DC: The New Frontier
|DC: The New Frontier|
|No. of issues||6|
|Main character(s)||Hal Jordan|
|Created by||Darwyn Cooke|
DC: The New Frontier is an Eisner, Harvey and Shuster Award-winning six-issue comic book limited series written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, and published by DC Comics in 2004. The series was collected into two trade paperback volumes in 2004 and 2005, an Absolute Edition in 2006 and a deluxe edition in 2015. The story was adapted into an animated film, Justice League: The New Frontier, which was released on February 26, 2008.
The series was influenced by both DC Comics' long history and series like Kingdom Come, The Golden Age, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Much like The Golden Age, New Frontier is set primarily in the 1950s and depicts Golden Age superheroes Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman meeting Silver Age characters The Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter. The story bridges the gap between the end of the Golden Age and the beginning of the Silver Age in the DC Universe.
The New Frontier is set between 1945 and 1960, tracing the decline of the so-called Golden Age and the beginning of the Silver Age of comic books. Golden Age characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman meet Silver Age characters, such as Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and The Flash. Cameo appearances by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon and references to the Korean War, atomic testing, the civil rights movement and the Soviet Union provide historical context. The storyline is inspired by comic books and films of the period, including the novel and film versions of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. The series attempts to re-imagine and pay homage to the era of culture and political turmoil which ushered in the presidency of John F. Kennedy. The title of the comic evokes the Kennedy's iconic "New Frontier" speech.
This section needs an improved plot summary. (March 2019)
The story begins in 1945. A military unit known as The Losers – made up of Captain William Storm, Johnny Cloud, Sarge Clay, Gunner Mackey and the unit's dog "Pooch" – is sent to a remote island in The Pacific to retrieve Richard Flagg and the ex-Nazi scientist his unit was transporting. As The Losers are approaching the island, their boat is capsized by a mysterious tidal wave, and they are attacked by an enormous tyrannosaurus rex. Though the t-rex is heavily injured, it survives the heavy bombardment, losing only an arm, and killing Mackey before its retreat. The remaining Losers hole up in a fortified cave. The following day, Sarge - grief-stricken by Mackey's death - ventures out alone to kill the t-rex, while Storm and Cloud go in search of Flagg and his men. Storm is carried off by a pterodactyl, leaving Cloud to return to the cave, where he discovers Pooch and Flagg, who informs him that Sarge has been killed. Cloud helps Flagg to escape the island, but stays behind with Pooch to finish off the T-Rex that killed his comrades, writing an account of the mission in charcoal on the cave walls. The following morning, Pooch is killed and Cloud is heavily injured by a booby trap set by Flagg. Accepting his fate, Cloud attracts the attention of the t-rex and jumps into its mouth, armed with two live hand grenades.
Following the end of the Second World War, the world has entered the Atomic Era, and the Cold War has commenced. Superheroes' inability to intervene in World War II, due to Adolf Hitler's command of The Spear of Destiny, coupled with strong anti-Communist sentiments perpetuated by Joseph McCarthy, has led to a vast condemnation of masked vigilantism. In the face of colossal public outcry, the Justice Society of America have disbanded, and the vast majority of costumed heroes have either retired or been arrested, while magical and godlike figures such as The Spectre, Doctor Fate and Captain Marvel have left the planet. Only government-sanctioned superheroes, Superman and Wonder Woman, and a small handful of vigilantes able to evade arrest, including Batman and Hourman (who is chased off a rooftop at the beginning of the comic by armed police), remain active.
In the first hours of armistice immediately following the Korean War, fighter pilots Hal Jordan and Kyle "Ace" Morgan are shot down by Korean planes. Ace saves Jordan, who lands in North Korean territory, where he is saved by reporters Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, but not before Jordan is forced to kill a North Korean soldier who is apparently unaware that the conflict is over. Jordan, who has a strict moral and ethical opposition to murder, chastises himself for not remembering the Korean words that would have potentially saved the man's life. Meanwhile, in the early years of the Vietnam War, Superman meets with Wonder Woman, who has just rescued a village of women kept in slavery by the Viet Cong. Superman criticises Wonder Woman for allowing the women to slaughter their captors, thereby defying international law, and threatens to report her for her actions. Angered, Wonder Woman shows him the door.
