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Awesome Almanac - A Journey Through The Multiversity Guidebook - Part 3

Another day (Dude, it's been nine freakin' weeks since you did the last one of these!), another fifteen alternate Earths (There's nothing on four of these Earths!  This is a total rip-off, I want my money back...)

Half-hearted apologies for the delay, I've been pretty busy.  I am getting bits and bobs done when I can though, so stay tuned for annotations for *all* of The Multiversity issues I haven't got around to yet (i.e. significantly more than half of them...)

Once again, thanks for all the comments and corrections, and please do keep them coming.  Let me know in your customarily brutal fashion if I've missed anything (else), or got something horribly wrong (again) - you can always reach me on the Twitter, or alternatively you can email me here.

Little bit more that four thousand words this time around on Earths 21 through 35. For anyone keeping score at home that means we've passed 10k words on just the guidebook bit of the Guidebook alone, if you know what I mean.  There's quite a bit to say about the story itself as well so this one's probably going to end up like a Stephen King-esque doorstop.  Anyway, that's all still to come...

Annotations-o!




Earth 21

The Silver Age world first seen in Darwyn Cooke's 2004 series The New Frontier (released around the time DC stopped using the Elseworlds branding so not 'officially' identified as such when it was first published).

Cooke's series concluded with John F. Kennedy's presidential acceptance speech, delivered at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, and the formation of the Justice League (from that same year's Brave and the Bold #28).  Morrison brief world outline moves the story on past Kennedy's assassination in 1963, presumably foiled on this Earth by the intervention of the super-heroes.

Cooke's New Frontier heroes differ only marginally from their mainstream DC Universe counterparts - the main point of difference being that they are active fom the late 50's onwards, the time many of their comics were originally published.  From left to right is Green Lantern Hal Jordan, police scientist Barry Allen, alias The Flash, Wonder Woman, John Henry (based on John Henry Irons, alias Steel, who unlike the rest of these characters wasn't created until the 1990's - Cooke's version draws heavily on the American folk tale of John Henry and not at all on Marvel's Iron Man), and J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter.

As per Darwyn Cooke's notes in the Absolute version of The New Frontier, the Captain Cold of Earth 21, who appeared in The New Frontier #2, was visually based on Grant Morrison himself.


Earth 22

The world of Alex Ross and Mark Waid's Kingdom Come, an Elseworlds vision of the future of the DC Universe first seen in 1996's Kingdom Come #1.

In the front row, from left to right, are Earth 22's counterparts to The Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman (who would later travel to the mainline DC Universe during Geoff Johns interminable 'Thy Kingdom Come' storyline beginning in issue #9 of the 2006 Justice Society of America series and probably still going on), Green Lantern (based on the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott, apparently because Waid and Ross were forbidden by editorial from using the then-dead Hal Jordan and Ross refused to use his replacement Kyle Rayner as he hates the character) and, on the far right, Power Girl.
 
Second row from left to right are Starman (a time-lost take on the Legion of Super Heroes' Starboy created by Otto Binder and George Papp in 1961's Adventure Comics #282), Deadman, Red Robin (who appeared in Kingdom Come with this name and outfit a good ten years before Tim Drake adopted it in the mainline DCU) and Batman.
 
Back row we have Atom Smasher (a grown up version of Infinity Inc.'s teenage hero Nuklon, created by Roy Thomas, Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan in 1983's All-Star Squadron #25, another hero who eventually adopted the costume and name he'd been given in Waid and Ross's series in the regular continuity), Atlas (a one-shot Jack Kirby creation from 1975's First Issue Special #1, he appeared briefly in a one-panel cameo in Kingdom Come before James Robinson re-introduced him as an antagonist for Superman in 2008's Superman #677), and finally, one of Batman's robot drones.
 
The Kingdom Come Earth first received it's Earth 22 designation and recognition as one of DC's official parallel Earths in the closing pages of the weekly 52 series in 2007.

