So DC’s massive Convergence event – in which basically the entire DCU is going on hold for two months while a load of past versions of characters get smooshed together for a big universe-crossover that is in no way similar to the one Marvel are doing almost immediately afterwards – kicks off in earnest next week (after an introductory zero issue this Wednesday). And to celebrate, the publisher has been running a Road to Convergence sale on Comixology, designed to give confused readers an entry point into their history of multiverses and reboots.
Unfortunately, said sale basically just consists of the assorted miniseries – Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Flashpoint and so on – in which said reboots have occurred, along with a couple of New 52-era minis that set up some of the plot of Convergence itself. So none of them are really much help if you want to get a handle on the old incarnations of characters that will suddenly start appearing for two-issue minis in April and May. And that’s where we come in. Instead of giving you a guide to which of the previous crossovers are worth buying, we’ve gone through every single one of the upcoming miniseries and picked a single, individual comic you can buy digitally that we feel in some way introduces, encapsulates, or otherwise explains the character. And yes, we even got one for Hawkman.
First, though, a quick summary of how Convergence is going to work. Aside from the main nine-part miniseries, which will tell the actual story of the crossover, each of the two-part even-minier-series (microseries?) hops to the “dome” into which a particular character or group from a particular era of DC’s history has been placed, and (we presume) tells a short self-contained story about them there. Each of the four weeks deals with a different era, although the names they’ve given them in the solicitations are slightly confusing, so we’ve done our best to explain what each one means before we get into the lists proper.
Obviously some of these recommendations come with a stronger seal of approval than others (as some of these characters are ones that we’ve never really had an interest in ourselves), but hopefully each issue we’ve chosen should be able to give you a handle on them if that’s what you want. We’ve also tried to go for single, self-contained issues wherever possible.
Pre-Flashpoint (Week One)
The first week jumps back to before the most recent reboot, with the “pre-Flashpoint” DCU. Essentially, this is everything from around the mid-1990s (specifically, after the Zero Hour crossover in 1994) up until the New 52 relaunch in 2011 – although in practice, the books are actually mostly concentrated on a five-year period which began after the “soft reboot” of Infinite Crisis and 52 in 2006.
The Ray Palmer incarnation of the Atom, who had been around since the Silver Age and survived an Original Crisis reboot, was taken off the board by the events of Identity Crisis in 2004; and after Infinite Crisis a new series was launched with a new Atom called Ryan Choi. Ryan was controversially killed during 2010’s Brightest Day event, but both characters look set to feature in this title.
Suggested issue: All New Atom #1 (2006) – The first issue of Gail Simone and John Byrne’s relaunched run which introduced Ryan and was a good take on DC’s “legacy hero” tradition.
STEPH BROWN STEPH BROWN STEPH BROWN. Batgirl for all of like five minutes circa 2009, and Robin for even shorter a time than that. But a hugely beloved character thanks to her status as a major supporting character in the Robin series of the mid-to-late ’90s, where she was a vigilante named Spoiler and an on-off love interest for Tim Drake. She’s great.
Suggested issue: Batgirl #1 (2009) – The first issue of Steph’s all-too-shortlived solo series, by Bryan Q. Miller and Lee Garbett.
Batman & Robin
Okay, so DC are cheating a little bit by calling this “pre-Flashpoint” – as the original Batman and Robin run featured Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne up until the 2011 relaunch, after which it became Bruce and Damian (the stars of this mini). But you could check out pretty much anything from either pre- or post-Flashpoint and it’d be worth a read.
Suggested issue: Batman & Robin #1 (2009) – Damian’s very first issue as Robin in the aftermath of Batman RIP. It’s a Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely comic. Crime is doomed.
Slightly surprised DC are doing this one, as Harley has become much more popular in her Arkham games-inspired post-2011 form than in her original, Animated Series-based take. But it’s nice to see the “real” Harley back, even if only temporarily.
