Hey, guys! Sorry I was absent last week. As I mentioned, I was being attacked by a giant mutant crab-wolf (wifi went out) and I couldn't read your letters (was snowed in and couldn't drive anywhere) because I, uh... couldn't open my mailbag? (metaphor breaks down) Ah well, I'm back now. Let the mail madness begin!


Das Reboot

Vv:

I'm confused about the "reboot" of the DC universe happening after Convergence. Former titles are continuing, and the old DCU certainly isn't returning, so why exactly are people calling it "the end of the new 52"? Can you please help me shed some light on the situation?

I don't want to blow your mind, but it's mostly a marketing move, and by that I mean it's mostly about DC dropping the "The New 52!" branding from its comic covers and press releases and so forth. Seeing as The New 52 launched back in 2011, and is no longer particularly new (and DC has only published 52 titles a month sporadically since then anyways) it had definitely served its purpose.

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But just because "The New 52" is ending doesn't mean the universe that began with The New 52 is. It's really a problem of semantics; to DC, The New 52 was an initiative that rebooted the DC comics universe and then was used to continue to market their products. But to comics fans, "The New 52" is synonymous with the new continuity created by the reboot, which makes us think the actual continuity is going away, to be replaced by another new continuity or the old one. As you've noted, neither of these things are happening. While their may be some changes to the DC status quo as a result of Convergence — maybe — DC has gone out of its way to stress this is not a reboot.

The other problem is that no one really agrees what a reboot means anymore. Here's a fun game — tell me which of these events are or are not reboots:

• DC resets all its continuity and begins telling stories from the earliest days of its heroes.

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• DC resets most of its continuity and begins telling stories from the earliest days of its heroes with the exception of Batman and Green Lantern, which continue telling the same stories they were previously.

• Spider-Man's marriage to Mary Jane is erased.

• Spider-Man discovers he's an avatar of some crazy African spider-god.

• Falcon becomes the new Captain America.

• Ms. Marvel changes her name to Captain Marvel.

• Marvel starts putting a big "Marvel Now" logo on its comics, and makes noises about everything being "all new."

• DC resets most of its continuity and begins telling stories from the earliest days of its heroes with the exception of Batman and Green Lantern, which continue telling the same stories they were previously, but also swears that all the comics they previously published still "count" even though they never technically occurred in the new continuity.

• Any character is taken "back to basics," whatever that means.

Really, "reboot" can apply to all of these things, although hopefully we agree that some of these are harder reboots than the other. And to make things more confusing, reboot has recently become a dirty word in the comics industry, because fans are burned out on all of DC's myriad changes and Marvel's constant rebranding. This is why DC swears it's not doing a reboot, while still trying to tell people DC comics will suddenly be new and fresh and a great starting-out point for new readers.

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The word "reboot" has become meaningless in terms of comics, because no one agrees what it means, not even the fans. So whether Marvel swears the Marvel universe is ending in Secret Wars even though it appears most characters are going to be staying the same, or DC swears Convergence isn't a reboot, even though maybe some stuff will change, it doesn't matter. It's like the boy who cried wolf; both companies have been trying to tell us they're beginning again, with varying levels of truth that we don't believe them. And they've continued crying "reboot" so many times, over and over again, we don't believe them when they deny it, either.

It's a mess. And there's no solution. Unless Marvel and DC somehow figure out a way to reboot reboots themselves.


Canon Fire

Jesse S.:

Dear Mr. Post Manatee,

In regards to Marvel's Not-So-Secret-War, why do comic publishers feel the need to do house-cleaning? Marvel hasn't been so bad, but it seems like DC does it fortnightly. I understand that they want to jettison or streamline years of continuity for the benefit of new readers. But for years prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths, comics had plenty of self-contradictory continuity. Why not stick with the tried and true method that has worked for years in the comic book publishing industry of IGNORING WHAT YOU DON'T LIKE. Sure there are bigger issues like Peter Parker not being in high school and having got married (though personally I was fine with both developments). That's hard to ignore, but not impossible. There was an under-appreciated title called "Untold Tales of Spider-Man" which told stories of Peter's high school days. Another method is the "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane" approach. Another title that just ignored regular continuity and had Peter Parker and Mary Jane in high school. Readers didn't seem to have a problem understanding that this title only tangentially related to the other Spider-Man titles.

I guess what I'm arguing for is two fold - The Ignoring Method™ (which works great in my marriage btw) and Embracing the Contradictions. Readers are smart. They want a good story. Being a stickler for continuity generally leads to lame-assery like "The New 52".

This is another aspect of Vv's question, seeing as most reboots are done purely to solve the problem of canon inconsistencies. Why do comic companies bother with trying to connect to each other, anyways?

