The New 52: What We Really Learned About the DC Relaunch at Comic-Con
At San Diego Comic Con 2011, the editors, writers and artists behind DC’s New 52 initiative — in which they’re relaunching every DCU book soup to nuts in September — pulled back the curtains a bit to show how the sausage is made, and gave a lot more hints as to the nature of what we’re going to be seeing when Flashpoint concludes, confirming that Flashpoint is indeed the story where we’ll see the transformation of the old DC Universe into the new one. So, what did we learn about the New 52 at Comic-Con? We’ve got the breakdown and analysis.Q: When Did DC Comics Pull The Trigger on the Relaunch?
A: A few months ago, by their own admission — most likely as Brightest Day was wrapping up, considering that ended with a few loose plot threads that will seemingly be ditched by the relaunch. Grant Morrison stated he started working on Action Comics #1 in March, so at least that early, but it’s also possible that when Morrison started his work on the title, the reboot was smaller in scope and only affecting certain titles.
DiDio stated straight out that his original pitch was all-new #1s except for Action and Detective, but the Powers That Be (perhaps President Diane Nelson?) felt they wouldn’t be taken seriously unless they relaunched those two titles as well. Either way, the fact that the relaunch didn’t leak until May is a good sign that this must have been a relatively recent decision, since changes this sweeping don’t stay secrets for long. So while it’s been in the works for a few months, it certainly hasn’t been planned for years like many other recent DC events like Blackest Night and Flashpoint, which were teased years before their release.
Q: What’s Staying and What’s Going from the Old DCU to the New?
A: While a lot is unclear as to the exact makeup of the new DC Universe, there are quite a few things we do know. For one thing, the WildStorm characters — including Midnighter, Apollo, Voodoo, Grifter and the crew — have been integrated into the DCU’s history, seemingly replacing the Justice Society as the reason why Earth hasn’t been blown up by forty billion alien dictators before Superman’s arrival.
While Stormwatch, by Paul Cornell’s admission, has been working underground for decades, the concept of the gaudily-dressed superhero as public figure is relatively new, created in the past five years by Superman. As a result, the “modern” DC Universe as we know it is compressed into that five-year time period, and Executive Editor Eddie Berganza claims to have built a timeline to that effect that we won’t see, at least for a while. Batman’s career will extend a decent period of time before that as an urban legend in Gotham City, allowing Grant Morrison to continue with his grand Batman story — and the myriad legacy sidekicks Batman has had — to keep going undisturbed. Doing this restores Superman’s status as the World’s First Superhero in the DC Universe, even if he isn’t the world’s first superhuman.
As for the Justice League itself, apparently Cyborg is a founding member who will, according to Johns, later go on to join the Teen Titans, seemingly keeping the Wolfman/Perez run in continuity. Confirming that, Scott Lobdell stated that his Teen Titans title won’t be the first iteration of the team in the DC Universe, but seemingly the first one featuring these characters (Red Robin, Superboy, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, etc.)
Francis Manapul confirmed on Twitter that Barry Allen still died in the Crisis, which means that that story still takes place; in an interview with, well, me, Grant Morrison stated that Nix Uotan will play a major role in Multiversity, which means that Final Crisis must have occurred in some form. Exactly how these series happened without the existence of the Justice Society is unclear, and Manapul declined to comment on who the Flash was (or if there was one) during Barry’s absence, continuing to leave Wally West’s status in the new DC Universe completely unknown. And if Wally West never existed, then the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans would be totally different, and we’re looking at a Mexican Train of falling dominoes we’re unlikely to see the results of until a while into the relaunch.
Q: So is this a really a reboot, or a relaunch?
A: It seems clear not that this is just a relaunch. The entire history of the DC Universe is not being swept under the rug of the New 52; certain elements are, but many of the defining moments will still have occurred, likely in different forms. This could lead to tangled mess of is-it-or-isn’t-it-real continuity similar to what occurred after the first Crisis, or it’s possible that Berganza’s timeline is sufficiently exact, and distributed enough, that everyone’s on the same page with the new history of the DC Universe.
Unquestionably, some characters are more affected than others — Batman’s history seems to be almost entirely untouched, while Superman seems almost entirely rebooted. In fact, when asked what Superman stories were still in continuity other than his death and return, Berganza was forced to resort to iconic elements of his origin such as the explosion of Krypton and being raised by Ma and Pa Kent, implying that almost everything else about him is being reimagined from the ground up.
Q: Is There Any Chance of Going Back to the Former Status Quo?
A: In short: no.
DiDio categorically stated that nobody would remember the old DC Universe, or Flashpoint. When asked about Booster Gold, Dan Jurgens intimated that even that character might not. DiDio was adamant about there being no “trap doors,” no characters remembering past events, nothing to even imply the existence of a DC Universe before this one from a storytelling perspective. This was the entire purpose behind renumbering even Action and Detective — to make absolutely clear the degree to which they’re willing to commit. This is the new DC Universe, and it’s up to the readers to decide if they want to live in it.