I’ll be blatantly honest, I went from no ideas for this week’s column to doing research for my third idea. That research has led me to possibly the greatest discovery in comic-dom and I needed to share.
DC Comics has created a free online encyclopedia.
That’s it. It doesn’t seem like much but I can assure you this is HUGE. If you’ve read my Graphic Opinions then you know by now that I’m the DC nerd of the two of us writing the column and if you know anything about comics you know that’s not necessarily an easy feat.
DC Comics has been publishing since 1934 and for a majority of that time their characters have had continuous and overlapping plots. This makes DC incredibly inaccessible for new readers who have no idea where to start. Then add in the fact that if you pick up a Batman comic from the 1990s you might not have a single clue what’s going on because it requires you to know the entire backstory of some minor villain from the 1960s.
They’ve realized this a couple times over the years and have attempted to reboot so as to make things more streamlined and easier to follow for new readers. Most notably in 2011 with the New52, which actually ended up alienating many longtime fans.
For the most part though, people have forced their way into reading DC comics through the internet, some very helpful and/or persistent friends and learning the basics from shows or movies.
I tend to hyper fixate when I find a new interest so when I decided that I was going to watch Young Justice back in middle school I committed to struggling through the first half of season one based only on what prior pop culture knowledge I had from a friend from summer camp and what I could remember from Teen Titans. A lot went over my head. Shout out to the Northampton Area Middle School library for having a copy of the DC Comics Encyclopedia. I checked it out, read it cover to cover and finally started to actually get the show.
That encyclopedia, and the later edition that I bought for myself in high school, got me through all of season one and the first couple comics that I bought knowing nothing more than “I like Batgirl and Teen Titans and these say Batgirl and Teen Titans!” They were not the ones I was thinking of.
DC is known for its legacies, different characters taking over the same hero’s mantle over the years, and this still throws people off when they go to pick up their first comic. (Flash Fact: There have been five Robins, four Flashes and seven Green Lanterns in the main canon.)
It can take a lot of time and effort to read a single comic book when you’re first starting out but it seems like DC has finally realized this and are doing something to help. Earlier this fall they launched the website DC Universe. Presented at a platform for their animated shows and movies with new series, but it’s been shaped closer to a hub of all things DC. I’ll definitely be taking a deeper look in a later article, worry not.
I discovered that the DC Universe site features a free encyclopedia for their characters and teams similar to the ones that allowed me to enjoy the comics. While nowhere near complete, they are continuing to add and expand to it. What’s more, there are some features middle school me would have loved and even as a well-read fan I fully intend to utilize.
Each entry features the title, year and issue number of the character’s first appearance. There’s a character biography broken down by reboots with years and my favorite aspect: notable storylines with title, year, issues and a summary. Meaning you actually know what comics to look for when starting with a particular character or team.
Another fun thing for people like me who picked up a comic after watching a show or movie, they have a list of all the times that character has appeared in another form of media.
Long story short: there’s a free, complete and collected place for information on DC characters and storylines. No more scouring the internet for reading lists, minor character bios or excuses to not read Wonder Woman after watching the movie for the seventeenth time. DC just changed the game.
Now if only they would hire me to help write the rest of their entries.