WTF, DC? Split


First things first: I’m enjoying the whole Rebirth thing. Batman, Detective Comics, and New Super-Man are really good books. New 52 was the worst. I’m so happy DC decided to retire the whole “Remember this thing you liked? Now it’s completely different and also sucks” mandate of 2011-2016.

Now, down to business: I’m here to talk about Split.

I can hear you saying/thinking, “Who?!?” Don’t worry: I said/thought the same thing.

A few days ago, I was perusing the Teen Titans section of TV Tropes’ What Could Have Been – Comic Books page and noticed Split’s name. A villain who appeared in three issues of Steel in the mid-’90s, which, now that I type that…is a bit of a stretch. In Steel #6, he shows up for one panel:


And in Steel #19, he’s in two panels:


He’s all over Steel #0, though, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Now, why am I rambling on about a character who, in the scheme of things, is about as relevant as Rebel from The New Titans?

Because, as that TV Tropes article points out, it’s likely Split was intended to be a member of the Teen Titans at one point, due to appearing as a member of the group in Skybox’s 1995 DC vs. Marvel trading card set.

And, sure enough, there he is, as one of nine cards that combine to create this curious picture:


The back of the card doesn’t give any further info (it’s a quote from Cyclops, of all people, that reads, “A young transporter with too much attitude and too little sense, Split could benefit from a lengthy session in the X-Men’s Danger Room.”) So…what does it mean?

The DCU Guide entry for Split indicates he was created by Marv Wolfman, though I can’t find any concrete evidence to support that claim. The DC Wikia entry for Split says his creator is Louise Simonson, which, since Simonson wrote Steel #6, I’m more inclined to believe.

Complicating matters is the fact that Wolfman and Simonson occasionally worked together (and in fact co-wrote the New Titans Elseworlds annual in 1995), which means it’s not entirely impossible that Wolfman created Split and gave him to Simonson to use in Steel before introducing him into New Titans (which Wolfman had been scripting for a long time). Or maybe Simonson created Split, Wolfman took a shine to the character, and intended to add him to the Titans roster. Chicken? Egg?

That dang Skybox trading can’t be an accident, can it?

Maybe? Matrix Supergirl, also featured on that Skybox trading card, was a Titan for what felt like a hot minute in 1995 (less than a year in total). Similarly, Impulse was a member for less than two years. And why is a de-aged Ray Palmer Atom in that shot with them? He wouldn’t become a Titan until a year later, when he took on a bunch of unknowns (Argent, Prysm, Joto, and – prior to getting both his arms ripped off by Superboy-Prime – Risk) and ushered them into one of the Titans’ most short-lived and poorly-received books: Teen Titans, cancelled after 24 issues to make way for Devin Grayson’s bizarre Titans.

So why are Impulse, Matrix Supergirl, the Atom, and Split battling the X-Men on that card? If two were fairly recent members, one was a future member, and one hadn’t set foot in a Titans book and never would?

My theory is that those four were going to be a new Titans team at some point, but for whatever reason those plans were shot down like so many wealthy Waynes in Crime Alley.

It makes sense: Impulse and Supergirl were already part of the team, DC obviously had plans to add the teenage Ray Palmer to (some version of) the team, and if we examine Split’s appearance in Steel #0, he’s less the grown-up villain from Steel #6 and more of a misguided kid (I should point out that Steel #0 came out after the release of Steel #6, in case that numbering is confusing to you):




And while Split’s powers would’ve knocked the socks off the Legion of Super-Heroes like they were mistaking a time-displaced Bluejay for a teleporter in Justice League Europe Annual #2…


…perhaps Impulse’s presence rendered the idea of having another mischevious redhead on the team redundant.

Whatever the case, Split was clearly intended for bigger things at a certain point. He’s got an entry in the DC Universe Encyclopedia for cryin’ out loud:


They don’t hand those out to just anyone (with apologies to Rebel’s girlfriend, Riot).

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WTF, DC? Supergirl, Part Three: Matrix (Convergence)


So…long time no see. With the exception of Multiversity, Astro City, and Detective Comics, I’ve largely given up on DC for Marvel. Daredevil, Hawkeye, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 3000, Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, and Spider-Gwen. And some Valiant titles here and there. Point is: no more DC, really, and as a result not much of a reason to maintain this blog.

