Chat Cave: Relaunching the Multiverse

With the Second Wave of the New 52, DC will reintroduce the Multiverse, the mulitple-earthed solution to continuity issues, with titles like Earth 2 and World’s Finest.What do you think about the Multiverse coming back? The Retcon Punchers sound off. Welcome to the Chat Cave

Shelby: Oh, Multiverse, you confuse me so. Trying to keep track of the Multiverse is, to me, akin to herding cats in a straight line: a mildly amusing, but ultimately impossible endeavor. Honestly, I think the Multiverse is just silly; come on, have you ever read the Wikipedia list of Multiverse worlds? Originally, it was meant to enable cross-overs between Golden and Silver Age comics, and has since been compressed, smoothed out, re-shaped, forgotten, remembered, and now apparently relaunched. It is a sink-hole of continuity issues and alternate realities.

It feels weird to say that I’m not a fan of the Multiverse, because it’s such an integral part of the DC universe. In part, that’s why I don’t like it. I think that the whole thing is just overly inflated and difficult to penetrate. I thought the point of the relaunch was to clean things up, create a fresh start. It’s safe to say that, if not for the relaunch, I wouldn’t be reading comic books like I am today. As it was, there was no way for someone to just pickup and start reading a title, not with the weight of the entire Multiverse riding on your shoulders. So why bring it back when we’ve barely firmed up the stories of the relaunch? And honestly, to me, the Multiverse mostly serves as a foundation for a large cross-over event. We just  had the cross-over of Flash Point, a massive relaunch, and we’re gearing up for the Court of Owls crossover; it’s too soon! Let me just enjoy what we’ve got now!

Drew: To me, the multiverse doesn’t make sense in post-relaunch DC, both in their comics continuity and in their business model. The relaunch was meant to clean-up, update, and clarify the continuity of over 70 years of comic stories. The goal was both to make comics approachable to newcomers and to shut-up the petty continuity-philes who would rather quibble about minor continuity errors than enjoy a good comic. Those continuity-philes felt a little neglected in the relaunch, as DC more-or-less said “much of this stuff you care so much about never happened.” The continuity-philes cried foul, calling themselves DC’s loyal fan-base, which maybe they were, but that doesn’t mean DC could do anything to stop them from complaining. Introducing the multiverse in the second wave seems like a ploy to appease these whiners, but it ends up reneging on what I thought was the promise of a simpler DC universe.

I can appreciate why DC would want to bring the multiverse back; it frees them up to tell stories outside of their own continuity, which allows artistic teams to come up with fun, adventurous stuff. What I find unfortunate is that the multiverse attempts to corral those fun, adventurous stories into a coherent continuity when it really doesn’t need to. I appreciate it’s there to make sense of things that kind of do have their own continuity, say DC’s animated universe, or the world of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight books, but I don’t see the point in building up multiple universes in the mothlies. Why does everything have to fit into a continuity? Why does DC get to decide which stories are or aren’t part of the histories of fictional characters? Maybe these are things I’ll never understand, but I’m happy to hash this out in the comments.

Peter: I agree with Drew, in that the Multiverse doesn’t really make sense in the DCnU. With the major reboot, and the end of Flashpoint, the idea was to consolidate a lot of the multiverse into a smaller, easier to understand DC universe. Hence, the merging of content from the Vertigo Universe and the Wildstorm Universe into the mainstay DC Universe, and poof! new DC. Why DC is bringing it back, overall seems like a olive branch to those readers who loved the Multiverse too much; just like you know that guy who loves that obscure thing(I’m looking at you Dr. Who) too much. But here is the kicker, what if it works? What if, via the Second Wave, DC has taken their old and confusing Multiverse, and, like they are currently doing with a lot of their major stories, are stripping it down and starting over, and make a new one?

The Multiverse is a very potent storywriting tool. It pretty much allows whoever is writing a story to explain away pretty much anything that could ever possibly happen, ever. When you look at it, so much of the old DC Universe was built on the Multiverse Theory. Look at some of the major crossover and Universe changing events; Crisis of Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis. While all of these Crises Events molded the DC Universe into what it is today, starting in 1985. That was really the last time DC did a major re-do on their universe, and it worked. People loved it, people hated it, but ultimately it set the tone for DC Comics for the next 26 years. Now with the reboot of the old, and now the addition of the new Multiverse, starting with the addition of just Earth-2, it gives DC a chance to go back and build something new, with fresh eyes. I understand why they did the reboot in the first place, and I understand why they are bringing the Multiverse back. It allows them to write stories in a new setting, not dictated by writers who wrote stories 20 years ago, but a fresh look on lots of old concepts, and a fresh start with some new ones. I just hope they don’t screw it up.

Patrick: To quote Spinal Tap lead-singer David St. Hubbins “There’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.” I always suspected that the world of comic books was far dumber than I could possibly imagine. Before getting into Green Lantern about a year ago, I had heard vague stories about parallel universes (as separate and distinct from both the Bizarro Universe and the Anti-Matter Universe [but also as distinct from “Elseworlds”]). While this concept sounds profoundly stupid – and is often executed in profoundly stupid ways – very few other mediums would even attempt to tell some of the stories DC’s Multiverse tackles.

