Content warnings for discussion of abuse/abusive relationships with regard to Joker/Harley and Harley/Ivy.
Reboots can range from the mild to the large. Some are just focused on company-wide changes in diversity and bringing women/characters of color to the forefront. They’re soft reboots and usually take place in a single book or over a couple of different series. Other reboots are hard and they change everything.
Especially in a full-scale reboot like DC’s which has tried to incorporate several of their past events and controversies into the narrow timeline, sometimes we don’t actually know what has changed or what has stayed the same with regard to character histories, worldbuilding, and the universe itself.
So here’s my question:
Does rebooting a comic series, character, or entire universe mean that you should no longer hold characters accountable for things they did in the past or pre-reboot existence?
The following is both an example and the reason why I wanted to ask the question in the first place. Reboots are generally confusing but DC’s in particular has kept me up at night with trying to figure out if old relationship dynamics still count.
Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are together now in canon according to the powers that be. Their relationship is canon. One of the selling points (aside from them being polysexual, polyamorous, girlfriends in an open relationship) is that this relationship is seen as far healthier for Harley than her relationship with the Joker. I mean, it has to be considering the Joker is well… terrible.
But here’s the thing:
Poison Ivy has also shown herself to be not-so-good for Harley in the past. She’s been verbally and emotionally abusive to Harley especially around the Gotham City Sirens series. Like, talk about a major blow to my little shipper’s heart. It was bad. Ivy was dismissive and cold and it’s not even the first time. Look at how frequent it was to have gags in the comics about Ivy insulting or hitting Harley like it was played off for laughs but that’s not exactly a good friendship there…
But we’ve rebooted. Harley and Ivy’s relationship (what I’ve seen of it because I’m woefully behind with Harley’s series even though I love the Palmiotti/Conner writing team and the great art) appears to be different. More equal. Harley herself is a different character, closer to the one first created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm back in the early 90s. But you know… more independent and aware of how people were (mis)treating her.
Basically: If we don’t know what is or isn’t canon now, does the earlier canon still count if it’s super awful?
(Personally, I tend to go with what makes me happy but that doesn’t erase problematic potential at the same time. So to follow up my Harley/Ivy example: I’m assuming that they’re awesome and precious together but if GSC turns out to be canon or if the current canon incorporates those elements that’ve been taken as gags? I’ll be super grouchy about it.)