When DC’s lastest universe-changing shake-up “event” Convergence was announced, it was revealed that some old-timey, pre-Flashpoint characters would be making a reappearance. Among them, my beloved Matrix Supergirl. Come April 15th, 2015, I rushed to my LCS to pick up a copy of Convergence: Supergirl: Matrix issue #1 (of 2!). Look at that Chip Kidd-designed cover! Oh boy!

The back pages of the floppy feature this helpful recap of Matrix Supergirl’s history:


Short and sweet. I’m not sure how much of a passing glance Keith Giffen gave to it, though, because he gets two things about Matrix Supergirl so fundamentally wrong that it’s hard to think he did any research at all.

Now don’t get me wrong – usually I love Keith Giffen. But he fumbles Convergence: Supergirl: Matrix pretty badly. For one thing, there’s this:


Lex barking orders at Supergirl. Saying, “You amoebic blob of matter!” Calling her an “imbecile” and a “shape-shifting cretin.”

Now, Matrix Supergirl’s long-haired, red-headed Lex Luthor may have been old, bald Lex Luthor posing as his own son. Lex may have brainwashed and romanced Matrix Supergirl into loving him so he’d have his very own S-shield-wearing weapon against Superman. And, sure, he may have cloned her to build an army of Matrix Supergirls.

But he wasn’t verbally abusive toward her.

It was in his best interest to keep her happy (and close). He wouldn’t have treated her like crap. He most certainly wouldn’t have called her names or questioned her intellect. He wouldn’t have treated her like a servant (well, he would have, but he would’ve done it sneakily, under the pretense of romance).

And Matrix Supergirl wouldn’t have put up with it. She stuck around because she was in love with the guy. And naive. She was a fish out of water. Not the eye-rolling yet loyal “bodyguard” presented by Giffen in Convergence: Supergirl: Matrix. Away from Luthor, she seems to do pretty good, puzzling things out, acting cute:


Punching Crisis on Infinite Earths‘ Lord Volt, long-deceased husband of L.E.G.I.O.N. member and Infinite Crisis survivor Lady Quark:


And while it’s nice to read that Princess Fern is alive in this reality, Lord Volt and Lady Quark are written as a repressed homosexual and an angry lesbian, respectively, which…in the words of Matrix Supergirl, “Who cares?” but also…it’s 2015. This can’t be what Giffen thinks passes as character development (or worse, comedy) can it?

Regardless, the book closes out with this little exchange:


“Kara”? Seriously?

Her name was Mae (short for “Matrix,” natch). At no point in her eight years of pre-Linda Danvers adventuring was Matrix Supergirl ever known as Kara. Kara didn’t exist after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Nobody would’ve thought to name her Kara because nobody had heard that name before (maybe Deadman on Christmas, but even he didn’t know who “Kara” was).

There is literally no reason for her to be named Kara other than Giffen being lazy and nobody in DC’s editorial department giving a shit about accuracy.

Mae. Her name was Mae. Also, this comic book sucked.

Keeping kicking dirt in the faces of your long-time readers, DC. Excellent marketing strategy. It’s why Marvel gets all my money these days.

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OMG, DC: Justice League Quarterly #5

Justice League Quarterly 5

I’ve written about Justice League Quarterly before. The book ran for almost half a decade (from 1990-1994) and was by no means a perfect comic: I enjoyed issues #1, #3, #5, and #8 (and #8 only because seeing Qwardian versions of the Justice League was pretty neat – at least back then, now it’s old hat) and the rest were pretty take-it-or-leave-it material.

I’m singling out issue #5 because it contains the best Ice story I’ve ever read. Not coincidentally, it also feels like the only Ice story I’ve ever read: it was the first (and last?) time she functioned as something more than Guy Gardner’s romantic interest, Fire’s caring and supportive friend, a girl with a crush on Superman, or one of the more inessential members of the Justice League.

