Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Earth-N - National Monument

Before I played RPGs, I read comics.

Actually, before I could read, I read comics.

Mostly I looked at the pictures of course but the point is I was aware of comic books and superheroes from a very, very young age.

My uncle worked for a magazine and newspaper distributor and among the periodicals they handled were MAD Magazine and DC Comics. This meant I occasionally received free comics from the older gentlemen at the office who gave them to my cousin and I so we'd stop horsing around (translation: So he would quit pinning me with wrestling moves and his superior size, mass and age).

While my cousin was only interested in horror and war comics and even then for no more then a few minutes at best, I was more than willing to settle into a chair at one of the big desks and look at issue after issue of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, reprints of Justice Society of America and anything else with a masked man or caped crusader.

Fast forward to my Junior High School and High School years and for a kid my age, I had quite an extensive knowledge of comic book heroes and villains who came out well before my time. I was also a fan of the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Earth-2 comics, where many of those old characters still faced off against each other.

When I originally conceived of Earth-N, I wanted it to be a tribute to those old comics and stories and to the Golden Age/Earth-2 characters I love so much. As such, several ideas went into Earth-N's creation...

The first idea was, "What if, in the real world, National Comics never became DC Comics." That is, what if the feel of modern DC Comics was a direct evolution of the period when National Comics Publications purchased All-American Publications and stayed in the somewhat zany, anything goes state that allowed for Ace The Bathound, the original Batwoman and Bat-Girl, a Superpowered Lois Lane and all the other wild stories that kept DC going between the Golden Age and the Silver Age.





Strangely, while many attribute these types of stories to the gonzo Silver Age, most of them were written prior to 1956, the "offical" if somewhat incorrectly identified*, dawn of the Silver Age age (marked by the first appearance of the Barry Allen Flash).

 


Second, I imagined a National/DC Universe where no reboots ever took place. Things just continued, mildly updated and advanced through the years. For example, there is no Green Lantern Corps on Earth-N. Alan Scott was the one and only Green Lantern, a magical character whose ring and lantern were made from a glowing green meteor that fell to Earth thousands of years ago. Instead of a new story and new take on Green Lantern in Showcase #22 (Oct. 1959), Alan Scott remains active, assisted my his children later on, until he eventually passes on his ring and lantern to another.

In some ways this would resemble parts of the John Byrne series, Superman/Batman Generations, where each hero first appeared in the continuity in the year of their first comic book appearance. Each character then continues on from there, growing older, having kids, retiring and even dying.





Lastly, I wanted to include the 'darkness behind the light' used to great effect in the graphic novel The Golden Age and in the landmark DC series' Kingdom Come and Watchmen. I have described this world to friends and potential players as 'Brighter on it's surface, dirtier below it" then what most people think of when they think of DC Comics (pre-the current reboot).


Specific details are forthcoming so check back next issue!

As always, the letter's page is always open for your questions and comments (say something for Fate's sake!).



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Barking Alien




*While nearly every source identifies the DC Showcase #4 issue introducing the "new" Flash (Barry Allen) as the start of the Silver Age, some disagree and believe it really started a year earlier.

Detective Comics #225 (Nov. 1955) introduced J'onn J'onzz, The Martian Manhunter, an alien cop brought to Earth accidentally by the teleporting, extradimensional beam of a scientist named Dr. Erdel. The idea of an alien good guy, the transporter beam and many of the other elements of the story, while not unheard of in the Golden Age of Comics are certain much more Silver Age in feel. Therefore, like a few other scholars of Comic Book History (not that I feel I am one per se), I believe that the Martian Manhunter is the first Silver Age Superhero and it is his appearance that begins the Silver Age.




6 comments:

  1. Love it. I was just looking at my old comic book collection - lots of Superman's GF Lois Lane, World's Finest - good stuff.

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  2. I've never heard the idea that Martian Manhunter was the first Silver Age hero. Not that I'm doubting you or anything. I'll have to read into that one.
    Come to think of it, why is the reintroduction of a Flash character considered the start of the Silver Age anyway? Did DC characters start crossing over into each other's titles or something?

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  3. why is the reintroduction of a Flash character considered the start of the Silver Age anyway?

    I think it's because he was the first of the second-generation superheroes. It's arbitrary, but that's superhero comics for you.

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  4. "why is the reintroduction of a Flash character considered the start of the Silver Age anyway?"

    Kelvingreen has it right but there is a bit more to it.

    Barry Allen is the second generation Flash but in 'continuity' he's not. There was never a Flash before him according to DC Showcase #4. The original Flash, Jay Garrick, was a comic book character who Barry Allen liked and whose name he took when Barry obtained the power of superspeed (Which begs the question of why Barry Allen wasn't sued in the comic universe by the publisher who held the rights to the original Flash. After all, National/DC sued anyone who had a character that remotely sounded like Superman from a distance in heavy rain).

    Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Ray Palmer are not the second generation Flash, Green Lantern and Atom respectively, they are the First of a new generation of heroes.

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  5. @Nemo235 - The idea of Martian Manhunter being the first Silver Age hero is not a very popular one but it made the rounds of comic book magazines, books and websites some years back.

    I believe I first read it in an interview with Golden and Silver Age afficionado and artist extrordinaire Alex Ross.

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  6. Still curious about the darkness part...

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