Last month, DC Comics' Convergence severely altered the history of the DC Universe. Thanks to events of the limited series, DC undid the events of Crisis of Infinite Earths and reinstated the Multiverse. This continues DC's longstanding practice of periodically altering its past continuity for new storytelling opportunities or general house-keeping. With so many reboots and relaunches over the years, we must ask the question: How long does a DC reboot last? This article will to try to find out the answer.
The first question that needs to be answered is, “What qualifies as a reboot?” That question alone could fuel a college thesis, I’ve decided to just define a reboot as a “major alteration of past history/continuity.” That definition eliminates worrying about the minor ret-cons and changes to continuity that occur on a monthly basis in comics and focused instead on the major changes to past history. While it leaves plenty of room for interpretation, I think it’s impossible to find a definition that everyone would agree on.
The List of Reboots
Using the definition, I came up with sixteen major continuity changes over DC’s history, starting with the retcon that launched DCs Silver Age of comic books. To determine how long the reboot lasted, I looked up the publication date of the comic where the reboot occurred and the original date of the first comic changed by the retcon.
Here’s the full list of retcons:
The Flash and other Golden Age superheroes were only comic book characters in Barry Allen/the Silver Age DC’s world. (Length of Time prior to reboot: 220 months)
Earth 2 is established, meaning that the Golden Age superheroes DO exist after all. (Length of time prior to reboot: 59 months)
Crisis on Infinite Earth occurs; Earth 2 is erased from existence and DC’s continuity is altered a bunch. (Length of time prior to reboot: 293 months)
The Superboy who interacted with the Legion of Superheroes is revealed to be from an alternate pocket dimension, not our world. (Length of time prior to reboot: 18 months)
All post-Crisis appearances of Hawkman are tossed out as that character is rebooted in Hawkworld, thus beginning the great cycle of Hawkman reboots. (Length of time prior to reboot: 42 months)
Zero Hour occurs, DC’s universe is erased and recreated…again (Length of Time prior to reboot: 103 months)
Wonder Woman sends her mother back in time so she can join the JSA, fixing a big continuity problem in DC’s history (Length of time prior to reboot: 124 months)
Mark Waid overhauls Superman’s origin from his original post-Crisis origin story in Superman: Birthright. (Length of time prior to reboot: 206 months)
The Legion of Superheroes gets rebooted by Mark Waid. (Length of time prior to reboot: 121 months)
Infinite Crisis happens and reality is broken and recreated….again. (Length of time prior to reboot: 140 months)
A new version of the Legion of Superheroes appears with no explanation during the Lightning Saga. (Length of time prior to reboot: 29 months)
The Multiverse is re-established in 52, a year after DC said the multiverse wasn’t coming back in Infinite Crisis. (Length of time prior to last reboot: 12 months).
We finally get an answer to what’s going on with all those Legion of Superheroes running around in Legion of Three Worlds. (Length of time prior to last reboot: 16 months).
Geoff Johns re-writes Superman’s origin (again) in Superman: Secret Origins. (Length of time prior to last reboot: 72 months).
Flashpoint happens and reality is broken and recreated…again. (Length of time prior to last reboot: 64 months).
Convergence happens and history is rewritten…again. (Length of time prior to last reboot: 44 months).
The Results and Conclusions
So how long does a DC reboot last? According to the above list, the average time between reboots is 98 months (8 years and 2 months). The median reboot length is 68 months (5 years, 8 months.) If we only include post-Crisis reboots, the average time between reboots drops significantly to 76 months (6 years, 4 months), but the median remains nearly the same at 64 months (5 years, 4 months). Since Infinite Crisis occurred 10 years ago, DC has rebooted and retconned its universe at quicker pace, with a reboot occurring on an average of every 40 months.
We can see that DC’s been changing their continuity at an increased pace over the last five years, which makes sense given that the company has published three reality-altering events in that time period. Disillusioned fans of DC should also be comforted to know that DC usually reboots once every 6 to 8 years, so they won’t have to wait long before DC tries a different approach to their continuity issues. Of course, it should be noted that even if your favorite comics are rebooted out of existence by DC, you can still find them on your bookshelf, waiting for another read.