Suggested issue: Batman: Harley and Ivy #1 (2004) – Although the Eisner-winning one-shot Mad Love is obviously the best Harley comic, it’s not in regular DC continuity. But Harley and Ivy, also by B:TAS creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, is. And it’s brilliantly hilarious, and is relevant to this mini as it’s got Poison Ivy in as well.
Rather than being based on any of the post Infinite Crisis Justice League lineups, all of which were mostly terrible, this is actually a newly-constructed, all-female group consisting of Supergirl, Zatanna, Vixen, Jade, Jesse Quick and Mera. So there aren’t any previous series that can really get you a handle on them as a group. As such I’m going to pick one of them to recommend a comic about instead…
Suggested issue: Zatanna #1 (2010) – I like Zatanna a lot, and so does Paul Dini, who wrote this ongoing series that I’ve never actually read myself. But it was well-reviewed at the time, and she’s a great character, so it’s surely worth a look.
Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon reunite in their own title again. And precisely nobody in the world is shocked that Gail Simone writes it.
Suggested issue: Batgirl: Year One #4 (2003) – I’ve written before about just how bloody much I love this series. And for Dick and Babs fans, issue #4 tells the story of their first meeting (they actually briefly meet in issues #2 and #3 as well, but properly interact for the first time in this one).
After becoming the Question in one of the best plot strands of 52, Renee Montoya somewhat criminally never actually got given her own headlining title, before then being retconned out of existence by the New 52. The closest she got was a series of backup strips in Detective Comics, but we can’t really recommend one of those (as good as the main Batwoman strips also are) just for the sake of an eight-pager with her in…
Suggested issue: Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood #1 (2007) – … so check out the first of this five-part miniseries by Greg Rucka, and the rest if you like it. Rucka didn’t actually create Renee – she was a Batman supporting character in the mid ’90s first – but he wrote her first in Gotham Central (along with Ed Brubaker) and then basically all her stories as the Question.
Despite the potentially misleading title, this is essentially a post-Crisis Flash comic. Wally West had a twenty-year run as the main Flash, part of which was his final sixteen-issue run in which his two speed-powered children (also featured in Speed Force) appeared. But rather than dealing with Wally’s later years (in which he was pretty badly sidelined by DC in favour of a succession of other characters), we’ll go back to his glory days of the mid-to-late 1990s.
Suggested issue: The Flash #91 (1994) – While it’s part of a larger ongoing story, this issue from Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s seminal run stands alone quite well and is a really inventive exploration of the Flash’s super-speed powers, as well as being an early introduction to the whole “Speed Force” concept itself.
This title seems to centre around a married Clark and Lois – and Lois expecting a baby, to boot. This suggests that they date from a time after the actual reboot (they hadn’t got as far as Lois being pregnant pre-2011), but the fact that it’s being written by Dan Jurgens suggests a more early-90s aesthetic to the whole thing.
Suggested issue: Superman: The Wedding Album (1996) – And for that reason, we’re going all the way back to the comic in which Clark and Lois actually got married, as that serves as a good join between the earlier post-Crisis days and their actual status as of this book. It also contains the last ever published work of legendary Superman artists Curt Swan (published six months after his death) and Al Plastino. Oh, and it’s 96 pages long and (at the time of writing) entirely free on Comixology.
Oh, dear me. I’m amazed that DC would even want to remind anyone of the existence of the godawful late-2000s Titans series, not to mention the legendarily bad Rise of Arsenal special that followed. But here we are. These are decent characters, so Fabian Nicieza’s two-parter might not be bad at all – but it’s the memories they dredge up that are the problem.
Suggested issue: Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #3 (2010) – Okay, look, if we can’t recommend anything good, then you may as well have a look at what might just be the worst single issue that DC Comics have ever published. Just to sate your curiosity, if nothing else.
