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Off My Mind: The New 52's Five Year Limitations

With a specific time period mention, many are distracted by what could have and couldn't have happened in that time.

We're a year into DC's The New 52 relaunch. The new direction for the universe is chugging along and we've been seeing some cool events in the first twelve issues. Many characters have been reintroduced or re-established to show how they fit into this new comic universe.

Despite the success of the first year in this new direction, there is still some confusion over what has or hasn't happened. Some characters and titles have referenced past events or story arcs while other stories have been erased. The confusion for some is trying to figure out what is still part of the characters' continuity and what never happened (yet).

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With JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, we were given a time period or window in which the entirety of most characters' existence is now contained. That means everything that could have happened is limited to that period for the most part. Is five years enough time for the characters with extremely rich and full histories? Is the five year window forcing many events to get erased even if it hasn't been officially stated?

== TEASER ==

Some may question why have the five year period? Why not seven or ten? Five years ago is when the Justice League first met up. We saw what the atmosphere in the DC universe was like. Superheroes weren't necessarily public figures but their existence was known by some.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #4
JUSTICE LEAGUE #4

Having a limit of five years means we have a short period of time for the years of continuity. Technically, we only need to consider, for the most part, events since 1985's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS since that was the last time things were rebooted. Most of the Golden and Silver Age events were erased with that event (with some exceptions, especially in Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder's BATMAN stories).

One concern over the time period was Scott Lobdell's comment over Tim Drake not being "Robin" but going straight to the "RED Robin" guise. In some ways this makes sense. We're looking at a small window where Dick Grayson was Robin and leaves to become Nightwing. Jason Todd spends time as Robin and gets killed by Joker. Tim has to then come along, confront Bruce, undergo training and become Batman's newest sidekick. After that Damian comes along as well.

TEEN TITANS #1
TEEN TITANS #1

The thinking is with the five years, there isn't a lot of time between Robins. Jason would have to die and Bruce would barely have time to mourn Jason before replacing him with Tim.

What about Superman? While Batman's been busy with all his Robins (or RED Robins), it looks like he and Lois haven't even gone on a date. He's still moping around over her and she has no clue about his secret identity. In SWAMP THING #1, Superman mentioned to Alec Holland he knew about being dead. Does that mean that Doomsday's attack still happened in this five years but Lois didn't have the same feeling of loss since she didn't know Clark was dead? Although, she just believed he was dead just over five years ago in the pages of ACTION COMICS.

SWAMP THING #1 on Superman's return from being 'dead.'
SWAMP THING #1 on Superman's return from being 'dead.'

GREEN LANTERN has been pretty clear that the previous continuity still holds. The events at the end of the pre-New 52 volume still hold. There's also been mention of Blackest Night a few times. What about the Sinestro Corps War? What about Hal being possessed by Parallax, destroying the Corps, dying and being reborn? How long has Kyle Rayner had a power ring during this five years?

GREEN LANTERN #12 mentioning 'Blackest Night' again.
GREEN LANTERN #12 mentioning 'Blackest Night' again.

In some ways, the five year limit makes sense. DC's plan appears to be to have all the characters a little bit younger. Younger heroes means they can be more relatable to younger new readers. It's only the readers that have been around longer that are really concerned with what may or may not have happened in those five years.

Five years may be limiting what could have happened in the characters' history but it doesn't have to absolutely wipe everything out. Some of the heroes have been active before JUSTICE LEAGUE #1. That's what ACTION COMICS is about.

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #6
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #6

Dick Grayson is supposed to be 21-ish in NIGHTWING. Five years ago he would have been 16-ish when Batman joined the Justice League and Dick could have been hanging out with Starfire, Roy and the others known as the Teen Titans in the pre-New 52 world. That means Jason could have become Robin, died and Tim could have come along within a complete five year period if Dick's time is shifted to just prior to JUSTICE LEAGUE #1.

This five year time also brings the question of where do characters such as Cassandra Cain, Wally West, Donna Troy, Stephanie Brown and others fit in? It's odd that some characters from the generation after them like Cassie Sandsmark and Bart Allen have a place but there's been no sign or mention of Donna Troy or Wally.

Five years isn't a lot when you're looking at over twenty-five years of comic continuity. Obviously twenty-five years of comic history translates into a much shorter span of time in the 'real world.' Everything that has happened to the characters doesn't have to be ignored or erased. With some characters, there is no choice. For example with Barry Allen or Green Arrow being de-aged a bit, there's clearly some things that just couldn't have happened plus the fact that several marriages never occurred.

We may not have a choice but to accept several events and characters being erased. It just doesn't have to be the case across the board. Some events could just not be mentioned or clearly stated as not having happened. That way it won't affect the current comics and long time readers can believe or pretend that maybe they somehow did happen. Five years might not seem like a long time but in terms of comic book time, a lot could have still happened.

The New 52 isn't going to change back and a year in we're still adjusting to it. We're willing to make some compromises but let's hope DC doesn't completely wipe out everything that has happened before, especially those events and characters we still cherish.

Tony Guerrero is the Editor-in-Chief of Comic Vine. You can follow him on Twitter @GManFromHeck. He agrees a lot can happen in five years and is thankful events in his life haven't been erased.