Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Crisis of Infinite Earths

I got set off over at Walk in Brain about the state of DC Comics. Most of what I don't like about DC goes back to the mid-80s with a storyline called Crisis on Infinite Earths. Yes, I have nothing better to do but think about something that happened to Superman 20 years ago.

Superman, Batman, and a million other superheroes were created back in the 1940s. Max Gaines, father of Bill "Mad Magazine" Gaines, was one of the men who saw the potential in blatantly nonrealistic characters (as opposed to comics about pirates, cowboys, police, science fiction and fantasy [realistic in their own worlds], romance, etc.

During WWII, the public couldn't get enough superheroes. After the war, all but Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman faded away. Twenty-some years later, superheroes made a comeback and DC Comics found themselves with dozens of popular characters.

The trouble was that if Superman and crew had gone up against Hitler and Tojo, they'd start to gray in the 60s, so, starting with a story about the Flash, DC established that the new heroes were on Earth 1, the WWII vets were on Earth 2 in a different dimension. Given that most comic book geeks were also science fiction geeks, familiar with parallel world stories, this wasn't a problem.

Eventually more earths popped up--Earth 3, plagued by evil versions of Earth 1's good guys; Earth X, where the Nazis won; Earth S, where Captain Marvel and his family lived; and many more. One earth was exactly like Earth 1 but everyone's sex was switched (Superwoman, Wonder Man, Louis Lane, etc.). Another was full of talking animals, protected by Captain Carrot.

Eventually DC introduced Earth Prime, our earth, which was on the verge of seeing its first superhero (hey, no dumber an idea than the Rapture). For a while it looked like DC was going to switch focus from Earth 1 to Earth Prime and reboot. The heroes of Earth 1 were getting old and could use an update.

Instead DC destroyed most of the earths and combined the few survivors into one world. Okay, given the Quantum Mechanics suggests that there are multiple, if not an infinite, number of our own universe, this makes the DC Comics universe far less wondrous and interesting than our own.

Now when writers tell "what if" stories at DC, they have to label it "Elseworlds, imaginary stories" (as if any story about flying aliens and bat people isn't imaginary). This has affected the way cosmic events are treated (the ending of Mark Millar's Red Son and anything with Jack Kirby's Tomorrow People seems off).

DC execs have admitted that the whole event was to attract attention from Marvel Comic fans and to reboot their titles with a fresh start so new fans wouldn't feel left out.

Not that it's a pressing issue of today but they wiped out a world where Georgia Bush is president for a sales gimmick that could have been avoided with more imagination. Oh yeah, they also killed Flash and Supergirl but it was destroying that transsexual earth that still has me miffed.

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