Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | Don’t know much about history

The Atlantis Chronicles #1

Last week’s big reorganization project is finished (for now) — but by reintroducing me to Peter David and Esteban Maroto’s The Atlantis Chronicles, it has already paid off.

The Atlantis Chronicles was a seven-issue 1990 miniseries designed to give Aquaman a more “classically mythic” backstory. Like the Old Testament or your average Shakespearean tragedy, it is full of intrigue, violence, sinister motives, and secret affairs. Along the way it traces the history of twin cities Poseidonis and Tritonis from their sinking to Aquaman’s birth, explaining such things as marine mental telepathy, why the Tritonistas are mer-people, and when the Idyllists broke off into their own community. It was all in service to a PAD-written Aquaman regular series which ended up being delayed for a few years; and which, when it finally did appear, produced the cranky, hook-handed Aquaman of the ‘90s. Re-reading The Atlantis Chronicles reminded me that some noteworthy plot elements — including an involuntary amputation — foreshadowed similar events in the later series. Some characters from TAC also reappeared in David’s Aquaman, further connecting the two.

I enjoyed The Atlantis Chronicles on its own merits, but I couldn’t help but think how it would have been treated better in today’s marketplace. That, in turn, got me thinking about the roles various “historical” DC miniseries played (and might still play) in the building of their legends.

* * *

These kinds of miniseries aren’t that common, simply because the history they impart tends to come out in more run-of-the-mill superhero stories. The 1992 “Destroyer” arc revealed the secrets of Gotham City’s weird architecture while Batman raced to stop a mad bomber. (It also let DC incorporate the late Anton Furst’s movie-style designs into the comics’ Gotham.) The development of the Green Lantern Corps, from the Guardians’ homeworld of Maltus through the Manhunter revolt and up to the present, could be pieced together from factoids dropped in various issues. Krypton’s history was explored similarly throughout the Silver and Bronze Ages. However, with each bit of data serving a different story’s needs, pulling them together into their own coherent narrative might not be that easy.

In this respect, I’ve always been curious about what (for lack of a better term) I’ll call “the Superboy problem.” Regardless of incarnation, we treat Superman as if he only became “Superman” when he first performed some heroic public feat (likely involving Lois Lane) in Metropolis. This is understandable, because Superman’s debut marks the beginning of the current Age Of Superheroes, and it’s a renaissance for the heroic ideal, blah blah blah. That’s all fine.

Nevertheless, on the old Earth-1, Kal-El of Krypton first appeared to the public in his familiar red-and-blue costume as “Superboy,” a kid operating out of somewhere in the Midwest. From what I understand, there were a few other adult superheroes (and assorted heroic types) doing good deeds during this same “pre-Silver Age” period — guys like Zatara and Captain Comet, and maybe the Challengers of the Unknown. Remember, on Earth-1 there was no Justice Society, and no significant Golden Age of superheroes, to give Superboy any context. His debut was probably more of a game-changer than, say, Captain Comet’s; but it’s not treated that way. For practical reasons — i.e., because none of the other big Silver Age superheroes had significant teenage careers — the Earth-1 Age of Superheroes kicked off in earnest with the first appearances of Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Atom, et al. Superboy might have saved the world several times over before he could drive, drink, or vote, but those adventures are, in large part, separated pretty definitely from his Superman career.

Trying to bridge the gap was 1985′s Superman: The Secret Years, a four-issue account of Clark Kent in college, written by Bob Rozakis and pencilled, as usual, by Curt Swan. It had the misfortune to come out right before Crisis On Infinite Earths, which meant it was only a valid part of Superman continuity for about a year and a half. Still, it did feature a couple of previously-untold skirmishes with Lex Luthor, a retelling of the Lori Lemaris story, and the introduction of Clark’s college roommate. If Superman were Ron Howard, Secret Years was like American Graffiti, providing a link between the child Opie and the young-adult Richie. Such a linkage is important, I think, because only by seeing one’s career as a whole can we evaluate it properly.

However, among history-minded Superman miniseries, Superman: The Secret Years may have been unique in focusing on the Man of Steel himself. Other miniseries looked to Superman’s ancestors and surroundings: 1979′s World Of Krypton, 1997-98′s The Kents, the one-shot Unauthorized Biography Of Lex Luthor, and 1988′s John-Byrne-written triptych World Of Krypton, World Of Smallville, and World Of Metropolis. I never read the first Krypton miniseries, but I don’t think it had much impact on the regular monthly series. I know The Kents — which was basically a Western with very loose connections to the Superman mythology — didn’t really tie into the ongoing books. The Luthor book had some influence, which (thanks to Luthor’s “rediscovered” years in Smallville) may have been dulled; and naturally the Byrne-written books were designed to deepen what was at the time a brand-new continuity.

