Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Crisis in Infinite Riverdales

(I don’t know how much background is necessary for me to explain why something I saw on the Internet is funny to me, so feel free to skip the first 1,010 words of this.)

And but so I think this is common knowledge, but: if you’re a fellow of a certain age, then when you were a kid there was understood to be a Line in the Sand (Colonel Travis stizz)1 separating DC Comics and Marvel Comics. I stood on what is generally considered to be the Correct Side of the Line, unless you are Completely Retarded. So did, I believe, Jonathan Lethem2, but por el otro mano as good as Michael Chabon can be sometimes, I believe he made the wrong choice and I will never be able to get fully behind him: I believe him to be a DC Man. (I think it’s all that talk of capes; capes are sooo DC.)

The reason this was the right choice circa 1978 is because the Marvel take on a “superhero” as a dysfunctional person whose superpower is an amplified distillation of some imperfect human trait was totally appealing to someone who was, say, waaay into dragons (and/or dungeons? yes.), while DC’s überhuman angle was totally remote and alien and repellant [to that person]. But on top of that, during this period, DC had no idea what it was doing3 (this page comprises like, 95% DC comics: this is what I think of when I think of DC).

So: This thing in The Lede4 was pointed out to me a few months ago: it turns out Largely Pointless to Me DC Character The Flash had died! But actually not really!5 And I said in my head: DC Comics! You are maddening! For: in my head, the whole endless alternate universes / infinite parallel earths / lazy retcon thing where multiple storylines branch off for multiple versions of the same character was totally a DC thing. So in order for my head to prove my head right (doing this is 93% of my day) I googled it and my head was wrong. Wrong in italics.

Marvel is actually much, much worse than DC. Wikipedia lists 61 Universes for DC, while Marvel clocks in at a frankly headsnapping 340 (not including “pocket universes” which I don’t want to know about), one of which is Jack Kirby’s inane Dinosaur World, and another of which is actually the DC Universe, so let’s round that up to an even 400 (Source: Start Menu>All Programs>Applications>Calculator).

I don’t think this can totally be chalked up to: “Marvel has more fanboys”; I think some of that has to be chalked up to: “Everything is Ridiculous”. What the hell happened?
This piece in The High Hat has a good summary of what the hell happened (and includes The Flash as an example, bringing this all full circle) (for fans of bringing things full circle, this is for you) (but hey also Said Fans, also check out the Warlock chapter in Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics referenced below in Footnote 3: Holy crap are things ever brought full circle there oh my god it’s TOTALLY NUTS) and does it more succinctly than I could, so you are encouraged to click.

But anyway, perhaps you are now thinking: isn’t this whole thing crying out for some sort of obsessive fanboy unintentional metaparody? OK, so: All of that was so I could say this:

Hey look at this funny thing I saw on the Internet:
A List of Alternate Universes in Archie Comics.

OK, thanks!

1 I just spent a week in Texas! Carl’s Corner is not looking too great. I wanted to get to West to buy kolaches, so I did not even check to see if they were still selling BioWillie. CARL’S CORNER WE ARE ROOTING FOR YOU.

2 (his story about the kid that dressed up as Avengers team member The Vision = breaks my heart because: The Vision!?; Lethem’s superheroes generally seem to be the second tier ones and generally fail)

3 But maybe it never knew what it was doing? This goofy cover from Showcase #4 depicting The Flash breaking out of a filmstrip was correctly deconstructed in Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics:
The cover’s text and art reveal fumbling confusion over what exactly it is advertising. Is this comic a showcase for art, as in a museum? A series of frozen representations of something so unreal that a body moving at high speed leaves parallel lines of ink behind it? A movie that isn’t really a movie, made out of individual images that the eye can see in or out of sequence at the same time?

Fun trivia fact: I have a copy of Reading Comics because I won it for writing this story, which is only 100 words more than this post. It needed a better editor! (the book, not this post) But it is still pretty good! And it fills in a lot of gaps for people like me who haven’t been paying attention. Especially the chapter on “Warlock”: it is kind of mind blowing. If I ever hold a contest on this blog and you win the contest, I will totally send this book to you.

4 “An Unexpected Comic Book Resurrection”? In what “multiverse” was it unexpected? OBVIOUSLY he was going to be resurrected: he’s a dude.

For what it’s worth, the reason I was thinking about all of this again months after I saw the Lede piece was this Twitter post (sorry, “tweet”?) from Defective Yeti:
Tonight I’m going to have to add “Read entire history of Green Lantern on Wikipedia” to my to-do list just so I can cross something off. I TOTALLY GET THAT, except for the part where it’s Green Lantern. (I was still sad when Martin Nodell died! I’m not made of stone.)

ME: Your insignia is a rotated theta.
GL: I’ve rotated a few thetas in my day, if you know what I mean.
ME: Do you mean you went Insert>Picture>Word Art>Symbol Font>“Q”; Rotate 90°?
GL: ……yes.


Should Have Stayed at the Bus Station......Barry Allen


Glenn Vance said...

I think the trend that you're really missing is the current zombie trend in comics. It started out as a semi-cool thing but it's devolved into silliness. Just check out Marvel Zombies at Wikipedia.

Patrick M~ said...

I didn't know about that, but if you had said, "There is something Marvel Comics is doing that totally sucks, and guess who the artist is?" I would have said, "Greg Land?"
And I would have been right?

Marvel Zombies looks pretty bad, but there's a See Also at the bottom of the page that links to Marvel Apes, which makes my heart sink possibly past the point to which it had sunk when I first saw an ad in the ealy 80s for "Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider Ham"..

It's weird that by the time our kids reach comcs-reading age, there will be so much baggage attached to each of these characters that they'll never be able to penetrate it..

Patrick M~ said...

Follow up thought to the above:
"Oh the fuck well."