OK… actually, no it didn’t.  No more than George Lucas did.  What DC did do, however, was give false hope and then completely piss all over everything I ever knew and loved about DC Comics.

It’s been over a year since DC Comics launched its “New 52” storyline which rebooted all of its continuity.  The storyline leading up to this historic change was called Flashpoint and after all this time, I finally got a chance to read it.  Flashpoint is a truly monumental piece of comic literature which forever changes the status quo for universe-shattering stories.  I only wish I meant that in a good way.

© DC Comics

To sum up, Flashpoint was a five-issue miniseries that had crossover issues throughout the DC Universe.  In Flashpoint, the Flash wakes up and discovers that all history is changed.  Superman never existed, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are fighting a war that is raging throughout the world and Bruce Wayne was killed instead of his parents, leading to his father becoming Batman.

The world is in turmoil and the Flash has to set things right again.  His every action in this five-part miniseries is about putting the universe back the way it was.  In the end he discovers that he himself is responsible for corrupting the timeline and races back in time to stop himself from making this fatal mistake. Of course, anyone who’s seen Back to the Future II knows that this should not work.  But I digress.

Once he sets the timeline straight, a mysterious figure (later identified as Pandora) tells him that the timeline had been fractured long ago, and that it was time to put the various lines back together as that they would be more powerful this way and ready to fight an oncoming evil.  Thus ends everything we knew about the DC Universe.

© DC Comics – Click to Enlarge

This isn’t the first time that DC has pressed the reset button, but it is the first time that we were given false hope.  I grant you that unless you were living under a rock, you knew these changes were coming.  HOWEVER, from a reader perspective… we were all cheated.

Let’s take a quick look at all some of the more famous times DC has rebooted… what was promised and what was delivered:

© DC Comics

1) CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (1985): The Crisis was about streamlining the DCU into something a bit more understandable for the casual reader.  Over the course of a few decades various alternate Earths had cropped up to encompass all the various continuities and even to reflect some of the characters that DC had inherited over the years.  The Crisis destroyed all the other Earths leaving one behind.  This Earth was an amalgamation of all the others, consolidating most of the characters into its history.  For the most part, the only characters who really suffered were outdated variations on the current character.  For example, the Golden Age Superman & Wonder Woman were no longer necessary as they were just unused versions of the characters currently in circulation.  They were abandoned, but sent off gracefully.  Unpopular characters like Supergirl and the Flash were killed in action and given proper sendoffs.  And so the DCU was now consolidated and all would be right with the world.  For a few months, anyway.

© DC Comics

2) POST-CRISIS REBOOTS: Within a year, DC rebooted Superman thanks to the work of John Byrne.  The Crisis had provided a decent enough consolidation, but now DC needed to put the characters themselves to rights.  Superman was first, followed in brief order by Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Captain Marvel.  Other characters were rebooted as well.  The most notable exception to this was the Flash.  In the Crisis, the Flash (Barry Allen) was killed.  In post-Crisis continuity, his protege Wally West (Kid Flash) took over.  And so the story continued.  Some of the other reboots (like Green Lantern and Captain Marvel) served merely to retell their origins in modern settings and not to turn the clock back on their respective continuities.  For those who were rebooted, again it was more about setting the characters on a more contemporary Earth.  Superman and Wonder Woman both went through the most changes, though, again, you’d be hard-pressed to notice them at a causal glance.

© DC Comics

3) ZERO HOUR (1994): Unfortunately while the Crisis had consolidated things, there were still some continuity gaffes.  Most notable of them was Hawkman, who had gone through a few creative teams and whose personal continuity had gotten so jumbled that it was no longer clear even where he came from.  The conceit of Zero Hour was that the Crisis had sent ripples through the timestream which caused the occasional continuity hicccup.  The villain Parallax took advantage of this and decided to restart the universe so that he could fix everything that had gone wrong.  The heroes stop him, but not before the universe is wiped out.  A new big bang sets everything back in motion, and the heroes trapped outside of time are forced to sit back and let nature take its course, putting the universe back on the path that it was meant to be on.  When it was all over, a few minor characters (like Guy Gardner) got a few minor changes to their powers, but for the most part, the universe was just as we left it.