Because the “Byrne influence” isn’t as pronounced as it was in the ‘80s, or even the ‘90s, those World Of … miniseries aren’t as relevant to today’s books. It’s therefore a little surprising to me that 2008′s Superman: World Of Krypton paperback collected the 1988 miniseries (drawn by Mike Mignola — hey, there’s a reason to collect it!) along with some pre-Crisis “World Of Krypton” backup stories. The Kents is also readily available from Amazon, so there are two paperbacks which, if you’re interested in current continuity, may be no more than curious footnotes.

And speaking of which, if a publisher wants to promote its current continuity, I guess there are two practical reasons to do an historical tie-in: either to set up said continuity, or to pull disparate data together into a coherent narrative. In the wake of Crisis On Infinite Earths, DC launched Secret Origins, dedicated entirely to the details of continuity, and particularly dedicated to those two types of stories. At the time it was a valuable resource for readers concerned about what Crisis had changed; and I think there are still a fair amount of such readers today. If the project doesn’t deal with current continuity in some way — and, perhaps more importantly, if the publisher doesn’t treat it as controlling — it’s just another superhero story. (Signs that The Atlantis Chronicles wasn’t initially promoted as the harbinger of Peter David’s Aquaman included house ads for issue #5, and that issue’s text recap pages.) It may be an exceptionally well-done superhero story, but it loses that historical cachet which presumably gives that sector of the audience a reason to read it.

In other words, it’s Superman: Birthright, which I liked quite a bit, and which I thought told a more cohesive Superman origin story than Byrne’s Man Of Steel; but which always had a shaky relationship with the then-current Superman books. Somewhat in the same boat, ironically enough, is the recently-concluded Superman: Secret Origin, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s six-issue overview of Clark’s childhood and early appearances in Metropolis. Since it came out after Johns had left the Superman titles, it struck me more as a victory lap than a setup for future storylines. Specifically, it showed Clark, as “Superboy,” meeting the Legion of Super-Heroes; and it retroactively established Lois’ father, Luthor, and Metallo as part of a military-industrial anti-Superman plot. Both of these plot elements first appeared during Johns’ tenure on Action Comics, although they could have come from his fellow Superman writers and editors. Secret Origin also reprised some themes from Birthright, including putting young Lex Luthor back in Smallville, and having Luthor’s Superman-driven paranoia fuel the climactic battle. There were other nods to post-Crisis continuity too (Kenny “Conduit” Braverman comes immediately to mind), but Secret Origin wasn’t exactly a synoptic overview of the current Superman origin story.

Indeed, for something like that you have to go back over thirty years, to 1980′s three-issue Untold Legend Of The Batman. Written by Len Wein, the first issue was pencilled by John Byrne and inked by Jim Aparo, and the other two were drawn entirely by Aparo; so it looked fantastic and it read well too. Because the basic plot involved a mysterious mastermind out to destroy everything Batman held dear, the Dynamic Duo and Alfred ended up reminiscing as part of their detective work. This was during the period in Bat-history when gangster Lew Moxon ordered Joe Chill to murder the Waynes, and when a teenaged Bruce donned a familiar red-and-yellow costume to train with detective Harvey Harris. Thanks in large part to those stories, and others from the ‘40s and ‘50s which explained various Bat-minutiae, Wein wove a good bit of pre-existing material into his narrative, updating it appropriately for the ‘80s readership. It’s the kind of miniseries which gives the basic Batman setup a real sense of depth and scope. I hesitate to compare it to Grant Morrison’s recent Batman work, because Morrison dealt with those old stories more lyrically and abstractly, and was more concerned with establishing a new tone than setting old details in concrete.

(Not that the concrete setting of details is unimportant, mind you. My memories of ULOTB raised my expectations for Wein’s current historical miniseries, DC Universe Legacies, but eight issues in, I’m still not sure how I feel about it, mainly because I think he’s placed some events out of order. I’m sure a DCUL post will be forthcoming.)

