Chronological Game Changer?

Insert Clayface onto the list of “bad childhood Bat villains.”

Basil Karlo: Portrait of a sad, neglected goober kid. (From "The Dark Knight #24").

Basil Karlo: Portrait of a sad, neglected goober kid. (From “The Dark Knight #24”).

But I’m beyond over this “bad childhood bad-guy” bunk, so let’s move on.

Do we have a possible game changer (from a chronologistical perspective) in Forever Evil: ARGUS #1?
Forever Evil - A.R.G.U.S. (2013-) 001-012

The whole “five years ago” “six years ago” thing has been a clusterfuck from day one. YEARS AGO from when? What if DC has been dialing back from a set point the whole time, but we haven’t reached it yet or it simply hasn’t been revealed yet?

Take the above scene for example. This is recently inaugurated President Barack Obama, not some analogue or fictional generic prez dressed up to look like Obama by a wily artist; this is the Barack Obama, as specifically named in other DC books, notably by Geoff Johns himself in Green Lantern. Granted, this is still the DCU, so things don’t have to perfectly mirror the real world, but I submit that writer Sterling Gates wouldn’t overcomplicate things just for the sake of doing so—I submit that Gates is writing this scene with a firm historical reference in mind i.e. to be, as he explicitly says, occurring “a couple months into Obama’s presidency,” meaning roughly around March 2009. If true, this means that when Obama says that Darkseid attacked Earth “last year” then the Prez means 2008.

But damn it if I didn’t have the Darkseid attack (and JL response to said attack) as occurring earlier than that! I originally took the “5 years ago” from JL #1 to mean “5 years before the 2011 reboot” aka 2006. Then I realized the “5 years ago” label from JL #1 actually meant “5 years before the series caught up to the present in JL #7” aka 2007. But if 2008 is when Darkseid attacked then does “5 years ago” mean “5 years before whatever happens when Forever Evil ends”? And if that’s the case, does that mean we (the ENTIRE Internet) have been misreading the “5 years ago” labels?

But let’s focus on Batman for a moment, shall we? It’s now possible that the JL debuts in 2008 thanks to Forever Evil: ARGUS #1. But let’s say Obama’s dialogue is just a bunch of non-formal approximations and the JL debut should be in 2007 instead (if not for the simple sake of keeping our chronology intact as is for now). It’s possible, no? Either way, it gives me a sneaking, shuddering suspicion that Batman’s 1st and 2nd years should maybe be mashed together into a single year. We’ve always been led to believe that Superman came six months to a year before the JL and that Batman came six months to a year before Superman, right? What do you think? Are there some heavy changes that have to be made?

It’s definitely still a clusterfuck, I’ll tell ya. The “five years ago” Obama/ARGUS scene above is definitely happening in early 2009, which means that it is occurring “five years before the conclusion of Forever Evil” (OR “five years before what follows” OR “five years before the conclusion of the six-issue Forever Evil: ARGUS series that will conclude in 2014″). What does that all mean? It means that whatever (whenever?) DC editorial is using as its chronal axis-point for all of these silly temporal labels cannot be one single point. (If it were a fixed point at 2014, then the Darkseid attack would also take place in 2009, but we know that is occurs at least a year before the Obama/ARGUS scene)!

The clusterfuckery of this time game that DC is playing is akin to, or at least reminds me of, the Zero Hour game of chutes-and-ladders that DC dabbled in back in 1994-2001 where the timeline was always leading up to the current moment, sliding constantly to keep itself “fresh and new.” Add a bit of the “grim” and a bit of the “gritty” and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. But seriously though, what do y’all think!?

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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15 Responses to Chronological Game Changer?

  1. Singh says:

    Not sure if this is a bit late, but maybe Obama just used “a year” as a way of shortening “a year and a quarter ago” because it was too soon to be close to two years?

    • I thought of that, but he distinctly says “last year.” Not “a year ago.” This makes me think that he really means 2008.