DC Ice Fire Guy Gardner Superman

In Justice League Quarterly #5’s “Be Careful What You Wish For!” Ice is faced with an emotional quandary – succumb to insecurity and go home to Norway with her tail between her legs, or continue with the JLA and feel worthless – she learns, almost by accident, that she’s both valued by her teammates and, above all else, genuinely wants to help people.

Schmaltzy? Sure. But at the risk of spinning a broken record right off the table: DC just doesn’t publish stuff like this anymore. The Ice of 2014 has a punk rock haircut and surly demeanour, and her function in comics these days appears to be as foil to Guy Gardner, a freshly-minted Red Lantern whose jerk with a heart of gold days are long gone. “Be Careful What You Wish For!” was a heartwarming tale of hope and optimism, full of adventure, and featuring characters that were easy to like. The New 52 features a teenage girl running around with the Joker’s severed face strapped to her head.

Joker's Daughter New 52 Batman

“Be Careful What You Wish For!” has two openings: the first shows a friendly woman conversing with the mailman. A small parade of determined-looking men in sunglasses (who henceforth shall be known as the Men in Black) march past, then reveals that the mailman’s a robot:

Justice League Quarterly 5 Ivo Robot

The other opener features an assortment of heroes – Geo-Force, Valor (a.k.a. Mon-El), and Red Star – collapsing in the presence of the Men in Black. Blue Beetle and Guy Gardner lounge on the JLA headquarters’ roof, reading about another hero – Rebis (a.k.a. the version of Doom Patrol’s Negative Man that was a hermaphrodite combining Larry Trainor, the Negative Spirit, a lady doctor, and some random dude) – suffering a similar fate, before the late ’80s/early ’90s Will Payton Starman crashes into the building:

Justice League Quarterly 5 Guy Gardner Blue BeetleJustice League Quarterly 5 Blue Beetle Guy Gardner Starman

In addition to being, as Metamorpho states, “some of the most powerful Joes on the planet,” these five are also a Who’s Who of Unrealized A-List Heroes for DC in the ’90s:

JLA Mon-El Starman Rebis Geo-Force Red Star

But I digress.

Martian Manhunter learns that Ice is looking to quit the Justice League:

Justice League Quarterly 5 Ice Martian Manhunter 1 Justice League Quarterly 5 Ice Martian Manhunter 2

But like the movie cop with one day left until retirement, Ice decides to go on one last mission: accompanying her temperamental beau Guy Gardner and Power Girl as they try to eradicate the Men in Black, a plan that promptly goes to hell as Power Girl and Guy almost immediately have their powers stolen and get knocked out, respectively, leaving Ice to make do on her own.

Through the magic of being a sweetie pie and some good old-fashioned wishing, Ice suddenly finds herself with a shiny new Green Lantern ring:

Justice League Ice Green Lantern Ring 1 Justice League Ice Green Lantern Ring 2Justice League Green Lantern Ring 3

She follows the Man in Black to an island in the Atlantic that’s a simulation of small-town America, where Justice League villain Professor Ivo is now later-period Marlon Brando-sized, with a mutilated face, and is gathering an army of super-powered robots for reasons I won’t reveal here:

Justice League Ice Professor Ivo Justice League Ice Professor Ivo 2

The rest of the Justice League shows up, and at one point Martian Manhunter uses a train as a club:

Martian Manhunter Train

And Blue Beetle getting a building thrown at him:

Blue Beetle

Does he live? Does he die? (Spoiler alert: yes, in the pages of Countdown to Infinite Crisis).

I won’t say how “Be Careful What You Wish For!” ends, but if you really want to know you should check out my WTF, DC? Ice entry which lets the cat screaming out of the bag.

The rest of Justice League Quarterly #5 contains a vastly entertaining Global Guardians story (note how the opening frame mirrors the opening frame of Keith Giffen’s Justice League #1 from 1987), a cutesy but pointless tale starring General Glory and Ernie (themselves cutesy but pointless pastiches of Captain America and Bucky), and a second tale starring Ice and Fire in which Ice is unfortunately written overly girly and slightly dumb:

Justice League Quarterly Global GuardiansJustice League Quarterly General Glory Ernie Justice League Quarterly Ice Fire

Unfortunate because “Be Careful What You Wish For!” just spent so much time making the case for her intelligence, strength, and caring as a woman. Otherwise Justice League Quarterly #5 is aces.