Because 1993′s The Golden Age added some disturbing new details to the Justice Society’s postwar history, it was eventually given the Elseworlds badge. Still, writer James Robinson incorporated some of TGA’s plot elements into his Starman series, which launched soon afterwards and which also featured regular “Times Past” flashback tales. The Golden Age is still readily available, and I think it may compare best with The Atlantis Chronicles in terms of influence on a subsequent regular series. We may never know whether an Atlantis Chronicles paperback would have helped the fortunes of Peter David’s Aquaman, but I believe The Golden Age and Starman were mutually beneficial.

Of course, Geoff Johns (and whoever writes Aquaman after him) is free to use whatever he wants from The Atlantis Chronicles as he reintroduces Aquaman to today’s readers. That in itself may be enough to get The Atlantis Chronicles back into print; but I have a feeling that if such a thing were going to happen, it would have happened already. As well, maybe The Atlantis Chronicles has become so identified with David’s run that subsequent writers haven’t wanted to deal with it.

I can’t leave this topic without noting a couple of recent historically-oriented storylines, namely Paul Levitz’ and Kevin Sharpe’s looks back at the early Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics and the terrific Chris Roberson/Jesus Merino Lord of Time two-parter in Superman/Batman. The former seems targeted to longtime Legion fans who can plug the particular stories into a Legion timeline which is no doubt familiar to them. I’m sure that is rewarding, because this week’s issue of Superman/Batman should fit quite neatly into DC’s books from, say, 1982. References to the Wild West and to Gordanian slavers place its “Bronze Age” sequence after both New Teen Titans #1 (November 1980) and Justice League of America #199 (February 1982), and the rest of the issue spans centuries. In both cases I’m sure the details are just Easter eggs, but what are Easter eggs for if not to make you happy?

Ultimately, then, I think these historical storylines are valid exercises to test the limits of superhero continuity. Can we learn anything from a character’s previously-unexplored period, as in Superman: The Secret Years? Would a project like Untold Legend Of The Batman produce a consistent, coherent narrative from disparate data points? Will an entirely new backstory, like that provided by The Atlantis Chronicles, entice new readers and satisfy existing ones? I am still waiting for the “synoptic Superman” origin — or, better yet, a detailed look at the post-Infinite Crisis Wonder Woman — to examine whether anything consistent remains from recent continuity changes. While strict fidelity to established continuity shouldn’t dictate the kinds of stories DC’s superhero line tells, a critical examination of that continuity can be both instructive and illuminating.

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Having recently read the entire run of DC’s 1986-1990 Secret Origins series, I have to say that I give them an ‘A’ for effort, but about a ‘C-” for execution. I pity poor Roy Thomas especially, who tried soooo hard to make sense of the post-Crisis DCU and what it meant for his beloved Golden Age characters in All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. but it was such an uphill battle for him. In the letters columns from around that time in both Squadron and Infinity, Roy had to add in yet another disclaimer each month about how now this character or that character was no longer available to him to use because they’e continuity and/or origin had been changed.
Secret Origins was supposed to be the place to find the answers as to what exactly changed but instead it just revealed what a mess DC had for their history coming out of Crisis. Miss America was originaly written in as DC’s replacement for Wonder Woman on the JSA and then that was later changed to the original Black Canary. Meanwhile, the second BC was being written in to replace the second Wonder Woman as a founder of the JLA. Aaaah! Not to mention the constantly shifting status quos of the other Golden Age characters, the Legion, Hawkman, Aquaman and others.
I love so much of what DC did in the late 80′s with some of its reinvention and re-imagining of characters, but they didn’t do the one thing they should have done, which was start the whole thing over from scratch, instead of trying to reconcile the new origins of Superman, WW, Hawkman, etc with 50 years of back story…

The problem with DC’s continuity is that they pay only lip service to it; they know most of their fanbase expects it but don’t want to put much effort keeping track of it. They just let the writers do what they want (especially if they are ‘Big Name’ like Johns or Morrison) and only correct the most glaring contradictions. Comics like DC Universe Legacies feel more like token efforts to calm the complaining fans that anything that will truly be referenced in the future.

Thanks for the background on these titles. I will look for these in trade ocasionally the originals pop up in a back bin or two.I tend to look for mini/midi/maxi arcs anyway regardless of continuity just for the stories on their own.

First of all, thanks for saying nice things about “Chronicles.” The killer is, when the series was first coming together, people in the upper echelon at DC told me they loved it. They said it was going to break open new markets for them, and that they were going to give it “the Watchmen treatment.” They stood there at a DC party and told me that face to face. “The Watchmen treatment.” By that they meant major promotion, trade collections that would be kept perpetually in print, everything.

