As DC heads toward its Rebirth event, readers are excited to see what elements of past universes will make it back into the current continuity. It's expected that the publisher will showcase the most beloved "core" of its characters in a way that combines the best of the present universe with what was great about the pre-New 52.
As Newsarama pointed out some of the big concepts from the pre-52 Universe that should be avoided, it got us thinking about other recommendations we'd make to DC concerning its most popular properties.
Even the most die-hard fans of the pre-52 continuity have to agree that there were certain things about Batman that the New 52 did well, and other things the old universe messed up.
So in an effort to keep things light as we recommend some rejiggering, Newsarama is looking at DC Rebirth continuity and playing rounds of "$%^&, Marry, Kill from both the New 52 universe and the pre-New 52 universe.
Things to Marry
New 52: Damian Wayne being lovable — and having Gotham buddies.
There was a lot that the New 52 did well with the Batman characters, but one of its more shining stars was the development of Damian Wayne into a beloved character.
When the New 52 launched, Damian Wayne had won a few fans during his time as Robin (when Dick Grayson wore the Batman cowl), but let's be honest — the kid was still considered an annoying brat by most.
Three years later, when Damian was killed, those same fans were saddened and missed the boy.
What changed? DC took the time in Batman & Robin to explore the father-son relationship between Bruce and his son, showing how the Dark Knight and his once-assassin son grew closer and closer together during their shared challenges and adventures. Damian Wayne grew as a person and as a hero, so by the time he died, everyone wanted him back.
Not only did DC bring him back, but they've spent much of the New 52 introducing new young characters to fight alongside him — like Bluebird Harper Row and still-untitled-hero Duke Thomas — while also bringing back fan-favorite teens like Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown.
It looks like DC, as it returns to the "core" of Batman's world, is taking a break from Harper (at least in costume) while Duke will appear in Batman, but we hope we haven't seen the last of them and other young characters. Yes, we adore seeing Helena Bertinelli back in costume and that "Nightwing" title back on Dick — as well as the return of the Academy kids — but there are a few new additions that can fit in right alongside them.
Pre-52: Batman being fun.
We're not saying Batman didn't have his moments of pure fun in the New 52 — after all, Joker rode through the streets of Gotham on a giant Batcave dinosaur, for crying out loud — but there was a sense when the New 52 launched that the Bat-universe was rather grim and gritty.
That evolved somewhat over time, and was tempered by the wacky, revamped retro aspects of Batman that Grant Morrison brought to his Batman Inc. title, as well as the playful 2015 revamps and launches of titles like Batgirl, Gotham Academy and Harley Quinn.
We think that overall tone shift is a move in the right direction, and we're hoping the Rebirth event gives the Bat-office the chance to embrace some of the more humorous and outlandish things from older Batman stories — and Morrison's Batman run — as well as the more fun elements of the character's extended universe. There's obviously still a place for grim and gritty Batman stories, but they're best enjoyed with a little humor and fun on the side.
Things to $%^&
New 52: Court of Owls.
OK, we hate to use the "$%^&" word (however disguised it is by symbols) and then immediately jump toward ... okay, Richard, but… well, those jokes just never get old. (Or maybe they do?)
But let's just use the "$%^&" part of this discussion to talk about things that might not be an absolute must for the post-Rebirth world of Batman, but they're things we're hoping DC doesn't abandon either.
And this one looks like it's happening right up front, as solicitations indicate the Court is showing up in early issues. There's also indication — from the end of Robin War — that Dick Grayson may continue to be linked to organization, which is now global.
Of course, the "core" of Gotham City doesn't have to include the Court of Owls (which so successfully kicked off the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman run). And the "core" of Dick Grayson doesn't necessarily include his status as the "gray son" of Gotham (established early in the New 52 by writer Kyle Higgins) isn't terribly important to the core of the character.
But the Court and all its cast of characters — from the "gray son" to Lincoln March himself — are wrapped up in one of those Batman-related stories from the New 52 that might be worth exploring, expanding and enjoying in Rebirth.
Before the New 52 reboot, the Batman characters had one fantastic way to stay connected — the steady and ever-present voice of Oracle, the one-woman support network that kept Bat-heroes plugged into the heartbeat of Gotham City.
Now there's hope for that concept in the Rebirth universe, as a "mysterious new criminal operative called Oracle" appears, forcing DC to address the fact that Barbara Gordon Batgirl actually was Oracle in the past.
Obviously, a criminal version of Oracle isn't what readers are missing, but we're hoping that the acknowledgment of the name — and Barbara's role as Oracle — means there's a possibility DC will officially fill that empty space that truly warrants the Rebirth tagline: "I love this world but there's something missing."
Things to Kill
New 52: Dick Grayson's outing.
This one looks like it's happening, as DC's Previews issue says his secret identity is "restored."
So it looks like this one is already "killed," but for the sake of emphasis, let's just reiterate how "killed" it should stay. As fun as Forever Evil's ending was — and as great as Dick's Spyral stint turned out to be — outing a superhero's secret identity is something that just can't be undone. If DC keeps the outing of his identity, never again can Dick Grayson just live a normal life without everyone knowing that he spends his evenings jumping around in tights.
And as long as we're on the topic of secret identities, we're hoping that tease about Batman learning Joker's secret identity doesn't stick either. And that story about Joker knowing all the Bat-family's secret IDs? Yeah, we hope he forgot that too.
No, it probably wouldn't make a huge difference (because when's the last time Joker stuck with a secret identity?), but it's the principle of the thing. Let people keep their secret identities. There's almost nothing more "core" to the Bat-characters than that.
Pre-52: All old heroes.
OK, don't get us wrong on this one. We recognize that there were plenty of young heroes in the pre-New 52 universe.
And for the record, we love the older, wiser, married Superman as much as anyone else, and it's kind of cool that Batman and Superman both have sons that will be starring together in a comic book.
So it's not an age thing, or a continuity thing — we love complex continuities as much as anyone. Bring them on.
But there was something refreshing about the New 52 stories where heroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman went through challenges they'd never seen before (or at least rarely dealt with). When the Flash or Superman discovered new powers in the New 52, it felt like, OK, they're kind of new at this, so that makes sense. When they made mistakes, it fit with their age and experience level, and it kept things interesting.
Sure, there's a place for aged, experienced superheroes — everyone's looking forward to when the Justice Society comes back. The younger heroes can use a little mentoring, and there's nobody better at that than the original JSA members.
And to further clarify, we don't want another reboot. DC has specifically said that Rebirth doesn't start things over, and that's just fine with us. The heroes don't have to be that young and new.
But the New 52 is only a few years old, which means that — if DC keeps their "newness" intact — these heroes still have some growing to do, in a universe of superheroes that are still figuring things out, even as they return to their "core." So we suggest that, as this universe absorbs some of the old along with the new, it leaves the truly "old" part of the old in the past.