Here at Polygon, we refuse to be limited in our affections. While others celebrate Earth Day with praise for the singular Earth, we like to sing the praises of infinite earths. Specifically, the infinite earths of the DC Comics multiverse.
An interconnected web of parallel earths is such a standard of superhero comics it made it all the way to the big screen in Avengers: Endgame, and will get top billing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And while DC Comics might flirt with the idea of maintaining a single timeline for a decade or so, staff at the original superhero publisher have always drifted back to the editorial freedom of the multiverse — as they should, since it was DC Comics writers and editors who first linked parallel earths with superheroes in the first place.
And in 2020, DC Comics shook up the multiverse in a big way. For over a decade, the publisher had limited itself to a cosy 52 earths, contrasting with Marvel Comics’ positively decadent system of infinite parallel worlds. (Why 52? The short answer is it’s the number of weeks in a year. The long answer is longer.)
But following the conclusion of Dark Nights: Death Metal, the DC Multiverse is now an infinite multiverse. In fact, it’s linked with other multiverses in an Omniverse, and don’t even get me started about the implications for Hypertime, or we’ll be here all day. So let’s begin with what we know.
All earths are deserving of praise on Earth Day, in a multiverse of infinite earths, some of them are gonna be… kinda duds. Frankly, a lot of these Earths are mediocre at best. Multiple earths that appeared in one comic that nobody remembers, while hefty settings like the DC Animated Universe go un-established within the Omniverse. Obviously, it’s up to us to sift the chaff from the wheat.
These are the known earths of the DC Comics multiverse, ranked.
50-∞. All undesignated earths
Rounding out the absolute bottom are all the unexplored Earths. Some of them could be known settings, like the DC Animated Universe setting, or wherever the CW shows take place, but they have not been officially established.
Hey, you earths? Call me when you have rankable qualities.
Ranked just slightly above completely unexplored earths are earths from which we’ve met only one character, who appeared in, like, one issue. The Captain Atom of Earth-38 appeared in DC’s Countdown miniseries and pretty much never again.
Intended to be an even better follow up to DC’s year-long 52 miniseries, Countdown was supposed to set the table for Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, but it wound up … not really doing that at all and many of its events were ignored or retconned. And yet, it remains the reason we have these three known worlds.
Same deal: The Blue Beetle of Earth-39 was another Countdown baby who gets to have whole number in the multiverse.
On DC’s main earth, Courtney Whitmore is the hero known as Stargirl, but the Courtney Whitmore of Earth-7 goes by the more mature Starwoman. She appeared in a Countdown issue and that’s all the record we have of this world’s existence.
Home of the Justice Assassins, a techno-augmented group of mercenary assassins who roughly correspond to members of the Justice League. They had a lot of guns and armor and have only ever appeared in 2017’s Superman #15, in which they died.
And now, some Elseworlds books. Theoretically, the Elsewords heading is supposed to denote that a story is not canonical with the DC Multiverse, and yet several Elseworlds books have designated Earths. Like Earth-34, the setting of a 1997 one-shot where Wonder Woman liberates England from its usurper king, Jack the Ripper.
An entire universe for another 1997 one-shot I’d literally never heard of before: Thrillkiller. Bruce Wayne’s a cop and Robin and Batgirl fight crime.
Darkest Knight, an Elseworlds story in which Bruce Wayne becomes the Green Lantern of Earth instead of Hal Jordan, is written by Mike W. Barr and so it’s probably decent. But do we really need to give it an entire Earth?
On Earth-40, the Justice Society of America are covert government agents fighting in World War II rather than public superheroes. Based on the two JSA: The Liberty Files books from the early ’00s. No, I don’t remember them either.
Home of characters from the Tangent Comics imprint of the late 1990s, in which writers and artists were invited to reimagine DC Comics characters based on their name only. Ranks higher than Earth-40 only because of ambitiousness of concept, not because of any rise in notability.
Earth-1 is the setting for the Superman: Earth One, Batman: Earth One, Teen Titans: Earth One, Wonder Woman: Earth One, and Green Lantern: Earth One graphic novels. The Earth One imprint gave writers and artists the opportunity to reimagine the origin stories of DC’s biggest characters for a modern audience, with a strong emphasis on “realism” — or whatever realism means in a superhero setting. It turns 10 years old this year, and has never exactly become a touchstone.
Judging by some truly scanty appearances, Earth-17 appears to be a universe where Darkseid reigns and the Justice League, or their equivalents, are his wardog riders. Points for concept, but we’ve barely seen two panels of it.
The earth where everybody’s the same but magic replaces science. You’ve got your Bat-Mage, your literal seer Oracle, and your Kal-El, wielder of Kryptonian “Magicks.” The Earth-33 setting is a cool idea but has only appeared in Countdown to Adventure #4 — yes, another Countdown book.
