Pre-New 52 History Returns, Potentially Changing Justice League’s Origin

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Flash Annual #1, by Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, Christian Duce, Hi-Fi, Carlos M. Mangual and Travis Lanham, on sale now.

In 2011, DC Comics launched a massive line-wide reboot known as The New 52, effectively resetting the status quo of its entire universe and drastically altering the timeline of events that helped shape it. However, despite largely positive initial fan reception, interest quickly began to wane when readers began to realize how much of a departure this version of the DCU was from the one that captivated them in the first place.

It didn’t take long for DC to see the writing on the wall, and in 2016, yet another major publishing initiative was put into play: Rebirth. Unlike The New 52, though, this wasn’t about throwing away what came before it, but rather embracing it. It was an ambitious endeavor, to say the least, but while folding The New 52 into pre-Flashpoint continuity certainly proved to be the shot in the arm DC needed, there’s still the question of where certain pieces fit within the greater post-Rebirth DCU puzzle.

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Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s first arc of Justice League during The New 52, which was aptly titled “Origin,” explored how the Justice League first came together in order to save the world from Darkseid and his army of parademons. This is already a rather significant deviation from the team’s pre-Flashpoint origin, but perhaps the most notable change is that Martian Manhunter was replaced by Cyborg as a founding member. In fact, this arc is every bit Cyborg’s origin story as it is the Justice League’s, since we witness the accident that left Silas Stone with no choice but to turn his son Victor into a human-machine hybrid to save his life.

With Cyborg’s “debut” being so intrinsically tied to the formation of the Justice League, it essentially means that in this version of continuity, he was never a member of the Teen Titans and/or Titans proper. How could he, considering he was injured, rebuilt, and then immediately placed into the League? When would he have had any time to run off and fight alongside the Titans?

Well, with recent events hinting more and more at DC’s pre-Flashpoint continuity reasserting itself, the entire history of the Justice League, not to mention the Titans and the Teen Titans, is currently in a state of flux.

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Let’s start by looking back at Justice League #33, by Joshua Williamson, Tyler Kirkham and Mikel Janin, which marked the conclusion of the Dark Nights: Metal crossover “Bats Out of Hell.” This issue was notable for, among other things, including a welcome reunion between Cyborg and his longtime pre-Flashpoint Teen Titans teammate Raven. Although there was no direct acknowledgment of their Titans history, the scene clearly establishes that the pair has some sort of shared past.

Jumping ahead to Justice League #37, by Christopher Priest and Philippe Briones, we get yet another taste of pre-Flashpoint continuity making its presence felt. During a flashback sequence, we see the Justice League battling one of its longtime foes, the Shaggy Man. However, while Cyborg is nowhere to be found, Martian Manhunter, surprisingly, is present and accounted for. Furthermore, the character was name-dropped by the bounty hunter Glenn Gammeron back in Justice League #35, bringing to mind the days of Priest’s run on the short-lived series Justice League Task Force.

Now, let’s fast-forward to The Flash Annual #1, by Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter and Christian Duce. During another flashback sequence, Wally West reminisces about his past relationship with the hero-turned-villain Frances Kane, aka Magenta. “I remember we spent time on the Titans together,” Wally says, as we see them fighting alongside some familiar faces: Starfire, Robin, Beast Boy, and – you guessed it – Cyborg.

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This latest development is particularly significant because it marks the first time since The New 52 that Cyborg has been firmly placed within the ranks of the Titans. What’s more, Wally isn’t the only one who remembers that version of history – so does Magenta. Given Wally’s unique relationship with both the pre- and post-Flashpoint timelines, him remembering Cyborg as a Titan is hardly something to bat an eye at, but Magenta remembering it as well is further proof that history is being rewritten before our — and their — very eyes.

What does all of this mean for Cyborg, though? It would be easy to accept that he was a Titan before joining the Justice League at face value if his New 52 origin wasn’t so heavily reliant upon that of the League itself. And while we’re on that subject, can we even say with any certainty that the New 52 origin of the League still holds true at all?

It’s entirely possible that we’re witnessing the makings of a major retcon to restore Martian Manhunter’s status as a founding member of the Justice League, but if that’s the case, it’ll require some serious mental gymnastics (and possibly even an entire miniseries) to try and make sense of when Vic Stone became Cyborg in the first place.

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