The Batman Column: Season 1 Finale

Good day, everyone! I know it’s been awhile, but working two jobs has kept me away from blogging for some time. However, I decided to take advantage of a little free time and come back to put together what will effectively be the season finale for my column here at Sourcerer. You, dear readers, have watched my blogging voice grow over the past months as I wrote my weekly Batman column that slowly began to grow into something more. The last couple of posts in that column dealt heavily with the ideas of narrative multiverses and correcting continuity errors by condensing storylines.

I hope to continue that trend when I do return; after all, it looks like Marvel may be headed towards its own Crisis on Infinite Earths with the recent teasers for its latest Secret Wars event that seems to tie into every major story from the past few decades. It’s no secret that Marvel has been playing with its multiverse a bit more over the past few years, with most major storylines featuring orphan characters from defunct universes, as well as time travelers from the past and many possible futures. It’s become a trope in many Marvel books that the timeline is effectively broken and in need of repair. Look for more from me as this event continues to develop.

Aside from my own work, I’ve also missed two very important events for comic book fans, those being Jack Kirby’s birthday (August 28) and Banned Books Week (September 21-27). Jack Kirby, the King of Comics, co-creator of Captain America, creator of DC’s New Gods, and primary creator of most of Marvel’s stable of characters, would have been 97 this year. I would like to wish belated good fortunes to his estate, and it looks like they’ve finally reached a settlement with Marvel over old rights. Further, I hope some of you were able to fit in such superhero stories as Watchmen or The Killing Joke during Banned Books Week last month.

That’s about it for this finale. Look for my column to return in full force in the near future, as well as small periodic posts here and at quaintjeremy’s thoughts. And as for a last comic book recommendation, I urge you all to go out to your local comic shops, talk to fellow fans, find books that will interest you, and follow them with all your heart. Keep the community alive.

I’ll see you all soon.

The DC Multiverse: Crisis on Infinite Earths

Happy new book day, everyone! Today, I’d like to continue the trend I started last week and talk a bit more about DC Comics’s somewhat convoluted multiverse structure to help make it more accessible and understandable (and certainly less daunting) to both new and experienced readers. Please remember to keep last week’s post handy as a reference for some of the concepts and jargon I’ll be using as I move through this phase of the column. In order to make this task more manageable for all of you as readers and me as the authority (or something like it), I’ll break down these posts by universe-altering event (usually called a Crisis), and work my way through the most salient of them from over the past few decades.

Cover to The Flash #123 (September, 1961) by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Flash_v1_123.jpg

Cover to The Flash #123 (September, 1961) by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Flash_v1_123.jpg

I’ll begin with what is likely the largest shift in comics continuity in either big company to date—1985-86’s 12-issue maxi-series entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. DC had established near the beginning of the Silver Age that its titles existed in a multiverse—the shift from Golden to Silver Age itself was determined to be a shift from one universe to another, after all. 1961’s “Flash of Two Worlds” story by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino established that the Silver Age characters (characters we’re more familiar with today—Barry Allen as the Flash, Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, etc.) existed in what was then called Earth-1 before several shifts in the numbering scale. DC’s stable of Golden Age characters (a Flash named Jay Garrick, a Green Lantern named Alan Scott, and older yet familiar versions of such characters as Superman and Batman) all existed safely tucked away on Earth-2, which, despite numerous reboots, is still largely true today.

Epic wraparound cover to a recent edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths by Alex Ross. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://images.sequart.org/images/Alex-Ross-cover-to-the-collected-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths.jpg

Epic wraparound cover to a recent edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths by Alex Ross. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://images.sequart.org/images/Alex-Ross-cover-to-the-collected-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths.jpg (Click for larger image)

By the middle of the 1980s, this idea of a multiverse had grown almost out of control. It had become a crutch both to explain away continuity errors and a way to tell unique stories free of continuity’s constraints. Because of this, the DC multiverse was quite literally infinite by 1985. This was the point where the powers that be decided to simplify the playing field, trimming away the excess worlds and creating a much narrower canon.

