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Steven Myers
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 7:33am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I always thought what made Angel interesting was that he had real wings, unlike Hawkman or Falcon, for example. Then they gave him metal wings...

As for the FF, I think Reed has least overall power, but the most practical ability. Whereas Johnny has the deadliest ability with the least practicality.

A character that would be a challenge to write would be Phantom Girl. She has the greatest defensive ability--she phantoms and nothing can harm her. However, it doesn't give her any offensive capability.
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Doug Centers
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 8:17am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

"...I think Reed has least overall power, but the most practical ability."

...

I cannot count how many times I've tried to reach something in a tight spot and wished I was him!
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John Byrne
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 8:54am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I'm reminded of a Canadian newsmagazine that did a story on Marvel (long before I worked there) and described the FF as "asking the question of whether a man who can stretch his body into any shape can find true happiness with a woman who is surrounded by an invisible force field."

Amusing enough, when I was 18 or so. But that kind of question came to be all too common among the aging fan base. I used to say the first time one thought about a superhero's sex life should be taken as the cue that it was time to find another hobby. Now there are writers who would barely have careers without constantly "exploring" that issue.

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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 11:04am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

TANGENT: One of the details I LOVE about Mr. Byrne's work is shown on that page. The paint can has a little dribble on it; it falls into Sue's force field and paint; and then it's messier.

It's a teensy weensy detail - but it's so important and so realistic, and anybody who's ever painted would get it immediately.

ITEM:: I believe Mr. Byrne established that Reed's body is actually susceptible to great pressure, in the story where the FF was sojourning into Ego's planetary body. So he's not resistant to pressure, and he'd probably had some issues when battling Namor in Atlantis.

DISCUSSION: In comics, I don't think that any super power is entirely impractical with the right character, in the right situation (not a challenge.) At times, "useless" has been ascribed to Mr. Fantastic, Angel, the Atom, Aquaman, Daredevil, Black Widow*, Batman, Hawkeye, Green Arrow, etc. And so many of them have had their books become massive fan favorites.

It's when we apply TOO strict an analysis of the powers that we run into problems, e.g., "How does the Atom breathe when he's smaller than oxygen molecules? How does Storm use her powers indoors when she'd blow everything around, including the X-Men? How does Namor have electrical powers?" If we look at it too closely, we start applying real world physics to it - and then we find that Action Comics #1 is wrong, and that Superman couldn't lift a car; its own weight would collapse it. And after that, it all falls apart. And stops being fiction.

*One of Natasha's abilities that is no longer used is her ability to walk on walls. I rather miss that... I thought it would enhance the hell out of her espionage skills.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 11:42am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Remember when Jim Shooter declared Spider-Man's wall climbing ability to be "icky", and insisted that OHOTMU describe his powers as a "molecular interface" rather than "sticking" to walls? Even after it was pointed out (by me, among others) that spiders don't "stick" to anything.

Or when Marc Gruenwald (him again!) rewrote the way Cyclops' powers worked, again for OHOTMU?

OHOTMU itself was the real villain of the peice, as it not only allowed editors to muck about with established lore, but encouraged readers to start dissecting things. RPG thinking!

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John Byrne
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 11:44am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

A character that would be a challenge to write would be Phantom Girl. She has the greatest defensive ability--she phantoms and nothing can harm her. However, it doesn't give her any offensive capability.

Can she do the Vision's trick? Stick her fist in someone's chest and then "un-phantom"?

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 12:00pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

40 years ago Keith Pollard (what an artist!!!) had Reed turn his fist into a mace so ostensibly dense that it could shred Doom's armored mask.


But I don't recall this being a direction others ever took before. (I'm not sure about after because I only had a few years left of comicbook reading.)
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John Byrne
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 1:04pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Kirby had Reed battle the Super Skrull with a big mallet made from his fist -- tho I could never entirely convince myself it would really be harder than a normal fist.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 4:26pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Mr. Byrne, while I remember Phantom Girl turning partially solid, I don't ever recall it being used offensively.

And to play devil's advocate, desolidifying is a great power... but she still sees and hears in the real world, so hypnosis, loud noises, flashes, etc. could affect her. And it was once established that certain types of bombs had explosive effects that could reach into phantom planes of existence. Of course, that story idea was by... Jim Shooter.
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Steven Myers
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 5:43pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

A character that would be a challenge to write would be Phantom Girl. She has the greatest defensive ability--she phantoms and nothing can harm her. However, it doesn't give her any offensive capability.

Can she do the Vision's trick? Stick her fist in someone's chest and then "un-phantom"?

