Superheroes have a very long history in comics with a vast set of stories and mythology to build the character and the powers they possess. With these stories though, continuity becomes difficult for writers and artists who are told to expand these heroes universe as well as keeping to the canon. I mean to think, Superman was created in Action Comics in 1938, and stories are still being told about this character. It is astounding there are still stories to tell. It becomes a challenge, which publishers have tried to remedy through reboots.
Another trick, which DC comics in particular has been very good a grasping, is the using the concept of a legacies. Some masked heroes in history have transcended the characters who originated the mask they donned everyday like Zorro. This was a hero who fought against the tyrannical government in Mexico at the time. In the movie, “The Mask of Zorro,” the people of Mexico only knew this masked hero as Zorro, not knowing the mantle had been passed between multiple characters. This is something DC understood and used in the universe they created.
While some characters still have not passed their cape to another, like Superman, major crucial characters have either retired or died leaving their name open for others in the universe to don. One such example is the Flash. This is a very old and important superhero with a very simple concept, a funny charming man gains the ability to run fast, really fast. Because this is a simple concept, multiple characters are able to fill the shoes of the Flash. Currently, four characters have donned the mask of the Flash: Barry Allen, Wally West, Bart Allen and Jay Garrick.
Allowing for this concept of a legacy has made it easier for writers to scratch that creative itch a create a completely new character and stories, which go along with the character while also keeping the Flash alive. This also makes it refreshing for readers who love the costume but still want a fresh look. The Flash is not the only one though that DC has been bold enough too change over time.
Batman is also a costume who relatively recently has been worn by multiple characters who handle situations in very different ways. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson have both played their role as Batman and the change only amplified interest in the legacy of Batman. Critics loved Dick Grayson reluctantly becoming Batman. While it could be said many enjoyed Grayson’s new role as Batman because of Grant Morrison’s writing, the refreshing difference in the characters approach to the world in his new suit proved most successful.
This tactic in changing a continuity heavy universe is sadly not used enough in the world of superheroes. Characters mortality lose weight in the stories written around them and puts readers, like me, in a difficult situation. While I love the superhero, I want someone knew and something knew. In time, many stories have to be retold for characters who are so story rich and who are so old. It becomes redundant.
It can also become to convoluted and confusing, especially for newcomers to the comic book. When getting new and more readers is crucial to surviving and making money, why do companies such as Marvel expect new readers to understand the very rich background of wolverine or cyclops. While Marvel is moving towards the concept of the legacy with Spiderman, it needs to be more heavily pushed by either writers or publishers.
DC is not the first to start the idea of the legacy, but hopefully they are multiple legacies inspire other publishers to kill or retire their characters and fill the costumes with someone else. Superheroes need to be refreshing for new readers and old.