So awesome. Animated cover by Kerry Callen:
The New DCU of… 1986? finale
While the shaping of the new DCU in 1986 comes to a close, it’s worth it to look at 1987 as well, since much of this year would cement for us readers just what it would mean to be part of the new DC Universe:
- Shazam: the New Beginning: the first attempt to make Captain Marvel relevant for the new age:
- Legends #6: The new Wonder Woman is revealed to the rest of the DCU leading the way for her role among the others as well as a new relationship with Superman. This issue also teased us with a new Justice League. But not in the way we would expect.
- Spectre #1. Before the John Ostrander/Tom Mandrake run, this was the first attempt at bringing Spectre into the present day DCU as well as bringing him to the attention of many new readers.
- Justice League #1. The old League was dead and the new League would rise from the ashes. It would spawn spin-offs and in many ways, was the flagship team title for the new DCU.
- Suicide Squad #1. Spinning out of Legends and Secret Origins #14, this new series, focusing on DC’s villains, would be a sleeper hit. Again, squarely in the new post-Crisis DCU, if it weren’t for this book, characters such as Captain Boomerang and Deadshot would not have the status they have today.
- Flash #1. The last of the big seven to make his mark on the new DCU, Wally West takes his place as the new Flash, with limited speed, great Butch Guice artwork and a newfound fame among readers.
- Batman #408. The post-Crisis/post-Year One Batman is here, with a new version of Jason Todd.
- Young All-Stars #1. Roy Thomas finally reveals the new characters that will take the place of the Earth-2 Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. All set in the Golden Age past of this new unified Earth, we finally are full steam into DC’s past.
- Doctor Fate #1. A new legacy is created as the Golden Age Dr. Fate gives way to a new modern man behind the golden mask.
- Legion of Super-Heroes #37 and #38, Superman #8 and Action Comics #591. The Legion of Super-Heroes team with the new Superman all in an effort to make sense of their inspiration, Superboy. It’s one of those loose ends that had to be dealt with and, while not perfect, it was at least adventurous and emotional.
- Shadow #1. While not in the DCU proper, it was at least another attempt to do something different with a character, both in tone and art.
- Green Arrow: the Longbow Hunters. A thematic sequel to Dark Knight Returns, this time by Mike Grell, Green Arrow gets a new lease on life setting him up for a new era in the DCU.
- Action Comics Annual 1: Superman and Batman team-up. With art by Art Adams. This really is a new age for DC.
- Doom Patrol #1. Spinning out of Secret Origins Annual 1, the team of outcasts and freaks is dusted off and would, along with Swamp Thing, be one of the founding titles in DC’s later Vertigo line.
- Detective Comics #579. This Batman title finally joins the post-Crisis DCU in the present and begins the fantastic Norm Breyfogle run.
- Millennium. DC’s third major event beings, connecting DC’s present to its future potential.
- Hellblazer #1. Spinning out of Swamp Thing, this mature reader’s title pushed the boundaries of horror and would be another title that would join Vertigo’s founding stable.
Whew. As I said in the beginning. The DCU grew and changed and evolved and became something entirely new for the late 80s. Along with the DCU proper, it would spin off into titles not set in the DCU but also worth reading, or, at the very least, worth trying. It was a great time to be a DC reader, it was a great time to be a comic reader. And, as I alluded to way back in my initial paragraphs, it was a time that we were excited about because it felt like it belonged to us. It felt like DC was doing it because they wanted to excite and invigorate their line, their creative teams, their universe and their readers. We didn’t look at it as a way to rid ourselves of stale characters, we looked at it as a chance to really invest ourselves in this new world, giving us a doorway into the past while exploring the uncharted future. It isn’t either/or. It isn’t just the past or just the future. It was all of it. DC pre and post-Crisis. The same thing will happen in the new DCU. New readers will always be curious to learn more about a new character or new to them character. And if that means going back into a timeline that perhaps isn’t being used anymore, so what? Characters change each time the creative baton gets passed. Byrne’s Superman is different from Bates’ Superman is different from Morrison’s Superman, Loeb’s, Jurgens’, Johns’, etc. He always gets rebooted, his supporting characters reshuffled, his villains given different focus.
We weren’t afraid to jump into the DCU of 1986 and I’m sure as hell not afraid to jump into the DCU of 2011.
