The story follows Rorschach in New York City, 1977, where his crime-fighting activities cause him to be targeted by a crime lord running drugs and prostitution in the sordid Times Square. While focused on the gang, Rorschach makes the mistake of allowing another predator to operate unchallenged.
The story explores the different universes that Doctor Manhattan alias Jon Osterman simultaneously perceives. It also adds a notable new element to Osterman’s backstory by revealing him to be a half-Jewish German immigrant who escaped with his father from the Third Reich to America; in the original Watchmen series, he was not implied to be anything other than American. It debuted to positive reviews.
The low sales of the various Justice League spinoff books by the mid-1990s prompted DC to revamp the League as a single team (all the various branch teams were disbanded) on a single title. A Justice League of America formed in the September 1996 limited series Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza. In 1997, DC Comics launched a new Justice League series titled JLA, written by Grant Morrison with art by Howard Porter and inker John Dell. Morrison stayed as writer for the series through issue #41, though several issues had fill-in writers. JLA #18-#21 and #33 were written by Mark Waid. Mark Millar, Devin Grayson and Mark Waid, and J.M. DeMatteis wrote issues #27, #32 and #35 respectively.
This series, in an attempt at a “back-to-basics” approach, used as its core the team’s original and most famous seven members (or their successors): Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), and the Martian Manhunter. Additionally, the team received a new headquarters, the “Watchtower“, based on the Moon. JLA quickly became DC’s best-selling title, a position it enjoyed off and on for several years.
The third Flash was Wally West, introduced in The Flash (vol. 1) #110 (Dec. 1959) as Kid Flash. West, Allen’s nephew by marriage, gained the Flash’s powers through an accident identical to Allen’s. Adopting the identity of Kid Flash, he maintained membership in the Teen Titans for years. Following Allen’s death, West adopted the Flash identity in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 and was given his own series, beginning with The Flash (vol. 2) #1 in 1987. Many issues began with the catchphrase: “My name is Wally West. I’m the fastest man alive.”
Deathstroke the Terminator first appeared in 1980, in the second issue of the book New Teen Titans. He was originally introduced as “the Terminator”, a mercenary who was completing the terms of a contract undertaken by his son Ravager and later in the series often allied with the Titans against mutual threats.
Due to his popularity, Deathstroke received his own series, Deathstroke the Terminator, in 1991. It was retitled Deathstroke the Hunted for issues #0 and #41-45; and then simply Deathstroke for issues #46-60. The series was cancelled with issue #60. In total, Deathstroke ran for 65 issues (#1-60, plus 4 annuals and a special #0 issue).
Frank Miller‘s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (February–June 1986), which tells the story of a 55-year old Batman coming out of retirement in a possible future, reinvigorated the character. The Dark Knight Returns was a financial success and has since become one of the medium’s most noted touchstones. The series also sparked a major resurgence in the character’s popularity.
That year Dennis O’Neil took over as editor of the Batman titles and set the template for the portrayal of Batman following DC’s status quo-altering miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths. O’Neil operated under the assumption that he was hired to revamp the character and as a result tried to instill a different tone in the books than had gone before. One outcome of this new approach was the “Year One” storyline in Batman #404–407 (February–May 1987), in which Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli redefined the character’s origins. Writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland continued this dark trend with 1988’s 48-page one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the Joker, attempting to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, cripples Gordon’s daughter Barbara, and then kidnaps and tortures the commissioner, physically and psychologically.
The Batman comics garnered major attention in 1988 when DC Comics created a 900 number for readers to call to vote on whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, lived or died. Voters decided in favor of Jason’s death by a narrow margin of 28 votes (see Batman: A Death in the Family). The following year saw the release of Tim Burton‘s Batman feature film, which firmly brought the character back to the public’s attention, grossing millions of dollars at the box office, and millions more in merchandising.
In April of 2015, DC began “Justice League: The Darkseid War”, which would be the final installment in Geoff Johns five year run of Justice League. The event consisted of 10 Justice League issues, 6 one-shots, and one Special issue. The story took hidden elements from John’s run as well as answering all questions posed since the beginning.
As with all of the books associated with the DC relaunch, Clark Kent appears to be about five years younger than the previous incarnation of the character (where it would focus on the early days of Superman’s career, whereas the main series would focus on the present). Superheroes at large have appeared only in the past five years, and are viewed with at best, suspicion, and at worst, outright hostility. The storyline in Action Comics takes place about a year before the events of Justice League #1, and was referred to by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio as “DC Universe Year Zero” while JL operates as “Year One.” The Man of Steel is not yet trusted by the citizens of Metropolis and wears a basic costume consisting of a caped T-shirt, jeans and work boots.
One year after the events of Infinite Crisis, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman reunite in the Batcave to re-form the League in Justice League of America #0, the kick-off for a new series by Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes. The series featured a roster which included Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Black Canary, Red Arrow (Green Arrow‘s former sidekick), Red Tornado, Vixen, Black Lightning, and Hawkgirl. The first arc of the series focused upon Red Tornado and pitted the team against a new intelligent incarnation of Solomon Grundy and the rebuilt Amazo. The new incarnation of the team has two main headquarters, linked by a transporter. At the first site is The Hall, which in the mainstream DC Universe is a refurnished version of the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Squadron‘s former headquarters located in Washington, D.C.. Black Canary is elected as the first official Chairperson after the fight against Amazo and Solomon Grundy, and led both the Justice League and Justice Society in a complex quest to reunite time-lost members of the pre-Crisis Legion of Super-Heroes, who had been sent back in time to free both Bart Allen and Flash from the other dimensional realm of the Speed Force. Meltzer left the series at the end of issue #12, with one of his subplots (Per Degaton, a pre-nuclear fire mutation version of Despero, and a circa 1948 version of the Ultra-Humanite gathering for an unknown plot) resolved in the pages of Booster Gold.
The 1993 “Knightfall” story arc introduced a new villain, Bane, who critically injures Batman. Jean-Paul Valley, known as Azrael, is called upon to wear the Batsuit during Bruce Wayne’s convalescence. Writers Doug Moench,Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant worked on the Batman titles during “Knightfall”, and would also contribute to other Batman crossovers throughout the 1990s. 1998’s “Cataclysm” storyline served as the precursor to 1999’s “No Man’s Land“, a year-long storyline that ran through all the Batman-related titles dealing with the effects of an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City. At the conclusion of “No Man’s Land”, O’Neil stepped down as editor and was replaced by Bob Schreck.