And then it was left to the sales department to promote it and the attitude that was relayed to me through sources was, “It’s an Aquaman limited series, which isn’t any big deal, and it doesn’t even feature Aquaman. We can’t sell this.” And they proceeded to not sell it.

And year after year, fans would ask DC when it’s going to be collected. And Bob Greenberger, who edited it, would also push for it. And in turn, the DC sales department would turn around and ask a group of consulting retailers if there was any interest in an AC trade, and the retailers would say No, there’s no interest in any such collection. Why? Because the fans never told the retailers they wanted to see it. So there was this disconnect between what the fans asked DC for and what the retailers thought would sell. And Bob is now gone from DC, so there’s no one pushing for it internally.

So I doubt it will ever happen. Although, for what it’s worth, it was released in trade paperback in Italy.

PAD

God, all these ret-cons make me sick to my stomach. Really, they make me physically nauseous.

Now I do truly enjoy when a great writer takes an existing character’s back-story and develops it. There are some writers who have the talent to do that! (Like Peter David.)

But other writers (and editors) don’t have the talent. And they don’t LOVE the character, so they neglect the character’s established history and just make up their own willy-nilly version of history — with zero respect for the character’s continuity and zero respect for the customers that have been buying the comics every month for years! Is it because these writers (and editors) are ignorant? Is it because they have no integrity? Or are they just careless?

Well, I thank them to please refrain from urinating on my comics collection with their misguided ret-cons.

With Earth One and Earth Two, Julius Schwartz provided everything DC needed to maintain a logical, sensible continuity. Why did DC have to go and screw it up???

And I don’t care WHAT the ret-cons dictate, Wonder Woman was in the original Justice League, NOT Black Canary. And I have the comics to prove it.

While we’ve got PAD here, I’ll add my praise not only for Atlantis Chronicles but also for Time & Tide– and then ultimately for an Aquaman of big ideas and big stories.

“Wein’s current historical miniseries, DC Universe Legacies, but eight issues in, I’m still not sure how I feel about it, mainly because I think he’s placed some events out of order. ”

*Many* events out of order, and others randomly changed for no apparent reason. The series is sucha good idea, and has such a good writer, and is such a mess!

Black Manta apparently killed Aquababy a few weeks *after* The Killing Joke; and John Stewart debuted as Green Lantern about the same time. The POV character was a kid during the Golden Age and a young adult at the dawn of the Silver Age which is fine if you detach the Golden Age from WW2, or if the Silver Age starts in 1960, but it’s not taking either of those strategies. We just get normal people aging 15 years while jumping 50 years in history. JL Detroit formed after Crisis.

There’s a lot I like, including the sense that the death of the Doom Patrol was a really important event and really ended the Silver Age and the WW2 reunion. But for a series whose whole point is to be a nostalgia-soaked pull-it-all-together kind of thing, I don’t get its attitude toward the past material, or what it’s supposed to be for.

The ’79 World of Krypton miniseries is a lot like the Untold Legend of the Batman – it’s basically “Untold Legend of Jor-El.” It takes previous stories about what Jor-El did and weaves them into a single narrative about Jor-El’s life. It doesn’t really add anything new, though – unlike Untold Legend of the Batman, where Batman is menaced by someone who knows all his secrets, World of Krypton is Superman reading journal entries at the Fortress of Solitude.

I have both stories, collected as two of those little black & white paperbacks they used to do. IIRC, I purchased them at Scholastic book fairs (which apparently they still do).

YES! Please listen, POWERS THAT BE!

We need a post-Infinite Crisis Wonder Woman Origin story.

Market on the recent Superman, and GL stories and just call it “Secret Origin”.
Like Superman’s it could be a mini series, or like GL’s, it could be told within the monthly.

Helmed by Gail Simone & Nicola Scott, pretty much the ONLY creators out there today that could do it justice.

That’s a shame about Chronicles, Peter. It’s not my preferred history for Aquaman by a long-shot, but I liked it a lot on its own merits and it was a great story with some huge ideas (and I thought the art was sharp as well). The influence on your run was expansive and the run itself felt better for having this sort of “history” it could reference back to to unify the themes.

