DC are at again. First in 1956 they introduced a new generation of their existing concepts (starting with a new Flash - Barry Allen), meshing them with the continuously published Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. It was a time of renewal as a science fiction slant was added to creations such as Green Lantern, the Atom and Hawkman amongst others.
More golden age heroes would be revived and new characters added in to this era. It was a rebooting of the DC Universe, even if there was no word such as reboot to adequately describe the process in the fans' lexicon.
In 1985-86 DC published Crisis on Infinite Earths; a series intended to simplify the weighty continuity of 50 years (well 47 years from Action Comics #1....) of DC continuity/in-comic history. And of course Barry Allen died in that series, maybe as a signpost that the era begun in 1956 had passed. But DC is as DC does in my view, and so in trying to simplify they in fact created mess after mess of contorted retelling and repositioning of new continuity. Of course DC felt they needed to fix things...
So we had Zero Hour in 1994 which was intended to rectify the post Crisis problems as well as other ones that were around (time-lines, wibbly-wobbly timey-whimey stuff and time travel shenanigans in the DCU).
Of course, DC being DC (spot the theme here...), it meant that come 2005-2006 we got Infinite Crisis; a follow-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths (see what they did with the title there! oh so clever those involved in Infinite Crisis...), and once again some focus on fixing continuity.
Third time is a charm, isn't it?
I hated Infinite Crisis when I first read it. I thought the violence was way over the top in a medium that I first came to as a 6 year old; it was not something I would show to a 6 year old. It also brought us the most creatively and morally bankrupt creation I have come across in mainstream comics for some time - Superboy Prime (as villain). Superboy Prime was intended to be "a simplistic character who becomes complex" apparently, possibly as allegory to the fan-boy reactions of a cross-section of DC readers. Yet in the hands of an admitted fan-boy what I read was a morally reprehensible story where the excuse is "I didn't mean to do it" after Superboy Prime has butchered and maimed many, many heroes and villains. No complexity there, just sledgehammer storytelling lacking grace, wit or subtlety as Superboy Prime's punches to reality reshape reality (read continuity) in a way more in line with then current DC vision.
So cut to 2008 and we had Final Crisis (surely DC have cornered themselves with THAT title!); the third in the trilogy' as it were, and something from the pen of Grant Morrison. He who wrote the brilliant Zenith, and one of my favourite JLA runs (which I posted about here), and the stunning All-Star Superman. What could go wrong?
Everything as it turns out.
A mess of a story, Morrison decided to tell it via series of set-pieces, so it jumps around so much that we have in incoherent mess. The main impetus of the story was killing off Batman (he came back of course) and shunting the New Gods and related Jack Kirby concepts outside of the regular DC Universe.
So now we come to 2011 and we have Flashpoint, after which DC continuity will be reset once more. For the fifth time as a whole by my count, and for the third time in 5-6 years.
The same person is still in charge of DC amid this latest shift in shared back-story (Dan Didio) and one cannot help but wonder why his bosses have not taken a closer look at the direction in which their employee is guiding their ship, especially in taking 3 attempts to fix what is essentially the same core problem: accessibility.
DC are aiming this new DC Universe post-Flashpoint to be more accessible; in other words a jumping on point for new readers. However, after enduring 3 changes too many, I am now after 32 years of reading DC comics contemplating the once-unthinkable: using this new era as a jumping off point. I don't think Flashpoint will be the final problem solving event of DC's, and in that I think it a third trip to the well too many. The backwards-looking focus is evident as well: the return of Barry Allen/The Flashh in Final Crisis and the fulcrum of Flashpoint; are DC rolling things back in a way to try and ensure accessibility? That is an arguable fallacy, because a roll-back only creates accessibility for those who read the old stuff, it is a pointless exercise for 'new readers'. The architects of the DCU are its custodians, but I think that the powers that be may have lost sight of that, allowing the re-defining of the properties and characters to become the be-all end-all for 6 years, rather than focusing on, y'know, telling good, engaging stories.
But the real problem for me? I feel like DC have taken their readers for a ride for 6 years, intentionally or not, yet some of us are still here and my connection is such that letting go at last seems near-unthinkable. We are just under 4 weeks from the relaunch and I still have not decided whether I buy in or not.
Images copyright © DC Comics