 
Earth 23

First seen in the pages of Final Crisis #7 by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke, Earth 23 also featured in Morrison and Gene Ha's Action Comics #9 in 2012 and in the first bookend issue of The Multiversity.  Home to Kal-L, alias Calvin Ellis, alternately the President of the USA and Superman, this Earth's heroes are predominantly black, inspired by the example set by a black Superman.

From left to right along the back row are Superman; Nubia, Earth 23's Wonder Woman, who also debuted in Final Crisis but was likely inspired by a character created by Robert Kanigher and Don Heck in 1973's Wonder Woman #204; Green Lantern John Stewart, created by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams in 1972's Green Lantern #87; Batman, the token white guy in this Earth's Justice League (likely a joke at the expense of the tokenism apparent in the mainline DCU Justice League, where there's rarely (never?) been more than one black member at any given time); and Steel.

Down front is Vixen, created by Gerry Conway and Bob Oksner in 1978 for an ill-fated and unpublished solo series that fell victim to the DC Implosion (the first issue would eventually see publication in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade - effectively a limited-run bound collection of photocopies 'published' in order to secure copyright).  Vixen finally made her debut proper three years later in 1981's Action Comics #521 and went on to be a long-standing member of the Suicide Squad and, for two separate lengthy stretches, the Justice League of America.

Mentioned but not seen here are Mister Miracle - originally one of Jack Kirby's New Gods, the Earth 23 version is likely based on Morrison's own take on the character from the 2007 Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle mini-series;  Black Lightning, DC's first headline black superhero, created by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden in 1977's Black Lightning #1; and Amazing Man, Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway's World War II-era take on a super-Jesse Owens, who debuted in 1983's All-Star Squadron #23 and would go on to become a mainstay of that team throughout the 1980's.

Though I'm sure Steel being mentioned twice in the Earth description is a typo, it is a bit of an inadvertent damning critique of the depth of DC's roster when it comes to heroes of colour.


Earth 24

The second of seven mystery Earths. 

I've seen some speculation that these Earths have been left blank so as to house the remnants of what's left of DC's previous timelines post-Convergence. Initially I thought that sounded pretty disappointing, but I'm coming to accept that I'll find it disappointing no matter what they fill these Earths with seeing as how Morrison won't be the one deciding.  The series thus far has made it feel like a return to an infinite DC multiverse would be a fairly trivial procedure, so I guess there's no use getting tied up over 'wasted' Earths when there's potentially plenty more just around the corner.


Earth 25

The third of seven mystery Earths.

 
Earth 26

The home of Captain Carrot and his Zoo Crew, first seen in a special preview insert in New Teen Titans #16 in 1982 by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!, and then in their own series, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, which ran for 20 issues through to the end of 1983.  Earth 26 (also known as Earth C pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths), was apparently destroyed at the end of the 2008 mini-series Captain Carrot and the Final Ark by Bill Morrison, Scott Shaw and Phil Winslade, though as we learn here it's bounced back into ship-shape thanks to cartoon physics, with a planet-sized band-aid to mark its previous trauma.

The heroes of Earth 26 are, from left to right, Fastback, a turtle with super-speed powers; American Eagle, created by Geoff Johns and Scott Shaw in 2006's Teen Titans v3 #30; Rubberduck, the Malleable Mallard; Alley-Kat-Abra, who was exposed as a mouse-murderer in Johns' Teen Titans story (it turned out to be her evil twin, Dark Alley); Pig Iron, the superheroic alter-ego of Peter Porkchops, one of DC's Golden Age funny animal characters who first appeared in 1947's Leading Comics #23; Yankee Poodle, whose look, according to the DC Wikia at least, inspired Geoff Johns' Stargirl character; Little Cheese, a size-changing mouse who first appeared in a strip by Scott Shaw in 1983's Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! #12 and was the unfortunate victim in the Alley-Kat-Abra mouse murder debacle; and finally the good Captain himself, alias Rodney (originally Roger) Rabbit.  All of the Zoo Crew except American Eagle and Little Cheese first appeared in the preview strip in New Teen Titans #16 by Thomas and Shaw.