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NON-DC: Marvel NOW! An Unmitigated Success in Attracting New Readership

I’m about to turn 34. From the age of nine (1989) through just recently (2011), my comic book purchases were almost exclusively DC. A few times a year I’d buy something from Marvel or Dark Horse or Image, but DC has always received the lion’s share of my hard-earned cash.

Part of the reasoning behind this was that I’d put so much time and energy and money in the DCU – getting to know its characters and its mythology for 22 years. It was a big investment, big enough that I couldn’t imagine doing the same thing with another company. It would’ve been too much work.

Then the New 52 happened, and suddenly Tim Drake had never been Robin, Barbara Gordon was walking, Superman was making out with Wonder Woman, and everyone from Terra to Superboy to the Question bore little resemblance to their previous incarnations. Other characters were missing completely: Donna Troy, Elongated Man, Cassandra Cain. It was a whole new gimmicky world, but it contained just enough pre-New 52 elements to be an utterly frustrating experience for longtime readers.

Meanwhile, Marvel was busy launching its Marvel NOW! initiative, resetting existing titles to #1, bringing on new creative teams, and introducing new books. The Avengers became the third-highest grossing movie of all time, while the Green Lantern film reinvented suck. It became evident that it was time for a change. Here is a list of the Marvel NOW! (or Marvel NOW!-ish) books I’ve either checked out (by which I mean more than three issues) or have consistently picked up since I started buying Marvel:

Avengers Arena: Murder World


I read every issue of Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker’s Avengers Arena: Murder World, which is sort of a Battle Royale/Hunger Games for the teen superhero set.

Here’s why Avengers Arena: Murder World worked so well as an entry point to the Marvel universe: half of these characters were pre-existing, the other half invented solely for this book. I’d only heard of (and read the adventures of) X-23, the rest were new. Going back and researching Red Raven, for example, and discovering she’d been around for 20 years and was the third Red Raven to exist, or looking up Mettle and learning about the Avengers Academy, made the experiences of these kids on Murderworld pretty gripping even for a newb, and got me rolling on learning about Marvel history.

The follow-up, Avengers Arena: Avengers Undercover, also by Hopeless and Walker, finds the same group of kids tracking down one of their fellow survivors for reasons I don’t want to spoil.



I’m going to admit that I didn’t spend as much time with FF as I could’ve (about four issues) but that I was thoroughly entertained nonetheless. As an entry point, I don’t know that FF really works: the storyline’s a bit involved, and with only the basics of the characters down, I got a bit lost almost instantly.

The title refers not to the Fantastic Four, but rather the Reed Richards-created Future Foundation, an oddball collection of heroes (Ant-Man, Medusa, She-Hulk, and others) serving as mentors and teachers for an even more oddball collection of youngsters.

Matt Fraction’s involved, charming stories and Mike Allred’s playful art make this a book I’ll go back to when the chance presents itself (or when I know enough about the Marvel U to just dive right in).

Wolverine and the X-Men


Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men follows the students of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning as they come into conflict with the Hellfire Academy, some students defecting from one school to the other, Wolverine’s brother making an appearance, Mystique making a throwaway “women in refrigerators” joke, and more.

This was an entertaining book, and very easy for a new reader to get into. I already knew, but had to investigate nonetheless, why it was the Jean Grey School rather than the Xavier Institute. I didn’t know what had happened to Nightcrawler, but I enjoyed all the little Bamfs running around.

Recently reset to #1 with Jason Latour taking over writing duties, and picking up where the last incarnation left off.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man


I knew absolutely nothing about any of these “superior” foes of Spider-Man, and I wasn’t required to: Superior Foes of Spider-Man follows some endearing, comically sad C-listers as they navigate their own journeys through half-assed supervillainry. I’m sure some of the jokes would be more rewarding if I knew who these people were, but Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s book is so well-paced, so comically sad, and so inventive that it is pretty much a perfect way to get into Marvel if you aren’t already (I’d vote Hawkeye accomplishes the exact same feat slightly better and in a more serious way, but I’ll get to that in a bit). You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not picking up Superior Foes of Spider-Man.



