New DC Universe History Begins in May

DC's Generation One: Age of Mysteries kicks off a new look at the DC Comics timeline, with a story about the JSA.

DC Comics: Generation One

It looks like the timeline of the DC Universe, and the scope of DC continuity as a whole is about to undergo some seismic changes. To give readers a better picture of what the new DC Universe timeline looks like, DC Comics will tell their complete superheroic history with a Free Comic Book Day one-shot followed by five self contained prestige format books that will see release between May and September. By the time that final book is revealed, we’ll have an understanding of what constitutes the new shape of DC continuity.

First up is Generation Zero: Gods Among Us, which will hit for Free Comic Book Day on May 2. “It all starts here, and everything counts” the publisher promised in a statement. The 32-page comic features two stories, one focused on Wally West and the other on Wonder Woman. The first is an epilogue to the Flash Forward mini-series, which details the ongoing saga of Wally West after the events of Heroes in Crisis.

In order to save his children and the multiverse itself, Wally West makes the ultimate sacrifice, taking his place in the Moebius Chair. Unbeknownst to him, the chair is packing a little extra power, having been imbued with the godlike powers of Dr. Manhattan! Now armed with infinite knowledge – and the powers of a god – Wally West can see the past, present and future of the DC Universe all at once.”

Despite how Doomsday Clock was surprisingly successful in how it integrated elements of Watchmen with the wider DC Universe, continuing that connection here with Dr. Manhattan and Wally seems like a reach, but let’s see how this all plays out.

The second story in Generation Zero reprints Scott Snyder and Bryan Hitch’s tale from Wonder Woman #750, which saw Diana reveal herself to the world by saving President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from an assassination attempt at the 1939 World’s Fair. Wonder Woman’s appearance in 1939, and the implication that she was the inspiration for other heroes to reveal themselves, was the first official indication that DC was shifting its continuity again. That, along with the return to prominence of DC’s first superhero team, the Justice Society of America in the pages of both Doomsday Clock and Justice League, an upcoming story in The Flash #750 focused on Jay Garrick, and an Alan Scott story arriving in the Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular on May 20th, all help fill out the earliest days of the DC Universe timeline.

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And then comes the next big reveal, and the one most likely to unlock the mysteries of the Justice Society of America in the new DC timeline, with Generation One: Age of Mysteries on May 27.

“The Generation series of specials are built to bring the new DC timeline to life,” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio in a statement. “With Generation One: Age of Mysteries and every subsequent volume we’ll be shining a spotlight on the 80-plus-year publishing history of the DC universe while charting the course for the bright future of DC’s characters. All of our greatest stories and events will create the backdrop and context for the great new adventures we have planned. Everything counts, and we guarantee there’ll be surprises along the way!”

Didio’s statement builds on comments he made back in October at New York Comic Con, when he first revealed plans for a new DC timeline at the DC Nation panel.

“The whole idea here right now is from our standpoint we are trying to organize our stories in a way that makes cohesive sense from beginning to end, from the start of DC Comics to today,” Didio said in October. “This timeline will build a continuity that makes sense across all our characters, showing when they were first introduced, how they interact with each other in one big story that will be the basis for all DC Comics for the future…What you see right now is a story that will be consistent, because ultimately, when you guys get all upset or concerned about reboots and restarts, those things occur because the stories stop making sense and the continuity basically slows down our storytelling and nothing’s being done at the same style or pace.”

The story in Generation One: Age of Mysteries by Andy Schmidt with lead art by Doug Mahnke, will tell of the early days of the era of costumed adventurers through the eyes of Wonder Woman, Lucius Fox, Alfred Pennyworth, Green Lantern (Alan Scott), The Spectre (Jim Corrigan), Mister Terrific (Terry Sloane), “and others” as promised by DC. The inclusion of Alfred Pennyworth here is the first clue that making Wonder Woman the first hero on the scene isn’t the only major change to the DC timeline, and there’s likely more to come. DC promises that this special issue will answer questions like…

  • What was the previously undocumented “big bang” of the Age of Mysteries? 
  • Which character truly ushers in the dawn of Super Heroes, inspiring all the rest?
  • What was the real reason behind the Justice Society of America’s retirement? 
  • Which Golden Age hero will become history’s greatest villain? 
  • What contentious alliance kept the Wayne family dynasty alive after Thomas and Martha’s deaths?
  • Who are the new, never-seen-before wildcards that will be instrumental in fashioning DC’s push to the future?

The idea that the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne took place while the JSA was still on the scene appears to point towards a pretty significant shift in the timeline that will have ramifications far beyond Wonder Woman and the Justice Society. This book will be followed monthly by Generation Two: Age of the MetahumanGeneration Three: Age of CrisisGeneration Four: Age of Rebirthand Generation Five: Age of Tomorrow.

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If I had to guess, Generation Two: Age of the Metahuman will detail the arrival of the second wave of heroes like Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, as well as the birth of the Justice League. Age of Crisis seems self-explanatory and will likely have a lot to do with the rise of the New Teen Titans and the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths and beyond, while Age of Rebirth is likely the most recent decade or so of DC storytelling. But what could Generation Five be about? Well, if the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne being placed somewhere during the period when the JSA are active (they likely retire in the early 1950s), don’t be surprised if something happens that  makes more of its heroes age in something closer to real time, perhaps requiring a new generation of legacy heroes to take over for Age of Tomorrow.

The clues to what this new timeline means are likely contained in Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Doomsday Clock introduced the concept of the “Metaverse,” which posits that Superman’s arrival on Earth is the focal point of the DC Universe, and every time that event moves forward in time (from 1938, to the Silver Age of 1956, and so on) the multiverse divides, and a new DC continuity takes shape around it. It doesn’t replace any existing DC multiverse concepts, and instead embraces them all. However, in the final chapter of Doomsday Clock, Dr. Manhattan mentions that “in the year 2020, Superman’s timeline is bombarded by the reckless energies of the old gods, once again warping the Metaverse.” Could those “old gods” be the “never-seen-before wildcards” mentioned by DC in the Generation One announcement as being “instrumental in fashioning DC’s push to the future?” If that’s the case, we’re going to speculate that something happens which “fixes” the DC timeline in place, and thus eliminating the “sliding scale” timeline that defines not just DC, but pretty much all superhero continuity, from applying. This is speculation at this point, of course. 

Other talent contributing to the Generation story includes writers Brian Michael Bendis, Dan Jurgens, Andy Schmidt, Robert Venditti, and Joshua Williamson, with a roster of artists that includes Doug Mahnke, Bryan Hitch, Mikel Janín, Ivan Reis, David Marquez, and more. Generation One: Age of Mysteries goes on sale on May 27, 2020. 

Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.