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5 DC Heroes That Should Live Outside Continuity

For DC, It Doesn't All Have to Fit Together

By Chad Derdowski     April 08, 2010

 

Ahhh, the tangled web of continuity. Both a blessing and a bane to those who toil in the field of comic creation and those who enjoy the fruits of their labor, continuity has become a catch-all phrase for “how everything fits together.” If you adhere too closely to it, you run the risk of alienating new readers; shy away from it and you infuriate long-time aficionados. The history of the DC universe is a muddled mess of characters acquired through mergers and buyouts as well as a constant shifting of the status quo. It wasn’t too long ago that the entire history of the DCU was erased in order to streamline things. The end result was more confusion and an eventual slide back to Silver Age status quo (albeit with far more competent artistic merit).
 
With that thought in mind, we’ve come up with a list of characters who we think could (and maybe should) work better outside the confines of the traditional DC Universe. It doesn’t mean we don’t love seeing them guest star in the latest issue of Superman or Wonder Woman, but we think that maybe if they were given more room to stretch their wings, they might really find a way to take flight…
 

5. Metal Men

We love the Metal Men and we’d love to see more of them; but this goofy team of robot superheroes with personalities and abilities reminiscent of the metals for which they are named would work so much better as a Saturday morning cartoon or an all-ages book rather than alongside the Justice League. 
 
Attempts to fit them into the modern DC Universe haven’t been completely without merit, but we could do without a bipolar Doc Magnus. The little we’ve seen of the Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire stories that run as a Doom Patrol backup feature seems to capture the humorous spirit we’re looking for, as long as it stays away from ring-bearing zombies and murderous rogues galleries. The Metal Men are sweet, but they just don’t fit in the DCU.
 

4. Captain Marvel

Let’s see, we’ve got a talking tiger that wears a suit and tie as well as a criminal mastermind that just happens to be a worm with a 1930s style radio around his neck. Yeah, that totally fits with the rapist Dr. Light and the political pontifications of Green Arrow.
 
The Marvel Family has always been about fun--lighthearted characters existing in a lighthearted world. Ever since he was brought into the DCU, creators have struggled to find a place for earth’s Mightiest Mortal and only on rare occasions has it ever actually worked. Granted, Black Adam has become a fantastic villain, but where is he now? For that matter, where is the entire Marvel Family? Sitting on the bench due to poor editorial decisions and attempts to update them to better fit in with Batman and Superman. Parliament had a great song called “If it don’t fit, don’t force it” from their 1975 masterpiece Chocolate City–while it isn’t superheroes that the song refers to, perhaps DC could learn a lesson from the title.
 

3. Green Arrow

There’s absolutely no reason to remove Oliver Queen from the mainstream DCU, but think about the types of stories that could be told with this character out-of-continuity. Get rid of the punching bag and boomerang arrows and ditch Black Canary’s sonic scream. Tell a story about a radical liberal who has had enough of the corruption in his city and decides to do something about it. Go the Ex Machina route and have him act as a city official (perhaps even mayor, as he has in the real DCU). The way to make this work is to focus on Ollie as a very conflicted man: he is fighting evil on both the legal and illegal sides of the fence and his violent vigilante persona is at odds with the peace-loving man he tries to be. He knows that his actions as Green Arrow only attack the symptoms, not the disease. Sort of like Daredevil, but more like Billy Jack with arrows instead of those annoying kids at the hippie school.
 

2. Batman

More than any other hero, Batman seems like the most obvious choice for out-of-continuity tales, in part because we’ve seen so many already. But we’d like to make a case for an ongoing series featuring a lone vigilante in a world occupied by vile gangsters and over-the-top villains. It could be a pulpy, noir-ish tale like the First Wave books. It could be a high-tech, James Bondesque crime thriller like the Chris Nolan films. It could be damn near anything: the beauty of Batman is that he lends himself to so many different interpretations. Whether it’s set in the dreary 1930s, the psychedelic ‘60s or the near future, it always works. More than any other costumed hero, Batman could easily be removed from the DCU and given his own continuity. We’d almost go so far as to say that he deserves it.
 

1. Aquaman

And our #1 choice for a hero best suited in an out-of-continuity story is none other than the King of the Seven Seas. Why? Because they certainly haven’t been able to make it work in-continuity, that’s why!
 
We’re not here to make any cliché jokes about Aquaman. We think Aquaman is pretty cool and we know that there’s a good story out there somewhere--we’ve even seen a few; but it just never clicks with readers for any length of time. It might be because the ability to talk to fish isn’t that impressive next to Superman or Green Lantern and it might simply be that the character limits writers to water-based stories. But for whatever reason, the guy just seems like the black sheep of the superhero world.
 
But imagine a world in which there are no superheroes. Reports of whales attacking and sinking whaling boats and dolphins avoiding and even dismantling fishing nets start to pop up on the news. Maybe Aquaman is presented as something of an environmental terrorist protecting his kingdom (which encapsulates 2/3 of the planet) by any means necessary? Maybe it’s a sword-and-sorcery story that takes place undersea? Maybe it’s more of a high adventure tale with Aquaman and a team of undersea explorers traversing the unexplored depths of the ocean? A sci-fi story about lost aliens under the ocean? A horror story about a race of mer-people and the one who turns against them to save the human race? The possibilities are limitless, as long as you remove the guy from the DCU proper and give him room to breathe.
That’s our list, Maniacs–who’s on yours? What heroes do you think might work better outside the confines of the traditional DC Universe? Who do you think just doesn’t belong there in the first place? How you recreate your favorite heroes from the ground up in their own unique continuities?

