replacing his wild, unhinged cosmic biker look, DC introduced a Lobo that looked more Casanova than Hell’s Angel.
The worst thing about the entire debacle was that, in introducing the new, svelte Lobo, DC were establishing the old, fan-favorite Lobo as an imposter. So it wasn’t even that Lobo looked different, we were essentially told that the old one sucked and we should get used to the new, sexy Lobo. That tact didn’t last long though. Old Lobo soon returned and sexy Lobo has been the subject of scathing meta-commentary within Rebirth. So, everything worked out in the end?
The ‘90s brought us Fate, a ridiculous attempt to revitalize Dr. Fate with a ‘90s aesthetic. Fate #1 introduced a grave robbing a-hole called Jared Stevens, who took a job to steal the Dr. Fate artifacts. Naturally, the job went sideways, ending with Stevens completely disrespecting the artifacts to fight some demons. Trying to use the ankh as a weapon, it explodes and leaves an ankh shaped scar on his face (of course it did, it was the ‘90s).
He used the cloak to bandage his injured arm, which is possibly the least inventive use for a magical cloak ever conceived. Most egregiously, he melted down the helmet to make weapons. Dude, that is not cool. DC eventually realized the error of their ways and ended the series. Doctor Fate’s artifacts were restored, returning to the Tower of Fate to be picked up by someone who’ll actually respect them.
7. ATOM AND THE TEEN TITANS
The Atom is enjoying an unprecedented surge in popularity due to his starring role in the CW show Legends of Tomorrow. Back in the ‘90s, however, the Atom was firmly a C-Tier hero and as such was subject to comic book hi-jinks to drum up interest in the character. Namely being de-aged into a teenage form, ditching the technological aspect and taking a demotion. Poor Ray Palmer.
The events of “Zero Hour”, where Hal Jordan/Parallax rewrites DC continuity because editorial asked him to, brought this new status quo for the Atom and it was odd. He ended up leading a new Teen Titans team of no-name alien heroes, which is a far cry from the Justice League membership he used to enjoy. Naturally, it was all reversed eventually, with Ray Palmer regaining his adult body and the memories he’d lost as a result of the de-aging process.
6. THE JOKER
Snyder and Capullo often struck gold in their heralded New 52 run on Batman. They took a lot of risks too, introducing the Court of Owls and having Jim Gordon act as Batman in a giant mecha. They also tried to tell us The Joker is immortal, which frankly nobody really bought. The “Endgame” arc introduced the concept of a mysterious meteorite that landed on Earth, bestowed with mortality-eschewing radiation.
Joker apparently found the meteorite before the founding of Gotham and has been roaming around since. While an interesting attempt to expand the mythology of both The Joker and Gotham City, the concept of an immortal Joker kind of misses the point of the character and his relationship to Batman. It also raises questions like when did he start calling himself The Joker? Or wearing makeup? And why would he even care about Batman if he lived forever?
Another reboot from, you guessed it, the ‘90s! In a typically convoluted backstory, plantation slaves harnessed a mystical artefact called the Blood Gem to kill their owner. Yes, really. The gem was passed down to their descendants, and this introduces us to the necromancer Bloodwynd. Turns out, the plantation owner ended up trapped inside the gem, incarnate as a demon called Rott.
Rott used the power of the Gem to brainwash Martian Manhunter, who somehow became Bloodwynd. Or was possessed by him? We don’t know. Eventually, the real Bloodwynd was freed and ended up becoming its own entity, joining the Justice League. It begs the question: why did Martain Manhunter have to be involved in all this? If you had an original character, why do you need to reboot an existing one to establish it? To then launch the character as its own separate being is horribly confusing.
4. WONDER WOMAN
In a peak “women are objects” move, a change in status saw Diana Prince lose her Wonder Woman title and end up entirely decked out in leather and straps. Come on, DC. Diana lost the Wonder Woman title through a rigged contest set up by Hippolyta, ostensibly to save Diana’s life. Artemis landed the Wonder Woman gig, and Diana landed an all leather look that surely would have caused dehydration issues whilst fighting crime. Never mind the chafing.
The costume looks like Motley Crue designed it, and you should never let Motley Crue do anything, never mind reimagine a feminist icon. A reboot for the sake of a reboot, it only served to frustratingly sexualize Diana further. Amusingly however, “Wonder Woman” did in fact die after the contest, with Artemis unwittingly taking one for the team, essentially because Hippolyta played favorites. Harsh.
3. AZRAEL AS BATMAN
What can be said about Azrael that hasn’t already been said? The ‘90s craze of replacing beloved characters with sociopathic lunatics was blossoming and it was Batman’s turn to step in to the revolving door. After Bane makes an admittedly impressive entrance in the DC Universe by marching in and breaking Batman’s back, Azrael took up the mantle of Batman (or the Bat-mantle, if you will).
Azrael, influenced by some brainwashing from crazy religious nuts, flouts the “no killing” rule, beats up Tim Drake and bans him from the Batcave and, possibly the worst of all, dons a truly hideous armored costume. Eventually plot happens, with Bruce Wayne returning to give Azrael an almighty beatdown and recover the Batman persona. It was peak ‘90s and a weird time for the Bat-books.
2. THE ROGUES
You could write a whole list about the missteps of the New 52, many people have! However, we’re going to focus on the Rogues. In a move that irritated fans more than anything else, Captain Cold spurred the Rogues to undergo a procedure that would fuse them with their weaponry. Naturally, the procedure backfired. Yeah, it did give the Rogues the powers of their weapons, but it also left them with adverse side effects like depression and barbequed bodies.
They all blamed Cold for it and turned against him, which we’re not sure he would really care about. Attempting to give the Rogues natural superpowers is misguided, going against the reasons fans loved them in the first place. It served no real narrative purpose, and was generally just a big ‘ol misstep.
1. POWER GIRL
Power Girl was originally introduced as the Earth 2 version of Supergirl. After “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, however, DC had a problem. They’d just blown the DC Multiverse to smithereens, meaning Power Girl should have went with it, but she was just too popular for them to get rid of. So, in a move that confused everyone, they made her an Atlantean. Power Girl being Atlantean made her close relationships to Superman, Supergirl and Huntress really hard to square away, and generally just caused more mess.
Why they couldn’t just invent a new Kryptonian origin for her is beyond us. Eventually her origin was restored back to Krypton with “Infinite Crisis”, so all’s well that ends well we suppose. All those reboots and they didn’t want to fix the massive boob window though. Comic book priorities, are we right? Sigh.
Are there any other reboots that DC messed up? Let us know in the comments!
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