Infinite Frontier: The Physics and Metaphysics of the Omniverse and Beyond

Dark Nights: Death Metal #7 by Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette, & Nathan Fairbairn (2021)

Scott Snyder’s Dark Nights: Death Metal ends with multiple revelations, one of which focuses on the omniverse as the new “infinite frontier” for our characters. Expanding into the omniverse seems to be the next big thing in DC Comics. Over the past century of superhero comics, we’ve seen characters break down their physical and metaphysical barriers in a logical hierarchical progression. Barriers of travel involving intergalactic/universal space, time, interdimension, multiverse, metalepsis, and omniverse—all systematically broken down and tackled by various creators.

While Snyder posits the omniverse as something wholly novel in his epilogue to Dark Nights: Death Metal, to be clear, the omniverse has always existed. We’ve always had stories, which is basically what the omniverse is about—it’s the omniverse of all fiction. Story (with a capital S) has existed through oral tradition for thousands of years, while other more modern types are heavily curated by fandoms or creative-controlling overlords, whether they be showrunners, media conglomerates, or fan-fiction writers. Our heroes at the end of Dark Nights: Death Metal merely become cognizant of the greater omniverse. And yes, the omniverse is expanding and growing because publishers keep publishing, writers keep writing, and readers keep reading!

Along with the completion of Dark Nights: Death Metal and “infinite frontier” slogan comes the soon-to-be-released (and aptly named) Infinite Frontier series helmed by Joshua Williamson (with support from Snyder and various other creators, including rumored “unofficial” consultation from a recently-retired-from-comics Grant Morrison), which purports to be an intense examination of the omniverse, looking outward more openly and broadly. With Morrison consulting, and with Snyder and Williamson both being devotees of Morrison, it looks like DC writers might also be pushing past the boundaries of the omniverse. As such, we might see the likes of Snyder, Williamson, or even Brian Michael Bendis or Tom King (another Morrison devotee) doing more than just telling expanded omniversal alt-reality stories. We might see them instead (or additionally) utilizing Morrison’s heady transrealist, Mikhail Bakhtin-influenced, and Jacques Derrida-shaped postulations in their upcoming works. Specifically, Morrison has long incorporated the sci-fi and superhero genres with narrative techniques of describing immediate perceptions from naturalistic realism. Operating through a Brechtian, structuralist, and post-structuralist lens, Morrison has also utilized heteroglossia and chronotropes to blur (or even obliterate) the lines between fiction and reality. If DC is verily going there, then we might not just see more of the omniverse, but also what lies yonder.

I. MULTIVERSE / OMNIVERSE LEVEL (FICTIONAL REALITY)

An extension of the Multiverse Map. Beyond the local multiverse… the omniverse.

Near the core of DC’s fictive world is the local multiverse, shown via the Multiverse Map—created by Morrison and Rian Hughes in 2015—in the center of the chart above. (I say “near the center” because Snyder has introduced the new dual center as twin alpha and omega worlds, still yet to be fleshed out.) The finite universes comprised within the local multiverse—in the case of DC’s local multiverse, there are are 52 universes—are surrounded by a super-celestial sphere of higher beings, gods, or monitors. Beyond the local multiverse is a collection of infinite other multiverses with similar structure. There, infinite multiverses make up the omniverse, the literal whole of fiction.

The primary universes within the multiverse/omniverse structure are ordered according to the literal passage of in-story time—by the rules of fictional canon through what we’d call a timeline, chronology, or continuity. We could do a German compound word thing to label a singular version of this ordering unit as a timeline-chronology-continuity, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll refer to a one ordering unit as a timeline.

Post-Zero-Hour DCU Timeline (1994)

However, in addition to the primary timelines within each multiverse, there are an equally infinite number of alternate timelines, each of which comprises a never-ending interweaving web known as Hypertime, a term first coined by Morrison and Mark Waid in the 1990s. Véronique Emma Houxbois states, “Hypertime more or less posits that all timelines exist in parallel—that everything published is a living, breathing history whether it is immediately recognized in the current comics or not.” In layman’s terms, Hypertime is the theory that a boundless number of alternate fictive realities exist in conjunction with a primary timeline or primary timelines.

A visualization of Hypertime—the interconnected web of infinite alternate fictional realities.

It should be fairly easy to grasp how the multiverse relates to the greater omniverse based upon what we’ve outlined above. In the succeeding section, we’ll look at the subsequent tier. Bear in mind that we should think of the adjoining degree as a continuance or extension of things in the same way we’ve viewed the omniversal level as an extension of the multiversal level.

II. CREATOR & READER LEVEL (OUR PHYSICAL REALITY)

Beyond the realm of the fictive omniverse lies our physical reality—still all part of one big physical/metaphysical continuum or spectrum.

Many comic creators have long asked, “What happens if we keep peeling the cosmic onion?” Morrison specifically has always peeled beyond the pale. If the planets give way to the greater universe, if time travel is mastered (and extrapolated via Hypertime), if the universe gives way to the multiverse, if the sphere of the godly-cosmic-demiurgic super-celestials is revealed, if all then gives way to the extended omniverse, then what’s the next layer of divulgence or exploration past the borders of fiction? As many creators have long shown in a multitude of works, and as this undeniable pattern of expansion has shown, it’s us—our literal flesh-and-blood physical reality, comprised of tangible geosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere. And it is on this plane where creators and readers co-exist to collaboratively create, engage with, and interpret Story. This is the main way that fiction directly bonds with our lives—via the process of how Story (and by proxy, canon) is formed. My own definition of canon is: The collaborative perceptive processing of an ongoing work by both authors and readers, through which the story makes the most narrative sense. Story, all Story but especially superhero comics, cannot exist without this engagement.

But the attachment between fiction and reality is more extensive than just someone writing a comic book or someone picking up and reading a comic book. While naysayers might exclaim there’s an obvious striking divide between the omniverse level and creator/reader level in that one is fiction whereas the other is our literal physical reality, we’ll demonstrate below that it would be wise to consider the above visualization as one unified and interconnected whole sans any discernible division. The barrier between multiverse and omniverse is akin to the wall between fiction and reality in more ways than you could imagine. Morrison was one of the first writers to insist that our physical reality directly connects to the fictional omniverse on a shared spectrum/continuum. And this connection happens at the border of the omniversal level and our literal physical reality in the configuration of metafiction/metalepsis—aka meta storytelling. Meta storytelling—or meta for short—simply means narrative that refers to itself or to the conventions of its genre. In comics, meta was originally limited to basic fourth wall breakage and violation of aesthetic distance, but over time it has become much more complicated. In superhero comics, it’s gotten exponentially more complicated, adopting the transrealist styles of Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, William S Burroughs, Philip K Dick, Umberto Eco, Mark Z Danielewski, Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Haruki Murakami, Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf, Ursula K Le Guin, and Robert Anton Wilson (just to name a few). In comicdom, Meta has gone to the extreme, expanding into a veritable real world science and philosophy.

Some characters have obtained profound realizations of their history as fictive “paper people” (as Morrison once called all comic book characters). Metatextual examples in the superhero genre include: Madman, The Badger, Howard the Duck, “Spider-Verse,” Sensational She-Hulk, Animal Man, Ambush Bug, Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Inferior Five, Doctor Thirteen, The Unwritten, Black Hammer, Promethea, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Cerebus, Squirrel Girl, The Filth, Flex Mentallo, The Invisibles, Final Crisis, The Multiversity, Doomsday Clock; concepts like the 5th Dimension (home to Bat-Mite, Mxyzptlk, & Yz), 6th Dimension (home to the Forge of Worlds), Earth-Prime (developed by Julius Schwartz, Cary Bates, and Elliot S Maggin in the 1960s and 1970s); and more recent work by Dan Slott, Donny Cates, and Steve Orlando. Fourth wall-shattering characters like Ambush Bug, Howard the Duck, Deadpool, and Harley Quinn have always had a preternatural awareness that they only exist in a fiction, although their meta-nature is usually played off as part of some paranormal psychosis. Earth-Prime was originally meant to literally be our physical reality. In Animal Man, Morrison appears in their own the story.

Justice League of America #123 by Cary Bates, Elliot S Maggin, Dick Dillin, & Frank McLaughlin (1975)
Grant Morrison inserts themself into Animal Man #26 (by Morrison, Chaz Truog, Mark Farmer, & Tatjana Wood, 1990)
By the incomparable Ross Pearsall (2013)

This kind of meta-storytelling is fascinating because it exposes an overt literary conundrum. Once something from our physical plane moves into the fictional omniversial sphere, it becomes a paper copy of the original. Our reality will always exist as a yonder stratum. Any attempt to include our reality within merely becomes a reflection of our reality, a version of it that resembles our reality. Thus, the second creators showed Earth-Prime in a comic book, it immediately became separate from our actual reality, turning into a mere close representation of our world. (This reality versus representation dilemma became painfully obvious to creators in the 1960s and 1970s with the necessitation of Earth-Prime A and Earth-Prime B, Earth-Prime C, and so on and so forth.) Similarly, the “Morrison” that appears in the pages of Animal Man can only be an avatar—a paper version of the pukka author. In other words, once Morrison wrote themselves into Animal Man, they created an emanation of themselves. The bona fide Morrison still existed outside in our physical reality. In an interview with Patrick Meaney, Morrison claims to have entered their stories “by donning a ‘fiction suit,’ as a means of influencing the narrative through direct interaction with the other characters and in turn engineering change in one’s own character in the world beyond the text.” Morrison admits that entry into a comic book is merely via means of an avatar, but they dim or attempt to erase the boundaries between fiction and reality by insisting that their conceptual being (i.e. their consciousness) exists within the double (i.e. inside the “fiction suit”). This grand design is something that seems to have been adopted by current writers as well. More on this a bit later.

