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Off My Mind: How Much of DC Heroes' History is Lost With 'The New 52'?

With so many minor tweaks to characters, how do we know what events and stories are still canon?

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DC's "The New 52" is underway and we've been seeing the small changes that have been made to our favorite characters. From the beginning, DC has been adamant that this is not a reboot. Some books like Batman and Green Lantern seem to be following directly where the previous issues left off.

The reality is, there have been some changes made. The characters' origins may still be the same but from what we've been seeing, there are some changes being made to their histories. We have over seventy years of stories with them but the Golden Age stories never really held. Even many of the Silver Age stories aren't considered part of their history. If we go with 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths as the last time things were rebooted, that's over twenty-five years of continuity to consider.

Some of the new books are beginning a few years ago. Justice League #1 begins five years ago and Action Comics #1 even before that. Other books will be starting in the current time so where does that leave all the events in between? Will we see several flashback issues to set the record straight? How will we know what events survived the birth of "The New 52" and which ones are being swept under the carpet?

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We've already looked at the differences from Justice League #1. Originally the characters were aware of each other and it was Starro that brought them together in Brave and the Bold #28 (or the aliens from Appellax, if you want to go with the later Justice League of America #9 flashback origin). The big villain that will bringing the League together is Darkseid. What does that mean about Darkseid's original first appearance in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134?

The same question could be asked about Starro. Has the League we'll have in "The New 52" encountered Starro already? What about all the incarnations the team has gone through? Five years isn't that much time to have the Detroit League come about. What about poor Sue Dibny's attack in the Justice League Watchtower? Do they even have the Watchtower?

We also looked at the changes from Action Comics #1. It looks like Clark made his own costume instead of Ma making one from a Kryptonian baby blanket found in Superman's ship. We don't know if he was active as Superboy in Smallville before moving to Metropolis and had visits by the Legion of Superheroes.

Batgirl #1 told us that Barbara was in a wheelchair for only three years after getting shot by Joker (in The Killing Joke). What did she do in those three years? She displayed some hacking skills with her father's police scanner but what about her time as Oracle? Did her adventures consulting Batman and the Justice League still happen? What about the Birds of Prey? Did she form a bond with Black Canary, Huntress, etc?

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There are obviously other questions as well. Did New Krypton get formed and destroyed? Did Green Arrow die and come back? Does Red Hood and the Outlaws occur in the past before Roy Harper's arm was torn off or did that simply never happen? Is Lex Luthor really the father of Perry White's (now dead) son Jerry? Will The Flash series take place some years ago in order to justify the revelation that Barry and Iris aren't married or is that marriage something that never happened? If the marriage never happened, why is that, especially if Barry Allen had a part in creating this "New 52" timeline?

Hmm...what exactly have I already done?
Hmm...what exactly have I already done?

Looking at any of the characters' pages here on Comic Vine, we see detailed accounts of their histories. How are we supposed to know what still has happened and what is now going to be ignored or erased? We've been told that the Justice League series will only have the first arc take place five years ago. Then the series will jump forward to the present. Will we see random flashbacks from time to time to fill us in on what has happened or what has been changed? Potentially we could have a bunch of miniseries detailing the early adventures and first encounters of all characters. We've seen the First Year story arcs for several characters in the past. Now those will all have to be re-done since we're not fully sure what their first years were like.

Of course the other option we have is to simply not dwell on it. When you meet someone for the first time and get to know them, you don't know the full details of every moment in their lives prior to your meeting. We know the general idea. We know who the characters are and we can assume that their exact origins are pretty much the same. It might not fully matter if Batman fought Clayface or Killer Croc before meeting the Penguin. Whether bigger events such as Knightfall or Superman fighting Doomsday and dying happened should be made clear (and Swamp Thing #1 hints that yes, Superman did die).

It is good to know when seeing characters interact how much history they have together. It would be nice to know how many times the Flash has defeated the Rogues before and whether or not Batman and Wonder Woman ever flirted before. We just might not ever really get the answers. My wallet doesn't want to see miniseries after miniseries offering all the tiny details. I don't want to see gigantic encyclopedias on each character. For now I'm willing to assume that most of the history still stands. Even thought Batman punching out Guy Gardner with one punch was a favorite moment in history, no one really refers to it. Even the fact that Bart Allen grew up, became the Flash, was killed but is now back younger wasn't really dwelled on. Did Crisis on Infinite Earths even happen? Let's not even go into the fact that the Justice Society of America don't exist on this Earth anymore.

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We just have to enjoy the current stories since at their core, they are the characters we've known for years. It's not the best solution and it can be annoying but we just have to look forward rather than obsess about the past. It won't be easy but we've had some good stories so far in the "New 52."