Since there still seems to be a lot of talk about the changes in our two mainstream Comics universes, I thought I’d add a little perspective from an old comics collector. I started buying in the early-to-mid 1960’s and have seen a lot of changes over the years - and I think that gives me a little different view of change than some of our folks who have been collecting for “only” 10 or 20 years.
There were two changes in comics that affected me terribly as a kid - the first was when the prices went up from 12 cents to a whopping 15 cents per issue! I know, I know, it seems like nothing now, but to the little kid me that was a very big deal. But, the other change really messed with me…
That’s when they let the Teen Titans start to grow up.
I bought the first appearance of the Titans (okay, the second appearance but the first time they were called the Teen Titans), when they fought the Separated Man in the Brave and the Bold back in 1965. The idea of kids banding together to fight menaces just as well as the grown-ups did was inspirational to me. And, the idea that they were no older than junior high or high schoolers made them more accessible to a kid like me, still in elementary school. The idea that they could grow up, even a little bit, took some of that away for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked Wally, Donna, Dick and Garth (and I still do) but this was a major change for me, and it impacted more than just the Titans.
If the Titans could age, what about the rest of the DC heroes and heroines? Up to that point Superman has always been (I think) around 28 or 29 without aging. All the heroes stayed at whatever age they were, with the only “older” heroes being the wonderful events with the JSA. This change meant anything could happen, and the kid in me wasn’t sure if I was really ready for that. Of course, that concern played itself out in some truly amazing storylines, but I had no idea that those were coming up at the time.
This makes it almost funny that we are discussing the “de-aged” characters of the New52 now. It is as if DC Editorial had a talk with the younger me (or some other kid from back then) and heard that it was a really bad idea to let the characters age. In fact, there are several stories in the New52 that have a nod to things that happened in the Silver and Bronze ages…though with a twist that makes it new for this generation of readers.
It is this generation of readers that is reason for the changes. I grew up and faded away from comics for a time, only to come back not long before CoIE. That was something big intended to bring in a new generation of readers to replace my generation…the one that had left comics by and large. It worked, even though some of my now-grown-up Titans were very different to me. Dick Grayson had become Nightwing before CoIE, and Wally West became The Flash as a result of CoIE…and of course that was just the start. With time those characters became true icons, no longer simply sidekicks but leading characters with fantastic storylines of their own. They set the tone for the DCU for over 20 years…but the generation drawn in by these characters started to fade away much as I had several years before. And, the reaction was what we have seen in the last year.
Now, we’ve had a year of the New52 to digest, with some still-missing icons that the 1980’s and 1990’s generation of readers would love to see. I’d like to see them too…after all, I’ve followed Wally and Donna for more than 47 years. The point here is not to defend or bash the New52 (although overall I do like the new stories). It is simply to say that big changes have been going on ever since Barry Allen got doused by that batch of chemicals back in 1956, and they likely will continue. If you have a tough time with them, I understand…and so does that little kid in me that first got mad when the Titans grew up.