Daredevil is a unique case in the sense that I’ve always followed Daredevil (dating back to when I was nine) but never with the interest and dedication as I did with Mark Waid’s recently-ended (and relaunched) series.

Chris Samnee’s art reminds me of Mike Allred’s on FF, but a bit darker. And Matt Murdock’s struggle with outing himself as Daredevil while agonizing over the declining health of his best friend Foggy, added a new layer of urgency and intrigue to the standard “blind guy lawyer with baton fights crime” story (which was already pretty damn interesting on its own).

Same team is now working on the new Daredevil series, which follows a disbarred-in-New York Murdock as he attempts a new career in San Francisco. I kind of hope he’ll return to New York, though, since Daredevil swinging around a crime-laden Hell’s Kitchen/Manhattan always seemed so cool. I’m sure I’ll learn to love SF.

Moon Knight


My only exposure to Moon Knight prior to this was his appearance in Marvel Super-Heroes Spring Special #1 in 1990, but I knew he was a popular character and the book was being written by Warren Ellis (whom I’ve praised the virtues of before) so I wanted to check it out.

This is a pretty newbie-friendly book – Ellis handles exposition really well. There was a throwaway line about Moon Knight ripping off a guy’s face, which led me to read about Moon Knight’s poor nemesis Bushman getting the ol’ Joker treatment, and…well.

First issue was appropriately dark and bizarre and I expect great things from this book.

Ms. Marvel


Kamala Khan is a teenage girl struggling with her faith (Muslim) and race (Pakistani) in the face of tolerant non-tolerance (in her case, the faux-concern of her high school’s predominantly white A-crowd) and oppressive parents. After being granted powers by a green-fogged hallucination of Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Khan suddenly finds herself rescuing her enemies and discovering yet another reason to feel alienated and misunderstood.

Ms. Marvel is a good jumping-on point for new readers because the title character is herself completely new to the Marvel universe. And the Buffy Summers-ish teenage-girl-struggling-to-balance-teenagehood-with-superhero-life is a winning formula.



Taking its cues from Hawkeye, She-Hulk follows Jennifer Walters in her civilian life as a struggling lawyer, with her superhero-ing coming second to real-life adversity. The first issue was great, the second merely okay, but I’m going to stick with this series because the vibe is so overtly Hawkeye, and because Charles Soule is such a dependable writer. Also, I dig Hellcat (She-Hulk’s new partner in crime fighting).

As for non-Marvel NOW! books:



Hawkeye is a near-perfect book. I’d say it was perfect, except the title occasionally refers to Kate Bishop (the other Hawkeye) as she makes her way in Los Angeles. Kate’s cute, don’t get me wrong, but Clint Barton (the original Hawkeye) shrugging through his life as a landlord in Brooklyn is so good that it’s a pain when the focus shifts elsewhere. Unless it’s Pizza Dog, who is utterly fascinating. Kate Bishop and Christmas cartoons, not so much.

As the title page states, this is what Clint does when he’s not being an Avenger and wow, it’s good. The colour palette, the facial bandages, the way four issues can view the same incident from different angles. This is a book that rewards you (handsomely) for paying attention: note the discarded sneaker on the sidewalk.

And that Matt Fraction – so handsome!

Scarlet Spider


“All of the power, none of the responsibility” was the tagline for the recently-ended Scarlet Spider book, in which reformed villain (and Spider-Man clone) Kaine makes up for his bad days by being a reluctant superhero in Dallas. Reformed villains turned reluctant heroes can be some of the most interesting characters in the business, and Kaine is amongst the best. Plus his outfit is so cool. Plus, he’s Spider-Man! But not!

The series recently came to an end, but Writer Chris Yost is now writing New Warriors, so you can check out Kaine’s adventures in that book (co-starring Speedball, also awesome).