      • Singh says:

        Then maybe this event takes place late december with sunny weather due to to global warming and Obama just saying last year because it’s still 2008 and even though it happened almost two years ago it fell in the last year.

        • Not sure if I completely follow your logic there, Singh. The scene in question shows Obama “a couple months into his presidency,” which I take to literally mean March 2009. As I said in the post, there is a possibility that the DCU doesn’t jibe with the real world when it comes to history and inauguration dates. Hell, there’s also a possibility that DC simply just fucked up! It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But suffice to say, I think that it all works out with the Justice League debuting in early 2008. My timeline has already been updated to reflect the info given from this Obama scene. You seem to be fighting it pretty hard though. I’d be curious to know why you are so keen on keeping the JL debut in 2007.

          • Singh says:

            Oh no, it’s just that I’m Canadian, not American, so I thought that because the elections happened in 2008 that is when he became president.

  2. Also, the “Zero Year” spin-offs have shown that Superman debuts a mere month or so after Batman, quickly followed by Green Arrow after that. Thus, our entire chronology is a year shorter than I had originally thought. Bat Years 1 and 2 are actually one and the same. Yay! (Or Yeesh).

    • Sam Groover says:

      Not sure if you’re aware of this: looks like a great resource for New 52 chronology. Looks like it’s got some pretty comprehensive timeline work.

      • Whoa. I had not seen this before. This is some very intensive work. Hats off to its creator. The info-graphics are a bit tough to follow, but I don’t really have a better suggestion for mapping the entire DCU visually. I would personally prefer simpler format akin to the one I use or the one Chris Miller used on his Modern Age Unauthorized DCU Chronology.

        Some things of huge interest to me on Canonology: The author’s “asterisks of editorial shame,” a comprehensive list of undeniable continuity errors on the part of DC’s editors. ALSO, the author’s running with the idea that the “six years ago” and “five years ago” tags are relative to the end of Trinity War/Forever Evil.

        Also nice to see tiptupjr94 and lisonbee as regular contributors on there. (They are also contributors on my site as well).

        Thanks for sharing, Sam.

  3. Sam Groover says:

    I think that timeline snafus like this are the reason I haven’t followed the New 52 very closely thus far. I’ll be a DC fan until I die, but I’ve taken a step back for now to let the picture get a little clearer. After Batman, Incorporated ended, I haven’t actually read any of the issues. I only really followed Morrison’s series because of its implications to the Modern Age.

    I have full intention of catching up, but with all these big events taking place, I’d rather let the dust settle first. It’ll probably be after Zero Year concludes, honestly.

    • Jamison says:

      My thoughts exactly. If the DC editors don’t care whether their books make sense, then why should we? Vote with your dollars. There’s a whole bunch of great collected editions coming out of pre-flashpoint material that are far more deserving of your money. Buy Sandman Overture, Batman: Black and White, Li’l Gotham or Tiny Titans instead if you are looking for an ongoing series to tide you over until the dust settles.

    • Have you heard about Didio’s new BIG IDEA? It has a potential great bearing upon continuity: “5 Years Later”—a take on “One Year Later,” but you get the idea. I’m shaking my head here. With the dust so “unsettled” as things are at the moment, why stir the pot even more? We’ll see. I’m also interested/nervous to see how/if “JL3000” affects the present.

      • Jamison says:

        Hey Collin, sorry its been so long. I’ve been dealing with an extended illness lately. I did hear about the 5 years later thing. I can only attempt to imagine the nightmare that’s going to be in terms of continuity errors persisting for years and years to come. I’m thinking back to the one year later era. How awful the Robin series, Nightwing, and Teen Titans became. I actually didn’t hate James Robinson’s Face the Face story, though. In many ways, one year later was the beginning of the countdownesque editorial model for DC. Here we are again putting up with the same bullshit, but I guess now it’s multiplied times 5.

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