Now we’re beginning to get somewhere! Earths based on notable Elseworlds stories!
Earth-30 is the setting of Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son, which reimagines the DC Universe if Superman’s rocket landed in Soviet Russia in the 1940s. I’m not the biggest fan of the series, but it’s definitely a book with some fame to its name.
Earth-19 is the steampunk setting originated in Gotham by Gaslight, the original Elseworlds story. Batman fights Jack the Ripper in the 1880s, it’s good fun. A strong 1800s redesign of Batman’s costume has fueled repeated appearances as one of the cardinal alternate-universe Batmans.
The entire universe of Earth-15 was destroyed by Superboy prime, but Hal Jordan recently altered its reality and repopulated it with heroes in order to thwart a space tyrant who was trying to erase the Green Lantern Corps from all of time.
This happened quite recently in, of all things, Green Lantern: Blackstars, because we can’t expect Grant Morrison to keep his sticky fingers out of the multiverse for even one second.
Earth-52 gets many points for concept: It’s an Earth where all the heroes are the same except everyone is an ape. Does Gorilla City still exist, one wonders? Is it now called “Human City?” Is there a “Human Grodd?”
Earth-52 loses many points for being a 53rd Earth added to the core 52 by writer Scott Snyder. Scott, everybody knows the DC multiverse only had 52 earths! We had 13 perfectly good, completely unexplored earths in the multiverse. You could have picked one of those!
The earth of Doug Moench and Kelley Jones’ Batman & Dracula trilogy, in which Batman becomes a vampire in order to gain the power to defeat Dracula, but then loses the last of his humanity when he breaks his cardinal rule against killing… in order to kill Dracula. The GCPD have to start staking the mob bosses Batman attacks so they don’t rise as vampires, Catwoman becomes an out-of-control werecat, Alfred and and Commissioner Gordon have to sadly stake Batman like he’s a beloved dog being put down.
I’ll give Earth-43 this: It’s absolutely gonzo, and it would rank higher if not for the obvious fact that it should not be one of the 52 parallel Earths. It should be one of the crumbling worlds of the Dark Multiverse, which is made up of worlds in which heroes succumb to their worst impulses. Don’t at me.
We don’t know much about Elseworld at the moment, except that it is one of two new “centers” of the DC Omniverse. Will it be an incorporation of all previous Elseworld stories? Will it simply be some kind of editorial initiative to tell new Elseworld stories? There’s no way of knowing at this point, but either way, I appreciate the throwback.
In Earth-48, nine intergalactic empires decided to stop fighting each other in interstellar wars and instead rendered Earth into a barren wasteland, and started having localized battles there instead. The surviving losers of those battles were stranded on the planet to die, and eventually formed a genetically diverse society descended from all nine empires, and overthrew those empires.
This is an Incredibly dense and bonkers history for something that has only appeared in Countdown to Adventure #1. Points for that.
The setting of Batman Beyond. Would rank higher, except this is the comics version of Batman Beyond, and, look. Batman Beyond has never worked well in the comics.
The brilliant Beyond costume is inextricable from the cartoon style of the animated series. It looks bad in any kind of detailed or realistic rendering — and especially in cosplay (sorry, Terry McGinnis cosplayers). And the events of Batman Beyond are inextricable from the Gotham City of the DC Animated Universe. Stop trying to integrate a Batman Beyond future with the DCU and just give us a DC Animated Universe Earth already.
Or, perhaps, Earth-Ω? Nothing is known about Earth-Omega except that Darkseid is. There.
Darkseid is there, reborn from all his different past aspects into a new form powerful enough to bring an end to even an infinite multiverse. Darkseid rules, and therefore Earth-Omega also rules.
28. Earth Goth
Earth Goth has only appeared in Dark Nights: Death Metal The Last Stories of the DC Universe, and then the only refugees from it who had survived its destruction were the nattily attired superteam the Gloom Patrol. But say it with me. Earth Goth. Earth Goth. More stories about Earth Goth please.
An Earth where all characters’ sex and gender presentations are on the opposite of the gender spectrum. The DC Trinity is Superwoman, Batwoman, and Wonder Man. Every multiverse should come with one of these, and more stories should be told in Earth-11. My words to DC’s ears.
With Earth-4, we’ve truly hit the upper echelon of Earths — including Earths based on once-popular, now shuttered comic publishers whose intellectual property was acquired by DC Comics upon their demise.
As much as I love Blue Beetle and the Question, however, the Charlton Universe is arguably more famous today for almost becoming the Watchmen universe. The DC Universe has its own version of Charlton’s still relatively obscure heroes, and keeping the original universe alive in its own Earth feels a little redundant.
