The DCU and DCnU: What Should Have Been
June 20, 2012

Note: I began writing this article last fall, when the topic was a bit more relevant. But I think the idea still has merit, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the DCnU was developed, now that we have some time and distance to reflect upon the original event and transition…

-  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

The DCnU. We are nine months into the New 52, and I can say with certainty that I am no longer interested in reading about the DCnU. It’s disappointing, and sad.I’m not here to nitpick about continuity and costumes, or argue about the sales of DC and the general health of the industry, nor am I willing to discuss the legitimacy of stubborn, Silver Age fanboys that may no longer be in DC’s Target Market and how they are resistant to change. But I am writing about one thing:

It could have, and should have, been different.

Comic readers know what happened in the DCU in the years leading up to Blackest Night.  The rushed quality and wasted potential throughout Infinite Crisis. The complicated storyline and editorial mess of Final Crisis. The pointless death of Blue Beetle Ted Kord. And all the pointless, shock-value deaths that Didio and company had orchestrated over the past few years in DCU.

 

But the Powers That Be at DC Comics had chance to fix it all. Brightest Day was here!

DC had such an amazing opportunity with Brightest Day, and I had high hopes after reading the first issue.  A White Lantern Power Ring, with the ability to bring the dead back to life.  Are you kidding?!  This was going to be great!  A classic! 

Here was chance to fix EVERYTHING. All your favorite heroes and villains, brought back to life!  After seeing Aquaman, J’onn J’onzz, Firestorm, and the rest resurrected in the final scenes of Blackest Night, I had expected it to truly be the Brightest Day for DC.

But then I read what Geoff Johns had to say.

“‘Brightest Day’ is not a banner or a vague catch-all direction for the DC Universe, it is a story. Nor is ‘Brightest Day’ a sign that the DC Universe is going to be all about ‘light and brighty’ superheroes.

Some second chances work out…some don’t!”

But…why? 

Why can’t the DCU be “light and bright”?  What is wrong with that? 

Hadn’t the last few years of death and destruction been enough?

I guess not. 

And we saw how it played out.  Twenty-five issues to do what exactly?  Introduce a short-lived Aqualad?  Have Dove profess her love to Deadman?  Kill Hawkgirl…again?  Yes, I know the Grand Plan was to bring back Constantine and Swamp Thing?  But, really…that’s it?

So much potential…thoroughly wasted.  So disappointing.  I pondered what could have been, should have been.  I know, I know, it’s pointless to play ‘what if’ now…but…

 

What If..?

 

What if DC could have appeased the loyal, long-time fans AND ushered in a new era at DC?

The potential was there – to not only erase the mistakes of recent DC past, but also introduce the DCnU in a way that made sense, and not totally rushed and forced upon the comic-reading world. The Flashpoint series would never need to happen, because the whole change to the New 52 could have been done in Brightest Day.

How, you ask?

Imagine the final scenes of the Brightest Day series…instead of the drawn-out fight with Black Lantern Swamp Thing (ugh) and Deadman dying (again), the last few pages would show the final act of The Entity:

Charging the White Ring of Life to 100%, the Entity gives it to Barry Allen, transforming him once again into the White Lantern.  The Ring then instructs (forces) him to run, to race across the world in a brilliant ‘flash of light’, restoring dead characters to life throughout the Earth and beyond, throughout the entire DC Universe. Not just the big names…EVERYONE.

 

Superman Kal-L and Lois Lane.

Ralph and Sue Dibny.

Ted Kord. Lian Harper.

Rocket Red. Tempest.  The Question.

Johnny Quick. Ryan Choi. The original Freedom Fighters.

 

We see panel after panel of beloved DC characters, reappearing in the white light as Flash races by.  But not just heroes – villains, too.

 

Psycho Pirate. Monsieur Mallah. The Brain.

Clayface. Ventriloquist.

Trickster James Jesse. The Top. Golden Glider.

Mongul. Prometheus. Neron.

 

and heck, even long-deceased and retconned characters…

 

Supergirl Kara Zor-El.  Golden Age Mister Terrific.  Terra.

Earth-2 Huntress.  Star Spangled Kid.

Earth-2 Batman.

 

And the collateral damage and civilian deaths, like Jonathan Kent, Sarah Essen Gordon, Alexandra DeWitt, Jack Drake, Martin Stein, the Newsboy Legion, the 100,000 Kryptonians in space, the families of the JSA legacy characters at the hands the Fourth Reich.

maybe, even…Thomas and Martha Wayne?

 

How fun would that be?

