At the end of 2011 DC Comics, home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and G’nort, ended its then current continuity of the DC Universe for a new reboot. This reboot, starting with 52 number 1 issues and often referred to as the New 52 or, my preferred, DCnU. While DC received an impressive sales spike the reception of the line has been mixed. Of course, making a fanboy such as myself grouse about comics is rather simple.
One of the stated goals was that DC’s super heroes continuity had become convoluted to the point that it was keeping away new readers. As the market for traditional comic books is shrinking (stupid Internet!) DC, correctly, thought a slew of first issues would drive in the sales. But as this trick has been done before they upped the ante by further announcing that the new number ones would be the start of a whole new universe! Characters would be younger, stronger, hipper! A certain liberal loudmouth would be transformed into a WB heartthrob. All the characters would be written as if brand new! Except for Batman and Green Lantern, but let’s ignore that for now.
This isn’t the first time DC has flipped its switch on a continuity either. 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths served as an earlier restart point. (This is probably a good time to point out that my DC history chops aren’t the strongest out there. Apologies for goofs.). I was too young to appreciate the significance of the 1986 event, but it do know that it produced one of the most acclaimed Superman stories of all time. Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” was a celebration and farewell to the silver age Superman. It’s a superhero story comic fans use as a gateway drug to bring in more comic book fans and is also used to validate superhero comics as art and literature. And it only two issues long.
I don’t know if 1986 gave any other DC characters swan songs. I don’t even know if at the time the changes were viewed as the ending of characters story or not. I do know that in the DCnU, that is how things have been seen for characters outside of the Batman and Green Lantern line of comics. The results are new characters with designs and personalities that are generally only based on what was previously established. I don’t really want to go into whether or not the change was good or bad in this post but mention something I haven’t heard from other fans. Where we’re the swan songs for the pre DCnU characters?
A common acknowledgement/complaint about American comics is that, for the most part, the status quo will be preserved and/or restored. In Marvel comics the past few months has fought the death of Professor Xavier (founder of the X-Men) and Dr. Octopus taking over Spider-Man’s body. These changes are being touted as the new status quo, but every fan is placing bets and making jokes about whether or not these changes will be reversed before Christmas or whether it will last until the next wave of the character’s respective movies to come out. The past almost decade of Avengers comics have had huge shakeups and deaths, only for every toy to be placed back in the box when the writers changed hands. Status quo will be maintained.
But this will likely not be the case for the current wave of DC comics. The old universe is gone, Lon live the new universe. So, why didn’t DC do something astounding the toys they were about to throw away? The could have done anything without having to worry about repercussions and majority of their comics line went out with a whimper with heroes looking into the distance after nobly conquering the threat of the month. What a waste.
They could have done anything. A massive storyline where the world ends by fire. Deeply personal pop and emotional pieces. Batman admits his love for Hawkman, or heck, Dick Grayson. Superman gets a brain tumor. With the right creative team wouldn’t that be powerful? He gets weaker and weaker while his loving wife Lois does what she can while the other heroes have to contend with the threats that used to be a job for Superman. That could be the basis for the entire line of comics. You could have the depressing weight of it along with the uplifting love and support from Superman’s friends and family. A bed ridden Clark Kent telling Lois that sickness is worth it just because for once he knows he can stay by here side and not have to rush off to fight some villain. If that doesn’t brings a tear to your eyes then you have no love in your heart.
Instead, DC went with not much of anything*. One issue the universe existed. The next it didn’t. Poof. I can’t help but wonder if there was a more fitting send off to the characters that had been in place since at least 1986, if more of us grumpy fanboys would have been more open to the DCnU.
*yes, there was flashpoint. But that was a separate universe having nothing to do with the then current universe. It was basically an elseworlds tale. Speaking of which, even if DC just stated that Kingdom Come was the official end of the post crisis universe, it might have made some folks happy.