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Off My Mind: How Much of DC Heroes' History is Lost With 'The New 52'?

With so many minor tweaks to characters, how do we know what events and stories are still canon?

DC's "The New 52" is underway and we've been seeing the small changes that have been made to our favorite characters. From the beginning, DC has been adamant that this is not a reboot. Some books like Batman and Green Lantern seem to be following directly where the previous issues left off.

The reality is, there have been some changes made. The characters' origins may still be the same but from what we've been seeing, there are some changes being made to their histories. We have over seventy years of stories with them but the Golden Age stories never really held. Even many of the Silver Age stories aren't considered part of their history. If we go with 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths as the last time things were rebooted, that's over twenty-five years of continuity to consider.

Some of the new books are beginning a few years ago. Justice League #1 begins five years ago and Action Comics #1 even before that. Other books will be starting in the current time so where does that leave all the events in between? Will we see several flashback issues to set the record straight? How will we know what events survived the birth of "The New 52" and which ones are being swept under the carpet?

== TEASER ==

We've already looked at the differences from Justice League #1. Originally the characters were aware of each other and it was Starro that brought them together in Brave and the Bold #28 (or the aliens from Appellax, if you want to go with the later Justice League of America #9 flashback origin). The big villain that will bringing the League together is Darkseid. What does that mean about Darkseid's original first appearance in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134?

The same question could be asked about Starro. Has the League we'll have in "The New 52" encountered Starro already? What about all the incarnations the team has gone through? Five years isn't that much time to have the Detroit League come about. What about poor Sue Dibny's attack in the Justice League Watchtower? Do they even have the Watchtower?

We also looked at the changes from Action Comics #1. It looks like Clark made his own costume instead of Ma making one from a Kryptonian baby blanket found in Superman's ship. We don't know if he was active as Superboy in Smallville before moving to Metropolis and had visits by the Legion of Superheroes.

Batgirl #1 told us that Barbara was in a wheelchair for only three years after getting shot by Joker (in The Killing Joke). What did she do in those three years? She displayed some hacking skills with her father's police scanner but what about her time as Oracle? Did her adventures consulting Batman and the Justice League still happen? What about the Birds of Prey? Did she form a bond with Black Canary, Huntress, etc?

There are obviously other questions as well. Did New Krypton get formed and destroyed? Did Green Arrow die and come back? Does Red Hood and the Outlaws occur in the past before Roy Harper's arm was torn off or did that simply never happen? Is Lex Luthor really the father of Perry White's (now dead) son Jerry? Will The Flash series take place some years ago in order to justify the revelation that Barry and Iris aren't married or is that marriage something that never happened? If the marriage never happened, why is that, especially if Barry Allen had a part in creating this "New 52" timeline?

Hmm...what exactly have I already done?

Looking at any of the characters' pages here on Comic Vine, we see detailed accounts of their histories. How are we supposed to know what still has happened and what is now going to be ignored or erased? We've been told that the Justice League series will only have the first arc take place five years ago. Then the series will jump forward to the present. Will we see random flashbacks from time to time to fill us in on what has happened or what has been changed? Potentially we could have a bunch of miniseries detailing the early adventures and first encounters of all characters. We've seen the First Year story arcs for several characters in the past. Now those will all have to be re-done since we're not fully sure what their first years were like.

Of course the other option we have is to simply not dwell on it. When you meet someone for the first time and get to know them, you don't know the full details of every moment in their lives prior to your meeting. We know the general idea. We know who the characters are and we can assume that their exact origins are pretty much the same. It might not fully matter if Batman fought Clayface or Killer Croc before meeting the Penguin. Whether bigger events such as Knightfall or Superman fighting Doomsday and dying happened should be made clear (and Swamp Thing #1 hints that yes, Superman did die).

