DC’s Next Big Sensation — Talkin’ Bout DC Generations
Over the last month, DC Comics has revealed more details of their plan for the next ‘Generation’ of their main line of comics. In this next phase, dubbed by the media as “DC Comics 5G,” the publisher plans to define the history of the DC Universe so that it lines up with past events and the current continuity. DC will lay out this new history in five one-shot special issues. Generation Zero: Gods Among Us will be released on Free Comic Book Day 2020. Earlier this week, DC announced the next introductory special issue, Generation One: Age of Mysteries which is due out in May. As a life long fan and avid reader of DC Comics, I am of two minds about the upcoming Generations era. Fan-Boy Bones is excited at the prospect of creative story lines, new characters, and some much needed clarity of event sequences. Realist Bones is very skeptical and has the feeling that this new era is the same old gimmick with a different name. The following is an examination of these two view points.
Fan-Boy Bones is really intrigued by the concept of splitting the history of DC’s characters into different generations. All through the Rebirth era I’ve wondered about the timeline of current events. Once in awhile a comic will feature an editors note to explain references made in the dialogue, but its often hard to tell when one character’s current story arc occurs in relation to another character’s arc. Considering how much emphasis DC puts on continuity of their characters, I’ve found this vagueness to be frustrating. Delineating the timeline into generations will help clear up this issue for future stories.
For years I’ve exclusively read DC Comics, but I didn’t start reading them until around 2013, when I started reading Trade Paperbacks. I didn’t start collecting weekly single issue comics until 2015. The main factor that finally motivated me to start reading comics was DC’s implementation of the New 52 and Rebirth eras. Up until then, I was always too intimidated to start reading the comics because I didn’t have the approximately sixty years of prior knowledge of DC’s history. Every time I tried to pick up a comic or Trade before that, I had a hard time following what was going on in the story because I lacked knowledge of the events being referred to. So I was excited to hear that DC was rebooting their line since it accommodate new readers like myself. DC Generations has the potential to do the same for people who have never tried to follow DC comic books.
That prospect is what I find most exciting about DC Generations. The one-shot specials will clarify the timeline and catch new readers up on the vast history of the DC Universe. If done right, this next era of DC comics will provide opportunities to tell new stories with favorite characters while also providing a platform for the introduction of new characters and the opportunity for existing characters to take on new roles. I respect that DC is furthering their efforts to embrace their history in order to include long time readers while simultaneously making their comics accessible to new readers. It’s a lofty goal, but an important one. I love Batman and will always follow comics featuring the Bat-Family, but the comics I enjoy the most are those that feature diverse characters and unique plots. The Generations era seems poised to deliver the best of both worlds.
Realist Bones has a much different opinion of the DC Generations era. I’ll admit that it is an interesting concept. That being said, I wonder at what cost (and I mean that literally) this new era will come. When a new era or line is introduced, DC has a tendency to publish as many books as possible, usually all at once. This was their strategy at the start of the New 52 era as well as when they launched the New Age of Heroes line. That doesn’t even include the inevitable crossover specials, Imprints, and special events that are sure to follow the inception of the Generations era. The publisher’s rationale seems to be that the more books they put out, the more people will buy. Like most people, I live on a budget and can only buy so many issues per week. I worry that by splitting their stories into generations of heroes, there will be stories I’m interested in and can’t afford to follow week to week.
I’m also of the opinion that the printing of so many different comics at once, including special issues tied into the advent of new eras, lowers the quality of storytelling across the entire line. This problem and the issue I raise in the above paragraph, were most recently made evident by the Year of the Villain event. This event spawned several one-shot specials, multiple variant covers across the main line, new series/mini-series, and forced nearly every title to write tie-in stories. Some of these specials and tie-ins were actually good, but many ham-stringed the narrative progression of the story arcs of DC’s otherwise unconnected titles. As much as I love the work of big name creators like Snyder or Bendis, they aren’t the only writers whose stories I read. It’s discouraging to pay money for a comic I enjoy, that then has its story shanghaied by an event I may or may not have any interest in following. Splitting the heroes into generations has the potential for innumerable events that could have negative effects on all the titles being published.
I question the need for the Generations era. As I’ve already stated, I don’t have as much knowledge of DC’s history as some and I’ve had problems with the inter-connectivity of different story’s timelines. Yet, I’ve never once been turned off of a story because I didn’t know how it fit in with an event or Crisis from decades before I even started reading comics. I think it’s admirable that DC makes an effort to honor the stories/characters that long time readers love while telling new stories that will pull in new readers. However, too often it seems like the publisher makes concessions for the former group at the expense of the latter group. I also question just how vital the Generations one-shot specials are going to be to the titles to come. These one-shot specials will be exploring themes such as, “What character ushered in the dawn of Super Heroes?” and “What caused the JSA to retire?” I’m left wondering, are readers actually asking those questions? Are those really the best themes to build this new era on? This writer has his doubts.
I’ve also got reservations about the rumors surrounding what will be the fifth generation of super heroes in this new era. It’s speculated that younger heroes will take up the mantles of the classic heroes. Not only has this idea been tried before, much to the chagrin of readers, but some of the choices of replacements make zero sense within the current framework of the stories featuring the characters. For example, Luke Fox is rumored to be taking over as Batman. How long can that storyline possibly continue before fan disapproval and low readership causes DC to change course and reverse things they’ve tried to make work in this new Generations era? The idea of Luke Fox as Batman is a great concept if it gets to stand on its own, but to tie it into classic Batman’s eighty year history is just ridiculous. In my opinion, the best way for DC to honor the legacy of the DC Universe while expanding into the future is for it to remember its own publishing history and not just put out the same idea with different branding.
In the months to come much will be revealed about the Generations era as new details are announced and the one-shot specials are released. This new era may truly usher in the next round of iconic DC Universe stories. Or it could prove to be another misstep that alienates the core fan base and has to be replaced in a few years by another continuity altering shift. Despite my hesitations, I plan to read the Generations one-shot specials and remain excited for the stories that could spin out of this new era. I can only hope that my optimism is not misplaced.