For those who haven’t read it yet, SPOILER ALERT! It is no secret that DC Comics has been moving their staff from Manhattan to San Diego during this late spring to finalize the organization of DC Entertainment under one roof alongside their parent company, Warner Brothers. It also is no secret that the next major editorial push for DC Comics is “DC You”, which seeks to play up a diversity of characters and/or creators. Lastly, it is also no secret that DC’s current crossover, “Convergence”, marked the second fiddling with their continuity since 2011’s “Flashpoint” and the birth of the “New 52”. Today (May 27), as reported by both Comic Book Resources and Newsarama, the finale of “Convergence” has seen the return of the entire “multiverse” (or “multiple earths”) as legitimate continuity that counts.
This naturally represents not only a contrast from the singular world of “New 52”, but also the initial continuity reboot that the company did with 1986’s “Crisis on Infinite Earth”. However, the angle that “everything counts” isn’t exactly new; that was the gist of 1999’s mini series, “The Kingdom”, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Mike Zeck and Ariel Olivetti. That was a two issue mini series and several one-shots which introduced the notion of “Hypertime”, or, “it’s all true” as summarized by Waid himself. In theory this merely allows editors and creators to tell stories with any version of characters they choose, despite the fact that DC Comics’ has sought to compete with Marvel Comics’ single and progressive universe. Just six years later in 2005, then editor in chief Dan DiDio abandoned the concept of “Hypertime” to lead into 2006’s “Infinite Crisis” and then 2009’s “Final Crisis” to further clean up continuity and parallel universes. Ironically, just as Marvel Comics themselves are toying with their own continuity reboot with this summer’s “Secret Wars” rehash, DC Comics is pulling an editorial u-turn from nearly thirty years of back and forth conviction.
As with anything DC Comics does editorially, there will be debate about it for some time. It could be said that the frequency of continuity mending stories since 1986 (with “Convergence” being the sixth within approximately twenty-nine years) proves how poorly they’ve worked over the long term. Others could claim the concept of multiple universes is confusing (which was part of the justification of “Crisis” in 1986) and that a role reversal could represent a stringing along of fans over years of time. However, DC Comics faces a certain reality. They have ownership of a library of characters who serve as ore for a major studio who have to remain recognizable and iconic without being allowed to evolve beyond a certain point; at the same time, they have to figure out how to sell more comics to a growing number of newer, younger, and more diverse fans. Setting up a continuity which allows editors and creators to tell stories about any (and all) incarnations of classic characters for whichever audiences they want to target with each particular product is similar to what has led Archie Comics to renewed vitality for the past six years. It could also be called “sanity”, which is often in short supply around the heavily isolated and insular environment of “big two” superhero comics.