Meta is also linked to the Metaverse, a term conceived by Geoff Johns in 2019. The Metaverse is a type of continuity, but one different from (and outside of) fictive story-driven flow attached to fantasy narrative timelines. The Metaverse can be described as the literal complete publication archive of DC Comics since the 1930s—scilicet, a real world publication progression as it appears to the level of creator/reader (our reality). As invented timelines move and and go through reboots, relaunches, and writer switches, these massive changes can be measured via the manifestation of the Metaverse. To explain it another way, Metaverse-continuity shows a history where Superman appears out of the ether in 1938 (his Golden Age debut), then gets split in twain in the 50s (dawning of the Silver Age), then rebooted into one character in 1986 (original Crisis Modern Age reboot), then rebooted into a new character in 2011 (Flashpoint New 52 reboot), etc. Unlike regular fictional timelines, the Metaverse only has one single chronicle whereas the former has myriad accounts. To behold Metaverse history is to behold an unexpurgated, singular, real life publication history. Conversely, omniverse/multiverse history consists of multiple fictive timelines (Golden Age, Silver/Bronze Age, Modern Age, New 52, Rebirth/Infinite Frontier, etc). In other words, while there have been and will continue to be many omniverse/multiverse timelines, there can only ever be one Metaverse.

Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, & Brad Anderson

Our beloved “paper people” have been boldly exploring where no characters have explored before, with those powerful enough (Dr. Manhattan, for instance) even navigating the Metaverse itself. But not only can the meta boundaries of the our physical reality be smashed, they’ve already been confronted head-on in comics as well. Our physical reality—which includes our own quantum multiverse and possible superstring theory timelines of its own as well—is still part of one big physical/metaphysical continuum or sequence that interconnects to the make-believe multiverses beneath it. It’s important to remember this, moving forward. If everything is indeed associated with the same continuum, then what’s beyond our physical realm? It’s something that Morrison was already hinting at with their explanation of the “fiction suit.” It’s the very thoughts where the stories come from—idea itself.

III. IDEA / THOUGHT LEVEL / NOOSPHERE (BEYOND OUR PHYSICAL REALITY)

…and further out still, conceptual thought itself, where all stories are born—idea. Don’t forget, we are still looking at a navigable map, a connection to the smallest bit (a made-up multiverse at the center) on one plane of existence.

Essentially, afar from our corporeal reality, beyond the furthest ring in the graphic above, is the realm of conceptual existential thought, where all stories are born—idea itself. An idea is powerful but nebulous. The idea-sphere can be linked to mythology, religion, spirituality, psychoanalysis, dream, cosmic sensibility, or plain old consciousness, and anything related-to or in-between any of those things. But all of it is idea, and it’s all linked to Story. As stated above, some might perceive a big divide between the circles for the omniverse and circles for creator/reader as signaling a stark demarcation between the fictional and somatic realms. It stands to reason that those same folks by now will be screaming in a fit of rage, citing how it is even more impossible for fiction to connect past our reality and into our conceptual sphere! After all, there’s already a considerable ethereal/mystic gap between reality and the conceptual sphere that we as real life beings experience! Not to mention, only once an idea goes down on paper does it become “weakened” in the sense that it has to adhere to the laws and limitations of the world it enters. However, believe it or not, sometimes the realm of fiction has more rules than reality. Hopefully, the above infographic equivocates one totality—a contiguous spectrum. There are no borders. Don’t forget, we are still looking at a navigable map that details our relationship down to the smallest bit (an imaginary multiverse at the center) on one stage of existence. The imagined omniverse is really a part of our kosher omniverse. In the 1920s, scientist-philosophers Vladimir Vernadsky, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Édouard Le Roy called this realm of thought and reasoning the noosphere. Keep in mind that some prominent modern day scientists hypothesize that we—here in our actual material world—are merely part of a higher-power holographic simulation. In that scenario, there’s a “creator/reader” out there somewhere playing the role that we play for our “lesser” fictional denizens underneath.

The idea sphere/noosphere is also the same realm as what film director David Lynch and string theory physicist Dr. John Hagelin refer to as the Unified Field, a sea of consciousness (no things/nothingness) from which all ideas (all things/everything) develop and emerge. The Unified Field model goes beyond Albert Einstein’s dream of a unified theory of physics by directly connecting thought to our physical plane. In other words, it literally connects mind and matter. Hagelin believes that the Unified Field can be accessed via transcendental meditation, something the Buddhist-dabbling Morrison researched and practiced often in the early 1990s, right around the same time Lynch was plunging headfirst into Maharishi Mahesh Yogi techniques as well. In more ways than one, Morrison is the David Lynch of comics, and we’ll explore that comparison in greater detail a bit later on below.

Morrison emphasizes that the fictional omniverse is a part of our reality, stating in an interview with Paste Magazine‘s Garrett Martin, “The DC universe exists within our own universe. The [map of the multiverse] is actually showing you where I think the DC universe is, which is a two dimensional playground. The ground of being of the DC Universe is the white page before anything’s drawn on it. And then the white page suddenly uses its pristine unselfconsciousness and suddenly realizes, oh my god, somebody’s put a mark on me. What does the mark mean? The mark can mean any story, and suddenly this gigantic consciousness starts to imagine what stories would be like, and it sets up a barrier to protect itself from all this. The map of the multiverse is almost like a Buddhist map of the cosmos. […] You don’t need grand theories. The universe exists on the second dimension and we can read their adventures with Superman going back to 1938, and you can put them all together and look at them from above. We can line up the future Superman with the original Superman and they can see each other, but we can see both of them. For me, all of the interesting stuff, this super string stuff, is happening between me and the same dimension as this material.”

Fiction being directly interdependent upon and even on an indistinguishable echelon as our reality can be seen quite conspicuously in Morrison’s Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D, Morrison’s The Multiversity, and Tom King’s Mr. Miracle Vol. 4. We’ll look at all three of these works in brief below. Continuing in the Paste interview with Meaney, Morrison says, “There is no fourth wall between us and the substance of the comics page where all these things happen. It might just be ink and color and people’s work, but when we read it, it comes to life. I’m interested in what goes on in that space. It’s not about breaking the fourth wall: it’s about how there’s no barrier, and [The Multiversity]’s really about that. It gets deeper than any previous comic, and it does so in quite a frightening way. I want people to have a genuinely weird experience with this one.” In the same interview, Morrison speaks about how the comic character as idea is just as real as you and I existing in the flesh, citing an example of Superman saving “real kids’ lives who didn’t commit suicide because they read the scene in All Star Superman where he saves the little girl. For me that’s how it works,” says Morrison. “I don’t need a realistic Superman who gets beaten up because no such thing will ever exist; the real Superman who does exist is made of paper, and can be a pure absolute ideal because he’s not real. He actually saves kids’ lives [in real life].” As the brilliant Douglas Wolk echoes: “Morrison’s writing includes themes of metaphors that make visible the process by which language creates an image that in turn becomes narrative.” Morrison echoes all the above in his credo from Super Gods: “Writers and artists build by hand little worlds that they hope might effect change in real minds, in the real world where stories are read.”

The conceptual idea of Superman is broached in Superman Beyond 3D, in which Superman odysseys through the Bleed, into Comic Book Limbo, into the Overvoid, and into the Dark Monitor home known as Nil (where he deals with the Thought Robot and defeats the wicked Monitor known as Mandrakk), before returning to his primary Earth. The first bit of mindblowing meta is Comic Book Limbo, which is a place outside of time and space where unused characters are banished. The second bit of eye-opening meta is the Thought Robot, which is part of Morrison’s Derrida and Bakhtin-inspired experiment, the author’s heaviest dive into obscuring—nay, completely destroying—the lines between our reality and fiction. The Thought Robot is a cosmic-armor-wearing emanation of the real life concept of Superman i.e. the very real idea of absolute goodness from which the character of Superman was born and continues to thrive. Videlicet, the Thought Robot is the “fiction suit” for the idea of Superman. In Superman Beyond 3D, the fictional Superman merges with the very concept of his fabricated self, which has donned the “fiction suit” in order to appear in the story. Let that one sink in. In many ways, and I don’t mean to be hyperbolic, Superman Beyond 3D is one of the most advanced literary exercises in the annals of fiction, which certainly puts it in the running for most advanced in the history of comics. For an expert probe into the dizzying genius of Superman Beyond 3D, see Chapter 2 of Timothy Bavlnka’s erudite thesis, “Superheroes and Shamanism: Magic and Participation in the Comics of Grant Morrison”. (I’d argue that Morrison’s biggest successful comics competitor in regard to successful meta storytelling is and always has been another creator that got out when the gettin’ was good: Alan Moore. It’s a shame that Moore and Morrison hate each other’s guts so damn much. It cannot be overstated how much Moore has influenced the industry. After all, Morrison’s most meta work and Johns’ most meta work are both commentaries on Watchmen—part of The Multiversity being a re-imagination of Watchmen and Doomsday Clock being a sequel to Watchmen.) And let’s not overlook Morrison making Superman Beyond 3D an actual 3D comic, complete with pre-packaged 3D glasses. Morrison’s Thought Robot and Ultraa (from The Multiversity) both have 3D eyes (one red and one green pupil), stamping in the idea of multiple levels of dimensional perspective. Moore does the very same thing in his brilliant League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, adding the requirement of wearing 3D glasses for readers to properly perceive the Blazing World, a meta-realm beyond the meta where in-story characters also wear 3D glasses. For both Morrison and Moore, 3D is more than just a kitschy throwback to an era of comicdom they loved when they were younger—it is very specific, incredibly deliberate.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #2 by Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, & David Baron (2009)
JLA #13 by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, John Dell, & Pat Garrahy (1997)
Mr. Miracle Vol. 4 by Tom King & Mitch Gerads (2018)

While the concept of Superman as a belief representing good (“pure absolute ideal”) is extrapolated above, Morrison has long dealt with the polar opposite as well—the idea representing pure absolute evil. And that idea exists as the ultimate super-villain archetype, which can never be equaled because of its very existence beyond the confines of the page. Morrison tackles this archetype via the vessels of the Empty Hand and his vile Gentry (the villains of The Multiversity) and Darkseid’s “Godhead” (i.e. his True Form—see Earthmine52’s intellectual Reddit posts for exquisite detail).

First, the Empty Hand is a cosmic evil that basically is a stand-in for the meta-hand of the comic book creator and/or comic book reader engaging with the comic book itself. The Empty Hand also symbolizes economic pressures placed upon publishers and creators. To quote Earthmine52, “The Gentry represents the corruption of comic book stories while the Empty Hand himself represents the hand of the reader and their apathy once they finish reading a comic book and let it go. They bring about the conflict needed for the story to continue.” The Gentry, says Rikdad, symbolizes “the market and market forces that pervert the heroes, often, into something darker and more sensational, reinforcing the message that marketing and branding lead to something violent and troubled.” As Rikdad emphasizes this by brilliantly pointing out that “the agents of The Empty Hand, seemingly sweet and benign but dark and possessed, were the Little League of Earth-42 (basically twee chibi versions of the JLA). Above all others, these are the versions of the DC characters aimed directly at the youngest, most innocent readers.”

