Last week, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio put into motion a flurry of fan predictions as he confirmed that DC is working on an event called "Five Years Later."
To be clear, the confirmation was a bit cryptic. Plus, it came via an odd outlet — a YouTube video that spent much of its time promoting MAD magazine, cartoons and films.
But within the video, called "DC All Access," DiDio was discussing this spring's launch of the Batman: Eternal weekly. He said: "we have other weeklies planned," then pointed toward a bulletin board on the wall where he claimed hints were posted.
When the camera showed a close-up of the wall, two things were obvious — a sketch of Batman (that looked a lot like Batman Beyond), and several logo treatments for a DC event called Five Years Later.
Since the publisher was talking about "other weeklies," we can presume that Five Years Later is the title for — or the tagline associated with — a new DC weekly comic.
First, a History
Readers might remember that the last time DC told a story that jumped "later," it was following the line-wide story Infinite Crisis. After the event concluded in spring 2006, every single DC comic jumped "One Year Later." All DC's titles stayed in that one-year-ahead continuity, while a weekly comic called 52 filled in the story of the missing 52 weeks.
The "hook" of the missing year depicted in 52 was that Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman all went missing during those 52 weeks. Six other heroes had to attempt to take their place, and those characters' stories were the focus of 52, which was written by an all-star creative team of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid.
How Many Weeklies?
When 52 was first announced, many industry pundits thought it would not succeed in keeping its shipping schedule — because at the time, DC and Marvel hadn't previously been very good at keeping their books on schedule. Yet 52 not only shipped on time for its entire 52-week schedule, but DC has successfully shipped other weekly series since — including Countdown to Final Crisis and Trinity.
Fast-forward to 2013, and DC has gotten a lot better at shipping all its comics on time — as have most comics companies. In the age of digital comics, there's a longer lead-time, and there's been a noted impatience for slow creators, as fill-in artists or rotating teams have become more frequent.
But if Five Years Later launches within the next year, which it presumably will, then it will overlap with the shipping schedule of the spring-launching weekly series Batman: Eternal (which we've heard is tentatively starting in April).
That means retailers would be stocking two weekly comics from DC each Wednesday.
For how long would that continue? It's not clear. We don't know how long Five Years Later is expected to continue (would they really take five years?), and even Batman: Eternal doesn't have an announced end date.
When we conducted a recent interview with James Tynion IV, one of the lead writers on Batman: Eternal, he often spoke about the comic's story being a "year." But DC has not specifically stated that Batman: Eternal will be ending after its first year — and with a name like "eternal," there's a good chance they'll milk Batman for every week he's worth.
OK, so not only will DC have two weeklies running for many months — Batman: Eternal and Five Years Later — but the video clearly shows DiDio saying "other weeklies" besides Eternal.
There have been a few as-yet unsubstantiated reports from the rumor website Bleeding Cool that DC is planning three weeklies: one for Batman, one for Superman, and one called Five Years Later.
In this video, DiDio seems to be confirming that DC plans to publish Five Years Later, and we already know there's a DC weekly series coming with Eternal. Does the use of "other weeklies" mean DC might publish three concurrent weeklies at a time during the next year?
Timing is Everything
It's not hard to figure out when Five Years Later might happen — it's almost certainly linked to plans that DC has for September 2014.
Why? Because DC has established a September sales hurdle that is hard to reach — now, the company's sales department is pressured to meet or exceed the previous year's number. (It started in 2011 with the reboot, followed by September 2012's Zero Issue event, and finally this year's Villains Month.)
When DC made its "One Year Later" jump, it also placed brand new creators on many of its ongoing titles, making a clean break with the previous stories to encourage new readers. So we can assume that most of the storylines in current DC series will wrap up in August, then might get new creators on board with September.
September is also the timing that's been alleged in the aforementioned rumors. According to reports, all of DC's titles will jump ahead five years for only one month — in September 2014 — and then will come back to the present, having teased the beginning of the Five Years Later weekly series.
Unlimited Story Potential
A story about what happens five years in the future of the DC universe has the potential to be (as one Newsarama editor put it) fanboy gold.
Think about it — continuity change is like catnip to readers of shared comic book universes, but in a weekly comic that takes place five years in the future, all kinds of things could appear to have drastically changed.
Characters already dead, and others resurrected? Sure!
New costumes, new heroes, and/or new people inside old costumes? Of course!
WildStorm and Milestone characters further infiltrating the DCU?
Villains as heroes and heroes as villains?
In short, it would be a little like Kingdom Come or Dark Knight Returns, only more tapped into current continuity.
Yes, we realize that — if the "jump ahead for only a month" idea is truly the way DC is heading — then it would seem to indicate that the DC universe would eventually "catch up" to this five years later point. When the monthly titles are published for another five or more years, they'll eventually realize the stories from this Five Years Later weekly, right?
Don't be so sure. This is comic books — the future could be altered, the timeline could be "saved," or any number of things could happen between now and the "five years" point. Most simply, given the utter fluidity of time in comics, the future – even one just fives years in the future, doesn’t ever have to be ‘gotten’ to. It'd be like what Stan Lee referred to as "the illusion of change" to the nth degree.
And that's even more likely in an age when creators and editors often resist putting continuity constraints on stories.
So we're betting that some of the Five Years Later changes could stick. Some of them could not stick. And maybe, readers wouldn't know which are coming true until we actually get to that point.
Also, it's important to note that one of the clues on DiDio's "hint wall" was a Batman mask that looked an awful lot like Batman Beyond. And although we don't want to get fans' hopes up too much, that certainly opens up the possibility of a New 52 version of Terry McGuinness. DC has already included the character in digital-to-print comic series, and with this new weekly set five years into the future, DC could toy with the idea of a Beyond in the New 52 future.