After the success of Watchmen, legendary comic book writer Alan Moore proposed something even more radical: destroying the DC Universe as we knew it.
A Moore retrospective at What Culture has included a look at Twilight of the Superheroes, a miniseries proposal that Moore pitched to DC two years before leaving the company in 1989. Had DC accepted it, and Moore stuck around to write it, the series would have drastically changed the DC Universe for good, stripping it of all but its human (non-powered) heroes and having even them recant their ways.
The story would have kicked off with John "Hellblazer" Constantine receiving a message in 1987 from 20 years in the future from Rip Hunter, who tells Constantine that cataclysmic events have left all of the world's governments and most of society in a state of collapse. Naturally, people turn to superheroes for guidance and leadership—but years of this have left many of the heroes themselves as nasty, cruel, power-mad tyrants.
The heroes are divided into Houses, with Superman and his now-wife Wonder Woman leading the House of Steel and controlling the eastern half of the U.S., while Captain Marvel and family have established their domain in the west as the House of Thunder. There's also a House of Titans (former Teen Titans), a House of Justice (ex-Justice League members) and so on, but Steel and Thunder are the most powerful.
The remaining supervillains, led by the Joker and Lex Luthor, hole up in Nevada as the House of Secrets after a worldwide purge, while Batman leads the non-powered heroes in an effort to overthrow the two dominant Houses. All aliens, including the Green Lanterns, have been banished. But everyone soon gets involved in a plot to destroy the Houses of Thunder and Steel before a wedding between Superboy and Mary Marvel Jr. unites them into potentially the most powerful force in the universe.
Moore apparently intended to take down almost everyone in this epic storyline, leaving just Batman, the Shadow and the other surviving humans to throw off their old ways and rebuild society without the involvement of superheroes.
So what happened? It's not clear whether Moore left before the project could take shape, or whether DC simply got cold feet about an arc that would paint many of the company's characters in the worst light possible and then kill them off. Moore apparently did propose reviving the Multiverse (which had been dormant since 1985) so that other writers could work outside his continuity, but that idea didn't take hold until years after he had exited.
The Twilight proposal briefly appeared online some years ago, only to be yanked by DC via the threat of legal action. Some theories suggest that ideas from the story later turned up in 1996's Kingdom Come, in which a younger generation of much less idealistic superheroes take over from their retired elders. Whatever the case may be, Twilight of the Superheroes is a true lost work from one of the comics' greatest living writers, available only to those lucky few who grabbed Moore's leaked proposal before it was hidden away forever.
Would you have liked to see Moore tear down the DC Universe once and for all? Or did his proposal go too far, and is it better off left unseen?