--------

I think it would hurt her as much as the other person. I think that was a trick with Vision is that is doesn't hurt him because he's mechanical.

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Robert Shepherd
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 6:21pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

I don't know Phantom Girl...never read a book with her in it (that I can recall), but if she can go Phantom mode at will, then she could fight like the ninja version of ShadowCat. Punch while on offense, phantom mode while on defense. Works best for normal powered foes, but could be done.

Edited by Robert Shepherd on 08 April 2018 at 6:23pm
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Robert Shepherd
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 6:28pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I had a thought for most useless super power. There are others that are truly worthless, but this "hero" always seemed useless to me - from Legion of Super Heroes - Bouncing Boy.

(My apologies to you, if Bouncing Boy is your favorite...;-)
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Mike Norris
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 7:21pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply


I had a thought for most useless super power. There are others that are truly worthless, but this "hero" always seemed useless to me - from Legion of Super Heroes - Bouncing Boy.

(My apologies to you, if Bouncing Boy is your favorite...;-)
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Robert Shepherd
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 10:34pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Loved dodge ball. Best game ever in elementary school.
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Adam Schulman
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Posted: 08 April 2018 at 11:03pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Flight and super speed, as well as super strength, depend on a degree of invulnerability.

***

Which is why I don't really understand why Wonder Woman, almost as strong as Superman, isn't almost as invulnerable as Superman. The bracelets-and-bullets thing always looks good, of course, but should a normal bullet hit her, it should just bounce off of her. 
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 12:57am | IP Logged | 16 post reply

My guess is that Diana has some degree of damage resistance, but why should she take the chance and let a bullet hit her to find out?

Bouncing Boy is a borderline Legionnaire, iny opinion. His power is on the bubble of Substitute membership.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 6:30am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

While initial membership in the Legion is often predicated upon the usefulness of the applicant's power, character plays a large part as well. Bouncing Boy has proven his bravery and capacity of sacrifice on multiple occasions with the team. He's not going anywhere unless he wants to. (This applies, of course, to the original version of the character in the original Legion, and not to any of the forty or more fluctuating variations that have cropped up since...)

Stone Boy made it into the Legion once on the basis of character and only proved how outstanding a team member he really was by choosing to remain in the Subs alongside his friends. Character and the ability to work together were also the determining factors when a group of applicants from worlds where everyone shared the same powers petitioned for membership on the basis of superior capability. Sure, Phantom Girl can pass through walls. Who from Bgtzl can't? Phantom Lad could do that and more. Matter-Eater Lad is no different from anyone else on Bismoll. Calorie Queen could convert the energy from whatever she'd eaten into super-strength and stamina. Cosmic Boy had magnetism and played magno-ball on his home world of Braal, but Magno-Lad was the World Magno-Ball Champion. Which do you think should have been in the Legion?

Well, as it turns out, the ones who were already there, because they were in it for the right reasons and could work together unselfishly. 

Power isn't everything. 

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 7:31am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

As for Wonder Woman, her degree of invulnerability is one of those irritating questions forced upon us by the Shared Universe concept. As originally conceived, she deflected bullets with her bracelets because that was exciting and fun to imagine. It spoke of tremendous skill and dedication, not to mention talent. It was amazing and original. Having bullets simply bounce off her would have been imitative of another character's schtick. The character is better than that.

It also allowed her to be more vulnerable and closer to the human condition than her more over-the-top stablemate. She could be gassed, knocked unconscious, imprisoned... And had to escape by doing more than simply flexing in a single, spontaneous burst of strength. Except when she did, because, hey, that's fun, too. Usually she had to approach things moment by moment, taking her escapes a step at a time, demonstrating a sense of cleverness and patience. 

The JSA was a rather loose assemblage of characters and the world in which they existed in the Forties was not too over-the-top yet, Dr. Fate and the Spectre's adventures notwithstanding. The need for each and every member to somehow conform to the physics and outre trappings of the other members was not held as sacrosanct.

Cut to later, when the fans have begun publishing their 'zines and their inquiring minds wanted to know why the Thunderbolt wasn't loaned out to other JSA members to assist them in their cases. Could Johnny Thunder give Dr. Fate T-Bolt to use against Wotan or a Lovecraftian beastie from below? What was happening in Gotham City when the Spectre battled Asmodus by smashing him with comets and the moon? If Superman flew to Venus, would he encounter the Gyno-Supremacist society of winged women Wonder Woman met there?

