DC Histories: Zero Month

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the original Zero Month.

Zero Month Sampler (1994) Cover

In 1994, DC was riding a pretty big wave. Between 1992’s ‘Death of Superman’ storyline, Batman’s back breaking in 1993’s ‘Knightfall’, and Hal Jordan going bonkers in 1994’s ‘Emerald Twilight,’ DC was getting a lot of attention in the mainstream press. With this new attention came a lot of new readers. Full disclosure: I was among these new readers, having jumped into the DCU with both feet during the ‘Reign of the Supermen’ storyline which brought Superman back to life. Realizing that their continuity was already a little screwy even after the Crisis on Infinite Earths cleanup eight years earlier, an attempt to set things right took place in the pages of Zero Hour. This line-wide event gave the writers and editors of DC a chance to reset their books and reintroduce their characters to readers. They would do this during Zero Month.

Every DCU book with a cover date of October, 1994 was made issue #0. It didn’t matter if this was this series’ first issue or its 704th issue, as was the case for Action Comics. They were all issue #0. On top of that, each issue’s cover had the same treatment. Every logo’s main color was replaced by a slightly shiny silver and each cover was branded “The Beginning of Tomorrow.” Here are the four Superman comics from that month to demonstrate.

Each series was supposed to use these zero issues to either retell their characters’ origins or to reveal some heretofore unseen aspect of these characters’ pasts. The Superman and Batman titles had a tough go of it. With multiple titles telling stories with the same characters, they couldn’t tell the same origins. Each of these various titles just told one part of their main character’s beginnings. The Superman titles did a fine job of introducing a new villain at the same time, though Conduit turned out to be pretty forgettable. The Batman comics just went for the straight origin summary, including the story of how the Batmobile was created. It turned out that post-Zero Hour, Bruce just built it himself. That was a little anti-climatic.

From Detective Comics (Vol. 1) #0 (1994)

Tim Drake, the then current Robin, had his own ongoing solo series by this point and he got a little trip down memory lane as well. He recalled the excellent “A Lonely Place of Dying” storyline which introduced him to the DCU. Even in recap form, I thoroughly enjoy this story.

From Robin (Vol. 2) #0 (1994)

Other series went a slightly different track than just retelling origin stories. Some pushed their characters to new and different places.

Peter David had only completed two issues of his famed Aquaman relaunch before Zero Month hit. With issue #0, he gave Arthur Curry a look that would define the character for years. After getting his hand eaten off by piranhas, Aquaman attached an awesome hook to the end of his stub on this issue’s final page. Imagine reading this issue just because you had heard that it was a good jumping-on point and then you stumbled across this image. You almost had to stick around for at least one more issue.

From Aquaman (Vol. 5) #0 (1994)

Guy Gardner found himself in a similar place to Aquaman. Needing a change for the character after Guy lost his yellow Sinestro power ring thanks to Hal Jordan killing off the entire Green Lantern Corps, writer Beau Smith rebranded the title Guy Gardner: Warrior, revealed that Guy was actually descended from an alien race, and give him super powers. Also, this weird new costume.

From Guy Gardner: Warrior #0 (1994)

Few authors did a better job at turning this editorially mandated origin month into something special than Mark Waid. Earlier in Waid’s run on Flash, Wally West had said that an unknown family member had given him a pep talk during the lonely days of his youth. This talk had been a key part in the creation of his self esteem though he never figured out the identity of this family member. Due to Zero Hour’s time shifts and the interference of the Speed Force, Wally found himself jumping around in time, viewing his own history from a third person’s perspective. It all culminated when he found himself in his old bedroom talking to his younger self. He was the person who had given the young Wally that pep talk. It was a wonderful payoff and it retold Wally’s origin in an intriguing way. Better yet, this issue also set up the next major plotline for the series. Waid really hit this one out of the park.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #0 (1994)

Zero Month wasn’t just about reestablishing the characters of the DCU. It was also about launching new ones. Unfortunately, most of these new titles didn’t last long.

