Comics Ate My Brain

October 1, 2004

One more thing about COIE

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 6:50 pm

In the summer of 1985, my parents packed me, my sister, and Grandma into the Plymouth Voyager and headed off to the North Carolina shore for a week’s worth of vacation. Of course, I took a stack of comics, including Who’s Who, New Teen Titans, and Crisis on Infinite Earths. On the way, we listened to the radio — because that Saturday while we were on the road, people in Philadelphia, London, and watching and listening around the world, were rocking out to Live Aid.

One of my clearest memories from that trip is relaxing as the minivan cruised through the early-morning fog, reading Who’s Who while the two-hit-wonder band The Hooters opened up the Philadelphia concert. By the time Sting was on, I was into the All-Star Squadrons.

Therefore, reworking Crisis so that it takes place in 1999, with its resultant soundtrack of Matchbox 20 and “Mambo No. 5,” makes another part of my teenage years die a little….

Post-Crisis Crisis, Part 2

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 5:48 pm
Continued from Part I

So, why two Legions? Basically, to preserve the contention that Superman has met them both. Although the Legion was subject to major changes in the wake of Crisis, it still tried to maintain a coherent history for some 8-9 years, until it was completely rebooted in the wake of Zero Hour (1994). Because the Superman books marched on, Superman remembered meeting both versions, and even confused them momentarily. I’d like to think there is a bubble of time for about 60 years, starting near the end of the 30th Century, where more alternate futures are possible.

Onward and upward:

Issue #5. We discover that the Monitor planned for his death to release energies that would activate his devices and drag everything into a “pocket universe.” However, the devices have made Earth a “patchwork” of many different time periods, with areas destroyed by anti-matter being “patched” with their unaffected counterparts from different times. (For example, if Hawaii of 1999 was destroyed, Hawaii of 2032 has taken its place.) Thus, time is jumbled and compressed, with different ages intermixing. The different ages also include alternate timelines, but there aren’t too many “Elseworlds.” Alex Luthor, Harbinger, and Pariah gather all the heroes and villains on the Monitor’s satellite and explain what’s what, then return them to the surface to protect the patchwork areas. A small group is left on the satellite when the transformed Red Tornado attacks.

Issue #6. The heroes escape the Monitor’s satellite and disable Red Tornado. (He’s been upgraded with more storm-related powers so he’s more of a threat to a space satellite.) The Anti-Monitor uses Psycho-Pirate to create fear and panic on Earth. There are superheroes in the patches, under Psycho-Pirate’s influence, so our heroes fight them. Out of one patch comes Wonder Woman, Diana of Themyscira, who — after being freed from P-P’s spell by the Lasso of Truth — recognizes Superman as one of her dearest colleagues. Superman is sore impressed that a veteran like her could claim to have learned so much from him. Harbinger expends all of her power to wrap the Earth in a protective field, disrupting Psycho-Pirate’s influence for good. This forces the Anti-Monitor to redirect his energies toward Earth, and that breaks his hold on the Guardians.

Issue #7. With most of the Earth under control, Harbinger tells a select group of heroes the history of the universe. Long ago, Krona, the renegade Oan, tried to discover the secrets of the dawn of time. He ended up unleashing evil. Also in the distant past, the Monitor and Anti-Monitor were born on the moons of Oa and Qward, respectively, and fought each other for most of time, until one battle left them incapacitated. Millions of years later, the scientist who would become Pariah destroyed his world trying to observe Krona. Pariah’s failed experiment apparently awakened both Monitor and Anti-Monitor. In other words, lots of exposition, much of it the same as before.

Basically, the difference this time is that because the anti-matter wave shows up in various places throughout the timestream, its effects in those areas have created an infinite number of alternate timelines. [Here I was inspired by Gog’s plan in The Kingdom to work his way back through time, killing Superman on a different day each time, and creating alternate timelines as a result.]

However, the antimatter wave is just gravy for the Anti-Monitor. He wants to break down the vibrational walls that keep time moving on a single track, so that the past “bleeds into” the future. Once everything is reduced to a single point in time, it will be blasted with an anti-matter cannon, thus ensuring that the anti-matter universe is the only one which has survived. (The Anti-Monitor destroyed his universe’s Earth with positive matter — naturally — because he knew the Crime Syndicate would give him trouble.) The tuning forks were designed to keep time aligned, but with the Monitor’s death the process was begun too soon. [Except for the bit about the Crime Syndicate, this paragraph’s explanation came pretty much from JLA: Incarnations #5.]