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Really, it's comic fans' fault. We may be sick to death of reboots and semi-reboots and hard reboots now, but the fact of the matter is we love it when our comic book characters share the same universe. It's what immediately set Marvel apart from DC when it debuted in the 60s — that Spider-Man could run into the Hulk on the streets of New York City, and that if Thor got hurt in his solo comic, he'd show up in Avengers with that same injury.

Continuity is basically a reward for regular readers. Those who read closely and continually will understand certain aspects more than casual fans, and then they get to feel superior, as well as more connected to the work. Knowing why Thor is in a crazy suit of armor in Avengers #276 even though it doesn't specify what the cause is makes the reader feel closer to the characters and the story.

It's not something unique to comics, obviously. Take George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books, for instance. Yes, they are written by one guy, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been able to seed his stories with little details for people who read them carefully and thoroughly. Surely it's easier for Martin to coordinate this than say, DC is able to coordinate 40-plus ongoing comic all written by different people, but the difficulty of the task doesn't change the happiness readers have when they discover something, or how it makes them more invested in these fictional worlds.

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And the same is true with any TV shows and maybe some movies — really, any recurring narrative that provides material that only previous readers/viewers/listeners will understand is creating a canon, and it helps make these stories much more enjoyable for fans. While stand-alone stories aren't bad, by standing alone, they don't have the benefit of the emotional investment created by previous works. And it should go without saying that by getting fans invested, comic publishers/authors/showrunners/etc. create regular readers/viewers/listeners/etc., which is obviously a major asset.

But fans are a double-edged sword. Not only are you bound by unspoken contract to adhere to this continuity as best you can, but if you mess up, fans are going to freak out like casual readers/watcher/etc never will. And say if you create a stand-alone series like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane that is clearly out of continuity, you run the risk of fans not bothering to read it, because it doesn't contribute to the overall storyline they've been investing in.

There's pros and cons to both sides, but you generally end up with more engaging stories, and thus more fans, and thus more sales if you foster a canon and stick to it. Now, as a fan whether you should get upset when continuity is broken is entirely another matter.


Lots of Walking

Loyal:

As a fan of World War Z and other proactive zombie apocalypse works of fiction, one thing has always bothered me about The Walking Dead - the characters and their lazy approach to erasing the walker scourge from planet Earth (or at least the states surrounding Georgia).

If a reasonably well organized and motivated small group of survivors set out to make zombie killing a 9-5 Monday-Friday job, assuming they were able to meet up with other survivors over time, gain more efficient methods of zombie murder, and eventually spread out across the continental United States (let's forget Mexico and Canada for now), how long would it take to clear out the zombie invasion. Months? Years? Decades? Is it worth the effort for Rick and company to kill every zombie they see or is it a lost cause?

Let's assume a best-case scenario. According to the old Google, there are 528.7 million people in North America. Let's say of this population some group manages to assemble 10,000 able-bodied survivors and form them into a single organized zombie extermination force. That's pretty optimistic, given you'd have to find many more survivors than that to find 10,000 suitable "employees", if you will. Plus, this assumes you're able to amass this group and organize them without the zombie plague breaking out among them or getting distracted by evil, insane Governors with tanks ot anything.

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Now let's say after a reasonable amount of attrition through random attacks, inclement weather, and accidental self-destruction, like walking off a cliff or something, there's a nice round number of 400 million zombies. Seeing as everyone who dies with their head intact becomes a zombie, this is probably a low estimate, but we're assuming the best-case scenario, after all.

If you form an elite zombie-destroying force with regular hours, obviously, the numbers of destroyed zombies will vary wildly per day, given whether they encounter massive hordes or individual stragglers, but I feel like even in the best of circumstances, on average, each person could at maximum kill one zombie per hour and be safe about it. You know, once it's all tallied up. In a realistic zombie apocalypse, it would take some serious searching to find all the zombies, especially given how many of them will likely be trapped in man-made structures. It's going to be at least as much looking as head-smashing.

Pretending that your troops won't diminish — or that you can find survivors to add to their ranks even as some of them are bitten or torn apart (also unlikely, but go with it), we end up with 10,000 people, killing a zombie per hour, for eight hours a day, for 40 hours a week. In total, that's 80,000 zombies killed per day, 400,000 zombies per work week, and approximately 20,800,000 zombies per year. Quite a lot! But it you have 400 million zombies to take care of, that's still nearly 20 years of working 40 hours a week, no holidays, of ceaseless zombie destruction. If you have 10,000 people. Who never get bit, hurt or killed. And that somehow you can feed and clothe and shelter even as they make their way across the entire continent.

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So suffice it to say, unless Rick and his pals make 99,990 or so close friends in the near future, they definitely shouldn't bother taking on zombie extinction.


