Will DC Comics really abandon their long-standing publishing model and leave a shared continuity across their titles behind? As with Marvel Comics, the majority of DC’s narratives and characters have all existed within the same shared universe in some degree or another for decades. However, rumors persist that DC Comics is on the cusp of leaving that model behind, opting instead to have continuity be limited simply within individual titles, supposedly to attract new readers and provide greater license for creators. However, this seems like a pretty risky move for a variety of reasons.
It’s not hard to see the logic in the potential new direction. DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros. which has recently been purchased by AT&T. No doubt the conglomerate is looking to increase their returns from their new acquisition. It’s no secret that more isolated titles such as Doomsday Clock and Batman: Three Jokers have had pretty great sales numbers (not to mention DC’s line of Young Adult novels and more adult Black Label books). DC Comics could be thinking to attribute that same success line-wide. However, this seems like an assumption that more equals better which theoretically means more profit.
The rumors come from Bleeding Cool (and have yet to be confirmed by DC Comics), which states the importance of the Chronicler, the Watcher of the Omniverse, a new character seen in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Death Metal. According to Rich Johnston, The Chronicler will be featured in a new narrative some time after DC’s Future State next year which will usher in the concept of a Omniveral story model, where each new story will possibly be set on its own Earth and/or multiverse. In this way, titles only have to rely on their own continuities, while still being a narrative that “matters” in the grander scope of the omniverse.
While this omniversal concept may work in theory, it seems as though there’s a pretty good amount of risk involved. If the first stories told in the new direction fall flat and aren’t engaging enough, DC Comics could have a very real crisis on their hands (not just the fictional ones they create for their heroes). While the goals for this proposed initiative would seemingly be to attract new readers and provide less narrative restrictions, it could just as easily alienate DC’s current readership, who have been used to a shared universe across titles for years. If this is indeed the route DC Comics plans to go down within the next year, they’d better be confident that the stories they put out right off the bat under this new model are ringers and aces.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to forego the shared universe in the comics, especially considering that’s what Warner Bros. has been striving to establish in their DC films, it could work to have their comics be more isolated and stand on their own (some films are starting to be isolated as well like Joker, with great success). The potential exists to give narratives more freedom to be creative without having to worry about who died when and who’s doing what elsewhere in the DC Universe, which could be beneficial.
Of course… the shared universe exists in the first place because it has entertainment value and draws of its own. So long as DC Comics can provide an equal if not better value, they should be okay. However, that’s easier said than done–hence the risk should the gamble be more trouble than expected.