Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Crisis On Marvel Earths?

Okay, here's a question that popped into my head after discussing Secret Invasion #1 with the bf this morning:

Is there a "1970s" in the Marvel Universe?

To recap, at the end of Secret Invasion #1 (SPOILERS to the three people who may not know) a whole bunch of what we would term "Seventies" superheroes come out of a ship and confront their modern-day counterparts. These are versions of Marvel superheroes from the 1970s (for the most part).

We could also, for the sake of this discussion, call them "Bronze Age" superheroes (which actually covers the heroes up to the mid-1980s).

Now, to us -- or rather, to the comic fan who knows all this stuff -- what we see come out of the ship are Bronze Age heroes from the 70s and early 80s.

But in the Marvel Universe, in terms of (wait for it...) continuity, these characters are not from that time period. Marvel time moves slower, no? Peter Parker was not a teenager over 40 years ago -- we're talking more like several years ago, ten years tops (please correct me at any point on this, I'm not an expert).

So we see some of these "returnees" wear 1970s-style hair and outfits, but they were not actually from the time period, they were from a handful of years ago.

However -- am I making a lot of assumptions, here?

Could these characters actually be from another "universe" or time period?

And if we get into that -- are we talking about multiple earths or timestreams?

I realize this is pretty far-fetched, but I'm just asking...

The one thing I like about the DC Universe was that they recognized various "eras" in comic book history as having existed, by using the "multiple earths" gimmick. Whereas with Marvel, you have more of a delayed-time thing.

I mean, what if you really had an Earth -- Earth M.M.M.S., for instance -- where the continuity from 1960s Marvel really existed? (and there might be ones like this from Spider-Girl, etc).

What if you had multiple versions of Spider-Man confronting each other?

If you had to take Wolverine from the 70s, 90s, and today, which one would you pick as the Wolverine? Which one would win in a battle of the ultimate Wolverine?

Speaking of "ultimate" -- what if at some point you say the Ultimate Universe is a genuine separate universe, and you had the characters from there confront their Marvel U. counterparts?

I'm not saying Secret Invasion is going to go down this path AT ALL.

But I will say that it's always been a fangeek dream of mine to see a "Crisis on Infinite Earths" treatment of the Marvel U.

(okay, there is the whole other debate as to whether catering to fangeek dreams like mine reels in the new readers. let me put this on hold while I geekdream)


  1. Anonymous1:34 PM

    There was a Fantastic Four Annual from oh... at least a decade ago (which I guess is "months ago" in Marvel's sliding time scale) where the Thing visited a dimension where the Fantastic Four did start in 1961. The modern Thing noted that he and Reed would have been old enough to have fought in WWII (referencing a now discarded bit of continuity). So, there is a precedent for it.

    But I think in the Marvel Universe, heroes are just said to favour retro-fashion in their early days. They've never done a Dr. Hibbert with the Luke Cage flashbacks to update his look for the sliding time scale.

    Of course, a Crisis would explain One More Day. Actually, Mephisto just employed Superboy-Prime to do his reality-altering dirty work.


  2. The sliding timeline is what resulted in Marvel: The Lost Generation a few years back by Byrne & Stern. Problem is that this is probably out of date now thanks to that sliding...

    Anyway the way I figure it,there was a 1970s but aside from Frank Castle and a few other long-lived guys like Fury, there weren't any superheroes. I kind of like the idea of a 1970's 'verse, though...

    ...although are any superhero costumes ever really in fashion?

  3. The Ultimate Universe is part of the multiverse. An issue of Exiles shows it as an alternate reality, and Marvel Zombies and the Ultimate Universe are connected. Plus, I could swear they gave the Ultimate Universe and the Supreme Power universe multiversal numbers at some point.

    While the different era/different time idea is interesting, I don't believe continuity has changed since the 60s, with minor retcons here and there. The sliding timescale takes care of most everything. There's always a war for Tony Stark or Ben Grimm to be involved in, for instance, the specific years and presidents used in comics don't really matter in the grand scheme of things; they're just minor details in the plot.

