It’s been one hell of a year for DC Comics. Sure, they didn’t explode their comic book universe, but the heroes and villains of DC have gone through some big changes. Last week, we caught you up with what’s going on in Marvel’s “All-New” universe, and now, it’s time to catch you up on Superman and pals.
When DC relaunched their comic line in 2011 with the highly controversial “New 52”, the doors to DC’s comic book multiverse—the interconnected miasma of alternate earths home to many DC characters—were seemingly closed for good.
You should know by now though, that nothing is permanent in comics. So yeah, the Multiverse is back! Following the events of Convergence, DC’s summer comic event which brought back amalgams of past versions of DC’s heroes and some of those alternate worlds, the series climaxed with the multiverse intact and open again—and now DC operates on a sort of “concentric circle” approach to canon, where it’s free to tell more stories from the different worlds of the Multiverse, a more diverse range of stories, rather than trying to strictly categorize every comic it puts out.
Shortly after Convergence, DC used the opportunity to give a firm shake to the status quo of its line-up. Not only was there a much more diverse line of comics—more female-led series like Black Canary, or Batgirl, new non-white characters like Dr. Fate and the new host of Doomsday in Doomed, and revivals of obscure, older series like The Omega Men or Prez—but some big changes in store for its biggest stalwarts.
Superman has arguably had the roughest go when it comes to these changes. Earlier this year he got a tasty new superpower called a “Super Flare,” a huge blast wave that expelled all the solar energy in his body. It had a cost, though; for a few days after using the attack, Clark had no powers, and was essentially human for a while.
But then his powers started getting weird. He lost the ability to fly—it reverted back to the super-jump the character was created with—while some abilities altogether were much less useful than they were before. Although he still had super strength, it wasn’t quite up to the ridiculous power level it had been in the past.
That isn’t Clark’s only problem. He’s been put through a hell of a time too, thanks to Lois Lane exposing his identity as Superman (he even had to adopt a new identity to hang low), him having to abandon his job at the Planet and leave Metropolis, and even witness the seeming death of his best friend. Poor Supes.
Because Bruce Wayne died! Oh wait, he didn’t, but more on that in a second. But yes, Batman had his own problems in Gotham with the release of a Joker virus that turned innocent people into mindless killers—and to stop it, Bruce ultimately sacrificed himself to kill the Joker, saving the city in the process.
In the wake of Batman’s death, the GCPD turned to Jim Gordon to take on the mantle: he shaved his mustache (easily the most tragic casualty here), donned a pretty decent Bat-stealth suit, and then got into a ridiculously over-the-top Bat-Mecha to fight crime as the new Dark Knight.
But then Bruce Wayne got better! And can’t remember being Batman! So now while Jim does battle with a mysterious foe called Bloom as the mechanized crusader—even joining the Justice League—Bruce is currently running a children’s center on the outskirts of Gotham. Recently though, things started getting a bit less different: Jim lost his Bat-robot in a fight with Bloom, Bruce started to remember his past... and it turns out the Joker got better too. Dun dun dunnnnn!
Compared to the other two-thirds of the DC trinity, Wonder Woman got off lightly. She just replaced Ares as the God of War and her mother as the Queen of the Amazons, as you do.
While Batman and Superman’s ongoing sagas have all been about these big sweeping changes, Diana’s story has been far more personal. This is still a world where Wonder Woman only came onto the scene as a hero a few years ago, so she’s struggling to cope with these newfound responsibilities as well as her commitment as a member of the Justice League. Her biggest change? A new costume with some hilariously oversized wristblades attached.
It’s unfortunate that her status quo change isn’t quite as interesting (or as well-handled) as her friends. Diana deserves better.
But aside from that, everything else is pretty much chugging along for the rest of the main DC heroes. Let’s all just try and be surprised for a minute that it’s Batman and Superman who got the biggest focus!
Green Lantern Hal Jordan is wandering the space-cosmos in the wake of some pretty bad things happening to the Green Lantern corps. Barry Allen is running around facing the threat of a new team of Rogues and the return of Professor Zoom. Oliver Queen has returned to Seattle, looking to protect the city from shadowy threats. Cyborg... got a painful-looking new body upgrade.
Actually, that’s probably the best indicator of just how minor some of the big changes in the “DC You” initiative have been for characters not named Superman or Batman: They got new outfits. That is the most notable thing that happened to them.
Yes, you read that right—there’s currently two different Supermen running around the mainline DC universe: The Superman of the New 52, which is the Superman we’ve been talking about here, and the Superman of DC’s former universe—the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, pre-Flashpoint Superman that most people are familiar with as the iconic hero.
The character made a return for Convergence with a miniseries called Superman: Lois and Clark, but the popularity of the return prompted DC to give the character his own ongoing series again. Having somehow survived the destruction of his own Earth and finding himself on the Earth of the New 52, this Superman witnessed his alternate starting out his heroic journey and decided to keep hidden, working in the shadows to try and find a way of avoiding some of his biggest enemies from heading down a villainous path.
He’s not going to stay hidden for much longer, though—DC has already started teasing that he’ll be meeting the “current” Superman early next year.
Separate from all of that ,though, is the main Justice League comic, which is currently in a halfway house of continuity—Bruce Wayne is still Batman, Superman still has all his powers, and so on—while it goes through an event called Darkseid War, something DC have been teasing since the very beginning of the New 52 universe.
Long story short? Darkseid’s Daughter, Grail, teamed up with the Anti-Monitor to kill her father. They succeeded, and when Darkseid died, the whole pantheon of New Gods went ballistic... turning most of the Justice League into their replacements in a totally batshit god-a-palooza.
Batman is now the God of Knowledge (and immediately used his newfound power to discover the real identity of the Joker). Flash is the God of Death. Superman, the God of Strength. Shazam, the God of Gods. And bizarrely enough, Lex Luthor has taken Darkseid’s place as the God of Apokolips. There was also an incredible one-off comic about Hal Jordan becoming the God of Light, but he quickly cast aside the mantle, in a fantastic character piece that fans of Green Lantern (and Hal in particular) should definitely read.
It makes very little sense, especially in the grander scheme of DC’s current output, but it’s one of those sort of wild and grand event series you can’t help but appreciate for its constant big moments.
Sadly ,although DC’s current “DC You” initiative has lead to some interesting takes on its most popular and iconic characters, it looks like a lot of those changes are going away very soon.
The same recent solicitations that revealed that the two Supermen would team up next year also revealed that Superman was back in his traditional outfit and restored to his former, all-powerful glory. They also confirmed that Bruce Wayne would be retaking the mantle of Batman alongside Jim Gordon—meaning that two of the biggest defining arcs of this year’s DC comics out put are being wiped clean just 10 issues after they set out. After all, there is a certain movie coming out next year.
It’s a shame, considering that this has been a year where DC has consistently tried to shake things up with their comics and incorporate new takes, new heroes, and new directions. It’s not all been a success (arguably the real success has been in the establishment of a more diverse line-up, rather than any particular story arcs), but it’s a little sad to see that such a grand experiment is coming to an end so soon.