The Other History of the DC Universe Asks Hard Questions About Heroes

For many superhero fans, reading comedian books is much a clamber. Sometimes the continuity can be a trouble, other times the floor doesn ’ thyroxine go the way one expects. But equally distinctive as these facts of the industry are, the one difficulty most endemic to the development of us as a nation is the topic of meaningful representation. Over the years, DC has implemented diverseness to varying degrees of efficacy. however, 2021 saw its most knock-down effort by award-winning screenwriter John Ridley and italian artist Giuseppe Camuncoli ’ s The other History of the DC Universe .
The early History, a five-issue serial, chronicles first-person accounts of versatile characters of color—Jefferson Pierce ( Black Lightning ), Mal and Karen Duncan ( Herald and Bumblebee ), Tatsu Yamashiro ( Katana ), Renee Montoya ( The interrogate ) and Anissa Pierce ( Thunder ) —along with real-world history .
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Each issue spotlights a bomber or heroes recalling their crimefighting careers in their own words, with the timeline set from the actual class they debuted. Black Lightning inaugural appeared in 1977, so we follow Jefferson ’ s perspective of his life sentence leading up to that distributor point, throughout his time as Black Lightning, well into the 1990s during his solo series. Renee Montoya was first seen in Batman comics as separate of the Gotham City Police Department, so we follow her timeline from the 1990s into the early 2010s when she becomes the moment Question.

During these accounts, we ’ re given the heroes ’ thoughts on their colleague DC colleagues, opinions on major shakeups in the respective teams they were members of, such as the Outsiders and the Teen Titans, and opinions on real-world events that affected the area, speaking to their roles as superheroes and their conspicuous absences during atrocities in american history such as the iranian hostage conflict and the murder of Vincent Chin .
It ’ mho that latter point that underscores the rhythm method of birth control of the series. By inhabiting the voices of different characters of color, Ridley displays a composition of rape that reiterates again and again, in ways that both exemplify the truth to the heroes ’ identity and their longing to bring about meaningful justice. It ’ s the merging of real-world events and fabricated histories that recreates the total darkness of the Pierces and the Duncans, the complexities of being a fagot Latina police matron that reifies the theme of person like Renee Montoya, and the maternal nature of Tatsu Yamashiro .
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Where the writers of an older, whiter precaution would cast a youthful renegade like Terra as a villain hired by Deathstroke, Katana would only see a adolescent victim taken advantage of. Where we might see the Bat-Family and the GCPD as the “ good guys, ” Montoya saw them—and herself—as extensions of the department of state that maintained hierarchy through violence. And where Black Lightning saw himself as a torture individual trying to do good, Anissa saw her father Jefferson as a holier-than-thou martyr whose self-righteousness blinded him to her greater electric potential .
The common crunch running through all these accounts is that of visibility. The painful realities which speak to the history of these characters is that their perspectives were so much not regarded by the original writers. Mal and Karen discuss how atrocious Donna Troy ’ s marriage was in how it drew a huge celebratory turnout, so far not one of the Titans had shown up for their marry. There wasn ’ t even an original wedding issue—it happened off-panel .
The return becomes who considers the marriage of Herald and Bumblebee to be noteworthy, and that answer gets followed up by asking who considers Herald and Bumblebee noteworthy to begin with. Too much, characters of color are rendered in complicated ways for readers of color to believe in, either appearing in the background ( sometimes with the need to squint ) or disappearing entirely. The other History of the DC Universe not lone focuses on their lives, but the DC Universe in their eyes, becoming a catalyst for Ridley ’ s—and our—critique.

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many classical elements of the heroes ’ canon are brought to the fore and put to a more critical eye. Why can ’ t the Justice League intervene in external conflict ? Why don ’ t early heroes speak up for the curious members of their family ? Who precisely benefits from maintaining the status quo when the ones that help maintain those parameters end up disproportionally negatively affected by it ?
Despite everything, The early History of the DC Universe international relations and security network ’ t a depress bible. Beyond the pessimism and the testify negligence of both the heroes and caretakers of the brand from decades past, the book ’ s very universe and unblinking exposure to these heroes, with their most personal and dimensional voices carrying us through the highs and lows of the DCU, reconstructs the universe as a more amply inhabited and credible world. It fills in the care missing from the past while making a promise for the future .
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With I Am Batman ( again by John Ridley ), The Milestone Initiative, N.K. Jemison ’ s Far Sector, the late DC Festival of Heroes : The asian Superhero Celebration a good as the bulge of thwart representation in the pages of Batman : urban Legends and Superman : son of Kal-El, the DC comics of today are informing and inspiring what ’ mho to come after. John Ridley understand and appreciated these disparate characters over the years, as did many of us, and used his voice to enhance theirs. It ’ s a celebration of DC as pure and wholehearted as any that ’ mho been made in a farseeing prison term and an absolute must for any fan of the universe, both young and honest-to-god.

The Other History of the DC Universe by John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi is now available in bookstores, amusing shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel .
Donovan Morgan Grant writes about comics, graphic novels and superhero history for Follow him on chirrup at @ donoDMG1 .

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