The Anti-Monitor’s machines are still forcing different eras together, so Alex Luthor and Pariah lead another group of 15 heroes — M’Onel, Jade, GLs John Stewart and Alan Scott, Lady Quark, Doctor Light II, Martian Manhunter, Captain Marvel, Superman, both Wonder Women, the Ray, Orion, Lightray, and Firestorm — to the Anti-Monitor’s fortress. (Why only 15? This is just the first wave.) There, the Anti-Monitor almost kills Superman, and Diana dies rescuing him. [I originally had a thought to make this the Linda Danvers Supergirl, seeking “redemption” and closure as per the final events of her series, but this seems to work out better.] With her final breaths, Diana tells “Clark” she dies happy, knowing she’s helped save the future for what he becomes. “What I become?” Superman asks. “You live up to your promise,” Diana whispers.

A severely wounded Anti-Monitor escapes in a starship containing the anti-matter cannon. Superman and several other heroes attend Diana’s funeral on Themyscira.

Issue #8. We peek in on Darkseid and learn he’s “cloaked” Apokolips from the Anti-Monitor. New Genesis has been destroyed, so conferences are held with Orion, Lightray, Mr. Miracle, and Barda, to see about overtures to Darkseid. On Oa, the Guardians also debate their next course of action, and there is a clear difference of opinion. The Red Tornado’s “autopsy” ends up destroying what remains of the JLA Satellite. Guy Gardner finally gets the last GL ring he will ever need or want. On Qward, the Anti-Monitor has built himself a new body. Flash II dies destroying the anti-matter cannon.

Issue #9. Guy fights John Stewart and the Shark, with Hal Jordan in the middle, before they all take off for space and the anti-matter universe. [This incorporates the as-yet-unreprinted Crisis tie-in arc from Green Lantern v. 2 #s195-98.]  Back in our universe, villains gather on Kobra’s satellite “Ark” (refurbished with secret thanks to Luthor — the two also worked together in JLA: Incarnations #3) and with simultaneous well-placed strikes, take control of New York, Moscow, and New Delhi. Alex Luthor, Harbinger, and Pariah are addressing the UN when Kobra interrupts holographically, demanding the heroes’ surrender. (Or “Ssssurrender,” I guess.) Kid Flash is called out of retirement to help Flash I break through the walls which the villains have erected around the cities. Begun, the Villain War has. Psimon takes control of Kobra’s Ark.

Issue #10. The Villain War rages across Earth. Kobra kills Psimon. The Spectre ends the war by announcing that the Anti-Monitor is going to the dawn of time, and must be stopped before he changes all existence. (I suppose Harbinger’s powers and the Monitor’s devices are presently keeping Earth “out of time” and temporarily safe from the A-M’s plans.)

In the anti-matter universe, an army of alien baddies led by Guy Gardner and Hal Jordan prepares to square off against an army of Green Lanterns for control of the moon of Qward where the Anti-Monitor was born. (One side thinks it’s the source of his power; the other thinks it’s keeping his full power in check.)

Earth’s heroes travel back to the dawn of time. The villains are dispatched to Oa, 10 billion years ago, to stop Krona from creating the anti-matter universe. The villains fail, and the heroes are nearly beaten by the Anti-Monitor, when the Spectre, backed by the might of the Earth’s sorcerers, manages to force the Anti-Monitor to a draw. More and more power is poured into the battle, and everything turns white….

Issue #11. In the anti-matter universe, there’s a flash of white nothingness, and then everything’s back to normal. Taking the fallen Tomar Re’s power ring, Hal Jordan becomes a Green Lantern again. On Earth, it’s the next morning, and no one remembers the Crisis. The “patches” are gone, and so are everybody from the alternate timelines. (Straightening out the timeline eliminated the anti-matter waves and therefore the alternate timelines created thereby.) There is a debriefing at Titans’ Tower involving many heroes, just to confirm that there are no more time anomalies. Still, no one has heard from Barry Allen. It looks like the crisis is over; but then, the skies turn red, and then black, as the Anti-Monitor draws Earth into his universe.