Second, the True Form of Jack Kirby’s legendary über menace Darkseid (or an emanation of his True Form) can be glimpsed in several Morrison titles, most notably in Final Crisis. In their 1990’s JLA run, Morrison originated the phrase, “Darkseid is.” In essence, this means that Darkseid, as an Apokoliptian New God, is all-encompassing, beyond the comprehension or magnitude of the “paper people.” In Morrison’s Batman #702 (2010), Darkseid and his ilk are referred to as “incredibly powerful living ideas from a kind of platonic, archetypal world.” As Morrison says in an interview with The Jack Kirby Collector, “Darkseid is the dark side, Kirby couldn’t have been more straightforward.” Tom King took this ball and has been running with it, as can be seen in his lauded Mr. Miracle Vol. 4 series. In Mr. Miracle Vol. 4, the titular character is put through an Omega-Sanction ringer, facing an endless psychedelic mind/death trap, during which the phrase, “Darkseid is” gets repeated and implanted upon him in various nearly indescribable layers. King, like Morrison before, means literally that Darkseid exists as the ultimate idea of immorality, which subsists in our reality. Darkseid is real! Which makes Darkseid the most horrific and scary Big Bad of all time. However, to harken back to the “fiction suit” abstraction, only via emanation/incarnation does the real True Form of Darkseid get to engage with characters in comic books. Just like how Morrison couldn’t literally enter the pages of Animal Man, requiring an avatar/emanation to do so, Darkseid needs a similar host. This places Darkseid’s Godhead (i.e. the very ultimate ignoble idea of Darkseid) on the same rung as our actuality, but since Darkseid is merely a conceptualization, you can and never will see the True Darkseid in any comic book, movie, or television show because he lives beyond our stratum of materiality. To wit, as Patrick Ryans details in his amazing Quora post, every version of Darkseid we’ve seen in media has merely been a “quantum field” or “fiction suit” containing the unadulterated idea/concept of evil.

With Darkseid’s Godhead/True Form, Morrison does for comics what David Lynch’s Twin Peaks did for TV. Commentator Rosseter (aka Twin Perfect) highlights an interview with Chris Rodley where Lynch speaks about the ultimate evil Big Bad of Twin Peaks, the otherworldly Bob. Lynch says that “Bob is an abstraction with a human form,” meaning that Bob is actually the human representation of an abstract idea. As Twin Perfect perfectly explains, “Bob is meta. He represents the real life idea of gratuitous violence and evil as depicted on TV. As a science fiction entity that comes from another universe, Bob is a story that can be used to reflect the greater meta story.” In other words, Bob is the “fiction suit” of the concept of TV evil. And FBI Director Gordon Cole (played by Lynch on the show) is Lynch’s “fiction suit” through which he entered the show. This is the very same concept as Darkseid’s Godhead (and Thought Robot too). Darkseid’s Godhood represents the real life idea of evil. Just like Bob is meta, Darkseid is… meta too!

Batman #702 by Grant Morrison
Rare glimpses of the emanations of the Godhead/True Form of Darkseid from various comics (complied by Earthmine52)

As the amazing Keith Scott says, “Morrison invites his readers not just to react to [their] work but to interact with it, and this should be taken as the starting point for a critical investigation, not just of [their] own writing, but of the medium of comics as a whole. By continually calling our attention to both the links between [their] works and the texts which have inspired them, and by focusing on the nature of a 2-D fictional universe contained within our 3-D world, [they ask] us to consider at the deepest possible level the question of how we should examine comics as a form. It is this love of metatextuality and autocritique which I would see as quintessentially ‘Morrisonian,’ a central element of [their] artistic modus operandi, which operates simultaneously with a reverence for and a love of the power and simple pleasure afforded by the comics form.”

In his sagacious thesis, Bavlnka scaffolds Scott’s above analysis by stating that “Morrison believes readers can have personal relationships with fiction, beyond the act of enjoyment, expressing that readers can truly interact with fictional worlds and characters in a direct sense. [Morrison has often] attempted to remove fictional characters from their world and bring them into our own.” This conception can be seen plainly in The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1, in which we (the reader) are part of the tale. We always are a part of every story in terms of readership response, but in The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 our engagement is being controlled by the forces of fiction themselves. We can better understand this seemingly impenetrable idea by hearkening back to the illuminating lens that is the Morrison/Lynch comparison. Twin Perfect explains that Lynch’s intention with Twin Peaks was to highlight the need for positivity on TV by having his audience get literally infected by Bob’s evil, just as Morrison sculpts The Multiversity: Ultra Comics in such a way that readers get literally exposed to the evil within the comic book. In The Multiversity, the Bob comes in the form of super-super celestial beings that have cosmic awareness (the Empty Hand and his Gentry), and who want to directly influence us (i.e. infect us) via the pages of the comic book itself. Ultraa, another cosmically-aware fiction (see his 3D eyeballs!), tries to warn us of the Empty Hand and the Gentry’s attempts to poison our reality. And by the very act of reading the story, the super-super-celestials—both good and evil—accomplish their very real (very literal) missions. They are influencing you.

Continuing the Morrison/Lynch comparison, we can look deeper into Twin Perfect’s anatomy of the latter: “Twin Peaks‘ meta-commentary is not just commentary. It’s literally happening inside the show. Twin Peaks is a television show that knows it’s a television show about the concept of television itself.” Lynch’s works are meta-literal. And so are Morrison’s. Superman Beyond 3D is a comic book where characters that know they are in a comic book address the idea of being in a comic book. And The Multiversity: Ultra Comics goes one step further to achieve this Lynchian ideal as it is a comic book that knows it’s a comic book about the concept the comic book itself. Supplemental comparisons don’t end there either. Twin Peaks is a self-aware TV show about the balance of light versus dark on TV whereas The Multiversity is a self-aware comic book series about the balance of readership/creativity versus corporate ownership/capitalism within the comic book industry.

The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 by Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Keith Champagne, Jaime Mendoza, David Baron, & Gabe Eltaeb (2015)

IV. THE LIMIT?

As we’ve demonstrated above, an enigmatic problem arises with writers trying to set their hands to the undisclosed idea-verse. Once a creator openly writes about it, puts it to pen and paper, then it ceases to be idea, gaining fictional embodiment. One can’t write about the outermost level without it immediately turning into an avatar inside an inner level. Beyond wanting to take on new personal endeavors, including TV projects, I think this paradox is also one of the reasons Morrison has announced their retirement and desire to step away from DC Comics. The notion of intermingling omniversal fiction, metatextuality, and idea itself has ostensibly gone as far as it can possibly go. Ultraa, the Empty Hand, and the Gentry were really the first fully fleshed-out experimentation where personalities inside the comic book were directly engaging with us as part of the unmediated narrative—not an emanation, not a doppelgänger, but directly with us. But even as the first experiment, it also registers as the end-all—a successful and engrossing cancellation of the final boundaries between fiction and reality via a thorough investigation into the matter. How can you go further than that without re-treading something that has seemingly already reached its inevitable conclusion?

It should come as no surprise that Snyder used the dismantling of the Source Wall as one of the major instigating events that would ultimately culminate in Death Metal. Just like how writers disintegrated the fourth wall to push meta-storytelling into unplumbed areas long ago, Snyder’s own in-story wall-breaking speaks to an elimination of any leftover palisades, and a trek into the further unknown. The salad days of Howard the Duck winking at the audience have been left far behind in the dust. Now, dramatis personae knowingly interact with their readership, aware they are engaging with a live very real audience. What does this hyper-cognizance mean? What can possibly come next? Even if the rumors are legitimate, and Morrison will indeed be an adviser on Snyder and Williamson’s foray into this uncharted territory, it’ll still be tricky to push the envelope further. Sure, there are plenty of unique stories that could still be told, but as I’ve said, in a major sense, the experiment has run its course. If the trope was more penetrable, then Morrison maybe would have stayed signed on, and perhaps would have done Multiversity 2. Though, I admire Snyder, Williamson, and King for attempting to challenge this insuperable beast, should they choose to go in this direction. After all, there is the possibility that DC’s mainline creative staff stays away from the Morrisonian idea-verse metatextuality in favor of a more manageable focus upon alt-reality Hypertime yarns. However, as Willimason and company have been chanting, the frontier is truly infinite.

Infinite Frontier #0 by Joshua Williamson & Howard Porter (2021)
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Stuff I Read, Stuff I Liked in 2020

It’s the end of the calendar year. You know what that means. (RIP Brodie Lee!) It’s time for what was once my “Comics Best of, complete with pictures and write-ups,” which became my “Comics Favorites, sans write-ups,” which morphed into “Comics Notables, no images or words,” which then quietly phased into “General Comics & Non-Comics Inventory,” which has thus since transmogrified into a mere “list of things I read, some of which I didn’t even remotely enjoy.” In any case, here ya go!

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My Favorite New Comics of 2020 (in alphabetical order)


–A Gift for a Ghost by Borja González (Abrams)
–Cuisine Chinoise: Five Tales of Food and Life by Zao Dao, Diana Schutz, & Brandon Kandor (Dark Horse Comics)
–The Green Lantern Season Two by Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp, & Steve Oliff (DC Comics)
–Grid Observer by Pat Aulisio (self-published)
–Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Beckderf (Abrams)
–Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli (Ten Speed Press)
–John Constantine: Hellblazer by Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, Matias Bergara, Jordie Bellaire, & Aditya Bidikar (DC Comics)
–Little Russia by Francis Desharnais (POW POW Press)
–Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds & Danica Novgorodoff (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)
–My Grandma was My Bounty by Connor Willumson (Peow Studios)
–Suicide Squad Vol. 6 by Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, & Adriano Lucas (DC Comics)
–Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen by Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, Nathan Fairbairn, & Clayton Cowles (DC Comics)


Honorable mention to anything Mark Russell wrote for DC Comics this year. He’s great! And I didn’t read Hickman’s X-Men or X of Swords or NK Jemisin’s Far Sector, but I hear they are amazing, so maybe I’ll check ’em out. I also re-read all of Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus omnibuses (highly recommended), Brian Bolland’s complete Bolland Strips (mildly recommended), and DC Comics’ entire collected New 52 (steer as far away from as possible). And I broke down, ending my yearlong Marvel boycott in order to read Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk, but it wasn’t for me. Sorry, even as a big Ewing fanboy, I just don’t get the hype!


