Topsy-Turvy

It's either way or in between!

Where you'll find the stuff that's either good or bad or just in the middle of everything else.

Androids in the Oddfield!

In 1975, in Giant Size Avengers #3 (...What Time Hath Put Asunder!), it was said that the Vision was really the original android Human Torch, put together by the professor Phineas Horton, who was for the most part a freewill android in his own way, and had been rebuilt by Ultron.

In fairness, there certainly was a level of satisfaction in all this. It helped give some more depth, legacy, and historical weight to The Vision. It suggested personality traits he’d never had before. It opened story possibilities hitherto undreamed. It drew a straight line from Timely’s All-Winners to Marvel’s Avengers. What can I say? There most certainly was something intriguing about it all.

The drawback though, was that, by making the Human Torch and The Vision the same android reduced the number of times that somebody had succeeded in creating a freewill android (and suggested that Ultron couldn’t do it at all). Personally, I wouldn't think it wise to go that far myself (and besides, when you think about how even Red Tornado and the robot Hourman, Rex Tyler, are also free-will machines, you know that it really doesn't measure up), since it's really too limiting even in sci-fi terms to work.

That's probably why, to say the least, the premise was done away with in, either in the early 1980's (by Roger Stern?), or in the late 80's (by John Byrne?). I'm not sure of the exact time it was done.

Their majesty's many [abandoned] ships!

Comic book examples themselves don't have to be the only ones. Even a TV series like Star Trek can serve as a great example when it comes to retcons and twistabouts.

For example, it was established on The Next Generation that the Starship Enterprise on that show was the fifth to bear the name, and that the first was Captain Kirk's ship from the original Star Trek series.

But then, the Enterprise series, supposedly a prequel to the earlier ones, introduced another Starship Enterprise that predates Kirk's. That's a retcon, and not a good one at that. Just like how the series is so anachronistic and off-base with all its depictions of any and all of the alien races featured until now.

And from the looks of things, it's apparent that Enterprise will not go down in history as the best remembered of all Treks, thanks to its inaccuracies in Starfleet history, which are about on a par with some of the very iffy elements seen in the movie series. In fact, now that I think of it, Enterprise, which may very well be the last Trek on TV, ended badly, with pointless guest appearances being made by Will Riker and Deanna Troi of TNG. The Spatula Forum weblog had what was probably one of the best takes on how it crash landed. And from the looks of things, it's most likely that it'll all be forgotten in less than another year.

The man without minor fear!

When the second Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, made appearances in Action Comics at the time it went weekly, during the 1988-89 period, Peter David wrote a story in which it was claimed that Abin Sur used his power ring to omit any real fears he might have, thereby making him 100 percent courageous!

Even if this storyline didn't contradict the fact that Hal Jordan was as brave as is possible for a plane pilot to be, that it should have been implied that Abin Sur erased/took out any fear from him whatsoever simply didn't make much sense, or was simply so redundant that to write that notion there was trivial at best.

Besides, there were more than enough times when Hal felt worried in this way or that, and if he were really as fearless as this odd story seemed to imply, he'd be an emotionless wreck!

Just one simple reason why it's largely been swept under the rug as of today.

Like mother, like daughter! (Plus: Genie in a fix!)

In 1983, DC needed to offer an explanation on why the Black Canary didn't age and stayed as young and hot and sexy as she is, plus why Johnny Thunder left the Justice Society of America in All-Star Comics at the same time as his feature in Flash Comics ended to make way for the Canary's in 1948. So Roy Thomas, who was writing Justice League of America at the time, along with All-Star Squadron, the series he was mainly writing at the time, took up the assignment of dealing with an answer to this, which resulted in the following, from JLofA #219-220, the last team-up of the Earth-1 and Earth-2 superheroes. The premise was based on the story written by Denny O'Neil in 1969, that being the battle with the living star entity Aquarius in Justice League of America #73-74 ("Star Light, Star Bright, DEATH STAR I SEE TONIGHT!" and also "Where Death Fears to Tread!"), and was intended to place a retcon in between that two-part story and the 75th issue that followed, which would also be used to explain why Dinah developed her famed Canary Cry.

