|(from "Om Markstein Sklom Stu" #6, distributed through CAPA-alpha mailing no. 71 [September, 1970])
Does anybody know if this is the first time the word universe was used in this context?
(A single verifiable citation of an earlier use would disprove it — anybody have one? Write firstname.lastname@example.org if you do.)
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
by Don Markstein
(An article with a title that does have a meaning, although said meaning is apparent only to the writer)
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Tracing out "universes" of comic book characters is fun. This is done by constructing a web of crossovers, starting from a basic character, and seeing how many other characters can be shown conclusively to exist in the same world with him.
For example, Kid Colt is in the same universe with The Rawhide Kid, since they appeared together in Rawhide Kid #50. And Spider-Man is in the same universe with Iron Man, since they've both fought The Black Widow (not to mention having fought each other on more than one occasion).
"Real" people are excluded, of course. If they weren't, Superman would be in the same universe with The Fantastic Four, since Superman has met John F. Kennedy, The Fantastic Four have appeared in the same story with Neil Armstrong, and Kennedy and Armstrong are known to be in the same universe — namely this one.
Also excluded are characters that do not originate with the publisher, such as Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes, both of whom have enjoyed comic books published under their names. Otherwise, we would have Superman again in the same universe with The Fantastic Four, since both have met Hercules at one time or anothers.
Exceptions to these rules are when the publisher has his own specific version of the person or character. I.e., if Superman ever met Marvel's verison of Hercules, then they would indeed be in the same universe.
Example: DC has its own version of Jerry Lewis, who is clearly not the Jerry Lewis of TV and media of that ilk. The "real" Jerry Lewis does not have a nephew named Renfrew or a housekeeper who is a witch.
Also, DC has their own version of Robin Hood, which was published in Robin Hood Tales during the 1950s. The "real" Robin Hood, legend tells us, had blond hair and a beard. Theirs has black hair and a smooth chin.
DC's versions of Robin Hood and Jerry Lewis are in the same universe. Jerry Lewis met Wonder Woman in Jerry Lewis #117 and Wonder Woman went back in time to meet Robin Hood in Wonder Woman #94. Incidentally, Rip Hunter is also part of this universe, since he met Robin Hood in Rip Hunter — Time Master #22.
See how easy it is?
With this as a base, we can immediately add the entire Justice League of America — Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, J'onn J'onzz, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman, since Wonder Woman used to be a member. Never mind inconsistencies between one strip and another. Who said a universe had to be consistent?
The old Justice Society, with all its guest stars — Atom, Black Canary, Batman, Doctor Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Hourman, Johnny Thunder, Mr. Terrific, Red Tornado, Sandman, Superman, Spectre, Starman, Wildcat, and Wonder Woman — is also included, naturally, by virtue of its numerous guest appearances with the JLA.
Note: For the purpose of constructing universes, it is completely irrelevant that the Justice League and the Justice Society live on alternate earths. It is demonstrably possible for them to meet each other, and so they are all part of the framework. It is not, however, as far as we know, possible for them to meet Krazy Kat.
Since the original version of the aforementioned Red Tornado sprang from the "Scribbly" strip in All American Comics, Scribbly, the boy cartoonist, is added to the list.
You think that's bad? Well, you're lucky I don't throw in all the characters that appeared on the cover of The Big All American. Unfortunately, cover appearances alone must be excluded, or we would have to add "Toonerville Folks", which appeared with Scribbly on the cover of All American #1.
It's easy to get Deadman into it. He met Aquaman's brother in Aquaman #50. Also, he met Batman in Brave & Bold #s 79 and 86. Furthermore, he appeared with The Challengers of the Unknown in Challengers #74, so they're in too.
But it's not quite so easy to add Cave Carson. I seem to remember, in either Challengers or Sea Devils, an inscription in a cave saying "Cave Carson was here." Can anybody verify this? I can't find the issue. It's the only Cave Carson crossover I know of, and I'd hate to exclude him.
Since The Sea Devils were in Challengers #51, there's no question they're in it.
Brave & Bold #84 costarred Batman and Sgt. Rock. Issue #52 had Sgt. Rock, Johnny Cloud, The Haunted Tank, and Mlle. Marie. Since Captain Storm and Gunner & Sarge appear regularly with Johnny Cloud in Our Fighting Forces, most of DC's war characters are included.
Enemy Ace is in as of Detective Comics #404, but so far, no direct evidence of Steve Savage being part of it can be found. We shall see
Superman was seen changing clothes in a phone booth in Bob Hope #92, by the way.