It is good to know when seeing characters interact how much history they have together. It would be nice to know how many times the Flash has defeated the Rogues before and whether or not Batman and Wonder Woman ever flirted before. We just might not ever really get the answers. My wallet doesn't want to see miniseries after miniseries offering all the tiny details. I don't want to see gigantic encyclopedias on each character. For now I'm willing to assume that most of the history still stands. Even thought Batman punching out Guy Gardner with one punch was a favorite moment in history, no one really refers to it. Even the fact that Bart Allen grew up, became the Flash, was killed but is now back younger wasn't really dwelled on. Did Crisis on Infinite Earths even happen? Let's not even go into the fact that the Justice Society of America don't exist on this Earth anymore.

We just have to enjoy the current stories since at their core, they are the characters we've known for years. It's not the best solution and it can be annoying but we just have to look forward rather than obsess about the past. It won't be easy but we've had some good stories so far in the "New 52."

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Edited by Sekele

Approximately 25 years 
 
Considering the way comic time works, we might not have lost all that much 

Posted by ArtisticNeedham

This is one of the things I have worried about.  Did JLI by Giffen and Maguire happen?  Did Max Lord start it?  Did he kill Blue Beetle?  Did Wonder Woman snap his neck?  We know that Blackest Night happened right?  All the Green Lantern stuff happened.  So was Max part of all that?
Did the Teen Titans stuff by Wolfman and Perez happen?  Was Cyborg on the team?  In the sketchbook in the back of the JLA #1 comic Lee's sketch called Cyborg the "Future Titan."  So does that mean he helps out the JLA and then joins the Titans (and all those stories by Perez and Wolfman happened?)
What is being revamped and what is rebooted?  I think if DC would just say right out this happened and this didn't.
Like what they did with Spider-Man.  Marvel came right out and said all this happened, just not with MJ, it was at this point that they broke up and all these stories happened after that just without MJ.
DC should say, These comic stories happened, like JLI (which is available in three or four or five hard cover books, that I have bought) happened.
Maybe that would alleviate some fears.

Posted by blur1528

If I've learned anything from Grant Morrison, it's that everything is canon.

Posted by GBrutality

i would kind of like it all to be a little cleared up at some point. sure, some stories were downright terrible, but some did have a major thing come from it. i read somewhere that jason todd was never robin which is a big go-to-hell for anyone that liked the idea that someone batman fully trained returned from a gruesome death hellbent on dishing out his own brand of vigilantism. it's nice for people just picking up books, but for fans that have followed it for years, it's sort of an insult. also this each issue coming out during a different time-line is confusing as shit.

Posted by The Velvet Rabbit

I like some of the things that are happening with some of these new stories, but honestly I think - and no offense to anyone specifically at DC - even the writers and editors aren't really sure what they're going to be working with continuity-wise.    that's what worries me - it's all nice and neat right now, but what happens further down the line?   can't complain, though - if Simone keeps pumping out Batgirl issues as good as the first one (and I'm sure she will), I'll be one happy camper.   also crossing my fingers hoping that putting JSA on Earth-2 ends up as a stroke of understated genius, as opposed to a misunderstood gesture that ends up going horribly wrong. 
 
but on a lighter note, DC couldn't possibly retcon Starro - the little guy's got the giant world-conquering starfish market cornered.   that's gotta' be good for something.

Posted by Everyman011

I am pretty sure I read somewhere that according to DC all the major events had happened in the new 52 including Batgirl having spent time as Oracle. I think the only things we should ever take out of canon for the new 52 are the things we are directly told to, like Clark and Lois' marriage.

Posted by Mr. Kamikaze

We at least know Martian Manhunter was on the Justice League (as revealed in Stormwatch #1)

Posted by Dreamreaver

Sounds like Bart was never Impulse, and that's enough reason for me to dump it.

Posted by niamahai

i want to see WW and Bats getting it on like how they were meant to be.

Posted by TheBlackHood

I am simply assuming that nothing has happened previously unless it is directly mentioned in one of the new 52 comics.  It does say that Barbara Gordon was shot, so that happened.  As for whether or not she formed "Birds of Prey" I guess we will find out the first time Batgirl runs into Black Canary and how they interact.  I think some of the not knowing is part of the fun. 