Issue #12. On Earth, millions of shadow demons begin killing. The assembled sorcerers weave a spell to remove them. Meanwhile, several of the mightiest heroes (Big Barda, Captain Marvel, Dr. Light II, Firehawk, Firestorm, Lightray, J’Onn J’Onzz, Orion, Power Girl, Superman, Lady Quark), follow Pariah to Qward to destroy the Anti-Monitor. Kid Flash tags along and finds Barry’s empty uniform. A team led by Batman and Mr. Miracle (Blue Beetle, Black Canary II, Katana, Atom II, Green Arrow, Adam Strange, Animal-Man) takes a Mother-Box-enhanced Bug to Apokolips and convinces Darkseid the Anti-Monitor is a threat to him too. The Anti-Monitor is softened up by many attacks — the “poisoned” shadow demons, Dr. Light II, Alex Luthor, and Darkseid’s Omega Force — and finished off by Superman. (This doesn’t kill him outright, but it still flings him into the star. Semantics, maybe, but the first and last people Superman kills should be the pocket-universe Kryptonians.) The star explodes. Alex Luthor opens a portal big enough for the Earth, which returns to its proper universe. Closing the portal expends the last of Alex’s energy, and he dissolves into nothingness.

In a pre-dawn epilogue atop the Daily Planet, Superman and Batman discuss the events of the past week or so. Superman asks why Batman wanted this meeting. Batman explains that most people think he’s a loner, but he’s worked with a lot of heroes in the past 7-8 years — the Justice League, the Outsiders, a few sets of Teen Titans — so he knows people in “our profession.” He’s never seen anyone unify or inspire like he’s seen Superman do in this crisis. Supes says he didn’t do anything. Batman says he didn’t really have to — since Superman caught that space shuttle, he’s had an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing.

Batman continues: “This world’s seen many people with incredible powers, but until recently it had never seen anything like you. You could have been a conqueror. You could have been a god — but you’ve chosen to be a man. We two were on the front lines of the biggest threat to our existence this universe has ever faced — and all those men and women fighting all those battles, from the youngest Teen Titan to the most experienced Green Lantern, only needed to catch a glimpse of you to get their second winds. I can’t explain it, but there it is. Being an icon is an awesome responsibility, Superman, and it’s been thrust upon you. Even with all we’ve been through, big things are coming, and people are going to be looking to you for leadership. I called this meeting to tell you how much you’ve come to mean to the world — and also to let you know I’ll be there to stop you if you screw it up.”

Batman turns to leave and Superman calls out, “Isn’t this sort of emotional display out of character for you?” Batman looks back over his shoulder: “I lost a bet.” He drops off the roof and swings away. As the sun rises, Clark Kent puts on his glasses and heads off to work.

Some time later, Barry Allen’s funeral is attended by many heroes, including Superman, Batman, GL Hal Jordan, Wally West, J’Onn J’Onzz, Aquaman, and Black Canary II — founding and future members of the JLA. Psycho-Pirate returns to the mental institution, his mind spinning with thoughts of the alternate timelines and the patchwork Earth.

What do you think?

A Post-Crisis Crisis

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 5:33 pm
This may be about as useful as trying to rework the Civil War without Georgia or Maryland, but here goes. 

With Matt over at Howling Curmudgeons offering his long-promised review and commentary on Crisis on Infinite Earths, I thought I’d share the “Post-Crisis Crisis” I tried to reason out last fall. (This previously appeared on the TrekBBS’s SF&F message board, before I discovered the joys of the blogosphere.) I have also heard rumblings about Geoff Johns and Phil Jiminez revisiting Crisis for its 20th anniversary next year, but that may just be my overactive imagination.

Why in the world (not the infinite worlds anymore, sadly) would I do this? Curiosity, basically. The “Crisis” (I can’t even think of a prepositional phrase for it, since “Crisis Across Time” sounds too much like Zero Hour) is still an established event in DC history. There was a Monitor, an Anti-Monitor, a Pariah, and a Harbinger. Barry Allen and Prince Gavyn died as part of it. But how important was it, really?