_______________________________________________________

Non-comic literature I read in 2020 (in order of how much I liked them, with my faves at the top)

A Long Petal of the Sea

  1. A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (2020)
  2. The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende (1989)
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
  4. Nitro: The Incredible Rise and Inevitable Collapse of Ted Turner’s WCW by Guy Davis (2019)
  5. The Conspiracy Theory Handbook by Stephan Lewandoswky & John Cook (2020)
  6. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben (2016)
  7. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells (2019)
  8. Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin (2019)
  9. The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman (2019)
  10. The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke (1979)
  11. Paracelsus and Other Plays by Alfred Schnitzler (1898, re-published 1995)
  12. Three Body Problem Book 2: The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin (2008)
  13. End of the Game by Julio Cortázar (1956)
  14. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West (1932)
  15. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holliday (2016)
  16. Riverworld Book 1: To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Phillip José Farmer (1971)
  17. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman (2007)
  18. Pussy, King of the Pirates by Kathy Acker (1996)
  19. Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender (2005)
  20. The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster (2005)
  21. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962)

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Future State: Recycled 5G

Once upon a time, Dan DiDio had big plans for DC Comics—a reboot to fix all reboots, called “Generations” or “5G.” This full line-wide restart was to supposedly have created an epic 100-year long timeline upon which superheroes debuted in the 3os and 40s and flourished for decades before giving way to the next generation of heroes a few decades later. Similarly, we’d see multiple generations of heroes throughout time, leading up to present day and even simultaneous future storylines.

With a shiny green-light from Bob Harras and other DC executives in mid 2019, DiDio began dropping hints at conventions about what was to come, and he began assembling his team of writers and artists. John Ridley (Hollywood screenwriter of the Academy Award-winning 12 Years a Slave) to create a Black Batman. Stephanie Phillips and Simone Di Meo on Harley Quinn. Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora on a Gotham book. Sean Lewis and John Timms on Superman. Etc, etc, etc. In late 2019, dozens of creative teams began work on 5G content.

Then, in February 2020, DiDio was unceremoniously fired. Shortly thereafter, DiDio’s 5G super-squad of creators were ordered to put their pens and pencils down. A cease-work order had been placed upon anything related to 5G. Then the pandemic struck, further complicating matters. In interviews, Jim Lee confirmed that 5G was no longer going to happen, going so far as to say that the company was no longer going to do a reboot at all.

Of course, despite having had no 5G titles released, DiDio had already set the wheels in motion—quite sloppily, in fact. It’s hard to say exactly how or when 5G was originally supposed to be ushered-in, but it seems like someone’s idea at DC was to have done it with Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock in mid 2020. But DiDio and Johns’ years-long behind-the-scenes power struggle had reached a fever pitch, and Doomsday Clock was mired with delay after delay. Thus, DiDio had an opening to disavow Doomsday Clock, which he happily took, leaving room for him to choose a new Jonbar point for reboot, presumably one of which he was fully in control. With Scott Snyder’s big “Crisis” event, Death Metal, already in the works, it’s possible (and likely) that DiDio was going to commandeer that title to initiate his 5G plans. After DiDio was gone, things became murky, though.

We’ve seen the bulk of Death Metal released thus far, but we still don’t know what truly looms at the end of the final issue. What was Death Metal meant to be at its initial inception, though? Snyder said, in April 2020, that the purpose of Death Metal was “to unify every storyline from mainline DCU comic books.” With subsequent interviews from both Snyder and Lee, it became ostensibly apparent that Death Metal was going to reboot the DCU while simultaneously re-avowing some aspects of Doomsday Clock that DiDio had disregarded. Sure enough, the first issues of Death Metal (in mid 2020) delivered continuity that effectively showed that Doomsday Clock had operated as a soft-reboot of sorts, making large changes, but ones that ultimately didn’t warrant re-drafting an entirely new timeline from scratch. Scott Lobdell’s Flash Forward series also doubled-down on this, even repurposing what was to have been the first 5G publication (originally to have been released on Free Comic Book Day 2020 before its cancellation) into the Flash Forward TPB epilogue.

With each release of Death Metal material (main issues and spin-offs), the idea that the event was leading toward a big DCU line-wide reboot seemed more-and-more to be true. In Detective Comics #1027, Dan Jurgens repurposed more cancelled 5G material into a prelude to something called “Future State,” said to be “coming soon.” Then, just recently (October 2020), Snyder emphatically declared that Death Metal was not rebooting the DCU, not even in the slightest. Almost simultaneously, DC announced “Future State”—essentially a band-aid/fill-in mega-arc set to take over all DC publications in January and February 2021. After releasing solicitations, it became clear that “Future State” was the collection of 5G books that DiDio had ordered.

It looks like “Future State” is DC’s way of releasing this created content, so as to not simply chuck it in the trash entirely. In total, “Future State” will comprise 50 to 60 issues (maybe 52—they love that number don’t they?), effectively consisting of all the (now repurposed) former 5G stuff, including Ridley’s Black Batman, Sean Lewis’ Superman, etc, etc. Much akin to a prior fill-in mega-arc, “Futures End,” the “Future State” stories take place ten years in the future. And much like “Futures End” or another fill-in, Convergence, “Future State” is finite. It will only last 50-60 issues. Now, one can only guess whether or not more books will be added, but as evidenced by solicitations, there will only be the 50-60 issues in January and February. Basically, “Future State” will be two months of Elseworlds. I can’t imagine it having much impact beyond that—much like how “Futures End” and Convergence had little lasting impact either.

It’s curious that Death Metal, the story that will supposedly make “everything matter,” will lead directly into “Future State,” which surely will not matter (at least in terms of primary line continuity). But maybe I’m wrong. Who knows?

In any case, with 50 to 60 issues of content already created, there’s really no way DC was going to just toss it all. And I’m sure the idea of releasing it as original Elseworlds-style material was bandied about for a moment, but this is DC. Everything has to connect in some way, at least on the surface level.

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Ableist Language in Superhero Comics

How do we define the “superhero genre”? Aside from sci-fi and visual tropes, at its core, superhero fiction comprises moralistic tales that pit good versus evil, right against wrong. Superheroes are meant to represent the best of humanity, those fighting for those that cannot fight for themselves, champions battling for truth and justice. The antagonists, therefore, are super-villains—embodiments of the worst that society has to offer, representing fear, hate, and terror. Of course, the superhero story can be deconstructed or complicated in myriad ways, but the essence of the theme is always made up of the above. Without this Manichean binary (hero pitted against villain) as a foundation, the genre really isn’t the genre at all.

Whenever conflict is at the heart of a genre, violence will inevitably get portrayed. And superhero comics are indeed violent. I’ve long struggled with how to engage with superhero comics’ glorification of vigilantism. Because of the good versus bad dynamic, most superhero stories are police procedurals (with capes) or action cop stories (with capes), and that is a hard sell for a lot of folks, especially these days where the mainstream has had a much-needed awakening to systemic racism in policing. Sometimes, under a certain writer or editor, superhero stories can also be straight-up fascist power narratives.

To steal/paraphrase from WaPo‘s Alyssa Rosenberg, like Hollywood, comic books “valorize the action hero, rarely showing the less dramatic work of building relationships within communities. Purely from a dramatic perspective, crime makes a story seem consequential, investigating crime generates action, and solving crime provides for a morally and emotionally satisfying conclusion. The result are stories that portray vigilantes as more effective than they actually are; crime as more prevalent than it actually is; and use of violent force as consistently justified.”

Batman, for instance, is an extremely wealthy White cis-male, essentially a cop (in a cape), who beats up people on a daily basis. A perspective that has long been bandied-about online is that Batman brutalizes “crazy people” or “mental patients” like Joker. And sadly, there is merit to that viewpoint. After all, this is what Batman does, right? Yes… but only when we view these tales through an ableist lens.

tec 559 bat nazi

Ableist language, according to the definition at pwd.org.au, is “language that is offensive to people with disability. It can also refer to language that is derogatory, abusive or negative about disability. … People may not intend to be hurtful when they unknowingly use an ableist term, but it will hurt people anyway.”

Check out these links for more details.

https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html
https://whatsortsofpeople.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/ableist-language-alternatives/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disability-related_terms_with_negative_connotations

With the above in mind, I’ve spent the last month quietly getting rid of all the ableist language from my website. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at how much ableist language we I use on a daily basis without even realizing. Phrases like “turn a blind eye” or “fall on deaf ears” were littered throughout my site. As were the use of words like “wheelchair-bound,” “abnormal,” “deformed,” “insane,” “mad,” “crazy,” “psycho,” or “nuts.”

This leads me to addressing both ableist language in superhero comics (by creators) and ableist language when writing about superhero comics (by people like myself). By looking inward at ableism, we can also face the troubling question posed above about rich 1%er Bruce Wayne’s constant beatings of “mental patients.”

Action 1002

In regard to ableist language in superhero comics, current creators still use it fairly often. Brian Michael Bendis recently had a villain call someone “autistic” as a pejorative while Si Spurrier used the term “lynch mob” to describe a “slave” revolution. (The latter is both a racist issue just as much as it is an ableist one—as “lynch mob” derives from the history of hanging Black men and women in America while the use of the word “slave” instead of “enslaved person” only serves to other or relegate one as an object.) I’d love to see creators do better.

In regard to ableist language when writing about superhero comics, as I was reviewing my own language and making changes on my website, a couple revelations dawned upon me. In scrubbing ableist words like “crazy” or “insane,” I found that the sentences sans those words had not changed meaning, nor had they become confusing or vague without them. The action being described in the sentence still told the same story. Ableist words, while potentially harmful and toxic, don’t even have legitimate descriptive meaning. There’s literally no reason to use them. They accomplish nothing.