Posted by Eyz

It makes me want to give DC a break, come back in 5 years when it will be all cleared out and easier to follow and then only jump on these "New 52". Yeah, I like reading stuff/watching movies/playing games with some delay. Hey! I've been playing through the old Resident Evil games, from the Saturn/Dreamcast to the Gamecube ones only last year! And I've started reading Green Lanterns from the Crisis throughout Kyle Rayner's run only some time ago :P

Posted by TDK_1997

I'm a big fan of DC and I was really sad when I heard about the relaunch but it's nice to know that most events happened and the writers weren't doing a thing that will just disappear in the future.However even with DC being my favorite publisher I'm thinking for the thing that I may give them a little break and return reading things from the in the future but I'm still thinking about that.

Posted by kagato

It is a little bit confusing with all of the 52s taking place at random points in time, but its part of the fun of reading the new stuff i guess. Im sure for the most part they will try to keep all of the stuff that is important to the characters they are working on, but a lot will be wiped away and its going to be stuff that some people dont care about, but others feel is a defining point in their history. Just have faith, the writers at DC are some of the best that have ever had, this is their one chance to make the universe fresh enough for retired comic book readers and new comers alike to enter, and to throw all of the Veterns off guard.

Posted by jubilee042
@Sekele said:
Approximately 25 years  Considering the way comic time works, we might not have lost all that much 
what he said 25 to 30
Posted by CrimsonAvenger

The Death of Superman is still in continuity, Stormwatch sort of showed it.

Edited by SpiritGoat

Is colin wilkes still there?

Posted by MuadDiab

they announced the new justice society book in case you missed it guys

Posted by hitechlolife

There's still a chance Starro will turn up. He could be a Darkseid ploy or preferably- personal mount.

Posted by Trodorne
@blur1528 said:
If I've learned anything from Grant Morrison, it's that everything is canon.
you mean before or after we nearly had about 30-40 years of comic continuity drilled into our skulls from final crisis? lol
Posted by doordoor123
@Dreamreaver said:
Sounds like Bart was never Impulse, and that's enough reason for me to dump it.
You're going to dump something on the bases of someone not wearing a costume at one point in time?  
You might as well dump your girlfriend for not wearing a hat that her friend gave her but then took back later because they got in a fight.  
How shallow. 
Posted by TheMadMonkey

Sue Dibny was attacked on the JLA Satellite...not the Watchtower.

Posted by gethere

I didn't think it was possible, but when you put down all the factors of this I am starting to think that DC  is making an even bigger continuity mess than  before, trying to explain that some how five years can hold a whole a lot continuity. Oh lets not try to get into messes that are the crisis  it will be just too much. 

Posted by Gambit1969

If you read Flashpoint #5, the ending has the Flash or that hooded woman combining the DC Universe, Wildstorm and Vertigo into 1 new universe.  So I think everything happened because this is a totally different DC Universe than before, sort of like Marvel's Age of Apocalypse.
Posted by Jslab425

Lots of Aquaman questions?
 
 Did the Peter David run occur?  Did Aquaman lose his hand twice or only once now by Black Manta in Brightest Day?
 
Did Aqualad ever become Tempest?
 
What about Arthur Jr? Dead, alive, or not yet born?
 
Most likely the Sword of Atlantis run will not have occurred and Arthur Joseph will never be seen again.
 
Can't wait for AQUAMAN #1 !!!

Posted by Iridium

I think there is an easy, albeit somewhat disappointing answer ...
 
"How Much of DC Heroes' History is Lost With 'The New 52'?"
... all of it.

Posted by Sobe Cin
@Dreamreaver
If Bart was never Impulse and they dissolved the relationship between Barry Allen and Iris West, could that mean the Kid Flash in Teen TItans is Wally West? Or is continuity that screwed up still where Bart exists even though his bloodline doesn't.
Posted by AMP - Seeker of Lost Knowledge

With Darkseid as the main villain in Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League, now I'm curious if we either have NEW GODS or we still have none (see DEATH OF THE NEW GODS)... 
 