This was a follow-up to the adventure written in 1965 ("Earth without a Justice League!" and also "Crisis on Earth-A!"), and even to the first crossover between earths ("Crisis on Earth-1!" and also "Crisis on Earth-2!") from 1963, since the Champions of Crime were also being featured. During an adventure in which Johnny Thunder, then living on Earth-2, learned that there was a doppelganger of himself on Earth-1, he thought to go and take a closer look at what this duplicate of himself was like. Which turned out to be quite a displeasure, since this alternate-earth counterpart of his turned out to be a crook, and not only that, he was able to influence Johnny's faithful genie-partner-in-crimefighting, Thunderbolt!

Just like that last time when they met, Earth-1 Johnny succeeded in knocking Earth-2 Johnny unconscious, and then forced T-Bolt, who felt bad about it but was helpless to disobey orders, let alone try to hold out for as long as he could on some of them, to stifle the good Johnny with an electro-gag, then teamed up with some of the villains from both earth-dimensions to take over Earth-1, by having T-Bolt bring everything to a standstill in time-like details, and put the JLA in a magical sleep, then, the pairings of Chronos and Fiddler, Felix Faust and the Wizard, and Icicle and Dr. Alchemy's evil clone (yup, there was one introduced at the time in 1980) started making those kooky bets on if they'd manage to do this and that to the superheroes of Earth-2 who were trying to stop them.

That's all in the first part ("Crisis in the Thunderbolt Dimension!"). It's in the second part ("The Doppelganger Gambit") where things really start getting told. While Black Canary and Starman were investigating, evil-Johnny ordered T-Bolt to capture them and take them to the Thunderbolt dimension, where evil-Johnny was also holding good-Johnny captive and gagged, and while there, evil-Johnnny showed them a glass coffin he'd found there, which contained Larry Lance, BC's late husband, and also, what appeared to be BC as well! Understandably, Dinah was confused, and so too was Ted Knight. Indeed, what was going on here? Well, T-Bolt had the answers:

Years before, as he explained to them, there had been a case on which BC and JT were working on, concerning a bunch of plane-bound thieves who were trying to get away with some stolen loot. Unfortunately for the pink-and-violet colored genie, the crooks threw a lightning rod at him that caused him some momentary damage, and also made it difficult for goofy-minded Johnny to summon up his faithful genie partner at ease. He was mad and told the genie that he was unneeded now, and with Black Canary as a gal-pal now, who needed T-Bolt as a crimefighting partner. The genie was disappointed with this unjust slam against him, but did not try to argue, and simply said that, next time Johnny needed him, to just holler.

But it would be awhile before Johnny did, and until then, not only did he drop out of the Justice Society, having become indifferent without T-Bolt's full aid, but Dinah Drake was becoming won over by Larry Lance, the detective who often worked out of an office in her florist's shop, much to Johnny's dismay. Dinah tried to tell him that she did like him all the same, though only on a friendship level, but Johnny was simply unsatisfied, and drifted away from her for a time.

During that time, when Dinah and Larry were married, they had a daughter who was also named Dinah, the one we know today who's middle name is Laurel, and unfortunately at the time, the Wizard, a notable nemesis of the JSA (and former member of the aforementioned Crime Champions), found out her secret identity as the Canary, and came to seek revenge by putting a curse upon their darling daughter, which was to emit a sonic wave when she cried out loud in fear, as she did when the Wizard was there to ply his menace.

Something had to be done. So Dinah Sr. turned to Johnny Thunder, who in turn summoned up T-Bolt, the magic command having improved after awhile, and the genie took up the task of keeping Dinah Jr. stored in his own dimension in comatose effect until she was in her late teens. And then, for a time, T-Bolt made Dinah, Larry, and even Johnny himself forget about the young Dinah's existance, apparently so that they wouldn't have to live in mourning over not being able to raise their daughter themselves. During that time, Johnny mended the fences with the Lances, and became good friends with them again.