After Earth 26 was presumed destroyed, the Zoo Crew ended up on the mainline DC Earth, devolved into regular animals with no superpowers.  This frankly depressing state of affairs was course-corrected by Grant Morrison in the last issue of Final Crisis, when, as part of the multiversal cavalry summoned to tackle Mandrakk at the series conclusion, Nix Uotan restored the Zoo Crew to their rightful majesty.


Earth 27

The fourth of seven mystery Earths..

 
Earth 28

The fifth of seven mystery Earths..


Earth 29

Bizarro World, alias Htrae, first appeared in 1960's Action Comics #263 by Otto Binder and Wayne Boring.  Originally created by Bizarro himself using the same Duplicator Ray that had brought him into existence, Bizzaro World housed imperfect duplicates of the whole of Superman's supporting cast and, eventually, similarly cracked takes on a cavalcade of DC heroes and villains too.

From left to right are Bizarro versions of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman, The Flash, Batman and the Martian Manhunter (on this Earth a Sramian Snitch).  Mentioned but not seen are Bizarro duplicates of Rann's Adam Strange, Thanagar's Hawkman and Oa's Guardians of the Universe.

Morrison's own take on Bizarro World was featured in two issues of All-Star Superman back in 2008.  For a brief time in the early 00's, DC managed to get some really great alt-comix creators on board to do stories under the Bizarro Comics banner, but sadly those days now seem to have long passed.  I'd also massively recommend Tom Peyer and Kevin O'Neill's Bizarro World story from the 1998 Adventure Comics 80-Page Giant, never reprinted but conveniently scanned and uploaded onto these here internets for your reading pleasure.


Earth 30


Originally seen in the 2003 Elseworlds series Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett, questions have long been asked over how much of Earth 30 can be attributed to Morrison himself given his position as Millar's writing guru when it was written in the late 90's, and the distinctly un-Millar like tone of much of the plot.

For my money I'd guess that Morrison's involvement in Red Son was significant both in the plotting and to a lesser degree in the scripting (Millar has publicly conceded in the past that the series finale was indeed written by Morrison, but I'd hazard a guess that much of the caption work was at the very least Morrison-inspired as well).  The final product does, in many places, bear many unmistakable hallmarks of a pre-Authority Millar though, so at best it's probably an uncredited collaboration rather than an outright case of ghost writing.  Whichever way, Red Son is undoubtedly well worth a read, which isn't a recommendation you'll hear from me on many of Millar's solo credits...

Pictured here from left to right we have Earth 30's version of The Flash (who didn't appear in Red Son and makes his debut here); Brainiac (with a look that heavily draws upon Ed Hannigan's 1980's design); Batman (who's characterisation on this world owes a great deal to Alan Moore's V for Vendetta); Superman; Bizarro; Wonder Woman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan.  All bar the Flash first appeared in the Red Son series.  Red Son Superman would go on to appear in the execrable Countdown: Arena mini-series from 2008, and is also due to appear in the upcoming Convergence series.


Earth 31

Originally seen in Frank Miller's 1986 Dark Knight Returns, Earth 31 is the libertarian fascist-porno setting for much of Miller's DC output, from All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder to...

Oh, hang on a minute.  Looks like Miller's DKR world (probably with art by frequent Frank the Tank collaborator Klaus Janson, who was prominently featured in the solicit for this issue but doesn't feature in it) got pulled at the last minute.  Maybe something to do with DC trying to get Miller back on board for Dark Knight 3?  Frank's previous comments on the shared continuity of super hero universes - "Continuity is the hobgoblin of small minds" - would suggest he's probably not much of a fan of this sort of endeavor, though Keith Champagne did manage to sneakily include Dark Knight Returns Superman in Countdown: Arena back in 2007.  The world icon for Earth 31 (which was indeed Dark Knight Returns Earth in Arena) sure looks like it's covered in 'Frank Miller-style scratchy lines' that Morrison mentioned back when the map was unveiled at Comic Con too.  But we'll have no more of that now.  You'll just have to think of something else...
 
Pirates!
 