Back in the ’80s, Earth-10 went by another name: Earth-X (Eat your heart out, Hickman). It was the home of the characters of Quality Comics, the original Freedom Fighters, a super hero team led by America’s legendary Uncle Sam, in a world where the Nazis were able to establish a hegemonic world government. It could rank higher, but that’s too real.
24. The Earth of DC Bombshells
Who needs a whole universe about fighting WWII era Nazis when you could have a whole universe about DC superheroes fighting in WWII and it’s only the lady ones. With retro redesigns, rewritten origin stories, and a cameo in which Alfred Pennyworth appears as a precocious Dickensian rascal.
23. The Earth of the DCeased series
Every good multiverse needs one where everyone is a zombie, and now the DC Universe has a solidly established one, too. The DCeased comics, written by Tom Taylor and drawn by multiple artists, launched with some skepticism about whether it was just a ripoff of Marvel Zombies, but as is becoming Taylor’s trademark, he turned a gimmicky idea into a heart-felt, character-driven meditation on hope.
Home dimension of the Young Justice cartoon. Really!
I must again remind you: Batman: The Animated Series does not have a designated Earth.
Countdown described Earth 51 as “A near perfect world. No mention of crime, war, poverty, disease,” before it was destroyed by an evil Superboy, then recreated as a copy of the main DC Universe, and then infected with a virus that forced humanity to devolve into anthropomophic talking animals, replacing humans as the dominant species on the planet.
This is the world of the Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth setting, after the charming but absolutely bonkers Jack Kirby comic. Kamandi rules, hence the high ranking of Earth-51 on this list.
19-20. Earth-6 and Earth-8
Both Earth-6 and Earth-8 are winking homages to the Marvel Universe. I approve of this.
Earth-20 has barely appeared in comics, and then only in Grant Morrison ones. But the concept! The already pulp comics characters of the Justice Society, but more pulpy. Think superheroes, but in the world of Brendan Fraiser’s The Mummy. They were fun, and if the right creative team wanted to pick them up again, I’d be first in line.
17. The Earth of All-Star Superman
The new infinite multiverse of the DC Universe has room for an entire universe for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s definitive Superman take. Does this mean we’ll see a return to the setting? Where Morrison is concerned, anything is possible.
Every multiverse needs one where all the good guys are bad guys, and in DC Comics, that’s Earth-3. Superman? No, Ultraman. Batman? Nah, Owlman. Justice League? Buddy, earth’s totalitarian rulers are the Crime Society. And they screw each other — and betray each other — like the best episode of any reality TV show. This is the DC Universe you love to hate and can’t stop watching. Everybody needs one of those.
Earth-13 is what Earth-33 wishes it was. Yes, it’s another world based in magic instead of science, but Earth-13 leaned in so far it faceplanted. On Earth-13, Etrigan is Superman, and everybody calls him Superdemon. He was “rocketed to Earth from the planet Kamelot by a wizard named Merlin,” and was found by “Jason Blood, a Midwestern preacher’s son,” who raised a literal demon to fight crime. That’s basically “what if Hellboy was Superman!”
I desperately need to know what the rest of Earth-13 is like.
In Marvel Comics, you have the world of Spider-Ham, in which most of Marvel’s characters are reproduced as punny cartoon animal versions of themselves. Captain Carrot & The Zoo Crew are essentially that for Superman and the Justice League, but even more abstracted. As someone who read every Discworld book before I ever found out about DC Comics’ Captain Carrot, there’s always been some cognitive dissonance there.
But, there’s a lot of nostalgia out there for Captain Carrot’s Earth-26, and you’ll find him showing up in lots and lots of multiverse tales. Even if he largely reminds me of Captain Vegetable.
The universe where everybody’s a robot! Rock on, you funky little universe.
The world where everything is the same but it takes place in the Old West. Hell yes. More multiverses should have these. I’m looking at you, Star Trek — cut the holodeck right out of the equation.
11. The Earth of the Injustice multiverse
Injustice was another Tom Taylor joint that started out gimmicky and turned into one of the most riveting DC Comics stories of its day. From the ashes of a video game in which the Joker fools Superman into killing Lois Lane and the entire Daily Planet newsroom, so Superman punches the Joker’s heart out of his body, and Batman goes on the warpath against a newly totalitarian Superman — Taylor and his artist collaborators turned in story that had moments for a sweet friendship between Harley Quinn and Black Canary, a wedding between Orca and Killer Croc, and a trashcan with legs.
Where else are you going to see Superman pettily tweet out Batman’s secret identity?
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns universe. There’s no denying the long-lasting effect that Miller’s magnum opus has had on Batman in all media — but I’m glad it has its own Earth to percolate in instead of serving as a mandatory future that all Batman stories are pointing towards.
