The Story Remains the Same: Why the DC Reboot Is Ultimately Irrelevant
It's been reported that DC Comics is set to reboot its entire continuity for, what? The third time? Fourth? We lost track awhile back. The reboot will give writers a chance to explore the characters from a more modern point of view as Marvel did with their Ultimate relaunch, and will hopefully draw in new readers who are unfamiliar with the decades of history built up around characters they may only know from TV and movies.
Needless to say, DC is taking the whole thing very seriously, and honestly we have to question why. Sure, they're hitting CTRL+ALT+DEL on tens of thousands of characters in a marketing ploy, but folks, it really is irrelevant. They did much the same through the Crises storylines, and it made very little difference in the long run.
There's nothing wrong with a reboot. It gives a comic company an opportunity to incorporate new scientific breakthroughs or discoveries, weed out things that are no longer socially acceptable, explore new ground in what is permissible in the pages of a comic and, most of all, eliminate the baggage that characters like Batman bring with them. It gives fewer boundaries and more freedom, though, of course, at the expense of history.
Still, in the end a reboot does very little for an enduring character like Superman, and the reason lies within the unique place comic book characters have in the art world. They are creations who have long since become independent of their creators or storytellers. Only a few literary figures such as Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes or Cthulhu can be said to have achieved that title, and they appear in comics books all the time anyway.
The best way to think of these characters is to compare them to the Greek myths we all learned about in school. We're all familiar with Orpheus in the underworld, or the labors of Hercules, or any of dozens of stories we read from Edith Hamilton's book in middle school, but there may be one aspect from those stories you might have forgotten.
Having reread Hamilton's book recently, you notice how meticulous she is mentioning variations. Some writers will credit a Greek queen as the mother of a hero, others will make her a muse. Slight variances in telling in each story show that the different tellers were putting their own spin on the tale, or were perhaps confused in the details. This almost exactly mirrors the evolution of the modern superhero.
Sure, in the myths the minor points rarely matter much. After all, it's Orpheus's quest for his love, Hera's jealousy and Daedalus's brilliance that are the core of the stories. The same hold true for superheros.
No DC reboot is going to do something like resurrect Batman's parents. Or if they try it, it will only be temporary. Why? Because the death of his parents is Batman's story. It is integral to who he is and who he becomes. By changing that, you make him no longer Batman, and the world wants us a freakin' Batman.