DC comics has a long, lavish history that any writer, artist and reader could dig into. Since the DC comic book universe was established waaaaaay back in 1938 with the debut of Superman in Action Comics # 1, the Universe had just been expanding and expanding. Then in 1985 DC had a company wide event called Crisis on Infinite Earths in which a cosmic villain wiped out almost all of DC’s alternate realities. Wait, you’re not following all this? Oh sorry. Excuse me for one moment then while I issue a….
We now resume or regular scheduled Nerd Fest:
Crisis on Infinite Earths was meant to clean up some of the inconsistencies in the story lines but it didn’t really do its job. This led to the revamped Post-Crisis continuity where Superman never fought crime as Superboy. Other clean up events such as Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis attempted to trim down the seemingly unwieldy continuity but nothing really stuck. By 2009 DC actually embraced a lot of its past, Superman now fought crime as Superboy in the past (Sort of, he at least joined up with the Legion of Superheroes as a teen), Barry Allen (The Silver Age Flash, who was killed off in 85’s Crisis) returned as the Flash. It looked as if the DCU was just going to expand on its large history and grow larger and larger.
Then in December of 2009, Disney bought Marvel. As strange as it sounds, that one real life business deal managed to change the fictional DCU. With a plan to take the already successful Marvel Studios films and expand upon them, Disney was set to build yet another entertainment empire. Before the Disney buy out in December, the muckity mucks at AOL/Time-Warner already knew the move was going to happen, so in September the mega company announced that they would be folding DC Comics into the already established DC Entertainment division. What does this all mean? Soon the company ejected the well established leadership whom all been veterans in the comic book industry and announced that entertainment industry insider Diane Nelson would be the new President of DCE.
So the suits from the second largest entertainment company were now running one of the biggest comic book companies in order to compete with the other biggest comic company which was just taken over by the biggest entertainment company….confused? The funny thing, so was AOL/Time Warner. In their panic to compete, they didn’t realize that Disney was taking a hands off approach to running Marvel. Their policy was to just allow Marvel to run itself and continue to prosper. Yeah, there has been a lot of cross-pollination with the Marvel Studios films but other than that Disney has kept its eyes on the films….and toys and theme parks and shirts and cheap crap made in china….but they let the comic book company continue to run itself.
…The first order of business for Diane Nelson and the DCE? To ditch the long established history and remold the 70+ year old characters into properties that would make great movies. DC used the plot of the horrendous Flash Point Mini-Series to rewrite the company’s history. The Flash’s arch foe, the Reverse Flash goes back in time all Marty McFly style to mess with the Flash and ends up changing history. This creates a crazy ass tangent world where Biff Tannen now runs Hill Valley and Metropolis…or something like that.
When the Flash uses his super speed mystic mojo whama jamma powers to set things straight, there is some other crazy woman in the time stream (We find out she’s Pandora and she’s nothing special so just move along…) and she messes up the proper timeline. So now from this point on (2011), all of the major DCU characters have only been around for 5 years. The company debut 52 brand new # 1 issues. The cosmic reset button had been pressed and everything starts anew….except it didn’t. A lot of writers and artists who had existing books and huge running storylines threatened to quit if their stories were scrapped for this reboot. DC agreed that the writers could keep their stories intact when the reboot hit. What we ended up with was a lot of weird inconsistencies. Grant Morrison had been writing his mega Batman opus since 2006 and he drew a lot from the character’s past. This was the story of a Batman who had 3 sidekicks named Robin over a long career. He learns that he has a ten year old son, Damian with his arch foe Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter Talia….Then he gets killed by a monomaniacal alien dictator named Darkseid and finds himself hopping through time like in Quantum Leap. Batman’s first Robin, Dick Grayson (Who was also Nightwing) takes the mantle and Damian Wayne becomes Robin. Then Bruce Wayne returns and announces to the world that he “finances” all of Batman’s tech and creates an international team of Bat themed super heroes. That’s a big whopping story that took over six years to tell. Well, once New 52 hit….all of that stuff I just mentioned still happened in Batman’s life, but in five years.
Not to mention the nearly ten year Green Lantern saga Geoff Johns was crafting was still part of the New 52. So a lot of the history was jettison and the stuff that stayed was all crammed into the amazingly unbelievable time frame of just five years.
Needless to say, The New 52 seemed like a construct for making money, not for honoring the fans of a lush history. Most of the books in the initial New 52 line up were canned pretty quickly. Of course, all the core heroes stayed but many of the other titles didn’t make it. Overall, many of the stories read like safe, committee made tales that are afraid to push any kind of envelope out of fear of alienating someone who wants to read the comics when the movies are released. However, with that said all of that said there have been some amazing gems in the new 52 Manure pile.
Next time we will start off our Gems of the New 52 series with the Robin Rises saga!