BUT here’s the kicker –

The second-to-last page of Brightest Day would be the DC Universe that we knew and loved fading into pure white light…just a white page with no art, no lettering. The final pages of all other then-current DC books would follow suit, with their individual final pages fading into pure white.

Then the final page of Brightest Day would show the white light fading away, showing the DCnU and Superman leaping through the Metropolis sky.

And the rest, as they say, would be history.

 

 

Out with the old DCU, in with the DCnU.  The DC Universe has a proper sendoff, older fans get a silly-yet-satisfying brief return of their favorite characters, and new fans have a proper start to the New 52. And with Barry’s role in the White-Ring resurrection, DC still maintains the parallel of Flash ushering in the Silver Age and transitioning into the DCnU that they had with Flashpoint.

So then, how to explain to fans exactly what the DCnU is?  Maybe the White Entity transformed the old DCU into the DCnU…or maybe it’s simply a parallel world?  Better yet, maybe DC just leaves it up for interpretation and fans can decide for themselves. Reluctant DC oldtimers can go on knowing the current DCU still exists somewhere, somehow…still out there to be revisited in the future.

The point is, this would have been an ambiguous-enough ending to the old DCU for any skeptical comic fan; even the most pedestrian of writers now have a built-in escape clause to bring back the old DCU if needed; and the transition to the DCnU would have been seamless and logical.

Sigh.

What if, indeed.

Ryan "TheSuperfly" Prast
Current designer, future artist, eternal manchild, Ryan "The Superfly" Prast uses his toynerd acumen to delve deep into the profound nuances of life. With a penchant for tiny plastic men and nostalgia of times past, he also enjoys panelology, obscure cultural references, tomfoolery and/or shenanigans, conspiracy theories, and watching his Cubs flush another season down the toilet. And he always keeps his fork when there’s pie.
Read other articles by Ryan "TheSuperfly" Prast.

 

 

 

27 Comments »

  • bnjmnrlyr says:

    its an interesting premise … and one that not only harkens back to the “Original” Crisis (c’mon now folks, DC has had Crisis in the title since the beginning of the Silver Age at least…), but also to Zero Hour, and most other “reboots” they’ve done along the way.

    Personally, I don’t mind that they’ve just started over with every single title and character.

    The part that is the biggest problem for me is that with Infinite Crisis they went through a lot of hassle to bring back the Multiverse. 52 specific and unique “realities” for the authors to go and play around with. No more Elseworlds, they are in continuity in the Multiverse. No need for “dead” characters, they all exist in the Multiverse.

    But when they did the relaunch this time around, they very openly said, “this is it. our ONE true DCU”. Which means no Multiverse. Which means no access to the characters of the GA, SA, 80’s, 90’s, etc. that I love and want to continue reading.

    There really doesn’t need to be a “what if…?”, there only needs to be an “if only …” as in “if only the DCnU were just another corner of the Multiverse…”

  • Shellhead says:

    Comic books have grown up a lot in the past 20 years. I, for one, don’t mind a bit of R-rated stuff here and there, and if no one dies, there’s nothing at risk. I outgrew the Superfriends. I don’t need to read about them anymore. Perhaps you should stick to the “kid friendly” books? They seem more your speed.

    • Thomas says:

      I think comic books can be both adult and kid friendly. You can have a fun, grown-up, exciting, everything-at-risk storyline without decapitations, dismembering, women being raped and burned alive or stuffed in fridges, beloved characters getting a bullet to the brain, and on and on and on. I’ve read plenty of stories in my 35 years of comic book reading that were AMAZING and thoroughly enjoyable, and didn’t involve any of these ‘R-rated’ shock-value tactics.

      I think it’s a shame that kids can’t pick up most of DC’s books today due to the sex and extreme violence, and get hooked like I did and become lifelong lovers of the medium. As I kid, I could choose from dozens of DC’s books. Today’s kids, assuming parents are aware of what their kids are reading, have a small handful of titles to choose from, and most of these are based on DC’s animated series, and have nothing to do with the DC universe. That’s just sad.

  • George says:

    I was with you until:

    “Out with the old DCU, in with the DCnU. The DC Universe has a proper sendoff, older fans get a silly-yet-satisfying brief return of their favorite characters, and new fans have a proper start to the New 52. And with Barry’s role in the White-Ring resurrection, DC still maintains the parallel of Flash ushering in the Silver Age and transitioning into the DCnU that they had with Flashpoint.

