DC- This Is Your Life!1 of 13
DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio have been hard at work on an overall timeline for the DC Universe that incorporates all its heroes and eras into a single arc.
A small glimpse of that timeline surfaced earlier this week - and though it didn't reveal much, it did put us in mind of these eleven epic tales that have shaped the different eras of the DC Universe.
Dark Nights: Metal2 of 13
The Batman-centric Dark Nights: Metal is the newest entry on this list by far - but it's had a huge impact on the DC Universe since its 2017-18 run.
Created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo of "New 52" Batman fame, Metal introduced the concept of the Dark Multiverse, a place where nightmarish reflections of DC heroes are birthed in evil.
Metal continues to resonate, with the series' villain The Batman Who Laughs (a twisted Batman/Joker hybrid) acting as one of the two main villains of DC's ongoing "Year of the Villain" story.
Now, the creators are prepping a "spiritual sequel" to Metal for 2020.
DC Universe: Rebirth #13 of 13
Written by former DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, this May 2016 one-shot effectively undid - or at least started to unravel - the previous five years of continuity (called the "New 52" - more on that later), as well as killing off a few characters and bringing others back to life. Much to the delight of many fans, the latter "back to life" list included fan-favorite (and previously rebooted-out-of-continuity) Flash, Wally West.
Of course, the biggest ramification of the issue was the addition of the Watchmen universe to the DCU, along with the revelation Dr. Manhattan has been messing with DC continuity - erasing years from history while seemingly deleting and adding characters along the way. And, Rebirth was just the start of a long-term plan that continues to reshape DC continuity.
Flashpoint4 of 13
What started out as an idea Geoff Johns had for a story in The Flash ended up being the vehicle for a DC-wide reboot in September 2011. Because The Flash/Barry Allen went back in time to save his mom's life in the Flashpoint limited series, all sorts of weird things happened to the present DCU (thanks to, you know, time travel). And even though Barry went back and undid the deed, DC used the story's ending to form the "New 52" universe, restarting every single series at #1, combining the former WildStorm universe with the DCU, and making its characters much younger and less experienced.
Meant to attract new readers and re-interest old ones, many of the changes implemented in the "New 52" reboot are still in place today, even though 2016's "Rebirth" allowed writers to undo some of it as well.
(And if you feel like you're noticing Geoff Johns' name a lot in this list, just wait - there's more.)
Sinestro Corps War5 of 13
This 2007-2008 comic book crossover event, which ran in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, established the Green Lantern titles as one of DC's best-selling franchises and brought Green Lantern to the A-list.
Besides solidifying the conflict between the will-powered green and the fear-powered yellow corps, the story introduced other color corps that are still utilized in various DC stories today (and have been successful enough to periodically launch their own titles since). The series also ballooned into DC's Blackest Night and Brightest Day line-wide events that shaped years of DC's continuity before Flashpoint and made Geoff Johns the architect of DC's line for many years.
Flash of Two Worlds6 of 13
Published in 1961 in The Flash #123, this historic comic book by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino introduced the concept of multiple worlds to the DCU. Taking place during the Silver Age, in which many of DC's World War II-era heroes had been revamped, the story revived the Golden Age Flash in a parallel universe - later named Earth-Two.
The success of the story encouraged DC to revive other Golden Age characters on Earth-Two, and several crossovers between the worlds would follow over the following decades. Later, the establishment of Earth-Two led to other earths where parallel versions of DC heroes existed - one might even say infinite Earths, but more on that later…
Infinite Crisis/527 of 13
Meant to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of DC's landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot - and to serve as a sequel to that event - 2005's Infinite Crisis by Geoff Johns (yes, him again) revisited the idea of the multiple earths that had been eliminated in the 1985 Crisis, killing off quite a few characters in its wake.
After the limited series ended, DC's main titles jumped forward a year and established that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman had gone "missing" during the previous year. DC launched a weekly series by Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Greg Rucka called 52 to explain the missing year and - by the end of the weekly - the multiverse had been re-established at DC after more than 20 years gone… although this time, with only 52 Earths.
Identity Crisis8 of 13
This seven-issue series in 2004 by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales set the tone for a whole era of stories and had sweeping continuity effects. Not only did it kill off a few characters, it established that others had been mind-wiped (including Batman) and broke down some of the relationships between the Justice League in ways that lasted for years.
The success of Identity Crisis, as well as its darker look at the psychological lives of superheroes, also paved the way for 2005's Infinite Crisis and many of the deaths and changes that occurred in the DCU before the "New 52."
Kingdom Come9 of 13
This four-issue, highly-acclaimed 1996 series by Mark Waid and Alex Ross was part of an era that deconstructed superheroes, but did so to the DCU in a whole new way. Although set in the future and part of DC's then out-of-continuity Elseworlds line, this epic series helped usher out the grimness of previous years while setting the pace for the grand, universe-spanning stories of the 2000's and beyond.
Kingdom Come also found its way into the mainstream DC Universe, with references to Kingdom Come versions of characters popping up for years, before Geoff Johns (there he is again!) made Kingdom Come something of an "official" future for the DC Universe by creating a loose prequel in the pages of Justice Society of America.
The Death of Superman10 of 13
Although character deaths feel pretty commonplace these days, 1992's "The Death of Superman" event is recognized as the first big hero death and resurrection in comic books (considering it had a much higher profile than the death and return of Jean Grey). Spanning several issues of DC's Superman titles, the story saw Doomsday killing Superman (garnering much media attention), DC heroes holding a giant funeral for the hero, various other characters introduced to try to replace him, and the original Superman being regenerated to save the Earth once more.
The story opened the door for "Knightfall," "Emerald Twilight" and a wave of legacy heroes that followed the wannabe Supermen from "Death of Superman."
The trend of killing and resurrecting or fundamentally changing a major character as part of a story still persists to this day.
Dark Knight Returns11 of 13
Frank Miller created this four-issue limited series in 1986 and established a new, much grittier approach for superheroes that lasted for decades - and is even being felt today. The series, which told the story of a 50-year-old Bruce Wayne and his return to the Batman mantle, completely defined the tone of the DCU in subsequent years and in most other modern media - particularly the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.
The "grim 'n' gritty" aesthetic, grizzled, aging Batman, and brutal storytelling have had an almost incalculable influence on the modern DC Universe both in comic books and movies, practically defining the style of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and serving as a major inspiration for director Zack Snyder.
Crisis on Infinite Earths12 of 13
The granddaddy of all reboots, 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez was meant to simplify DC's complicated, multi-earth-based continuity and 50-year-old history.
The story removed the multiverse concept that had existed for decades, killing off hundreds of DC characters from alternate earths, as well as the mainstream Barry Allen/Flash and Supergirl.
Retcons to this story have been occurring ever since it happened, really - and are still happening with the current "Rebirth" universe's return to "core" concepts. In fact, the word "Crisis" has come to be synonymous with "reboot" among fans, as much of DC's continuity can be called "pre-Crisis" and "post-Crisis."
Crisis on Infinite Earths defined the modern crossover for many fans, and certainly paved the way for the countless reboots, rebirths, and retcons that have become a cyclical reality at DC.
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