The DC Universe is the Shared Universe
belonging to DC Comics
, established in 1934 and now the oldest major comic book
publishing company. This is mostly used as a vehicle for their extensive Super Hero
mythos, although the nature
of the universe allows for almost unlimited storytelling potential in many different genres.
The DC Universe is primarily responsible for establishing the concept of the super-hero in popular culture, with Batman
and Wonder Woman
as some of their oldest and most popular characters. Their introduction of the Justice Society of America
during World War II
was also the first real super-hero team book, using the cross-over
to establish the first shared universe in comics history. Their massive early popularity was stunted by the invention of the Comics Code
which nearly killed the industry, and many of the bowdlerised
stories from this era are responsible for several negative stereotypes about the medium. There was a revival in the late fifties and early sixties with the creation of newer more imaginative updates of characters like Green Lantern
and The Flash
, leading to DC's biggest characters forming the Justice League
. To explain the difference in continuity, they established a Multiverse
with the different versions of the heroes occupying different world. The popularity of this team book also inspired Marvel Comics
to publish their own team book Fantastic Four
, leading into an era of more maturely written super-hero stories dealing with the development of characters and more serious problems.
One of their most controversial moves was the epic storyline Crisis on Infinite Earths
during the eighties, an effort to untangle their years of Continuity Snarl
by destroying the Multiverse and establishing one linear continuity for all of the characters to co-exist in. This included revising much of the universe's history and updating the origins of many characters. The Multiverse was brought back during Infinite Crisis
, although the mainstream continuity has only been changed in minor ways reflecting the story-telling needs of the writers. There was a second, much more widespread reboot of the DC Universe in September 2011 with all titles being restarted back to number 1, with these titles referred to as the "New 52
Their distinguished competition is the Marvel Universe
, published by Marvel Comics
. The two lines appear similar at first glance, but there are some very subtle differences between the two. While there are many exceptions, the main difference is that the super-hero community tends to have a stricter sense of black-and-white morality
at DC. This is written as a mature philosophical stand-point, dealing with the heroic archetype and their place as trusted members of society; in the DCU the general public tend to have greater respect for their heroes and treat them with higher esteem. In turn, the heroes of the DCU must undergo the trials of having to keep their respect and morality, even when it goes under fire.Not to be confused with DC United.
The defining characteristics of The DCU:
- Canon Invasion: DC has quite a few character who initally belonged to other companies prior to being bought out. Examples include:
- Back in the Golden Age, DC was formed from three nominally separate companies: Detective Comics, All-American Comics, and National Publications.
- The characters of Fawcett Comics, such as Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family.
- The characters of Quality Comics, such as Plastic Man, Kid Eternity, and the Freedom Fighters.
- The characters of Charlton Comics, such as Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and The Question.
- The characters of Milestone Comics, such as Static, Hardware and Icon & Rocket.
- The characters of the Red Circle (formerly owned by Archie Comics) such as the Mighty Crusaders, the Shield and the Web.
- The characters of Wildstorm Comics, such as Stormwatch, Grifter, The Authority and the Wild CA Ts, who have joined the mainstream continuity (along with the people in the Vertigo Comics line) as of the New 52.
- City of Adventure: To each hero his own.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Perhaps each hero has his own city because he can't locate anyone else's.
- This is being averted in modern days, where it's been established that Gotham is in New Jersey and Metropolis is in Delaware.
- Gateway City (where Wonder Woman used to hang out before she moved to Washington) is in California.
- So is Coast City (Green Lantern Hal Jordan's town.)
- Keystone City (home of Golden Age and modern-day The Flashes) is in Ohio, according to JSA #15.
- However, it's since been retconned as being located in Kansas, like Smallville, but near the border with Missouri (where Central City, home of the Silver Age Flash, is located), as per Flash vol.2 #188 (published in 2002), in which Wally West builds a bridge between the two cities.
- Speaking of California, they inverted the usual DC practice of fictional adventure towns based on real places, by taking a real place (San Diego) and sinking it into the ocean, transforming its inhabitants into merpeople in the process. Thus it became the fictional underwater city of "Sub Diego," which Aquaman protected, natch.
- Continuity Nod
- Continuity Snarl: To the extent that at times it feels like the whole purpose of DC's output is trying to resolve its own continuity problems.
- Crapsack City: While New Earth as a whole is a much better place to live than Earth-616, there are a lot of cities where it sucks to live. Gotham City is the most iconic, with its sister city Bludhaven being so bad that Gothamites look upon it with disdain. Star City has gone to hell following Justice League: Cry for Justice, as it had the misfortune of occurring so close to the Blackest Night. But the single worse place to live in the DCU is Hub City.
- Crisis Crossover
- Crossover Cosmology
- Department of Redundancy Department: People who say "DC Comics" are really saying "Detective Comics Comics".
- Debatable. "Detective Comics" could be considered the adjective. Effectively, it'd be "The comics of Detective Comic."
- This could be "Detective Comics' Comics", but that isn't obvious from just "DC Comics".
- Descriptiveville: Major offender, a lot of cities have rather bland names.
