Monday, May 4, 2009

Time Travel, in Comics, Film, and Life


I get to see an advance screening of the Star Trek movie tonight, thanks to movie reviewer Kyle Smith (who is not really a sci-fi geek — though he has a daughter who turns one this month, named Summer, like the actress from the Terminator franchise, which returns to the big screen later this month). Watch for his review.

I’ll just note that a lot of comic books and genre films lately involve time travel or altered memories, often used as a means of refreshing a franchise, with the most obvious clot being this month’s three major nerd films, Wolverine (revealing his amnesia-obscured origin), Star Trek (using time travel and an aged Leonard Nimoy to introduce us to the new version of the cast), and Terminator Salvation (wisely leaving present-day time travel adventures behind for the post-apocalyptic wastelands while warning us in advance in one of the trailers that this isn’t the same future John Connor expected).

I was torn between two times myself tonight, since, alas, the Star Trek movie is being shown at the same time as the old documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke, the latter pointed out to me by Dimitri Cavalli and both close to my heart. But I can always revisit 1991 in my mind — the future must be experienced (and four days before the rest of the world experiences it).


As for comics (specifically, DC Comics): despite plans to stop reading them, I’ve long been kept coming back to comics specifically by DC’s “Crisis” events, which appeal to my sci-fi aspirations by depicting alterations in reality and the timestream instead of just Batman stopping bank robbers — but I kept wanting it all to end so I could move on, and with events such as this year’s explicitly “Final” Crisis, I finally can and will.

As if they were trying to fulfill my comics wishlist, 2009 will have seen satisfying finales for the reality-altering characters known as the Monitors, Krona, Gog, Darkseid, and Time Trapper (arguably representing the First through Fifth Worlds of the DC Universe, respectively, more or less — with similarly powerful Monarch bumped off one year ago as well). So there’s little question in my mind that this, at long last, is a good stopping point for my comics-reading. Add to all that a film based on the most highly-acclaimed comic book of all time, The Watchmen, and Wolverine on the big screen solo, and a comics fan has little reason to complain right now. This means I’ll leave the printed superheroic realm behind before I turn forty, sparing me at least some embarrassment (the final issue of Trinity, the series depicting the final battle with Krona, who I used in one of the comics I wrote for DC, comes out May 27, and the final issue of the series depicting the final battle with Time Trapper, Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds, comes out June 24).

Of course, next year — though I won’t be reading superhero adventures — I will have to go to the theatre to see the Iron Man sequel and the Green Lantern movie. (An adult should be well-rounded, after all, so I can’t just see the Harry Potter and Narnia films that are due out late next year. That would be juvenile, obviously.)


Earlier on this blog, I said it was a shame DC stopped doing the Crisis on Multiple Earths volumes collecting old Justice League/Justice Society team-ups because they were just about to reprint (even solicited in some venues) a story from 1980 drawn by George Perez that pitted the two Justice teams and the New Gods against Darkseid. Since Perez’s art and these story elements were all part of the Final Crisis of the past year as well, the old tale would be timely again — and luckily, that story will now be in the August Justice League by George Perez Vol. 1 collection (one of the old issues even had a cover by currently hot-again Jim Starlin, as if the whole thing weren’t 2008-presaging enough already).

Speaking of multiple Earths, I see that next year, Grant Morrison (who wrote the main Final Crisis miniseries) will write seven one-shot issues about DC’s multiverse, including (perhaps controversially) a de facto new version of Watchmen using the Earth-4-dwelling old characters on whom the Watchmen were based. (Since Bruce Wayne ended up being zapped into living multiple, horrible versions of his life in different realities at the end of Final Crisis, maybe he should pop up in these multiversal stories before finally, inevitably, making his way back to the main DC universe — sort of like the Batman version of Quantum Leap.)

Morrison plans to depict the once-Objectivist character the Question shifting toward a more postmodern “spiral dynamics” philosophy, meaning he’ll shift paradigms while retaining insights from his prior philosophies — which sounds somewhat healthy and probably makes more sense as an m.o. for a character named “Question” than having all the answers.


Speaking of that Time Trapper vs. Legion comic that’ll serve as my June 24 farewell to comics — it’s a perfect alpha-omega sort of deal for me, since the old Legion series was the first DC Comic I read regularly, partly as a reward for keeping an eye on my maternal grandmother, then suffering from Alzheimer’s. The next DC series I read regularly — and with even greater enthusiasm — was New Teen Titans, drawn by the aforementioned Perez, who’d drawn the multiversal first superhero comic I ever read, Marvel’s Avengers #149, and is now (very slowly) drawing the Trapper/Legion miniseries. It’s hard to believe he drew New Teen Titans monthly back when I was eleven. (Hard to believe I was ever eleven, really, still able to run faster than bullets, able to cloak criminals in my shadowy “soul-self” to render them unconscious, morphing into various green animals, or so it seems in fading memory. Ah, good times.)