Matt says it can’t be as big without the infinite Earths, and I agree. It also can’t be as big without those multitudes of characters the “serious” DC Universe was supposed to be rid of. However, it can still be a watershed moment. In the revised history, the heroes who founded the Justice League were becoming legends after only about 7-8 years in action. This is clearly different from the old Earth-1 timeline, in which even the original Teen Titans had over a decade of experience by the time they fought the Anti-Monitor’s forces. The familiar relationship between Superman and Batman also had yet to form in the post-Crisis world. Finally, significant heroes like Wonder Woman (Diana) and Captain Atom were still in the future. Thus, where Crisis on Infinite Earths showed the Multiverse in “winter,” the post-Crisis Crisis could show the new timeline getting ready for “spring.”

The JLA: Incarnations miniseries (by John Ostrander and Val Semeiks) was very helpful, especially #5, the self-styled “Crisis crossover.” I have also incorporated the events of Green Lantern #s 194-98 (by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton), detailing Hal Jordan’s and Guy Gardner’s return to the Green Lantern Corps. (Because those GL issues also state — apparently contradictorily — that John Stewart was on Supergirl’s final mission in Crisis #7, I have retconned him into that story.) Finally, my treasured Amazing Heroes all-Crisis issue (#91, March 15, 1986) was very helpful both in pointing out story issues and establishing an overall timeline for July and August, 1985. It’s still very much a work in progress, because I’m discovering new issues constantly.

Fanzing tried this twice. The first attempt uses other DC worlds and the Kingdom Come characters, and the second uses alternate timelines (thanks to Hypertime, I guess). My feelings won’t be hurt if you like one of these better.

Issue #1. Central/Keystone Metroplex, 2956. Barry Allen, the second Flash, tries to defend the future from antimatter. (He’s retired in the 30th Century following his acquittal on murder charges.) Figuring he needs the help of the JLA, he travels back in time to 1999 (or whatever year is “5 years ago,” DC time). Pariah, who’s been silently watching Flash, disappears himself.

Meanwhile, in the anti-matter universe, its Earth is devoured by a similar white wall. In a mountainside retreat (reminiscent of the Earth-2 “Fortress of Solitude”), scientist Lex Luthor prepares his infant super-clone for a trip across the anti-matter barrier. (Why just a clone? Well, it was something he was working on already, and when the white wall showed up, he didn’t have enough material to build a full-sized rocket.) The clone’s “mother” is the evil Amazon, Superwoman, who unwillingly contributed some DNA. (It was all very clinical; after all, Luthor doesn’t want to stoop to the CSA’s level.) Superwoman, now Luthor’s prisoner, frees herself and attacks Luthor, but he manages to fire off the rocket. As it shoots into space, Pariah helplessly watches this world die too.

He’s not the only one. A golden spaceship snags the rocket with a tractor beam.

Our Earth, 1999. Over a dozen super-beings have vanished almost simultaneously, with some witnesses reporting a strange blonde woman present. It’s a big puzzle, since the mystery woman is in many places at once. Wanting to consult a detective, and not having a good relationship with Batman since he left the JLA, Superman visits Titans’ Tower for a confab with Nightwing. Turns out Batman is there anyway. While capturing the Joker, he saw the dying Flash — and together with the disappearances, thinks something’s afoot. (It’s significant that Batman has come to Nightwing — the Flash’s apparent “death” has shaken him unexpectedly and he wants to make amends if this is really “the end.”) Pariah appears here, this time mentioning to the three men that “your universe will die” before being pulled away.

Of course, the missing heroes and villains are on the Monitor’s satellite. Through his aide Harbinger, who can split into multiple duplicates, he’s summoned 15 super-beings from across time and space — Blue Beetle II, Dawnstar of the pre-Zero Hour Legion, Solovar, Psimon, Geo-Force, Cyborg, Psycho-Pirate II, M’Onel of the post-ZH Legion, Obsidian, Firebrand II, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Arion, Firestorm, Killer Frost, and Dr. Polaris. Harbinger’s inner monologue tells us one of her “selves” has been turned evil. Shadow demons attack, and we see that the various powers have different degrees of success against them — almost as if someone were running an experiment or testing theories. The battle ends when the Monitor drives the demons away and tells the super-folk their world is about to die.

