Yes, that one paragraph is a single sentence, I apologize.

§ August 28th, 2020 § Filed under dc comics § 10 Comments

Roel asks

“Hi Mike! If I wanted to understand current DC continuity, what is my best resource? Is there a website that would help clarify where things stand, and maybe point out key issues that can get me up to speed? Thanks for any suggestions!”

Hi Roel! Boy, that’s a doozy of a question, particularly when it comes to DC Comics and its shared superhero universe. Ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC continuity has been a patchwork mélange of refits, restarts and reboots, a constant schizophrenic scramble forwards yet backwards trying to put everything back in the original packaging while also simultaneously declaring their product “new!” and “improved!”

But even that continuity eventually felt generally smoothed out and consistent compared to the kicking-over-of-the-table “New 52” initiative, a publishing strategy that to all appearances was a last-second decision, so deleterious to DC’s universe that if it had been much planned ahead of release, one could be forgiven for thinking they were deliberately trying to reinvent and outdo the confusion that followed Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In fact, it was such a mess that DC was compelled to follow up with the linewide “Rebirth,” with more restarts and…maybe not so much “reboots,” but rejiggerings of characters and concepts across the board. Compared to the New 52, Rebirth felt like a little more thought was put into it, a little more care was taken to keep the things that worked, and to try to fix the things that didn’t work. Most notable, perhaps, was getting rid of the mostly* objectionable New 52 version of Superman and replacing him with the preferred post-Crisis/pre-New 52 one (to no small measure of irony to those of us who remember the negative reaction to that Superman’s introduction in the ’80s).

The ultimate overarching statement of “Rebirth” was “oh yeah, the New 52? That was actually Watchmen‘s fault” as explained in Doomsday Clock. When you write off a publishing initiative in-universe as the result of an attack by a “bad guy,” that certainly sends a message.

Now, my friend Roel, I know none of this really answers your question. All I’m trying to do is explain why your question is hard to answer. The best response I think to getting a handle on the current version of the DC Universe is maybe getting your hands on a copy of DC Universe Rebirth, the 80-page one-shot that kicked off what’s going on now. DC’s usually pretty good about publishing occasional one-shots that give you an idea where everyone’s at just prior to whatever event is about to happen (Countdown to Infinite Crisis was another). Now these one-shots are set-ups, of course, establishing mysteries and situations to be dealt with over the next year or four of DC Comics, but they do provide an overview of its universe as it stands At That Moment.

In DC Universe Rebirth‘s case, its eventual resolution in Doomsday Clock ended up not really resulting in anything of any impact on the mainline universe. The ballyhooed “return of the Legion of Super-Heroes” it was supposed to bring about already happened before the series concluded, for example. So, basically, you could read just this and not miss a whole lot.

If you wanted to jump into the DCU as it stands now, however, just jump in with whatever character you like, and eventually you’ll get an idea of whatever the prevailing continuity is, particularly in relation to whatever title you’re reading. Now, Justice League could be the most wide-ranging of the titles, as it should give you whatever the current accepted DC Universe versions of the primary superhero characters. You may or may not get specifics of each character from their own titles…like, maybe they’ll mention that Superman’s identity is now public, for example.

I mean, aside from that…perhaps your best bet is to not worry about continuity, and just enjoy the books you enjoy. Let continuity sort itself out. And chances are, with DC’s recent cuts and reorganizations, we could very well be heading to another “fixing” of DC’s publishing line. Maybe not an explicit reboot, but I’ve put my dime down on a reworking everything into a shape that’s a little more media-adaptation friendly, more accessible and less tied to the minutia of a shared universe.

Okay, you’d asked for websites that could set you straight. Well, frankly, I’d advise you to avoid all comic book content online as that way lies madness…surely reading my site has taught you that! But you can probably find some pretty good resources just by Googling “dc comics reading order” and you’ll get some folks who’ve already done the hard work of figuring out what to read and where.

And naturally there’s always Wikipedia. Not always perfect, but given the obsessive nature of the sort of comic fans who’d spend time editing Wikipedia articles, chances are they’d do a reasonable job explaining whatever recent histories of characters you’d need. FULL DISCLOSURE: this is coming from the fella who once edited the “Abby Arcane” Wiki page to correct the first appearance notation.

There are also specialized Wikis for purt’near everything. This DC Fandom Wiki would likely come in useful.

I’m sure there are more, and that friendly readers of this site will drop their suggestions in the comments. I hope this helps, Roel!
 
