Earlier today, we learned that DC's forthcoming Generations: Shattered and Generations: Forged one-shots, which center on a team of heroes led by 1939's Batman, Booster Gold, and an eccentric group of heroes tossed through time and space, will pit the team against the '90s Superman villain Dominus. The reality-warping villain has only appeared in about a dozen issues, all published between 1998 and 2000, in which he played key roles in both "The Dominus Effect" and Superman: KIng of the World. He was obsessed with godhood, and sought to become a god himself by changing the universe around Superman and Kismet, a cosmic being who had been a part of Superman's comics since the The Man of Steel miniseries in the' 80s.
In "The Dominus Effect," the villain appeared -- seemingly out of nowhere -- and hurled Superman through a number of alternate realities in the hopes of rooting out Kismet, with whom Superman had a vague, unspecified personal connection. What came next was, when compared to most widescreen superhero action stories of the '90s, a really interesting tale that sometimes got meta or dabbled in the kinds of formalist experiments usually not permitted in Superman.
Throughout the story, there were issues where a 1930s Superman (with period-accurate powers) fought off Nazis occupying Poland; where Superman's descendant led a Justice League-style team in the 30th Century; in which his adventures took place in the '60s and '70s, with the artists on the titles aping the style of Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, and other notable Superman creators.
All of this was explained by Dominus, a powerful cosmic being who was making it all happen -- but when it came time to explain how each of these stories -- familiar to fans, but jarring to Superman himself -- came to be, Kismet claimed that Dominus had merely warped the current timeline.
That's because in 1998, DC was still playing by post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, pre-Infinite Crisis rules. The multiverse was gone, and alternate timelines were treated as temporal anomalies to be done away with (Zero Hour) or impossibilities. Even stories told for the fans were marked as "Elseworlds" and explicitly cordoned off from the ongoing continuity of the monthly comics.
Now, we have to wonder whether Dominus, the self-described master of reality, might actually be tapping into the multiverse. Now that it has been restored, and Dominus is making his first appearance since, it seems more likely that the 1939 Batman and mid-'80s Booster Gold who appear in the Shattered and Forged stories will be the "real," canonical ones, rather than something Dominus has created to mess with Superman.
Ironically, there's even a tie to Superboy -- the Clark Kent version, newly-revealed to be a part of Kamandi's team of Forgotten Heroes -- in "The Dominus Effect." Throughout the story, Kismet hides herself in plain sight by taking on the appearance of a little girl. The girl appears across all of the story's disparate timelines, trying to tell Superman to shake off Dominus's grasp on his mind and fight his way back to the one, true timeline.
In the end, to preserve her existence and keep her power from Dominus, Kismet is thrown through time by Waverider and her energies given to a little girl in Smallville whose destiny was to die in a playground accident. Instead, Waverider moves a young, pre-powers Clark Kent into place to be a hero for the first time in his young life by catching the girl and preventing her from breaking her neck.
That was in a timeline where Clark didn't get his powers until he was in his late teens, but it also sets up the idea of a young Clark becoming a hero, something that a return to Clark-as-Superboy stories obviously resonate with.
One more thing that's worth noting: Dan Jurgens has written stories featuring Dr. Destiny and the Materioptikon, or Dreamstone, a red gem with the power to reshape reality. One such story -- "Destiny's Hand" -- is a particular highlight of Jurgens's run on Justice League of America and was recently reprinted in Wonder Superman and the Justice League vol. 2. A similar gem is mounted on the glove worn by Dominus, and it may be a coincidence, but what's interesting is that when Kamandi showed up to meet the Golden Age Batman in Detective Comics #1027, he was able to move through time and space with the help of -- you guessed it! -- a gauntlet he was wearing attached to his arm. And while it doesn't look much like Dominus's, it does have a red gem on the top of the hand.
We'll find out soon enough what's going on in January when the Generations story hits stores.