This week on The Wednesday Club, Geek & Sundry’s weekly discussion of all things comics, hosts Taliesin Jaffe, Amy Dallen, and Matt Key were joined by Ashley V. Robinson to talk DC Comics. That might sound simple, but diving into the rich history of DC Comics is no easy task.
Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable hosts were undaunted, however, and gave a crash course in DC Comics publication history, along with their recommended titles starring The Big Three of superheroes.
While the convoluted history of DC Comics is enough to deter any would-be comic book fan, The Wednesday Club broke down the history chronologically from the Golden Age of Comics to the current continuity of Rebirth. “DC Comics was National Allied Comics originally in 1934,” began Taliesin.
“In Detective Comics #27 , they introduced this Batman guy,” said Amy. In addition to Batman and Superman, the Golden Age featured heroes like Jay Garrick, The Flash, and Alan Scott, the Green Lantern. If those names don’t sound familiar to you, it’s because the characters you know now were created during the Silver Age of the 1950s. Barry Allen became The Flash, and Hal Jordan took on the mantle of the Green Lantern.
The 1960s saw the beginning of the idea that “rather than every story living and dying on its own, you can get richer stories if you make everything count and find ways for it count,” said Amy. This led to the creation of what we know today as Earth-2.
Naturally, the heroes of the two Earths would come to meet in some of DC Comics’ first big events.
Amy has fond memories of reading the collections of the annual crossovers between the Earth-1 Justice League and the Earth-2 Justice Society, called Crisis on Multiple Earths. In these first crossover adventures, the heroes teamed up to take on foes including the Crime Syndicate (evil versions of themselves) from Earth-3.
“It became essentially the big summer event,” said Amy. “DC would have their Justice League meet the Justice Society almost like an annual family reunion… What’s great is reading those over time, you get the snapshot of the DC universe one year at a time for two-and-a-half decades.”
(DC Comics, Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky)
Perhaps the biggest event to ever hit the DC universe was the Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics’ effort to unite all of their books and characters under one continuity. “There’s no way to overstate what an event this was,” said Amy.
“Crisis on Infinite Earths completely solidified what the actual mythology is,” explained Matt. After the Anti-Monitor arrives and begins destroying realities (the other Earths in the DC universe), only five Earths are spared. By the end of the story, they are merged into one shared universe, and become the DC Comics continuity–for a while.
(DC Comics, Marv Wolfman and George Perez)
No discussion about DC Comics would be complete without talking about Watchmen and its impact on comics as a whole. The limited series follows original characters outside of the DC universe continuity, and Alan Moore was focused on deconstructing them as superheroes. “It’s a brilliant read,” said Taliesin.
“It’s also one of the greatest novels ever written,” agreed Amy.
An unintended consequence of the success and impact of Watchmen, said Amy, was ushering in the “dark age” of comics. “Watchmen was sophisticated on a level that took everyone by surprise,” she said. “Watchmen changed everybody’s ideas about what was possible [in comics].”
(DC Comics, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)
Crisis After Crisis
After Crisis on Multiple Earths, the heroes of the DC universe would come together time and time again to join forces against foes and dangers that had the potential to reshape the universe itself. Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, and Flashpoint all had their own effects on the comics’ continuity, until the universe was rebooted once again in the New 52.
In 2016, DC Rebirth #1 hit comic book store shelves. It wasn’t a reboot, but a new beginning for many of DC’s characters. “Someone said it’s time to embrace what made us popular in the first place,” said Taliesin, “which was not Watchmen.”
Comics started numbering again at #1 as new starting points for readers. Some of the pre-New 52 history was reintroduced, but the New 52 universe itself stayed intact. “It feels to me like, with Rebirth, it was sunlight parting the clouds. It was like, ‘Ah, that’s DC,'” said Matt.
Other Recommended Titles
Taliesin recommends Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory. “It’s really interesting. It’s seven superheroes pulled together by fate to stop this terrible thing from happening… It’s all over the place. I love it.”
Ashley had a few top DC picks, including Batman: The Long Halloween, Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman Earth One, and All-Star Superman, also by Grant Morrison. “If you don’t cry in issue six, you’re not a human,” Ashley said.
Amy’s picks included the current Rebirth runs of Wonder Woman, Action Comics, and Detective Comics.
Matt is a “giant fan of Flash” and recommends his current Rebirth book, and, if you’re interested in going deeper into your superhero reading, pick up Supergods by Grant Morrison.
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What is your favorite book from DC Comics, past or present? Tell us in the comments.
Images: Geek & Sundry, DC Comics