For example, take the sentence, “The insane Joker laughs joyously while fire-bombing a bus full of children.” Now axe the ableist language. “Joker laughs joyously while fire-bombing a bus full of children.” Same story. Nothing lost.

The second and more important revelation I had while exorcising my ableist demons was about reader-response. Cutting the “crazy mental patient” label from all of Batman’s rogues doesn’t only remove the offensiveness—it also returns the stories to their intended narrative purpose by restoring the superhero genre to its roots. Inherently, as a superhero, we should trust Batman’s values and know that he is fighting for truth and justice wherever he goes. Remember, at the center of the binate genre is conflict between good and evil. Joker, Penguin, Two-Face… they aren’t supposed to be read as “insane” / “crazy” / “mental” / “[insert ableist word here].” They are supposed to be super-villains. They serve as the worst that society and humanity have to offer. Joker isn’t a “crazy mental patient”—he is a super-villain, a personification of evil. And Arkham Asylum isn’t a “psychiatric hospital”—it’s really a shitty place where evil people go. At its transparent nucleus, it’s meant to exemplify Hell.

If we describe Joker as a “crazy mental patient,” the purity of what makes the superhero genre the superhero genre is lost. (Interestingly, despite appearing as additional descriptors, the ableist words are actually reductive, as we have shown above, actually adding nothing but harm.) But not only is it offensive/inimical to label anyone with ableist descriptors, but when we do it for Joker, we also oddly make him a sympathetic or at least othered character (when he certainly isn’t meant to be such). The story breaks down and we lose sight of who is good and who is bad. The crux of the superhero mythos is lost because of the ableist language itself.

If we ditch the regressive language, then Joker is Joker the true villain once again. The purest elements of the superhero/super-villain dynamic are returned. The villain once again becomes the undeniable epitome of evil, which in turn re-establishes Batman’s place as archetypal hero, doing right by the world. His cause is righteous and his foes are evil, worthy of the justice they receive. In doing away with our ableist mindset, the accurate mythos returns.

This isn’t to say, however, that heroes and villains shouldn’t be layered and complex. Characters can and should have shades of gray. Superhero comics should be great, deep, heady, interesting, contradictory, unpredictable, mind-bending, etc. But the foundational aspects of the superhero genre should always be present, even if veiled or deconstructed. As I’ve demonstrated, the easy removal of ableist language when referring to bad guys and (prisons/hospitals) helps rehabilitate the heart of the genre to its pure superhero/super-villain dichotomy. Simplicity—not reductiveness—can be a beautiful thing (and something severely needed for anyone having trouble stomaching modern day fascistic vigilante stories).

Comics reflect the real world—even the most surreal over-the-top superhero titles reflect the world in which we live. This cannot be denied, and I truly think comics are of higher quality when they more closely reflect things in actual society. It’s precisely because comics mirror reality that words matter. Representation matters too. There’s a serious responsibility when writing these stories (and when writing about them) to keep the real world (and the beautiful varied spectrum of human beings within in it) firmly in mind. The elimination of ableist language doesn’t just curb abusive ideation toward disabled people, it also improves superhero comics by helping us remember what true heroism looks like and why we love superheroes in the first place.

But having said all the above, you might still be a bit unsure about everything. (Hell, I’m still working things out too!) And it’s precisely because of this uncertainty that I’ll end this article by playing devil’s advocate—even if only to address what a lot of side-eyed-glancing folks are probably be thinking, something along the lines of: “But c’mon. Joker sliced his own face off and has killed hundreds. He’s FUCKING CRAZY!” While watching Hannibal (the TV show) recently, which features an alternate reality where the greater Baltimore area has a handful of serial killers running around, I noticed that the terms “psychopath,” “insane,” “crazy,” and many other words like that get used in a very clinical sense over and over again. After all, Dr. Hannibal Lecter and his brethren—much like Joker, Pyg, or Zsasz in the comics—are pathological in their criminality, are they not? CSI workers and sanitarium therapists in Hannibal refer to their over-the-top murderers using such language, and when they do, it feels appropriate. I would imagine that CSI analysts and criminal psychologists in real life probably do the same. Someone that is dismembering, torturing, cannibalizing, or building totem poles out of severed limbs seems… crazy, right? Does this mean that, when referring to fictional super-villains (or real life villains) of this extreme degree, using terms like “psychopath,” “insane,” and “crazy” to describe them is not ableist simply because it literally applies to their clinical state of being or objectively horrific actions? While there might be worthiness to this rationale, it is in our best collective interest (in writing or critique) to dismantle the ableist lexicon that scaffolds so much of the way we speak these days. And I think professionals (cops, doctors, orderlies, guards, lawyers, social workers, etc) that deal with unrepentant criminally-institutionalized killers would probably do a better service toward the greater good (and toward rehabilitation) if they didn’t approach their jobs from an outdated ableist perspective.

If Dr. Lecter-types are running around giving people Columbian neckties or making angel wings out of human skin, the actions speak for themselves. Same goes for Joker gassing hundreds at a parade and then torturing Jim Gordon at the circus. Same goes for Ed Gein wearing someone else’s skin or Charles Manson emboldening others to commit heinous acts of barbarism. There’s no need to be reductive about any of this—whether in fiction or reality. These actions speak louder than ableist words. As demonstrated above, we needn’t (and shouldn’t) hide behind regressive verbiage.

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A List: Batman’s Sex Life

Photo Finish
Batman Chronicles #9 by Devin Grayson, Duncan Fegredo, & Lee Loughridge (1997)

When you think of James Bond, you think of the Bond Girls—but Batman has his “Batman Girls” that too often get overlooked. Here they are—in the form of a chronological “quick list” of Modern Age Batman/Bruce Wayne’s sex life. Much of Bruce’s social life is merely subterfuge designed to keep up playboy appearances (as a means of distancing Bruce Wayne from his Batman alter ego. However Bruce/Batman does fall in love and does have some serious relationships as well. Let me know if anything is missing.

YEAR ONE
-Viveca Beausoleil (The Batman Chronicles #19)
-Julie Madison (Batman and the Monster Men, Batman and the Mad Monk, Batman #682, The Batman Files)
-Theodora Hackley (Bruce goes on one date with her.) (LOTDK #2)
-the shaman’s granddaughter (This is platonic.) (LOTDK #1, LOTDK #5)
-Selina Kyle (Batman and Catwoman have sexual tension in multiple issues.)

YEAR TWO
-Linda Page (The Batman Files)
-few dates with Selina Kyle (Long Halloween, The Batman Files)
-Summer Skye Simmonds (Journey into Knight)
-Jillian Maxwell (The Batman Files, LOTDK Halloween Special #1)
-Pamela Isley? (This is sort-of platonic.) (Hot House LOTDK #42-#43)
-unnamed date (opening of LOTDK #76)
-Mary McClellan? (Bruce marries her in an alternate reality where his parents survive) (LOTDK #76-#78)
-Dr. Lynn Eagles (LOTDK #65)
-Vicki Vale

YEAR THREE
-Dr. Lynn Eagles (This lengthy relationship carries over into the new year.) (LOTDK #66-#68)
-Dinah Laurel Lance? (This is unsubstantiated but hinted at.) (The Batman Files)
-unnamed date (Batman: Ego)
-Selina Kyle (Bruce dates Selina for the whole rest of the year, is supposedly very serious about the relationship—though, in Batman #600, he rejects her advances to focus on his crimefighting, so perhaps he was partly seeing her to keep up playboy appearances? Selina mentions wanting to marry Bruce, so it seems she was quite serious.) (Long Halloween)

YEAR FOUR
-Selina Kyle (Bruce is all business this year, besides the ongoing Selina relationship.)

YEAR FIVE
-Selina Kyle (Bruce keeps dating Selina on-and-off; he must really like her!) (Long Halloween, Dark Victory)
-Rachel Caspian (“Batman Year Two”)

YEAR SIX
-Selina Kyle (Bruce and Selina break up early in the year.) (Batman: Dark Victory #5)
-Callie Dean (This is platonic.) (Batman Confidential #40-#43)
-unnamed date that goes with Bruce and Alfred to Haly’s Circus (Batman #436)
-supermodel Britanny St. James (Robin Annual #4)
-Catwoman (Selina and Bruce may have broken up, but Batman and Catwoman still have a ton of sexual tension whenever they meet each other.) (Batman #683, Batman Incorporated #1, The Batman Files)
-April Clarkson (Gotham after Midnight)

YEAR SEVEN
-Kelli (JLA 80-Page Giant #2)
-Catwoman (Bruce still does everything shy of having sex on rooftops with Catwoman. And for all we know, they do that.) (The Batman Chronicles #9)
-Batwoman aka Kathy Webb Kane (Batman Incorporated #4, Batman #682, The Batman Files)

YEAR EIGHT
-Batwoman aka Kathy Webb Kane (This relationship carries over from the prior year. Batman and Batwoman get engaged, but Batwoman breaks up Batman early in the year.) (Batman Inc. #4)
-unnamed girl (Bruce breaks her heart.) (Batman: Ego)
-Catwoman (Batman still flirts with Catwoman when they cross paths.) (Catwoman: Defiant)

YEAR NINE
-Silver St. Cloud (Detective Comics #469-#479, LOTDK #132-#136)
-Talia al Ghul (“Saga of Ra’s al Ghul,” Batman #330-#331)

YEAR TEN
-Talia al Ghul (Batman is “wedded to” Talia and they conceive a child.) (Batman: Son of the Demon)
-Natasha Knight (The Batman Files)

YEAR ELEVEN
-Catwoman (Detective Comics #569-#570)
-Vicki Vale (Bruce goes on a date with Vicki Vale. We can assume she’s on a sort of friends with benefits situation with him.) (Batman #402-#403)

YEAR TWELVE
-Sharon Scott (Bruce goes on one date with Sharon, a recurring character in Blue Devil) (Invasion tie-in)
-Cristina Llanos (Bruce has a very short fling with Cristina.) (Batman in Barcelona)
-Beatriz da Costa aka Fire/Green Flame (Bruce and Beatriz were constantly flirting in JLI and on top of that they spent two days trapped in a hotel room, so it’s obvious they boned.) (JLI)
Note that this is probably the worst year of Modern Age Batman’s life. The Killing Joke and “Death in the Family” both happen. As far as I can tell, Bruce dates very little this year. Most Modern Age Batman stories don’t explore Bruce Wayne’s love life with much detail, so it’s possible he had some off-panel flings, but definitely nothing serious. I’d apply this same note to pretty much every other year, actually. After all, Bruce has to keep that playboy persona rolling. With Batman’s early years prior to Robin, I assume DC higher-ups felt inclined to introduce romantic subplots because the comics just featured Batman, Alfred, and a couple rogues. By the time Batman deals with a ridiculously large rogues gallery, has a bunch of superhero allies, and has an extensive Bat-Family, there is much less time to focus on romantic entanglements. This however, doesn’t mean Bruce doesn’t date/sleep around—but, as mentioned, we rarely see these dates. If we do see them, the women are usually unnamed and we aren’t given any details about them.