Though Dr. Fate was torn apart during the events of Zero Hour, DC had plans to bring the character back almost instantly. Instead of having a magician who had been around since 1940, the powers of Dr. Fate now resided in a big guy with a knife, an ankh symbol over his eye, and long hair. They did this because it was the ’90s. This new hero, now just dubbed ‘Fate,’ stuck around for a few years until the JSA revamp in 1999.

Fate #0 (1994) Cover

Other new series like Primal Force and Manhunter lasted an even shorter time than Fate.

However, one series launched during Zero Month would go on to a long run, eventually help relaunch the Justice Society of America, and cement its creators’ place in the industry. James Robinson and Tony Harris’ Starman #0 introduced the character of Jack Knight, a junk dealer and reluctant hero with whom readers could identify. Many comics fans sat up and took notice.

Starman (Vol. 2) #0 (1994) Cover

A few issues missed their October, 1994 window of opportunity to officially be a part of Zero Month. The Justice League spin-off Extreme Justice had their debut numbered as a #0 issue a good three months after their fellow titles. Why they didn’t just call it issue #1 is a bit of a mystery, but Blue Beetle and Captain Atom have never looked more “extreme.”

Extreme Justice #0 (1995) Cover

One Zero Month crossover was released over a decade after everyone else. During Geoff Johns’ Booster Gold relaunch, Booster became a regular time traveler. During an early jaunt across time, he ran into the events of Zero Hour. Cheekily, Johns dubbed the issue which contained this story #0 and gave it the same cover treatment as the rest of Zero Month, which had been released 14 years earlier. This issue didn’t just have a #0 on the cover. It also gave a recap of Booster’s origins, which certainly fit the Zero Month model. It was a wonderful callback to what had come before while still giving the readers something new. It was vintage Geoff Johns.

Booster Gold (Vol. 2) #0 (2008) Cover

Today marks the second Zero Month for DC Comics. Just as in 1994, DC has had a lot of mainstream press recently. Knowing that there are many fans who have jumped on the books since that time, Zero Month is being brought back as a way to explain to new readers the origins of their heroes as well as entice readers to jump across titles and try even more books.

Zero Month In-House Ad (2012)

What can we expect from this month? If the past is any indication, we’ll get a lot of origin recaps along with major shifts in several characters’ status quo. Some of those status quo shifts will stick around for a while, some of them won’t. A handful of new books are being launched this month, just as a handful were back in 1994, and DC is hoping that you’ll check them out. But really, Zero Month is all about making accessible jumping-on points without having to restart everything at #1 again. And I don’t mind that one bit.


Jeff Reid was worried about Guy Gardner’s vein-y arms back in 1994. Those look like they hurt. Hear Jeff talk about his vein-y arms on Twitter.


  1. Wow, this was interesting. I had no idea this was done before.

  2. Interesting as always Jeff, keep ’em coming.

  3. Really looking forward to this. This will be the last month I get all the DCU titles. I was originally only going to get the first years worth of books before cutting back my pull to only the books I really loved but this extended that plan for another month. It’s been an interesting year. Love or hate what DC has done I think we can all agree DC’s risk really energized the direct market again and that’s good for everyone.

  4. Conduit was a cool villain, but they certainly forgot him after Zero Month pretty quickly.

  5. I loved loved loved the GL and superboy zero issues from that first set of 0 issues.

    • Those were both favorites of mine as well, especially the Superboy issue. I really liked the first few years of that title’s history.

    • It’s all on the DC app now, or at least the first 20 issues. I had most of them but god only know where they are now. Those first two years were just gold as far as hooking me, a new reader to DC. I started with the Death of Superman and everything spiraled out of that.

  6. “Zero Month is all about making accessible jumping-on points without having to restart everything at #1 again. And I don’t mind that one bit.”

    Considering we just rebooted the entire Universe and relaunched everything to #1 only a year ago, I fail to see the point… besides desperate marketing that is.

    oh yeah, and Conduit was a cool character – I had his action figure and seriously played with it all the time.