Meanwhile, as the evil Johnny of Earth-1 was planning to force T-Bolt to put Black Canary and Starman to death, the good Johnny of Earth-2 thankfully managed to undo the electro-gag with the help of some electro-beings in the dimension, and was thus able to stop the evil doppelganger from carrying out his evil plans, dealing him a nice good sock in the face, and everything was set right on Earth-1 again, with the JLA coming out of their sleep, and together with the JSA they rounded up the villains of both earth dimensions. And Johnny certainly managed to give the crooked version of himself the clocking he deserved, knowing what he'd done to him back in 1965, when they first met!

Superman and the Spectre then arrived in T-Bolt's dimension to round up the evil Johnny, and to escort the good Johnny and Black Canary and Starman back to the regular world, and the Man of Steel explained and revealed to Dinah that, when escorting her mother to Earth-1, it was discovered that she too, just like her late husband, had suffered fatal radiation effects from the energy sphere that Aquarius launched at the superheroes fighting him at the time, and it was decided to take her to T-Bolt's dimension where she could retire alongside Larry. And what happened then was that, seeing her daughter, now mostly in grown-up form if still in a coma effect, and what a lovely young lady she'd become too, the three of them decided to enable Dinah Jr. to take her mother's place, installing her mind with the memories of her mother, and giving her a similar costume to wear. And when it comes to the sonic scream effect the junior Dinah possessed that the Wizard put upon her, you could very well say that the curse was turned into a blessing!

And until 1983, none of them ever told Dinah Jr. the truth about herself, deciding that she was better off continuing to think that she was really her own mother. She forgave them for concealing the truth about her own origins from her, but asked Superman to let her be the one to tell Green Arrow when meeting him again.

The upside: what's amazing about this EYKIW story is that it makes even more sense than you think: look at Dinah as drawn by Neal Adams in the early 1970's, for example: she certainly did look like a chick in her early 20's, didn't she? Whatever kind of beauty products she used, it doesn't take genius to tell that the Blonde Bombshell was, even then, a very young, lovely girl who wasn't as old as you'd probably expect for a character first created in 1947. So it actually did make sense to reveal that this was really the offspring of the original Canary, and the Canary Cry was explained by this too.

The downside: unfortunately, the problem with how it was done here was that it made the Canary's story look almost Oedipal in nature. One has only to look at all those stories where you would see Dinah reminicing about her "husband" when it was really her father she was thinking about! Eep. As a result, it does sadly, to some extent, make some of the Bronze Age stories of the times look embarrassing in retrospect.

And, when it comes to Johnny Thunder, it really didn't cut it to have him develop a rift with his faithful genie partner in crimefighting, as was told here, simply because of a mishap caused by a lightning rod.

Today, while it's already old news that the Canary we've known since 1969 is really the daughter of the original, the story as presented in these issues has been largely retconned in and of itself, with Dinah Jr. now written as having grown up normally, taking up the mantlepiece her mother cast aside when retiring from crimefighting at the age of 19, and not only that, her mother was restored to life until possibly 1999, during which time she passed away off-panel, probably around the same time that Solovar, the original leader of Gorilla City, was slain by Grodd in the pages of the JLA. As for Dinah Jr, she's since been more ideally reworked, if anything, as something of a daddy's girl, though nowadays it seems as if she thinks about former boyfriend Green Arrow much more than her father these days. And the Canary Cry, to say the least, was written as being the result of exposure to special energy from the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott's power ring, quite by accident, when she was young. Most of this was more fully established in the last issues of Secret Origins in 1990.

Speaking of which, Larry Lance's death still holds in more or less the same way as before: he died in JLofA #73-74 in the battle with Aquarius in 1969, and today, that story is actually still around, though it's been mostly reworked, in which Dinah Sr. came out of retirement along with several other JSA members to help battle the giant star-humanoid villain, and Larry joined in to help, and sadly bit the bullet. And this ended up driving Dinah Jr, who loved her father very much, away from her native Gotham City to the west coast for many years, where she lived in the same area, Star City, as her then boyfriend Ollie Queen, since she couldn't bear living in her native city with the knowledge that her dad was now gone. In the mid-90s, she returned.

