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What Is and Isn't Canon After Superman Reborn

We are about a year and a half into DC's Rebirth, and it's safe to say that Superman has been through some major changes along the way. In particular, the Superman Reborn story published a few months back made some major changes by combining the Post-Crisis version of Superman and the New 52 version into one person. Inevitably, that left some questions about what this new Superman's history looks like and which stories now make up that history. In an attempt to try and answer these questions, I did a deep dive into Superman Reborn and the clarifying story arc, "The New World," that followed it. "The New World" (Action Comics #977-8) doesn't give concrete answers to every question you may have, but does provide many answers and visual cues that have helped lead me to a number of conclusions. Without an official timeline or write-up by DC, some of these things are guesses or assumptions, but I will do my best to provide sufficient evidence to back up my conclusions. Here they are broken up into segments:

1) Superman: Secret Origin is back in as Superman's official origin story.

The New World
The New World
Secret Origin
Secret Origin

"The New World" is littered with references to Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's pre-New 52 Superman origin story. Let's start with Krypton which looks similar in both "The New World" and Secret Origin. Superman's Kryptonian parents, Jor El and Lara, also appear to have been altered to closer resemble their Secret Origin counter-parts. Lara has wavy blonde hair in both stories and Jor El is rocking a beard.

The New World
The New World
Secret Origin
Secret Origin

Clark's childhood in Smallville is also consistent between the two stories. In both, it seems that Lex Luthor grew up in Smallville where he discovered Kryptonite, Clark saved Lana by flying through a tornado, and Pete Ross broke his arm.

Secret Origin
Secret Origin
The New World
The New World
Secret Origin
Secret Origin

Finally, Clark's debut as Superman is the same in both Secret Origin and "The New World." It's his first day at The Daily Planet and he's forced to save Lois by catching her and a falling Lex Corp helicopter.

Obviously, these similarities aren't a coincidence. They're there to let you know that Secret Origin is back and is canon again. This makes sense in a lot of ways. Secret Origin was the last official origin story of Post-Crisis Superman before Flashpoint and the New 52. Also, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank are the creative team behind Doomsday Clock where Superman will play a pivotal role. I wouldn't be surprised if Doomsday Clock also explores similar themes as Secret Origin did. The only question that I'm left with here is: Did all of Secret Origin make it into this version of Superman's history? Secret Origin also included Clark Kent in action as Superboy in Smallville as well as his friendship with the Legion of Superheroes. There was no indication of these elements in "The New World."

2) Most of Superman's Post-Crisis stories are canon.

This is hardly a shocker since the whole philosophy behind Superman in DC's Rebirth has been to bring back and reinstate Post-Crisis Superman, but that was fully backed up both in "Superman Reborn" and "The New World." Let me start with this image from "The New World" that summarizes all the villains that Superman has fought during his career.

No Caption Provided

Most of these villains are either Post-Crisis versions of classic Superman rogues or are possibly there to reference specific Post-Crisis stories. We have the likes of Silver Banshee from John Byrne's run, Mongul of Warworld fame, Conduit from "The Death of Clark Kent," Imperiex from "Our Worlds at War," and Manchester Black who was most notably involved in "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and The American Way?" Also, I can't help but notice that Metallo looks exactly the way he did in Secret Origin.

It's not only the Post-Crisis villains that make a return in "The New World," though. It's also the life and times of Post-Crisis Superman that is making a comeback. Check out this image from "The New World" of changes that Superman goes through during his career.

No Caption Provided

In this image we see an unshaven Superman with a re-breather belt from the time Superman exiled himself into space, we see Superman in Kryptonian garb from that time the Eradicator controlled his mind, we have Superman in his gladiatorial Warworld tunic, and we can clearly make out blue lightning Superman (you can all breathe easy, blue lightning Superman is canon again). The only one I can't identify is Superman in that red and blue spacesuit. If anyone knows what story that is from then please give me a shout in the comments. Regardless, these Superman fashion statements all come from notable Post-Crisis story arcs. This image combined with the picture of the villains is supposed to summarize Superman's Post-Crisis history and let you know that it's all relevant again.

"The New World" goes on to directly reference specific Post-Crisis Superman stories such as: Clark's proposal to Lois in Superman (Vol. 2) #50, Clark revealing his identity to Lois in Action Comics #662, The Death and Return of Superman, and Superman: The Wedding Album. There are two things to notice about the Post-Crisis stories that were referenced or hinted at in "The New World." First, stories that revolve around or furthered Lois and Clark's relationship were directly referenced which shows that you're supposed to see them as being particularly important. Second, a majority of the stories mentioned were ones that Dan Jurgens either wrote or was part of the Superman creative team for. This is really not surprising since Dan Jurgens also wrote half of "Superman Reborn" and all of "The New World." That might make it safe to say that all Dan Jurgens material is canon.

3) SOME New 52 material is still relevant. With an emphasis on the SOME.

The first reference that "The New World" really makes to a piece of New 52 mythology is that Ma and Pa Kent are dead. That was a major difference between the New 52's Superman and Post-Crisis' Superman who had his Ma and Pa as a support system. That part of the New 52 was kept, at least. That being said, the how and when it happened was not indicated, so it's unclear whether it still went down the way it did in Grant Morrison's Action Comics or if it happened a different way. One thing that is different is that "The New World" has Ma and Pa buried together while they had separate tombstones in the New 52.

