I:  In The Beginning

Overview | The Dawn of Time | The Ancient World | 1st - 10th Centuries | 11th - 18th Centuries | 19th Century | Early 20th Century

Introduction

The history of the DC Universe spans billions of years, and includes countless characters and events far distant in time and space from the super-heroes of the modern era. As such, this first section presents some interesting challenges. For one thing, DC has had a tendency to play fast-and-loose with real-world history over the years, leading to questions of how much “genuine” knowledge is reliable when characters interact with historical figures. Second and more significantly, all of the stories set in this period have been told as flashbacks in one sense or another (for obvious reasons), making it more difficult to reliably track down and remember all the noteworthy events—not only for myself or other readers, but for writers and editors as well, increasing the likelihood of unintentional inconsistencies.

There is the further complication (although a delightful one!) that history in the DCU involves not only recognized historical figures and events, but mythical, religious, and literary ones as well, all treated as equally “real.” Known history requires some clever distortions to accommodate these additions.

Finally, there is the frustrating fact that a good deal of uncertainty is simply unavoidable, especially where the ancient world is concerned. There’s simply no such thing as absolute consensus among real-world scholars for any date prior to the sack of Thebes by Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in 664 BCE (an event that’s literally carved in stone in several corroborating sources). The reasons for this scholarly confusion have mostly to do with the methods historians and archaeologists use to reassemble knowledge of the ancient world, given that there was no such thing then as a standardized international calendar, and that many records have been lost to the forces of time. In brief, it involves a lot of cross-referencing between different sources: documentary evidence (lists of kings, their battles, and the length of their reigns, for instance); artifacts (e.g., changing styles in pottery or buildings); and scientific evidence (e.g., radiocarbon dating or predictable astronomical events). Unfortunately, none of these is absolutely reliable by itself, and it’s a rare thing when two kinds of sources agree on the date for a given event, let alone all three.

Ancient Egypt presents the most obvious example of how this affects the DCU, since many DC characters have interacted with that culture at various points—yet different scholars’ timelines of Egyptian dynasties vary by as much as several centuries. Factoring in ancient Greek and Biblical history only complicates things further (as detailed in many of my annotations below). And only a few DC stories set in these eras provide concrete internal dates. I’ve done my best to use those as milestones to choose the most compatible of the available choice of scholarly timelines… but keep in mind that this period of DC’s history remains uncertain, and thus more susceptible than usual to re-interpretation by later stories.

Over the years, comics (and other fiction) have been a great source of inspiration for me to explore and learn more about actual history and science. For this site, my primary sources for dating real-world events (or trying to!) were James Trager’s People’s Chronology, ©1992; J.M. Roberts’ Short History of the World, ©1993; Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, Asimov’s Chronology of the World, ©1991, and Peter Stearns’ Encyclopedia of World History (6th Ed.), ©2001—supplemented by a great many Internet resources, which were also of great value for scientific and evolutionary data. Scientific sources used include the Federation of American Scientists’ web site, as well as the University of Arizona Tree of LIfe Project and the U.C. Berkeley Museum of Paleontology, plus articles from American Scientist, 3-4/97, Nature, 11/07/96 and 3/25/99, Science v277, 7/25/97, and Science News, v154 No. 9, 8/29/98. Most recently, I have updated certain details with the help of articles found in the online encyclopedias Encarta and Wikipedia.

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With this site update I’ve added a brief overview of the section’s highlights, to match those in other sections:

   

c. 19 Billion BCE

    • The Source
    • The Endless

c. 18 Billion BCE

    • The world of the Old Gods

c. 13.7 Billion BCE

    • The Big Bang

c. 5-4.8 Billion BCE

    • The Old Gods die; Apokolips and New Genesis form

c. 4.6 Billion BCE

    • Earth forms

c. 4 Billion BCE

    • The Guardians of the Universe create the Manhunters

c. 3 Billion BCE

    • The Guardians create the Green Lantern Corps

c. 435 Million BCE

    • “The Green” arises on Earth

c. 220-65 Million BCE

    • Age of the Dinosaurs on Earth
    • Civilization on Mars

c. 1 Million BCE

    • Civilization rises in Atlantis

c. 245,000 BCE

    • Doomsday created on Krypton

c. 48,000 BCE

    • Vandal Savage becomes immortal

c. 43,000 BCE

    • Age of Arion; Atlantis’ capital sinks

c. 33,000 BCE

    • First pantheons of “Gods” arise on Earth

c. 9600 BCE

    • Remains of Atlantis sink

c. 7000 BCE

    • Shazam empowered in Canaan

c. 27th Century BCE

    • Vandal Savage rules ancient Egypt as the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu/Cheops, builder of the Great Pyramid

c. 13th Century BCE

    • Egypt’s 19th Dynasty, era of Rameses the Great
    • Shazam, Nabu, Teth-Adam, and the Spectre are all active
    • Prince Khufu is killed (later to become Hawkman)
    • Moses leads the Exodus from Egypt

c. 12th Century BCE

    • Olympian Gods create the immortal Amazons
    • Trojan War

c. 10th Century BCE

    • Amazons exiled to Themyscira

1st Century CE

    • Golden Gladiator active in Rome

5th-6th Century CE

    • Age of King Arthur
    • Merlin, Silent Knight, and Shining Knight are all active

7th Century CE

    • Uxas of the New Gods becomes Darkseid

12th Century

    • Robin Hood

13th Century

    • Rā’s al Ghūl

15th Century

    • Faerie peoples leave the Earthly plane

17th Century

    • Gotham City and Opal City founded
    • Orion and Scot Free born

18th Century

    • American Revolution
    • Uncle Sam, Dan Hunter, Tomahawk, Miss Liberty, Johanna Constantine all active

1838

    • Max Mercury
    • The Shade

1860s

    • American Civil War
    • Old West adventurers include Bat Lash, Jonah Hex, Nighthawk, Scalphunter, others

1891

    • Sherlock Holmes meets Eclipso

1914-1918

    • First World War

1921

    • Arkham Asylum founded

1935

    • Dr. Occult

1937

    • “Speed” Saunders
    • “Slam” Bradley

1938

    • Krypton explodes

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This page last updated 09/16/2008 .

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