The home of the superhero setting of Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics, in which, once they’d won World War II for the allies, all the superpowered “science heroes” relocated to one super city: Neopolis. In addition to hosting the Tom Strong stories, Earth-25 is also the home of Top Ten, Alan Moore’s other series about the intersection of superheroes and policing. You’ve probably never heard about it, but Top Ten rules.
It has a police sergeant who is an intelligent doberman pinscher who wears an exoskeleton to walk like a man, and also Hawaiian shirts.
A whole universe for Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier setting, in which all of DC’s core superheroes — and lots of now-obscure adventurer characters besides — all showed up in the midst of the Cold War. Cooke’s legacy as an artist and a writer was cut short too soon, and his biggest contribution to the multiverse deserves this kind of immortality.
The Wildstorm Universe. Even though Wildstorm’s biggest characters — the members of the Authority and WILDCATS series — have been ported over to the main universe proper, it’s good that DC has spared a universe for their original continuity. Nothing perfectly encapsulates the journey superheroes were about to go on in the ’00s like The Authority, and without that we might never have gotten Steve Orlando’s Midnighter or Midnighter and Apollo.
6. Earth M
Finally, Static has his own home in the DC Omniverse. With the return of Milestone Comics to DC’s publishing line, the company has started to roll out modernized Static and Icon books, but the ranking here is really a testament to just how hard the original Milestone books ruled. Static Shock remains virtually timeless even today, the writing crisp, the art memorable and slick. The work to build a brand new superhero setting that felt so alive and vital in the middle of the genre’s 1990s excesses remains a fantastic achievement.
Of DC’s Elseworlds stories that deserve a movie adaptation, Kingdom Come would be the most ambitious, and probably the least likely to get one. And yet. The moment it was announced, I’d buy a ticket.
Kingdom Come is one of the most well-built alternate worlds in the DC multiverse, a setting that gets its blend of superhero cynicism and faith in humanity just right. And with Alex Ross art, the entire setting oozes with style. Kingdom Come is the reason Wonder Woman is known for golden eagle armor.
Earth-2 has gone through some upheavals in the past 10 years, but as of Doomsday Clock, it is once again the first home of the original Justice Society and versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman who’ve grown old enough to marry and have adult kids. While it technically represents the original 1950s incarnation of the DC Universe, Earth-2 has an even more important role in the multiverse, as DC’s original alternate earth.
Still, while stories set in Earth-2 have been common over the years, they have a bit of a toothless feel to them when they don’t intersect with the main universe. I’d rather see more Earth-2 characters in the main DCU than in Earth-2.
3. The Earth of Watchmen
It’s out there in the Omniverse: The home of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ great superhero deconstruction. Doomsday Clock put it on the multiversal map, and Dark Nights: Death Metal only pushed things further, revealing Watchmen-ified worlds in the Dark Multiverse where Bruce Wayne had received the powers of Doctor Manhattan and other bonkers stuff like that.
That’s not the reason it’s ranked so highly, of course. Watchmen’s influence on the genre of superhero comics cannot be understated. Moore and Gibbons walked so that ideas like Wildstorm, Injustice, and even much of the modern main DC universe could run.
Formerly known as Earth-S — for “Shazam” — Earth-5 (see, because a 5 looks kind of like an S…) is the home of the Fawcett Comics character formerly known as Captain Marvel. Having read some comics from the era before DC’s Shazam stories were integrated with the main DC timeline, I can tell you. They were great.
Shazam is a character who works well as a strange niche of the DCU, but he also absolutely thrives in a jokier, pulpier place. And that’s why his setting is so close to the top. There was a time when the Shazam setting outsold Superman like gangbusters. That means there’s a parallel earth out there where Shazam’s universe became the DC Comics half of the Big Two, and I’d be writing about that almost ever day instead. Respect.
Here we are folks. It’s the end of the ranking, and the obvious conclusion: The best Earth in DC’s multiverse is the main DC universe.
I tried to leave us in a more interesting place, but I’d be lying if I tried to say that any other Earth on this list had a more compelling conceptual underpinning or character lineup than Earth-0. And that makes sense, since the rest of these Earths are merely reflections of Earth-0, even the ones created whole cloth by other publishers. Superman was the first superhero, his setting was the first superhero universe, and DC was the first publisher to create a superhero multiverse.
The entire genre is, no matter how refracted, a reflection of those storytelling rules. No wonder Doctor Manhattan calls it the “metaverse.”
And perhaps it’s a fitting ending on this Earth Day. In some sense, DC Comics really only has one Earth, and 50-odd reflections of it for superheroes to save. We definitely only have one Earth, and a distinct lack of superheroes. Something to keep in mind!