After the Legion miniseries, they’re restarting the Superboy/Legion series Adventure, which will probably pick up the Legion’s story where it left off in 1989 before various (partly Time Trapper-caused) manipulations and revisions of their history. That means they’re likely to effectively erase the past twenty years of Legion history to preserve the preceding thirty-one — an interesting measure of how much more iconic the early decades were. Of course, the only truly shafted period, if they’re retaining recent versions (1994-2004 and 2004-2009) as alternate universes, will be the tumultuous, dark, doppleganger-filled, and continuity-bending period of 1989-1994. Farewell, Five Years Later Legion and Batch SW6. Talk about a “five-year gap.”

P.S. If I were in charge, I might well use the Legion miniseries as one more means to tease the “Blackest Night” event I blogged about on Saturday, since the Alan Moore-created character Sodam Yat appears in both, haunted in the future world of the Legion by terrible events that devastated the Green Lantern Corps back in our time. And I’d use the Trinity series, which also ends just as “Blackest Night” begins, to tease the event as well, since it wouldn’t be the first time Krona’s death awakened the menace of the deathgod Nekron. Might as well tie it all together, across the centuries and multiple realities.


Jacob T. Levy said...

The Geoff Johns Legion isn’t the Earth-1 Legion of 1989, even apart from the absence of Supergirl from its history and the divergent events around the Lightning Saga, sun turning red, Earth Man, etc. It had the Legion of Super-Villains war and Karate Kid died– but he came back (which he didn’t in the 80s), only to die in the 20th century in the series that shall not be named. So sometime early in the Baxter series, there was a divergence. I think that we can presume that the anti-Time Trapper conspiracy, the Universo saga, the Magic Wars, etc never happened.

I don’t think we’ve seen Blok, though Tellus is hanging around the 20th century. Sensor Girl, but no Quislet. Wildfire’s in his traditional form not his late 80s form, etc. And, of course, the red sun/ Earth Man story has given us a 5-year-gap-lite, with earth alienated from the UP, Sun Boy having been used for bad and feeling alienated from his heroic past, and so on.

Jacob T. Levy said...

1) Your Batman-and-the-multiverse speculation seems quite plausible.

2) Is it just me, or is the Omega Sanction as described basically the same thing that John Byrne did to Donna Troy?

3) Do you *really* intend not to buy that Morrison multiverse story? Not sure I believe you about that.

Todd Seavey said...

At the risk of sounding like Roy Thomas, if I were in charge, I’d be tempted to say Batman’s fate (which does fit in with prior depictions of Darkseid’s Omega Sanction effect) really _is_ the same thing done to Donna Troy, since it was (we now know) a servant of the Monitors (Dark Angel) who did that to her, and it’s been implied, partly in the series that shall not be named, that the Monitors and Darkseid operate on a similar above-the-multiverse level.

But then, my old master plan idea for Donna Troy — which I actually got the chance to half-assedly pitch to DC Executive Editor Dan Didio when he briefly happened to sit down beside me in DC-beloved bar McGee’s — was to reveal (somewhat Matrix-like) that the various machine intelligences in the DC Universe (Brainiac, et al) are the real master manipulators of reality — and the reason Donna Troy is more aware of her multiple versions/lives than other characters is precisely that _she began life as a computer simulation_ (really, that’s how the Wonder Girl character started decades ago) and thus…IS ONE OF THEM!!

Didio said, fairly enough, “That sounds like the sort of idea Grant Morrison would do well and everybody else would mess it up.”

I’ll take that as a sort of compliment, because I like Morrison — but even I am a bit burned out on him, so no comics past June 24 for me. (You do see the synergistic beauty of this as an endpoint, right? And I say this without revealing Time Trapper’s identity, for those who might still care.)

Todd Seavey said...

I’m sure Jacob meant Tellus is hanging out in the 31st century, by the way.

And when I say 1989, I really mean we get total divergence after that but only limited divergence beforehand. I suppose, though, that we cannot call this refurbished old-school Legion the Earth-1 Legion — for the simple reason that the main Superman’s timeline is Earth-0. Someone has to keep track of these things, and, as noted, the Monitors aren’t around anymore. And you don’t hear much from Roy Thomas lately.

Jacob T. Levy said...

We’re both wrong. Tellus is hanging out in the 21st century. (When I’m thinking of the Legion, I find it hard not to say 20th/ 30th instead of 21st/ 31st.)

He’s being held prisoner in a tank at Cadmus. The Guardian and Mon-El are off to rescue him soon.

Todd Seavey said...

Sorry. This isn’t something I get to say every day, but: I was misnaming that guy in the bubble from the Gil’Dishpan race.

P.S. Are we sure the red sun and Karate Kid resurrection couldn’t have occurred _after_ Magic Wars, for what it’s worth?

Todd Seavey said...

