Blame plok. I had a post all planned out for today, about Morrison’s Frankenstein, and about the resurgence of Arianism in the 17th century, but then I read this, and now I have to do my own “How would I reboot the DC Universe in 52 comics?”
Now I agree with plok that we need simultaneously to have less continuity-heavy crossover stories *and* to have a way to bring readers through from one line to another. By stealing some ideas from the Faction Paradox range, and adding a few of my own, I think I know how to do it.
It involves Hypertime, of course.
An entity exists at the end of time. A single entity, that exists for precisely one Planck length of time, but that is all-knowing, all-seeing, and omnipotent for that one Planck time. Call it God – we might as well,
But it’s at war with itself.
There are two possible histories of the universe. One leads to one type of God, the other to another. Both these histories have different laws of physics – one set of laws is what we call ‘science’, the other is what we call ‘magic’. Both are totally self-consistent sets of rules that will lead to a consistent universe.
But there can be only one end of the universe, and only one God, and so both Gods are in an existential struggle to become the one that really exists. If either God actually won, not only would the one that lost cease to exist, it would also cease ever to have even possibly existed – we might as well think of it as two potential universes at war as two beings.
So both Gods are trying to manipulate the hypertimelines, to destroy ones that lead to the other’s existence. But the Hypertime multiverse currently exists in a state of flux, and our universe is an interference pattern between two incompatible universes.
This means that there for many beings, they see a universe of scientific rationality, where the universe operates according to the principles we know now. Another lot of people see a universe where thought and mind have an ontologically basic existence – a universe of magic.
There are the people – the vast majority – who live in a lowest common denominator set of the two worlds, that looks like the ‘real world’.
And there are those, a very few, who exist in both universes simultaneously. We call these superheroes. They appear at first glance to operate according to one set of rules, but don’t quite fit. They, and only they, exist in both universes. They can affect both universes, but only to a limited extent – they can prevent an incursion of one on the other, but can’t affect the overall course of history. Superman can travel in time, or defeat an evil magician, and it’ll be on the front page of the Daily Planet and everyone will believe it – but the next day they’ll still think time travel and magic impossible.
All the big dichotomies in the DC Universe – Heaven/Hell , Order/Chaos, Monitor/Antimonitor – are reflections of this great war, and every power in the universe, be it the New Gods of New Genesis or the Guardians Of The Universe, has taken one side or the other, although the alliances are complex and constantly shifting.
There’s a very small alliance, though – no more than a handful of individuals – who make up a third side in the conflict. They realise that were either side to win, their rich universe would collapse into a dull conformity, and so they stand in the middle and try subtly to play one side against the other. Metron and Rip Hunter are the main ones here.
This then lets us split the comics into four separate lines quite neatly. We have the main-line superheroes, who can operate without continuity constraints, and any real continuity blunders we can just blame on the war. We have the SF/Space Opera stuff, which is where we dump all the real hardcore universe building for the people who are currently buying and enjoying superhero comics. There’s a magic universe, which we aim at the Vertigo readers, and the Twilight/Harry Potter people. And then there’s the ‘ground level’ of characters who could almost live in our universe. The superheroes can appear in any of these stories, but there’s otherwise no crossing over between the four lines.
The main line should be done-in-one stories, accessible to anyone of pretty much any age. The SF line would be aimed at the current comic reading audience, the magic line at the huge ‘dark fantasy’ audience, and the ground-level stuff should be, in general, based around character rather than plot and aimed at the largely-untapped but very real female audience for these types of stories.
Main superhero line
The Flash (using plok’s idea of The Flash being really about time)
Doom Patrol (keep the current Giffen take on this – it’s essentially Morrison’s version, but done so people who aren’t Morrison can do it and with extra Ambush Bug)
Plastic Man (get Kyle Baker back)
Tales Of The DC Universe – this would be an ongoing along the lines of 52, done in much the same way.
Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE – give this to Morrison
Metal Men (Giffen and DeMatteis for this)
Booster Gold (done the way it currently is, with Rip Hunter an important character)
Blue Beetle (Jaime)
The Atom (Ryan Choi)
Green Lantern Corps
Legion Of Superheroes
Sandman (also known as ‘get Neil Gaiman to do any magic-related title we can)
Doctor Thirteen (who has ended up in the magical universe from the scientific one)
House Of Mystery
The Adventures Of Detective Chimp In Gorilla City (“I was on my twelfth cigar and third whisky of the day, and thinking about breakfast, when the client knuckled in. I don’t normally go for the larger types, but this gal had arms up to her shoulders and the kind of figure that would straighten anyone’s banana”, with Monsieur Mallah and The Brain as occasional guest stars).
Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld
Birds Of Prey (with Oracle, who is Barbara Gordon)
Batwoman (by JH Williams)
The Question (Renee Montoya)
Action Comics (As I described in my Superman pop-drama, with a Jimmy Olsen done-in-one story in the front and a Lois Lane serial as backup. Clark Kent can appear, but no Superman).
Sgt Rock – Garth Ennis and Joe Kubert
Black Canary/Green Arrow
The Spirit (get Darwyn Cooke back on this)
Along with these, I’d have five other comics:
World’s Finest – Superman and Batman team-ups
The Brave And The Bold – Batman team-ups
Showcase – an anthology, the first story of which would be a new character by the best-quality team possible, the backup would be a well-known character by first-time creators
Solo – a showcase title for writer-artists
80-Page Giant – a monthly 80-page reprint of classic stories, usually tying in with something out this month (say if the Penguin is the Batman villain this month, a classic Penguin story would be in there).