I’ll say this right now: Crisis on Infinite Earths is a big and confusing story, even to someone who has put some time into studying DC’s many universes that predated it. With that in mind, I’d like to try to break down some of its major points to make it more digestible without outright summarizing and spoiling the entire story. And, to be fair, this story is nearly 30 years old; you’ve likely already been exposed to its effects whether you knew it or not if you’re a DC fan.

The central conflict actually arises between entities called the Monitor and Anti-Monitor. The Monitor was the prototype for the omnipotent beings that watch over the entire multiverse that I referenced last post. The Anti-Monitor is quite literally the Monitor’s opposite number, and is even made from antimatter. It was the Anti-Monitor’s goal to destroy and consume universe after universe until it was the only being left in all existence. The Monitor attempted to discreetly push various superheroes into positions where they could conceivably oppose the Anti-Monitor, but ultimately played a smaller part than one might think when the event really took off a couple of years after his introduction into several DC titles.

Cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 by George Perez. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c5/Antimonitorcoie.png

Cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 by George Perez showing the battle against the Anti-Monitor. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c5/Antimonitorcoie.png

The Crisis itself was a huge, mind-boggling series of splash pages with dozens upon dozens of characters battling across them. Let it suffice to say that there were some surprising upheavals brought about by all of these battles. It became clear as the story went on that not everyone was going to make it out alive, and many characters didn’t. For example, both Supergirl and the Flash (Barry Allen) died during the events of the crisis and stayed that way for years. In fact, Barry stayed dead for over 20 years—something nearly unheard of in comics. Many fans believed he would never return (though he did in Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, which will be explored in a future entry in this column). The fate of reality was decided with a final attack on the Anti-Monitor by the Superman of Earth-2, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3 (the greatest hero in a world of villains), the Superboy of Earth Prime (the only superbeing from our own world who may also get his own post in the future), and the one and only Darkseid.

With the threat eliminated, events the Monitor had already set in motion came to fruition; out of the remaining broken worlds, one solitary earth was created—the Post-Crisis DC Universe of the late 1980s and 1990s. This world was an amalgamation of Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-4, Earth-S (the home universe of such characters as Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and other characters powered by the wizard Shazam), and some of the more favorable pieces of Earth-X (a world where the Axis had won World War II and superheroes carrying on the fight for truth and justice were rare but beloved). As you can imagine, this created an entirely new set of contradictions within continuity. For example, which aspects of the Golden Age and Silver Age versions of Batman and Superman were kept and which were thrown out? You begin to see how truly complex this issue becomes.

And this was the structure of the DC Universe until the reintroduction of the multiverse later on in its history. But that is a story for another post. What did you all think of this rundown? Was it easy enough to follow? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t forget to follow my personal blog at quaintjeremy’s thoughts, and feel free to tweet me @quaintjeremy.

My comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #18

Earth 2 #26

Grayson #2

New Avengers #22

Moon Knight #6

She-Hulk #7

A Basic Primer on the DC Multiverse

Cover to The Multiversity #1 courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis.

Cover to The Multiversity #1 courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis.

Happy new book day, everyone! A lot of news came out of San Diego Comic-Con this year, and quite a bit of it is relevant to this column. As I’ve announced previously, Batman shall always form the core of these posts, but extending my critical gaze over the breadth of the DC Universe is useful from time to time, especially with how much I have leaned on DC’s multiverse in several of my posts without fully explaining it. Due to Grant Morrison’s presentation last week on his upcoming Multiversity series, that task is made significantly easier.

Image of the multiverse courtesy of DC Comics.

Image of the multiverse courtesy of DC Comics. Click for larger image.

