Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Final Crisis #2

Pg. 1:

None of these characters are anybody in particular, as far as I know, although most of them allude to various DC characters. I'm pretty amused by the Robin-logo bag slung over the jacket that reprises the cover of BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE. And I'm not sure what to make of the young woman in a variation on Mary Marvel's costume having exactly the same pose as the guy in the variation on Midnight's costume standing a few feet behind her.

Somebody with better Japanese than mine want to translate the signs? [ETA: See severefun's comment. Thank you!]

ETA: David Uzumeri points out--and, like him, I can't believe I didn't catch this--the allusion to the cover of 1966's FLASH #163. (See also 2004's DC COMICS PRESENTS: THE FLASH.)

Pp. 2-3:

Big Science Action was fleshed out a bit in the FC Sketchbook, but in the top panel, left to right, we're seeing Boss Bosozuko, Rising Sun (the only member of the BSA not created by Morrison: he first appeared in SUPER FRIENDS #8 in 1977, and was created by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon), Junior Waveman, Hammersuit Zero-X, Ultimon (flying), a monster I'm going to assume is Fushikuraje, Cosmo Racer, and Goraiko (who first appeared in JLA #26).

(I also note that the description of BSA in the FC Sketchbook mentions Sunfire. Whoops: wrong company!)

Note the rays-of-rising-sun motif of the page layout. The members of Super Young Team are identified in the Sketchbook too: in the lower left-hand panel, clockwise from lower left, we're seeing Shiny Happy Aquazon, Shy Crazy Lolita Canary, Most Excellent Super Bat, Big Atomic Lantern Boy and Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash.

Pg. 4:

Sonny Sumo, created by Jack Kirby, first appeared in FOREVER PEOPLE #4 in 1971. (God, what great cover copy.) He was last seen a few issues later, when he was lost in time; apparently he got found again. [ETA: Or maybe he didn't. See this intriguing Morrison interview.] Interestingly, Sonny also contained part of the Anti-Life Equation. I don't know of any earlier references to Megayakuza, although obviously it's an allusion to the Yakuza, the Japanese organized crime group.

Pg. 7:

And, once again, fire is associated with contact with gods. This version of Mister Miracle is Shilo Norman, another Jack Kirby creation, who first appeared in MISTER MIRACLE #15 in 1973; he was the star of SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE.

Pg. 8:

Mother Box--or Motherboxxx, as SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE put it in a nod to OutKast--is a device that appeared throughout Kirby's Fourth World comics; they can heal the injured, and they make a "ping ping ping" sound. Sonny Sumo managed to get the Forever People's Mother Box back to them in Kirby's story.

Pg. 9:

Panel 1: Nix Uotan is reading through the dictionary, and some of the words he's reading have Kirbyverse resonance. "Bedazzle" could be a reference to Lightray; "bedlam" to Baron Bedlam; "cathexis" just has to do with the investment of emotional energy in a particular idea or thing (like... comics); "cathode" is an electrical term that might allude to Mother Box, although that's stretching it. ETA: Chris Harrison points out that The Cathexis are a sixth-dimensional race that turned up in JLA #52!

Panel 2: He's riding the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Hey, ex-Monitor, what's on your iPod?

Panel 3: Big Belly Burger is a chain with a longstanding history at DC; it first appeared in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #441 in 1988.

Panel 4: "Finding the magic word"--and systematically going through possibilities--suggests the Marvel Family, and specifically the business with Black Adam trying to find his magic word at the end of 52.

Panel 5: I'm guessing the Overman on the lower sheet is some kind of scary alternate-world Superman, with a lightning-bolt-as-S logo. (ETA: There's a similar creepy übermensch-type, also called Overman, who appeared in this Morrison-written ANIMAL MAN storyline from 1990. Look on the bottom of that cover, and you'll see FLASH #163 too... also: Overgirl! And the screaming face looks a bit like the J'onn-on-fire drawing from the FC SKETCHBOOK.) On the top sheet, the hydrogen-atom-on-forehead thing suggests Captain Atom by way of Dr. Manhattan. Not sure which Monitor young Nix is drawing. Of the possible magic words here, "criminal" is pretty broad, "crinkle" doesn't have a specific resonance I can think of, and "crimson" might allude to the Crimson Avenger, one of the very earliest DC superheroes, or just to the "red skies" effect of a Crisis--back to the "red and black" motif. (Thanks, Gary.) (ETA: squashua points out that he hasn't quite gotten to "crisis" yet.)

Pg. 10:

The guy Turpin is pounding to hell is the Mad Hatter, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (and obviously modeled on the Lewis Carroll character), who first appeared in BATMAN #49 in 1948.

