Monday, August 29, 2011

Earth-Two's Company

Great news came from the convention circuit this week: DC has confirmed that the Justice Society of America will be returning to the DC lineup in the near future, courtesy of writer James Robinson--and they've confirmed that it will be set in Earth-Two.

Now for those of you who don't read comics (what's wrong with you?...) or don't read DC comics (what's wrong with you?...), Earth 2 was a concept introduced into the DC comics line in 1961, when the Barry Allen Flash of the DC Universe crossed over into the world that was home to Jay Garrick, the Flash whose comic book exploits Barry Allen had read about prior to his gaining his super-speed powers. This Flash existed in a different vibratory plane, an alternate universe that DC referred to as Earth-2 (although I agree with my pal Ed Thomas that it really should have been called Earth-1, since it was the first DC Earth).

I presume that this means that there will be a world in which the Golden Age heroes exist, even though in the new DC relaunch, there were no Golden Age heroes in the DCU. Superman made his first super-powered appearance five or six years ago, according to the revamped DC continuity, so that means that there wasn't even a Superman at any point in the 20th Century!

As far as I'm concerned, the return of the JSA and of Earth-2 is perhaps the best news to come out of this relaunch. When the two Earths became conflated in the aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Golden Age heroes lost the distinctive qualities that defined them. These heroes worked best when they existed in a world based on the Golden Age values, drawn from the Golden Age stories. This universe should have its own Batman, its own Superman, its own Wonder Woman--and these characters should reflect the Golden Age values and ideals that defined them when they originally appeared. Trying to fold them into the current DCU removed the most striking elements of that continuity.

What I'd love to see them do is to take the Earth-2 concept one step further: in the world of Earth-2, contemporary time should be the 1940s, the era of WWII and the Hitlerian menace. There's no reason it has to be 2011 in both Earth-1 and Earth-2; if they exist in different realities, their timelines can be skewed slightly, too, so that it is 2011 in Earth-1 at the same time it's 1943 in Earth-2. Don't present the JSA and the Golden Age heroes as old men and women who did heroic things seventy years ago; likewise, don't present their WW2 exploits as the past adventures of much older heroes. Instead, make it clear that the war era is the here-and-now for these heroes. Their Golden Age adventures now become the norm, not the antiquated framework upon which a series of new adventures can be built.

Furthermore, make it clear that the events of our reality are not necesarily mirrored in Earth-2. That is, just because the good guys won WWII in Earth-1's history, there's no reason to assume their victory is guaranteed in Earth-2's history; these are different worlds, and the flow of history can follow different paths.

I have no idea what DC has planned for Earth-2, but I'd love to see them take this approach. Make the Golden Age real; likewise, make the Silver Age real as a part of another multiverse. Let each version of these heroes exist in its own reality; that way, none of the past has been negated by the events of Flashpoint. Instead, we've just seen one modified multiverse rise to a new fictional ascendancy, while the other versions still exist.

(And as a side-note, the project I think most ill-served by this relaunch is the just-completed DC Universe: Legacies, a ten-part series that set out to define DC history from the early days of the Golden Age to the present. Even before the collected volume could make it onto bookshelves, the whole series had been rendered irrelevant.)

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