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Understanding The DC Universe (DCU)

The DC Universe (DCU) is the fictional shared universe where most stories in American comic book titles published by DC Comics take place.

Superman : Understanding The DC Universe (DCU)
Superman : Understanding The DC Universe (DCU)

DC superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman are from this universe, as well as teams such as the Justice League, the Watchmen and the Teen Titans.

It also contains well-known supervillains such as Lex Luthor, the Joker, Brainiac, Gorilla Grodd, Sinestro, Deathstroke, Cheetah, Darkseid, Doomsday, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Bane and Harley Quinn. In context, the term “DC Universe” usually refers to the main DC continuity.

What is the DC Universe?

The basic concept of the DC Universe is that it is supposed to be just like the real world, but with super-heroes (and super-villains) existing on it. However, there are other differences. Many fictional countries, such as Qurac, Vlatava, and Zandia, exist in it.

The DC Universe typically has its comic books set in fictional cities, such as the cities of Gotham City (based upon New York City, New Jersey and Chicago) and Metropolis (based in part upon Toronto, though like Gotham, it also serves as a New York City analogue in the comics).

These cities are effectively fictional archetypes of cities, with Gotham City embodying the negative aspects of life in a large city, and Metropolis reflecting more of the positive aspects.


Main Characters in the DC Universe

Batman

The Joker

Wonder Woman

Superman

Catwoman

Poison Ivy

Harley Quinn

The Penguin

Aquaman

Martian Manhunter

Mr. Freeze

Arthur Fleck

Robin

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Hawkgirl

Darkseid

Power Girl

Green Lantern

Green Arrow

Bane

Lobo

Black Manta

Cyborg

Doomsday


DC Superheroes

The majority of the superhumans on Earth owe their powers to the “metagene”: A genetic feature of unknown origin, which causes some people to develop superpowers when exposed to dangerous substances and forces.

Others owe their powers to magic, genetic manipulation or bionics (see below).

A large power gap resides between Superheroes and civilians, making superheroes almost god-like. Still, others owe their powers to not being human at all (see races, below).

There are also many heroes and villains who possess no powers at all but use advanced technology or training in special skills, such as martial arts.

DC Supervillains

The government also formed Task Force X (known as the “Suicide Squad”) for “black ops” mostly using imprisoned (and thus expendable) supervillains enticed with offered clemency into helping them.

Outcast personalities are usually evident in super-villainy as well. Villains with meek powers contrive schemes of extraordinary complexity, yet because of their simple talents, when caught, any prison sufficient enough to contain these villains are suitable. They are masters in heists, kidnappings and robberies.

More powerful villains strive to contest for greater goals like world domination, or universal acclaim. Usually, more powerful enemies are imprisoned in maximum level facilities and even dimensions (Phantom Zone) or space because they can not simply be killed by a stray bullet or a fatal blow.

Advanced technology

Devices more advanced than those we currently have are available – but they’re usually very expensive, and usually, only rich or powerful individuals and organizations (or the scientific geniuses who create them) have access to them.

S.T.A.R. Labs is an independent research outfit that often develops these devices, while Lexcorp is the main company selling them.

Hidden races

There are a few intelligent races living on Earth that the public at large did not know about until recent times.

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Among these are the last survivors of Atlantis, who changed themselves into water-breathing forms, including the human-like Poseidonians and the mermaid-like Tritonians.

Aliens

There are many intelligent extraterrestrial races as well. Curiously, a large number of them are humanoid, even human-like, in form; some can even interbreed with Earth humans.

Some of these races have natural superpowers, but they’re usually the same for all individuals of the same race, unlike Earth’s metahumans.

Order is kept around the galaxy by the Guardians of the Universe and their agents, the Green Lantern Corps. Rival peacekeeping organizations include the Darkstars (created by the Guardians’ rivals, the Controllers) and the interplanetary mercenary organization L.E.G.I.O.N. Criminal organizations include the Manhunters, the Spider Guild and the Dark Circle.

Cosmic entities

There are several lesser beings in the DC universe that possess god-like powers, through energy manipulation, magic ability, or technological advancement.

Magic and the supernatural are often depicted as being real in the DC Universe, though some sceptics, such as Mister Terrific, maintain that there are scientific explanations to all such events.

The narration of the mystic and harsh dark reality is more common in DC’s Vertigo Comics because its stories lurk outside of superhero fantasy; the Vertigo series have beings that relate better to civilian life, although both universes are subject to fantastical realms and unworldly dimensions.

Magic is too powerful in the physical world, where harnessing magic can distort and even destroy reality if not properly controlled (e.g., if a Lord of Order succumbs to certain events, so will a Lord of Chaos).

There are several types of cosmic entities, such as:

Gods:

The first beings calling themselves ‘gods’ first appeared billions of years ago on another planet, but they destroyed themselves in a terrible war. This unleashed the “Godwave”, a wave of cosmic energy from the Source. This gave birth to other gods across the universe, including Earth’s.

Death:

Death represents different characters in the DC Universe. One personification of death is the Black Flash, who can represent Death as an internal figure for the speedsters in the DC Universe. Another is Death (see below), who resides at the very end of time. The Black Racer appears as Death in the afterlife.

The Lords of Chaos and Order:

These two groups of magical beings have been fighting against each other since the beginning of time and they often empower others (with “Order Magic” or “Chaos Magic”) in exchange for their acting as their agents.

Elementals:

The Earth itself has a living spirit called “Maya” who, for millennia, has been creating champions, one for each of the mystical elements, to protect itself, using human beings as their hosts. The Swamp Thing, Firestorm, Naiad and the Red Tornado were some of them.

Homo magi:

a species of humanity with the natural ability to use magic, this race almost disappeared after too much crossbreeding with normal humans (it is from them that people in the DC Universe inherited the ability to use magic).

The Endless:

Physical manifestations of eternal and universal phenomena that affect the human condition (Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Despair, Desire and Delirium), principally recounted in the Modern Age Sandman series.

Emotional Manifestations:

Like the Endless, these beings were created from the emotional energy generated by sentient beings. Each of the seven emotional manifestations of the DCU is represented by a different colour (rage – red; greed – orange; fear – yellow; will – green; hope – blue; compassion – indigo; love – violet) and being.

The various power-ring based corps of the DCU, most notably the Green Lantern Corps and Sinestro Corps, utilize the energies of these beings.

Wizards and Sorcerers:

Various sorcerers lurk in the DCU. Dr Fate, Circe, the wizard Shazam, Mordru and Felix Faust are written as characters who use sorcery to both create and destroy.

Demons:

Demonic entities vary from Etrigan the Demon to Blaze, Satanus and Neron. Demonic entities are abundant and come from Hell although some, like Eclipso the vengeance demon (also referred to as the Prince of Darkness), reside on the Moon.

Demonic entities from Wonder Woman comics are directly linked to Greek mythology such as Hades and Ares.

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In the Vertigo comics, characters like John Constantine oppose demons influenced by Christian mythology. Most demons are not, however, directly linked to demonology.


Read more about the DC Comics Universe and characters in our DC comics explained page.

If you are a fan of DC comics and want to get awesome DC merch and collectables to show off to your friends, check out our page of DC comics gifts. We have located the best statues, collectables and memorabilia of your favourite DC characters.

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