Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

In reply to various comments… (hyperpost 3a)

Posted in comics by Andrew Hickey on August 27, 2009

Very tired and stressed today, so the next proper hyperpost won’t be til tomorrow night. Instead, you get this, dealing with various points raised by Pillock and Zom (and anyone else who comments – I notice Sean Witzke just commented) in the comments to the recent posts. This might be a little disjointed, but consider it a series of tangents to the main event – or maybe a hypertimeline tributary that will feed back into the main thing later. The ‘hyperpost’ thing really is turning into my magnificent octopus, isn’t it?

In brief, my love for hypertime is that it’s a brilliant imaginative concept, and the fact that it provides a framework for letting the ‘linear men’ cope with stories where Jimmy Olsen has the wrong hairstyle or something is just a byproduct of what I think is its neglected use, for telling big epic superhero stories a la Final Crisis(see the Hypercrisis description in this interview:

Hypertime has been quietly ignored and no-one quite realises how elegant and perfect the theoretical framework is. It’s very simple. I have a diagram.

My one regret about my brief falling out with DC after the ‘Superman Incident’ is that I didn’t get to do my Hypercrisis series at DC to explain all this stuff and set up a whole new playground. It’s the one thing I could still be arsed doing with classical superheroes. If I ever go back, I’ll explain the whole Hypertime thing and recreate the Challengers of the Unknown as Challengers: Beyond the Unknown.

It’s one thing I still want to do. It had a monster eating the first few years of the 21st century and Superman building a bridge across this gaping hole in time. A bridge made of events. The Guardians of The Multiverse and a new Green Lantern Corps made up of parallel reality Green Lanterns, the Superman Squad and the mystery of the Unknown Superman of 2150 etc, etc. There’s a huge synopsis filled with outrageous stuff.

I want to read that – hell, I want to write that. I’m not particularly interested in having a framework to ‘explain’ inconsistencies between different stories – that’s why they’re called *different stories* – but I think it’s amusing that something that’s primarily a storytelling device – and I am absolutely convinced that that was Morrison’s primary intention for it, rather than as a continuity-fix – has the additional side-effect of totally destroying the Linear Men’s rigid hierarchy of what ‘counts’ and doesn’t count. Doing that by itself is no reason to do a story – in fact, anything to do with ‘continuity’ is a reason *not* to do a story (watch Attack Of The Cybermen if you don’t believe me). But it’s a nice side-effect.

pillock:

I’ll just say that it isn’t like all those delightful Silver Age details you mention were confusing, but that they had gotten boring…which nowadays we think sounds crazy, how could they have gotten boring? Well, they did, though: the DCU lost a lot of life in the years between 1975 and 1985, and after Crisis blew it up it gained momentum again.

The ‘confusing’ thing is brought up by Marv Wolfman in one of the text pieces in the original issues of Crisis – it was definitely *his* reason for doing it.

That said, I agree with you – the post-Crisis DCU is the one I fell in love with first, be it the Giffen/DeMatteis JLA, Moore on Swamp Thing, all the pre-Vertigo titles like Animal Man and Doom Patrol, Byrne’s Superman revamp (a misstep in retrospect, but it seemed a good idea at the time), Grant & Breyfogle on Batman, hell even stuff like *LOBO* seemed funny at the time.

I’d question how much that was a *result* of Crisis, though, and how much Crisis was a symptom of a wider change in the company in the mid-80s (when did Giordano, Levitz et al get in charge?) – the ‘British Invasion’ would have happened with or without Crisis, as would the movement of Marvel creators like Byrne and Wolfman across, and a lot of the general rise in quality then was due to USian freelancers raising their game to compete with the British ones (the Giffen/DeMatteis League, at first, is such an obvious attempt at doing Watchmen-in-continuity that I’m amazed this never gets mentioned when people talk about either comic). And some of those British creators were more than capable of using the tired story elements in new ways – just look at For The Man Who Has Everything (which of course contains another imaginary story…)

Zom:

All that said, one of the biggest problems with any discussion of Hypertime, and where I resist your urge to push the discussion in small part towards physics, Andrew, is how the term seems to point in the direction of some sort of concrete theoretical basis. I tend to think of it as a signpost, a direction of travel, a statement of intent rather than as a theoretical object that’ll bear too much scrutiny, because quite clearly it *won’t*. We should be paying attention to what the concept is trying to achieve and view it as a useful *tool* rather than quibbling over the details because the details will only ever get us so far.

True – however, the physics post, when it comes, will not be about the ‘DCU physics’, but rather about what I suspect was the real pop-science inspiration for the idea…

And there I must leave you, for now, as I have computer problems to fix. More hyperpost tomorrow.

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8 Responses

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  1. pillock said, on August 27, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I actually read the “confusing” thing as code for boring, and we’re losing readers to Marvel because of it, because that’s what was happening, and nobody was confused. Marv wasn’t confused, and I wasn’t confused; as you point out, the “confusion” rationale doesn’t make sense anyway. That was just spin, though I don’t know who first spun it; it was just tactful language. Or, it was a total mistake about what was happening.