Trophy Case

Brian L.:

Hey so about a year ago I asked you if comic book movie, or more specifically a superhero movie, ever win an Oscar?

And now Big Hero 6 and Birdman (though the later of which is more Michael Keaton struggling to be seen as a respected actor after playing a superhero and pretty much taking the piss out of his Batman career) have won Oscars, so are we going to start to see a change in how people view superhero films?

I'm aiming this question a bit towards Dan Gilroy who said how his film Nightcrawler (theres an X-men joke in there somewhere) and films like it are survivors of the tsunami of Superhero films that have taken over the industry. Isnt that a bit of a dick move towards all the people who put time and effort into Superhero films?

Yeah, I don't consider Birdman a superhero film. It's a film about an actor, and Jesus Christ does the Academy love movies about the movie industry. It's no more a superhero movie than Hollywoodland, where Ben Affleck played George Reeves, the actor that played Superman in the 1950s TV series. Yes, Affleck put on superhero tights occasionally in the film, but he didn't have powers, he didn't fight a villain, he didn't save the day. Not a superhero movie.

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As for Big Hero 6, the Best Animated Film category is even more of a joke than the rest of the Oscars. Since 2003, the Academy has given it to the year's biggest Disney/Pixar feature every year they had a major motion picture with the exception of Cars, for a total of eight out of the last 11 years. And here's several members of the Academy who were able to vote on this year's category, which went to Big Hero 6.

The Academy is bullshit.

When Spirited Away won Best Animated Feature in 2002, it did nothing to help Hollywood recognize anime movies, despite the fact it won (and was infinitely more critically acclaimed than Big Hero 6 to boot). Lord of the Ring: Return of the King's award hasn't helped fantasy or science fiction films since then. The Academy occasionally gives trophies to outliers like these, but they're usually for their own unique reasons, and not because of any broad-mindedness on their part — which is why superhero movies will never be recognized as "real films" by the Oscars.

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I gave up on the Academy Awards when it decided Gladiator was the Best Picture of 2001. When that happened I knew that not only could its opinions never be trusted, but it was never worth paying attention to anything.


Ms'ed Opportunity

Doownuahsmai:

Dear Post Apocalypse Posty,

Let's talk Ms Marvel (the current version). Will we ever get a Ms Marvel film as part of he MCU? I think she's a character a lot of people could get on board with.

Possible, but not probable. I feel like she's too new a character to have Marvel's confidence to get a movie in the next decade, even after the Captain Marvel movie. Perhaps if the comic sales stay strong for next five years or so — and by all accounts they're doing well — and Captain Marvel does well enough that Marvel feels comfortable introducing more female-led superhero movies, it could come down the pipeline.

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But I bet we're a lot more likely to get a Ms. Marvel animated series if the Captain Marvel movie does well (maybe we'll have to wait until after Captain Marvel 2, just to make sure). Kamala Khan is a fantastic character and a perfect star for a weekly cartoon, and I bet even Marvel recognizes the potential there. I think Marvel just wants to wait to make sure the character truly has legs before risking a TV show. If I were in charge of Marvel I would have greenlit it yesterday, though.


Firebum

Josh T.:

Dear Postman with the… most… man…

I'm a huge fan of The Flash television show. I was wondering something about everyone's favorite Flamable Hobo, Firestorm. In his present "lots of old tattered clothes" look; when he flames on, why is it his head and hands catch fire, but not his tattered old rags? Did he get those clothes from a NASCAR driver that was retiring, thus making them flame retardant?

I believe Firestorm can control his flames to the point where they shoot solely out of his hands, head, and feet, and direct them so they render his hobo apparel unharmed. Admittedly, I'm also pretty sure Firestorm wears shoes that still exist after he jets off with his thruster feet, so this may not fly (pun so intended) but I can't be sure. Maybe he doesn't, and he needs to find new shoes every time he flies off somewhere, and The Flash has just been sparing us the interminable scenes of the Flammable Hobo rooting through garbage for new pairs of kicks every other day.


Wrap Battle

J.:

Dearest postman of the distant past,

My questions today are simple: What are the best comic onomatopoeia? I'm personally a big fan of "VRONK", though I'm not entirely sure I know what happened when something vronks. I distinctly remember a klunk, with a k, which displeased my puritanical language leanings. What say you?

Stay safe, and start stock-piling saran wrap. I can't tell you what for, but you'll know when it happens.

I hate to go for the obvious, but you can't go wrong with "Thwip!" and "Snikt." Both noises seem so perfectly suited to their respective sounds — i.e., Spider-Man firing his webshooters, and Wolverine popping his claws — that they've endured decades with change. Also, I have a fondness for "Thwok!" although I couldn't really tell you why.

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Also, Saran wrap is bullshit. No one has ever successfully covered a dish with saran wrap in the history of recorded civilization.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!