The answer, of course, was "no." That's a Wonder Woman story. Superman writers would be free to write a Superman story if they went to Venus. The simple existence of the JSA wasn't a story-killing gun to the head of every writer and editor at the company. The characters' bizarre worlds sort of came together in that one book. Otherwise, they were separate. The JSA was it's own feature with elements that defined it and carried over or didn't, just as Wonder Woman was her own thing, and Superman was his. 

"Oh, dear. Oh, heavens. Oh, how ignorant of them all. Oh, dear, oh, dear," cry the Marvelites. "If only Stan had been there to save them. Multiple Cities of Atlantis. Multiple Circes and Cleopatras. Oh, dear, oh, dear..." Y'know, what? Everyone was fine. Really.

Stan was one editor with a small handful of features. It was easy to eventually come to the conclusion that they all existed in the same world. Originally they didn't. The Human Torch saying Ben reminded him of the Hulk was a comparison to a "comic-book monster." Stan only had, what? Eight books at first to mix and match characters between, and only himself to answer to as far as issues of consistency and control went. Also, he did a lot of continued stories, so he had to come up with fewer story premises and plots than the writers and editors at DC did with their multiple eight-page stories per issue. Being a small shop gave Marvel the ability to keep things bound together in a tight little construction. Once the Sixties-era Superman got rolling, the Weisinger titles held to a tightly wound set of premises as well, with concepts being shared throughout the Superman titles.

But only through the Superman titles. Aside from Worlds Finest, another Weisinger book, no attempt was made to foist these ideas off onto the Jack Schiff Batman books. Or Robert Kanigher's Wonder Woman. These were professionals. They could come up with their own creative ideas. Readers wanted imagination and a sense of something new in every issue, didn't they?

Well, yes and no. Fans wanted consistency. They wanted more of what they'd gotten before. They wanted everything to match. To some extent, DC's editors were willing to indulge them so the Phantom Zone projector began to the look the same each time it appeared. Superboy began to meet characters he'd meet later in life and share a knowing wink with the readers as to how it would all turn out for them. Gosh, Ollie's just hopeless with a bow and arrow, isn't he? It's okay, readers. We know he'll get better, right? Someday. 

But imposing a company-wide continuity across multiple editorial offices? No. Only a fan would want that or think it was even a good idea. DC was publishing dozens of titles. Marvel wasn't. At least not at first. Once continuity was recognized by the fans as a valued commodity, it was incorporated into new Marvel titles as they were created. As the number of titles increased and the staff grew, they conceived of ways to tie everything together, because hey, the fans liked that. As more and more of those fans joined the ranks of the creators, it became a hallmark of quality to ensure that this month's Marvel Two-In-One fit seamlessly inside the ongoing spectacle of Marvel wonderment. 

Over at DC, fans were infiltrating the ranks as well and wondering if they too couldn't retrofit this huge ship into a streamlined little Marvel-style schooner to more easily navigate the narrow confines of fannish demands and expectations. After all, the fans were now the company and the company was now the fans, right? 

So, since Wonder Woman and Superman know each other from the JLA, and the JLA is NOT its own book, operating on its own premises, but is now instead a component of a vast, interlocking story structure, how can we re-interpret and re-contextualize everything to make sure the fans are happy? So that we're happy?

Recognizing the original intent has never been in the latter-day WW playbook, so now we either have to alter her signature move or we're stuck having to play to and recognize her comparative weakness to Superman. We have to draw attention to it. Have the characters discuss it. The original WW was human. Amazonian by birth, and yes, birth. She was born an Amazon once she was magically given life by Aphrodite. She is not now nor has she ever been a golem. She is not part clay. She was a fully human baby after her transformation. We are all derived from simple mineral and chemical compositions as well, and are no more golem than Marston intended WW to be. But what does that bum know, right? 

The Amazons, being human, attained their phenomenal strength and skill through centuries of training. They are not naturally immortal. Paradise Island gives them that. But no, no, no... Marston is wrong, wrong, wrong... You can't lift a train or do anything WW can do if you're human. You must be a super-creature from a race of super-creatures. Marston's WW says differently, but f*ck that noise. 

Being essentially human, Marston's WW would be killed if struck with a bullet. Deflecting them is necessary because only a man from outer space whose alien body chemistry is enhanced to unbelievable degrees by Earth's environment could simply stand in place and allow bullets to bounce off of his oil-drum sized torso. 

But that was then. This is now. Now Amazons are a super-race and WW is a super-enhanced, god-gifted member of that super-race with a weird golem physiology, so what the hey. Ditch the bracelets. Let her just stand there and shed machine gun fire like raindrops. It's not like we want any of these characters to be their own things. We want them to be tiny little threads in a vast storytelling tapestry that we direct and control from the outside, sending instructions and fan theories to those among us who have woven themselves into the industry and now have their hand, OUR hand, on the loom... 

