Many a times people read a comic or book, or watch a show or film, and thought to themselves “What happens if this or that happened instead”. Some people manage to grow up and get into the industry, and then make stories for their beloved characters. But do this one too many times, and it might be impossible to change a story bent every which way by predecessors. Or it would be difficult for a storyteller to make a story ‘in character’ as the preceeding. So then you have to opt to either retcon or go for a reboot.
A reboot essentially wipes the slate of previous continuity in order to have a fresh start. There are varying degrees of this, ranging from one that simply keeps the characters and resets the plot, letting the writer tell the story again in their own words. Other times they swap out characters as well as the story. And the biggest one of them all throws everything out in favor of a whole new cast in a whole new setting, with some element that ties into the original story.
There are various reasons why this would happen. One reason, as mentioned previously, is that the current story writer can not tell a story in the current continuity without messing with established elements. Maybe the plot left behind by the predecessor left such a bad taste in the mouths of fans that the new writer would rather not associate themselves with prior canon. Or there was a plot that the writer wanted to tell in a different style or direction. A big one is that the last story told was a long time ago, and so the writers wanted to make the story relate to the more modern era.
This might sound scary at times, seeing a character you grew up with to care about have to start over, and some fans don’t appreciate it. But it’s not always so bad. A minor form of resetting is apparent in the Dr. Who series, when a new showrunner takes over and they swap out who gets to be the Doctor and who his companions are. There are also plenty of film reboots, such as the Dark Knight Trilogy which restarted the storyline after the more sillier “Batman and Robin” came out.
A reoccuring theme that I’ve seen also seen are the television show reboots that have been happening within the last decade. Shows from the 80’s and 90’s are reappearing, such as Thundercats, Strawberry Shortcake, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Littlest Pet Shop, G.I. Joe, Transformers, and the very popular My Little Pony.
But enough about those media, back to comics. Now there have been several story lines that were used in both Marvel and D.C. in order to wipe the slate. The big three by D.C. was the “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, which rebooted the history of characters, while keeping the characters themselves intact, “Infinite Crisis” which modified the characters after the former reboot, and “New 52” which reset everything again for a more modern audience. Now on the other hand, Marvel hasn’t done too much of a grand universal reboot, but instead opted to have plotlines that alter the story in order to retell narratives. Retcons, which are short for Retroactive Continuity, alters the events of a story earlier in order to fit the current plotline. When the changes work in tandem with established events, that is called a revision, while wiping the events out entirely would be called a rewrite. One example would be for Spiderman called “One More Day”.
Note: My other username has nothing to do with this.
Now this storyline follows directly after the Marvel “Civil War” storyline which debated horribly whether or not superheroes should be registered through the government, with the pro-registration winning out in the end. In said storyline, Peter decided the best thing to do was to reveal is true identity to all the world, normal people and villains who hate him alike. Armed with the information, a villain decides to attack Peter in his home. He manages to avoid harm, but his Aunt May take a bullet.
Apparently no one in this universe was able to heal Aunt May, including a reality warping surgeon. All seems lost but then a villain Mephisto appears to Peter. He decides to offer a deal to heal Aunt May in exchange for… his marriage to Mary Jane being written out of history. Who knew the Incredibles was so accurate. He accepts, despite protest from his dying aunt, and the story gets rebooted to the point where Peter is a 30 year old bachelor living with his aunt.
There was a lot of protest over the events, and a lot of the blame was placed on Joe Quesada, the then Editor-in-Chief of Marvel. Aside from the healing issue, the thing that bugged me the most hearing about this was that essentially, Peter Parker, whose biggest quote tied to him is “With great power comes great responsibility”, decides to dodge being responsible for the death of his aunt through this storyline. It irks me that some writers think that families make for boring storylines, and so try to break up or kill characters. Spiderman is obviously one example. The only other one that bugged me as deeply was Lian Harper, but that’s another story.
- Game over screen from “I Want to be the Guy: The Movie: The Game”
- “My Little Pony” owned by Hasbro Inc.
- “One More Day” owned by Marvel, written regretfully by J Michael Straczynski