YEAR THIRTEEN
-Lois Lane? (It’s implied in “Hush”—specifically Batman #611—that Bruce has a relationship with Lois at some point. This could go pretty much anywhere. Placement is speculative, but after “Dark Knight Over Metropolis.”)
-Vicki Vale (Bruce starts to date Vicki in a more serious manner.) (Gotham Gazette Batman Alive? #1, Batman #475, Detective Comics #642, Batman #746)

YEAR FOURTEEN
-Dr. Shondra Kinsolving (“Knightfall”)

YEAR FIFTEEN
-Vesper Fairchild (Batman #540-#541, The Spectre Vol. 3 #51, Batman #544-#546, Batman #600)
-Yuko Yagi (Batman: Chilld of Dreams)
-Judge Anderson from Judge Dredd (It’s heavily implied Bruce and Anderson got it on.) (“Die Laughing” crossover)

YEAR SIXTEEN
-Talia al Ghul (Bruce spends a sad night with Talia, who takes care of him.) (No Man’s Land #0)
-Vesper Fairchild (It is implied in multiple issues that Bruce is that he’s still dating Vesper this year.)
-multiple random dates (It is implied that Bruce dates around to keep up appearances for his playboy lifestyle.) (JLA #47-#54)
Note that this is a super intense year for Batman, with “No Man’s Land” and “Tower of Babel.”

YEAR SEVENTEEN
-Sasha Bordeaux (Bruce develops a platonic liking to his bodyguard, Sasha. She’s also deeply in love with him. Bruce won’t reveal his positive feelings to her until the end of “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”.) (Detective Comics #775)
-Vesper Fairchild (Yes, Bruce is still dating Vesper, until he breaks up with her in the coldest possible way—by inviting her over while hanging out with a bunch of girls with whom he’s playing Marco Polo in the pool. This is also another hint that, while we may not see it, Bruce is very much keeping his playboy persona alive with more casual side relationships.) (Detective Comics #764)

YEAR EIGHTEEN
-Sasha Bordeaux (This is still platonic, although Bruce and Sasha share an intense discussion about their relationship.) (“Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”)
Note that we don’t Bruce dating anyone this year. This is another intense year with “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”, so Bruce has got a lot on his plate.

YEAR NINETEEN
-Wonder Woman (“The Obsidian Age”) (JLA #90-100)
-Catwoman (Bruce enters a serious relationship with Catwoman again. Although their relationship is intense they break up. They still date and have sex occasionally after the break up.) (“Hush”, Catwoman Vol. 3 #32)

YEAR TWENTY
-Black Canary (Batman kisses Black Canary.) (Birds of Prey #90)
-Dr. Amina Franklin (“Grotesk”)
-Sasha Bordeaux (Bruce finally kisses Sasha Bordeaux.) (The OMAC Project #1-#3)
-Catwoman (Bruce still occasionally has sex with Catwoman.) (Catwoman Vol. 3 #39)

YEAR TWENTY-ONE
-Karrie Bishop (Bruce dates Karrie.) (Detective Comics #822)
-Lilith Rutledge (LOTDK #207-#211 aka “Darker than Death”)
-Zatanna Zatara (Detective Comics #833-#834)
-Kay Scott (Detective Comics #835-#836)
-Bekka (Superman/Batman #37-#42)
-Jezebel Jet (Batman #655-#658)
-multiple unnamed dates (There are hints of Bruce still living that playboy lifestyle off-panel.) (Batman #655-#658)

YEAR TWENTY-TWO
-Jezebel Jet (Bruce’s relationship with Jezebel continues.) (“Batman RIP”)
-Una Nemo (Batman and Robin #18)
-Annie (A time-displaced Bruce technically dates her in the year 1640, but whatever.) (Return of Bruce Wayne #2)

YEAR TWENTY-THREE
-Marsha Lamarr (Again, a time-displaced Bruce technically dates her in 1971, but whatever.) (Return of Bruce Wayne #6)
-Selina Kyle (Bruce still has sexual and romantic encounters with Selina.) (“House of Hush”, Batman Inc, Batman 80 Page Giant 2011 #1)
-Dawn Golden (The Dark Knight #1-5)
-Talia al Ghul (Bruce, heartbroken by Talia’s evil ways, kisses her while Gotham burns.) (Batman Inc #11-#13)

Overall list of love interests/dates:  Viveca Beausoleil, Julie Madison, Theodora Hackley, the shaman’s granddaughter, Selina Kyle, Linda Page, Summer Skye Simmonds, Jillian Maxwell, Pamela Isley, Dr. Lynn Eagles, Dinah Laurel Lance, unnamed date from Ego, Lois Lane, Rachel Caspian, Callie Dean, Britanny St. James, April Clarkson, Kelli, Kathy Webb Kane, another unnamed girl from Ego, Silver St. Cloud, Talia al Ghul, Natasha Knight, Vicki Vale, Dr. Shondra Kinsolving, Vesper Fairchild, Yuko Yagi, Sasha Bordeaux, Wonder Woman, Dr. Amina Franklin, Karrie Bishop, Lilith Rutledge, Zatanna, Kay Scott, Bekka, Jezebel Jet, Una Nemo, Annie, Marsha Lamarr, Dawn Golden  

Most important love interests/dates: Catwoman (Selina Kyle), Talia al Ghul, Rachel Caspian, Batwoman (Kathy Webb Kane), Silver St. Cloud, Vicki Vale, Dr. Shondra Kinsolving, Sasha Bordeaux, Dawn Golden
  
Engaged to: Julie Madison, Rachel Caspian, Batwoman (Kathy Webb Kane), Talia al Ghul, Shondra Kinsolving (Bruce tried to propose to her but was unable to)

Married to: Talia al Ghul (this “wedding” was a League of Assassins thing, so likely not a legal marriage) 

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Gotham City Mayors (Part 4)

With the backing of Bruce Wayne himself, Marion Grange (debuting in Detective Comics #686) defeated Armand Krol in the election to become the next mayor of Gotham City. A liberal and former district attorney (she appears in this capacity via flashback in Two-Face: Year One), Marion is notable for being the first female mayor of Gotham depicted in comics! She took office during the Contagion storyline. We learn that she had a nephew die of the Clench virus as well. In Road to No Man’s Land, when Marion was in Washington, D.C. trying to secure federal aid for Gotham after an earthquake, she was shot and killed by a sniper’s bullet intended for Bruce Wayne.


Marion Grange.

When Gotham was reopened in the wake of No Man’s Land, Daniel Danforth Dickerson III won the emergency elections to become the city’s mayor, debuting in Detective Comics #743. He’s as corrupt as any old-school Gotham politician. In Gotham Central #12, when Commissioner Akins met with Dickerson to prevent him from cutting police overtime, a sniper perched on a building across the street fired through the window and put a bullet through Dickerson’s head, killing him instantly. Astonishingly, Dickerson’s assassination is referenced in The New 52’s Teen Titans #15, making him (to my knowledge) the only pre-Flashpoint mayor besides Sebastian Hady to be transferred over to New 52 canon – although it presents a continuity error, as discussed in the Hady section below. And that issue curiously claims he was killed at Kennmann Commons, as opposed to City Hall in the original telling.


Daniel Danforth Dickerson III.

After Dickerson’s death, his deputy mayor David Hull was appointed acting mayor, debuting in Gotham Central #13. Making a few sporadic appearances in Gotham Central and the Batman titles surrounding the War Games storyline, his tenure is somewhat unremarkable and the details of his leaving office remain unrevealed.


David Hull.

The next mayor is a head-scratcher. In David Lapham’s City of Crime storyline from Detective Comics #800-808 and 811-814, the mayor is initially identified as Hull. However, for the rest of the story he is referred to as Mayor Seamus McGreevy. He is involved in a wild criminal conspiracy known as “The Body” which utilizes doppelgängers and mass paranoia-induced hallucinations to serve their ends. As such, some speculate that McGreevy was never actually Gotham’s mayor. However, the story itself does seem to present him as a real person and the true mayor of the city.


Seamus McGreevy.

Here’s what I think happened: Since City of Crime takes place shortly before War Games, though it was published after, DC wanted to maintain continuity between titles and had Lapham name his mayor Hull. However, it soon became clear this was impossible. Hull serves as mayor before and after War Games, has a different physical appearance to City of Crime’s mayor, and no other comics give any indication of his involvement with The Body. The end of City of Crime makes it clear that the story’s mayor is not going to win his re-election campaign. Thus, as scripts were coming in, DC had his name changed and made him a distinct character to avoid conflicts with Hull’s post-War Games mayoralty. We can assume that Seamus McGreevy does briefly serve as Gotham City’s mayor, using his influence and contacts within The Body to temporarily displace David Hull from office.

When Batman returned to Gotham City after a year-long sabbatical following the Infinite Crisis storyline, an unnamed woman was serving as mayor, as referenced in Detective Comics #817. We know nothing about her, but there is an obscure clue to her identity: in West End Games’ 2000 Daily Planet Guide to Gotham City, it’s noted that many of Gotham’s mayors (including Armand Krol and Marion Grange) come from the District Attorney’s office. Thus, it’s speculated that Karen Willis – the District Attorney at the time, in the aftermath of No Man’s Land – was potentially on track for the mayor’s office in future elections. It’s unclear if this was a seed planted by DC editorial that never bore fruit, but at any rate, the unnamed female mayor of the One Year Later era could possibly be Karen Willis.


Detective Comics #817.

