In the world of superheroes, it’s necessary to keep history on a fairly loose leash. Marvel and DC have both made reference to a “sliding timeline” – in the Marvel U, no matter what year it is, it’s only been 5 or 10 years since Fantastic Four #1. And with Marvels recent relaunch of the Ultimate line and a court ruling in favor of the Siegels, it occurs to us that it may be time for DC to “ultimatize” their books, hit the reset button and start history from scratch with another big bang. Here are a few reasons why…
The precedent has already been set: the DC multiverse, which had collapsed at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, has been restored and is ready to be explored. We’ve seen glimpses of a few new earths as well as the return of the Golden Age Earth-2 in recent issues of Justice Society. There’s no time like to present to show a brand new earth in which the familiar heroes of the DCU are recreated in a modern setting.
And let’s face it, it’s not like DC history makes any sense, even if you’re a die-hard fan who’s been following it for years. It isn’t even the years of continuity that make it so confusing; it’s the retcons, the rewrites of said retcons and the eventual retconning of the rewritten retcon that makes the whole thing such a cluster- … well, you get the idea.
The events of Infinite Crisis left us with a New Earth that combined aspects of pre- and post-Crisis continuity, but it was never explicitly stated just which elements had been restored and which ones had been erased. Basically, the door was left open for the writers to bring back whatever Silver or Bronze Age stuff they happen to be feeling nostalgic for on any given week and to ignore whatever modern storyline they felt like ignoring. And that’s fine! It’s a lot like the whole sliding timeline thing - if it works they use it and if it doesn’t, it’s not in continuity anymore. That’s cool as long as you’re laid back and have a decent working knowledge of DC history. But for the average reader attempting to jump on board the ship, it can feel like you’re lost at sea. Casual reading can feel like a pretty daunting task and picking up the latest issue of the current crossover or event might require a prerequisite in multidimensional anthropology.
Why not simplify the whole thing by starting over?
Fanboys made a big stink about the Ultimate Universe when it kicked off back in 2000. Some loved the idea while others ranted and raged and called it sacrilege. A few said it would never last but here we are nearly ten years later and the Ultimate U is still kicking. And having survived Ultimatum, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere either.
But the truth is that the first ultimatization (yes, I made that word up) occurred way back in 1956 with Showcase #4 and the first appearance of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash. Make no mistake, true believers, Earth-1 was the original ultimate universe! An alternate reality that updated the classic characters and in some instances completely reinvented them from the ground up with more scientifically plausible origins? Sounds a lot like the Ultimate universe to us.
DC did it first, so why not do it again? There’s no need to get rid of the DCU proper; just do what Marvel did and introduce another DCU, one that isn’t bogged down with decades of history and history-altering events. Since the folks at DC are all about legacy heroes, why not create even more?
Let’s not beat around the bush or play editor anymore. We’re geeks, not lawyers, and we don’t pretend to understand all the legal mumbo jumbo that goes along with the recent court rulings but from the sounds of it, the Siegel heirs now own the rights to the events of Action Comics #1 as well as the origin of Superman. Krypton, Jor-El, the rocket… all that good stuff. Now, we all know that it’s really just about money and when push comes to shove, eventually the right amount will be found and odds are nothing will change. But what if?
What if the Siegel family plays hardball? What if they just take their ball and go home? Or worse yet, to another publisher?!?! What if DC has no other choice but to come up with a new origin for Supes that doesn’t involve a rocketship being blasted from an exploding planet, carrying that oh-so-precious cargo? If that’s the case and they have to start over from scratch anyway… why not start everything over from scratch?
Imagine a world in which the inventors of a time machine from the far-flung future (minutes before the sun explodes, destroying the earth) send their baby boy back to 1973 and he grows up to have abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Picture a reality in which a Darknight Detective patrols the rooftops of Gotham City, unencumbered by the ridiculous addition of a youthful sidekick (and all the child-abuse connotations that go along with it). Imagine a world in which every hero and villain hasn’t died and come back from the dead several times over. Try to comprehend a universe in which Hawkman’s origin makes sense!
Okay, maybe that last one is asking a bit much.
Seriously, there’s no reason not to do it and plenty of reason to go through with it, chief among them: bringing in new readers. It worked for Marvel with the Ultimate line and it could work for DC too. Hey, if it were up to us, we’d institute a mandatory 25-year Crisis. Every two decades, the whole of the DC and Marvel lines get cancelled and everything starts over. All continuity problems get solved in one fell swoop.
But it doesn’t even need to be that drastic. Just institute a new line and see what happens. At the very worst, you’ll have a lot of DC die-hards buying the books just to see what the fuss is. And if it’s a success, you’ll have some Marvel Zombies coming over to the DC side for the first time and once they’ve had a taste of the DC magic, they might dip their toe into the real DCU as well.
And if it turns out to be a bust… oh well, cancel the whole thing and call it Earth-9.