Who cares how the character stands on her own or what she can accomplish by herself? How does she stack up against Superman? Or Spider-Man? Or Doomsday? No doubt about it. Shared Universes are the order of the day and have been for so long, we've forgotten that not every character was conceived and created under those constraints. 

That's okay. We'll get around to changing them all so everything fits. Still a few rough edges we need to grind off these corporate components, but we've got them in the shop constantly these days. We'll have every unique element ground down to nothing eventually, not to worry. Utter and complete uniformity is within reach, we promise. The fans are gonna love it.


Edited by Brian Hague on 09 April 2018 at 7:39am
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 7:54am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Brian, you do make those quick notes fascinating! :)

RE: Bouncing Boy. It was established that he had learned a sense of ricochets and angles almost equivalent to Cyclops. Let's add a Legion Flight Ring to that... and all of a sudden, BB is taking down bad guys almost as fast as you can watch. Granted, his origin story showed that he proved his worth by beating a villain with an electric aura who couldn't be touched by someone on the ground... but he bounced and beat the guy in mid-air... something a Science Police officer could have done with a flying belt. Well, we were all younger and more innocent back then.

The Legion had a lot of powered members that were useful in one case and not so much in others. Brian, you're right in that some Legionnaires duplicated powers of their races... but the Legionnaires had more than powers. Character, courage, innovativeness, and other aspects count for a lot.

A couple more quick notes on Bouncing Boy... A) He was the (self-appointed) Legion morale officer... a HUGE task for a team of teens that was always fighting. B) In the Elseworld's books "Superboy's Legion", it was indicated that BB was invulnerable to phsical damage. I never saw very much to indicate otherwise in the Silver Age Legion. Yes, Dartalg stung him with a dart... but even if not invulnerable, I'd buy that BB was remarkably resistant to damage.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 8:25am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Brian, your continuity discussion is great also.

ITEM: Wonder Woman (and all amazons) used bullets and bracelets because that was the character design; because it was different than bullets bouncing off her chest (HEY! Clean it up in the back row there! :); and because "nothing less than a bursting shell, etc." was already used.

COULD Wonder Woman stand being shot? I don't ever recall her taking a bullet, so we don't know. (Could Thor take a bullet? The one book that showed it - an issue of Black Panther, as I recall - showed that he could, but the force of the impact could stun him, or knock him out. Um... yeah. Maybe...) I think it matches a similar question - could Wonder Woman fly? She could leap pretty far... but couild she fly. No. Until she did. Until she didn't fly... she rode on air currents. Well, could Superman fly? Could Captain Marvel fly? No... until they did.

In those 40s stories, consistency didn't go a lot further than the same main characters and secret identity. It seemed that a lot of heroes were in Gotham save for Superman - I know that Batman, Green Lantern, the Spectre, and Starman were, among others. Powers were consistent, but added or removed as necessary (e.g., in one story, Starman was able to survive in outer space; in another, he couldn't and nearly asphyxiated.)

Between the DC and All-American division, the vast majority of character interactions were in All-Star (save for covers of World's Finest and Comics Cavalcade - and who counts covers?) Dr. Fate knew Batman, who knew Wonder Woman, who knew Hourman - but as Brian noted, only in those JSA stories.

There were so many versions of Mars, the Moon, Pluto, etc. - all with their own inhabitants, of course - that it seemed as if every character was in their own "universe". That was probably a little loose, I believe.

I think things worked best once the universe became more consistent. Characters did exist in the same world (per the JLA and Teen Titans), but very rarely crossed over... and when they did, it was a special event. (Barry/Jay stories were an event, and so was the annual JLA/JSA crossover.)

A lot of what Brian notes ex post Crises is the problem. Now, continuity still exists - but only in each "era" after a crisis. What's Wonder Woman's real origin? What's Wonder Girl's real origin - or does she even exist? How long has Bruce Wayne had Robin as a sidekick, and how many? Was Hal Jordan an alcoholic? Was Oliver Queen rich?

Too much inspection into fantastic characters. We've gone from nearly total separation of characters to total interaction... and every detail has to be provided from the start.

I think that comics have lost a lot due to the current model... and from their sales, it appears that I might be correct.

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Mike Norris
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 12:05pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Loved dodge ball. Best game ever in elementary school.
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Imagine getting hit by a ball with the mass of a chubby teenaged boy. 

