Monday, December 19, 2022

Room for Everyone (Except You Know Who)

 Well, I'm sure you've all seen this by now:

LITERALLY overwriting Morrisons's personal black light poster of the multiverse.

It's the summation of Barry's survey of the multiverse in Dark Crisis; Big Bang, which was

--what is the word I am looking for...?--

Oh yes:


I'd almost forgotten it.

No irony. DC:BB was fun.  Any reader knew that the Anti-Monitor wasn't going to kill Barry and that Barry wasn't going to destroy the Anti-Monitor and that it was just an excuse for a grand tour of the multiverse.  I was certainly amused at just HOW baldly it STEPPED ON Grant Morrisons's grand art project of The Orrery of the 52 Worlds, as if it were some quaint medieval remnant describing the spheres of the heavens. Wallace West (if they are using his new nickname yet, they didn't here, or Barry didn't, because, you know.... Barry wouldn't) was the perfect gee-whiz sidekick that Wally West just can't be any more and it showed how much Barry Allen really NEEDS that.  In one issue, I now "get" Wallace as a character and he has a clear literary function; keep that up, DC.  As for Barry himself, it nailed his character, not just in repeated scenes but in ONE LINE: 

Isn't that just Barry Allen in a nutshell?

I once wrote that Barry Allen is the only true "superhero" among DCs iconic heroes, and this is a good example of why.  No matter how fantastical the concepts he encounters, he himself grounds them with his down-to-earth police scientist viewpoint.  

FLASH FACT: Grounding things is what Barry does, just like a lighting rod.

Anyway, the list of worlds on the Multiversal Mystery Tour had

  • some surprises (MAD respect for the inclusion of Earth-59, which has NEVER been mentioned since it's first appearance), 
  • some things I'd never even heard of (like Earth-2020), 
  • some things I wish I'd never heard of (such as Earth-49), 
  • some welcome reinstallations (e.g., Earths 93, 10, 2, 3, 4, 5), 
  • some timeline-solvers (Earth 54), 
  • some transmedia sops (Earth-789, for example), 
  • some gated retirement communities (Earth-22, thank gods), 
  • and, of course, home (Earth-33, although WHY it is numbered "33" I CANNOT figure out for the life of me, any clues will be appreciated).

I have some TINY quibbles, of course.  I wouldn't expect them to specify every multimedia version of their IP but, really now, a nod to the CW's Arrowverse would definitely have been in order (or did I miss it?).  I take umbrage at the Batman'66 villains being characterized as "exceptionally benign" since they quite literally tried to KILL BATMAN EVERY WEEK, which is NOT something that happens in any comic book and never has. Campy they may have been, but BENIGN they were not.

But on the whole? This is brilliant in its simplicity. Finally, DC is knuckling down at doing its homework to keep its promise of "everything you've read/like HAPPENED... somewhere, sometime."  Not in a vague muddle of personal continuities or timey-wimey hypertime, but on an actual world with a number. Whether it ever gets identified and labelled or even acknowledged, mentioned, hinted, or implied, you can go to sleep knowing that somewhere that story or character you loved is "comic-book real".

Except for Nocturna.
Squash that.

Is that silly? YOU ARE DARNED RIGHT IT IS. But it's COMIC-BOOK silly.  And it WORKS.  Why didn't DC ever think of this before?

Oh, wait, that's right: this is nearly exactly the concept they thought readers were too DUMB to understand in the mid-1980s, leading to the elimination of the multiverse (a concept that every OTHER publisher and genre embraced afterwards).  Well, it took nearly forty years but this is basically DC saying: "yeah; that a mistake. Let's try that once more, but with a little more thought."

And the concept (unlike the original multiverse or Grant Morrisons Art Project) is clearly designed to be elastic. This is evidenced by some of their choices already:

  • lumping some groovy properties together into Earth-47;
  • expanding the Superman Red/Blue 'imaginary story' into its own world with Batman Blue and Grey;
  • allowing the Filmation universe  (Earth-1956) to stand as one where, yes, Superboy would have been the first hero;
  • creating parallel worlds for versions of the Shazam Family and Justice Society BUT STILL HAVING VERSIONS ON EARTH-0 (that's especially ingenious, as it lets them have their cake [all their original adventures are true!] and eat it too [we can adapt their pasts and stories to incorporate them into our principal continuity!]).

This is very forward-looking, if any future storylines turn out to be dead-ends, well... they don't have to be bulldozed, exactly; they can just be relocated to a numbered cul-de-sac in the suburbs of the DCU, where you can visit them if you really want to, and the rest of of us can simply drive by on our way to the Big City.

Why, there's probably even a universe where everything is like Detective Comics 1-26, populated with nothing but heroes like Slam Bradley and Gumshoe Gus, The King and Cosmo the Disguise-y Guys, squarejaws like Bret Lawson and Bruce Nelson and Larry Steele and Steve Malone and Bart Regan (SPY!), Buck Marshall and Hot Trail Hogan, incomprehensible detectives like Speed Saunders and Inspector Kent and Mr. Chang, the Crimson Avenger, Fu Manchu (okay, maybe not Fu Manchu), and Hope Hazard G-Woman!

