There was a time when having multiple Earths to organize the expanding vastness of the DC Universe was not a problem. Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-X, Earth-S, and any other Earth that needed to be created to keep DC’s superhero continuity in line could be explained in a single panel caption. It usually occurred at the beginning of a particular story in Justice League of America, The Flash, Green Lantern, among others, and would also include an illustration of a couple of Earths vibrating, sometimes slightly overlapping, on different dimensional planes. Often times the writer and artist would strategically place the heads of our favorite superheroes around a particular world to designate who belonged to which Earth. And then the cross-over would begin. Great stuff. It’s one of the reasons why there are “good old days.”
But as the years went on, and the Earths multiplied (often to compensate for stories that didn’t quite fit ongoing continuity, such as a number of writer Bob Haney’s Brave and the Bold Batman team-up stories), a lot of people thought the concept of the multiverse was too convoluted. (I often wonder if those people who complained and had their concerns addressed are still reading DC comics today.)
Along came Crisis On Infinite Earths, which was an excellent maxi-series that swept away the convolution in decimating waves of white light, leaving one lone, simplified DC Universe in its wake.
Yet as the years went by, new complications set in, and continuity conundrums once again reared their ugly multiple heads. In one universe, mind you!
A year ago came Infinite Crisis, and for one brief shining moment the concept of multiple Earths was back in all its glorious convolution, and then it imploded on itself and we were left with New Earth.
I wasn’t happy with that. The idea of multiple Earths was an imaginative concept (thank you, Gardner and Julie), and it made superhero continuity, including continuity miscues, perfectly manageable. I felt DC had blown an extraordinary opportunity.
Last week, DC got it right. In the final issue of 52 the multiverse returned, bigger, better, more organized, and most important, more enriched by imagination. There is a sense of restoration of a historical past, and there is the thrill of potential in the new universes to come.
I know there are only a handful of us left, but we’re still here, those of us who obsessively follow DC continuity. Who study DC continuity. Who are entertained by DC continuity. Who are DC continuity “lifers” and spend gobs of money on a monthly basis to satisfy a delicious craving for DC continuity. We are the keepers of “continuity porn,” not a cult, not a club (not anymore), just a bunch of horrendously happy DC comic book readers who have endured a lot of abuse over the past twenty plus years.
But not last week. Last week was our week.
There’s a world now where the Atomic Knights reside. That means there’s a world where Kirby’s Kamandi and OMAC and Conway and Garcia Lopez’s Hercules Unbound have had their adventures, too.
There’s a world where the Marvel Family look as if they could be drawn by C.C. Beck. It’s a beautiful, more innocent world, a far cry from the violent world that houses The Trials of Shazam!
There’s a world where the Freedom Fighters are still battling the Nazis who won World War II. It’s a world where all the Quality Comics characters live, including the original incarnations of Plastic Man and Blackhawk.
These are worlds that were once erased from continuity. Now they’re back. They may not be exactly as they were pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths (it would be pretty hard to go back to the original pre-Crisis multiverse) but they are there. And I’m ecstatic. It was never right to wipe them out, to say they no longer existed. That was insulting to a number of long-standing DC readers.
I do understand what DC was trying to do back in the mid-1980s, and for almost five years they did an outstanding job of establishing a new continuity on one Earth. Then with one issue of Hawkworld they began screwing it up. And after all the screw-ups, it appeared Infinite Crisis was going to set things right. Then DC balked, and I just groaned.
I appreciate continuity. I like the connections with the past. In 52: Week Thirteen, when Green Lantern reminded Ralph that it was the Emerald Crusader who took him and Sue to the Justice League meeting that formally inducted the Elongated Man into the Justice League, I liked how I knew that happened in Justice League of America #105 (and it’s not the kind of continuity that distracts from the story). In 52: Week Forty-Seven, when Doc Magnus’ immobilized Plutonium Man robotically snarled, “Crush. Raze. Trample.”, I liked how I knew that scene paid homage to Metal Men #45. I know it’s not going to connect with everybody; heck, probably the majority of everyone reading 52. But what’s a long-time DC continuity buff supposed to do, even if there are only like, I don’t know, fifty-two of us left? Feel guilty?
Heck, no! Not after Crisis. Not after Zero Hour. Not after the disappointment of “Hypertime.” Not after the end of Infinite Crisis. It’s restitution time, baby.
It’s been no picnic for the few of us left who appreciate the convolution of continuity in all its complicated forms. But now we’re having a picnic. 52 of ’em, as a matter of fact. 52 universes. 52 ways to make almost seventy years of comics continuity fit (maybe a universe for DC’s Silver Age; and a universe for DC’s Bronze Age; and a universe for Claw, Starfire, and the Star Hunters; and a universe for swinging with Scooter, and leaving it to Binky, and everyone and their date with Debbi; and so on). 52 different approaches involving unlimited use of the imagination. What the heck is wrong with that?
I know, a lot could be wrong with that, because a lot could go wrong with that. I know, because I’ve been there. I know how a cohesive universe can be torn asunder. I’m still a little suspicious of this New Earth (and the selective aging factor adhered to by DC that always disrupts continuity is still there and irks the heck out of me; c’mon, let Superman reach his thirties before he and Nightwing are the same age, twenty-nine). But I’m not going anywhere. Not when the DC Universe has become a lot of fun again, and it’s been done without erasing anything that has been going on over the last three years as far as ‘new’ DC continuity is concerned. I want to believe that DC fans old, somewhat old, relatively new, and just getting started have a lot to be happy about, together.
Now I believe we can be a happy club again. Like it used to be, a long time ago, in a multiverse that is no longer relegated to memory.
Thank you, DC.