Over the past decades, two publishers (Marvel and DC) have dominated the Comics industry. However if you examine comics sales charts of the past few years, you will see that Marvel Comics sales represents a majority of the top of the sales charts, and flat out dominates the middle region of the sales charts. If DC was to remain a viable competitor to Marvel, they needed to take drastic action, and that's exactly what they have done. Last week, DC announced an extensive business and creative plan to reinvigorate their sales and perhaps those of the industry as a whole.
Today we'll be looking at some of DC's plans for September, specifically the continuity alterations.
Continuity changes and reboots are business as usual in comics, especially where DC is concerned. Almost all of their big event books have ended with alterations to the Continuity. Most notably, Crisis on Infinite Earth's destroyed the Multiverse (the parallel Earth's that were home to other heroes that interacted with the core Earth regularly), among other changes, this series retconned The Justice Society of America to have always existed on the same Earth as the Justice League, as the heroes of the Golden Age, whereas previously they were the heroes of an alternate Earth. Infinite Crisis brought back some worlds of the Multiverse, (52 to be precise, 52 is an important number where DC is concerned). And so on and so forth. The changes are numerous and not only limited to event books. Characters origins are constantly being tweaked and updated: Superman had his origin revised in John Byrne's Man of Steel, then again in Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright, and then again by Geoff Johns in Superman Secret Origins. So continuity change is nothing new as far as DC is concerned.
The question that remains to be answered is just how extensive are the changes DC is considering this time around. The word from the publishers is that this is not a reboot. So I don't think we're looking at an Ultimate style start from scratch, especially since word from Geoff Johns is that the effects of Blackest Night will still be in play in Green Lantern, and solicitations for one of the new series reveals that the Sinestro, Red, Blue, etc. Lantern Corps will still be around when the dust settles.
Additionally Geoff Johns (DC's chief creative officer whose finger prints are all over this plan) just spent a great deal of time exploring and building up a number of characters in the bi-monthly Brightest Day. Why go to all that work, many of the storylines involved origin revisions, if the same goal could be accomplished much simpler in a start from scratch continuity reboot, so no, I don't believe the changes we will see come September are going to be too extreme, I think we're looking at some origin tweaking and streamlining, but not erasing the continuity of the past x number of years.
So what will the continuity changes entail exactly? Too early to tell. But a lot of the language coming out of Editorial is that the DC Universe coming in September will be "younger, modern, and more diverse." More diverse was a direction that the Publisher was already in, so perhaps there will be some alterations to the history of the universe to further establish their more diverse heroes as being around longer than they actually have.
I think the only part of the established continuity that's really in jeopardy are the several generations of sidekicks. "Younger and modern" are interesting words, and a goal that will in the long run help the publisher connect to a younger audience, and one of the best way to achieve this is to remove the main factors that influence how the passage of time is perceived, specifically, the generations of young heroes that have been tutored by Batman, The Flash etc. It's hard to picture Bruce Wayne as a man in his early thirties when he has taken on two wards (one of whom is now a grown man) and has a tweenage son.
From the solicitations that have leaked so far, we already know that Firestorm (already one of DC's younger heroes) is being dragged to high school age. What lies in store for Dick Grayson, Wally West, and Donna Troy? How can DC skew their mentors as younger without dealing these characters? Will Cyborg (the contemporary of these characters as they were on the Teen Titans together) remain an adult given that its been announced he will be a member of the new Justice League while the other former Titans are dragged?
Also of interest is what will happen to Grant Morrison's Batman magnum opus currently being chronicled in Batman Incorporated, wherein Bruce Wayne reveals that he funds Batman, and Batman is building a global army of Bat themed heroes. It's an incredible story, but the sort of continuity that is not as clean and simple as it appears DC wants to present to new readers come the September relaunch. While it is unlikely DC would mess with the in-progress story of Grant Morrison, one of the few writers who can break the top ten of the sales charts, reducing the number of Batmen running around the DCU is just the kind of continuity cleaning direction that DC has been engaging in, in recent years: returning characters to their most iconic representations. I really want to believe that come September, Batman Incorporated will continue the story it began in as close to identical condition as possible, or at very least, be allowed to finish out the story it was telling as the last title upholding the current DCU continuity.
And perhaps the biggest question, what will become of the current crop of young teen heroes: Tim Drake (Red Robin), Damien Wayne (Current Robin), Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl II), Superboy, Supergirl, and Bart Allen (Kid Flash II)? I really hope that these characters will be sticking around come September, but if any characters are in jeopardy because of the continuity revisions, it's this grouping.