Captain Leatherwing and his swarthy compatriots first appeared in 1994's Detective Comics Annual #7 by Chuck Dixon and Enrique Alcatena. part of that year's Elseworlds-themed Annual event.  Initially I thought this apparently minor Elseworld might have gotten the nod to replace DKR over something more substantial by virtue of Chuck Dixon's herculean efforts during Morrison's DC One Million event in 1998.  Dixon wrote 4 of the tie-ins - Detective Comics, Nightwing, Robin and Green Arrow - all of which appeared in the same month.  Dixon's long tenure at DC in the 90's also placed him high in the Premier League of most prolific scripters at the company - at one point only Robert Kanigher had more scripted pages for DC to his name.  Consequently his Batman efforts are referenced often during Morrison's run, most obviously when the League of Assassins pop up in the second volume of Batman Incorporated - probably 75% of the assassins featured are Dixon creations or co-creations.
 
However, what I'd failed to take into account was artist Alcatena, who not only co-created (with Dixon) Argentinian heroes Cimarron and the Super Malon and re-introduced the Gaucho in 2000's Flash Annual #13 (all of whom featured in Morrison's Batman Incorporated), but also drew four of Morrison's Starblazer digest strips for DC Thompson way back in the early 1980's - the first of Morrison's pro-work that he didn't draw himself.  From Alcatena's website -
 
Though I was allowed great artistic freedom, the drawback was that the stories were published without credits, which was quite common in olden days. Thus it was that it was only many years afterwards that I learnt that I had worked with great writers like Mike Chinn, Martin Gately and a very young Grant Morrison before he became world-famous (his run on Doom Patrol and the impressive Invisibles remain some of my all-time favourites), and others who unfortunately I don’t recall. I have a special attachment for the work I did for Thomson, as it enabled me to develop as a fantasy illustrator.

 
I think I'd much prefer to regard Leatherwing's inclusion as a hat-tip to Dixon and Alcatena rather than as a desperate editorial scramble to replace Earth Miller when the powers that be decided it was off-limits.
 
Capitana Felina (alias Contessa Maria Conseula Esperanza Fortuna Domingo DeSantis, this Earth's version of Catwoman) and Captain Leatherwing are front and centre and the only Earth 31 residents shown here who appeared in the original Leatherwing story (alongside Robin Redblade, who's mentioned but doesn't appear here - he does feature on Aaron Kuder's Earth 31 variant cover for Mastermen though). 

Though Dixon and Alcatena's Leatherwing tale is obviously the main inspiration here, I think the post-Apocalyptic tone of the description is meant to suggest the far-future 'Dead Earth' setting first seen in the 1994 Elseworlds annuals and later expanded on in the 'Legends of the Dead Earth' series that spanned across DC's 1996 annuals.  Also, Earth 31's Superman at far left looks to be a similar character as the one seen in Action Comics Annual #6 by John Byrne, an Elseworlds tale set during the American Revolutionary War with Superman on the side of the British. 

The Green Lantern analogue next to Superman looks familiar but I can't quite place him.  He could be inspired by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy's 2001 Elseworlds mini, Green Lantern: Dragon Lord, where a monk in 7th century feudal China gains the power of the Green Lantern, but really there's very little visually in common between the two. Next to Green Lantern is a steampunk pirate take on Cyborg, who I'm pretty sure is a new character.  He also appears on Kuder's Mastermen cover alongside Robin Redblade.  Similarly, I don't think that viking Aquaman next to him has appeared anywhere prior to this either.  Finally, pirate Wonder Woman on the far right also looks familiar, but yet again I couldn't tell you where from.  If by some cruel quirk of fate anyone out there has actually read all of the 1994 Elseworlds annuals or all (any?) of 'Legends of the Dead Earth' and some of these guys are from there, please do let me know.


Earth 32

An Earth of mash-up superheroes loosely based on Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham's Batman: In Darkest Night Elseworlds one-shot from 1994.  In that book most of Earth's heroes ended up joining Bruce Wayne as Green Lanterns, but here they've all been smooshed together with one of their Justice League compatriots.  Black Arrow is Green Arrow/Black Canary, Wonderhawk is Wonder Woman/Hawkgirl, Aquaflash is Aquaman/The Flash and Super-Martian is Superman/the Martian Manhunter. 