- Easily Conquered World: Alien invasions Tuesday, underground monsters Thursday, and evil masterminds on Friday. If you're looking for an excuse to get off from work, you damn well better have lost your entire city, and even then, you're lucky.
- Easy Road To Hell: In both the DC and Marvel 'verses there have been examples of people getting sent to Hell with magic, rather than through any fault of their own. Granted, in most such cases they were able to get out later.
- Elseworld: The Trope Namer. During the '90s and early '00s, DC's Elseworlds imprint showcased a great many "what if" tales that carried on the tradition of Silver Age "imaginary stories"; the best-known was Kingdom Come. Since The Multiverse was brought back, many of these have become full-fledged Alternate Universes.
- Leotard of Power
- The Multiverse: The DCU has a long tradition, recently revived, of having numerous alternate universes.
- Pre-Crisis, Earth-1 represented contemporary/Silver Age continuity whereas the alternate Earth-2 represented the Golden Age (with some minor retcons to introduce more differences).
- The main DCU is known as New Earth or Earth-0, due to the changes made to the timeline during Infinite Crisis.
- The Wildstorm universe has nominally been part of the DC Multiverse since the company was bought by DC, though crossovers are rare. With Flashpoint, however, many Wildstorm characters have shown up as part of the main DCU.
- Kingdom Come and Tangent Comics are perhaps the most famous of numerous works detailing specific Alternate Universes.
- Occasionally mention will be made of the Vertigo Universe, but Vertigo's recurring characters (The Sandman, Swamp Thing, Lucifer, etc.) really take place in their own little corners of The DCU that no longer interact with the rest of the universe due to Executive Meddling. Up until 2011, anyway, when they made a comeback.
- We are ostensibly a part of the DC multiverse, Earth-Prime. Except between 1985 and 2005, when we didn't actually exist.
- No Communities Were Harmed: The aforementioned Cities Of Adventure.
- Present Day: Mostly. Time Travel is common, as are series set in The Wild West, World War II, or The Future.
- Shout Out
- Super Hero: Of course.
- Underwear of Power: Trope Maker, really. (Although they are technically exercise trunks, not underwear.)
- As of the 2011 reboot, this has been eliminated from the uniforms of the heroes that still wore them (Superman and Batman being the foremost examples).
Comics series and characters set in The DCU
Other notable characters:
TV series set in (parts of) The DCU
(mostly in Metropolis, but given ol' Kal-El's range all bets are off):Batman-based
(in Gotham City, with rare field trips):Justice League of America
- Superfriends (Along with its many sequels and permutations.)
- Legends of the Superheroes (A short-lived 1970s series which attempted to bring the campy style of Batman to the JLA, and failed miserably.)
- Justice League of America, a failed Pilot Movie based around the post-Justice League International incarnation of the team.
- Justice League (Crawling with minor and obscure heroes and villains, especially in the Unlimited seasons.)
Other single characters:
Other comic series:
Other TV series:
- Aquaman (Failed pilot)
- Although a successful 1960s cartoon was why he was included in the Super Friends to begin with.
- Wonder Woman
- Shazam! (Not actually the hero's name. His name is Captain Marvel. The wizard who gave Billy Batson his powers is named Shazam. However, no series using the character can use the "Captain Marvel" name because Marvel Comics has its own character with that name and regularly publishes comic book series with that name. He was featured in a 1974 live-action series, 1981 cartoon (both produced by Filmation), and a planned 2008 cartoon.))
- Swamp Thing (1990 live action series, 1991 cartoon, plus movies made in 1982 and 1989)
- Static Shock (Originally a Milestone title)
- Isis (Originally by virtue of crossovers with Shazam, though DC did eventually publish a short-lived Isis comic book. More recently, they've added a DCU version of the character as Black Adam's consort and, eventually, wife, though they killed her off not long after. She's now alive again though.)
- And she was a statue for a while. Then she came back. Go fig.
Other team shows:
- Teen Titans (The last season is full of the same mix, albeit focusing on the TT and Doom Patrol characters. This may or may not also be in continuity with the DCAU below, despite its very different look and style, and fan debates over this continue as the Word Of God has been lacking, instead giving what amounts to the continuity version of a Ship Tease.)
- Legion Of Super Heroes
- Young Justice (Though it shares the title of the comic book series it is not a straight up adaptation of it and includes a wide variety of DCU stories, including Teen Titans and Justice League.)
A subset of The DCU
is the DC Animated Universe
(AKA the "Timmverse" or the "Diniverse"), consisting of Batman The Animated Series
and every other series that takes place in the same universe. It has its own canon
, with more than one Cross Over
between series, and is best known for its distinctive artstyle, based on the works of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. This universe has ended with the final season of Justice League Unlimited
Series in the DCAU:
In 2007, DC and Warner Bros.
began a new series of direct-to-video animated movies called DC Universe Animated Original Movies
. Mostly they focus on individual characters, including some, like Wonder Woman
, who have never had their own animated series. All movies with the exception of the Superman/Batman
titles (which are loosely related to each other) are standalone stories.