Pre-Zero Hour (Week Two)
1994’s Zero Hour wasn’t really as much of a full-on reboot as DC seem to like to imply nowadays that it was. While it allowed them to tidy up certain messy elements from post-Crisis and with their B- and C-list heroes, there were plenty of characters and storylines (most notably the likes of Superman and Batman) that simply carried on right the way through it. Nevertheless, they’ve chosen it as an arbitrary break-point for the Convergence strata, and it does sort of make sense from an aesthetic point of view. So everything featured in this week dates from in between 1986’s Crisis and 1994. In other words, this is the week that most closely lines up with All The Stuff I Was Reading As A Kid And Still Like A Lot These Days.
Poor old Aquaman. Has anyone ever really been interested in him, aside from Geoff Johns and Peter David? DC attempted to give him a fresh and exciting revamp post-Crisis (with a fancy new blue costume to match), but even that didn’t take hold in the same way as it had for just about everyone else. He lost his hand and grew his beard just before/during Zero Hour, but as that seems to be the version of the character this mini is about, that’s the one to be looking at.
Suggested issue: Aquaman #0 (1994) – This Zero Hour tie-in is actually only the third issue of Peter David’s 1994-launched ongoing series. It’s the issue immediately after Arthur loses his hand, and the one in which he gets his harpoon replacement.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat
It is Space Year 2015 and DC are publishing a comic with Jean-Paul Valley in it. Amazing.
Suggested issue: Batman #500 (1993) – Jean-Paul had taken over as Batman a few issues earlier, but this is the special-length issue in which he debuts the “AzBats” costume and defeats Bane. Unfortunately, when buying digitally you don’t get the amazing die-cut fold-out cover, but you can’t have everything.
Selina Kyle wasn’t quite at her best in the 1990s – you’d have to argue that the Ed Brubaker early 2000s series was obviously much better, and benefited from not having that terrible purple costume – but that earlier era did much to establish her as a morally ambiguous anti-hero, rather than a straight up supervillain. Her best appearance of the time was in the Hitman storyline “Ace of Killers”, but as we should really be focusing on her own book…
Suggested issue: Catwoman #1 (1993) – … then check out the first issue of her fairly decent (to begin with, anyway) solo series, by Jo Duffy and Jim Balent.
Post-Crisis Oliver Queen is one of DC’s greatest creative success stories of the era. Relaunched by writer/artist Mike Grell in a gritty interpretation that re-cast him as a violent, urban vigilante and occasional mercenary who doesn’t even call himself “Green Arrow” at any point (hey, sound familiar?) he enjoyed a superb 80-issue run until 1993, before a change in writer saw his death and replacement by son Connor Hawke just after Zero Hour.
Suggested issue: Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1 (1987) – Start with the first issue of this seminal, character-relaunching miniseries. And if you like it, read the rest of it and head straight on to the ongoing series, too. You won’t regret it.
Hal Jordan got a pretty raw deal of it in the ’80s and ’90s. He didn’t get a post-Crisis relaunch the way most of his contemporaries did, as his title instead became Green Lantern Corps in 1986. After that book’s cancellation, his own relaunch finally came in 1989, with the Emerald Dawn series that retold his origin and led into a new ongoing series. But he only lasted a few short years in that book before being driven insane, killed (in Zero Hour, specifically), and replaced with Kyle Rayner. Yay for Hal.
Suggested issue: Green Lantern #200 (1986) – Emerald Dawn isn’t on Comixology, annoyingly, and neither is the issue of Secret Origins (#36) that came out just beforehand, recaps his origin even more succinctly and sets up the new book’s status quo. The 1990 onwards series really isn’t very good even before all the madness and death, so let’s instead go way back to this issue – published just after Crisis, it’s the last GL issue to be published under a solo name before the relaunch.
Justice League International
BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA! The post-crisis incarnation of the Justice League became a character-driven comedy almost by accident, as the inability to use most of the big hitters led to a team of B-list heroes (plus Batman) and, from writers Keith Giffen and J.M. deMatteis and artist Kevin Maguire, a bold new approach to make the book stand out. The result just happens to be one of the greatest comics ever published.
