It can sometimes feel like a crisis trying to piece together the major events of the modern DC Comics universe, but those closely monitoring New York Comic Con this weekend may find their hope experiencing a rebirth. At the DC Nation panel, co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee revealed a new, comprehensive DC Timeline settling once and for all which heroes came first, how different eras break down, and what continuity will look like moving forward.
“The whole idea here right now is, from our standpoint, we’re trying to organize a sense of when the DC stories took place and how they all fit together,” DiDio said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. DiDio stressed the need for the Timeline as an internal document as much as for something for fans to pore over, noting that DC's ambitious 2011 New 52 reboot fell short in spots where his team “didn’t spend enough time to figure out what works in continuity.”
Fans caught a glimpse of the DC Timeline at the panel (and some also caught blurry photos), but so far the publisher has not released proper images of the document. What's clear, though, is that there are now four definitive "generations" for DC, beginning with Wonder Woman's arrival in "man's world" before World War II. Generation 1 also included the Justice Society of America, the All Star Squadron, and the Freedom Fighters. Generation 2 began with Superman and featured the Justice League and Doom Patrol before giving way to Gen 3 with Crisis on Infinite Earths. Flashpoint marked the start of Generation 4, the current era and extending into the future of the just-reintroduced Legion of Super-Heroes.
“There’s a lot of interesting implications that this timeline sets up,” Jim Lee said. “If this character came around back then, then what does that mean?”
Starting at the present and working backward, DiDio and Lee do not seem to meaningfully distinguish between the New 52 era, which began in Flashpoint, and the soft reset of 2016's DC Comics Rebirth, which melded many aspects of pre-Flashpoint continuity. It will be interesting to see how some of the conflicts introduced between the two realities are ultimately resolved. More directly, re-establishing Wonder Woman as a World War II-era hero (as she is in the films) introduces many exciting possibilities but also contradicts how she has been portrayed in the 30-some years since Crisis.
DiDio did not say when or in what format the DC Timeline would be published, but it will likely come after the December 2019 conclusion of Doomsday Clock, the 12-issue miniseries by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank that has explored how Watchmen's Doctor Manhattan meddled with reality to create the post-Flashpoint universe. That series itself, though, has experienced several delays and as a result has already struggled against story elements introduced by ongoing titles.
"What you see right now is a story that will be consistent,” DiDio said of the Timeline's new continuity.
Nobody said it would be easy getting Superman's life in order.