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NON-DC: A brief word about Joshua Hale Fialkov’s Elk’s Run


Elk’s Run had an interesting publishing history that I was able to experience firsthand (more or less) as a consumer. In…lemme see…2005 or 2006 I was in a comic book store, looking at the independent publishers’ rack (probably looking for Brian Pulido’s Nightmare on Elm Street books for Avatar, come to think of it). My eye landed on Darwyn Cooke’s cover for the Bumper Edition of Elk’s Run; collecting issues #1 through #3, it had a slightly-tougher softcover (think of the recent DC Comics Presents collections for an idea), and the last few pages contained a mini-lesson on Noel Tuazon’s art and Scott A. Keating’s colouring (a combo I originally wasn’t crazy about but then grew to love). Cooke’s cover for the Bumper Edition wasn’t too far off from regular cover artist Datsun Tran’s work:


Now that’s a cover! And going against conventional wisdom (not judging a something by its something or other…I forget), I picked up Elk’s Run without only the briefest of flip-throughs. The story had a compelling hook: set in Elk’s Ridge, West Virginia, a town cut off from the rest of the world so that its adult population can raise their kids free from the corrupting influence of modern society. You can imagine how well that turns out; before you can say Lord of the Flies, the population is taking it upon themselves to dole out death sentences to friends and neighbours after a botched escape attempt results in a tragic accident.


The action is told through the eyes of a group of Elk’s Ridge kids, who mostly resent their parents for their imposed isolation, and a few adults. And there’s some stuff about the war that’s meant to show how a bunch of shell-shocked PTSD veterans would be motivated to willfully cut themselves from the rest of the planet.


After purchasing the Bumper Edition, I found the floppy of issue #4, and spent a number of months fruitlessly searching for #5. Eons later, I walked into a different comic book store and the clerk said to me: “You looking for anything in particular?”

I said, “Elk’s Run?”

He looked at me with a blank expression. “Do you know who publishes it?”

I said, surprised I could even remember the publisher’s name since I’d never read anything else by them, “Speakeasy?”

He frowned. “Speakeasy went out of business months ago.”

So no more Elk’s Run, I guess. I’d experience a similar heartbreak with Fell within a couple years.

And then at some point in 2007 or 2008 I was on Amazon looking for something unrelated and stumbled upon the trade for Elk’s Run. It contained all the issues I already owned…and the previously-unpublished #5, #6, #7, and #8! Hooray! I was finally able to find out how the damned story ended (not well, or really well depending on how you look at it). The only downside of the trade being the intro by Moon Knight writer Charlie Huston, which, and I’m more than willing to admit I might not “get” Huston’s style, but it comes off as pseudo-Chuck Palahniuk minimalist-y and weirdly macho (especially in light of the book it’s introducing).


A couple years later I found the floppies of #1, #2, and #3 in the dollar bin of a comic book store in Vancouver, thinking I was getting away with something and fearing the clerk would look at what I was buying and say, “Hey, wait a minute! How did those get in there?!” (he’d said something similar when I picked up some issues of Bone that had landed – allegedly by mistake – in the $0.25 bin). So I now have all Elk’s Run-related material it’s possible to buy (far as I know).

I can see Elk’s Run not being everybody’s cup of tea, but if you like a relaxed, subtle backwoods tale of war-induced paranoia, suffocating small-town adolescence, or stories that emphasize character over action and unfold at their own pace, this might be the book for you.

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OMG, DC: Earth-Prime in the Pre-New 52 DCU


Earth-Prime first appeared in 1968, within the pages of The Flash #179. It was the “real” world – where no superheroes existed, and Batman, Wonder Woman, et al, existed solely as comic book characters.

About 17 years later, DC Comics Presents retconned Earth-Prime to have a super-powered resident named Superboy, who would join Crisis on Infinite Earths that same year to fight the Anti-Monitor and later be shuffled off to Alexander Luthor’s utopia alongside Earth-2 Superman and Earth-2 Lois Lane (and, well, we all know how that turned out).

Part of Crisis on Infinite Earth‘s overall design was to make Superman the sole survivor of Krypton’s destruction. This meant Supergirl had to die. It also meant Superboy had to be erased from existence as well, so that Clark Kent could, as an adult, make his debut as a hero while preventing a space plane from crashing into Metropolis in 1986’s Man of Steel #1.