  2. pillock said, on August 28, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Also (my, but I seem to have a lot to say about all this, don’t I?), I think it is fair to say that Crisis had a defamiliarizing effect on the old tarnished spangles of the DCU, and that made a big difference in and of itself to the quality of the stories being told. Seriously, to be interested, even mildly interested, in a Mr, Mxyxptlk story? Really I think the only way to breathe life into the whimsical Silver Age artifacts again was to tear everything down and start fresh…I mean nobody was even using Comet the Super-Horse for anything anymore anyway, the DCU was getting continuity-bound and moribund and more “realistic” every day…and it didn’t wear it particularly well. Over at Marvel, things weren’t too much better, for the most part! Most of their books had gotten old and stale too. But they had some books that were kicking repulsive amounts of ass — Byrne’s “back-to-basics” FF, for one. So, I can only speculate, “back-to-basics” must’ve seemed like a good way to go at the time, and Crisis did get them there.

    Ack, that comment too is one where I let the thread slip…cripes, what’s up with me today?

  3. M_Burkhardt said, on August 28, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Right before DC got going on the Crisis thingie, I remember eavesdropping on a conversation between two fellow geeks hanging out at Comics & Comix in San Francisco. Both agreed that the DC Universe at the time was too “old” to properly collect, while Marvel in the early ’80s still seemed young and vital enough for a reader to invest in both current and back-issues and be adequately versed in continuity.

    I thought that line of thought was kind of nuts, but this was the time when the Direct Market was starting to bloom and I’m sure the sentiment was widespread enough for DC’s powers that be to take note.

    That said, even though I liked the Crisis comic itself at the time and was curious about this revamped universe … I have to admit that I wasn’t all that thrilled by “Man of Steel” or George Perez’s Wonder Woman revamps and the Legion Of Super-Heroes never did fully recover from the evaporation of Superboy.

    In fact – other than Mike Baron’s Flash – the stuff I did like seemed less a direct product of the Crisis than simply a matter of letting talented creators play with the toys a bit. (i.e. the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League; Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, less a revamp than a refocusing I’d argue and later on Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol).

    Plus, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing started a ways before COIE if I recall correctly.

    So, I don’t know if DC really needed a Crisis after all … beyond the PR value, that is. At the time, Marvel successfully implemented “bold new directions” in certain titles without such trickery … and the idea was to make DC more competitive with the House Of Ideas, right?

    (Of course, nowadays both companies actively employ Deus Ex Machina ret-cons to “fix” characters like Spidey and Superman … so obviously I’m outside of the mainstream here …)

    Wow. That’s the most I’ve written about comics in ages. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Kieran said, on August 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Right so, Hypertime as it was used in All Star Superman (to let Suprman Prime cross over with an “imaginary story” and with the DCU proper) was unnecessary, but Hypertime as it was used in The Kingdom and the non-existant Hypercrisis was interesting, is that about the short of it?

    In your previous post you wondered about what stories could be told with Hypertime and your examples avoided what I think is it’s most interesting side effect: that the strands of hypertime are bound spatially as well as temporally. In the usual parallel worlds set-up you have two worlds that are identical except that Jimmy has the same hairstyle, in hypertime those two *are* the same, until you see Jimmy, at which point there are two universes, and the observer splits into each one.

    So Man-Things Swamp really could be the Nexus of all realities, if it’s pristine and isolated enough it could be spread out over a million different hyperstrands, whereas in New York the strand is bifurcated to death, you can’t turn a corner without collapsing another bunch of possibilities and reducing the set of universes in which you exist: it’s why the city makes you ill, a dull soul-rot you can’t quite get rid of, all those little *details* you picked up there bind you to an ever decreasing reality. And it’s probably why all the aliens and the monsters end up there: reality is thinner.

    The best hypertime story, to my mind

    • Andrew Hickey said, on August 28, 2009 at 12:15 pm

      That is fucking *great*… although probably more suited to a universe where the Copenhagen Interpretation was correct than to Hypertime…

      • Kieran said, on August 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm

        Thanks, and yeah, not having read The End of Time, I was wondering if something along the lines of the Copenhagen Interpretation was what you were going to bring up in your science hyperpost.

  5. Kieran said, on August 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Oops, hit submit by mistake, anyway the best hypertime story is Sandman #18, the Dream of A Thousand Cats, that erasure of the distinction between perspective and reality is what makes it such a neat concept for telling stories about fiction.

  6. Andrew Ducker said, on August 28, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I’m not particularly interested in having a framework to ‘explain’ inconsistencies between different stories – that’s why they’re called *different stories*

    But surely that’s the point. To people who care about continuity, all the issues of the various Spiderman comics tell _one_ story – one written by many different writers, but nevertheless a single story.

    That you see them as multiple different stories that need not agree with each other is the root of the disagreement.


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