Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nerdy Young Fan responds to Grumpy Old Fan

In this week's DC Nation, we were given a comprehensive list of half the universes which compromise DC's new 52-universe-large Multiverse. Newsarama blogger Tom, "Grumpy Old Fan" (i.e., Grumpy Old Fan Boy), responds in a lengthy rant about the problematics of adding various Elseworlds into the new Multiverse (or as Tom calls it the "Nu-Multiverse"). He points out that in the old Multiverse, there was only one of certain groups and individuals that had godlike power and cosmic significance like Shazam, the Green Lantern Corps' Guardians of the Universe, and the New Gods.

Tom argues that if the "Nu-Multiverse" follows the same rules that makes certain Earths not work well. For instance, if there is only one set of New Gods, how did Mr. Miracle and Barda build the metahuman Gulag for the League in
Kingdom Come's Earth-22? Then there is of course the explicit or implicit presence of the Guardians and Shazam to contend because of the proliferation of Captain Marvels and Hal Jordans on many worlds (think Fawcett's Earth-5 and the New Frontier's Earth-21). Furthermore, if the rules are different and there are many Highfathers, Shazams, Ganthets, etc., why do they not send delegations around and use their nigh omnipotent to intervene and solve crises? Following this logic, one also has to ask why haven't the multiple Darkseids haven't tried to destroy each yet?

I think Tom is missing three really big points. First of all, I don't think we should think of this Multiverse in terms of the old one. While it shares the characteristic of multiple universes vibrating at different frequencies divided by infinitessimally finite yet infinite barriers, the new Multiverse is a different kind of bird. Where the old Multiverse was infinite, limited only (loosely) by continuity, market forces, and the authors' creativity, the new Multiverse is finite. Fifty-two universes would be a mere drop in the bucket, if not ocean, of the Silver Age Multiverse. Furthermore, as Tom points out, in the old Multiverse there were only four Supermen. We know from Alexander Luthor in
Infinite Crisis, that the new Multiverse is, in fact, centered on Superman. While Earth is the geographical center of the Multiverse, Superman seems to be its personal center. There's a version of him on each Earth tying the Multiverse together.* These differences show us that rules that apply to the old Multiverse, don't necessarily apply to the current Multiverse.

The second point is that the new Multiverse was formed by duplicating and performing permutation on the New Earth that was formed at the end of
Crisis on Infinite Earths. This New Earth consolidated all the special little peculiarities of the last five surviving Earths of the old Multiverse. At the end CoIE, Shazam, the Guardians, and the New Gods were nicely wrapped up into a single universe. As Mr. Mind flapped his wings creating a new Multiverse, it stands to reason that these special entities would/could be duplicated as they were part of the fabric of the new singular universe. With this in mind, one doesn't have to worry about Mr. Miracle and Barda being removed from Earth-22, destroying the continuity of Kingdom Come.

The final point, and I think this is the most important, is that one has to realize that
continuity and the Multiverse exist primarily (or at least should exist primarily) to abet the telling of interesting stories. Unless it could be construed in an interesting way (and I don't believe it could), 52 Highfathers, Shazams, and Ganthets intervening in the midst of a crisis, unleashing their omnipotence to destroy whatever the big bad happens to be threatening all existence would not make for good or creative storytelling (although, I'll admit the image's pretty sweet). On the other hand, multiple Darkseids going after each other would be pretty sweet. However, for the sake of Multiversal cogency, I would argue that the battle would have to end in a stalemate. But I digress.

I find it funny that same fans who are able to suspend disbelief and swallow that an extraterrestrial who looks remarkably like a white dude could become a demigod because of yellow solar radiation and that a technology could exist that translates will power into hard light objects, are not able to suspend disbelief long enough to accept that every omnipotent force in the Multiverse would not be constantly mucking about. (Of course, I fall into this too, asking stupid questions during Superman Doomsday like "Where is the Justice League???!") While we all have a our fan quirks, comic book fans should struggle to relax and realize:
Hey, it's just a story anyway.

(This post written almost exclusively for the benefit of myself and Ben D)

*The presence of Gotham by Gaslight, the Wildstorm Universe, etc. makes me think I might be mistaken. But then again, we just saw that there's a Blue Beetle in the Gotham By Gaslight Earth last week, so why not a Superman? Perhaps on the Wildstorm Earth some other person serves the Superman function as Captain Marvel does on Earth-5.

7 comments:

thewhitedoor: said...

"The final point, and I think this is the most important, is that one has to realize that continuity and the Multiverse exist primarily (or at least should exist primarily) to abet the telling of interesting stories. Unless it could be construed in an interesting way (and I don't believe it could), 52 Highfathers, Shazams, and Ganthets intervening in the midst of a crisis, unleashing their omnipotent to destroy whatever the big bad happens to be threatening all existence would not make for good or creative storytelling (although, I'll admit the image's pretty sweet). On the other hand, multiple Darkseids going after each other would be pretty sweet. However, for the sake of Multiversal cogency, I would argue that the battle would have to end in a stalemate. But I digress."

I recently considered making this point in a post, but you did it for me, and much better than I could have. It is, indeed, a very important point. Comic books share a great deal in common with classical mythology and legend-making, which were never hampered by legalistic, literalist grumbling.

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