The New DCU of… 1986? part 4
- Demon #1. Kirby’s toys are being played with, by Matt Wagner no less. The post-Crisis/post-Dark Knight Returns flavor of the month was to redefine some of DC’s characters in the spirit of DKR. This month would be Demon’s turn as the character is given a new status quo, a relaunch, for a new generation of readers. While certainly familiar with the character from his team-up appearance with Superman in DC Comics Presents (drawn by Joe Kubert no less), as well as his appearances in Swamp Thing (Monkey King!), he felt new with this mini-series, for better or for worse. Again, not a total reboot, but definitely a new path. I equate this with what DC is doing now for characters such as Animal Man, Swamp Thing, I, Vampire, even Justice League Dark.
- Superman 1, Adventures of Superman 424, and Action Comics 584. Even though these titles are basically replacing Superman, Action Comics and DC Comics Presents, it still felt like a new line of Superman books. Superman was Byrne’s baby that explored the super-hero. Adventures of Superman was by Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway and touched mostly on the life of Clark Kent and his supporting characters. And Action Comics, Byrne again, was just that - action and team-ups with the DCU characters Byrne wanted to play with. If you wanted to know how Superman fit into the larger DCU tapestry, you read all three no questions asked. Because they were all good, they were by some of the best creators of the day, and they were the way forward.
- History of the DC Universe #1. Marv Wolfman and George Perez shed some light on the new post-Crisis DCU by giving us its origin story, both in terms of continuity and publishing to some degree. While some elements of the lost Earth-2 are still absent from this volume, the DCU as a whole is explored, by the Crisis’ Harbinger character, to give the readers a map to this new universe they were about to explore. Some hints of things to come are dropped here and there, especially in issue two, and it was definitely a talked about book at the time. (One of the little changes happens in the All Star Squadron double page spread, with the character of Black Spider showing up. Another is the retelling of the Greek Gods of myth which is clearly influenced by the upcoming Wonder Woman origin).
- ads for the new Wonder Woman have started to appear. Just a simple, beautiful shot of a new curly haired Wonder Woman. Flying, with no heels. By George Perez. It would be a ground-up reboot of another major DC character with another tweak to the costume. And we were ready for it. If you ever thought Wonder Woman was a boring character, I’m here to give proof that this title would become a major DC title at the time.
- Wonder Woman #1. And here it is. The new Wonder Woman. In all her Greek myth glory. Never had the character been given such a definitive origin story. In-depth, well researched, powerful. This was a new Wonder Woman for the ages. She was strong, she was smart, she felt relevant. All with beautiful detailed artwork. It was the book Perez was meant to draw after his years on the Titans. Now all that was left to answer was what was going to happen to Batman.
- Batman #404. Frank Miller returns with Batman Year One. Not only the story that would define the character for this era, but it also gave DC a new branding to play with for years to come. Batman Year One created a whole new backstory for Batman and his supporting cast - and for Gotham - and, after having just gone through Dark Knight Returns - our collective minds were once again challenged and blown away. It was nothing that we were expecting. It’s interesting to note, that even though this origin story was so powerful and so influential, it didn’t change the ongoing Bat titles that followed. Unlike Man of Steel to the Superman titles, Batman Year One to Batman and Detective Comics didn’t quite have the same passage of tone or feeling of continuation. Little things here and there for certain. But nothing so widespread. So, Batman in the post-Crisis universe was not going to go through a full reboot. His origin was different for sure, but his daily adventures would continue.
- Secret Origins #11. Power Girl’s origin is finally explained. No longer connected to the no-longer in continuity Superman of Earth-2, she’s given the new origin of being connected to… Atlantis! Most notably, to the time of one of DC’s sword and sorcery characters, Arion the Lord of Atlantis. So, another question gets answered (while also opening up a new batch of questions) and, while we may not completely fall head over heels with the idea, it’s at least a new direction for the character. One that gives her some kind of status in the new DCU.
- History of the DC Universe #2. The origin story of the DCU reaches the present (and the future) and starts to drop hints of titles and changes yet to come: Batman in an actual black and gray costume; the Justice League of America origin with no mention of Superman or Wonder Woman; a mixture of characters from other publishers including Quality, Fawcett and Charlton; a new international Justice League with Guy Gardner, Captain Marvel, Black Canary in a new costume and some shiny guy in silver that we just assumed was the new Captain Atom; also new to our eyes, Suicide Squad with Rick Flag, Bronze Tiger, Enchantress, Captain Boomerang and Deadshot and others, a title that wasn’t out yet; and the new Wonder Woman in all her Perez glory. This new DCU was bringing to the forefront and showcasing some b and c list heroes and villains and it was buzzworthy for sure. And I’m not sure they would have been given a chance had DC not created for themselves a new publishing continuity to play in.