Pg. 11:

Panel 1: "President Horne": Jonathan Horne first appeared, I think, in SUPERMAN SECRET FILES & ORIGINS 2004, and was created by Geoff and Jeremy Johns and Jim Fern. The recent history of the DCU Oval Office is sort of a mess: Lex Luthor was elected in 2000, but impeached in 2004, and replaced briefly by Pete Ross, who pulled out of that year's race and was replaced (successfully) by Horne. The next election--maybe the DCU has Presidential elections every two years?--was won by an evil robot called Gonzo posing as Senator Frank Knight, per UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS, but Horne seems to have ended up back in the office by some kind of "whoops we elected an evil robot by mistake" clause.

Panel 4: Note the combination of the broken mirror and Turpin's forehead. Remind you of anyone?

Pg. 12:

Panel 1: Booster Gold with Skeets, Mr. Terrific, Green Lantern/Hal Jordan, Zatanna, Vixen, Ion, Red Tornado, Stargirl, Wonder Woman.

Panel 2: Green Lantern/John Stewart (providing air for everyone, evidently, since this is happening on Mars), Wildcat, Black Lightning, Doctor Mid-Nite, Hourman, Superman, Green Lantern/Alan Scott, Geo-Force, Black Canary, Flash.

Panel 3: Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, Firestorm, Metamorpho, Batman, Red Arrow, and... Power Girl, maybe?

"Pray for a resurrection": no superhero seems to stay dead forever, of course, and as noted below, we've already seen J'onn alive in the distant future.

It's sort of an open question which Batman we're seeing in this issue, given recent events in his own title, but his little "Hh" on pg. 20 suggests that it's probably still Bruce Wayne.

Pg. 13:

The growling guy in panel 3 is Clayface--specifically the first Clayface, Basil Karlo, created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, who first appeared in DETECTIVE COMICS #40 in 1940.

Pg. 14:

The end of this page is a rather Alan Moore-like "dun dun daaaaah" moment, don't you think?

Pg. 15:

Panel 2: J'onn impersonated Blockbuster in SALVATION RUN.

Panel 3: Alpha Lantern Kraken first appeared in GREEN LANTERN #25 last year; she's one of the Green Lanterns of Space Sector 38. Relevant panels on her background appear here; the short version is that before becoming an Alpha Lantern, she rescued her partner, Raker Qarrigat, "from Darkseid's clutches," and is rumored to have been "targeted by the Female Furies of Apokolips." (Unrelatedly, it occurs to me that the Alpha Lanterns might have something to do with the Alpha Bullets from FOREVER PEOPLE #7--although it might just be alpha vs. omega symbolism at work in both places.)

Hal is responsible for Space Sector 2814, which does indeed include the city-in-space Heliopolis, seen in GREEN LANTERN #166 in 1983, as well as M'Brai, seen in GREEN LANTERN #153 in 1982, and Athmoora, seen in GREEN LANTERN #16 in 1962. [Thanks for the clarification, DRMOUSE2814.]

Pg. 16:

Panel 4: Commenter fcfanatic points out the Kirby krackle where Wonder Woman touches Kraken, as well as the panels on pages 18 and 21 where other characters touch her.

Pg. 17:

Opto309V first appeared in 2007's 52 #41. [Thanks for the clarification, t67443 and DRMOUSE2814.]

"Theotoxic" is quite a neologism! Per Kirby, "radion" is the substance New Gods are vulnerable to. You know, like "frostonite." Curiously, Radion is also the name of a DC villain who was most recently seen in Geoff Johns & Kurt Busiek's "Up, Up and Away!" storyline in SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS, hired by (fellow Kirby-creation) Intergang to kill Clark Kent. I don't know if there's a connection, but there could be.

Pg. 18:

"Say goodbye to your eyes": I have no idea if this relates somehow to the business with Alan Scott's eyes, Adam Strange's eyes, and the Emerald Eye of Ekron in 52, but the scene's confusing enough that I'm grasping for anything. And it's very strange that we don't see the ring on John's right middle finger in panel 4--and that it's so mysterious about who's attacking John--given page 21.

Pg. 19:

"No Lantern escapes the Alpha Lanterns": a riff on "no man escapes the Manhunters," the slogan of the robot crimefighters created by the Guardians before the Green Lanterns--see JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #140, as well as the about-to-be-reprinted MILLENNIUM miniseries, for details.