Suggested issue: Justice League International #23 (1989) – The two absolute funniest issues of JLI – #8 and Annual #3 – aren’t on Comixology (sigh, DC. SIGH.) But this one isn’t far off, introducing as it does the occasional hapless antatonists The Injustice League. If you get the chance, though, reading the whole series (and the collected editions are available digitally) is definitely something you should do.
In the public eye recently thanks to the fact that they’ve got a movie about them, of course. Like many of the best late ’80s DC series, John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell’s Suicide Squad is one that really rewards just starting at the beginning and getting your teeth into it. The lineup changes quite a lot over the course of the series – and indeed, it looks like the Convergence mini will include characters who were never on the team in the original run – but it’s more about the concept and a handful of central characters than about getting to know specific (expendable) members.
Suggested issue: Suicide Squad #10 (1988) – One of the few relatively self-contained issues from the early part of the run, this is a good one to dip into if you don’t want to just start at the beginning, as it’s a good example of Amanda Waller and her devious ways. Plus, it’s got Batman in it.
The single most 1990s superhero that has ever been created, but to be fair to the character later known as Kon-El, he was specifically designed that way. As one of the replacement Supermen in the wake of The Death of Superman, he was a brash, wisecracking, leather-jacket-wearing clone teenager who said things like “Fresh!” all the time. Following a personality transplant he became a popular member of Young Justice and later the Teen Titans, but he was always that bit more fun in this form.
Suggested issue: Adventures of Superman #501 (1993) – Notwithstanding the fact that it comes in the middle of the whole Death/Return storyline (but come on, it’s hardly difficult to get your head around), Superboy’s actual first proper appearance is a pretty great standalone introduction to him. Is this because he’s a completely one-dimensional character? Maybe, but it’s enjoyable fluff all the same.
The first post-Crisis Supergirl, introduced at the tail-end of John Byrne’s run but with her origins developed further by the creative teams that followed, is one of the weirdest characters DC ever created. We don’t have the several paragraphs it would require to explain her fully, but basically: she’s an artificial organic life-form with shape-shifting powers named “Matrix” who was created in an alternate universe by a (non-evil) Lex Luthor and modelled variously on Supergirl and Lana Lang. She eventually found her way into the regular DC universe, with the help of Superman and the Kent parents, but fell in love with Lex Luthor II (who was, er, actually the original Lex in a cloned body pretending to be his own son) due to his resemblance to her creator. She was never really much more than an ersatz character (although I liked her anyway), and eventually merged with a dying girl called Linda Danvers to become a new incarnation in Peter David’s late ’90s Supergirl run.
Suggested issue: Action Comics #677 (1992) – Set just after Supergirl meets Lex II for the first time, this story basically serves as her introduction to the world after her confused years as Matrix, and sets into motion her storylines for the next couple of years – and it’s drawn by Jackson “Butch” Guice, one of my favourite artists of that era. Contains a handier summary of her origins than I managed to express above, too.
Superman: The Man of Steel
The last of the ’90s Superman-era characters to be featured here is John Henry Irons, aka Steel. He was another of the “replacement Supermen”, but remained more enduring than most, becoming a mainstay of the DC universe and even getting a (dreadful) movie in 1997 in the process.
Suggested issue: Superman: The Man of Steel #22 (1993) – Just like Superboy, John’s introductory issue basically does all the setup you could basically want for him. Great creative team once again in the shape of Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove.
Pre-Crisis (Week Three)
Keeping things nice and straightforward, these are versions of the characters as they existed prior to DC’s first reboot, Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985/6. Of course, this is a much longer period of time than the other groupings, as theoretically these books could go back to the start of the Silver Age in 1956 (Golden Age characters are taken care of by the next section). But for the most part, it’s generally late ’70s or early ’80s comics that are being riffed on.