- Question #1. Although different from a recent appearance in Blue Beetle, this was another title that proved that DC was taking its characters and this new relaunch seriously. For its time, the Question series was a critical darling with excellent and very different covers by Bill Sienkiewicz. No longer could DC’s writing be called stale or of another time.
- Captain Atom #1. New design. New origin. New great title. The way DC managed to integrate these Charlton characters into their universe so easily was such a joy to watch unfold. Captain Atom was a reflection of the time - politics, President Reagan, the Russians - but it was a super-hero book through and through and gave the readers a different part of the DCU that wasn’t really being explored before. Ever since their appearance in the Crisis, the Charlton characters were a fresh new bunch of characters to explore and by this issue, they had all more or less been mixed in with other great DC figures.
-end part 4-
The New DCU of… 1986? part 3
- Batman #400. While it’s still a few more issues before we’ll get Batman Year One, this issue is a great tribute to the Earth-1 or pre-Crisis Batman and his supporting characters, villains and to Gotham City itself. It’s a mix of various creators (Art Adams doing Batman! Sweet!) and, much like “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow”, gave readers a chance to say goodbye even if we didn’t quite know it just yet that we were losing the “superhero” Batman for the Frank Miller version.
- Man of Steel #1 and #2. And here it is. Perhaps the first real idea of what the new DCU was going to look like. A new Krypton, a new origin, a new Smallville, heck, a new way to draw the costume! It was a giant mix of Superman mythos from the comics, radio show and movies. The Crisis wave was starting to finally settle and our new DCU was ready to emerge. And boy did we have questions. What about Lois? What about Lex? What about some of Superman’s villains? What about Superman and the rest of the characters in the DCU? And most importantly, what would be his role in the new DCU? If you think trying to figure out what DC is going to do with Superman is a first, now, in 2011, I’m here to say it’s not. It’s not even the second time. Or third. Or fifth. Whenever big changes happen at DC, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are always, ALWAYS, tweaked. Maybe to different degrees, but it’s almost a given. And in 1986, having already played around with Batman in Dark Knight Returns, and now Superman, that left only Wonder Woman.
- Batman #401. The next major DC event, Legends, begins with this chapter one tie-in. Again, Batman Year One hasn’t hit the stands, but the lead villain is Magpie, a Byrne creation from Man of Steel #3 also out this month. So clearly this is post-Crisis DCU, even though Batman has not quite made the complete shift over. Speaking of Man of Steel, #3 cements the relationship between Batman and Superman that began in Dark Knight Returns, and #4 gives a whole new Lex Luthor, shedding the mad scientist persona for a new evil for the 80s, the business mogul! Same character, new look, new outlook. The DCU is definitely changing.
- Legends #1. The new DCU gets a new event. And with Byrne at the art helm, it definitely feels different and it answers some of the questions we’ve been having. Mostly, what’s up with Wally West Flash. how does Superman fit in this world, what about Captain Marvel/Shazam? This event also cemented Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters squarely into the DCU, something that was toyed with certainly up to this point in various titles (JLA, LSH, etc). The tone of the DCU felt really different with this book, and it would start to spread from here.
- ‘Mazing Man #12. I know, it’s probably weird that I’m including this issue. But do you know what it features? A team-up with ‘Mazing Man and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns version of Batman. And that’s just too cool.
- Man of Steel #5 and #6. More Superman villain revamps. A new kick-ass Lois Lane. Ma and Pa Kent part of Superman’s life. The origin story for the Superman of a new era is over which would now kick us off into three ongoing titles: Superman, Adventures of Superman and Action Comics. Just like like the DCU of 2011, Man of Steel took a look at Superman’s past, and we were now ready for Superman’s present. Time setting shifting - nothing new in the DCU.
- Cosmic Boy #1. The first of a four-issue mini-series that brings Cosmic Boy to the present day of the DCU. But it’s not the DCU he remembers. Another title that is set clearly in the post-Crisis universe, this mini series is a Legends tie-in as well as major turning point for the Legion of Super-Heroes and its origin. Legionnaire in the past while his teammate is in the future? That certainly sounds familiar to us in 2011 yes?
-end part 3-