    • Even though the reboot was a year ago, most of the books I read started in the middle of things (to varying degrees of success) and didn’t spend a lot of time on backstory.

      And really, all marketing has some underlying desperation — not too many products sell themselves without the help of marketing. And since a significant part of society doesn’t even know that comics still exist, I’d say marketing (call it a stunt if you like) is an indispensable part of modern comics.

    • Very good answer, KenOchalek!

      Many readers tell us that DC using marketing tools means their products are bad. This thinking process is nothing but high-level cynicism. Marketing is a part of everyday life from an economic point of view, and is more than welcome nowadays, considering the crisis, etc. It creates consumption and through that helps a company to improve and propose riskier, better, smarter products.

      Clearly, without good marketing today, there can’t be artistically good comics tomorrow.

    • even water and food need advertising. =)

    • I’m just really hoping that this means that all those books that started great and are now mediocre will get good again. The past few months I’ve been feeling like the impending “0” was somehow stunting the growth of some of these titles. I sure hope I’m right.

    • I get the feeling that once a year about this time we’re going to get the jumping-on point across the entire line. They may not always be zero issues but this feels like how its going to be done now.

    • @Skyfire124: I agree and think doing so makes a lot of sense — ongoing accessibility was one of the stated goals of the New 52.

      It’s arguable whether or not they’ve maintained that accessibility across the line so far (as much as I really love Snyder and Capullo on Batman, Court of Owls was a looong opening arc), but the structure nerd in me appreciates the way DC has been regularly dropping low performing books and releasing “Phases” of new books every 4-6 months. It tells me that even if this wasn’t all planned out when they started, they’re at least making intentional decisions about how it should function.

      Anyone have ideas for the “annual-jumping-on-point” issues? You can really only do a 0 issue once per volume numbering.

    • How about the entire universe has their own “Talking with David” issue……*kidding!*

  7. I really enjoyed this whole Superman era and even remember having a few of the Reign of the Supermen comics as well as Action Comics Issue 0 and is probably why I still have to pick up Superman from time to time. I had no idea that this was a, basically, one time DC-wide event though. Thanks for the great history lesson Jeff, this gets me excited for what might be happening this month!

  8. “the powers of Dr. Fate now resided in a big guy with a knife, an ankh symbol over his eye, and long hair. They did this because it was the ’90s.”

    Ha, and a mullet no less. I do like to think long hair is still cool though.

  9. Man, Superman in the 90s was pretty damn good. It wasn’t always great, but it had a large cast and it had a certain feel. I really wish they could do that with the character now.

  10. I still have all my Zero issues from 1994 – and this month, I will rise to power!!!!!

    (Not really. I just wanted to justify why I’ve been keeping all my Zero issues from 1994. Or maybe just Xenobrood.)

  11. Loved the zero hour event! My favourite issue was the Robin #0 where Tim drake meets dick Grayson at the same age. You get to see Tims and dicks strengths as characters.

  12. There was some really great stuff back then. Some pretty bad stuff, too.

    I actually had high hopes for Extreme Justice. Those were the “kewl” days.

    And that was the lowest low point of the great Guy Gardner’s career. I was so they ruined him like that – and am very glad it all went away. Now he just needs a great writer to do him justice and make him the great antihero he once was.

  13. Flash 0 is my favorite single issue of any comic of all time. It is the only comic book to ever make me cry. I’ve alway liked Conduit as a villain even if no one else does. There was some gold in that Zero Hour crossover.

  14. Hopefully we’ll get something half as good as Starman or nearly as good as Robin and Waid’s Flash when the next relaunch happens in January.

  15. That is a hella Spider-Many looking Blue Beetle on that Extreme Justice cover.. but they both have Ditko heritage so it makes sense…

  16. Just to throw this in there for nostagia sake, does anyone remember the posters that came in the books during the Reign of the Supermen?