Adventures of Superman
This seems to be as much a showcase for the pre-Crisis version of Supergirl (still the best version of the character, for what it’s worth) as for Supes himself. Introduced in 1959, the original Kara eventually became the headlining character in Adventure Comics before graduating to her own titles in the 1970s and 1980s. She was killed off in Crisis, and it wouldn’t be until 2004 that a post-Crisis version of Kara herself (as opposed to Matrix) was created.
Suggested issue: Superman #423 (1986) – Neither of Kara’s solo series are on Comixology at all, and nor is any of her Adventure Comics run. Her first ever appearance, in Action Comics #252, is on there, but it’s really not representative of the character she would later become (not least because it features Superman’s dick move of having her hide in an orphanage instead of being allowed to be a superhero). So let’s go with her very last published appearance, in the heartbreaking first half of Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
Batman and the Outsiders
The 1980s series in which Batman sacked off the Justice League and went and formed his own team with the likes of Geo-Force and Metamorpho. He left within three years. Way to commit to an idea, Bruce.
Suggested issue: Batman and the Outsiders #1 (1983) – I’ve never actually read any of this series, but I feel confident recommending its first issue purely on that cover alone.
Pre-Crisis, the Flash was of course Barry Allen rather than Wally West. Actually, given that that’s also been the case since he was brought back to life in 2009, and is also the case on television, it’s not really a qualifier we need to make any more, is it? Anyway, Barry is pretty integral to the structure of DC’s multiverses and reboots: the first ever multiverse story was in his comic (when he met the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick), and his first appearance in 1956 is generally accepted as the beginning of the Silver Age.
Suggested issue: Secret Origins Annual #2 (1988) – Thanks to the split format of Secret Origins, you get a Barry story and a Wally story here. The Barry one is the real draw, though: it’s a beautiful tale that ties together his origin with his death in Crisis, turning his life into an infinite loop. And it’s drawn by his original co-creator, Carmine Infantino.
Green Lantern Corps
As mentioned above, the Green Lantern ongoing series became Green Lantern Corps just after the Crisis. But in truth, that was a belated name change: for several years beforehand, the book had already become as much about John Stewart and Guy Gardner, and the rest of the Corps, as it was about Hal.
Suggested issue: Green Lantern #188 (1985) – Recommended less for the main story, which sees John Stewart dealing with the ramifications of making his identity public on Earth, than for the short Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backup. Even if you’ve never read a Green Lantern comic before you may well have heard of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize”. If you don’t know how it ends… well, read it for yourself.
There have been so many different versions and interpretations of Hawkman that I’m not even sure DC know which one is in play at any given time. The 1980s were one of his most confusing times (he was a character that Crisis managed to make more complicated, rather than less), and just prior to Tim Truman’s quite celebrated Hawkworld reinterpretation in 1989 came this attempt by writer Tony Isabella. It started as a four-part miniseries subtitled Shadow War in 1985, before leading to a short-lived ongoing series.
Suggested issue: The Shadow War of Hawkman #1 (1985) – I’ve no idea if this is any good or not, as I’ve only ever read about five issues of things with Hawkman in. But it’s fairly well-regarded, and there are so few comics about the version of Katar being featured in Convergence that it’s about the only thing to recommend.
Justice League America
Also known as the “Detroit” Justice League (because they were based in… Detroit), this was the lineup that was in place for a much-maligned period in the mid-1980s, as DC attempted to capitalise on the success of various teen-focused books (namely Marvel’s, and a certain one mentioned below) by disbanding the original League and replacing them with a younger and less A-list group. It didn’t really work; and the team was unceremoniously dismantled during Legends, the first major crossover storyline to happen post-Crisis, and replaced with the JLI.
Suggested issue: Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984) – If you really must (and most would suggest you don’t, but) then this is the annual that introduces the new lineup. As it’s an annual, it’s at least pretty self-contained.