© DC Comics

4) INFINITE CRISIS (2005-06)/52 (2006): Like Zero Hour before it, Infinite Crisis was really just used to tweak the backstories of some of the major DCU characters.  Thanks to Infinite Crisis, Superman could once again have been a hero in his youth (the concept of Clark Kent being Superboy in Smallville had been erased as part of the 1986 Byrne reboot).  There were a few other changes made, though none of these would really become apparent for a while.

© DC Comics

Infinite Crisis was followed up by 52, a 52-part weekly series which told the story of what happened in the weeks following Infinite Crisis while allowing the regular titles to engage in storylines like “One Year Later”.  The major headline to come out of 52 was the return of the multiverse for the first time since Crisis on Infinite Earths (unless you count Hypertime which had been introduced in The Kingdom, the abortive sequel to Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come.)

© DC Comics – The “New Earth” as seen in “Infinite Crisis”
Click to Enlarge

The new multiverse consisted of 52 Earths which reflected some of the best Elseworlds stories DC had told to date (like Kingdom Come) and promised the return of the Golden Age Earth 2 and the evil Earth 3.

While it seemed patently unnecessary for the multiversre to return (and completely strange that there be only 52 other Earths), so it was written and so it was done.

Until Flashpoint!  After having continuity shaken and slashed and scorched so many times (and even moreso in recent years), did we have to do it again?  I guess DC felt it was necessary.  But then why not return things to the way they were?  Why go through all the steps in 52 of giving us this “New Earth” only to hit the reset button just a few years later?  If they wanted a new continuity, why not just set it on one of the other 51 Earths?  They gave themselves the perfect out to create an “ultimate” continuity like their Marvelous competition.  But instead, they completely eradicated everything we knew about our heroes.  Sure, Superman is still a survivor of the planet Krypton who was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent (now dead again) and who, disguised as Clark Kent—mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper—fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice, but now he was an urban fighter in his youth who dressed in mountain boots, jeans and a t-shirt?

I’ll admit, I haven’t read any of the “New 52”.  A lot of it is sour grapes, I suppose, for losing my childhood heroes to their slicker 21st-century counterparts.  Or maybe it’s something more.

For the first time ever, DC hit the reset button with the justification that their product was inferior.  The heroes we knew and loved weren’t good enough.  It’s the very subtext of what Pandora says to the Flash as our continuity is wiped out.  In every prior instance that DC rebooted, it was always done with the idea of updating only.  It was never about trying to fix a fundamental inadequacy to the characters or the universe.  DC always gave the impression that they were proud of their pantheon.

Only this time… It seems like more was changed than was left intact.  And I really just don’t understand why.

© DC Comics – Click To Enlarge

Flashpoint was unnecessary.  It was a lifeline that was yanked at the last minute.  It was the promise of a return to continuity as it had been before… only to have the proud words “It All Changes Here” emblazoned on the final issue, heralding the end of how it was.

In the early ’90s, when DC killed Superman, they made no secret of the fact that he would be back very soon.  Killing him may have been a marketing ploy, but it was also a way to tell the story of Superman’s mortality and to delve deeper into the character’s meaning and his impact on the world around him.

DC has made it clear that the “New 52” is the new status quo for the DC Universe.  A return to the old days doesn’t seem to be in the cards.  So be it.  It was dirty pool, but I suppose you had to get there somehow.

I take solace however in DC’s history of being unable to live with change.  About 15 years ago there were two characters who were forbidden in the DC Universe.  Both Barry Allen (the Flash) and Jason Todd (the second Robin) were killed in action and were signs of permanence in the DC Universe.  They were constant reminders that people actually could die in the DCU and that nothing is forever… at least until both characters were brought back and all the drama sparked by their deaths was rendered more-or-less ineffectual.

Should DC continue on this “rigid” path… maybe there is some hope that my characters will be back.  Someday.