All of the Earth 32 characters bar Bat-Lantern (who looks identical to his In Darkest Night predecessor) make their debut here, created by Morrison with costumes designed by artist Todd Nauck.

 
Earth 33

Our Earth, originally called Earth Prime in the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe, was first seen inside the pages of a DC Comic in 1968's The Flash #179 by Cary Bates and Ross Andru.  Numerous DC heroes would pay a visit over the years, often interacting with real-life DC staffers, most often editor Julius Schwartz.  In an interview given about Seven Soldiers, Morrison named the Seven Unknown Men of Slaughter Swamp as the various DC writers and artists like Schwartz who'd appeared as characters within the comics themselves (including himself, thanks to his star-turn in the last issue of Animal Man).

Earth Prime got it's own super-hero, Ultraa, in 1978's Justice League of America #153 by Gerry Conway and George Tuska, though the Justice League eventually unilaterally decided that we 'weren't ready' for our own super-folks and whisked Ultraa away to imprison him back on Earth-1.  The powers-that-be decided that Earth Prime, like many of DC's more outre concepts from the Golden and Silver Ages, was a step too far for the Post-Crisis DC Comics Aren't Just For Kids Universe and erased Earth Prime from the continuity.  Ultraa himslef suffered a particularly ignominious fate, killed off in the biography section of his Who's Who entry.  He wasn't seen again until Kevin Dooley and Greg LaRocque rebooted him as an alien beefcake love-rival for Superman in the pages of 1993's Justice League Quarterly #13.
 
Geoff Johns would later bring back an obscure one-shot Earth Prime version of Superboy - who first appeared in 'The Last Earth Prime Story' by Eliot S. Maggin and Curt Swan from 1985's DC Comics Presents #87 and featured briefly in the back end of Crisis on Infinite Earths itself - in 2005's line-wide Infinite Crisis crossover.  Superboy Prime (or Superman Prime as he was swiftly renamed following complications over the ownership of Superboy arising from a lawsuit against DC by Jerry Seigel's family) was reframed as an entitled brat who wanted to remake the DC Universe exactly how he thought it should be and damn the consquences - a weak sauce satire based on Johns' unflattering perception of certain elements of comics fandom.  The character rapidly escalated from whiny annoyance to universe-obliterating maniac over the next year or so, destroying the Earth 15 universe in the pages of Countdown to Final Crisis (a plot point almost unbelievably referenced as still in-canon in this issue's entry for that Earth) before returning in various Johns' comics over the next few years, including 2008's Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds and Blackest Night.  He was finally imprisoned within the Source Wall in 2011's Teen Titans v3 #100 by J.T. Krul and Nicola Scottreleased the month before DC's New 52 relaunch.
 
Earth 33 is the setting for the upcoming The Multiversity: Ultra Comics one-shot. 



Earth 34

Earth 34 is a pastiche of Kurt Busiek's Astro City, the long-running creator owned series first seen in 1995's Astro City #1, published by Image Comics.  The series would later move to Wildstorm (originally a part of Image but bought by DC in 1999) and is currently published by DC's Vertigo imprint.  Astro City is itself, in many ways, a pastiche of the Silver Age DC and Marvel Universes.

In The Just, Batman notes that one of Offspring's comics was published by 'Spire Comics out of Cosmoville', a city that doesn't exist on Earth 16.  Cosmoville is a pretty obvious allusion to Astro City (though to be fair to us jobbing annotators, nobody suspected there would be an Astro City Earth at that point) but I'm still not sure what Spire Comics is supposed to be referencing - it seems like it would be a better fit for the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents pastiche Earth 39, given their original publisher was Tower Comics.