    So then, how to explain to fans exactly what the DCnU is? Maybe the White Entity transformed the old DCU into the DCnU…or maybe it’s simply a parallel world? Better yet, maybe DC just leaves it up for interpretation and fans can decide for themselves. Reluctant DC oldtimers can go on knowing the current DCU still exists somewhere, somehow…still out there to be revisited in the future.

    The point is, this would have been an ambiguous-enough ending to the old DCU for any skeptical comic fan; even the most pedestrian of writers now have a built-in escape clause to bring back the old DCU if needed; and the transition to the DCnU would have been seamless and logical.”

    I think the “ambiguous-enough ending” as you would describe is the same thing we already have now. Define the DCnU as to what it is, who’s in it, etc. Other than that, you’re just repeating what’s already happened.

    • Ryan The Superfly says:

      Not necessarily – DC has stated that the DCnU is IT. Nothing else exists. No Multiverse, no hypertime, no parallel worlds, nothing.

      The above solution allows for 75 years of DC history and characters to at least still exist somewhere, even if it’s not being used or accessed. Better than just throwing it all away, which is exactly what DiDio, Johns, and Co did…

  • NQ says:

    Making Alan Scott gay was a stupid idea. DC had always has gay characters from the Pied Piper, Young Heroes in Love; Maggi Sawyer and the Authority. To take such an inconic character and do this is just silly for no other reason to grab a few headline from Marvel. And they are too violent for my taste so I don’t read them anymore. Young Justice and Superman Family are gear for a younger audiance and like reading them more but they are misleading in what the DCU is all about now. Give me books from the 60-70 where all stories ended in 1-3 issues. Most of them are silly but at least my kids can read them.

  • Vito says:

    I hate the NEW 52…..just completely hate it. YES Swamp Thing, Animal Man…and a small handful are pretty good reads (not that i am reading them)…..but COME ON!!!!!

    The end of Flashpoint…Barry remembered….New 52 Flash #1…he don’t remember anything. WHY?

    From Kyle Rayner to Batman……how do these things still exist? they remain untouched?

    Superboy….is there really gonna be a BIGGER twist than being half Lex Luthor? And are we to re-discover that again? LAME!!!!!

    NO MULTIVERSE!!!!!! BIG SHOOTS!!!!!!

    Earth 23 in Action Comics, Earth 2 comic…..no multiverse my @$$. And Grant Morrison’s Multiverse story is still supposed to be coming out……no multiverse.

    Legion of Super Heroes remained “untouched” as well…..during that 4 issue crossover i was expecting some one to look at Superboy and say something of the old universe……we got nothing. BTW which untouched Legion group is this? LAME is what it is.

    if POWERGIRL AND HUNTRESS arrived days before Superman came out as a “super hero”, then that would mean they jumped “earths” first….technically making “our” earth Earth 2….and their “earth” Earth 1…or is it Prime…or are we just calling Earth New 52…..sounds stupid.

    75 years of continuity GONE….just GONE…..this is worse then that Spider-man mind wipe.

    But don’t forget folks….”Green Lantern hasn’t changed”…..uhm….really? GL was the leading book for the last few years….leading most of the crossovers…or had a huge part in all of them.

    Superman didn’t die…..that means Coast City wasn’t destroyed, Hal didn’t snap and kill the Corps…..no Reign of the Supermen….no Kyle Rayner (WHOM BY THE WAY….I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYONE HAS TO SAY, IS THE GREATEST GREEN LANTERN AROUND….WILL POWER TO THE MAX…GREATER THAN HAL JORDAN, YOU OLD GUYS NEED TO RECOGNIZE)(IF HAL WAS THE GREATEST GL THAN HOW DID HE GET KICKED OFF TWICE, AND KYLE WHO IS NOT A GL RIGHT NOW….IS STILL A GL AND STILL THAT RING/S FOLLOW HIM EVERYWHERE).

    Man the NEW 52 is stupid.

    SUPERMAN AND BATMAN……were 1 of the greatest relationships i have ever read in comics, whether it was a one-shot…….a 2-pager…mini….or story arc. The greatest….GONE.

    WHY? So DC can get new readers? COME ON!!!!! Like we are gonna buy this crap for our kids, seeing as how they are the new target market.

    I tried reading Superboy, as he has always been my favourite character from DC, but man the whole thing is weak…..it is lacking something….page for page…..line for line, nothing seems to impress me anymore.

    A whole universe dropped.

    I personally liked the continuity, the mess that it was….it was fun for my brain to understand and make sense of……part why i love the X-Men…..the whole thing is 1 giant puzzle within puzzles.

    I hate the New 52….i have sinced dropped Superboy…and am now reading only Unwritten which isn’t even part of that universe.

