The core DC character for the DCU for the Silver Age all the way through Crisis on Infinite Earths, I’d argue, was the Flash. Not only was he the one that got the whole “Earth 1″ thing going in the first place – and the one whose death signified the end of an era, right there before everything changed – but his books typified everything DC was about: Colorful characters, somewhat uptight stories that were more self-conscious than Marvel’s, and a kind of lovable corniness. If you wanted to know what the DCU was about, you could pick up an issue of The Flash and get a pretty good idea – It might not have been as weird as, say, Doom Patrol or as hep for the kids as Teen Titans, but it also was more fun and more loose than, say, Detective Comics or Superman.
From Crisis through Flashpoint, I’d argue that the core character was Green Lantern. He was the character who found himself suffering through the various problems plaguing the line for all that time, whether it’s having the core concept continually reworked (His solo title becomes a team book with Green Lantern Corps! His series gets canceled and folded into Action Comics Weekly! His history gets retconned with Emerald Dawn! He goes bad and gets replaced by a younger kid with Emerald Twilight! He leads the retro charge with Green Lantern: Rebirth! and so on) or being at the center of a surprising number of events during that period (Millennium spun out of Green Lantern Corps, Zero Hour spun out of Emerald Twilight, Final Night‘s resolution hung on Hal’s redemption, Day of Judgment definitely hung on Hal’s redemption, and Blackest Night spun out of Green Lantern). It might not have been intentional, but somehow Green Lantern turned into the Zelig of the last twenty five years of the DCU.
And now, we’re restarting again. So… who will end up being the avatar of what’s become known as DCnU? It’s tempting to argue, from what we’ve had hints of so far that it might end up being Superman, of all characters – He’ll be one of the few characters to get a significant revamp, and will, it seems, personify the “de-aged, reworked” DCU in a way that neither Batman nor Green Lantern – both of whom seem to be coming through the relaunch relatively unscathed – will be able to. It’s a fitting place for the character – He’s Superman, after all – but also a surprising one, considering the oddly sacrosanct, iconic nature of the character.
Of course, it’s early days yet. Maybe we should check in again next year, and be able to look back and say “Cyborg? Who knew?”