Superman Returns opened yesterday to a lot of fanfare. I haven't seen it yet, but it's clear that the film, along with the earlier Batman Begins, heralds a new era for the celluloid Justice League (indeed, the long-rumored Wonder Woman film project has reportedly picked up steam). However, and this is for us closet-geek comic fans out there, what isn't as clear is that the entire DC Universe is getting a nice little "reboot" in the form of its third "continuity cleanser" in as many decades. In fact, the reboot is even felt in Superman Returns, which apparently acknowledges the first two Christopher Reeve (rest in peace) Superman films and completely ignores the last two.
Some of you are probably confused, others of you probably don't give a shit, but in any case, let's back up and start closer to the beginning.
DC Comics, for a long time, has been infamous for its failure to keep continuity clear and not confusing, and equally infamous for its money-making yet ultimately futile attempts at "cleansing" continuity. Once upon a time, DC Comics was (supposedly) totally and completely consumed with telling a good story, continuity be damned. The artistic readers (such as myself) loved this. Good story = sold comic. This "good story" emphasis resulted in several versions of Earth, three different versions of Superman (and other heroes), and a DC History that was so convoluted, nobody could figure it out. Hey, blame it on the Silver Age redux, I say (only us comic geeks know what that is; the rest of you can piss off).
At any rate, the nitpicking technical readers (such as myself) soon grew tired of trying to figure out what was DC canon and what was not. So, in 1985, DC decided to launch its first, well, "relaunch" of the DC Universe. This relaunch was called Crisis on Infinite Earths. To make a long story short, DC killed many of the duplicate heroes, destroyed all of the duplicate Earths, and rebooted DC History to encompass one planet and one timeline.
Fast forward to 1994. Although the one planet thing worked out well, the one timeline thing somehow fell into disarray. I mean, shit, technically all of those multiple "timelines" are happening on the same planet, right? It should be easy to decipher. But it wasn't, so DC launches another, well, "relaunch" of the DC Universe: Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! (apt, isnt it?). Now all of the timelines are set straight and everything is hunky-dory.
Alter timeline (I mean, fast forward) to 2005. Grant Morrison's ambitious "hypertime" concept in the late 90s and early 00s effectively ruined the one timeline and the one planet thing. So, DC decided to launch another, well, "relaunch." This one was called Infinite Crisis and is supposedly a "direct sequel" to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC fanboys are loving it, while casual readers are beginning to wonder whether or not the DC editorship does this kind of thing on purpose. DC universe rebooted; all's well.
Unfortunately, DC's semi-political agenda in this new reboot will undoubtedly lead to another one in about, say, 10 years or so. But more on that later... In the meantime, let's celebrate DC's return to Hollywood glory and drink away the awful memories of the funny but misguided Superman III, the embarassing Superman IV, and the utterly horrifying Batman & Robin.
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