It’s a fairly universally accepted fact that the continuity of DC Comics can be challenging. If someone asked you where to start reading, or how one series connects into another, it can really get difficult.
Collected Editions Blogger has put together The Unofficial DC Comics Paperback Timeline, an eBook that helps make sense of the timeline of over 800 different collected volumes. Whether you are new to the DC Universe or a longtime reader, this is a great resource to comics fans.
Recently, I had the chance to get in contact with CEB about this project, which helps make sense of the company’s chronology.
What made you want to put together a chronology of DC’s trades?
I started “waiting for the trade” a few years before I began the Collected Editions blog. I was tired of waiting six months to finish reading a story in single issues, and also of all the advertisements in the issues. A couple years later when DC and many other publishers began releasing collections routinely (as I talk about in the introduction to the DC Trade Paperback Timeline ebook), there was greater continuity between trades; DC published trades that were specifically branded as tie-ins to event miniseries, for instance, or characters would finish an arc in one trade and their story would continue in another. This cross-trade continuity was interesting to me, and I created the timeline so that I and others could keep track of how DC’s trades fit together from the beginning of the current DC Universe to the present.
Were there any anomalies that you encountered as far as continuity?
I encountered plenty of anomalies working on the timeline — that’s part of what makes it so useful and fun! The Hawkworld anomaly is one famous one (one Hawkman appears from Legends through Hawkworld, and then that Hawkman is retroactively replaced by another one). There’s lots of times that books published at the same time don’t fit, like when Superboy Connor Kent is resurrected after Final Crisis but the Teen Titans title acts like he’s dead almost until Blackest Night. There’s also plenty of changes to continuity as the timeline progresses — Superman gets a couple new origins and so does Green Lantern, and these changes are presented at the appropriate time to read them.
What was the biggest surprise you found out about their timeline during your research?
I always enjoy finding unexpected continuity among the collections on the DC Timeline, especially among the older books. It’s not so surprising — but still pretty cool — that the recent Batman: Life After Death and Arkham Reborn show the same scene from different perspectives; it’s more surprising that Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina, Time Masters, and Justice League International Vol. 5, all collecting issues from the early 1990s, share scenes in common.
And every once in a while, a trade will unintentionally open up a “lost” corner of the DC Universe. Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 4, for instance, is one of the few trades to collect a Crisis on Infinite Earths tie-in issue; Shazam: The Greatest Stories Ever Told is one of the few to collect a War of the Gods tie-in issue; Hitman: A Rage in Arkham is the only trade to collect a Bloodlines annual (I’m still waiting for a collection to include an Armageddon 2001 annual!). It’s always fun when I encounter something like that.
How long did it take you to finish the book?
I’ve been constantly updating the DC Trade Paperback Timeline online with new trades at Collected Editions for about six years. I’ve been planning the Timeline ebook for a while, but from when I began to partner with Smashwords (who distributes the ebook), it was about two months until I announced the ebook at Collected Editions.
Are there any other time lines that you plan on doing in the future?
I’ve had some interesting conversations about that since the DC Trade Timeline ebook came out, actually, but I’m not ready to announce anything yet. I do plan more ebooks however, with subject matter that I think will be interesting to fans of the Collected Editions blog overall.
Who are your favorite DC characters?
I’ve collected Superman comics for a very long time and I probably always will. I’ve enjoyed many different series over the years, though — Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman, Gotham Central, and Checkmate; Geoff Johns’s original Flash run and his first JSA series; Gail Simone’s Secret Six; Judd Winick’s Outsiders; and Grant Morrison’s recent Final Crisis and Batman work are all favorites, among many, many more.
Were there any creators that you were in contact with while compiling this? Have you heard any response/feedback from anyone at DC?
I compiled the DC TPB Timeline all on my own, but a while back then-DC Collected Editions editor Anton Kawasaki called the DC TPB Timeline a “great resource,” which was a thrill. Through the Collected Editions site I’ve had the privilege of interacting with DC creators including Gail Simone, Sterling Gates, Eric Trautmann, and Mark Verheiden, and just last year I interviewed Adam Beechen.
If someone who is having trouble grasping DC’s history, how would you explain it to them?
Until very recently, DC’s history could be grasped, in a broad sense, if you understood the Justice Society and the Justice League, and the New Titans and Young Justice. In terms of story history, DC’s heroes came about mainly during World War II as the Justice Society, and they were followed by the familiar heroes of the Justice League like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Sidekicks like Batman’s Robin and the Flash’s Kid Flash formed the Teen Titans; Robin grew up and became Nightwing and Kid Flash replaced the deceased Flash, and eventually new sidekicks formed Young Justice and their own Teen Titans.
DC’s history was one of generations: the Justice Society, the Justice League, and the Titans, and assorted younger and older sidekicks.
With the advent of the DC New 52 continuity, the Justice League are now the world’s first superheroes; mostly only Batman has had sidekicks working with him as various incarnations of Robin. The DC universe consists of other dimensions or “Earths,” including Earth 2, which includes some iteration of the Justice Society.
So where would you recommend someone just getting into the DC universe to start reading?
In terms of how to start reading about the DC Universe, I encourage fans to jump in anywhere. I learned about the DC Universe by reading and then reading more and reading back issues, and I reject the notion that comics continuity scares off new readers; instead I think part of the joy is finding references you don’t understand and reading older stories to fill in the gaps. Crossovers (or their aftermaths) are good places to start reading, however; DC created a “jumping on” point for their titles just after Infinite Crisis, but starting at the beginning of Countdown to Infinite Crisis is good too. Adventurous readers, however, could start just after Zero Hour or even with Legends, the first crossover of the post-Crisis on Infinite Earth’s DC universe. Of course, the DC New 52 relaunch is also designed with new readers in mind.
The Unofficial DC Trade Paperback Timeline is available from Smashwords in all ebook formats, including Kindle, Nook, iPad, Sony Reader, and even desktop computer reading; it’s also available from the Nook bookstore and the iBookstore.