In 1955, the last surviving member of a Martian race, J'onn J'onzz, arrives on Earth in Gotham City in response to an astronomer's signal. The shock of J'onzz's arrival causes the astronomer to suffer a fatal heart attack, but not before warning J'onzz of humanity's capacity for violence and distrust. Taking note, J'onzz – capable of shape-shifting – assumes the astronomer's identity and later creates the identity of GCPD Detective John Jones, based on what he has learned of human nature through television. He declares that he wishes to be one of the "good guys". In 1956, police scientist Barry Allen is struck by lightning, giving him superhuman speed. In 1957, J'onzz (now using his John Jones persona) intercepts a struggle between Batman and a group of cultists who worship something referred to by their leader as "the Centre", as they attempt to sacrifice the son of a wealthy Gotham magnate. J'onzz is briefly incapacitated by his crippling fear of fire, but Batman is able to save the child, brutally assaulting the cult leader. The leader chuckles to himself that they will all be judged.
Ted "Wildcat" Grant fights Cassius Clay in the World Heavyweight Championship in Las Vegas, attended by Jordan, Ace, Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle, Oliver Queen, Lane, Flagg, Carol Ferris, Iris West and several former JSA members. Clay initially staggers Grant, who is saved from a knockout only by the bell, but Grant is eventually able to win the match and is declared Heavyweight Champion of the World. The celebration of Grant's victory is short-lived, however, as Captain Cold arrives to rob the casino where the party is being held. Iris, who is calling Barry Allen at the moment of the attack, is injured. Allen, as The Flash, runs from Central City to Vegas, disarming Captain Cold's cold-fusion devices and incapacitating him with his own weapon. Jordan and Morgan drive to a nearby military base, where Ace shows Jordan a plane he is going to fly from Vegas to New York as part of a new television program. He tells Jordan about a job interview that he has arranged for him with Carol Ferris and her father, the owner of a large aircraft company who flew with Jordan's father during World War II, before leaving for New York. Jordan accepts the position offered by Carol, and the two begin a relationship.
In Montreal, 1957, Matthew Ryan, the survivor of a devastating plane crash, wakes up from a recurring nightmare of the crash and leaves the amusement park where he is working. He returns to the crash site to try and overcome his trauma and encounters the fellow survivors, Morgan, Leslie "Rocky" Davis and Walter Mark "Prof" Haley. They each express surprise that they were all compelled to return to the crash site on the same night, and question why they all survived. They resolve to reunite as the Challengers of the Unknown. In Knoxville, a black man named John Wilson is lynched by the Ku Klux Klan while his wife and daughter are burned inside his house. Wilson survives and decides to take revenge on the Klansmen. He takes the name "John Henry" and forges two sledgehammers to wield as weapons.
In New York, Flagg and the fellow members of Task Force X, Karin Grace, Jess Bright and Dr. Hugh Evans, fend off an attack from another giant pterodactyl; revealed to be one of many attacks that America has been facing along the East and West coasts. Evans is snatched by the pterodactyl, and the two perish above the Statue of Liberty after the creature chews through a round of thermite in Evans' belt. Flagg recognises that the pterodactyl came from the same island he was stranded on with The Losers, and the government sends Task Force X, along with Ace, Ryan, Rocky and Prof to investigate and begin containing any potential threats. Grace begins to sense a colossal presence, eventually overcome by its enormity, suffering a brief seizure. Flagg returns to the cave and discovers Cloud's entire message: he predicted that Flagg would eventually return and finished the message warning of a vast spirit with no apparent beginning or end, described as "an all-consuming circle", proclaiming that the island is "a living thing". Suddenly, Flagg's party are attacked by a mutated dinosaur, forcing them to flee the island. Just as it emerged, the dinosaur is seemingly swallowed up by the ground.