Space Ranger met a descendant of Adam Strange in Mystery in Space #94, and Adam Strange met The Justice League in Mystery in Space #75. So put them in as well.
By the way, a non-series story in Strange Adventures — I can't remember which issue and I don't feel like digging for it — mentioned Adam Strange's planet Rann.
Tying up a few loose ends — Metamorpho appeared as a guest star in Justice League #'s 42 and 44. The Metal Men met Metamorpho in Brave & Bold #66. Plastic Man met Batman in Brave & Bold #72. Batman also met The Creeper in Brave & Bold #80. They're all part of it.
The Teen Titans is one of the better crossroads for crossovers — second only to Brave & Bold. They brought The Doom Patrol into the universe by featuring one of its members, Beast Boy, in issue #6. But they didn't have to, because The Doom Patrol met The Challengers of the Unknown in Challengers #48, The Flash in Brave & Bold #65, and numerous members of The Justice League in Doom Patrol #104.
But The Teen Titans are solely responsible for having brought The Hawk and The Dove into the fold by including them in adventures starting in #21.
More loose ends — Captain Action (the DC version) met Superman in the first issue of his five-issue life. Congo Bill, in his incarnation as Congorilla, appeared with Superman in Action Comics #280. Tommy Tomorrow met Supergirl in Action Comics #255. Vigilante, another Action Comics filler, appeared as a guest star in Justice League #'s 78 and 79. Throw them all in.
And where Vigilante goes, can The Seven Soldiers of Victory be far behind? Add The Crimson Avenger, The Star-Spangled Kid, Stripesy, Green Arrow, Speedy, and The Shining Knight.
Man, this gets better all the time.
Still more loose ends — Sargon the Sorcerer was revived for a one-time appearance in Flash #186. Several members of The Justice Society appeared in a Hop Harrigan text story in All Star Comics #8. The Viking Prince, through some fantastic fluke, was in the same story with Sgt. Rock in Our Army at War #'s 162 and 163. It's a big universe.
I'm beginning to think I've created a Frankenstein. No, I was wrong. As far as I can tell, Frankenstein isn't in it.
Mark Merlin, who appeared in House of Secrets some years ago, doesn't look like too likely a candidate for this universe, but there's a definite link between him and Prince Ra-Man (House of Secrets #73), Prince Ra-Man fought Eclipso in House of Secrets #76, and Batman fought Eclipso in Brave & Bold #64.
Son of loose ends — "Dial H for Hero" made a couple of references in House of Mystery #160 that indicate a link to Plastic Man's universe. (Plastic Man appeared in that issue, but that in itself is no indication of a link, considering the format of "Dial H.") Blackhawk appeared with the various members of The Justice League in Blackhawk #'s 228-230. And can anyone deny that The Legion of Superheroes is in the same universe with all of these?
There is a possible trend in today's comics toward supernatural titles. Each of DC's, as you know, has a host. House of Mystery has Cain; House of Secrets has Abel; The Witching Hour has Mildred, Mordred, and Cynthia. All of these appeared together in DC Special #4, and Phantom Stranger was present as well.
Now, The Phantom Stranger met Batman in Brave & Bold #89, so all of these great characters can be added. Also, Dr. Thirteen, The Ghost Breaker, who was the star of Star Spangled Comics around 1952, meets The Phantom Stranger in each issue of the latter's book. So he's in it too!!!
Son of loose ends meets loose ends anonymous — The Inferior Five are all in there. They met Plastic Man in Inferior Five #2. Zatanna, Zatara's daughter, has made numerous guest appearances with various members of The Justice League, so Zatara is in the universe. Ditto, Elongated Man. Johnny Double was in Challengers #74. Add them all.
We seem to have exhausted most of the possibilities. But possibly not. Can anyone suggest a way to get "Jason's Quest;" TNT and Dan, the Dyna-Mite; Captain Compass; Bat Lash; The Tarantula, Angel and The Ape; Star Hawkins; Little Boy Blue and The Blue Boys; Sugar and Spike; Captain Comet; Brother Power, The Geek; The Three Mouseketeers; Binky
The Secret Six; Johnny Peril; Roy Raymond; Dolphin; Tomahawk; Matt Savage; Nighthawk; The Atomic Knights; Americommando; Johnny Quick; and all the other myriads of characters that have appeared on the DC scene through the years, in?
I'll be waiting for a reply.
Stranger things have happened.