One of my usual complaints here at the Spotlight is the current trend of not-stalgic re-imaginings, a reboot that involves just slapping popular names onto something barely if at all related to the source material. Sure it can be good, like Battlestar Galactica, my usual example, but this is never a complaint about the quality of the work. Unless it’s something that is really terrible like Jem. It’s strictly complaining about poor adaptation and modernizing for a new audience. Unless that audience wasn’t the target audience of the original anyway but that’s going towards a related but different rant. And tonight I’m in a praising mood.
Critics of these re-imaginings have to hear the foolish “it’s not for you” to people for whom it was for before the everything for meeeeeeeee crowd got their hands on it, but also get told they don’t like anything new. We like new things. We want new stories and we have no problem with updates. Not-stalgia works are not updates. They’re completely different takes, missing the themes and putting names on characters that are nothing like the characters of the original. You can create a new update that fans of the original may still not get into but will not go “why didn’t you call it something else so we could someday GET a proper reboot”. Thus I bring you five examples of a reboot done right. There were still changes, but overall they created an actual reboot instead of a marketing-friendly namesake made by people who insist their vision is better for no other reason that it appeals to them now.
I’ve only read a few of the classic Scrooge McDuck comics so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any version of this show. However, the new Ducktales is a good representation of the original. The classic series was a classic and its intro is one of those songs every 80s kid has stuck in their heads. The new version is only slightly sillier but retains the action of the original. While the triplets of the original all had similar personalities and worked well together giving them each an aspect of that shared persona allows Huey, Dewey, and Louie a chance to finally be their own characters after years of sameness in a way that Quack Pack only wished it could. David Tennant’s version of Scrooge is uniquely his (actually being Scottish may help) but still retains the important elements of the late Alan Young’s iconic portrayal, a greedy miser who is slowly warming up to the idea of family.
The show does expand on things like WHY Scrooge is the way he is, and why he and Donald were estranged for so long. It also makes use of the nephew’s rarely mentioned mother Della, making her a character at last. (I wonder if we’ll ever learn about their father? The comics famously kept that secret in the most comical way they could get away with. I don’t even think we have a name.) There are also character changes that work if you aren’t too stuck to the originals. Duckworth for some reason is dead. The kindly Mrs. Beakley is now a former agent, while young Webbigale was aged up to match the nephews, which I have mixed feelings about. Probably my biggest complaint was that they turned Darkwing Duck into a show character, but I guess enough DW fans complained that they found a workaround to actually create a Darkwing Duck and given a new origin for Negaduck, and we may see him team with Gizmoduck in the future. I’m not sure why Fenton is now Latino and heavy into science instead of being Scrooge’s accountant but I like him and his mom is a better character than the original so I don’t really care. I’m not into what they did with Gandra Dee though.
They also expanded the cast. Donald is there more often since he isn’t off in the Navy (the reason Donald left them in Uncle Scrooge’s care in the original series). As I said, Della now has a strong presence. Other original allies and enemies have come along. The changes are easy to deal with while the new additions benefit the show. It’s true to the original but does its own thing. That’s what I wanted.
Voltron (Devil’s Due comic run)
Longtime readers have seen my comic review of this series (sadly the videos of the motion comic version I was using have gone private) and know that I really loved it. I didn’t care for Dynamite’s take or the one episode I saw of Legendary Defender before World Events Productions pulled it from their own YouTube channel since I don’t have Netflix. Dynamite tried to add a new member out of nowhere and make Zarkon some kind of angry Earthling or something while Dreamworks made a whole lot of changes in tone and character. Sven somehow ended up without his accent and name (alternate realities aside), using the Japanese name and somehow getting promoted. Coran was a goofball, Allura angry, and Pidge was a girl because…I don’t know really.
The Devil’s Due run however got everything right. Coran is still overprotective but wise and caring. Allura isn’t the only other survivor of her people and loves them enough to take on the Blue Lion when Sven can’t, and the Voltron Force themselves have their characters expanded on rather than altered. New Sven slowly being corrupted by Merla makes sense given how the character evolves. The characters often do evolve through these new lines without that many plot twists and the recent obsession with deep dark secrets. The Voltron Force doesn’t have new backstories but expanded upon. Pidge is a child genus who wants to fit in, and gets to keep his boy parts. Hunk comes from a large family (quite literally, as he’s the runt), Lance is a show-off, Keith is more serious because he lost his fiance, leading to the romantic tension between him and Allura and not “he’s a half-breed, and that half is my enemy though he didn’t know it so now I hate him and someone wants to push Lance as her beau”. The character progress along new lines but at no point do I feel like I’m watching a bunch of namesakes. Instead I’m reading a new take on the same characters I grew up with and until the end of the run with all good stories. That’s what I want in a proper reboot.
Yes, I know the new show is missing a bit of the Muppet edge (but still doing better than Baby Looney Tunes), Scooter and Skeeter aren’t around, Rolf cameoed on one episode, and now there’s a penguin. It’s also marked for a younger audience than the CBS Saturday morning show. And yet only Piggy not being as angry as she usually is as a baby or adult is the only thing really missing from this show. They still feel like the classic Muppet characters as babies. Camilla the chicken is now alive instead of a stuffed animal but Gonzo did make friends with a potato. (No, I don’t watch it that often but I’ve stumbled across an episode now and then.)
