For the past 2 years, there’s been a lot of returns to familiarity. Superman’s red trunks, Wally West coming back from the great beyond, and the Watchmen being brought into the spotlight once again. One thing has been lost in the DC Universe though. Well, 4-5 things actually. And with them, it is easy to say that in the efforts to raise the next generation of heroes, we’ve skipped a generation in the process. Let’s talk about it.
What we’ve lost:
Do you remember Young Justice? Not the TV show, the comic books. Well for some children born in the 80’s and 90’s, this was their entry point into comics. A group of teenage superheroes similar to the Teen Titans when they began, fought crime together, fought one another at times, and grew up together. A family whose core members were Robin (Tim Drake), Impulse/Kid Flash (Bart Allen), Superboy (Connor Kent), and later Wondergirl (Cassie Sandsmark). These 4 would go on to become primary members of a new Teen Titans team in the early 2000’s written by Geoff Johns. This series explored what meant to grow up as the protege of one of the greatest heroes of the Universe. From Robin struggling to be both the sidekick to Batman and a good son to his father. Wondergirl feeling pushed away by Wonder Woman while also dealing with being contacted by Ares, God of War. Superboy discovering that he himself is the clone of not just Superman, but Lex Luthor as well, and Bart…just trying to slow down figuratively and literally. These heroes WERE the next generation. these heroes were meant to inherit the DC Universe. But DC forgot that.
Beginning with the New 52, the Teen Titans featuring the 4 previously mentioned sidekicks along with newcomers Skitter, Bunker, and Solstice, this series was meant to be a new start for the Teen Titans as a whole. the name, the team, everything. This would later be retconned with Titans Hunt retconning that Dick Grayson and the other original Titans HAD in fact been the originals. But along this series written by Scott Lobdell with the relaunch including writers like Tony Bedard and Will Pfeifer, we saw…well ALLOT of changes. Wondergirl now wielding a mystic armor that gave her basically Donna Troys pre New 52 costume but in red, Superboy wasn’t created by Cadmus and to our knowledge isn’t a clone of both Superman and Luthor, Bart Allen is now Bar Torr and his entire backstory altered, and Tim Drake was always Red Robin and not Robin (until DC Rebirth Detective Comics retconned it) and flies with wings…(Side Note: I’m like the one person who loved that costume…fight me). Across this run, it was very clear that these were not the original fab 4, and that differs from the original seems to be a factor in their absence in current DC Universe…besides one of them.
Where are they now?
In the current DC Landscape, there has been a lot of retconning and returns to form to a sort of Pre-New 52 feel but also leaving the majority of the New 52 continuity in there. With that comes some need to lay out where these beloved characters are in the current continuity.
Tim Drake AKA Red Robin: Tim is the only one currently around. As DC Rebirth kicked off in 2016, Tim has seeminly left the Teen Titans, with the last few issues stumbling to the finish line with a queen bee storyline taking place months prior to DC Rebirth, and he is brought back to Gotham, given a new suit by Batman (with a ridiculoud double R that makes the wings like even more pleasing…why couldn’t they just use the bird signal they used in both pre-New52 and New 52?!!) and given the task to be a member of Batman’s new team of crime fighters that Tim lovingly calls the Gotham Knights. But when a new militia called the Colony led by Batwoman’s father set out to kill the majority of Gotham city with attack drones, time reprograms them to attack himself and he is…killed? Apparently not, because he is then teleported to a cell where Mr. Oz, Superman’s father turned powerful wizard? Kidnaps Tim for a plan to be set forth later only for Tim to be set free with the help of his older self from the Titans of Tomorrow Universe (…we might talk about that one day). After battling some demons of what he would look like as Batman, Tim is now dealing with the fallout of the current events in the James Tynion IV final issues of Detective Comics so definitely Check those out. Needless to say, Tim, being the only YJ/3rd Gen Titan around, isn’t really doing the best.
Connor Kent AKA Superboy: Connor…oh Connor. You poor thing. You sure have been through a lot. With the original Jerry Seigal and Joe Shuster lawsuits making it so he couldn’t be called Superboy and having to be called the Metropolis kid, to then finding out your one part hero, and one part crazy villain, to then dying in defense of us all from an analogy of fanboys created by Geoff Johns. Superboy has ridden the ride of life back and forth and through the pre-New 52, he was an amazing character. Then came the New 52 where he was..kind of well…wasn’t the same character. With a backstory where he was made by a new evil organization called NOWHERE and barely any connection to Superman because he wasn’t a clone of him. he was a clone…of Jonathan Kent Superboy…from a future where he’s evil and a time-traveling villains asked for his DNA to clone him…yea. And as time went on Kon-El, a name given to Superboy in the New 52, became a cherished member of the Superman family…kinda because new 52 Superman and Supergirl weren’t really the family types, and Kon had gone off in search of his origin. THE PROBLEM with that is when Superman Reborn happens in DC Rebirth, The merging of both New 52 Superman and Pre-New 52 superman into one being, caused Kon-El to be wiped from continuity. leaving the only Superboy around…to be Jonathan Kent…We’ll get back to that.