C'mon; don't you still wonder whether she ever found the Z-ray and escaped the cave headquarters of Xavier, Ruler of the Underworld?

Sure you do.

I do hope that DC takes what seems like a next logical step to me: a monthly, even quarterly, TITLE that just features a few story one-and-done stories set on  different worlds each issue.  That could be...

--what is the word I am looking for...?--

Oh yes:


I'd almost forgotten it.


Anonymous said...

In my dotage, I have decided that it was Bob Haney, yes Bob Haney, who had the right idea: you have a story you want to tell, tell it. You want Batman (Earth-One) and Wildcat (Earth-Two) to team up ... ? Do it! HJF1 at the age of 12 might have had a problem with that, but decades later he's fine with it. I am happiest when continuity isn't like long strands that stretch out forever, but more like little clouds where some stories might connect, or not, depending.

Which is not to say I'm displeased with DC deciding to construct a multiverse around existing stories, rather than other approaches. Maybe I'm personally happiest not worrying about which earth a story happens on, but I'm not everyone, and DC just mapping all stories to specific worlds is as good a solution as any.

About this ...

"this is nearly exactly the concept they thought readers were too DUMB to understand in the mid-1980s"

... this is a matter of opinion, but I suspect DC's real motivation was simply to ape Marvel. Marvel had one universe ... ? Then if DC does that too, maybe they'll be as popular as Marvel. DC's problem then, as now, was not having writers and editors who respected what made DC tick and building on it. DC heroes are basically well-adjusted crime busters and they hero not out of personal trauma but because it makes sense to them ... ? Don't try to inject trauma into their origins. DC heroes live on different worlds where some heroes have counterparts and some don't ... ? Build on that, and maybe even come up with rules that make it easier for heroes to slip from one world to another more than once a year. Come up with some sort of hand-wavey thing like there are sometimes vibrational ripples that briefly put Wildcat on Earth-One so Batman can team up with him.

Anonymous said...

... oooh! I like the vibrational ripple theory as even better than a Superboy Punch. If the fan and editorial consensus is that a given story was a mistake, well, it happened during a vibrational ripple, and as such the story "happened" but is also no longer in continuity. Characters were way out of character in a story ... ? Either the story is no longer in continuity, or in the non-ripply version their motivations were better so the story was mostly the same but people weren't just jerks.

- HJF1

Scipio said...

"I suspect DC's real motivation was simply to ape Marvel. Marvel had one universe ... "
You know, it's funny, you should mention that....

Bryan L said...

I posted this back under the Solicitations post, so I'll just bring my thoughts forward to the present day. I was responding to your mention of the Dakotaverse.

"The Dakotaverse is Earth-93. I too am glad to see it return, though I felt like it could be integrated into the main universe, most of the attempts were unsatisfactory. Barry Allen has provided a current listing of the entire DC Multiverse in the back of "Dark Crisis - Big Bang." I'm particularly pleased with Earth-66, home of the Adam West Batman; Earth-789, home of Christopher Reeve Superman and Michael Keaton Batman, and Earth-1956, home of Superboy and Krypto which later becomes home to the Super Friends.

I don't see an animated Earth for the DC animated universe, and that displeases me greatly. Unless I missed a reference somewhere. I'm also not seeing a CW Universe, which I find very odd, or a current DC movie universe, though that's apparent in flux right now."

I'm assuming Earth-Prime has been designated Earth-33 because Superman was created in 1933. Most of the numerical designations reference years, and I'm not sure what else happened that year. Perhaps others have a better explanation.

Bryan L said...

*apparently in flux. Cursed typos!

Scipio said...

"I don't see an animated Earth for the DC animated universe"

IF you mean BTAS/JLU... it's got to be there somewhere, beccause there's one for Batman Beyond and the Justice Lords, which are mere spin-offs.

I simply thought of Earth-1956 as standing for all animation.

Bryan L said...

That's a good point about the Justice Lords. The only actual option I see for the animated universe is Earth-12, described as “A future Earth home to a young ‘Batman Beyond’” which is a weird way to describe it. I don't see a way to reconcile the Filmation Superboy/Super Friends universe with the DCAU. Though I'm not going to go nuts and demand that every DC animated movie be categorized into the multiverse (I'm totally demanding that), the DCAU is a pretty extensive amount of world-building to be overlooked. Besides being my personal favorite DC universe.

The CW thing is odd in that they just released a CW miniseries with epilogs to the canceled shows. I’m wondering if there’s some Warner Brothers thing going on with the James Gunn stuff (Cavill’s in, Cavill’s out) that’s making DC shy away from categorizing the movie/TV properties. There’s no Doom Patrol/Titans/HBO Max universe listed either. Or animated Young Justice, come to think of it. Batman: Brave and the Bold should be its own universe, too.