This caused a significant continuity problem: one of DC’s enduring and popular super-teams, the Legion of Super-Heroes, had, as part of its origin, the founding teenage members (Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad) creating the Legion out of admiration for Superman’s adventures as a teenaged Superboy. So, in theory, no more Superboy should’ve meant no more Legion.


Writers Paul Levitz and John Byrne came up with a workaround: the Time Trapper, in his continued efforts to screw with Legionnaire’s minds, created a “pocket universe” and populated it with exactly one superhero – Superboy – and rigged it so that whenever the Legionnaires travelled back in time, they were actually being shuttled off to the Pocket Universe rather than Earth-1:


The Superboy from Earth-Pri…I mean the Pocket Universe…made his post-Crisis debut in “The Greatest Hero of Them All,” a storyline that ran through Legion of Super-Heroes, Action Comics, and Superman in 1987. (Comixology lists it as “Superman: Future Shock” for those buying their comics digitally). It involves time travel, Superman’s first encounter with the Legion, and a nifty idea/retcon that might’ve actually worked had anyone ever been interested in using it aside from Levitz and Byrne.

There was also the Supergirl factor. While the Superboy/Legion stories of years past were explained by the Pocket Universe’s existence, Superman’s cousin had also spent a significant amount of time as a Legionnaire in the 30th century. Yet there was no Pocket Universe Supergirl to fill that role. Except there totally was a Pocket Universe Supergirl, introduced a year after “The Greatest Hero of Them All,” first in one-page teases in various Superman books, and then full-on in “The Supergirl Saga,” which found Supes travelling to the Pocket Universe to help save Earth-Pri…er, the Pocket Universe Earth…from destruction.

20131230-095047.jpg20131230-095753.jpg Superman arrives after the planet’s Superboy is long dead, and Pocket Universe Lex Luthor, a benevolent, long-tressed redheaded scientist, has created a Supergirl (a concept post-Crisis Superman was unfamiliar with) out of a gooey purple protoplasm and modelled her after his deceased paramour Lana Lang. Pocket Universe Earth has been ravaged by Pocket Universe General Zod, Pocket Universe Faora, and Pocket Universe Quex-Ul, up to their old (new?) tricks.

“The Supergirl Saga,” aside from being fun, interesting, and frequently-confusing, is notable for its conclusion: after Zod, Faora, and Quex-Ul murder literally everyone on the planet aside from Superman and Matrix Supergirl, Superman totally kills the shit out of them. On purpose. Take note, everyone who claimed the ending of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel was inaccurate and unprecedented: 20131230-095806.jpg20131230-095811.jpg Aside from making Superman a murderer, the whole Legion/Supergirl problem was now solved! Except it wasn’t. Matrix Supergirl didn’t fill in the gaps left by the deceased pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El in post-Legion continuity. That job went to Laurel Gand, a.k.a. Andromeda, introduced in the pages of Keith Giffen and T&M Bierbaum’s controversial “Five Years Later” run on Legion of Super-Heroes in 1990. Laurel Gand is distant relative to Lar Gand, a.k.a Mon-El (Superman’s Big Brother), and both are Daxamites, Kryptonian descendants with similar powers. So now the deal was that Lar Gand and Laurel Gand occupied the “Superboy” and “Supergirl” parts of Legion history (and Laurel Gand would have a flirtation/romance with Braniac 5, similar to pre-Crisis Supergirl).

A decade later, the real (old?) Kara Zor-El Supergirl would arrive and Infinite Crisis would clean up the whole mess by re-introducing the multiverse and having Supergirl…get into a cosmic accident that split her into two, sending half of her 1000 years into the future while the other half stayed behind in the 21st century. But let’s get back to Earth-Prime, which, post-Infinite Crisis, now existed again.

As did Superboy-Prime. Except instead of being an earnest do-gooder, as depicted pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, the new, post-Infinite Crisis Superboy-Prime was now an evil prick, driven murderously insane by DC’s continuity problems (understandable). The Jon Lane Kent of his day, Superboy-Prime was a petulant, entitled jerk. Writers mined this for comedy rather than drama, so it was hard to take him seriously, but a few good storylines came out of this: the aforementioned Infinite Crisis, Legion of 3 Worlds, and Superboy-Prime’s two-issue Adventure Comics crossover with Blackest Night.