In Grant Morrison’s Batman run, we start to hear of another male Gotham City mayor, and in the post-Battle for the Cowl “Batman Reborn” comics we finally meet him: Sebastian Hady, as corrupt as they come. His scummy deeds include working with Firefly, trying to frame Jim Gordon for murder, blackmailing his election opponent and cheating on his wife. He is the father of twin girls, one of whom briefly dated Bruce Wayne. In Zero Year, Batman Eternal, and James Tynion’s Detective Comics, Hady was retconned to have been the mayor of Gotham for almost the entirety of Batman’s career in New 52 continuity, despite an earlier reference to Mayor Dickerson. At one point in Batman Eternal, Hady’s first name was inexplicably given as William. In Detective Comics #951, Sebastian Hady is murdered by the League of Shadows.


An iconic Zero Year shot of a Hady campaign billboard.

Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, otherwise known as the Penguin, served as Gotham’s unofficial “mayor” during the villain takeover of the city in Forever Evil: Arkham War. In Catwoman: Election Night, he also runs for mayor against Constance Hill (they’re both forced out of the race and Hady remains mayor).

In Manslaughter (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #15-17), Gotham is afflicted by a virus that only affects men. So while the mayor is out of commission, Councilwoman Muir is appointed mayor. She is revealed as the ringleader of the Daughters of Gotham, the group behind the virus, and she is shot and killed by Amanda Waller’s lackeys. In Detective Comics #969, Michael Akins is introduced as Gotham’s mayor in the wake of Sebastian Hady’s death, with Hamilton Hill Jr. serving as deputy. Akins actually served as GCPD commisioner for years following the Officer Down event, up through War Games and Infinite Crisis.


Councilwoman Muir.

Birds of Prey #15-17 were published from October 11 to December 13, 2017. Michael Akins debuted as mayor in Detective Comics #969 (part one of Fall of the Batmen), released November 22, 2017. In that issue, Stephanie Brown (the Spoiler) rejoins the Gotham Knights team, whereas in Manslaughter, Batwoman is rather cold to her and mentions the trouble she’s caused the Knights lately. This suggests that Manslaughter possibly takes place before Fall of the Batmen, meaning the male mayor that Muir replaces could either be Hady or yet another interim mayor. Alternatively, Manslaughter could still be after Fall of the Batmen, where Batwoman isn’t exactly thrilled about Spoiler rejoining the team anyway.


Michael Akins.

(In the Cold Snap story from the latest volume of Batgirl, issues #19-20, a white man with black hair is repeatedly referred to as mayor. Although it’s not explicitly stated, context indicates this may simply be the “mayor” of the Burnside neighborhood, and not of Gotham City itself. It’s also worth noting that a number of comics over the years feature a rotating roster of “mayors” in Gotham’s Chinatown district.)

In Neal Adams’ ostensibly canon Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul, we meet yet another mayor, a man named Atkins. In this series, Damian Wayne and Tim Drake are both active as Robin, meaning it must take place at some point after Akins’ tenure as mayor. (And yes, the similarity of their names is bizarre.) Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul was advertised as tying in to DC’s linewide Year of the Villain event, and follows up on other ostensibly canon work of Adams, namely his Deadman series, which in turn follows Batman: Odyssey. So, Mayor Atkins’ name is added to our list.


The faces of Mayor Atkins.

And finally, the current mayor of Gotham City in DC Comics continuity is a man named Dunch. We meet him and his wife in Batman #86, the inaugural issue of James Tynion IV’s run on that title. Dunch presides over the post-City of Bane Gotham with no explanation as to what happened to Akins or Atkins.


Mayor Dunch, from Batman #86.


Phew!! There you have it. Every mayor of Gotham City who has ever appeared in the mainline, in-continuity comic books. To my knowledge, anyway. And what’s more, solicitations for October issues of Detective Comics tease that another mayoral election will play a part in Batman comics very soon! If any readers know of a mayor I missed, especially from obscure sources like newspaper strips, RPG sourcebooks, or novelizations, please drop a line in the comments and I would love to research it. There are also tons of mayors in alternate-universe comics and multimedia, but that’s a post for another day.

In future timelines peripheral to canon, Winston is mayor of pre-Crisis Earth-2’s Gotham when Bruce Wayne’s daughter Helena operates as Huntress, per Batman Family #20. In the world of Neo-Gotham from Batman Beyond, Clement is mayor (digital chapter #3) before being replaced by William Dusk (Batman Beyond 2.0 #1) until his death, after which Greg Hoffman takes office. And in Dan Jurgens’ canon Batman Beyond series, Gotham’s mayor is none other than Luke Fox, the former Batwing!

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Gotham City’s mayors as much as I’ve enjoyed researching them. It might seem like an obscure and nerdy topic, but I think it’s cool, and makes Batman’s gritty hometown feel like that much more of a real place. The idea that all these people served as Gotham’s mayor in the true story of Batman, and that there’s such a rich history throughout eighty years of comic books, is just fascinating to me. I’m grateful to Collin of The Real Batman Chronology Project for hosting these articles and hopefully more people will get into this kind of stuff. This is PurpleGlovez, signing off. See you next time!

Part 1: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/gotham-city-mayors-part-1-2/

Part 2: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/gotham-city-mayors-part-2/

Part 3: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/gotham-city-mayors-part-3/

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Gotham City Mayors (Part 3)

In the early 1980s, writer Gerry Conway took over the Batman titles and began his infamous “Marvelized” Batman run. As opposed to the mostly done-in-one capers of the past, his run featured an ongoing soap opera-like narrative that put a spotlight on Bruce Wayne’s social life, the inner workings of organized crime, and the political turmoil of Gotham City. Hamilton Hill debuted in Detective Comics #503 and was sworn in as Gotham’s mayor after defeating city councilman Arthur Reeves in the election. Hill was secretly in league with crime boss Rupert Thorne, and one of his many nefarious dealings as mayor was to replace James Gordon with a more compliant police commissioner. In Batman #381, Hill’s corruption was exposed and he was forced out of office.



Hamilton Hill.

George P. Skowcroft debuted in Detective Comics #551 and was appointed acting mayor in the wake of Hill’s downfall. In Swamp Thing #53, he infamously attempted to criminalize Abby Arcane’s relationship with Swamp Thing as beastiality. The Batman titles at the time teased an election showdown between Skowcroft and Lucius Fox, but when Denny O’Neil took over as editor after Crisis on Infinite Earths, most of the plotlines being weaved by Conway and Doug Moench were unceremoniously dropped. Thus, we’re not really sure who won the formal election or what happened to Skowcroft.


George Skowcroft (and my favorite reaction image ever).

In Huntress: Year One, we meet an unnamed mayor of Gotham City. Not only does he force an arranged marriage between his daughter and mafia prince Tony Angelo, but he plans to manufacture a crisis where he would intentionally destory Gotham’s dam system, flood the city, and swoop in with aid to take control of the fiasco and ride the wave of adulation to the White House. Kind of a weird plan, but whatever. His schemes are discovered by the Huntress, Helena Bertinelli, who takes the information to Batman. After being exposed for such a thing, this mayor was surely ousted from office.


The mayor from Huntress: Year One.

The timeline of Huntress: Year One is up for debate. Helena’s debut as the Huntress takes place around the Catholic holiday of Carnival, marking the beginning of Lent – usually a February date. In original post-Crisis history, Huntress debuted after the death of Jason Todd. However, Huntress: Year One reveals that Huntress was active while Barbara Gordon was still Batgirl, before The Killing Joke and A Death in the Family. If we place Huntress’s debut as late as it can possibly go, in the February before the Joker’s crippling of Barbara Gordon, then it would take place after Skowcroft’s appointment as mayor. The only other timeline clue is Catwoman’s claim that she is 29 – but can we trust Selina Kyle to tell the truth about her age?

So, some people do place the debut of Huntress earlier, sometimes prior to the introduction of Jason Todd, with speculation that this mayor could be Skowcroft or Hamilton Hill himself. To be honest, I don’t think he is Hamilton Hill. Their appearances are different and their storylines are way too distinct. It could theoretically be Skowcroft – but once again, the appearances don’t exactly match. In my opinion, the mayor from Huntress: Year One is the unnamed man who defeats Skowcroft in the formal election.


The mayor from Batman: The Cult.

The next mayor of Gotham appears in Batman: The Cult. An older white-haired man with thick eyebrows and squinty eyes, he is assassinated by Deacon Blackfire’s followers along with the rest of the city council. At the end of The Cult, a slim gray-haired man named Donald Webster is appointed acting mayor of Gotham. The mayor in Batman: Run, Riddler, Run is similar enough in appearance to Webster that we can say it is probably the same person.

The mayor from Batman: Run, Riddler, Run.


The mayor from Detective Comics #626.

Our next mayor is a chubbier man with black hair and a mustache who appears in Detective Comics #626. He’s mad that Commissioner Gordon gave him a parking ticket. Next, Mayor Julius Lieberman appears in Batman vs. Predator, where he is viciously eviscerated by a Predator (comics!) Lieberman has white hair and a mustache, but is otherwise similar enough in build and appearance to the mayor from Detective #626 that they might be the same person… but, they might not be.


Julius Lieberman.

After Lieberman’s death, Mayor Goode debuts in the Robin II mini-series. If you look closely, you can see his name on a plaque on his desk in issue #3. Goode reappears in Robin Annual #1, with slightly fuller hair. But a week before that issue was published, Gotham’s mayor helped celebrate the return of the JSA in Justice Society of America #1. Although he doesn’t look exactly like Goode, he’s got the thinning hair and same general build, so we can probably assume it’s the same guy. And then, on the same day Justice Society of America #1 was published – a week before Robin Annual #1 Gotham’s outgoing mayor inexplicably appears as an African American man in Detective Comics #648.


The totally blinged-out Mayor Goode from Robin II.

Detective #648 was written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Tom Lyle, the same authors of Goode’s appearances in Robin. This mayor is drawn very similarly to Goode, with his hair style from the annual, but he is colored as a black man while Goode is clearly white. I’m guessing this may have been a coloring error or miscommunication, since Goode appeared a week later in the Robin annual… but at the end of the day, does the published page supersede behind-the-scenes info? Does Detective #648 establish another canonical mayor of Gotham distinct from Goode? For now, the jury is out.


