The DC Universe (DCU) is a fictional space where DC Comics publishes most of its stories and American comic book titles.
DC superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman are from this universe, and teams such as the Justice League (comprising the same superheroes and more). Further, it comprises famous supervillains such as Lex Luthor, the Joker, Sinestro, Harley Quinn, Reverse-Flash, Darkseid, General Zod, Penguin, the Riddler Catwoman, Ra’s Al Ghul, Bane, and Two-Face.
It is hard to establish that DC Comics’ characters coexisted in the same world as the other characters. Justice League is the classic example for this, where all the characters exist in the same world.
Throughout its publishing history, DC has introduced different versions of its characters. Further, they portray them in such a way that there is no similarity with their earlier character. Similarly, they had characters such as Batman, whose early adventures set in the 1940s could not easily be reconciled with stories featuring a still-youthful man in the 1970s. To explain this, they introduced the Multiverse in Flash #123 (1961), where the Silver Age Flash met his Golden Age counterpart.
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Now, with the increase in titles and stories, it is tough to maintain consistency. Although retcons were used to explain apparent inconsistencies in stories written, editors at DC came to consider the varied continuity of multiple Earths too challenging to keep track of and feared that it was an obstacle to accessibility for new readers. To address this, they published the cross-universe miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, which merged universes and characters, reducing the Multiverse to a single unnamed universe with a single history.
However, not all the books were rebooted post-Crisis. For example, the Legion of Superheroes book acted like the Pre-Crisis Earth-1 history was still their past, a point driven home in the Cosmic Boy Miniseries. It also removed the mechanism DC used to deal with continuity glitches or storylines that a later writer wanted to ignore (how Earths B and E came into existence), resulting in a convoluted explanation for characters like Hawkman.
Meanwhile, DC has some occasional stories titled Elseworlds that present alternative versions of their characters. One told the story of Bruce Wayne as a Green Lantern.
The Infinite Crisis event (2005–2006) remade the DC Universe again, with new changes. The limited series 52 (2006–2007) established a new multiverse, with Earth-0 as the primary Earth.
The New 52
The 2011 reboot of the DC Universe coincided with DC’s publishing event, The New 52, during which the publisher canceled its ongoing titles and relaunched 52 new books, including many new books, set within a revised continuity. It follows the conclusion of the Flashpoint crossover storyline, which provided a jumping-off point for the existing continuity. Many in-universe changes are intended to make characters more modern and accessible, though the scope of the changes varies from character to character. Some like Batman have their histories mainly left intact, though compressed, while they gave others wildly different histories and looks. DC stopped putting ‘The New 52’ logo on its publications in the summer of 2015, coinciding with the Convergence anniversary crossover event, which celebrated the history of the DC Multiverse and its various incarnations.
In February 2016, DC announced its DC Rebirth initiative, a line-wide relaunch of its titles, to begin in June 2016. Beginning with an 80-page one-shot which was released on May 25, 2016, DC Rebirth also sees Action Comics and Detective Comics return to their previous numbering (#957 and #934 respectively), all books releasing at US$2.99, multiple books shifting to a twice-monthly release schedule, several existing titles relaunching with new #1s, and the release of several new titles. DC has used the Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth miniseries as examples of the basis for the initiative, which has been described as a rebirth of the DC Universe. The DC Rebirth initiative will reintroduce concepts from pre-Flashpoint continuity, such as legacy, that has been lost with The New 52 and build “on everything that’s been published since Action Comics #1 up through The New 52.”
In October 2017, DC revealed that they would be discontinuing the Rebirth branding and logo from their titles in December 2017, releasing everything under a single umbrella title as the DC Universe. Coinciding with the release of the New Age of Heroes imprint, DiDio explained, “We want to make it clear that this is all the DC Universe… Rebirth pretty much is the DCU now; while we’re taking Rebirth off the books, we’ll be following the direction that Rebirth established.” Titles also received new trade dress, with those “that tie in clearly to our larger DC Universe” having a “DCU logo on them” in addition to corner boxes with icons of the characters to help identify the family of titles; titles outside the DCU, such as Injustice: Gods Among Us and DC Bombshells would have the DC logo on them. DiDio also added that the Young Animal imprint would continue as a separate line of titles.
In 2021, DC announced a line-wide relaunch of ongoing monthly superhero comic book titles. Several miniseries and one-shots were also announced. It is the follow-up to the DC Rebirth relaunch.