  4. So in about ten more years there may not have ever been a 90's in teh Marvel universe...

    This kind of thing I guess only works if you never think about it, so maybe its a bad idea to even acknowledge the older costumes in a current book?

  5. Honestly, on just that cover, the only costumes that really scream 70s are Cage's and Marvel's. You COULD say Wonder Man's is as well, but given that he recently brought that back as a retro style, it ends up kinda moot.

    In terms of the sliding timeline, I think the classic costumes are used out of affection by the creators and as an Easter Egg of sorts to fans. I mean, how many runs have happened in the last two decades where a character reverts to an older style? Spidey got his black suit back, Iron Man just downgraded armors... Also, how many fans who have read for a while get a little thrill when they see their favorite hero go back to a look they remember fondly, or was their favorite?

    To abate confusion like what you've stated, within the constraints of the sliding timeline creators could, theoretically, modify the older designs to remove any dated elements from them while keeping the same overall basic style to create a new retro (oxymoron alert) style. Like, maybe make Cage's shirt less Disco and more Homeboy.

    Although your multiple reality per decade idea would be an interesting one to explore, that just opens far too many floodgates. It's one thing when DC takes advantage of that to do an Elseworlds mini here and there, but then they start to get a bit crazy with crossover after crossover after crossover. How many Supermen are running around the DCU at this very moment? Earth-1, Earth-Prime and Kingdom Come. It gets a little nuts after a while.

  6. Anonymous3:40 PM

    One weird aspects is that Marvel time didn't slow down for a few years.

    Peter Parker moves through high school in publishing time. If a Ditko-era villain is out of the comic for a year, his return appearance says that he is in jail for a year. The early FF works the same way.

    You can't move Peter through two years of high school in 5 months. (Well, maybe Peter. But I doubt Flash Thompson would have skipped through high school.) That means the early issues can't be squeezed together in a compressed timeline. If Spider-Man has been in action for 10 years in current continuity, then the first 36 issues take up three years of that history. And the other 500-odd issues of Amazing plus all the spinoffs get squeezed into the last 7 years of Spider-Man's career.


  7. Somebody mentioned Exiles -- it's based on the concept of multiple Marvel universes. How'd the "primary" 'verse get tagged 616, anyway?

  8. Anonymous3:55 PM

    Alan Moore established 616 in a multi-universe story in Captain Britain. It's a response to Earth-1 and Earth-2. It says that the Marvel Universe is just one of many not the primary universe. (DC Universes are far more self-important with their numbering.)

    As for why 616, I've heard various theories. Like that as FF #1 was published in 1961, 616 means June 1961. Or that 616 is in some Biblical translations, the Number of the Beast rather than 666.

    But I think the standard answer seems to be 616 was just a suitably high number chosen at random. (Although it wouldn't surprise me if there was some kind of rational to that particular number at the time. But it was only a minor joke which has become forgotten.)


  9. Anonymous4:37 PM

    This is the Earth from the Fantastic Four annual where the FF still premiered in 1961 and aged in real time. (It diverges from Marvel continuity in 1973.)


  10. My head just exploded. I wonder if this convoluted time thing could be cured by having the Ultimate universe replace the regular Marvel universe, that does seem to be the perfect solution to all of Marvel's other problems, why not this one?

  11. as a boy in the late sixties early seventies i loved the earth one earth two stuff and the annual team up of the jla, jsa was the highlight of the year for me...but the thing was is that both the jla and jsa went by the rule of those simpler times in that superheros always stayed the same age, so the jsa were the same age as the jla....until on about the fifth or so team up that had a grown up robin okay if you then think the jsa originally stopped being published in the early fifties and the jla started in the late fifties then a ten year age difference is acceptable, except that other than the grown up robin the rest all still seemed to be the same age as the jla after that...i remember that classic neal adams cover of the two supermen fighting a few years later and they were fact that team up was the one where black canary left earth two and came to earth one and then started hanging out with green lantern and green arrow...and age wise she was no way ten years older.......
    then allstars appeared and suddenly the jsa became slightly older...fifty maybe mixing with the younger earth two heros that came along power girl huntress etc....but then after that roy thomas came along with allstar squad and nail the jsa to the second world war period....a riduclous idea because at the same time the jla were not then nailed to 1960 and black canary who would was by this concept in her sixties by now and yet still looking 27 or whatever.....
    then the crisis came along and trashed the whole multiple earth thing and left nothing but confusion in its wake. so now the jsa were the ww2 era heroes of the remaing earth and yet they had to get round the fact that this would now place them in their late sixties and every year the clock is ticking....

    i was younger than robin when i first started reading comics now im older that batman by a good fifteen years.......