New Teen Titans
Now this, on the other hand, was a shameless attempt to ape the success of the X-Men that succeeded admirably. One of the most influential series of its era, Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans was a brilliant, youth-orientated, character-focused drama that also happened to feature Dick Grayson and Donna Troy going around punching things. What more could you want from a comic? The only downside to the series is that it’s also basically responsible for the existence of Justice League Detroit.
Suggested issue: The New Teen Titans #2 (1980) – The second issue of the series introduces one of its most enduring creations: the villain Deathstroke the Terminator (the latter half of his name would be quietly dropped following the success of a certain James Cameron movie, despite predating it). It’s one of my all-time favourites.
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes
The Legion, of course, have an even more complicated continuity and timeline than Hawkman. I was so, so tempted to recommend Action Comics #591, in which the post-Crisis Superman finds himself trapped in the “pocket universe” in which the pre-Crisis Superboy that was a member of the Legion still exists, because it’s one of my favourite comics ever. But even I’m not that cruel.
Suggested issue: Adventure Comics #247 (1958) – Instead, get yourself a bit of proper, old-school Silver Age fun with the first ever appearance of the Legion, in which they arrive from the 30th Century to trial Superboy for membership, then coldly reject him for being rubbish, then PSYCHE! actually they loved him all along and know everything about his future life. Oh, you crazy kids.
Lein Wein returns to the character that he co-created, although of course it was the work of Alan Moore in the early 1980s that really exploded his popularity and significance to comics. Interesting to note that while it’s Wein writing this, the solicitation copy mentions “The Green”, a Moore-initiated concept.
Suggested issue: The Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 (1983) – Only one place to start with Swampy, and that’s “The Anatomy Lesson”. The second issue of Moore’s run, but essentially the first (his actual first issue saw him tying up a few loose ends with the previous interpretation of the character) it’s hence one of the most important comics ever written.
The solicitation copy for issue #1 of this mini names WW as “Diana Prince”, and the second issue makes reference to a “jumpsuit”; so we can assume that, despite being shown in her regular costume on the covers, this is indeed going to be a tale from the 1968-1973 run in which, powerless, she fought crime in a very Emma Peel-inspired costume(s) and setup.
Suggested issue: Wonder Woman #179 (1968) – Diana stopped wearing her traditional costume as of the previous issue, but #179 is the one in which she gives up her powers. It’s got a good pedigree, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Mike Sekowsky (who also did the early ’70s Supergirl issues of Adventure Comics that I’m quite a fan of).
Multiple Earths (Week Four)
So as I’m sure you know, DC used to have all these alternate universes, something that sprang out of their first shift in continuity in the 1950s. It was established that the then-current versions of heroes like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash lived on “Earth-One”, while the older heroes that had been around since the 1930s and 1940s were all alive and well on “Earth-Two”. From there, the Multiverse spiralled and snowballed, until DC decided in the 1980s that it had all got a bit too over-complicated and did Crisis on Infinite Earths to fold them all back into one. Only it turned out that it didn’t really simplify things at all, and so two decades later, Infinite Crisis and 52 established that there were now, in fact, 52 different worlds after all (of which the “main” one has been variously known as New Earth, Prime Earth and Earth-0). That’s a premise that’s held true despite the Flashpoint/New 52 reboot – in fact, said reboot has given DC the chance to more firmly lock down what all the different realities are, courtesy of Grant Morrison’s current Multiversity series and Guidebook.
(pre-Crisis Earth-2 / New 52 Earth-30)
Aside from the original (i.e. Golden Age) Earth-2 Superman and Power Girl (Earth-2’s Kara Zor-L), this mini will also feature characters from Mark Millar’s 2003 Elseworlds series Red Son – which has been recently established as Earth-30 in the new Multiverse.