Here, we see the official map of the New 52 DC Multiverse, courtesy of DC Comics and generated primarily through Morrison’s imaginings. This is a close-up of the 52 universes of the Orrery of Worlds itself, which is the network of universes under observation by the nearly omnipotent Monitors. Also note that the spaces between universes is labeled as the Bleed, as readers of Warren Ellis’s Planetary and Morrison’s Final Crisis are already aware. To begin, I wish to draw your attention to a few established worlds.

First off, the primary universe in which nearly all of DC’s stories are set has traditionally been considered Earth 0. Though several new standalone stories bear the Earth 1 label, it is unclear if they are actually set in the Earth 1 listed above. Earth 2, also the site of its own stories, was originally the home of DC’s misfit (and elderly) Golden Age characters, but now has a cast of superheroes as young as those present in its primary narrative universe. Earth 3, now destroyed in the New 52, was revealed recently to be the backwards universe playing home to the evil counterparts of the Justice League known as the Crime Syndicate. This last point factored heavily into the recent Forever Evil storyline by Geoff Johns and will likely remain an important event for some time.

There are also several worlds that have not been officially designated but are easy to pick out or have not been changed overmuch since the onset of the New 52. It has been rumored that the Charlton Comics characters DC purchased in the 70s (Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question, etc.–the inspirations for the characters in Watchmen) will factor into The Multiversity, and that world has traditionally been labeled Earth 4. Additionally, based on its cubical appearance in the image above, I would hazard a guess that Earth 29 is Bizarro World. Other worlds and characters that will play a large role in The Multiversity include Earth 23 and its Obama-analogue Superman, as well as (a likely unchanged) Earth 26’s Captain Carrot—an anthropomorphic rabbit superhero.

A final note on the many Earths mentioned here: even higher on the cosmic numbering scale than Earth 0 is Earth Prime, the world of DC’s audience. That’s right; even the real world—a world that sees everything else here as simple myth—is a part of the celestial ordering.

Taking another step out to offer an even broader look at the multiverse, DC also provides us with this image of the godly realms that lie over the physical universes themselves.

More expansive view of the multiverse courtesy of DC Comics.

More expansive view of the multiverse courtesy of DC Comics. Click for larger image.

In this image, you will not only recognize such (fairly) universal concepts as Heaven and Hell, both fully established in the DCU, but also New Genesis (ruled by the benevolent Highfather) and Apokolips (enthralled by the god of all evil, Darkseid) of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World masterpiece. Careful viewers will also notice traces of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman present—note Destiny of the Endless at the very top of the image and the realm of Dream beneath him. And there are many, many more worlds that have not been officially named in the New 52 as of yet, though there have been several incarnations of the DC Multiverse already.

Further, there are many stories that have accepted numerical designations (or other titles) seemingly for the purpose of setting them apart from the main DC Universe. These include Milestone Comics (or the Dakotaverse), the older DC Animated Universe (Earth 12), the Vertigo Universe (Earth 13, now fused with Earth 0), the Wildstorm Universe (Earth 50, also now fused with Earth 0), and Earth 19 (the setting of Gotham By Gaslight). Additionally, many successful standalone stories have also been granted their own universes, among them Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier (Earth 21), Kingdom Come (Earth 22), Superman: Red Son (Earth 30), and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Earth 31).

This has been a basic introduction to several universes at play in the DC cosmic narrative. I’m very thankful for the new visual aids to help along such a presentation. What do you all think of this so far? Are any of you confused? Please feel free to leave questions or concerns in the comments below and I’ll do my best to clarify things. I plan on doing more with this concept in this column, so hang onto this post as a convenient reference. Don’t forget to follow my personal blog over at quaintjeremy’s thoughts and/or tweet me @quaintjeremy.

Another big week for comic picks:

Batman Eternal #17

Justice League #32

Sinestro #4

The Sandman: Overture #3

Avengers #33

New Avengers #21

Uncanny Avengers #22

Hawkeye #19

Fatale #24 (final issue!)

East of West #14