Issue #2. The 15 are sent to defend and activate “tuning forks” the Monitor has planted in several Earth eras, including

— ancient Atlantis (Arion, Obsidian, Psycho-Pirate),

— the Old West (Firebrand, Green Lantern, Cyborg, Psimon),

— WWII Markovia (Blue Beetle, Geo-Force, Dr. Polaris), and

— the “Julie Schwartz DC Future” of Tommy Tomorrow, Space Ranger, Space Cabbie, etc. (Firestorm, Killer Frost, Solovar).

There is an additional fork in the 30th Century, around 2957 or so, but neither version of the Legion can quite claim it as their own. Teams are pretty much as they were before, except Dawnstar and M’Onel lead their respective Legions to 2957.

On Oa, the Guardians of the Universe are incapacitated by the Anti-Monitor’s attack. The heroes in Atlantis, the Old West, and the “Schwartz future” defend their forks from shadow demons. The anti-matter wave kills Starman (Prince Gavyn). The Monitor studies the Luthor child, who ages rapidly. Soon he identifies himself as Alexander and begins to exhibit strange powers and properties. In Atlantis, Psycho-Pirate II is teleported away by the Anti-Monitor. The anti-matter wave appears in the skies over 1999 Earth. 

Issue #3. The heroes continue to defend the Monitor’s forks, but not without some losses. Solovar is wounded and returns to Gorilla City. We see that the original 15 heroes have learned some lessons from their early skirmishes — Blue Beetle has altered the Bug’s weapons; Geo-Force and Dr. Polaris learn to combine their powers; Solovar organizes Gorilla City’s forces to defend Africa; etc.

As Superman, Batman, the Teen Titans, and the Outsiders investigate the just-appeared New York City tuning fork, Flash II materializes in their midst. He can only get out a few words before being snapped up by the Anti-Monitor, but Superman and Batman are convinced it’s really him. Earth’s weather and plate tectonics soon go crazy from the anti-matter wave’s effects, and Superman flies off. Amidst the tension, much nervous chatter among the remaining heroes concerns the effect Superman has on crowds. Nightwing tells Batman, “Even you see it! I bet when we get through this, you’re Superman’s biggest fan.” Batman replies, “First let’s get through this.”

Flying over Europe, Superman runs into the Justice Society. There is some casual banter between Green Lantern I and Flash I about how they always like visiting Europe, because they never got to see it much when they were young. Superman, helping them, is in awe of their calm in the face of such calamity, and tells them he hopes he learns that kind of control someday. Flash tells Supes, “You’re there already, Superman. We’ve only been out of limbo for a few years, but the world’s already forgotten us. And the world never looked up to us the way it looks up to you.” GL continues: “Fifty years ago, we were America’s heroes. Now you’re a hero for the whole planet. We couldn’t be prouder.” Superman is stunned — these men were Pa Kent’s heroes, so it really means a lot — and says he’s honored and he’ll try to do his best. Telescopic vision spots a tidal wave menacing Greece, so Superman flies off.

The Monitor creates Doctor Light II while the Anti-Monitor abducts Red Tornado II. All of Harbinger turns evil and blasts the Monitor.

Issue #4. Pariah saves Lady Quark from her homeworld’s destruction. Dr. Light II appears at the NYC tuning fork. Harbinger’s attack on the Monitor throws him into a control panel which futzes with the forks and opens up time portals throughout the “forked” eras. Making matters worse, anti-matter tendrils are now destroying sections of Earth directly. In all eras, the shadow demons merge into giant monsters and attempt to destroy the forks. The heroes stop them, but it’s more of a stalemate than a victory. Those in later time-periods take comfort in the fact that their counterparts in the past must have succeeded, even as they keep wary eyes for any signs the timestream has changed. In New York, while the (Detroit) Justice League fights Fire-Eye, an intelligent dinosaur, Gypsy’s future self tells present-day Gypsy to have Vibe activate the NYC tuning fork. We see that the other forks are similarly activated, not necessarily by vibrational power. Earth is apparently destroyed by anti-matter.

Continued…

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