Cassandra Sandsmark AKA Wondergirl:
Cassie is the perfect representation of what the next generation held. A kick-butt attitude who, having moved around a lot because of her mother’s job as an archaeologist, had grown up moving from place to place and didn’t have much attachment to people. However, she wanted so badly to be a hero. After an opportunity where she was blessed by Zeus with real superpowers, she saw her first real chance. Having always saw Donna Troy, the first Wonder Girl, as an idol, she originally wore a black wig as she fought crime but after getting the blessing of Donna, she slowly became her own hero with her own identity. Even being given a lasso of lightning from her Greek Patron Ares, she becomes a hero all her own. She even became the leader of both Young Justice and later Teen Titans, ironically both times after Robin stepped down. Flash forward to the New 52 where literally everything about her is erased; she never meets Wonder Woman even in passing, she HATES being called Wonder Girl for a long time, and her power comes from this mystic armor that causes her pain and is borderline sentient. After Tim Drake’s funeral, she just disappeared. And besides her future self, appearing in the Super Sons of Tomorrow crossover event and Jonboy Meyer’s concept art for DC Rebirth Teen Titans he released after his departure from DC, Cassie’s more of a myth than the Greeks at this point.
Bart Allen AKA Impulse/Kid Flash:
Bart, the boy faster than the Flash. The Grandson of Barry Allen being brought to our time by his grandmother Iris West, Bart took up the name Impulse where he was trained by the veteran speedster Max Mercury. As time went on, he began teaming up with Robin and then Superboy where they formed Young Justice. As the 3 and Cassie were recruited by Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Starfire to form a new Teen Titans, Bart was attacked by Deathstroke the Terminator and after healing due to his fast metabolism decided to take up the name Kid Flash after his cousin Wally. After many adventures including a time where Barry and Wally had both gone missing into the Speedforce and Bart himself became the Flash, we move on to the New 52 where Bart, but Bar Torr, an alien criminal whose memory had been wiped and had come to the present day from the future thinking he was the grandson of Barry Allen, and now he’s locked in a cell in the future never to be seen again.
But now, what do we do? With these 4, whipped from continuity, missing, or in jail, or in terribly bad shape mentally from technically dying then being saved by a powerful force, is there any hope for the next generation? Well…
Since the before the New 52, it has been apparent that next generation was no longer next. Slowly but surely, the replacement generation rolled in, beginning with Damian Wayne. Love or hate the little killing machine, Grant Morrison’s creation, the true son of Batman began the trend of the 3rd gen sidekick being kicked to the curb, even having in the Red Robin comic Tim finding out he’s been replaced upon Bruce Wayne’s Death and Dick Grayson becoming Batman. and as time went on, it only continued.
From then we got Wally West. No not the original, the African American variant created in the New 52 originally meant to be a replacement for the original Wally. As time got on and this Wally gained his own personality and fans wanted the original back, DC agreed and with DC Rebirth #1, Wally Returned in a flash of lightning. Now, the next generation behind Wally is…well Wally. And don’t get it twisted, this isn’t about race. More diverse sidekicks like Duke Thomas and even this version of Wally have found success in comics and have earned their place, but…what about Bart?
Moving on we have the Rebirth kids. Jonathan Kent and Emiko Queen as Superboy and Red Arrow respectively. One is the son of Superman and Lois Lane, the other being the illegitimate sister of Green Arrow. While Jonathan’s existence is fine in the current landscape since Connor has been wiped from the timeline, Emiko helps introduce the 5th forgotten Titan. Mia Dearden. A young girl who was forced into sex trafficking and had contracted HIV, Mia was taken in off the streets by Green Arrow and after a time was given a bow and a costume as the new Speedy. She joined the Teen Titans and was a worthy member of the Green Arrow family until the New 52 where she stopped existing beside in spirit in the form of Oliver’s sister in the Arrow television series as Thea Queen. Enter DC Rebirth where Emiko is revealed. The daughter of Oliver’s dad and the villain Shado, Emiko takes up a bow as Red Arrow…taking the name away from Roy Harper, and forging her own path as a hero and joining the Teen Titans in the upcoming lineup this Summer. Mia, however, no longer exists. At least she was in Meyer’s concept art along with Miss Martian prior to Miss Martian being drafted to the New lineup for the Titans.
So where does that leave us? Well in the recent Crossover with Super-Sons, Superman and Teen Titans called Super Sons of Tomorrow, we saw the return of Bart Allen Flash, Cassie Sandsmark Wonder Woman, and Connor Kent Superman in search of Tim Drake Batman who escaped with our Tim from Mr. Oz. besides that though, without meaning to, these new kids have made the old guard obsolete. and with the oldest sidekicks apart of the Titans and the youngest in the Teen Titans, and Jason Todd’s Dark Trinity headlining as the Outlaws, maybe Tim Drake could find Bart, Cassie, and Connor and form a new Outsiders? Well an original idea suggested was have Damian Wayne Robin and Jonathan Kent form a new Young Justice and let the 3rd generation have the Teen Titans and many thought with the new team lineups teased months ago that DC might do just that, but with the announcements of Titans Special #1 and Teen Titans Special #1 not having the old guard anywhere in site…besides… Miss Martian on the Titans? the Young Justice kids are nowhere to be seen besides Tim Drake.
Now, does this mean we should eradicate Damian, Jonathan, Wally, and Emiko and bring the original next generation back? Well, no. They have their audience just as the other sidekicks did. But what would be better than one or the other just not existing, would be an acknowledgment from DC that maybe they could return besides a parallel future cameo? So let us hope that one day, Bart, Tim, Cassie, and Connor will save the world again as a team.