Quick DC Comics question for you: Was Batman from Earth-1 or Earth-2? Was Huntress the daughter of Catwoman or a leading criminal? Did Jason Todd come back as a result of Superboy punching reality or Talia Al Ghul pushing him into a Lazarus Pit? Come to that, was he an acrobat or a runaway? The correct answer: Yes. To all of them. The Multiverse has gone through so many reboots and retcons that trying to decipher the timelines are more difficult than understanding the meaning of life. Is it time to just kick the plug and start from scratch? I’ve written before on how over-crowded DC Comics are with various versions of their heroes and villains, but that’s just one of the problems. Another is that the various attempts the publisher has made to create a singular continuity have fallen apart time after time. Hal Jordan was once infected with Parallax after absorbing all the willpower of the Green Lantern Corps. Then there was “Zero Hour” where he tried to restart the universe and prevent all mistakes, and — of course — his eventual redemption with “Final Night.” This was followed by “Day of Judgement” and his rebirth. An almost linear timeline to follow, Hal became the leader of the Green Lanterns, but then went renegade to clear their name. Currently, all the Lanterns have disappeared and Hal is searching for them. But somehow, Parallax (Jordan of the past) is fighting Jordan of the present even though he doesn’t remember doing so before. Although that has yet to be resolved, it’s just one of the umpteen bleed-overs that have happened over the years.
Power Girl has been the poster-girl of this for quite some time. First, she was from Earth-2, then it disappeared, then it was back but with another her already there. I think that she made it back now, but I’m not entirely sure. The New 52 has been an absolute nightmare. It seems that Batman has still been the Dark Knight with his trusty Robins (sans Stephanie Brown and with Harper Row the new sidekick of Bluebird), but only for a few years. And Damian Wayne was still the child of Bruce and Talia, but was raised in an embryonic container. Since the New 52, there have also been some re-writes of old characters and stories but it’s apparently still based off of the old universe. Wonder Woman has also fallen under some controversy with the previously immortal Amazons now using passing sailors for procreation before casually butchering them. Possibly the worst part yet, the Green Lantern film finally trumped the comics. The film had willpower being generated by all living things, but the New 52 line has an ‘emotional reservoir’ which the various Lanterns draw their powers from. When emptied, the universe ends. So the Lanterns are slowly destroying reality. In my mind, this kinda makes them the villains.
With so much source material and history to pick and choose from, would it be simpler for DC Comics to just set another Crisis or Zero Hour event in motion over the next few years and return to the beginning? The basic plots could be written out from the beginning and let the writers take some enjoyment with interpretation. Imagine watching the orphan Bruce Wayne slowly morph into Batman. Beginning with his vow to never let others suffer as he did, training under Ducard and working up to his first night under the cape. Or maybe watch the baby Kal-El crash into the Kent farm and grow up alongside his friends as he struggles to control his powers. Start with an origin story, build up some solid groundwork for later events and let things grow.
A rookie Hal Jordan could talk with an unnamed character at a bar and the viewer later finds out that it’s a younger Kyle Rayner/John Stewart/Guy Gardner. Bats could save a crowd of people from a burning building, young Grayson and Todd amongst them. Earth-2 could be introduced in their own branch of comics and still have the occasional cross-over. One-shots could still happen but without the constant short-lived heroes in their own books to confuse readers and ruin everything. Start at #1, ignore #0. Feature flashbacks and stories the reader can relate with. Want to have a Batman of Zur-En-Arrh in a few years? Have Grayson battle Killer Croc and Mister Freeze for a month or two whilst Bruce goes under and recovers — slot that story in when needed. Play it off as an intense training session or leave it dark and mysterious. Don’t just spring up and say, “Remember that time that we never wrote about? Here’s a story based on that.”
I’m not trying to besmirch DC Comics. I generally prefer it to Marvel and usually rank the Justice League above the Avengers. But DC has expanded and rebooted and tangled itself up into a complete mess. I’m slowly being swayed over to the side of Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel over Batman and Wonder Woman. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe in full swing and the DC films just starting up, it appears that Marvel has the upper hand. At least, for now.