Monday, November 07, 2005


Mainline Sequence
Apex Digest Online - November 2005

Mainstream Superhero comic literature has always dabbled with alternate reality editions and storylines. Memorable examples include Bizarro Superman, who rules a cube-shaped world full of distorted Superman and Lois Lane duplicates, and the original Justice Society of America/Justice League of America team-up in issues 100-102 (Aug-Oct 1972) of Justice Society of America.

The tendency of comic mainstays to be reinvented or re-examined through alternative reality 'what if' scenarios has spawned an entire sub-genre of slipstream lines such as the DC 'Elseworlds' series. The various titles in the series provide a platform for examining characters through different lenses, and exploring possibilities that could never make it into the 'prime reality' storyline. Perhaps one of the more interesting 'what if' stories in that series is Mike Barr's "Batman: In Darkest Knight" title illustrated by Jerry Bingham, wherein Bruce Wayne, instead of Hal Jordan, becomes the Green Lantern for the space sector including Earth.

Keep in mind that the real Green Lantern's power ring is only limited by the will power of the wielder. Remember also that the real Batman has no 'super' hero powers, and is sustained and made mighty through the exercise of his will power. What do you get if you put those two ideas together? The Green Lantern creed is "In brightest day, in darkest night".

They didn't name the book "Batman: In Brightest Day".

'Nuff said.

The slipstream movement is not limited to DC titles. Marvel have an excellent series out (available in a trade paperback collection) called "Exiles". A group of six characters from various marvel titles have been sent on missions through the multiverse to correct timestream errors in each of those realities. Once each mission completes, the group move on to the next mission. Dead members of the group are immediately replaced.

The cool thing about the series is not the ongoing plot (which becomes somewhat of a background) but rather the opportunity to see well known characters in roles utterly unlike those more well known to us. Wolverine is sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain, and in one arc he is the crippled inheritor of Charles Xavier's role as director of the institute for training young mutants.

The alternate reality setting allows the various writers to have a field day with no holds barred. Earth gets wiped out several times, main characters die off like flies, chaos, mayhem, and lots of soul-searching about what it means to be a super hero ensues.

Slipstream print literature tends to be Philip-Jose-Farmer intense, or Robert-Heinlein dumb. In comics, however, it has a rich tradition and most importantly... it's fun.

'Nuff said.


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