Suggested issue: Superman: Red Son #1 (2003) – Obviously it makes sense to start with the first issue of the mini, which establishes and begins to play with the concept. But if you like it, the rest is also worth a read.
When DC acquired the rights to the characters of soon-to-be-defunct publisher Charlton Comics in the early 1980s, they folded them into regular DC continuity (after a brief flirtation with the idea of letting Alan Moore use them for Watchmen) by creating an Earth-4 that was promptly merged in with the others in Crisis. In 52, however, the reestablished multiverse contained a new Earth-4 on which alternate versions of the likes of Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and The Question from the ones that were actually on New Earth lived; and the Flashpoint reboot further established that they now only exist on their own Earth.
Suggested issue: The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1 (2014) – The first New 52 comic to feature most of the Charlton characters (Captain Atom did have his own short-lived series after the initial relaunch), this is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely basically doing a parody of Watchmen fused with their own distinct storytelling style. It was the best single comic released last year, basically. It’s not the version of the characters that are going to appear in the Convergence miniseries, but the original Earth-4 was both established and destroyed during Crisis, so there are literally no comics from it to recommend.
Booster’s history is neatly summed up by the greatest song ever written about comics; but in short, having started life as a bloke who came back from the 25th century to 1985 Metropolis to make a career as a superhero, he’s now DC’s premiere timeline-hopping hero, and seems to be at least part of the key to the crossover between worlds that is Convergence.
Suggested issue: Booster Gold #1 (2007) – Arriving in the wake of his star turn in 52, this is the ongoing series that established Booster’s new timeline-fixing status quo.
Earth-3 was the “inverse” version of our world, where almost all the super-powered characters were evil – Ultraman, Owl Man, Superwoman, Power Ring and the rest – and Lex Luthor was the only hero. It’s one of the few multiverse premises that’s tended to endure throughout DC’s continuity, even when there weren’t technically supposed to be multiple earths.
Suggested issue: JLA: Earth 2 (2000) – Such as in this brilliant graphic novel (which means it’s more expensive than a single issue, sorry) by Morrison and Quitely. Because multiple earths weren’t a thing back then, Morrison has his new Crime Syndicate and Not Evil Lex come from an “anti-matter universe” instead. But with hindsight, they can be easily repurposed as a precursor to the current Earth-3 versions.
Part of the premise of the original Multiverse was that Earth-2 was more advanced chronologically than Earth-1 (hence why its heroes were older). This was probably best explored with the Batman family of characters, where an older Dick Grayson took up the mantle after Bruce Wayne’s death alongside his daughter Helena Wayne (the original Huntress).
Suggested issue: Adventure Comics #462 (1979) – The death of the original, Golden Age Batman. Yep, you heard right.
Following on from the idea of Earth-2 moving at a faster pace, Infinity, Inc. were a superhero team made up of the children of the former Justice Society of America members. Their original run was short-lived – they debuted just two years before Crisis – but the characters were all successfully (albeit some more successfully than others) folded into main DC continuity after that. Except for Power Girl, none have appeared in the New 52 yet (perhaps because the new Earth-2’s characters are much younger than their original counterparts), so their current status is unclear.
Suggested issue: Infinity, Inc. #1 (1984) – Makes sense to start with the first issue of their Roy Thomas-written series, really. If you do decide to carry on with the series, though, note that only the first ten issues are on Comixology, and some of them are only in black and white.
Justice Society of America
And here come the parents. The JSA were a quite problematic element of the DC Universe post-Crisis: as their histories were tied up with the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (who had all been rebooted, with their Earth-2 equivalents basically no longer existing) it was difficult to have them just kicking around normally after the merge, because of the questions of “Well, hang on, when did you do this, and why wasn’t Superman there?” that would arise. The initial solution was to hive them off into a parallel dimension where they would spend eternity keeping Ragnarok at bay (no, seriously), but in the early ’90s they were brought back into the fold, rejuvenated (to some extent) and continuing to battle on as not-quite-retired heroes.