The new show also doesn’t use video clips but just draws the imagined scenarios outright. While the old show did that most of the time the lack of clips allow the CG animators to create everything on their own rather than having blips of pop culture references that would go over so much of the audience’s heads, although they will sneak in a clean laugh for the grown-ups watching with their kids. The Babies are fun to watch, the addition of art-loving Summer the penguin is a good addition to the team, Statler and Waldorf are now their neighbors (they occasionally babysat in the later seasons of the original show), and Bunsen and Beaker still come over to play (although I haven’t stumbled on their episodes outside of the last few seconds of one). The themes are still something kids can relate to and learn from like the characters, just now younger kids since this is Disney Junior. Anyone who grew up on the original show can freely show their kids the new version and maybe they’ll watch the old version some time. That totally works as a proper reboot.
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe
If you were to ask me what the best reboot ever was I’d point to this show. While I do have minor nitpicks the show got everything else right. Expanding on characters from the original? Done. Actually fixing flaws in the original? Adam and He-Man are now distinct looking from each other, and the Power Sword even transforms between “Adam” and “He-Man” forms. Expanding on the lore or creating their own? They did that. Nods to the original? At first I thought those were the usual bad signs, like He-Man destroying the Diamond Ray Of Disappearance before Skeletor could use it or how the new intro was interrupted by Skeletor’s attack. The more I watched, however, the more my fears subsided.
While the new show doesn’t tell you a lot about early Eternia like the classic series did, it does have its own history. We get to see not only Adam’s origin but the origin of He-Man’s power and the Sword itself. Skeletor gets a full backstory (including elements from the incomplete “Powers Of Grayskull” storyline in the mini-comics). The connection between the Sorceress and Teela are further explored as the former misses not being able to be a mother to the latter. They hinted that Duncan’s brother Fisto may be the soldier she had a brief affair with and thus Teela’s father but that didn’t get a chance to go anywhere before the series prematurely ended. They teased more with Hordak and the potential of She-Ra getting to appear in the reboot but that also wasn’t allowed to happen.
I do have those minor quibbles I mentioned though, so it isn’t perfect. Why are the heroes called the Masters now? That more fits the villains’ ego and was going to be in the original show. Although I always thought the title meant both sides, but “heroic warriors” worked better for me. Cringer and Battlecat have no personality of their own. When the Thundercats reboot took away Snarf’s voice he at least got a personality. Battlecat is just He-Man’s steed while Cringer is just there to become Battlecat and after the first four episodes is never seen otherwise. It’s a huge mistake in my opinion. Also, the creators went a bit overboard and showing how strong and powerful everyone is. Everyone lands with thunderous booms, the energy blasts (mystical or scientific) are the biggest and loudest things possible…we get it guys! They’re really really strong. Apparently the gravity dropped along with the Mystic Wall. Overall though this is probably the best reboot on this list.
I had a fifth entry in mind but it’s not coming to me, so let’s do this. I could do a whole series of articles on the various incarnations of Superman alone outside the comic books. Here is a character that has been rebooted many, many times. And that’s just IN the comics. Every live action and animated TV show has done their own take on the Man Of Steel and his friends. Even the movies have had numerous versions. And most of them somehow got it right. But somehow in recent years anything not done in animation has gotten Superman completely wrong. Smallville started out okay but went off the rails while Man Of Steel never made it out of the train station and Batman V Superman never made it TO the station. Come to think of it Superboy got it wrong to, so I guess the moral is “if you’re going to do Superman’s origin, don’t do it in live action”. Richard Donner was the only one to get that part right, and I have adaptation issues with his movie as well.
All of the Superman shows I grew up with, and stuff I would find later like the radio dramas and serials, got the character right to varying degrees. Even if they got the origin wrong beyond “came from Krypton before it went boom” there were other issues. However, who Superman is, who Lois Lane is, and when they got it who their friends are all at least tried to match the original. Different things were tried. Some worked, some were having Perry White replace “great Caesar’s ghost” with “great shades of Elvis” (Lois & Clark made him an Elvis Presley fanatic because…). I could easily point out the best parts of everything up to Man Of Steel, and even a scene or two from that, to highlight just how Superman can adapted correctly while doing something different and maybe even adding something to the lore.
So don’t tell me that I don’t like change or just want everything to be what I like. That last one is on you and the former is easily disproved. You can properly reboot and update a classic work, respecting the original and doing something new. If it wasn’t meant for your tastes in the first place then it isn’t for you and you should go make your own version. Let us have the characters and concepts we love. I don’t mess with your stuff and I could easily ruin Game Of Thrones for you more than the showrunners supposedly did. Probably just by making one person a decent person. Reboot and re-imagine the shows and movies you like and let us have ours. It’s not better because you like it now. It’s better because they fixed minor problems and remained true to the source material while still doing something new and updating for a modern audience who may also enjoy that take. It can be done if you care, and lately all the movie studios, TV networks, comic companies, and streaming service show creators only care about the big name and the crowd they can draw. And then they trash fans of the original who complain. Do it right or have the guts to create something new and build your audience instead of trashing fans of the original.
There will always be someone who will only be interested in the stuff you grew up with. For the rest of us, we want something new. If we want something different, we’ll watch something different. Like not the not-stalgia trip you’re putting out.