As fun as it can be to escape into the fictional worlds of comic books, the constant rebooting, fracturing, and story twists can make it a real chore to keep up. There’s no better example of that than DC Comics, which has a mind-boggling 70 internal “universes.”
In 2011, the 50th anniversary of DC Comics, the label’s writers and publishers decided to simplify things. Wanting an extraordinary release for their birthday, DC brought multiple characters together in one event, but the the many inconsistencies and contradictions created a major hurdle. That was when they created Crisis of Infinite Earths, which was designed to cover up the numerous pieces of narrative that didn’t quite match.
The comic is meant to explain away 50 years of diverging origin stories, twists, and other dissonances. After an arc filled with fist-bashing and retconning, the previous storylines that didn’t sync with were destroyed, and the remaining ones were combined into one storyline.
It didn’t take long, though, for it all to get confusing again. Soon enough, more universes cropped up, and the multiverse expanded even further. Take the new series of comics, for instance. New 52 was a reboot of many DC heroes’ stories that started in 2011. Fifty-two new comic book series with our lovable masked and caped heroes started out at issue number one, which then began new animated features.
Once again, it’s become a bit overwhelming.
With new writers, directors, illustrators, publishers, etc. taking charge of old franchises and characters, there’s always the possibility of soiling the old or making it moot with these fresh ideas. This is the same with any franchise, not just DC. Any retouch to an old world could stifle a character’s advancement.
The resetting and rewriting isn’t without its benefits, of course. New hands can ensure that progression. With Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn was added on during this new take on the Dark Knight and now she’s a recurring villain in all retellings of the Bat, one that will even be whacking a baseball bat around in the new Suicide Squad. She not only expands the roster of bad guys, but she broadens the characters of Batman and Joker.
And while additions to a franchise can intimidate new readers/viewers, more narratives, whether they be reboots of old television shows or another universe, are needed to complete the lore of a franchise. Despite some possible confusion, we’re we broodier, but hopeful Batmans and inspiring, but troubled Supermans instead of the one-sided people we may get in the past.