Plus what Brian and Eric S. said. 
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 1:33pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

Thanks, guys. I've wondered for awhile if we're not going to wind up with an Avengers composed mainly if not exclusively of omnipotent cosmic beings equipped with the creme-de-la-creme of Marvel's multiversal weaponry. After all, no one wants a loser on the team, and no creator wants to be the one stuck writing the loser's book. 

So the team will be made up of the Uni-Mind, Ego, Eternity, Infinity, Master Order, Lord Chaos, and the Living Tribunal, each of whom will wear bomber jackets equipped with pouches containing the Cosmic Cube, Serpent Crown, Infinity Gauntlet, Mjolnir, and Gardener's Staff of one nearby parallel continuum or another. Human interest will be provided by Susie Cube, a teenage cosmic cube who's still just figuring out who and what she is and so goes about disguised as an ordinary teenager in Manhattan. This puts her at an extreme disadvantage since fully 70% of Marvel's Manhattan population possesses super-powers, super-weapons, or costumed identities of some sort. 

Oh, and Hawkeye's on the team, of course, but he carries the cosmic bow of the Archer, a hither-unto unrevealed Elder of the Universe, and every arrow he fires is tipped with a sharpened Infinity Gem.

DC will of course try to match this powerhouse array of characters by fielding the Justice League Infinite comprised of Mr. Nebula, the Adjudicator, the Thunderer, Aquarius, Master Summoner, and the Anti-Matter Man. Sales on the book with screech to an abrupt halt and drop below measurable levels since no one knows who any of these characters are. A second book, entitled Justice League Infinity will be launched in hopes of doubling sales, which it will do, bringing the number zero to twice that. Justice League Infinity will star Kismet, Mxyzptlk, Bat-Mite, Allseidz (the High-Father of both Supertown and Apokolips), and the Post-Ascendance Itty. The teenage daughters of the Demons Three will join the team to provide some satanic sex appeal by engaging in sorority-style pillow fights using soft, fluffy-looking elliptical and irregular galaxies as pillows.

The Infinite Man, Infinity Man, Immortal Man, Kid Eternity, and Robby Reed will not be on hand as they will all be busy over in Infinity Inc. 

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 2:00pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

Eric, you make a good point concerning one of DC's main problems with their reboots. Every attempt tries to re-conceptualize not just the basic character, but also their entire past, and serves it up instantly like a microwave pizza. This means that discrepancies and contradictions that would have occurred naturally over time are instead instantly conceived and foisted onto the public all at once, making every reboot a botched makeover from the start. 

The minute the Crisis was over, creators were rushing in to fill in this new continuity's missing history and solve the mystery of who WAS there if now-expurgated character A wasn't. If we're not going to go with the original, silly origin of Super-Horse, what are we going to do with him? Who is the NEW Comet, the Super-Horse? How about Mer-Boy? And Bird-Boy? How can we reclaim every single item from the past we just discarded and bring them all back again, immediately and perfectly in sync with our NEW DC Universe continuity? 

Rather than leaving all that to be determined later and simply telling stories forward, DC was intoxicated by all that open, untrammeled ground BEHIND them now.  After all, anyone can write some cheeseball bank robber with super swimfins or something for Superman to fight this month. If I write the story of how he lost his virginity, then I, and only I, will forevermore be the guy who wrote the story of how Superman Lost His Virginity! The past is far more prestigious and permanent than the mangy ol' malleable present. 

Except no, once too many mistakes pile up, and they pile up quickly under this new model, pfft! Everything goes away and we all start over again! Which is terrific, because I have this really great idea for a story in which Superman Loses His Virginity! For the First Time!!

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Mike Norris
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 7:08pm | IP Logged | 24 post reply

The minute the Crisis was over, creators were rushing in to fill in this new continuity's missing history and solve the mystery of who WAS there if now-expurgated character A wasn't. If we're not going to go with the original, silly origin of Super-Horse, what are we going to do with him? Who is the NEW Comet, the Super-Horse? How about Mer-Boy? And Bird-Boy? How can we reclaim every single item from the past we just discarded and bring them all back again, immediately and perfectly in sync with our NEW DC Universe continuity? 
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I wonder how much of that came from fans constantly asking them those types of questions? I guess JB would know how often some fan as a con would ask about "character X" or "issue XXX" and if they were in continuity. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 09 April 2018 at 8:13pm | IP Logged | 25 post reply

That was creeping rot if ever I saw it. When I started in The Biz, circa 1973, "continuity" was a word that was only just beginning to be heard in the halls of fandom, and then only from the walking wounded out in the border lands. There was no need to ask what was "in continuity," because EVERYTHING was!
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