The Not-So-New 52

The New 52 universe celebrated its second anniversary last with Villains Month, and although we've all gotten used to the new status quo, the changes have been significant. <p>The reboot got the publisher tons of media exposure for renumbering all its comics with a new #1, and it gave DC the opportunity to revamp its characters and concepts. It also kicked off a campaign for DC's digital platforms, as the New 52 marked the first time the publisher would release digital versions of its comics on the same day as print. <p>Readers had a lot of expectations for the "New 52" when it was first announced, and even more after that first wave of comics came out in September 2011. But as we look back at the language fans were using two years ago, we discovered that a <i>lot</i> has happened that we didn't suspect at the time. <p>So to mark the New 52's second birthday, we've put together a list of the things that, when compared to initial expectations, are the biggest surprises two-plus years later.

"New 52"

<p>When DC first used the term "New 52," it referred to the number of <i>new</i> #1 issues the company was publishing in September 2011. <p>But "New 52" was catchy enough that DC decided to keep using it — their whole publishing line became known as the "New 52." To make sure it was an accurate description, the company made sure there were 52 DCU titles every month, replacing canceled titles with a one-to-one ratio. <p>It worked. The "New 52" label has taken on a life of its own. DC doesn't even need to publish 52 titles a month anymore (and often doesn’t). DC editors won't even confirm that their multiverse only has 52 Earths. The number is, currently, meaningless. <p>But there's something magic about that number. And two years after its launch, this is <i>still</i> the "New 52" universe.

Histories Still Unclear/Rewritten

<p>When the New 52 was first introduced, readers were told that its superhero history was around five years old. DC executives hinted around about a timeline that they had made. And the implication was that readers would slowly discover what happened during those five years. <p>But one of the biggest surprises of the two years since has been the lack of clarity on those five years, and the way some of the history keeps switching. Yes, we were told, the Crises still happened. But <a href="https://www.facebook.com/dan.didio/posts/2477877106857">oops, no, we were told, then again, they didn't</a>. <p>Yes, Superman died, but there's no way the <i>Death of Superman</i> story could have happened, and especially not the “Reign of the Supermen.” <i>Batman: Year One</i> was thought to be canon, but now <i>Batman: Zero Year</i> is kind of dancing around it (although to writer Scott Snyder's credit, at least he's trying). And don't even get us started on the "was there a Teen Titans before?" question. <p>But for the die-hard fans of a certain 31st Century team, one of the most disheartening switches in New 52 continuity is that…

The Legion is Gone

<p>When DC first announced its roster of #1 issues in 2011, <i>Legion of Super-Heroes</i> was one of the company's only ongoing DCU books to sidestep changes, even retaining its pre-New 52 writer, Paul Levitz. Although Legion fans were originally braced for yet <i>another</i> reboot, they breathed a sigh of relief that the Legion was safe in the New 52. <p>Two years later, not only is this "<i>safe</i>" book canceled, but August's final issue indicated the Legion probably didn't even really exist in the main DCU. <i>Legion of Super-Heroes #23</i> had an ending that is perhaps open to interpretation, but the implication was that the Legion lived on a different Earth. <p>Although that erases the beloved history of the Legion with a young Clark Kent, for DC, it clears the way for December's launch of a new version of DC's future, <i>Justice League 3000</i> by alumni <i>Justice League</i> creators Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Howard Porter. <p>But this isn't a Legion redo — <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/18137-giffen-dematteis-spill-on-justice-league-3000-answer-legion-connection.html">as Giffen told Newsarama</a>: "I have as much affection for the <i>Legion of Super-Heroes</i> as anybody — maybe more than most, since I kept returning to the book like a mental patient. But this isn't the Legion. And it shouldn't be judged on Legion of Super-Heroes terms. Sorry Legion fans, but you're going to have to wait until somebody comes up with a take on the Legion."

Same-Day Digital Didn't Kill Retail

<p>The birth of digital comics came with a clarifier from major publishers: "It comes out earlier in the stores." <p>Why? Because surely, if people could get their hands on digital comics the same day that print copies were released, why would they go to the comic shop? <p>Well, DC took a chance in September 2011, launching its New 52 reboot with a new same-day digital policy. And <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/7711-comics-retailers-have-questions-about-dc-s-new-plans.html">although retailers admitted they expected the change at the time</a>, many fans felt that this was the beginning of the end for retail comic book stores. <p>Instead, two years later, sales of print comic books to direct market stores are as robust as they were before the New 52. And at this point, almost every print comic that's released by a major publisher gets a concurrent digital release. <p>Even digital advocate Mark Waid (who, to be clear, always remained a proponent of print comics, as well) <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/18824-digital-advocate-mark-waid-buys-into-brock-and-mortal-comic-book-store.html">announced earlier this week that he's buying into a retail comic shop</a>, seeing it as an investment in a business that can co-exist with digital.

Robin Revisions

<p>In 2011, Batman continuity seemed fairly free from major changes. Yes, we were told that Batgirl would be very different, but the Robins? <i>Batman #1</i> made it seem like they were all getting along… happy, healthy and fairly unscathed by the reboot. <p>Two years later, it's a whole new ballgame. Perhaps most shocking to our pre-New 52 expectations is the fact that Damian is dead (nooooooo!!!), and right now, there really isn't a Robin anymore. And who would have guessed that Carrie Kelley would now part of the regular DC Universe, bringing even <i>more</i> Robins into the DC mix? <p>But there have also been smaller changes, like the revelation that Tim Drake never called himself "Robin" (opting for "Red Robin" from the start), Jason's got a revamped history, and Dick Grayson was an almost-Owl-assassin who didn't become Robin until he was 16 yet had time to be Batman for awhile. (And now <b>SPOILER ALERT FOR FOREVER EVIL #1</b> Dick's secret identity is public — yet another major change. <b>END SPOILERS</b>) <p>But perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that everything we've mentioned about the many Robins who served under Batman happened in a little over six years of continuity, something that none of the editors or writers have really even <i>tried</i> to explain.

