SHOWCASE PRESENTS: Continuity vs. the Status Quo

(Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect  the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.)

Do you know what the single greatest threat to your existence is? It’s time. Time will age you. Time will ultimately kill you. Time will go on while you will not. And, once a long enough time has passed, it will be as if you never even existed.

Oh, but what if you could stop it? Bottle it up and contain it. You would be forever in the prime of your life. You could relive your greatest moments over and over and over again. Death could not claim you or anyone you loved. Forever would start to mean something quite different.

I’ve been reading comics for a while now. Ever since I was old enough to read, actually. The Greatest Team Up Stories Ever Told was one of my first books. I’ve seen trends come and go and come back again. I’ve seen reboots and relaunches. I’ve seen deaths and rebirths. I’ve seen the same stories told in new ways. I’ve found myself less and less surprised as the years go on.

The exact moment Wally West was killed by the Status Quo

Everything always returns to the status quo. But is that a good thing?

I think the reason a lot of people connect to characters like Wally West and Dick Grayson and Stephanie Brown is because we’ve watched them grow up. They started out as kids. Then they got older. And sometimes terrible things happened to them. But they kept going. They kept evolving. Wally West went from being the Flash’s kid sidekick to being the Flash. He had a wife and kids and villains of his own. Dick Grayson went from being Robin to leading a team of young heroes as Nightwing to ultimately taking over the mantle of Batman. There are similar stories for Stephanie Brown and Booster Gold and Conner Kent and dozens of other young heroes.

But, ultimately, they were all either erased or returned to the status quo. The reason? You can’t ascend to the throne if the rulers don’t abdicate or die.

DC and Marvel, the big two, are both guilty of this. At least as “guilty” as you can be for choosing a winning strategy and running with it. When things get too complicated, or it gets too convoluted to try and convince people that Batman is in his mid-thirties while having 25 years of canon story lines, they reboot. Simple as that. Reset the clock. Revamp the costumes. Retell the stories.

Behold! Sameness disguised as change!

There’s a trope that happens in a lot of pilot episodes of new TV shows that I absolutely hate. We’re introduced to the situation and the big story of that first episode is “oh no, what if this whole situation falls apart?” What if the company closes down? What if the main character gets fired? What if the zombies eat all the good guys? But those questions are all crap and you know they’re crap. Main characters don’t die in the first episode. The company won’t get shut down and the main character won’t lose his or her job because the whole premise of the show is based around the company functioning as normal and the cast being there because they’re the cast and that’s what casts do. The danger is never real.

Naturally there are some of you who will contest that assertion. You’ll probably say something like “it’s not about that dumb plot trope, it’s about what we learn about the characters going through it.” You’re right. I’m fairly confident that’s the same argument DC makes when they tell Superman’s origin story for the 80th time.

But here’s my problem with that. If you’re going to reset everything anyway (you are), why not change things up a bit? Why not let Bruce Wayne age and refuse to stop fighting and ultimately get killed by a stray bullet because he just wasn’t fast enough and retirement wasn’t an option because dammit he’s not Bruce Wayne, he’s Batman? Why not let Superman’s supporting cast get older as he doesn’t, until finally he isn’t Clark Kent anymore because Clark Kent died at the age of 80 according to the official records? Why don’t the dead stay dead?

Just a year. That’s all I’m asking for. A single year in which things finally happen in the DC universe.

Tell me the stories wouldn’t be as good. Tell me that DC would never go for the shock value to get comic sales. Tell me you wouldn’t read it.

The DCAU, where things ACTUALLY happen