At the time of Legion of 3 Worlds, the Legion had their pre-/post-Crisis on Infinite Earths version (which would eventually become the dreaded 5YL version), the post-Zero Hour version meant to clean up the mess caused by the 5YL version, and the 2004 “Threeboot” version, later joined by Supergirl post-Infinite Crisis. Legion of 3 Worlds explained that all of these version existed but came from different realities: the Threeboot team, specifically, was told they were from Earth-Prime.

Alternate versions of established heroes offer a chance to see the road not taken: Kaine’s Scarlet Spider to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 to Earth-1’s Justice League, Faith the Vampire Slayer versus Buffy. Back in the early ’90s, the Wally West Flash had an alternate-timeline counterpart in Walter West, who arrived in the mainstream DCU as part of “The Dark Flash Saga” to take the place of Wally (who Walter believed was dead) and get a second chance with his love Linda Park (who was dead in Walter West’s world).

Walter caused a bit of trouble, fell in love with crime scene investigator Angela Margolis, and learned he would destroy reality by staying in Wally’s world rather than his own. So he fled into hypertime and found himself in…


Earth-Prime? It’s not said outright, but it’s obviously meant to be Superboy-Prime’s turf, and having Walter West land there is a nice callback to The Flash #179.

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OMG, DC/NON-DC: Kurt Busiek’s Glorious Astro City


Part of why I whine so much about DC is that I love long, involved, complex mythologies and I really love complaining when what’s considered “canon” gets abused and tossed around like its the New 52 version of Starfire or something.

A TV show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewarded long-time viewers by having, say, seventh-season Buffy slap a slowly-disappearing girl back into existence as a nod to an episode that aired six years earlier. You didn’t need to see the latter to enjoy the former, but the viewing experience was greatly enhanced if you had.

Astro City 1 2013

Kurt Busiek’s masterwork, Astro City, offers something similar. You don’t need to have read the earlier issues to jump into the new 2013 series that’s currently on shelves: most Astro City books are standalone single-issue tales or short miniseries, and though they all take place in the titular metropolis, each tale usually focuses on a different (often non-superheroic) character. So you don’t need to know the history of Silver Agent to appreciate the character, but if you do know the history of Silver Agent, you’ll probably get a giddy thrill every time he appears.

As Busiek writes in the afterword to the most recent Astro City #1, “Despite that crisp-looking number 1 on the cover, this is actually the 60th Astro City issue … don’t get me wrong, we want you to buy all the earlier stuff, but we’d rather get you to buy it by making you want to read it, not by making you feel you need to read it.”

On top of the winks and nods to previous issues, Astro City is a bunch of really good stories. Busiek generally focuses on two subjects: the downside of being a superhero and what it’s like to be a normal person living amongst these costumed gods. With the exception of a single dud – that’d be Astro City #21’s “Where the Action Is”), every issue has been an A+ piece of storytelling.


My favorite tale is Astro City: Local Heroes #1’s “Newcomers,” in which a hotel concierge directs tourists to prime superhero-sightseeing locales around town while recalling a couple of his own misadventures in the city:

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The above is the Confessor’s brief appearance in this issue, and if you haven’t read Astro City: Confessions you might not have much appreciation for the character beyond a vague feeling of witnessing a two-page cameo from a Spectre/Phantom Stranger pastiche. If you have read Astro City: Confessions (and you should, it’s awesome), you’d probably be pretty excited to know who’s under that cowl and how he got there.

Astro City has been published erratically since its debut in 1995, owing to both Busiek’s other work commitments (Superman, Avengers) and health concerns, but it’s now a monthly title from Vertigo (after spending time at both Image and WildStorm) and it’s well worth the $4 cover price.

Aaaaaaand it’s got one thing going for it that no other DC book has: consistency. Since day one, Busiek’s been scripting, Brent Anderson has been handling interior art, and Alex Ross has been painting the gorgeous covers that adorn every issue. If you’re looking to get into comics, or looking to get someone else into comics, Astro City might be a good place to start.

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