When Robinson says that Jay Garrick is the same character in Earth-2 as he was before the reboot, I scratch my head. Jay Garrick before the reboot was a father figure to the speedsters, a man who had been happily married for decades. He was kind, polite, compassionate. He had excelled in college, and his scientific background gave him a unique place among the speedsters. He gained his powers through a scientific accident that was later retconned as a manifestation of the Speed Force.
After the reboot, Jay Garrick is a man who barely graduated college and whose girlfriend broke up with him because she thought he was a loser. (Why she dated him in the first place is probably best left unexplored, because it does not say good things about her.) From the looks of the issue, he will gain his powers from the god Mercury.
The two are extremely different, but are they really the same character?
Well, it all depends on what your definition of character is.
They are both named Jay Garrick. They’re both a superhero called the Flash. And according to Robinson, Jay will be an “everyman” hero, which more or less matched his previous characterization as a down to earth kind of guy. By some definitions, this makes them the same character.
But when I look at a character, I see the essence of their character as something that is shaped by their relationships and life experience. The Batman from the Adam West Batman series and the one from All-Star Batman and Robin are radically different. They are still Batman, but they are not the same Batman. I call this being different characters. Most writers would probably call this being different interpretations.
So perhaps what I should be saying is this: Jay Garrick is not the same person as before the reboot.
I know that a lot of comics fans tend to follow their favorite writers, but I’ve never done that. I’ve always followed my favorite characters. I picked up Manhunter because of Director Bones. I read Shadowpact because of Blue Devil. I read JLA because of Martian Manhunter. I read The Flash because of Jay Garrick.
With the exception of the Bat-family and the Green Lantern books, most of the characters in the reboot are radically changed, not necessarily in personality but in life experience.
The decades long history of DC was never frustrating for me, even as a new reader. My attitude towards this world of comics was basically this:
Just replace “what’s this” with “who’s this.”
I was entranced. There were so many characters. So much history to explore. The more I looked at the histories and backstories, the more characters I found to like. The experiences that shaped the characters through the years made them come alive for me. I was fascinated by the history of the DC universe, and every time I discovered a new character I liked, it encouraged me to dig deeper into the history of the DC universe.
I’ve read and enjoyed comics from the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Modern Age. I fell in love with the DC universe, its characters and the vast history they had accumulated.
But eliminate this history, and it changes the characters. I would not be the same person I am today if I had different parents, or if I had grown up in a different time period. And these characters are not the same people they used to be. And since those people are the ones that attracted me to DC in the first place, I don’t have much desire to read books from the DCnU.
Are these changes a bad thing? No. Not necessarily. Just because a character has changed doesn’t mean they’re a bad character now. But it can still be a big letdown for the fans who liked the characters before.