Bundles + Arcs: Continuity Shmontinuity

I am not writing about this comic.

By Gary Chapin

This column is not about The Multiversity. I’m sure at some point — when I read it? — I will have plenty to say, but right now I’m basking in the magnificence of the ad copy. Quoth Comixology:

President Superman of Earth-23 uncovers a threat to all Reality so apocalyptic it will take a team of incredible heroes from across the Multiverse to face it!

Wow. Wow!

All I’m saying is thank Gosh for this amazing, modern world in which we live. An embarrassment of riches.

Back in the day, when I  began reading comics, we had only two Supermen! I know! And that was a big deal. I remember older comic readers telling me when there was only one universe. I couldn’t understand. It was like trying to imagine a world before cellphones, or microwaves, or bottled water.

And no one would ever think of destroying a universe. I can just imagine the story meeting. Someone would say, “Let’s have the villain try to destroy the universe.” And the editor would say, “That’s crazy talk! Who let that kid in here?!?” And then someone else would pipe up with a yarn about some villain destroying the Earth, and they would go with that. A single planet?! I mean, come on! People in the past were so funny.

But they were happy.

I was happy. I had two Supermen, two Flashes, Green Lanterns etc. And it was enough. I was content with Earth-1 and Earth-2 — JLA and JSA. And then more came. Oh, bountiful! After Earth-1 and Earth-2, you had Earth-3 … which had a villainous doppelgangers for Our Heroes. Then DC acquired the Fawcett heroes, the Shazam family. And they, of course, lived on Earth-S. Then some of the Quality Comics heroes — Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb, Night Shade — and they were given Earth X. There was Earth-A, Earth Prime, Earth-C, and Earth-C minus, and more.

Only two Earths? How ... quaint.
Only two Earths? How … quaint.

After a while it got to be difficult, keeping all that straight. Don’t get me wrong! I was heading to college by then, and my IQ had crossed just into the triple digits. I was reading short novels. I considered myself a smart guy. Even so, there were times when I had to bring out the slide rule to keep up with these wild “multiverse” plots. It was a heavy lift.

Then came Crisis on Infinite Earths, with an expressed goal of simplifying the DC universe! I’m not naïve. I don’t imagine they did this out of any sense of altruism for us confused readers. Probably DC wanted to purchase another line of heroes from some defunct company, but they didn’t have anymore letters or numbers to keep track of them. “Tear the whole thing down and start from scratch!” said the Man. They didn’t have the word “reboot” then.

The story was great. Marv Wolfman was at the top of his game. Do you remember when The New Teen Titans was the best thing being written? And George Perez was drawing with such beauty and subtlety and detail. Wow, was there a lot of detail! The rumor was that inkers had to be rotated through his pages like pitchers on an MLB team. I’ve seen documentation that, if a part of the story was set in a forest, a sort of communal weeping would start up, inkers keening, “The leaves! The leaves!” A good set of books.

But it left us with only one Earth. The implications hadn’t occurred to me until it was done. One Earth. One Earth? One EARTH! I felt culturally impoverished. Like my parents had decided that we should be Amish. One Earth?!? What next? We start churning butter and raising goats? It was a bleak, niggardly time. It didn’t last, though. The suits can only pay attention for so long. Soon enough they are distracted by the smell of money elsewhere. The multiverse is an idea that has strong legs. The writers aren’t going to let that one sit idly by.

Kingdom Come! Infinite Crisis! Countdown to Final Crisis! And then Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis? (Which is interesting, because usually “final” means something like “last” … I’m not sure what Morrison was getting at.) Then the New 52, with it’s take on our old friend, Earth-2! The world — my comic book world — is abundant again. The first four issues of Batman/Superman (2013) are entirely worth the price of admission.

King of Shmontinuity
King of Shmontinuity

And we’ve gone so much further than things ever got before Crisis on Infinite Earths. Multiverses abound! There are so many of them, so many possible variations of events. “President Superman of Earth 23!” You shouldn’t even call it a Multiverse. Call it a whatever-the-f*#%-we-want-to-do-verse. Any story — any story — can be justified in this set up. That’s Captain Carrot, up there on the Multiversity cover, and for all we know it’s the Captain Carrot of Earth-C minus! Writers no longer need to try to fit stories into continuity. We have moved into a post-continuity world.

I call it Shmontinuity.

The Multiversity, by Grant “Meta” Morrison, the King of Shmontinuity, promises a threat “so apocalyptic” that a bunch of heroes from across the multiverse are called upon to sort it out!!! Whatever you say, Grant! We trust you!  Yeah … wait … are there levels of “apocalyptic”? What would the unit of measurement be?

If anyone in the Multiverse would know, it’s Grant Morrison. I am going to enjoy this book. Welcome to Shmontinuity. You’ve been here a while.

All of comic history is my text! I don't care what's current! Chesterton said that finding a piece of art important because it came out yesterday is as valid as finding it important because it came out on a Thursday. I look for great stories,…

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