If you’ve picked up any DC books recently you may have noticed a couple of interesting changes over the past few months: Batman is no longer Bruce Wayne (instead it’s James Gordon in a Mech-suit), Wonder Woman has taken over Aries’ job as the God of War, and not only is Superman nearly powerless, his secret identity has been revealed to the world!
Unlike Marvel, which until recently (see: Secret Wars) had one continuous cannon with a shifting timeline and the occasional retcon, DC comics has a long history of revamping their cannon to fit the times. Although these reboots irk many a fan, I for one have always kind of liked DC’s willingness to try new things over the years. It’s good to change up the status quo every now and then. (see: DC Rebirth)
Here’s some of my favorite changes to the Dc Universe over the years…
GOLDEN AGE: Batman and Superman
Back when the world of superheroes was a brand new frontier, Batman and Superman were pioneers in uncharted territory. The Man of Steel, essentially being the original ‘superhero’ debuted in Action Comics #1 (1938) by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, followed closely by the Dark Knight’s premiere in Detective Comics #27 (1939) by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. What’s really interesting about these initial first appearances is how different they are from their modern counterparts…
The original incarnation of Kal-El possessed superhuman strength, speed, and senses, but most of the powers he’s become known for weren’t developed till later, including his ability to fly! What’s more is he didn’t initially fight megalomaniacs, killer robots, inter-dimensional beings, and planet conquering aliens, back in the day, Superman fought corrupt lobbyists and wife beaters (which was cleverly revisited in Grant Morrison’s recent run on Action Comics). He also killed Lex Luthor the first time he met him, but that was later retconned.
Meanwhile, over in Gotham, the original version of the Caped Crusader was a straight up murderer. He also had no qualms about using guns. The reason behind this is partially because there wasn’t a comics code back then, and Batman didn’t start out with a fully fleshed out origin story. He was even originally intended to kill The Joker during his first appearance in Batman #1, but the creators decided to change this at the last minute so they could reuse villains in future episodes.
Later on, as both characters were developed and eventually geared towards a younger audience, both Batman and Superman both vowed to never take a life… with a few exceptions here and there… not to mention a few Elseworlds tales here and there. It’s also worth noting that the Batmobile wasn’t invented till 1941, prior to that, Bruce got around in a red sedan. Furthermore, Kryptonite didn’t exist until 1943.
SILVER AGE: Green Lantern and The Flash
At the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics, two Golden Age heroes were reinvented with a less magical, more sci-fi slant: Green Lantern and The Flash. Showcase #4 (1956) – debuted Barry Allen as the Fastest Man Alive (replacing Jay Garrick), and Showcase #22 (1959) – introduced us to test pilot Hal Jordan, who became a Green Lantern (replacing Alan Scott).
Jay Garrick, the original Flash was a jock-turned speedster with a Hermes motif who gained his powers from a ‘Hard-Water’ experiment. Barry Allen on the other hand was a police scientist who gained his powers from a lightning bolt / chemical spill in the crime lab. In addition to an iconic uniform change, the writers gave Barry new speed-based powers like the ability to run across water and up buildings, create tornadoes, phase through solid objects and even travel through time.
Whereas Alan Scott’s Green Lantern ring was powered by an actual magic lantern, Hal Jordan was a test pilot who gained the ability to create light constructs from the technology of a dying alien. Hal ditched the old school cape for a sleek black and green flight suit. Armed with a high-tech ring powered by will, Jordan joins the ranks of the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps.
The alternative version of these Golden Age heroes was later explained by the Multiverse concept, first introduced in 1961’s ‘The Flash of Two Worlds’ where Barry crosses over to Earth 2 and meets Jay. Since then there have been multiple characters who have donned the mantle of the Flash and several Green Lanterns who have followed in Hal’s footsteps.
To be continued…
Erik Slader is a blogger, barista, web tech, digital artist, gamer, comic book aficionado, history buff, part-time nerd, and full-time husband. Creator of “Epik Fails of History” (@EpikFails.com) and writer for SuperheroBeach.com, MovementMagazine.com and ComicZombie.net – check out his digital design portfolio at ErikSlader.com