Over the summer I wrote about the rate of “idea generation” across decades of DC history. Essentially, I was talking about the number of new ideas (or new uses for old ideas) being produced under current superhero-comics storytelling trends. Idea generation and world-building go hand in hand, such that the more ideas you can harmonize into a reasonably coherent (and accessible) shared universe, the better.
The 2006-07 weekly miniseries 52 put DC’s shared universe to good use. Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, laid out by Keith Giffen, and drawn by an array of artists, 52 had a handful of C- and D-list characters guide readers through various obscure corners of the DCU. 52’s locales included a Metropolis without Superman, Black Adam’s Khandaq, an island of mad scientists, and the farthest reaches of outer space. 52 also featured its share of new characters, like the Chinese super-team called The Great Ten, the intergalactic despot Lady Styx and the dark religion of the Crime Bible. Of course, it also debuted new versions of Batwoman, the Question, Infinity Inc. and Supernova.
Because it chronicled a year in which the Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman each disappeared from public view, and because it had that year all to itself (thanks to the other titles’ concurrent “One Year Later” time-jump), 52 gave readers a unique opportunity to poke into the dusty corners of DC’s attic. Due (mostly) to the vagaries of its truncated timeline, the New 52 apparently doesn’t have such an extensive history. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t take readers on a similar journey.
Here is what you need to know going into this week’s post: I sat down with a list of DC’s current and upcoming superhero-universe comics, and rearranged it into a big chart. Now I have to make that little factoid exciting. Join me, won’t you?
* * *
The watchword of any shared universe is “consistency.” Superman’s adventures in Superman and Action Comics may be produced by two different creative teams, and they may even take place in different timeframes, but they be must at least coexist peacefully both with each other and with the rest of DC’s superhero line. That’s part and parcel of corporately-controlled superhero comics, regardless of any tension with a professional’s creative freedom.
DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio triggered a minor crisis of his own Saturday when he announced on Facebook that, “after further review, there have been no Crisis events in the New DCU.”
The proclamation sent blogs and message boards into overdrive as fans grappled with the ramifications of no Crises — no Infinite Crisis, no Final Crisis, and no Crisis on Infinite Earths, the 1985 “maxi-series” whose impact was so profound that DC history became defined by “pre-Crisis” and “post-Crisis,” comics’ answer to B.C. and A.D.
But clearly in the universe of the post-Flashpoint New 52 there was a Final Crisis, as Bruce Wayne “died” — or, rather, he was hurled back through time — and was temporarily replaced as Batman by Dick Grayson. There are undoubtedly other loose threads that are best not picked at, but that’s the one that springs immediately to mind. It’s one of the pitfalls of leaving the continuities of some characters, like Batman and Green Lantern, essentially intact, while sending dozens of others back to square one.
Noting the tumult his announcement created, DiDio returned on Sunday with clarification. Sort of: “For those in crisis over Crisis, let me clarify. The topic of Crisis was much discussed among the editors and talent working on The New 52. With so many characters and histories restarting, major events like Crisis are harder to place when they work for some and not for others. (that was one of the problems coming out of the original Crisis). While we are starting aprx five years into our heroes’ lives, we are focused on the characters present and future, and past histories will be revealed as the stories dictate. Yes, there have been “crisis” in our characters lives, but they aren’t exactly the Crisis you read before, they can’t be. Now, what this means for characters seen and unseen…… well, that’s the fun of The New 52, infinite stories, infinite possibilities, with the best yet to come. [...] P.S. that’s the last time I try and answer a Facebook question before rushing out for dinner.”
That should clear things up! Right?
(via DC Women Kicking Ass)
While it might not be much, Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day will bring our first real glimpse at the world of Flashpoint. I’ve been looking at the looming alternate-universe epic as little more than a fun way to spend the summer — which would be fine, by the way — but apparently that is just crazy talk. Everything will change, as it always does; as it did with Brightest Day and Blackest Night and Final Crisis, etc., etc.
Naturally, there are different degrees of “change,” from wholesale reorganization to continuity tweaks. 1985′s Crisis On Infinite Earths gave DC carte blanche to rework characters from the ground up. 1994′s Zero Hour, 2005-06′s Infinite Crisis and 52, and 2008-09′s Final Crisis also allowed DC to tinker with the timeline, mostly on a small scale. More esoteric devices like Hypertime, Super-punches, and plot-specific time travel have produced and/or explained certain changes.
However, in practical terms, the post-COIE changes haven’t upset too many apple carts. Oh, Zero Hour tried to clean up Hawkman’s history, and it also facilitated a new Legion of Super-Heroes timeline, both of which were big deals. More recently, though, Infinite Crisis gave Clark Kent a “secret Superboy” career and restored certain aspects of Batman’s and Wonder Woman’s histories, but those developments stayed in the background. Accordingly, a change that doesn’t affect a title’s regular storytelling practice doesn’t seem like much of a change.
And therein lies the real puzzle of Flashpoint: what room is there, across DC’s superhero line, for the kind of change which excites more than it frustrates? Of the 55 DCU/superhero-line titles DC will publish in July (as the big event reaches its midpoint), 17 are part of Flashpoint, and many of the rest are dealing with their own ongoing arcs. Today we’ll look at who might be flexible, and speculate a little on what might happen.
The first two parts of this little exploration looked at DC’s attempts to launch ongoing series in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when line-wide events became regular occurrences in the superhero line. However, as those surveys made abundantly clear, said events didn’t seem to relate much either to concurrently-launched ongoing series or to the relative success of said series.
Instead, the number of new ongoing series debuting in a particular calendar year looks somewhat cyclical. There were five new ongoings in 1985 (the year of Crisis On Infinite Earths), up to 14 in 1988 and 17 in 1992, then easing down to 15 in 1994, 13 in 1996, and 10 in 1997. In 1998 and 2000, DC launched only four new ongoing series; in 1999, six; and in 2001, seven. At the risk of exciting you too quickly with more numbers, a later year will have sixteen.
For now, though, we pick up in 2002, at the beginning of a quieter time.
* * *
Continue Reading »