Outside of that, "The New World" makes a few other references to material from the New 52. The villain Blanque pops up in that image of the Superman rogues gallery. The events of the Lois and Clark mini-series are also directly referenced as part of Superman's history minus the existence of a second Superman. Again, that's Dan Jurgens material so it obviously still has to be canon. The only other references to New 52 Superman stories in "The New World" are these two images.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

The image on the left is of the Oracle who most notably popped up at the end of the H'El on Earth crossover. The picture on the right shows Superman battling Ulysses from Geoff Johns and John Romita's Men of Tomorrow story. That probably indicates that both of these stories are still canon (more or less). Basically, "The New World" leaves a period of time after Jon's birth open for the New 52 stories to take place, but H'El on Earth and Men of Tomorrow are the only ones specifically referenced.

Strangely enough, it's the ancillary Superman Family titles that do more to preserve parts of the New 52 than the main Superman titles do. The Phantom Zone criminal, Xa-Du, from Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics recently appeared in a Supergirl story. Morrison's version of the Kryptonite Man was also featured in Superwoman. Superwoman also continues the stories of Lana Lang and John Henry Irons following Greg Pak's run on Action Comics. Superman's solar flare ability would've had to have been canon at one point for both Superwoman and the New Super-Man to have their powers. The New 52 remains alive and kicking in the Superman Family if not in the main event.

Finally, I think you can safely assume that Superman's New 52 history with the Justice League is still canon minus the romance with Wonder Woman. Justice League was DC's flagship book during the New 52 and their storytelling still has a lot wrapped up in that series. It's not a stretch, therefore, to say that his adventures in that book happened even if we're ignoring the fact that he was smooching Diana at the time. The New 52's Justice League is still the canon Justice League.

4) Some stories definitely didn't make the cut.

There were four possible, legitimate origin stories that the post Superman Reborn Superman could have had. Secret Origin was the one chosen which means that the other three are out. John Byrne's Man of Steel, Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright, and a vast majority of Grant Morrison's Action Comics all have to be thrown out for Secret Origin to work. They all contain elements that would create inconsistencies with how Secret Origin and "The New World" lay out Superman's childhood in Smallville and debut in Metropolis. There can be only one origin story and it seems like Secret Origin is it.

Honestly, I'm pretty bummed out that Morrison's Action Comics is seemingly being written out of continuity. It's probably my favorite run on an in-continuity Superman title ever, and it's a rather beautiful piece of work. Its interpretation of Superman's origins don't fit into this framework. However, I do hold out some hope that not all of it is lost. Mr. Mxyzptlk's character profile in Action Comics #975 suggested that Mxy's history from Morrison's run might still be relevant. With that and the fact that some of his run's villains have appeared in other Superman Family titles gives me hope that Morrison's Action Comics won't be forgotten in the Rebirth era.

5) A lot is still unclear.

Big retconns like this always leave a number of loose ends, and Superman Reborn is no different. For instance, which version of the Justice League fought Doomsday during the Death of Superman? In the original version of the story, it's a line-up made up of heroes from the 1990's Justice League International. However, in the current history of the Justice League, that version of the team never existed. Does that mean it was Batman, Wonder Woman, and co. that fought Doomsday? Anyway, there will be a lot of questions like that one and little adjustments to make if this history is going to work as a solid timeline. These things tend to become more clear in time, and not every question has to be answered for it all to work. It's still just a work in progress.

Anyway, those are my major takeaways concerning the new Superman history. With that, I wanted to end by making a rough, unofficial timeline for Post Superman Reborn Superman. I think it looks a little something like this:

Superman: Secret Origin

Ma and Pa Kent die in a car accident (Doomsday Clock #1)

Superman executes the Pocket Universe Phantom Zone criminals (Superman Vol. 2 #22)

Superman Exiles himself into space (Superman Vol. 2 # 28)

Superman on Warworld (Superman Vol. 2 #32)

The Eradicator controls Superman's mind

Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite (Superman Vol. 2 #49)

Clark proposes to Lois (Superman Vol. 2 #50)

Superman reveals his secret identity to Lois (Action Comics #662)

The Death and Return of Superman

The Death of Clark Kent (Superman Vol. 2 #100)

Lois makes her final decision to marry Clark (Superman Vol. 2 #118)

Superman: The Wedding Album

Blue lightning Superman (Superman Vol. 2 #123)

Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States (Superman: Lex 2000 #1)

What's so Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way? (Action Comics #775)

Our Worlds At War

The birth of Jonathan Samuel Kent

Superman: Lois & Clark mini-series

H'El on Earth



The Men of Tomorrow

The Rebirth stories

That's my rough, unofficial, incomplete timeline for Superman's new history.

Edit (11/7/17): I changed my timeline to reflect that Ma and Pa Kent died without meeting Lois or Jon as this was pointed out to me in the comments.

Edit (11/12/17): I added Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite and Doomed to my timeline thanks to the comment section.

Edit (11/14/17): Added the Phantom Zone criminal execution because it leads to Superman's decision to exile himself into space. Also, I fixed an earlier mistake I made. The Eradicator controlled Superman's mind after he returned to Earth from exile and before he proposed to Lois. This did not happen in Superman Vol. 2 #57 as I originally thought.

Edit (1/22/18): Added Psi-War at the suggestion of Zandalf.

Edit (5/6/18): Added when Lex was elected President after reading DC Nation #0.

That's it for this post. Be sure to let me know what you think about my suggested timeline and everything else I just wrote. Leave any comments or questions underneath. Thanks!