Pg. 20:

Panel 2: The Purple Ray is Amazon healing technology, invented by Wonder Woman in her very first appearance, ALL STAR COMICS #8. Its cousin, the Purple Death Ray, introduced in INFINITE CRISIS #3, was subsequently redacted from the collected edition of that series...

Panel 5: Hal Jordan's possession by Parallax happened in GREEN LANTERN #50 in 1994.

Pg. 21:

Panel 1: I believe this is what one of Barbelith's commenters referred to as a "NUH MUH BRAIN!!!!!!" moment. Kraken's got John's ring imprinted in her hand (apparently he does have a hell of a right hook), although his ring seemed to have disappeared immediately before he hit his assailant? What?

Pg. 22:

Kraken's "a new plaything for Granny" echoes Superbat's "Spirit into toy!" on pg. 3.

Pg. 23:

In the background of the first panel: the Atomic Knights, riding their Dalmatians. The Knights were created by John Broome and Murphy Anderson, and first appeared in STRANGE ADVENTURES #117 in 1960. I love them, and wish DC would just reprint all of their stories already. (There was supposed to be a SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE GREAT DISASTER FEATURING THE ATOMIC KNIGHTS volume published last year, with all of their stories--which centered on the aftermath of a nuclear war in 1986--plus HERCULES UNBOUND in its entirety, various "The Day After Doomsday" shorts from horror and war titles, etc.; it was yanked from the schedule for unexplained reasons.) This incarnation of the Knights first appeared in THE BATTLE FOR BLÜDHAVEN in 2006.

[ETA: The Morrison Newsarama interview notes that the giant dogs also imply "an immediate connection to the Dog Cavalry of Apokolips."]

Pg. 24:

"The air out there": maybe Blüdhaven still smells like the remnants of Chemo. Has Turpin's son been mentioned before? What matters here, actually, is that Kalibak is Darkseid's son... which means that Turpin is now a host for Darkseid. (Note his face.) And the place where all this is happening is Command D.

In Jack Kirby's original KAMANDI #1 in 1972, "Command D" was the bunker where Kamandi was found, giving him his name. As of the end of THE BATTLE FOR BLÜDHAVEN, there was a Command D located under the ruins of Blüdhaven. There's also a bunch of Kamandi stuff in COUNTDOWN, but I have no idea if that's even relevant to FC, so until I see otherwise, the heck with it.

Pg. 25:

Simyan and Mokkari, created by Jack Kirby, first appeared in SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #135 in 1971--the original "Evil Factory" story. Who's the tiger on the table? Morrison's said that Tawky Tawny is involved in FC, but this looks more like one of the Tiger-Men from KAMANDI; we know from 52 that Intergang is in the business of making beast-men. [ETA: The Morrison interview at Newsarama confirms that this isn't Tawky Tawny; it's Kalibak's new body.]

Pg. 26:

Perry White, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, made his first comics appearance in SUPERMAN #7 in 1940 (he'd appeared on the radio show The Adventures of Superman first). Siegel and Shuster also created Jimmy Olsen (who was also on radio first, then in SUPERMAN #13 in 1941) and Lois Lane (who goes all the way back to 1938's ACTION COMICS #1).

"Hamburger Hegemony." Ha!

Pg. 27:

Sundoller Coffee was first mentioned in 52 #2, I believe. You'd think that somebody who was faster than a speeding bullet could catch on to what was happening with an explosion like this before it did much damage...

Pg. 28:

Panel 1: The Flash on the left is Wally West, created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, who first appeared in THE FLASH #110 in 1959 and became the Flash in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #12 in 1986. The one on the right is Jay Garrick, created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert, who first appeared in FLASH COMICS #1 in 1940. Wouldn't the relevant delay here be load time?

Panel 3: Looks like I was right about Twisters (or Duele Dlite? Perhaps it's got both names!) being the former Central City Community Center, not that it was that tough a deduction--see DC Universe 0 notes.

Panel 5: "I hate anything to do with time in all its forms": well, Jay is artificially youthful thanks to an encounter with Ian Karkull in ALL-STAR SQUADRON ANNUAL #3, but he's still a fairly old man. (And maybe this is to set up an opposition to Barry, who did rather a lot of time traveling.)

Pg. 30:

And, as the issue began with "Stop!," it ends with "RUN!" The guy hotfooting it away from the Black Racer is the second Flash, Barry Allen, whose return has been teased since DCU 0. This is also the fulfillment of the prophecy in Johns' FLASH comics that Wally would see Barry again three more times, on the three worst days of his life; the second was FLASH #225, and evidently this is the third. Not to mention the payoff for the "starter's bullet" line in DCU 0, and maybe for its red-and-black imagery, as well.