The Light Brigade as this Earth's Justice League plays on the name of the premier super-group in the Astro City universe, the Honor Guard.   From left to right the Light Brigade are Mister Motley, an analogue of Astro City's clown themed vigilante Jack-in-the-Box; Ghostman, a version of the ghostly Hanged Man; Cutie, analogous to the android crimefighter Beautie; Radman... I got nuthin', let me know if you do; front and centre is Savior, an analogue of Astro City's Samaritan (who himself is analogous to Superman); behind him is Goodfellow, a version of The Gentleman, a kind of be-suited Hulk figure; Herculina is Earth 34's take on Astro City's Winged Victory and obviously a Wonder Woman stand-in; Stingray, the Batman of Earth 16, isn't based on an Astro City character and in fact first appeared (in one panel) in a short What If?-style tale from 1974's Batman #256 by Marty Pasko and Pat Broderick; and finally on the far right, this Earth's version of the Flash, Formula-1, is based on Astro City's M.P.H., the Acceleration Ace.

All of the Astro City originals were created by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross.  The Earth 34 characters are all Grant Morrison and Jeff Johnson "originals", and make their debut here.
 
Like other writers and artists whose creator-owned works formed the basis for some of these parallell earths, Kurt Busiek seemed slightly conflicted at thinly-veiled versions of his characters appearing in a work-for-hire DC book.  On the Comic Book Resources message board he gave Morrison a cautious blessing for Earth 34 as a one-off joke, but noted that he'd be pretty unhappy if DC tried to launch a series based on these characters given they tread so firmly on Astro City's toes.



Earth 35

Like Earth 34, Earth 35 is explicitly based on characters owned by another comic company (in this case Rob Liefeld's, whatever it's called this week) that themselves drew heavily on their DC Universe counterparts in the first place.  In this case it's the universe of Image Comics' Supreme; or very specifically the Silver Age Superman pastiche comics of Alan Moore's run on the title from 1996 to 1998.

Moore's Supreme was itself a very self-reflexive, 'meta' work so the convoluted description that marks this universe out as significantly different amongst the others seems fitting.

The Justice League analogue in Moore's comics was the Allied Supermen of America; here they become the Super-Americans.  From left to right they are Starcop, this universe's version of the Martian Manhunter, who (I think) is represented in Moore's run by a guy called Spacehunter; Mercury-Man, this Earth's Flash and the equivalent to Supreme's original Doc Rocket; Miss X, who look like she might be analogous to the Allied Supermen's Alley Cat; Morphin' Man, who I think corresponds to Polyman, a a Plastic Man-type hero and very minor player in Moore's story; Majesty - Queen of Venus, who looks pretty much exactly like Supreme's half-Amazon half-demon princess Glory; and Olympian, who I think is supposed to correspond to Shaft from Youngblood (himself a thinly disguised version of DC's Speedy) - weirdly if he *is* supposed to be Shaft then that means there are two separate stand-ins for this sub-par Rob Liefeld character on two separate Earths, as there's another one on Earth 41!
 
Next to Olympian is Supremo/Supreme himself, who made his first very brief appearance as part of the Multiversal Superman Army in the last issue of Final Crisis, back in 2008.  Finally, next to him is The Owl, who manages to be both another character from Pasko and Broderick's 'If Bruce Wayne Had Not Become the Batman' strip from Batman #256 (like Stingray from Earth 35), *and* a pretty on the nose stand in for Moore's own Batman analogue from his Supreme run, Professor Night.  Bravo sir.

Rob Liefeld contends that Moore's ABC Comics line (Tom Strong, Promethea, Top Ten and the associated one-shots and anthologies) drew heavily on script materials originally intended for the Liefeld-verse titles before the two fell out.  Maybe that goes some way to explaining why ABC (which is owned outright by DC Comics thanks to their 1999 buy-out of Wildstorm) doesn't appear here as part of the Multiverse, though given the strained (to say the least) relationship between Moore and Morrison there may well be other reasons involved...

Supreme, Glory and Shaft were created by Rob Liefeld.  The rest of the Allied Supermen of America were created by Alan Moore and artist Joe Bennett.  The Earth 35 versions were all created by Grant Morrison, Camunc Ii "& Friend" (?) and make their first (and likely last for the most part) appearance here.

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How many Earths to go now?  Are we nearly there yet?

More soon(ish)

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