  12. stephen - Heh heh,that's what DC thought in the early silver age too!

  13. Stephen: ...Because Jeph Loeb is writing the Ultimates, is why.


    I always thought that Marvel's main point of difference for its 616-Verse was that they didn't do massive Crisis-level retcons every fourth quarter to boost the share price.

    My usual reader reaction to these sorts of timeline questions is: "Its comics!" or "If its good enough, I won't think too hard about it." I love playing off of prior continuity for a story, but the continuity should serve the story (I feel, anyway,) and not vice versa. Grant Morrison says that all of Batman's golden-age appearances are still canon? Great! Make me care about it by giving me a good story!

    Also, as much as I love "the very fabric of reality is in jeapordy!" as a plot, it is kinda lame and overplayed now. Marvel doesn't need a crisis or a soft reboot. They just need to tell me some good stories.

  14. Thank you! I've been wondering this for a long time: whatever happened to the Silver Age? Due to the "sliding ten year time scale" both DC and Marvel use, we have to imagine that there are heroes in the 30's and 40's and then nothing whatsoever for the next fifty years (except for a few half-hearted attempts to fill in the gaps). And this leads us to silliness that Golden Age heroes having children who are in the 20's and 30's and grandchildren who are teenagers.

  15. Okay, I don't actually know this, but I feel like Marvel spends a lot of time "fudging" time. So, questions like "How long have the Fantastic Four been active" and how long ago was Peter Parker at Empire State University?" aren't really the question except in relation to each other (When Peter Parker was at ESU, the Fantastic Four were active, hell, they were active when he got his powers since he went to see them almost immediately). So, is there a '70s Marvel Universe, as someone said, maybe for fans-- of which I would say Bendis definately counts himself. But as for the question of how long these heroes have been missing, I think the answer will be "Since the Kree/Skrull War." But I doubt anyone will be like, "Is Ford still president?"

  16. As for why 616, I've heard various theories. Like that as FF #1 was published in 1961, 616 means June 1961. Or that 616 is in some Biblical translations, the Number of the Beast rather than 666.

    Given that Alan Moore established that numbering, and given his well-established occult creds, I can't imagine that there wasn't a very intentional, very silent meaning there.

    Or maybe he was just a closet Hank McCoy fan and thus 616 is the"Number of (the Earth with the) Beast"?

    As for parallel Earth with characters from different decades, Claremont's Genext series is finally starting in another month or two -- a couple years after it was first announced -- and it features the kids and grandkids of the early 1960s X-Men, as though real time aging had occurred.

    (I'm sure there will be a crossover with Exiles within a year. May it make more sense than X-Men: Die By the Sword did.)

  17. Valerie, you seem to be assuming that there are enough conflicting “versions” of Marvel characters to justify a storyline that would exist solely for the purpose of resolving the conflicts. That’s not the case. Differences in interpretation and costuming don’t automatically create different versions; invalid retcons can be separated from the valid storylines. I’ve seen fans review Spider-Man’s history online; they don’t talk about versions of the character; rather, they talk about his good, bad, and terrible storylines, and the married vs. unmarried hero. I’d argue that a version of a character is created only when basic elements (name, basic personality, history, family ties) change.

    BTW, the passage of time and the non-aging of characters can be rationalized by assuming that deities, such as Ikonn, can influence events and perceptions. Whether one wants to think that a “real” physical self is aging while the external projection does not, or that Ikonn actually prevents characters from aging and alters their perceptions of time, order can be brought to the Marvel Universe without explicitly modifying the framework.