At Ferris' company, Jordan is subjected to a gruelling series of tests in the hopes that these will help him qualify as an astronaut. Eventually, he is selected by Carol and Flagg, also working with Ferris, to take part in their top-secret space program. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, a hooded John Henry – wearing the severed noose he was hanged with – murders several Klansmen who have just murdered a black congregation and burned their church.
New Frontier includes elements of the Golden and Silver Ages which did not appear until the 1970s. Many characters appeared as they did when they were created, and were not retconned to fit the era and story. Barry Allen becomes the Flash in 1956 (the year of his first appearance in the comics) and Hal Jordan acquires the power ring and becomes Green Lantern in 1959, the same year that story was published.
Although Cooke said that New Frontier took place in the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, he did not use the period-accurate Earth-One and Earth-Two Multiverse concepts; he used a post-Crisis continuity variant, where Golden and Silver Age heroes exist in a unified timeline rather than separate realities.[original research?] The New Frontier universe was one of the 52 Earths in the DC multiverse (Earth-21).
The New Frontier's style has several influences: Jack Kirby's squared fingers, muscles and jaws; the clean lines of Golden Age-era comics; the Fleischer Superman cartoons; Batman: The Animated Series, and other shows in the DC animated universe; Cooke was an artist on many of the latter. His style resembles that of Bruce Timm.
The series received Eisner Awards for Best Limited Series, Best Coloring and Best Publication Design, Harvey Awards for Best Artist, Best Colorist and Best Continuing or Limited Series and received the Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist (Writer-Artist). In 2007, when the series was released as an Absolute Edition, it received an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album (Reprint) and a Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work.
It was adapted as a direct-to-video animated film, written by Stan Berkowitz and produced by Bruce Timm with Darwyn Cooke as story and visual consultant. Rated PG-13, it was released in the United States on February 26, 2008 on DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray and pay-per-view.
As of February 2019, the series has been collected in two softcover collections, an Absolute Edition, a deluxe edition, and a DC Black Label Edition:
- DC: The New Frontier: Volume One (#1-3; ISBN 1401203507)
- DC: The New Frontier: Volume Two (#4-6; ISBN 1401204619)
- DC: The New Frontier: Absolute Edition (#1-6; ISBN 1401210805)
- DC: The New Frontier: Deluxe Edition (#1-6, material from DC The New Frontier: Absolute Edition, and the Justice League: The New Frontier Special; ISBN 1401248888)
- DC: The New Frontier (DC Black Label Edition) (#1-6, behind-the-scenes material, and the Justice League: The New Frontier Special; ISBN 1401290922)
DC Direct first released a line of action figures based on the series in July 2006:
- Wave 1 - Blackhawk, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Superman, and Wonder Woman (July 2006)
- Wave 2 - Batman, Dr. Fate, Martian Manhunter and The Flash (December 12, 2007)
A box set of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman (with a new head), including a reprint of Justice League: The New Frontier Special, was released in April, 2009.
Justice League: The New Frontier Special was released in May 2008 as a follow-up to the Justice League: The New Frontier DVD. Stories included Batman vs. Superman, a post-New Frontier story where Robin teams up with Kid Flash for the first time and a Mad Magazine-style story with Wonder Woman and Black Canary.
- Lincoln, Ross A. (May 14, 2016). "Darwyn Cooke Dies: Influential Comics Artist-Writer And Animator Who Created DC's 'New Frontier' Was 53". Deadline. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
- Cooke, Darwyn (2014). DC: The New Frontier: Volume One. New York: DC Comics. ISBN 978-1401203504. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
- Cooke, Darwyn (2005). DC: The New Frontier: Volume Two. New York: DC Comics. ISBN 1401204619. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
- Cooke, Darwyn (2006). DC: The New Frontier Absolute Edition. New York: DC Comics. ISBN 1401210805. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
- Cooke, Darwyn (2015). DC: The New Frontier Deluxe Edition. New York: DC Comics. ISBN 978-1401248888. Retrieved March 14, 2019.