Twilight of the Superheroes
Twilight of the Superheroes is the title of a proposed comic book crossover that writer Alan Moore submitted to DC Comics in 1987 before his split with the company. Although various elements suggested by Moore later occurred in various comics, Twilight was never published and is considered a "lost work". The proposal gained fame after surfacing on the internet in the 1990s where its status as a lost work by one of the superstars of the medium, as well as its dark treatment of superheroes, garnered much attention.
The title refers to the concept of Ragnarök from Norse mythology. The story was to be set two decades in the future of the DC Universe and would feature the ultimate final battle between the heroes of Earth, including the older and younger generations of superheroes, as well as the supervillains and some extraterrestrials who inhabited Earth in the DC continuity. Twilight was conceived as a standalone limited series which could also be tied to ongoing titles at the other writers' consent, much like the then-recent 12-issue limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Various web sources preface the proposal by claiming that it originated in 1987, after Moore had made a name for himself with comics such as Swamp Thing but before his departure from DC. The proposal itself is prefaced with a long disquisition in which Moore talks about his thoughts on the super-hero genre, the problems of cross overs as a marketing and storytelling device, and his overall goals with the project. With regard to super-heroes, Moore stated that one problem with the genre was the lack of a definitive end to the story of most heroes; in the manner that the Norse Gods, for instance, had a definitive end. He felt that this prevented superheroes from achieving the iconic status that they might otherwise acquire and praised Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as an effort to provide such an end point for at least one DC hero. On the subject of crossovers as a storytelling tool, Moore criticised them as either forcing other books to make tentative connections to a central storyline, or forcing readers to buy comics they otherwise would not for fear of not understanding the storyline. His goal for the Twilight proposal was to address both of these concerns by providing an end point for the DC superhero universe, as well as providing a crossover which would logically tie into the company's various books without forcing readers to buy numerous titles.
The framing device of the story involves future versions of John Constantine and Rip Hunter travelling to the present day, ostensibly to prevent a serious disaster involving the superheroes of their time. The hook through which the series would connect with other titles is the attempts of the two time travellers to recruit others into their quest to alter the future through warning them of upcoming events. Individual books in the DC Universe could tie into the crossover or not, as their creators wished, by having Hunter or Constantine show up and warn the stars of the book of some event. The main narrative of the series involves Constantine relating the story of what has happened in the future to his present-day self over drinks in a bar. The series was set in the future of the DC Universe, where the world is ruled by superheroic dynasties, including the House of Steel (presided over by Superman and his wife Wonder Woman) and the House of Thunder (consisting of the Marvel Family) as well as houses built around the Teen Titans, the Justice League, and an alliance of supervillains. The houses of Steel and Thunder are about to unite through the dynastic marriage of Superboy and Mary Marvel Jr., with their combined power potentially threatening the status quo, and several characters, including Constantine, attempt to stop it. One group of opponents is a shadowy cabal of non-powered heroes from DC and pulp fiction, led by Batman. Another involves an alien alliance of the Green Lantern Corps, Martians, and Thanagarians. Constantine's narrative of the future ends with a massive battle between the various factions, resulting in the death of most of the super-powered characters. A side story would show a decaying superhero ghetto where decrepit versions of old heroes live. In the final part of the present time framing device it would be revealed that Hunter and Constantine had travelled back in time not to prevent the future they came from but to ensure its coming true. The final battle depicted in the book resulted in humanity being freed from the control of superheroes, a status that Hunter and Constantine supported.
The series would have restored the DC Multiverse, which had been eliminated in the 1985 mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. However, the series would also have been a significantly darker take on DC comics characters than had previously been published, with many of the future versions of the heroes depicted as murderers, perverts and tyrants. A central plot element of the series, for example, involves the Question investigating the bondage-themed murder of someone who turns out to be Billy Batson. The series was never commissioned, but copies of Moore's detailed notes have appeared on the Internet and in print, despite the efforts of DC, which considers the proposal its property.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, a number of story elements from Twilight of the Superheroes have made their way into works actually published by DC Comics. The 1991 crossover Armageddon 2001, for example, involves a messenger from the future travelling to the present to convince superheroes to avoid a disastrous future. A dark future vision of superheroes as irresponsible was shown in the series Kingdom Come. DC later introduced a more flexible approach to continuity, similar to what Moore proposed, with the idea of Hypertime. Finally, the mini-series Infinite Crisis, along with the series 52, reintroduced the multiverse to DC comics. Other changes to individual characters that appear in the proposal, such as the Teen Titan Cyborg becoming almost wholly mechanical, were introduced as well.
As the years passed after Moore's departure from DC, the proposal for Twilight started to leak onto various websites on the internet. For a time there was some speculation as to the document's authenticity, but it has been proven by DC and Moore to be authentic. At least one website was threatened with legal action by DC, which claimed to hold the copyright on the proposal, an action whose legitimacy is disputed.
- Full text of the original proposal
- The Virtual Museum of Comic Art Library Accessed 8 March 2007
- Stratton, Jerry Alan Moore's Twilight of the Superheroes Accessed 21 September 2007
- Twilight gallery featuring takes on the unpublished series from Moore collaborators