DC Comics Is At Its Best When It Reimagines Its Biggest Superheroes

While DC Comics is known for several iconic superheroes, the publisher has been at its best when key characters are drastically reimagined.

While DC Comics is known for several iconic superheroes perceived to be unchanging, the publisher has been at its best when key characters are drastically reimagined. From Green Lantern to the Flash to batman beyond, the DC Universe feels most alive when it is evolving.

Recently, covers for Dark Crisis: Worlds Without A Justice League – Superman revealed a new version of Superboy, in which he wears a recolored Robin costume with the ‘S’ insignia in place of the ‘R’ on his chest. The reimagined Superboy might seem random, but the character has undergone several iterations since his comic book debut, from a younger version of Clark Kent, to Conner Kent, to the modern day Jon Kent, the son of Superman. Over the course of his existence, he has essentially become a different character. Although heroes are not typically reimagined as a hybrid mash-up of multiple characters, the method is one of many ways which writers and artists consider how to keep the DC Universe feeling fresh.

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The publisher has been at its best when creative teams are given the freedom to envision their own takes on widely recognizable source material. In the Golden Age of the 1930s to the mid-50s, DC Comics looked very different from the publisher just a few years later in the late-50s. The Justice Society of America included the first Green Lantern, Alan Scott, alongside the first Flash, Jay Garrick, who wore extremely different costumes from the ones that fans know today. As writers re-conceptualized the two superheroes, they considered the future of DC and introduced readers to a dramatically different Green Lantern in the form of pilot Hal Jordan, and a very different Flash in the form of scientist Barry Allen. In a sense, the Justice Society itself was similarly rebooted as the Justice League. While elements of the heroes remained, including Green Lantern’s power ring and the Flash’s speed, they catered to a new generation of fans.



Creators have also frequently looked ahead into the future of the DC Universe to find interesting ways to update star heroes. batman beyond is the most popular modern day example of a remixed superhero who has dramatically reshaped what fans expect from ambitious new takes on famous iconology. As familiar fans might not give it any thought since the second Batman, Terry McGinnis has taken on a life of his own, his origin story was initially intended to echo Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming the Dark Knight. Instead of losing both of his parents as a child, Terry lost his father as a teenager.


The rewritten backstory for batman beyond updated and elevated key aspects of the original, as Terry had reason to feel guilty for his father’s death. Mirroring many modern fans’ life experiences, he grew up with divorced parents. In contrast to Bruce losing his picture-perfect childhood, Terry felt a need for redemption, which he found by fighting crime in the bat suit. The Dark Knight of Neo-Gotham quickly cemented himself in the minds of Batman fans, with multiple comic book iterations as currently featured in Batman Beyond: Neo-Year by Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Max Dunbar along with Batman: Beyond The White Knight by Sean Murphy and Dave Stewart.


Murphy’s series spanning from Batman: The White Knight has drastically reimagined Batman lore, reinventing widely known components of the mythos. Although the series doesn’t go so far as to give Batman a new name, its characterization of a redeemed and relatively sane Joker is notable. Similarly, the lore receives a remix, as Jason Todd becomes the first Robin instead of Dick Grayson, among other deviations. Overall, The White Knight Continuity serves as an example of the stories that are possible within the Black Label imprint, as writers and artists have the freedom to stray from mainstream versions of popular characters.


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In a similar vein, the Earth One universe has given creators the opportunity to recreate heroes with modern readers in mind. While Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman remain relatively familiar in their costumes and origins, Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko’s take on Green Lantern Hal Jordan diverges from his typical backstory in a better way. Instead of working as a pilot, Hal is basically an astronaut, working as an astroid miner for Ferris Galactic, with a story set in the future.


The Green Lantern mythos is considerably reimagined to a degree that it hadn’t been since DC first retired Alan Scott from the ring. Instead of coming across defeated alien Green Lantern Abin Sur, Hal finds an abandoned spacecraft containing a deceased alien, along with the iconic ring and a lantern to charge it. From there, the radical new iteration of Green Lantern continues to diverge from Hal’s mainstream story depicted in DC canon. The bold approach proves that there is room for growth with such legacy heroes, and DC doesn’t need to remain stuck in the past, reiterating the same stories without much alteration.


While DC has emphasized the most recognizable versions of heroes in recent years with the Rebirth line and subsequent stories, the publisher might do well in taking more chances by dramatically reinventing superheroes like it once did in the Golden Age. With more light reboots and shakeups of the status quo on their way with events like Dark Crisis, the wide variety of iconic characters lend themselves to reinterpretation. DC Comics has an opportunity to remix key superheroes and create an exciting new DCUniverse. As they have demonstrated in the past, with the right vision, new heroes might stick around for the long run.

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