Other concerns:
-THE SECRET SIX

Posted by ltbrd

This is why I'll never understand why DC did not publish a DCnU/New 52 issue #0 and do something similar to the fold-out timeline in the last issue of Zero Hour or the Brave New World one-shot they put out. It made sense to do this because they wanted to make sure old readers knew what events had happened, remained, or were changed with the revision major events created. 
 
An issue 0 would not have detracted from the regular books because you could still have Action Comics and others occur in the past in order to let us get an in-depth look into major events that occured like Superman first starting out with a homemade costume, the Justice League's initial formation and others. A good timeline breakdown in issue 0 would have simply cleared up some areas for old readers and even for new readers. A new reader can see the established timeline in issue 0 with small notes in them pointing them to the books they want to read for those characters. For instance, the timeline would say that 6 years ago (roughly) Superman appeared in Metropolis with a note saying that adventure is followed in Action Comics #1. 5 years ago the Justice League formed and can be followed in Justice League #1. It can be a roadmap to let new readers know what to do with 52 issue 1's being thrown at them. 
 
Last point.......the Justice Society should still exist in the past of the main Earth. That was a horrible decision. I'm not saying they should still be around, they all should have been aged, all retired, some even died of old age but it should have still happened as a legacy for the new heroes to look back on and live up to. Maybe even have a very old, can't run anymore Jay Garrick or Wildcat around just to be the voice of that generation even if they aren't able to contribute to the fight.
Posted by mikeclark1982
@ltbrd: there are rumors that this may happen soon. DC is publishing a nearly 1200 page HARDCOVER with every new 52 book in it for like 80 bucks on amazon. comes out the week of thanksgiving. maybe if the fans ask hard enough, they will include a n52#0 in it. or it is already happening. they are just being secretive about it.
Posted by blackkitty

My main complaint is superman. Okay, maybe I'm old fashioned and all but, I like my superman being the ultimate boyscout. This new superman seems more ruthless and uncaring than batman. Might sell books but, not for me.

Posted by Herx

Well i think it's pretty clear that cry for justice never happend, but other than that I'm just gona patiently sit back and wait and see. I mean, we still are in the initial first weeks, so nothings exaclty going to be too clear to us.

Posted by Sakurafire

New 52 = Wikipedia Nightmare

Posted by neillius
@blackkitty
I whole heartedly agree with you. but you have to admit, this action #1 held up to the original action #1 insofar as superman was kicking in doors and being two fisted.
Posted by cyberninja

An ordinary story can be retold and it will have the same impact on readers, but a great story is the one which when retold  will have different impact on every readers every single time, for it's timeless. Some might mistake new understanding or a new take on an old familiar story as "something being lost along the way" but that's not the case. Besides the new 52's adventure just began, it's too early to say if "something was lost", for now let's just enjoy the ride shall we. 

Posted by Trodorne

It seems to me its pretty much previous continuity but taking more of modern key points from late 80's to now and shortening the time length in between so they can cut down on the age of the characters. they are taking more prominent character stories and applying them to this universe. 
 
 I mentioned Here, that this we treat this as a new silver age and its just a reimagining of the characters origins to make them young again but at the same time updating and cutting off the fat. If anything this could be a benefit to keep the old continuity as the new Earth 2. basically having an aged batman running batman inc because he is too old to keep going anymore. Kal-el settles down with lois and passes on the title to Conner and Kara. I mean there was two batmen in gotham city when Dick was batman for a while. so why can't there be two supermen? 
 
  If DC succeeds at selling this new time line to people we could see the return of the old in future dates as an alternate universe. In which after the incident with flashpoint, Barry comes back and gives the mantle of Flash to Wally. if not maybe wally wants to focus on his kids. just that fact and wally could actually appear in the DCnU being from Earth-2.