    Man i really hate the New 52

  • Fate says:

    I agree. Brightest Day had so much potential. I also think that Final Crisis could have been much more (way much more) than it was. Geoff Johns could have easily written a new JL book post-Brightest Day starring the Silver Age JL (which I think deep down he likes). For me, Final Crisis doesn’t make sense. In true sense it could have been final. The multiverse could have been rebooted at the end (best explanation of why earth-2 has changed), Batman would have sacrificed himself for the DCU and DCnU could have been born but with less radical changes with Morrison continuing what he liked with Batman.

    If they couldn’t have done a lite reboot with FC, then Brightest Day should have changed the status quo of the DCU by showing the return of JL (WW dumb stupid Odyssey was ending at the same time), Bruce was back, Clark wasn’t busy with taking a walk. Instead of rebooting they could have resurrected a few more heroes and villains, not all though. I feel the reboot was rushed somehow because the ending of Brightest Day wasn’t much satisfying for me.I don’t think the reboot was supposed to be in their long term plan for ’11. My guts say they had something else planned.

  • PretenderNX01 says:

    It’s odd to me that they bothered resurrecting someone like Jade, only to say she never existed in DCnU.

    I feel that’s a sign DC was building to something else when the order to reboot came in.

  • Trollwar says:

    What if…. Well, what if you never wrote this post and just lived with the fact that DCnU exists. What if you didn’t waste our time by giving us your version of how DCU should of been. I mean, come on, are you the only one with an idea of how something should turn out. If you are so passionate about it, what if you got a job working for DC and work your way up the ladder until you get a chance to make real change. Then everyone can post how they hate your ideas. What if…

  • GUAPO says:

    I HATE SUPERMAN´S NEW UNIFORM

  • Joe Acevedo says:

    DC did have something else planned. Morrison’s multiverse series. He was going to tell us stories of the various 52 DC Universes. I was looking forward to it. Maybe DC didn’t think that the book would survive as an ongoing title? Then maybe the idea of having an entire line of DC books that told about a new “parallel” DC Universe came into play. DC gets to reboot at #1, get sales, and as an escape plan if it fails, they can say that the New 52 DCnU was just one of the parallel universes and the original one we know and LOVE, still exists somewhere for them to bring back like the “One Year Later” leap, only this time maybe it’s a 5-7 year leap ahead in the DCU?
    I love the old DCU and I still hope it comes back.
    DC should have made Earth 2 and World’s Finest more “bright and positive” instead on the more dark trend that the New 52 continued on.

  • demoncat says:

    have to admit dc junking its history it has built over 75 years was a waste. just to do what start over again like they are just hitting the market. plus brightest day kind of was a let down in how they brought back swamp thing not to mention since when does dove love a dead guy. plus dc really did not need flash point to restart the new universe a crisis instead

  • Clutch says:

    Blackest Night and Brightest Day told stories that were clearly meant to change the status quo, but Warner Brothers brought in Diane Nelson to yank everyone’s chains and restructure the company in case Disney started milking Marvel silly. So DC upped and moved their operations from NYC to L.A. after a bunch of layoffs and only Johns’ revamped characters (Green Lantern, Aquaman) continued more or less as they were going to do after Johns’ mega-epics ran their course. I don’t think anyone actually thought that Rob Liefeld would be working on books like Hawkman and Deathstroke. The “n” in DCnU is supposed to mean, what? DC and me? More like a throwback to 1990’s Marvel/Image with Liefeld, Jim Lee, Bob Harras, Howard Mackie, Tom DeFalco and other familiar names now working for the Distinguished Competition. I still see last summer’s events as a perfect jumping off point after wasting my money on years of crossovers which in the end, led to absolutely nothing of consequence.

  • Jasper says:

    Your idea actually sounds brilliant. I got goosebumps after reading your article. That’s the main beef I have with DCNU, they never gave the old DC a proper send off. At least Crisis of Infinite Earths gave the Pre crisis DC a proper send off. Flashpoint was pointless and too Flash centric. And you look at how the Superbooks ended. All was in a rush. The DCNU for me disrespected a lot of die hard DC fans who continues to support DC despite lagging behind Marvel in sales. The least that they could do was to give us a proper send off and allow us to catch on a refreshed and revamped DCU. But no, they had to screw us and left us high and dry with the Universe that we valued for so long. Shoved down our throats a DCU that is a lot similar to Image. For what? for coolness? Recent sales reports are saying that DC is leading Marvel in the top 10 posts. So that means the revamp caught some interest from non DC readers, but at the expense of the old DC fans. I still stand by my belief that the recent sales reports are only due to the interest of the revamp. And as the titles reaches it’s 3rd or 4th story arc, that’s when the sales will begin to drop. DC will have to keep on retaining the new readers if they want to stay on top. Because as far as I can tell, a lot of die hard DC fans who were disenchanted by DCNU won’t be touching the DCNU books. I can speak for myself that I felt so cheated with how DC ended the Pre DC Universe, and I’m not touching DCNU ever. DC threw away the loyalties in exchange of gaining new fans. DC better hope these new Fans remain loyal.

