How permanent are our comic book universes?
Even as I ask the question, I find myself wondering what that very word means. With DC’s recent announcement of the return of Earth 2 and the Shazam family of characters, we know the enduring characters and settings will return again and again.
The recent (and thoroughly enjoyable) relaunch by Dark Horse of what’s become known as the Jim Shooter stable of characters only serves to prove the point. Dating back to short lived appearances in the Gold Key years Solar Man Of The Atom and Magnus, Robot Fighter et al have returned and again, under the labels of Valiant, Acclaim and then Dark Horse. Changed everytime according to the predelictions of the writers and the fashions of the age, but nevertheless returning again and again.
Yet returning our attention back to DC, the universe is far from permanent. The original multiverse survived a whole fifty years, only to be wiped away in the Crisis, leaving us with the DCU 1.0. Zero Hour took this to DCU 1.5, and the Infinite Crisis to version 2.0, the New Multiverse. Which still sort of exists, if I understand Flashpoint correctly, it is only Earth Zero that was rebooted.
Thus the new Earth 2 we are about to experience should really be the same Earth 2 as we saw in the excellent Kingdom storyline; a brief but tantalising glimpse. So we discover that the Huntress and Power Girl of Earth 2 are loose on Earth, erm, what Earth do we call it nowadays?
Still, as a long time fan, I miss the original worlds, and I fear that DC make a mistake by simply discarding and destroying their previous worlds. We could take a leaf out of Marvel’s book here; the House of Ideas feared that their creations were becoming outdated and thus was born the Ultimate line, updated for a new age with added cliché.
Marvel sat back and let the sales figures decide their fate. Surprise, surprise, the fans stuck with the tried and tested incarnations of the characters, the original Marvel Universe is still going strong. But guess what?
So is the Ultimate line, a vibrant universe with many years left in it yet, surviving disaster after disaster and allowing the creators freedom to tell stories we would never see in the ‘real’ MU.
Maybe DC should keep that in mind next time they decide to have an enormous reality changing event, and open the door for new stories set in the older worlds. Like the old ‘Whatever happened to’ back-up feature in DC Comics Presents, but with the same freedom the Ultimate universe has given creators.
Or in other words – bring back Kamandi!