 

* Yes, the character did have some good moments, but never felt like he quite “gelled,” never really felt like Superman.

10 Responses to “Yes, that one paragraph is a single sentence, I apologize.”

  • Kurt Onstad says:

    Roel may also enjoy the first episode of Welcome to Geektown, where I discuss the various starts and restarts of the DC Universe. You can listen to it as a podcast (https://www.welcome2geektown.com/geektown/2018/3/29/episode-i-the-starts-and-restarts-of-the-dc-universe) or get added images by viewing it on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByyOPV88-zA&)

  • This was a good breakdown of the last 10 years of DC Continuity. However, I don’t know how you got through this without talking about Swamp Thing continuity. I was confused enough by Scott Snyder’s first couple of issues, that I haven’t tried anything since outside of a couple of the 100 page Walmart books. Those confused me even more.

  • @misterjayem says:

    “whatever the prevailing continuity is”

    This may be the most apt phrase ever uttered, typed or thunk in all of 2020.

    I salute you, sir.

    — MrJM

  • jmurphy says:

    Mike,

    in your first paragraph you mis-spelled “Ever since Flash #123”. And for a single example of “refits, restarts and reboots” that predate Crisis by a decade-and-a-half I give you “The Amazing NEW Adventures of Superman Number 1 (best selling comics magazine) dated Jan 1971. [Supes 233, iow].

    This stuff didn’t start with Crisis and it won’t end any time soon.

    jmurphy

  • Thom H. says:

    “And chances are, with DC’s recent cuts and reorganizations, we could very well be heading to another ‘fixing’ of DC’s publishing line.”

    I’m hoping it’s less of a “fix” and more of a gentle redirection. How difficult would it be to let current stories wind down and start publishing more continuity-lite versions of existing characters?

    That seems like the path of least resistance at this point. Another Crisis or Flashpoint or whatever runs the risk of alienating old and new fans alike.

    I don’t want to speak for everyone, but the past decade or more has seemed like the “Crisis of Infinite Crises” at DC, and it’s been sad and exhausting to watch.

  • Mikester says:

    Roel: I approve of Geektown’s podcast. Check it out.

    Patrick: yeah, Swamp Thing’s post-New 52 continuity is a mess, and I’ve addressed it in the past, here and there. Just poke through the Swamp Thing category circa 2016 or so and I’m sure you’ll see me going on endlessly about it.

    jmurphy – fair enough. I think the continuity issues, though, were less obnoxious prior to COIE, but that could very well be the haze of nostalgia as that’s the DC Universe I was essentially “born” into. I mean, COIE happened for a reason, after all, so I’m sure everything wasn’t find and dandy prior to that. …Man, just imagine if the Golden Age Flash had been retired and living out of town instead of in a parallel universe…how much simpler everything would’ve been.

  • Wayne Allen Sallee says:

    Mike: touching on what jmmurphy wrote, I don’t really see the Kryptonite No More thing as a reboot or big change. DC was settling into the 1970s. Joker became a homicidal maniac for the first time, Wonder Woman had the white pantsuit, Green Lantern and Green Arrow did their thing. I don’r recall any changes past that, to say, Flash, who still had his own book.

    Have you ever written an entry on the changes DC made in the early 70s? It wasn’t just Superman.

  • Dan says:

    There’s a book called The World of DC Comics by Andrew J. Friedenthal. It’s academic, but it supposedly explains all the in-story changes to continuity from Action 1 up through Dark Knights: Metal. I read it and still don’t understand.

  • King of the Moon says:

    I think there were two recent moments that broke my brain trying to understand DC continuity, both in Justice League

    1) cities all over the Earth are flooded. Not one mention in other books.

    2) Batman has every bone in his body broken, is confined to a chair. And yet very Bat book goes on as normal

  • Roel says:

    Thanks to Mike and all the commenters who have offered suggestions. I asked because I used to be able to hold knowledgeable discussions with friends and strangers about the existing status quo for DC, but now feel generally uninformed about everything. I keep wondering — how long have these heroes been around in that universe? Has Batman only been around for 5 years? Does the JSA date back to WWII? Are golden age characters recognized or retconned out? I was hoping there was an easy answer (like Everything from the golden age is earth-2, everything from the silver age is earth-1, everything post-COIE is earth-crisis, etc) but that doesn’t seem likely. Thanks to all! I have a lot of research to do!

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