The more things change, however, the more they stay the same. The siren song of the past, not to mention the strident demands of a very conservative fan base, keeps restoring the status quo. 

So DC's challenge is two-fold:  bring in new readers without alienating the fans.   In other words, bring new sheep into the fold without convincing the flock that the wolf is at the door!  

Even with the announced availability of digital versions available the same day as the print comics go on sale, the company has an uphill battle on its hands. 

In an article for Comic Book Resources, Greg Hatcher paints a depressing picture not only of present state of DC but the industry as a whole. Here are his salient points:  

Although DC/Time-Warner has control over some of the most recognizable and popular fictional characters on earth…  

·        Sales for the company's line of publications continue to drop and a significant number of people don't even know they still exist.  

·        DC's cash flow depends on 60,000 or so hardcore hobbyists.  

·        Year after year, DC loses more readers than they gain.  

·        Costs continue to go up—creators' rates, paper and production, etc. 

·        Fans don't wish to pay more than $2.99 for a standard monthly comic—which in this market won't turn a profit. 

Having friends and acquaintances among comics dealers, I've watched their businesses dwindle over the years. I've seen many shops close as well. Some may be surprised that, in the wake of the new popularity of super-heroes in the movies, comics shops don't do better. 

As one dealer put it, however, "The comics exist just as advertising for the movies. The movies don't affect comics sales at all."   Writer and long-time fan, John G. Pierce, spells out the situation: "The corporate heads really don't care about the comics themselves.  They exist only to keep the franchise alive so that merchandising and movies can be made." 

We might suppose that, in a culture of declining literacy, the illustrated pages of comics might retain some allure. That might be true—if they had no competition onscreen and online. 

When you can see the characters move, hear them speak, hear the sounds; with CGI creating worlds of wonder and improved 3-D technology hurling Batman within an inch of your nose,  why should anyone bother with a soundless,  unmoving, two-dimensional comic book? 

All of which leads me to ask, reboot or no reboot, are we looking at the end of the American comic book as we know it?  Is DC on the edge of a renaissance—or merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?  The pulp novel, dramatic radio, the drive-in movie—all these have come and gone. 

When the form no longer functions, the form will change. But what of Superman and Batman? Will they still be with us fifty years from now? Will our grandchildren still thrill to their adventures? If so, what form will those adventures take? 

Only time will tell.  Meanwhile, for love of the form I've known since childhood—mixed with a bit of defiance at the changing milieu--while I can, I intend to keep on reading the comics. 

*Gary D. Robinson is a preacher, writer, and Superman fan living in Xenia, Ohio.  He blogs at www.garydrobinson.com

**This article first published 7/7/2011