 If you are a fan of DC Comics, and we know you are, check out 10 DC Storylines That Should Be Made Into Animated Features. If that tickles your fancy, then you'll also be interested in another Chad Derdowski entree entitled 5 Must Make DC Movies



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COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 22
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MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 4/8/2010 1:04:45 AM

Well - Swamp Thing, too - but I don't know if he is or not already. I only have the old, old pre Alan Moore (maybe) ones.  I know I saw in a trade about Black Orchid (??? - library book) and that also had Batman in it.

agentkooper 4/8/2010 1:18:04 AM

CHAD!  What about Mike Grell's run on Green Arrow that was part of the pre-Vertigo mature line?  Can I rant?  Mike Grell is nuts, anyone who reads his stuff knows he is a hardcore-to-the-limit-liberal, but in this book Green Arrow is a Rightish Lib.  Green Arrow was so awesome.  I get so tired of hearing about Alan Moore's Swamp Thing as the pre-Veritgo book.  What about this one?  Where is Green Arrow in all of this.  Those stories were genre shattering.  Where is the love?

karas1 4/8/2010 4:12:42 AM

Why should these stories be out of continuity?  Why not tell tales of Aquaman doing sword and scorcery adventures on the bottom of the sea and have it be in continuity?  Not many other heros go to the bottom of the sea anyway, so they just wouldn't interact with him often.  But leave the door open that they could.

And do light hearted adventures with the Metal Men or Captain Marvel.  The real world is full of drama and comedy and tragedy and light hearted stuff.  The DCU should be as well.  (And why a talking, clothes wearing tiger should be so much stranger than a hidden city of talking gorillas escapes me.)

And there are already plenty of Elsworlds miniseries about Batman.  Why remove the character totally from continuity?  It makes no sense (and will never happen).

This entire article seems pretty superfluous to me.

Kara S

LooneyBinJIm 4/8/2010 4:21:20 AM

Doom Patrol would work outside continuity. As for Aquaman, why this guy became a joke while Sub Mariner got success is weird since they are somewhat similar. But then again, that would be like saying that TNA should be as successful as the WWE.

DCAU tried playing him as a badass in JL/JLU and it worked. And (spoiler) he did have that thing happen to him at the end of BN. Just don't know if he should keep both hands or not if they decide to take him seriously in the comics again though.

Wyldstaar 4/8/2010 6:38:02 AM

I think the main reason Aquaman became the joke of the DCU is mostly because of the Superfriends cartoon.  Admitedly, everyone was pretty lame on that show, but Aquaman was even more so.  There's also the play factor.  When a pack of neighborhood kids gets together and decides to play superhero, who wants to get stuck playing Aquaman?  Nobody, because there's no water around and no aquatic creatures to give orders to. 

silversurfer 4/8/2010 6:51:02 AM

Wyldstarr...I'm laughing at your posting as I type because that's so funny and so true...as a kid NO ONE wanted to play the part of Aquaman...it was normally regarded to the kid who got there last. I do like the Eco Terrorist leaning : make him more like Namor, but with less regalness

Jakester 4/8/2010 7:05:58 AM

Mike Grell did Green Arrow out-of-continuity in the 80s/early 90s.  His stories were "suggested for mature readers" and were awesome.  No trick arrows, the cops knew who he was, and Dinah didn't have her scream.  And even though we got cameos from Warlord and Hal Jordan, there were no super powers on display.  Oh, and he did team up w/ Bats in a few of the Annual crossovers, but, again, no super powers.  It was AWESOME. 

When Grell left and they brought the book back into continuity and dropped the "mature" tag, I decided I'd give it a shot, but it was so out of character from what had gone in the previous x number of issues that I think I may have ripped the book up.  It sucked.

Jakester 4/8/2010 7:07:19 AM

Oh, sorry, Cooper!  Didn't see you'd already posted about Grell's run.  It was TEH AWESOME, wasn't it?

lracors 4/8/2010 7:09:43 AM

Let's face it DC has the most unbalanced group of power levels.  Spectre is almost a god, Sups, Marvel are so powerful with such powerful enemies that it still causes me disbelief when say Doomsday is walking the Earth and the lesser heroes don't get flyswatted against the wall.  In the real world with those kinds of powers and villians Batman would have been dead long before "Final Crisis".

Marvel is a little better with the balance of power but let's face it they have issues too.  At least in Ultimate Marvel they have made an attempt to address that disparity with lesser heroes getting killed off in major league crises, for example Daredevil in Ultimatum along with scores of other weaker heroes.

In summary you either have to accept the universes for what they are and ignore the inherent problems or stop reading because DC and Marvel will not change their main stream universes that radically.

fft5305 4/8/2010 9:11:54 AM

I'm with Kara on this one. Plenty of stories can be told without showing the characters crossing paths with others. Actually, even characters who are firmly planted in the mainstream wouldn't necessarily have to be shown in continuity. Just because Superman drops in to check in on Batman doesn't mean it needs to be shown in the Batman comic/movie. Does the comic show Bruce eating dinner or sitting on the can? No, but he would have to. Just show the relevant parts of the characters life in the comic to set the tone you are trying to achieve.

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