Sunday, August 16, 2015

How To Do Reboots

Some time ago, I expressed support for Marvel's decision to make Thor a woman. Since then, I've been thinking a lot about what constitutes an effective reboot in the context of comic books. I say 'effective rather than 'successful' because it's actually really easy to measure whether or not something was successful. In this context, if a thing made money, it was a success. I'm more interested in, obviously, the effectiveness of reboots. Not what makes them lucrative, but rather what makes them good.

After a good deal of rumination, here's what I came up with.

Reboots have to bring something new to the table, ideally based on whatever major change the writers decided to make. What do you mean by that?" My imaginary audience asks in unison. Well, in order to answer that, let's look at the new, female Thor again, shall we?

Previously, the person who carried the mantle of Thor was a man. Now, the reverse is true. What this means is that Lady Thor has to be a character in her own right. If your rebooted character acts exactly the same as their previous incarnation, then there's no point in rebooting said character in the first place. The new version must respond to stimuli differently than those that came before her. She must make her own decisions. Essentially, the rebooted character has to be able to stand on their own.

This is a very difficult task, because if the rebooted character abandons the essence of her predecessor, then she sort of ceases to be that character at all. This results in a kind of balancing act, wherein the new character must be different while still maintaining a significant link to the original. Finding that happy medium is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of any reboot.

To do this, try to identify the most important aspect of the original character. Once you know what really makes them tick, you can play with that in interesting ways. Explore traits in as many new areas as possible. If rebooted characters must respond to stimuli in new ways, confront them with new stimuli. We’ve never seen the real Thor react to a giant, fire-breathing rabbit rampaging around the city, so putting Lady Thor in that context helps make her into a new person. Make sure to maintain some of Thor's machismo, though. The link still needs to exist.

Just something to think about.

(For those interested, my initial post about Lady Thor and diversity is here.)

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