P.P.S. One opportunity to have a coherent year-by-year timeline (since the Legion doesn’t have to be in “the present”) and DC still blows it by always setting the stories _exactly_ 1,000 years in the future instead of just going the Star Trek route and declaring their adventures to take place from, say, 2974-2982 or something.

Todd Seavey said...

Super-obscure observation only Jacob may care about: one element from the 1989-1994 period that survives, by the way (and I think this was a nice choice), is the Earth-247’s Legion (who actually come from the 1994-2004 period) calling Lar Gand “Valor” instead of using the Martian name “M’Onel,” as they did in their printed adventures. It was supposed to be the same guy, and Valor was always a much better name.

Jacob T. Levy said...

If nothing else, Mon-El’s alive-and-kicking status in L3W seems incompatible with it being post-Magic Wars.

Todd Seavey said...

Why’s that? What happened to Mon-El pre-Magic Wars that couldn’t be reversed post-Magic Wars? (I’m obviously assuming an “idealized” 1989 status quo without Trapper’s Pocket Universe post-Crisis messing around really “taking,” which I think is what Johns means to imply. Thus, no significant duplicate-Superboy or mega-enhanced Mon-El status for the Earth-0 Legion.)

By the way, I just realized that the Gil’Dishpan happen to have been the half-remembered inspiration for my Doan Godair Girl’fren joke from the ninth item in yesterday’s entry (small world):

Jacob T. Levy said...

Well, if that idealized status quo lacked the pocket universe, the death of its Superboy, the resulting conspiracy to kill the Time Trapper, and the battle against TT, then it also lacks that battle’s aftermath:

But without all those stories, we’re already a pretty long way off from the published Levitz stories of 1989, so I don’t know how we could decide it.

Star Boy, maybe?

Todd Seavey said...

Incidentally, if they show Bruce Wayne traversing the 52 universes, there must, of course, also be a moment in which he finds himself in an insane additional reality and is told by its cackling master, “Every deck of 52 also comes with…a Joker!” Some things are just mandatory that way.

Todd Seavey said...

Sidenote: I thought _Blackest Night_ writer Geoff Johns seemed too mainstream to believe Grant Morrison-like mystical things — possibly even politically conservative (given his faith-friendly scenes and hand-off of _Justice Society_ to a writer who’s written an essay for the right-wing site BigHollywood) — but this passage from the recent ComicBookResources interview with him suggests he may have his own version of Morrison’s my-comics-alter-reality views:

There is a lot of exploration of light and emotional journey linked with the physical throughout religion, including “The Seven Rays” and they are all an influence. We’re all familiar with “Let there be light.” And that’s where this idea all started from for me. The light existed and then splintered, but from there, I’m a believer in sentient energy, we added to it. Every being in the universe can affect the overall state of its wellbeing. If we embrace fear, we add that to the emotional state of the universe and it changes it, if we embrace willpower — and that is the will to live, the courage to carry on — we change the state of the universe. We are all individuals, but we’re all connected. It’s like being in a room with ten people and someone is panicking, it’ll cause more panic and conflict unless it’s quelled by something else.

Todd Seavey said...

Finally for today (I swear), since all this started with talk of Kyle Smith and time, here’s a paragraph from Kyle’s blog entry denouncing _Time_’s choice of Zac Efron as one of the 100 Most Influential People (though J.R. Taylor might counter that Zac Efron at least performs in a surprisingly conservative-themed scene in his new comedy _17 Again_, as recently noted on

Zac Efron is not one of the 100 Most Influential People. He is not one of the 10,000 Most Influential People. To be influential, you must have some power or some ideas that people find persuasive. Yet Zac Efron wields less power than the no. 10 agent at CAA and no one cares what he thinks. If he actually expressed a controversial notion, his handlers would be appalled. He is not even one of the 100 Most Influential People in Hollywood. He has grownup agents making decisions for him, and his job is essentially to show up and be cute and try to build up some acting skill that might keep his career going past 30. When you put Zac Efron on your list, you are telling the world that you want some 15-year-old-girls to buy your magazine and that you want some cute people to show up at your party so that it will be covered by the celebrity media. You are not sending a signal that you want or deserve to be taken seriously. How many times do you think Zac Efron will land on the cover of The Economist?

Scott Nybakken said...

Congratulations — you and Jacob have created the geekiest blog post and comment thread in the history of the internets.

Christopher said...


Todd Seavey said...

Rather than comment further in this thread, I will address these shocking accusations briefly in tomorrow’s (Thur., 5/7/09) blog entry. I also wish to note that a huge delivery truck with a red, block-letters logo on it simply saying WIPING RAGS just drove by my office, a reminder that the real world, for all its efforts, can be sadly mundane compared to that inhabited by the Time Trapper.

Jacob T. Levy said...

“the geekiest blog post and comment thread in the history of the internets. ”

You don’t spend much time on the internets, do you? This barely breaks the top 50%.