I can’t help it; now that DC has announced that DCU continuity will be rebooted come September, the July/August Retroactive specials suddenly become a lot more interesting to me for the following couple of reasons:
- Whether knowingly or not, they almost act as a celebration of the DCU that was, prior to the relaunch, taking a (last?) look back at various familiar, former versions of the major icons – especially Superman and Wonder Woman, neither of whom have been really available in “classic” flavors for some time in the regular books, for various reasons – before launching into their new incarnations.
- They act as a tester for the strength of the nostalgia market in case DC want to do something with the “classic” DCU at any point in the future.
That second point is the one that I keep coming back to. There’s an argument to be made that DC has been courting the nostalgia market for some time beyond just reprinting old material – The recent DC Universe: Legacies series written by Len Wein, for example, or some years earlier, the DC Comics Presents books that were part-tribute to Julie Schwartz and part-celebration of the Silver Age (Hey! Even earlier, Mark Waid’s Silver Age event from, what, 1999?) – and I wonder whether, in rebooting the entire DC Universe for new and existing readers, DC could have (accidentally?) created a market for an alternate line continuing what is “current” continuity until August 31st… An “Anti-Ultimate” line, if you will.
Marvel, of course, have tried this already to… interesting ends, with X-Men Forever and New Mutants Forever, but the sales didn’t seem to be there to keep publishing. That said, there also wasn’t much promotion behind either book, both of which seemed more like Chris Claremont’s pension than serious attempts to court fans left behind by the current books. But, if DC has more of a background reaching out to just those fans… and more of an interest, more to the point, in not alienating longstanding fans who care about the “legacy” of the characters they’ve grown up with… perhaps we’ll have more chances to keep up with the “current” versions of the characters after September than we’d initially believed. Hmm.