Suggested issue: All-Star Comics #58 (1975) – The pre-Crisis JSA were finally given their own “modern-day” title in 1975, with a revival of their original series – picking up the numbering from where it had been left off back in 1951. This was the first issue back, which also features the first ever appearance of Power Girl.
Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters
Okay, here’s a head-scratcher for you, then. Plastic Man – the demented creation of cartoonist Jack Cole – and the Freedom Fighters were two previously unconnected sets of characters that came from the same stable, Quality Comics. As DC would also later do with Fawcett and Charlton, they bought the dying company in 1956 and folded its characters into the DCU. While Plas immediately got to hang out on Earth-1, the Freedom Fighters were dumped onto a new world, Earth-X – a timeline in which the Nazis had won World War II. But shortly afterwards, they were also retconned as having originated on Earth-2 and moved to Earth-X to fight the Nazi menace later. Just to confuse things even further, though, while the “current” Plastic Man was living it up on Earth-1, DC also established that there had been an older, Earth-2 version of him (putting him in exalted company alongside Superman and Batman), who had fought with the Freedom Fighters and died during World War II. COMICS, EVERYBODY.
Suggested issue: The Kingdom: Offspring #1 (1999) There’s so, so little in the way of material featuring any of these characters on Comixology. The lack of the Freedom Fighters (snooze) is no loss, but the fact that you can’t get either the original Jack Cole Plas material or Kyle Baker’s brilliantly trippy modern stuff is baffling. So have this one-shot from the late ’90s, which is actually about Plas’ future son Offspring, but also features the man himself as a significant character. It’s maybe the one truly great issue to come out of the largely terrible The Kingdom crossover, and it’s drawn by Frank Quitely.
You can’t call him Captain Marvel any more, of course, unless you’re Grant Morrison in The Multiversity. A Superman knockoff who actually topped Superman in the popularity stakes in the 1940s to the extent that DC sued his publisher Fawcett out of existence in 1953, then twenty years later decided to buy the rights to the character (and his extensive family) and publish Shazam stories themselves.
Suggested issue: The Power of Shazam! #1 (1995) – The pre-Crisis Shazam stuff wasn’t really much cop, but once he was folded into the main DCU afterwards things got a bit better. Writer/artist Jerry Ordway, fresh off Superman and a man who seems to have been born fifty years too late, was perfect for the clean-cut, heavily retro take the series demanded. If you can find it, get the Power of Shazam graphic novel that came just before this and properly retold Billy Batson’s origin, but if not then this is the first issue of the ongoing series that followed.
World’s Finest Comics
The Seven Soldiers of Victory arrived in the wake of the Justice Society, and were hence DC’s second-published super-hero team. Their hook, such as they had one, was that they were non-powered characters – but with the exception of Green Arrow and Speedy, they basically all fell out of fashion a very long time ago (although Grant Morrison re-used the name, and a couple of them, for his big old crossover project in 2005). Given that the solicitation for this series mentions cartoonist Scribbly Jibbet (an even more obscure Golden Age character who hasn’t been seen anywhere in comics for fifty years) transcribing their adventures, you’d have to assume this is going to be Convergence‘s biggest curve ball.
Suggested issue: Justice League of America #100 (1972) – If you thought I wasn’t going to be able to find a relevant comic for this lot… well, you’d have very nearly been right. But! Just like the rest of the Golden Age heroes, the Soldiers became Earth-2 characters and were granted occasional crossovers with Earth-1 in the 1960s and 70s. One of their last ever stories was a crossover with the Justice League that began in this issue, so you can go and read that. WIN.
And there we go. Forty characters (or teams), and forty comics. Hopefully we’ve given you something to chew over as you decide which of the Convergence series you’re actually interested in checking out. Of course, if you actually manage to read every one of the books mentioned above, then we might have to give you some kind of a prize. Let us know.