It’s that time of year again! That’s right, this past weekend marked the opening of the season for the National Football League, America’s national pass time for the next five months culminating with Superbowl XLVII in New Orleans on the first Sunday in February.
I was having a discussion with a woman who is a big fan of the current Superbowl champions, the New York Giants. We talked about fond memories of heated rivalries, favorite players and unpredictable seasons. One thing we agreed on was that professional football can be boring and predictable too often and that the games themselves may not be the most entertaining part of the football season.
The drama off the field each week, for a football fan, fuels the passion for the game and insures a fanatic relationship with teams, players and the game itself. Avid football fans are historians of the sport and can rattle off, with fond and vivid memory, the most minute details of the sport.
Each year the dynamics of a football team changes, sometimes dramatically. There are, new players in key positions, coaches employing different systems, sometimes changes in ownership, venues, and uniforms. Every season is a reboot with one goal in mind, winning the Superbowl.
Through all these changes the football fan remains loyal to their team. They bleed the colors of the franchise and adorn themselves with apparel laden with identifying logos that have also changed throughout the history of the team. Wether it is a rendition of the current team or a throwback to a bygone era the true fan embraces all. Allegiance to a team is passed down through families, each generation identifying with the exploits of the version of the team that they enjoyed the most. Though the colors may be the same, deep down my team is not my father’s team, yet we cheer for the latest reboot with the same vigor.
It dawns on me, now, that superhero franchises may be a lot like football franchises. There has always been change. I have never been a big fan of character reboots or alternate universes. I hate getting overburdened with tedious continuity, regarding characters I enjoy. I often complain that the classic original origins should be upheld as gospel.
As I watch Marvel and DC reboot their lines, starting from scratch, it grates against my sensibilities as a fan. I don’t want to see the characters I enjoyed reading as a kid tampered with. Why are they changing costumes, origins, relationships? Why are they defiling the characters that I had grown to love as a a fan.
The answer of course is business. It will always be about the bottom line. But now that I am able to see the comparison between a superhero franchise and a football franchise, I no longer feel so violated as a fan. My Superman has never been my father’s Superman. My Captain America has never been my father’s Captain America. My son’s Spider-man is different from mine just as is my daughter’s Batman. We each have an era that we have embraced personally. Some of us have embraced these characters through different media entirely.
Our allegiances to a team or character are drawn toward something more basic that we can all identify with. Football teams are easy. They represent our home town and bear symbols, colors and mascots that we relate to as a community. Some fans adopt a team drawn to a favorite player, a successful record, or a flashy logo.
The most popular superheroes have been the ones who are the most easily defined by their names, powers and colors generally all related to an equally simple yet well defined logo. So long as these primary virtues are not tampered with too greatly any reboot will not affect the general public’s perception of the franchised character who’s logo or image can be found on every perceivable type of merchandise.
It will be left to the avid comic fan to remain the historian and be critical of the nuances of any changes made. Like football fans, comic fans will have to get used to the idea that the characters they love will experience changes from season to season or reboot to reboot.
There was a time when Marvel editorial staff defined a seven year window for subtle changes in its characters eg. the origin of the Fantastic Four took place no longer than seven years prior to the story you were reading at the time. If an origin was recapped, the fashions and technologies in the recap were updated to fit in that seven year window. This helped the readers to believe why the characters were not aging with the environment around them. This was a softer approach to creating a jump in point for new readers.
Origins now, however are rebooted, not recapped, which works great for new readers though it shakes up the base of core readers that have followed characters for years, like when a football team moves to a new stadium or changes a uniform design.
One thing is for sure. Whether it is a kickoff for a new season or a reboot of an origin, fans will be fans and old loyalties will always remain. We will always support our favorite team and we will always support our favorite superhero. Go team! Up, up, and away!
Tags: alternate universes, Batman, Captain America, DC, FANTASTIC FOUR, Football, logo, Marvel, National Football League, New York Giants, Reboot, Spider-man, Superbowl, Superbowl XLVII, superhero, Superheroes, Superman