Things REALLY Changed

<p>Back in 2011, DC warned us about the little tweaks. Superman lost both his parents? Eh… he still had the Kent upbringing. Everyone got new costumes? Well, cosmetic changes are nothing new for comics. <p>But the alterations to the characters have just kept coming over the last two years. Wonder Woman is daughter of Zeus, and now she's the new God of War; Superboy is a clone of Clark and Lois's son from the future; and Joker literally has no face. Really. And then in the Green Lantern universe, Guy Gardner is a Red Lantern, Kyle Rayner is White, and the Guardians of the Universe are dead. <p>There are <i>new</i> New Gods, and there's a revamped batch of Flash Rogues and a completely new Reverse Flash. And there are solo titles for oddball characters like Vibe, Katana, Phantom Stranger and Pandora. <p>Yet with all these new faces and changed histories and surprising titles, DC still faces a lot of frustration from fans because…

There's Still no Sign of Missing Characters

Despite persistent and emotional fan requests at comic conventions — and on DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio's Facebook page — there is <i>still</i> no Wally West in the New 52 DCU. <p>There have been nods, winks and rumors about Wally West appearing some day in the New 52 — and DC's use of multiple Earths makes his existence even more plausible — but two years into the reboot, there is still no sign of the guy. <p>It probably doesn't help that DC now has a new Barry Allen Flash showing up on live action TV — first on the CW show <i>Arrow</i>, and soon on his own series. If ever there were a good time for DC to embrace Barry as The Flash, it would be now, with a mainstream audience about to meet him on television. <p>To add insult to injury, it's looking more and more like there was never a New Teen Titans team (although there have been hints here and there about an earlier squad). <p>For Wally fans, there might be a consolation: There's also no Donna Troy. And no Stephanie Brown. And several other missing fan favorites from the pre-New 52 universe. Then again, maybe that's not consoling at all.

It's Sticking Around

One of the leading comments from bloggers and fans about the New 52 when it was announced was: <p><i>This is a temporary gimmick. It will all be rebooted back to the old universe soon.</i> <p>DC executives kept saying it wasn't temporary. But when the new #1 issues came out, they all featured a character named Pandora who had <i>caused</i> the New 52 to exist. And when DC confirmed that she'd still be around in the DCU (and presumably still able to set things "back"), it left open the opportunity to "undo" the 52. <p>Rumors about a <i>re</i>-re-boot have abounded since, with the most recent pointing toward the end of "Trinity War" as the time when Pandora would set things back to the way they were. <p>Well, sorry naysayers… that didn't happen. And <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/18576-pandora-a-wicked-cool-female-lead-post-trinity-war.html">Ray Fawkes told Newsarama</a> that the Pandora he's writing in <i>Trinity of Sin: Pandora</i> might not even be the same Pandora who created the New 52. Or she might not remember doing it. <p>So two years later, it looks like the New 52 is here to stay. None of the old numbering. None of the old characters. And it's not the only place that's all-new, because…

The Animated Movies are New 52-ing Too

After DC Entertainment announced it was making an animated version of <i>Flashpoint</i> (the mini-series that caused the comic book universe to reboot), <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/17382-is-flashpoint-the-start-of-the-new-52-animated-u.html">Newsarama wondered if the company would actually send its animated films into the new universe, too.</a> <p>At Comic-Con International in San Diego, the company announced that the first animated movie of 2014 will be <i>Justice League: War</i>, based on the New 52 version of <i>Justice League</i>. That book launched the New 52 universe, telling how the League first formed as a group of young heroes defending earth from an invasion. <p>It's one thing to see, two years later, that the New 52 universe is still around in comic books, but it's all that more surprising to see DC so smitten with this reboot that they're doing it elsewhere. New 52 costumes also made their way into this year’s hit video game <i>Injustice: Gods Among Us</i> and across action figure and statue lines.

Multiverse Dominaton

When DC revamped their comic book universe in 1985 with <i>Crisis on Infinite Earths</i>, the clear goal was to simplify continuity, eliminating DC's plethora of "alternate" earths and its many different versions of the same characters. <p>So when DC announced the New 52 reboot, most comic fans assumed that would again be one of the goals. <p>Two years later, it's clear that's <i>not</i> the case. Multiple versions of characters, from different Earths and times, are not only still around — they're being <i>featured</i>. <p>Sure, we knew Grant Morrison's <i>Multiversity</i> event was yet-to-come. But who would have guessed that we'd already have all these Supermen — from the older Earth-2 Superman now in <i>Batman/Superman</i>, to the black Earth-23 Superman from <i>Action Comics</i> — not to mention the Superman from the future in the December-launching <i>Justice League 3000</i>. <p><a href=” http://www.newsarama.com/18834-spoilers-five-things-you-need-to-know-from-forever-evil-1.html”>Characters from Earth-3 have even taken over the DC Universe in a Geoff Johns-written event</a>, proving that this multiverse thing is at the forefront of the New 52. And although we've had a couple years to get used to all this multiversity, when we compare it to our expectations two years ago, we call this the biggest surprise of all.

The NEW 52 Two Years Later: The Reboot's Biggest Surprises

Date: 04 September 2013 Time: 09:00 PM ET