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DC: The New Frontier is an Eisner, Harvey, and Shuster Award-winning six-issue comic book limited series written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, published by DC Comics 2003-2004, then collected into two trade paperback volumes from 2004-2005 and then an Absolute Edition in 2006. The story was adapted as an animated movie titled Justice League: The New Frontier, and released on February 26, 2008.

The series was influenced by works such as Kingdom Come, The Golden Age, Watchmen, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Much like The Golden Age, New Frontier takes place primarily in the 1950s, and depicts the Golden Age superheroes Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman meeting Silver Age characters the Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter. The story bridges the gap from the end of the Golden Age to the beginning of the Silver Age in the DC Universe.

Plot

World War II is over. The Cold War has begun. The Age of the Superhero is in decline. But where are the heroes of tomorrow? From the perspective of those brave individuals who made it happen: encounter Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, who survived the anti-hero sentiment of the Cold War, as well as eager newcomers like test pilot Hal Jordan and scientists Barry Allen and Ray Palmer, poised to become the next generation of crime fighters. All leading to the mounting threat of an alien presence on Earth, where dozens of characters from the '40s, '50s and '60s eras of DC Comics team up to defeat it.

Setting

The New Frontier is set from 1945-1960. Cameos from the likes of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon, as well as references such as the atomic testing, civil rights movement, and the Soviet Unionmarker, are done to give a sense of the era the series is set in. The storyline draws inspiration from the comic books and films of the period, as well as both the novel and film The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. The series attempts a dynamic re-imagining of the era that ushered in the presidency of John F. Kennedy. A major part from one of his speeches is used and the title also invokes John F. Kennedy's use of the term New Frontier.

Contrary to actual events, there are some historic inaccuracies if not alternations in the series. Eisenhower is President in 1952, but he wasn't until '53, and Senator Joseph McCarthy is the head of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but McCarthy never sat on the HUAC as he was elected directly to the Senate in '48. John Stephens Wood was the chairman of HUAC at the time. There is a reference to the U.S. Department of Energy, which was a cabinet-level department. But, unlike the series, it never existed during the '50s.

Continuity

The continuity that New Frontier is set in could be best described as a "best of both worlds" where the two eras of the Golden and Silver Ages, both different as one was created from the pulp magazines and the other mainly from the genre of science fiction, are now in coexistence. Also, there are some traditional elements from the DCU applied in the series, certain characters or things that aren't Golden or Silver Age-related such as the cameo appearances of Harvey Bullock, Darkseid and Booster Gold, who didn't appear until the 1970s-1980s. Another factor is that many of the characters appeared when they were created, and not retconned to fit the era and story around them. As explained by Darwyn Cooke himself, from a fan podcast called Fanboy Radio, "all retcons are irrelevant; the only continuity that matters is the 'prime continuity' established in the first year by the guys who created the strips. I'm following the exact continuity of the original books in the original time they occurred." For example, Martian Manhunter lands on Earth in 1953, the year in which the character Roh'Kar was created, who served as the character's prototype until the character's actual first appearance in 1955, in which year the story's J'onn J'onzz becomes a detective. Barry Allen becomes The Flash in 1956, the same year as his first appearance in the comics, and Hal Jordan acquires the power ring and becomes Green Lantern in 1959, again just like the story. While not revealed, it has been assumed that this is the case with this story's versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, debuting in 1938, '39, and '41 respectively. Same with the Justice Society of America as well.

Cooke did not use the Earth-One and Earth-Two Multiverse concepts as explanations toward the story's continuity, and would consider New Frontier as pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity. However, the New Frontier universe, or a very similar version of it, is one of the Earths in the current 52 DC multiverse, designated as Earth-21.

Art Style

The art style has several influences: Jack Kirby from the squared fingers, muscles and jaws; the simple clean lines of Golden Age-era comics. The past deco-aesthetics from the Fleischer Superman cartoons to the more modern deco-aesthetics from Batman: The Animated Series, and a number of other shows in the DC animated universe. Cooke had previously worked as an artist for many of the latter. Cooke's style also has similarities to that of Bruce Timm.

Awards

Since its release, the series won the Eisner Award for Best Limited Series, Best Coloring, and Best Publication Design. Harvey Award for Best Artist, Best Colorist, and Best Continuing or Limited Series. And the Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist (Writer/Artist). In 2007, when the series was released as an Absolute Edition, the series gained another Eisner and Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album (Reprint) from Eisner, and Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work from Harvey.

Film adaptation

Single DVD cover art


An adaptation was made as a direct-to-video animated film, written by writer Stan Berkowitz, produced by Bruce Timm, with Darwyn Cooke serving as story and visual consultant. Rated PG-13, it was released in the United States on February 26, 2008 on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, with pay-per-view available the day it was released.

Collections

The series has been collected in two softcover collections and one Absolute Edition collection. While the softcover collection reprint the comic as it was when was released in issues, the Absolute Edition includes an extra 13 pages of brand new new stories.

  • DC: The New Frontier: Volume One (collecting #1-3; ISBN 1-4012-0350-7)
  • DC: The New Frontier: Volume Two (collecting #4-6; ISBN 1-4012-0461-9)
  • DC: The New Frontier: Absolute Edition (collecting #1-6; ISBN 1-4012-1080-5) [164850]


Merchandise

DC Direct produced a line of action figures based on the series, released in July 2006.

  • Wave 1 - Blackhawk, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
  • Wave 2 - Batman, Dr. Fate, Martian Manhunter and The Flash. Released December 12, 2007.


Follow ups

A brief addendum appeared in Solo #5 (2005), a collection of short stories written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke. One of the stories, featuring King Faraday, is set in pre-revolutionary Cubamarker and is titled "Triangulation: A New Frontier Thriller."

In time for the DTV release of the animated adaption Justice League: The New Frontier, Cooke and DC Comics released a follow-up special titled Justice League: The New Frontier Special as a tie-in as well as adding more stories onto the comic version. Stories included a Batman vs. Superman that revealed that it wasn't until the mid-'50s that Superman and Wonder Woman met Batman. A post-New Frontier story where Robin teams up with Kid Flash for the first time. Followed by a Mad Magazine-styled story between Wonder Woman and Black Canary.

References




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