And when it comes to Johnny Thunder, it was written that, due to the meddling of some Bahdnesian sorcerors, this ended up causing his ability to summon up T-Bolt to be paralyzed until he could figure out how to set the problem right again, and then, Johnny and genie joined forces to put a stop to the villains responsible, who were also trying to take over Bahdnesia, and restored democracy there. And while he may have only gone as far as common-law marriage when tying the knot with a ladyfriend of his, he eventually settled down with a gal-pal of his, and adopted a daughter who followed in his footsteps as a crimefighter to some extent later on too.

Clone Bores!

Back in 1983, same year as the above retcon by Roy Thomas and Chuck Patton was published, John Byrne wrote a story in the Thing's solo book from then in which Crystal's faithful pet dog, Lockjaw, was revealed to have been an Inhuman himself, which can be found in the section for awful stuff. This story, published in the Sub-Mariner's series from the early 90s,
in Namor: the Sub-Mariner #20 from November 1991, while far from being as abominable that earlier stinker that Byrne coughed up, was still pretty pointless, with Namorita finding out in a story titled "My Mother...Myself," that she's a clone of her mother, Namora! Good grief, what'll they think of next? If anything, it was totally meaningless, if at all. For heaven's sake, even when Black Canary turned out to be the daughter, not the mother/original, in Justice League of America #220 in 1983, made more sense than this!

Today, there's another story that I don't think is considered important to continuity anymore, and has been largely forgotten, presumably becoming a Mopee. But even so, this was just one more hideous example of how John Byrne's writing skills were really starting to become waterlogged by then. And by now, when he get reduced to writing mostly hack work over at DC and elsewhere, that's when you know something's wrong.

Stud Muffin in Space!

Alan Moore was on a roll when he wrote the Swamp Thing's second volume for about 3-4 years in the mid 80s. But while I'm not sure if he was actually the one responsible for reworking the background for the planet Rann, the adoptive homeworld of earthman Adam Strange, and the home of leading scientist Sardath, father of Alanna, Adam's lovely wife, I do have my reservations on what to think of the notion that Gotham City native Adam was teleported to Rann in hopes of serving as a "breeding stud" to help revitalize the population of Rann, which was suffering from a derth of solid births (and even insufficient plant growth, which the Swamp Thing was asked to help try and repair), by having children with Alanna, if anything.

While I did once read the issue in which Swampy met Adam and Alanna from March 1987, and a Thanagarian named Keela-Roo did seem to imply something like that (not that Adam understood it himself though), I'm not sure if Moore himself had actually done the revamp, although he certainly did lay out the groundswork for it: in 1990, Richard Bruning wrote a prestige format miniseries in which Adam certainly made this discovery, and to make matters worse, Alanna was killed off, their first child with them.

Now aside from the fact that I find the story as Bruning turned out distasteful, perhaps even more so than what Moore wrote up in his time, the main problem I have with the overall revamp, if not retcon, is that it trashes the characters and their worlds, and eschews the creativity of becoming parents for the sake of the kind of shock value tactics that seem to have risen to becoming a sad staple in the early part of the 21st century, as was made apparent with Identity Crisis, DC's now very notorious miscue.

One sure thing: if there's anything that this could teach us, it's that simply put, you can't "update" characters like Adam Strange. They're the product of 1950's sci-fi features, pure and simple, and you can't do it without ruining the overall concept of space adventure.

That story by Bruning, and possibly even Moore's bit in Swamp Thing from 1987, are today largely discarded, as the Return of Adam Strange miniseries of 2004 has shown. Alanna, to say the least, is alive and well, with a daughter born to both her and Adam, and in fact, the planet's scientific researchers have taken steps to fix the effects that the Zeta-Beam had on him, constantly teleporting him between Rann and earth. Thus, it appears that he's able to enjoy a much more comfortable life now, without having to be bothered by any Zeta-ray transfers at the wrong moment.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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