Comments, corrections, etc. are welcome. Those who are as trainspottery as I am may enjoy looking at J.G. Jones' original black-and-white art for #1, at this site.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A note on Fourth World continuity, plus a contest update

There's been a good deal of chatter about this Grant Morrison interview, in which he addresses the inconsistencies between FC, COUNTDOWN and THE DEATH OF THE NEW GODS. (Worth reading: the Funnybook Babylon commentary, here, and its antecedent, here.) As Morrison tells it, the first issue of FC was written before the other two series were conceived of; the idea was that the New Gods would be off-panel and unlike hepatitis B for a few years (aside from the avatars that popped up in the SEVEN SOLDIERS project), so it'd be a shock to see Orion turn up dead in a dumpster at the beginning of FC #1. TRINITY, as I understand, was initially going to be the weekly series that followed 52; then it was bumped for a year by COUNTDOWN, which was intended to get certain ducks in a row for FC and provide a dramatic build-up to it.

Which ducks? That's not clear, but the non-Fourth World threads we've seen from COUNTDOWN so far are basically just the Monitors in general, Nix Uotan and Solomon in particular, the destruction of Earth-51, and the new background for Kamandi. Evidently, somebody in a position of authority radically misunderstood the premises of the project the whole line has been building up to since at least SEVEN SOLDIERS and 52 (I have a feeling that Montoya finding the Kirbytech gun in 52 #4 was one of the first major tremors of FC), and commissioned a 51-issue series and an 8-issue series to "set it up" in ways that directly contradict both FC and each other. The ducks are not just not in a row, they're randomly scattered across the multiverse. If DC is going to sell a complicated, serialized narrative on a week-to-week basis, it's entirely reasonable for readers to demand that it make sense on a week-to-week basis; it's a bad sign that the people reading the work have a clearer sense of how it's supposed to fit together than some of the people making the work.

Yes, the contradictions can be explained away with some difficulty, in a sort of No-Prize way, or simply ignored, as Morrison suggests. And it's worth remembering that the edges of Kirby's Fourth World canon were frayed from the start, and that by the time he wrote and drew the NEW GODS "conclusion" and The Hunger Dogs, there had already been a couple of other Fourth World series--not bad ones, either. There was a 1977 revival of MISTER MIRACLE, initially by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, later by Steve Gerber and Michael Golden. The New Gods first reappeared in 1976 in the last issue of 1ST ISSUE SPECIAL--don't ask--and then in a not-bad series by Gerry Conway and the late, great Don Newton that lasted eight issues before ducking into ADVENTURE COMICS for a couple of issues' worth of "the last battle" and "the end of the war of the New Gods". (It's always the end with this crew.) For that matter, one bit of Fourth World mythology that generally gets taken for granted--the Source Wall, seen throughout DOTNG--wasn't even Kirby's: it was introduced in the distinctly out-of-continuity X-MEN/TEEN TITANS one-shot.

(FC and its associated titles, in fact, are something like the third full-scale post-Kirby Fourth World revival. In 1988, there was Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola's COSMIC ODYSSEY miniseries [and the Forever People's six-issue miniseries by J.M. DeMatteis and Paris Cullins], followed by NEW GODS and MISTER MIRACLE series; both NEW GODS and MISTER MIRACLE reappeared in the mid-'90s, then effectively merged into JACK KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD.)

Perhaps a less frustrating way to deal with the contradictions is not to try to explain them but to accept them as a pesky but integral part of the story, a sort of continuity koan. Continuity is at least sort of mutable--rarely more explicitly so than in Morrison's superhero comics. The prolegomenon to FINAL CRISIS is SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE, in which Shilo Norman's many alternate lives both do and don't happen. "Hypertime" is one way of putting it; another is to say that all stories are more or less true, but better stories, more satisfying stories, are more true in the long term.


Update on that contest: I've recently come into possession of a few boxes of good comics from the '80s, many of which duplicate stuff I already owned. The winners of each of the three parts of the contest will get to pick a batch for themselves. Again, the deadline to enter is June 25, and the three questions you're trying to answer most accurately are:

1) How many issues of additional FINAL CRISIS tie-ins will be announced after April 30 but before the end of the series? (Three have been added so far--although neither FC: SUBMIT nor FC: SUPERMAN BEYOND #2 appear on the September solicitations. "Aftermath" titles don't count.)
2) Which will be the first issue of FINAL CRISIS or its associated titles to be released later than its scheduled ship week?
3) When will the final issue of FINAL CRISIS be released? [This contest is now closed.]