I love this stuff. Fun, indeed.

Scipio said...

It may be the opposing of what we are thinking. The goal may not have been to specify the obvious 'tentpoles' universes, but exactly the opposite. We all KNOW there's an Arrowverse and DCUAnimated and the Legoverse and the current movies, so they aren't making any effort to CONFIRM those. Instead they focused on affirmed forgotten backwaters and niche properties, the ones that actually NEED the affirmation.

Bryan L said...

Excellent point.

Anonymous said...

“No divergence in history other than every inhabitant is a werewolf.”

BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!! What a beautiful collection of words!

“Earth -93: The Dakotaverse”

Glad they noted the separation. I hope this means the new stuff, too.


HELL YEAH! Even if there is never another Amalgam comic, I appreciate the nod to one of my favorite ‘90s absurdities.

- Mike Loughlin

Scipio said...

“No divergence in history other than every inhabitant is a werewolf.”

You know, when I read that, my first thought was "of course there is." And my second thought was remembering when I read COIE. There was no internet in those days, so COIE was the very first time I was seeing a LOT of those characters (including some important ones, like Mrs. Gofoeey). I remember my curiosity being incredibly piqued time and time again by tantalizing glimpes of these strange characters who hailed from completely different worlds I had never heard of... that DC was, for the most part, destroying before my very eyes. It felt quite cruel.

I think this is their attempt to make up for that.

cybrid said...

"exceptionally *benign* villains"

I do not think that word means what they think it means.

cybrid said...


Oh, wait, I see that you commented on that yourself. My bad. Sorry about that. :-|

Scipio said...

I did not realize that Superman was actually CREATED in 1933 but not published until 1938.

As for JC, I'm not sure I make that big of a distinction between Superman and other messianic characters created by Jewish authors.

cybrid said...

"As for JC, I'm not sure I make that big of a distinction between Superman and other messianic characters created by Jewish authors."

Not sure I've ever seen it put quite that way before. It's definitely memorable. :-)


I recently learned that Vibe is (or at least was until recently) a current member of some Justice League or another (I've forgotten how many them co-exist, if indeed I ever knew). I'm looking forward to eventually reading your thoughts on that. :-) Thanks for your time.

Marcos said...

Eath-2020 is clearly the setting of "Superman 2020", which was a backup feature that showed up in six or seven issues of Superman from 1980-1982. It imagined that the Superman active in 1980 had a grandson, Superman III, active in the far-future year 2020. Ah, Grunenwald did a retrospective about it:

Anonymous said...

Not a big fan of romance in comic books I take it?

cybrid said...

In case anyone was wondering, re Earth-43, Batman & Dracula: Red Rain does NOT depict a vampire Justice League. So I'm not sure what the deal is there.

Scipio said...

"Not a big fan of romance in comic books I take it?"

'Nocturna" is not an example of "romance in comic books". Julie Madison and Silver St. Cloud were examples of romance in comic bmooks.

Nocturna was an example of stupidity in comic books. Which I am not in favor of.

Anonymous said...

Well its just in previous posts you did rant a lot about romantic stupidities (particularly those from the Silver Age and ones that continue to draw upon said age for influences), so to see you defend Madison and St. Cloud like this is honestly very surprising and out-of-character given previous behavior.

cybrid said...

"in previous posts you did rant a lot about romantic stupidities"

Did he? I'm not recalling anything like that. Presuming that sexual innuendos don't qualify, of course. ;-)

Scipio said...

I am not "defending" them as examples of romance in comics: I am listing them. It does not necessarily mean I endorse them as especially good examples, but that is what they are. I am well aware of my points are; I have no idea what your point is, and frankly, if you perceive my labors here as "ranting" I don't really care.

I assume you haven't ever read even ONE story with Nocturna in it and this just a knee-jerk reaction to try and condemn what you perceive as some sort of logical inconsistency in my own tastes.

As anyone should be able to tell from even those three panels, every thing about the storyline with Nocturna was utter dreck that made Beverly Crusher's romance with her grandmother's ghost-lover look like Doctor Zhivago.

I was taught that there are two kinds of dogs in the world: those who look where you are pointing and those who just smell your finger. This isn't a post about Nocturna but clearly you're only capable of smelling the finger instead of looking where it's pointing.

Anonymous said...

Meh, Barry Allen was better off dead given the amount of drek he'd been involved and while I don't mind having a multiverse back that isn't stuck in the middle of a "grand art" project like previous writers have been doing ever since the buildup to Infinite Crisis, I don't want it to be another side-project that gets constantly referenced and/or remixed every other month or so.

Anonymous said...

What have you got against a one-sentence question anyway? It's like you're taking lessons from both Avi Green and major comic book publishers on how to simultaneously saying a lot while meaning a little and condescendingly talking down to viewers.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you like the Detective Issue stories before #27, take my advice and don't read New Super-Man. You won't like the "revisionism" going on, particularly in #16.