    And oh by the way, I still hate the Red Briefless Superman.

  • Tom says:

    The DCnU reminds me of when they try to adapt comics into movies. The bad ones try to “update” the character to make it more accesable to movie goers and usually fail (Catwoman,Superman Returns, The first Hulk Movie). The best ones keep to the history and spirit of the source material and they usually suceed with new and old audiences ( Any of the Avenger Franchise films).DCnU just reads like a bad DC adaptation by a 3rd party. They are quickly painting themselves into more corners than they claim Crisis on Infinate Earths did. They claim to be trying to make the characters more diverse,but they all read the same.The characters are all the same age, have no experience,shop at the same costume shop. The storylines just meander for too many issues and fall flat with no substance, like a 90’s Image comic. A friend of mine decided to try out the DCnU when it started because he wanted to read comics and never knew where to start. He went whole hog into it and right now only like some of the Batman books and the Green Lantern books. It’s funny that these 2 characters are the only ones that remained mostly the same. He did try some Marvel comics and likes them a lot better. He doesn’t understand everything that’s going on, but he enjoys them more. I think we have not seen the end of the true DC Universe. There will be another event to return it. I give it until its 2nd anniversary

  • Cory H says:

    I for one enjoyed the old DC and still enjoy the new DC. There are changes I’m not so fond of, (Alan Scott) But you have to appreciate them bringing back so many forms of comics, not just superhero.

  • Ariel says:

    I will only say that i find the whole reinventing the universe every five minutes is so confusing, frustrating and oh so repetitive. I simply not care no more. I get the self-contained series that appeal to me without having to read a million issues of not-so-good nor comprehensible. Example: i bought a t-shirt with Jade on it as i like the logo, and someone ask me who she was and what group or series she belonged to. I just could not respond as i feel i have no idea of what happens to every single character, as they get murdered, revived, revamped etc etc all within not a long time. They (DC) make it all so bloody complicated that i struggled to care. Dc was great in the 80’s with Teen Titans etc. I liked the whole Vertigo rising stuff. But i find myself going back to good ol’ Marvel for a bit of relax.
    Did they really made Alan Scott gay? HAHAHA. This is why i loved the wedding of Northstar at Marvel. It made sense. >big yawn<. At least Aquaman and Wonder Woman are OK as they've not change so radically.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Ryan, I like your idea. I too wish for the days where heroes and their supporting cast were not cast aside. Comics were fine for decades without it. I had gotten used to a DCU where Barry and then Hal made the ultimate sacrifice. Where Wally and Kyle had stepped up. But those sacrifices were heroic. The deaths of Ted Kord and Sue Dibny were not heroic, insetad they were pointless.
    .
    Sometimes I think DC has been trying to do things to upset long time readers so they will leave and stop complaining.
    .
    I have no idea why they gave Ice a new origin or why the JLI book which seemed to extend from the old DCU was created. One dead and 3 in the hospital. Why write a book about this? To destroy the Hall of Justice? Why not just ignore it.
    .
    The current run of the Justice League has been an insult. An extra dollar for blank pages from a book about Atlantis and 3 sections of a story about Billy Batson where nothing has happened. And the main story has been a snooze fest.
    .
    I have enjoyed Stormwatch, but I think that is partly because I have no previous knowledge of the characters. It also moves quickly, unlike some other books (cough – Justice League – cough).

  • Chris says:

    I agree that the new 52 had a chance to do something interesting, but the powers that be at DC just don’t have the capabilities to pull something like a reboot off well. They make to many poor decisions (like the scope of the retcon) in knee jerk fashion. Dan going out and doing interview basically saying “screw our old fan base” didn’t help things.

  • jzachery says:

    I felt the same way with how Marvel handled the skrull secret invasion story. Could have brought back everyone. Fixed everyone. Jean Grey. Bishop. Scarlet Witch. etc. But noooooooo. Just Mockingbird. That’s it. Still a good read, but wasted potential.
    I agree with Brightest Day, it flopped on it’s face at the end.

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