The history of the DC Universe continues to evolve and grow over the years, and the recent reveal of an "ultimate" timeline that definitively pins down the order of major events for DC Comics comes as no exception. One of the biggest reveals from the DCU's "ultimate" timeline showcased over the weekend at New York Comic Con is that Wonder Woman is the first "Generation 1" superhero, making her DC's most important.
One of the handier aspects of the shift is that it covers a timeline problem DC has perpetually endured throughout the years. While it always made sense on a metatextual level for DC to portray Superman as the first costume-clad, crime-fighter given the hero's real-world status as the "first" superhero, the longer time has worn on the harder that has become to sustain. Sure, in the 1950s and 1960s the sliding timescale of DC's history could accommodate Superman being the "first," but as time ticks on in the real world, it ages Superman's character inappropriately.
Superman is most often portrayed as somewhere in the young adult to the middle-aged range, so in order for DC to fit its rich tapestry of 20th Century heroes, it becomes harder to say that Superman really was the very first one. A hero who never had a problem tacking decades (or even centuries) on to her immortal reputation, however, is Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman is the perfect solution to the problem in-universe. It just makes sense for her to be one of DC's first superheroes given her ancient and mythological origins. If she were just waiting around twiddling her thumbs until men started wearing capes and fighting evil it would do the strength of her character a disservice.
The new timeline still has its cake and eats it too, of course. Wonder Woman is explained as being the first of a "Generation 1" of heroes, while Superman marks the start of a "Generation 2." Both receive their special historical importance, but its notable that Wonder Woman's takes priority. This comes as a major shift in the status quo emphasizing the importance of the female icon.
The shift also reflects the performance of the character compared to her male counterparts in the real world, as well. Wonder Woman was the first notable exception to the startling disappointments of the DCEU's Man of Steel and Batman v Superman movies. Her film proved that fans don't want simple retreads of familiar stories with the same types of people, but hunger for a diversity of stories from a fresh perspective recognizing previously ignored audiences.
Even apart from the social consideration, the shift also emphasizes one of the main ways DC sets out to differentiate itself from Marvel. While Marvel is known as the more sci-fi-heavy storytellers, DC asserts its dominance in being the primary producer of fantasy-based superhero tales. DC loves playing up the idea of superheroes as part of modern mythology, and it doesn't shy away from using supernatural origins to explain the likes of Shazam or Aquaman, both of whom still ride high on cinematic successes that trumped the more sci-fi-oriented Batman and Superman stories from before.
Of course, that doesn't mean Batman, Superman or any sci-fi heroes are free from the mythological comparisons. Superman is often played up as a Christ-like figure, and Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman popularized the notion of the hero as a modern-day sun God. Batman represents a darker side of the myth-making, with Wonder Woman herself comparing him previously to the Roman god of the underworld, Pluto.
Needless to say, the attempt to clean house and make the DC timeline sensible proves a refreshing change for fans to familiarize themselves with the lore. Whether they are new fans looking to get into comics or old fans just desperate to know what is going on, the move is an important one on several levels. Sometimes to make room for a new world it's necessary to make sense of the old one, and there are few better heroes to lead that effort than the Amazonian princess herself.