Amid all the controversy, Johns and Frank deliver for fans of the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages…
Comics fans are a notoriously difficult breed to please, particularly if you’re of a particular vintage.
I myself grew up in the Bronze Age and spent a ton of time diving into the Silver and Golden Ages. I loved it all. It was just a matter of degrees. But unlike a lot of my contemporaries, I’m not put off by what the major publishers have produced over, say, the last 25-30 years or so.
I love some of it, like some of it and dislike some of it. I read what I like and don’t read what I don’t like. Do today’s comics speak to me like they did when I was 12? No. But that’s also because I’m not 12 anymore.
My point — and you almost certainly know this if you read 13th Dimension with any regularity – is that I’m generally a big-tent kind of guy when it comes to comics.
Not the case for many of my contemporaries, who on principle dislike intensely what DC and Marvel produce nowadays.
But there’s an elixir sitting on comics store shelves right now that should go a long way toward providing some relief to those disgruntled fans of the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages – and it’s Doomsday Clock #10, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and Brad Anderson.
Yeah, I know. A lot of you are completely put off by the mere notion of a series that’s a direct sequel to Watchmen – let alone one that combines that universe with the primary DC Universe.
But here’s the thing: Issue #10 does something that no comic has been able to since Crisis on Infinite Earths – explain how all iterations of the DC Universe connect to one another, going way back to Action Comics #1.
It’s not the Multiverse. It’s not Hypertime. It’s called the Metaverse.
Now, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of the issue, which is marvelously entertaining in its own right, with gorgeous art and compelling storytelling. There are satisfying appearances of the original Justice Society of America and Legion of Super-Heroes – and I actually think you could read the issue even if you haven’t been following the series.
Because in addition to seeing those classic characters, we’re walked through Johns’ inventive notion of how the DC Universe actually works – and what it means for longtime fans.
In a nutshell, Dr. Manhattan discovers that in the prime DCU, Superman actually did arrive on Earth in 1938, auguring what we call the Golden Age. Then, history was changed and a new reality was born where he first appeared in 1956, heralding the Silver Age. Then, it happened again in 1986 and so on.
Each time history was changed – with Superman as the fulcrum — the Multiverse was changed with it, expanding and contracting along the way.
But all those stories happened. All those worlds existed – and continue to do so, in a fashion.
Writer Geoff Johns lays it all at the feet of Bryce DeWitt, the late, real-life theoretical physicist, who, as Dr. Manhattan explains, “hypothesized that the universe was constantly splitting into alternate timelines. The many worlds interpretation. It theorized that parallel worlds were endlessly created, flowing out like the branches of a tree.”
Johns, again through Dr. Manhattan, later adds, “The Multiverse reacts to this universe. There have been endless parallel worlds, none, fifty-two, dark multiverses, all created by changes to this universe.
“This universe stands apart from the Multiverse. It is the Metaverse. And it is in a constant state of change.”
Dr. Manhattan says that the changes were wrought by the Anti-Monitor (a Crisis reference), Extant (Zero Hour) and himself. But really, those characters are stand-ins for editors, writers and artists who for 80-plus years have been monkeying with the direction of what became the DCU.
Fittingly, Dr. Manhattan is also an avatar for fandom: He’s able to shift through time periods and realities on a whim. So can we. He can do it through quantum physics. We can do it by reading back issues.
How very meta. Hence, the Metaverse.
(Side note: If there’s a weakness in the concept, it’s that Superman is at the center of all of it. That’s true in large measure, obviously, but it’s the Barry Allen Flash who drove the launch of the Silver Age. Johns certainly knows that but he seems to be taking license, unless he chooses to delve into that in the series’ final two issues. Either way, he’s not wrong: Superman is DC’s – and comicdom’s — Big Bang.)
In any event, it’s a brilliant way of infusing the realities of publishing and fandom with DC’s fictional constructs – paradoxes and all. It’s neat and messy and complex and simple all at once.
Most of all, the Metaverse is an acknowledgment – a celebration even – of all that’s come before and all that’s still to come.
Because the bottom line is that what we love about DC Comics has always been here. It is here now and it will always be here.
— Why It’s OK That WATCHMEN and the DC Universe Will Collide. Click here.
— Dave Gibbons Talks WATCHMEN vs. DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Click here.