Posted by Trodorne
@Gambit1969 said:
If you read Flashpoint #5, the ending has the Flash or that hooded woman combining the DC Universe, Wildstorm and Vertigo into 1 new universe.  So I think everything happened because this is a totally different DC Universe than before, sort of like Marvel's Age of Apocalypse.
Umm Vertigo is not being part of DC, just cause swamp thing is in there I don't think they will toss in Hellblazer otherwise there will be a serious uproar. mainly from Silkcuts.
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

I'm not really worried about anything. LOL at the people totaly over exaggeration on Superman, I mean its not like hes that bad, he hasn't done anything to makes him that different than he was before. 

Edited by Or35ti

Remember tho we've only had the first batch of #1's. I think overtime the new world of DC will be explained. DC knows what they're doing, they won't leave so many questions unanswered. But I would like to see a timeline or list of events that occurred posted somewhere rather than having to check out and take notes on every issue cos that's not really an option for me. It seems most of the history really is still intact tho

Posted by chalkshark

These kinds of questions never really get fully answered. The fan base pondered the same thing after Crisis on Infinite Earths, & to a smaller degree, after Zero Hour. The writer of any given series isn't going to be concerned with filling in the blanks on continuity. Their concern is just telling good stories. On occasion, that may mean that an old story will be reconfigured to fit the new continuity. You'll never get enough pieces of the puzzle though to be truly satisfied. DC Comics will also not release any kind of blanket statement regarding what is & is not still canon... because they don't really know. If a writer comes up with a way of making a particular piece of history fit, & it's a good story, it's going to be approved for publication. That may not happen though for another 5 years. It may not be the current writer that comes up with that story. I'm not as concerned with continuity issues as I am with arbitrary changes to a character's history that change the character. It's disrespectful to the writer's that came before & did the heavy lifting in crafting the reasons why we loved, or noticed, the character in the first place. If you can't write the character as written because it doesn't suit your particular story, then create a new character that does. Don't tear down an old one, to be re-imagined to fit the story. 

Posted by StarKiller809

I'm not too worried about what's in continuity and what's been thrown out. So far, this new 52 has been impressive to me and I think that it's a success for me. It would bug me that something did or didn't happen as long as we get good stories, and amazing art.

Posted by Gambit1969
@Trodorne
Hellblazer wasn't part of the bringing DC owned Vertigo characters into the main universe but Justice League Dark has Vertigo characters as well as Animal Man.
Posted by BatUniverse

Why Manhunter is On Stormwatch and not on The Justice League?

Posted by DP812

When thinking about Flashpoint and The New 52, I wonder what things would have been like if the Internet was around in its current form during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Would people have had similar reactions? What about earlier than that, when the concept of multiple earths was first introduced, when characters who previously existed on their own worlds were merged into the same?  
 
Go back before Flashpoint, before Infinite Crisis, before Identity Crisis, before Zero Hour, before even the first Crisis, and it was always a bit screwy. DC is a lot more loose with their continuity than Marvel is, and that's because Marvel really introduced the concept of rigid continuity in my mind. Sure, continuity existed in DC before that, but it wasn't as strong as it's been since Marvel really got into the game.  
 
I think that's an important thing to keep in mind. Sure, it doesn't all fit together perfectly. And yeah, maybe we never will get a full explanation. I could be wrong, but I don't think that was ever fully explained with the first Crisis, either. 
 
My take? Just take the stories as they come. Think of continuity nods to the past as little Easter eggs. Either that, or drive yourself nuts trying to figure out how it all fits together. Because really, continuity doesn't fit together neatly. A story that takes months to complete could span a few hours of real time, whereas one issue could span years. And if we were trying to take continuity rigidly, it wouldn't work, because a majority of these characters should either be dead or in retirement homes by now.

Posted by Omega-Man

What has me confused was that writers stated that Action comic #1 is year 0 and that Justice League #1 is year one. If JL is year one Then Batman hasn't had Robin yet and is wearing this new costume for the past 6 years if not longer. I think Bruce would have updated his look over those years. It pretty much says Bruce has worn the same suit since he first appeared and went though three Robin's Dick, Jason, Tim and now Damian all in the same suit thats kind of hard to swallow since new technology comes and goes. Even read up the Arc during and after Knightfall (He has his classic blue and grey suit and went to an all black suit with heavier armour even states it in that comic series) or even during and after No Man's land (He went though the all black suit to his more reconized costume e.g his suit in the Hush series) as Bruce updated his suit during those peroids with new armour, belts and weapons.
 