My favorite example of this will always be Superman Prime. Prime hails from our universe – the real world. But as universes start to collide, Prime is pulled in to the superhero-populated worlds so he can fight along side his favorite heroes to stop the Anti-Monitor from devouring various realities. It’s like The Neverending Story, but it gets so much darker. Prime ends up losing his home world and has to live in what he perceives to be a fictional universe forever, and he flips out. From his perspective, he’s a kid throwing a tantrum with his toys, but from all other perspectives he’s a psycho-killer with unlimited power. Also, he got so mad he punched the universe and altered reality – a move that would later be dubbed by fans the “ret-con punch.” Obviously, I’m a fan of that phrase.

In short, the Multiverse is insane. Insanity is a fine destination, but it’s no way to start a narrative. I’m going to pick up both Earth Two and World’s Finest, but I really hope we’re a couple years away from going full-on Multiverse. What if they keep it to just the two?

10 comments on “Chat Cave: Relaunching the Multiverse

  1. But on the flip-side: fuck the Multiverse. Something that we all begrudgingly praise it for its ability to tell novel stories with familiar characters. That was the whole point of the relaunch – we’re getting re-imaginings RIGHT NOW.

    • I actually think the Multiverse is a really cool idea; what bugs me is that it ends up being more limiting than freeing in implementation. Rather giving writers free reign to come up with crazy stories, it forces them to think about how it fits into whatever the continuity is supposed to be on whichever earth the action is set on. As Patrick pointed out, the fact that DC still tells stories outside of the Multiverse makes it feel like kind of an unnecessary headache. Ultimately, I don’t think I care enough about continuity to really follow one universe’s history, let alone 52.

      • Yeah, if the Multiverse was limited to just Elseworld sort of stories, I would be much more enthusiastic. It’s the fact that it’s Elseworld sort of stories that have to then be forced into some semblance of continuity that gets me.

        • The problem with having only Elsewords is that there’s something to be mined from the parallel worlds. Are you guys watching Fringe at all? It manages a really emotionally effective story about two parallel worlds that gradually find themselves at war with eachother. The only problem with it is that then all the narratives are driven by this one central conflict – that’s fine for a single TV show, but it’s just too much when it hijacks a whole line of comics.

  2. Really the problem comes from when DC started to do long, involved integrations of more than one Earth. When the Flash discovered Earth-2, in the classic Flash of Two Worlds story, it wasn’t that crazy. But when we got into integration on a larger scale, like when the JLA and the JSA from Earths 1 and 2, respectively, banded together to stop the Crime Syndicate of America on Earth-Three, which still wasn’t absolutely ludicrous, or the 1985 Crisis of Infinite Earths, which resulted in the destruction of the Multiverse, and it’s subsequent recreation, which was absolutely ludicrous. The first Multiverse, pre-Crisis, allowed for seemingly infinite number of alternate universes. That is okay, but the problem occur when you want to try to mix as many of them as possible, hence a Crisis. When DC limited the new Multiverse to just 52 possibilities, I think that they realized some of their errors from the first time around and tried to rectify it by allowing only a limited number of universes, and overall, limited crossover between them. It’s interesting that, in the grand scheme of things, Flashpoint was in fact a ‘Crisis’, since the original Crisis of Infinite Earths was used to negate the Golden and Silver Ages of DC, allowing for a reboot of the then 50 year old continuity. But it wasn’t nearly as confusing as previous Crisis stories, and overall didn’t affect the continuity after it, other than the obvious reboot, and it didn’t retcon a bunch of older continuity by introducing past events or accrediting older events to characters involved. (other than reminding us all that Professor Zoom killed Barry’s mom). I know you are all either reading or have read much of Flashpoint, and I was like to put forth that this was much better done than previous stories, elegant is the adjective that comes to mind. Do you agree? Disagree? Didn’t like Flashpoint at all?

    • I’m plugging away at Flashpoint now. Some of it I rather enjoy, while some of the miniseries are pretty crummy. I really like the over all world created in Flashpoint – there are a lot of really compelling re-imaginings of the characters. Batman in particular is awesome, and a great take on the Batman/Joker mythology.

      I think the most appealing part of Flashpoint to me was its explicitly finite nature. At the end of the summer, none of it was going to matter anymore. Anyone can die (for real) and continents can be sunk because this whole reality is going to cease to exist. I don’t have any fears that anyone will ever open a door to the flashpoint universe and have to deal with Emperor Aquaman or a never-been-a-green-lantern Hal Jordan.

      • Yea, some of Flashpoint is pretty crummy. I really only liked the main series, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan, Batman, and Superman. The supplied the backstory to this world, as well as awesomely fresh takes on classic characters who drastically changed as a result of the Flashpoint universe. Also, Abin Sur conversing Atrocitus, is CARAAAZY.

        • I’d like to do go a little more in depth on Flashpoint one of these days and really get a chance to discuss what of it works and what doesn’t. Also, I said I was confident that we won’t be revisiting that universe, but with the return of the Multiverse, any-damn-thing is possible. There is, after all, that mysterious purple-cloaked woman skulking about, so maybe FP will be relevant in the future.

  3. I feel pretty comfortable say that we won’t be going back to the Flashpoint Universe. It’s never really said outright, but I think that instead of it being a separate universe, it is in fact a separate timeline of the regular universe, created my Professor Zoom’s tampering. When Barry stops himself from stopping Thawne, he merges with his younger self, and merges the Vertigo, WildStorm and New Earth universes to make the DCnU. Also, the purple woman’s name is officially ‘Pandora’.

  4. Pingback: Justice League 6 | Retcon Punch

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