Detective #648’s unnamed mayor.

Detective Comics #647-649 also introduces the man who will become the next mayor of Gotham, Armand Krol. He’s a hardline conservative with a major hate-boner for Batman and Jim Gordon. His first appearance as mayor is the Misfits storyline in Shadow of the Bat #7-9 (his last appearance as a candidate being Batman #489-490). When Batman saves Krol from the Joker during Knightfall, Krol softens up towards the Dark Knight but never loses his adversarial attitude towards Gordon. Krol runs for re-election but is ultimately defeated. During the lame duck period of his mayoralty, he installs a friend of his, Andrew Howe, as police commissioner. When Krol’s successor takes office in Contagion, Gordon is restored as commissioner and shortly afterwards, Armand Krol succumbs to the Clench virus and dies.


Armand Krol.

To find out why Krol’s successor represents a historical milestone on our list, stay tuned for the next post!

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Help Wanted! The Golden Age Salad Days

Calling all divers hands! I’ve been filling in gaps in my timelines. Notably, I just added a Salad Days section for the New 52 (which required me to do a full re-read of the entire New 52, which I don’t recommend doing unless you want your brain to melt and run out of your nose). The only other big gap in my timelines is the Salad Days section for the Golden Age. The amazing Anthony Fallone helped me construct a first draft, which is up on the site, but I’m convinced (he, not so much) that there must be more to add.

Thus, I’m reaching out to all my followers and asking if they could scour the Golden Age in search of any references or flashbacks that we might have missed that pertain to Bruce’s time prior to becoming the Bat—from his birth until his early 20s.

Really, I’m looking for the tough ones, the ones that are easy to miss at first glance. Like this…

“I saw him once when I was a boy!” See what I mean? When I first built my Golden Age timeline, I neglected to do a Salad Days section, so I had to go back and do it later, which is decidedly harder to pull off later as opposed to as you are reading through everything.

So, if I’ve missed anything, please let me know. Happy to have some hunters out there giving me an assist. Thanks in advance!

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Gotham City Mayors (Part 2)

Alright, so now that we’ve looked at Gotham City’s mayors during the early years of the post-Crisis Batman’s career, we’re gonna take a look at mayors who appeared in pre-Crisis comic books between 1942 and 1980. To be honest, I’m kind of dreading making this post because there were a lot of appearances of Gotham mayors during this time with absolutely no consistency. I won’t be posting pictures of all of them because this post would just be way too long. Anyway, here we go…

The first mayor of Gotham depicted in a comic appeared in two stories in 1942’s Batman #12, as well as a story in Detective Comics #68. (Don’t get used to that level of consistency.) He was a caricature of New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The next unnamed mayor was an overweight man who appears to be bald under his top hat, from Batman #29. Next, an unnamed mayor with brown hair, a mustache, and glasses appeared in Batman #30.

The first named mayor of Gotham appeared in Detective Comics #121. Well, he’s not technically named; his son, Chadwick Carfax, is. Thus, we know that this is Mayor Carfax, a white-haired mustachioed man with glasses.After that, a balding man with brown hair and a monocle over his left eye appears as mayor in the Riddler’s debut story in Detective Comics #140. In Star-Spangled Comics #94, a balding man with dark hair and a mustache is mayor. In Batman #54, the mayor has dark hair and no facial hair; his head is covered by a top hat.

In Detective Comics #166, an ex-convict named John Gillen is working as a circus performer called “The Man With a Million Faces”. He transforms into the visage of Gotham City’s mayor: an older slim man with white hair. In Star-Spangled Comics #113, yet another nondescript mayor (with dark hair and no facial hair) appears in a top hat. In Batman #66, the infamous story of the Joker’s “boner” crimes features an elderly mayor with balding white hair and glasses. In Detective Comics #179, we get our second named mayor: Bradley Stokes. He runs a program where Gotham citizens can be “mayor for a week” during his vacations; named participants include Thomas Mays and Bruce Wayne. I wonder if we can use this program as a handy explanation for some of the mayoral inconsistency in this era…?

In World’s Finest Comics #69, we meet Mayor Sheppard, who frantically calls Commissioner Gordon as a psycho named Tom Beckett bursts into his office and threatens to blow up City Hall. In Batman #85, we learn that a man named Alan Dent is running for mayor; we never actually see him and he is never mentioned again. But, it’s theoretically possible (though purely conjecture) that Alan could in fact be any of the unnamed mayors who appear around this time. Two issues later in Batman #87, a mayor appears, a balding cigarette-chomping man. The mayor in Batman #91 appears to be identical to him.

In World’s Finest Comics #76, the mayor appears alongside City Hall in trying to convince a science convention to meet in Gotham instead of Metropolis. He has gray hair and glasses. In Batman #102, the mayor appears with a full head of dark hair and a dapper mustache. The mayor in Detective Comics #245 is a jowled man free of facial hair; the top of his head is obscured by a hat, but he looks plausibly similar to the man in Batman #87 and 91. (At this point I should note that, to account for the mayor’s varying appearances, it’s possible some of these stories actually take place out of sequence from when they were published.)

In Batman #120, the mayor appears to have white hair and seems a little overweight. The mayor in Detective Comics #277 bears a remarkable resemblance to World’s Finest #69’s Mayor Sheppard. In Batman #149, the mayor is a slim man with white hair, depicted both with and without a mustache. In World’s Finest Comics #140, it’s hard to make out the mayor’s features but he is a slim man who may have dark hair and possibly a mustache. The mayor in Detective Comics #330 is an older gentleman with white hair, glasses and a mustache. In The Brave and the Bold #59, a slightly overweight, balding mayor appears; vaguely similar to the man from Batman #87, et al. In Batman #173, the mayor has white hair and a mustache, and quite the shiny bald head.

The mayor in Brave and the Bold #67 is a nondiscrepant man with brown hair. A mayor appears in Batman #186 but it is impossible to make out his features. In Detective Comics #375, Mayor Taylor is mentioned, but not shown; as such, he could be any of the unnamed mayors who appear around this time. In Brave and the Bold #78, the mayor is another generic man with a top hat, and in Batman #207, we meet Mayor Hayes, a balding man with dark hair. In Brave and the Bold #81, the mayor has a head of black hair with white temples. Brave and the Bold #89 features a mayor of indistinct appearance with his back to the reader. In Brave and the Bold #94, the mayor appears alongside city council as a younger man with brown hair. In Brave and the Bold #102, he’s a fatter balding man with a mustache. In issue #105, this mayor appears again.

The next mayor is a bit of a head-scratcher. In Batman #245, two political bosses, Bilker and Harvey, are running candidates for mayor in the election. Bruce Wayne previously supported Harvey’s candidate before switching sides to Bilker’s man, MacCutcheon, whose face we see on a billboard. However, Batman exposes a plot by Bilker to frame Harvey for murder, and supposedly cinches the election for Harvey’s candidate. A few months later in Detective Comics #433, we meet another mayor of Gotham City: a blonde man who looks extraordinarily similar to MacCutcheon! So what gives? It could just be a man with an uncanny resemblance… or, it’s possible Harvey’s candidate didn’t win after all, and MacCutcheon was ignorant of Bilker’s plot, exonerating himself with the help of Batman and Bruce Wayne. But this is purely conjecture on my part.

World’s Finest Comics #218 features an orange-haired mayor who is threatened with blackmail over a kickback scandal by a villain named Capricorn. However, Capricorn seemingly dies before he makes good on any of his blackmail threats… thus, it’s unknown if the public ever learns about this scandal. In Brave and the Bold #113, a new mayor is sworn in, a young man with blonde/dandelion hair who briefly retires Batman and replaces him with the Metal Men. This could plausibly be the same mayor from Detective #433 and World’s Finest #218, if we assume this issue took place before those stories. Alternatively, it could be a separate person.

In the David Reed-scripted Batman #270, 275, and 283, an older, white-haired mayor appears. In the Christmastime Brave and the Bold #148, the mayor has orange hair and a thick mustache, while issue #150 clearly features the same mayor from issues #102 and #105. In Super Friends #22, what appears to be the same mustachioed mayor from Brave and the Bold #148 appears. In World’s Finest Comics #260, the mayor is a clean-shaven man with gray hair, while in issue #262, the mayor has white temples and a mustache. In Detective Comics #490, the mayor has orange-brown hair and a thick mustache, similar to the man from B&B #148 and Super Friends.

Well, that’s all the mayors I’m covering in this post. As you can see, there was no consistency whatsoever for many decades in depicting Gotham’s mayoral office. In-universe explanations of weight loss, weight gain, shaving, hair dye, wigs, and toupes (as well as out-of-sequence issues) can all theoretically be used to condense these mayors into a smaller number of people and explain their differing appearances. But in reality, the fact is that DC just didn’t care to keep it straight. Interestingly, it’s clear that a few artists did draw the mayor with consistency between different comic book issues, but this was a rarity.

Miraculously, things did start to get consistent under Gerry Conway’s pen in the early 80s with a certain character named Hamilton Hill. We’ll talk about him and other mayors in the next post!

Part 1: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/gotham-city-mayors-part-1-2/ 

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RIP Denny O’Neil



For my money, and many will agree, Denny O’Neil was the best Batman writer of all time. He was certainly one of my personal favorites. O’Neil, unlike so many of his peers (and unlike so many current writers), understood what it means to be a superhero. He knew that a superhero isn’t a cop, a bully, a strongman, or a rich man. O’Neil knew that a superhero is someone that fights for those who can’t fight for themselves, someone who can see systems of oppression linked to race and class, someone motivated by empathy, and someone that would walk a mile in another person’s shoes.

O’Neil changed the game. He gave us the Batman we know and love today, re-inventing the character in the 70s and forever stamping his mark on the mythos in a way that hadn’t really been done since the very beginning with Bob Kane and Bill Finger—and hasn’t been done since (except for maybe Frank Miller in the 80s). O’Neil never shied away from telling incredibly progressive stories about real people, and he did it, amazingly, for fifty years. Put simply, he was a great man, who told great stories.

I’ve always said, the industry could use more Denny O’Neils, so it’s an especially sad day for comics now that we don’t have any at all. You’ll be sorely missed, Mr. O’Neil. Rest in power.

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