Or if you want to go more recent, his reconized suit to the Batman inc suit after he came back from going though time. And you can tell reading though those stories how technology has progressed and Batman has updated his suit to deal with new things

Posted by DP812
@Omega-Man said:
What has me confused was that writers stated that Action comic #1 is year 0 and that Justice League #1 is year one. If JL is year one Then Batman hasn't had Robin yet and is wearing this new costume for the past 6 years if not longer. I think Bruce would have updated his look over those years. It pretty much says Bruce has worn the same suit since he first appeared and went though three Robin's Dick, Jason, Tim and now Damian all in the same suit thats kind of hard to swallow since new technology comes and goes. Even read up the Arc during and after Knightfall (He has his classic blue and grey suit and went to an all black suit with heavier armour even states it in that comic series) or even during and after No Man's land (He went though the all black suit to his more reconized costume e.g his suit in the Hush series) as Bruce updated his suit during those peroids with new armour, belts and weapons.  Or if you want to go more recent, his reconized suit to the Batman inc suit after he came back from going though time. And you can tell reading though those stories how technology has progressed and Batman has updated his suit to deal with new things
Well how would you address those things in real time? 
 
Bruce Wayne is pretty much eternally in his mid-30s or early 40s (if we're being generous). So let's go with the idea that he's been Batman for twenty years. That's seventy-some years of continuity you're squeezing into a twenty-year period. And it'll only increase as the character continues to progress through time. So no matter which way you cut it, you still have a lot of stuff to squeeze into that limited time frame. 
Posted by BigBDawg

You do got a lot of points here and there, guy. All I can say is this; let's hope DC comes up with some kind of compendium for all the tweaks, minor and major, that have occured in the New 52 so that we fans got a good idea as to what is going on and we can actually feel better about it all. I mean, that's one big reason the New 52 has had mixed feelings going for it; so muc continuity thrown out the window or negated and such. Which is why I want answers to what was changed and things like that.
Posted by xkoenig

I'm concerned that the writers are already laying problems for themselves. Martian Manhunter is apparently a former Justice League member according to Stormwatch, but when was he in the team exactly? The original Dove died during a 'Crisis' but what does that mean in the DCnU? Are they going to return to explain it? Swamp Thing died, but was that during Brightest Day? How did that play out in the DCnU continuity? Different writers are picking and choosing which continuity they get to keep, but are they consulting each other on what they write?

Posted by tbone1225

If it is relevant to the new stories that are being told, then we will be given the details about whether or not old stories are canon. Also, even if something is considered canon, that doesn't necessarily mean that the entire story is canon, just the event. Hawk and Dove #1 hints that the original Dove was killed in some crisis. Was that Crisis on Infinite Earths? And if it was, did it even go down the same? I'll find out if and when Hawk and Dove or some other comic tells me.

Posted by DP812
@BigBDawg said:
You do got a lot of points here and there, guy. All I can say is this; let's hope DC comes up with some kind of compendium for all the tweaks, minor and major, that have occured in the New 52 so that we fans got a good idea as to what is going on and we can actually feel better about it all. I mean, that's one big reason the New 52 has had mixed feelings going for it; so muc continuity thrown out the window or negated and such. Which is why I want answers to what was changed and things like that.
I have one word for you: Crisis. 
 
To my knowledge, there has never been any sort of compendium for all the tweaks that caused. Yet I never saw the kind of backlash towards Crisis that I've seen towards Flashpoint, even though they've essentially done the exact same thing. 
Posted by SilverZeo

To be fair, a lot was already lost in between Infinite Crisis and the new New 52, minor continuity was ignored and retcon out of existence, like the Matrix SUpergirl. Heck, since his time with the Teen Titans, I thought Conner's dead girlfriend, Tana Moon, never existed at all, with no reference or mention of her, not even in Blackest Night

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