When DC Comics announced a total renumbering and reinvention of their comic titles in 2011, critics and readers were intrigued. The focus of this reboot was to simplify and streamline the decades of Crisis contradictions and confusing storylines. And from a sales standpoint, the New 52 was a rousing success.
Many of the fans did not agree. Complaints were made about the new origins and directions of the characters, histories were re-written, and personalties changed drastically. Some of these changes were unsuccessful, as their drastic implementation was a difficult barrier for fans to overcome. Other characters thrived in their new continuities.
Aquaman’s Heroic Reputation
One of the most successful character changes, Arthur Curry abdicates the throne of Atlantis and focuses his attention on Aquaman’s heroics full-time. Residing with Mera in Amnesty Bay, Aquaman’s position as a founding member of the Justice League does little to combat his reputation as a lesser-level hero who just talks to fish.
Acknowledging the character’s reputation and grounding his character in a more realistic and relatable environment helped readers move past the stereotype to embrace Aquaman like never before. Aquaman’s New 52 history would lay the groundwork for the version of Aquaman that appeared in the DCEU.
Nightwing and Grayson Titles
The New 52 ushered in a version of Dick Grayson that Nightwing fans hadn’t seen before. He returned to his roots at Haly’s Circus for a period of time before Nightwing’s identity was revealed to the world and he faked his death, ending the Nightwing run and introducing Grayson.
The focus on Grayson as a secret agent was a much-needed change of scenery for the character. So much of Grayson’s characterization is focused on the emotional and familial relationships between members of the Batfamily. Removing those connections was a risky gamble, but the distance actually served to deepen them.
The New 52’s canonical reset came as a result of the iconic Flash storyline, Flashpoint. The return of Barry to the main continuity after his excursion to the Flashpoint reality reset the origin stories and issue numbers in the DC universe.
Flash’s new reality had made Barry Allen younger, changed his romantic relationship with Iris West, and introduced two different versions of Kid Flash throughout its run. While the first issues were a huge success, erasing that much history and character development lead to the title losing steam, and cemented some of Flash comic’s biggest clichés into DC’s rebranding.
Changes To The Lanterns
Several established Lanterns took on new roles and rings during the New 52. Seeing Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s frequent nemesis and former Yellow Lantern, Sinestro, attempting to redeem himself while also struggling to not give in to his thirst for power added a new dimension to his character without losing the sense of his pre-New 52 characterization.
The New 52 also marked the introduction of fan-favorite Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz to the series, providing more diversity for the title. The New 52 would also see Golden Age Lantern Alan Scott established as an openly gay hero.
Of all the hero origin changes from the New 52, the changes made to the Wonder Woman comic books were arguably some of the most well-received by the fans. By changing the history of Diana’s birth and the Amazonian practices, the New 52 brought more darkness and depth into the character’s storylines.
These changes highlighted the most important characteristics of Wonder Woman. Diana’s light-hearted moments become moments of hope and humor against her darker history. Her strength and power sources are also more clearly defined, framing her romantic relationship with Superman through a more logical point of view.
Grant Morrison’s previous Superman title was regarded as one of the best runs of Superman of all time, and his approach focused on establishing the New 52 Superman as a hero of the people, a concept well received by fans. The continuity changes saw Superman founding the Justice League and becoming the first public superhero in the DC Universe.
However, fans were torn by this version of the hero taking away several aspects of iconic Superman characterization, including his red trunks. His long-established romance with reporter Lois Lane was scrapped in favor of a romantic relationship with Wonder Woman.
Court Of Owls
The new continuity of the New 52 also marked the introduction of the Court of Owls to fans. Gotham’s seamy underbelly has long been established in the Batman mythos, but flipping the script and revealing society’s upper crust to be the ones pulling the strings for so long threw both Batman and fans for a loop.
Most impressively, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo managed to interweave the court into the revamped history of Batman that neatly. The Court of Owls fit so seamlessly into the Dark Knight’s story that they’ve become iconic members of Batman’s rogues’ gallery.
The changes the New 52 made to DC’s character line-up set the stage for the modern interpretations of many characters used in their Extended Universe. One of the characters who were most affected by that change was Victor Stone as Cyborg. The New 52 retconned his origin story.
His new introduction was pre-accident. Instead, fans met the character before the technology, which allowed for his humanity to shine through. His time as a Teen Titan was erased and his assistance in the foundation of the Justice League cemented his importance as a major character in modern DC lore.
Justice Society of America
When the Justice League was created in the New 52 continuity, they were established as the first organized group of heroes, effectively removing the long-established Justice Society of America from the timeline. Instead, the Justice Society was founded by the League’s heroes on an alternate Earth, Earth 2.
Earth 2 had been previously included in the canon, but the New 52 revamp mirrored the structure of the main Earth’s timeline. Society was just discovering superheroes and these heroes were younger than their pre-Flashpoint counterparts. Several non-hero supporting characters took on heroic identities on this earth as well.
After spending 22 years as Oracle, the New 52 saw Barbara Gordon’s return to her Batgirl roots with writer Gail Simone. The title was received fairly well, as Simone focused on Gordon’s recovery and the often overlooked aspects of PTSD in heroics.
Gordon’s recovery and introduction of her roommate, Alysia Yeoh, a transwoman, sparked debates about representation in DC’s line-up. This was exacerbated by the fact that as per WIRED, Simone, one of only two female writers for the New 52, was removed from Batgirl via email just over a year later. Two weeks of fan protests later, she was reinstated.
Next: 5 Times Barbara Gordon Is More Badass As Batgirl (& 5 Times She Is More Badass As Oracle)
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