Like I said, it’s not my preferred history, but there’s so much good stuff in there that a good continuity-mining writer should be able to find some gems that are relevant, even with the emphasis on returning Aquaman to his more classical roots. I’m dying, for instance, to know the answer to “Okay, so Tom Curry is Arthur’s father. Good. I never liked that being changed. But then that begs the question – ‘Why did Atlan convince Aquaman otherwise?’” (A powerful wizard in a fantasy kingdom like that? Who knows what Merlin-sneaky or Gandalf-sneaky reason he might have …). Or how about the name Orin and its relationship to the Irish word for “sea green”? Or how easily the “Dark Gods” of Tritonis fit seamlessly with say, Lovecraft, and how J.M.S. had Aquaman fight Cthulhu?

A collected edition would be lovely.

I guess when it comes down to it, continuity is a bit of a taboo word in the comics world.

To Jacob T. Levy, I actually do like DC Universe Legaces, and I wish they could’ve seen the inconsistencies ahead of time before the comic got published. FYI, I didn’t see anything in any of those issues on the death of Aquaman’s son, or about it taking place after the Killing Joke, or John Stewart appearing afterwards. The things they got wrong were these:
-JLA Detroit appeared BEFORE the Crisis, not after.
-They put Aztek as having debuted at the same time as Waverider, but those guys’ debuts were five years apart.
-They show during one of the Crisis issues a Pre-Crisis Supergirl, when she’s supposed to have not appeared until 2004.
Aside from those errors, I actually commend this series for finally being DC’s answer to Marvels. My guess is that they wanted to get these issues out quick enough, so they inadvertently wrote in a few errors in the rush.
As to the subject of “historic” comics, most of you are right about one thing: if put in the hands of a writer who knows his/her stuff and keeps in mind the current state of affairs for that character, team, or place, and can figure out any possible inconsistencies, then you’ve got yourself a definitive history. When History of the DC Universe was put out in 1986-87 (I managed to find both books a year ago), they did just that. I think the only unecessary rewrites were, among others, the Thanagarian Hawks reboot. Hawkworld, to me, was a bit of a downer, as it took the Silver Age Hawks right out of the JLA’s history. Were it up to me, I would have just put it that Katar and Shayera, when first arriving on Earth, met Carter and Shiera, and with their blessings, became the new Hawks. Simple as that. There could have been a lot of simpler histories written, but since most of them got handed to some writers that didn’t know or want those concepts, we got the messes that were printed instead.
And yes, to me, Wonder Woman was one of the founding seven of the JLA, and has always been.

What was forgotten to be mentioned here is the companion piece to Crisis on Infinite Earths, the two book series called History of the DC Universe. Beautifully told and illustrated by Marv Wolfman and George Perez respectively.

I guess along with the series Secret Origins, History of the DC Universe was meant to explain the new flow of continuity after the Crisis. The only disappointment back then for me was their decision to erase Wonder Woman’s timeline. Had the top brass at DC not strayed away from these two issues, but enforced it with their creative staff when moving their characters forward, we may have had less “reboots” and confusion amongst DC top heroes.

A special note, I think the Atlantis Chronicles was a great mini-series that still has value today. I like how Tom Curry is Aquaman’s biological father once more, but writers today can still take the Chronicles and incorporated it into his history. So I’m hoping.

Despite the inconsistencies DC Universe Legaces has been pretty awesome so far!

Never read The Atlantis Chronicles but it really sounds intresting!

A collected edition of THE ATLANTIS CHRONICLES is ‘way overdue.

THE KENTS is probably out of print; I really ought to try to track down a copy, but it deserves to get a new printing.

I don’t think that UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN was ever collected; however, I do remember a (very badly done) audio dramatazation of it that included shrunk-down reprints of the miniseries.

I was on a huge Peter David kick a few years ago and was able to track down all of his Dreadstar, Supergirl, settled for the Hulk Visionaries for that run (didn’t realize Marvel was going to take so long on this and STILL haven’t finished it), and was just 1 issue shy of runs on Young Justice and the DC Fallen Angel (have all of the IDW stuff), and was just lacking Atlantis Chronicles to finish off Aquaman. Finally this summer I was able to track down Atlantic Chronicles and I must say that this read was a breathe of fresh air. The only minor complaint I have is that the last few issues felt tacked on to make it a more complete chronicle of atlantis’ history. They were very well written and were welcomed additions, it is just the jumps in time seemed much more pronounced in the latter issues than at the start.

I guess maybe I’m just not a continuity junky, but personally I much prefer the sort of “historical” comics that err on the side of telling a compelling story instead of trying to tie together decades of plot threads into something manageable. Often it feels like homework when it should just be fun.

I’ll take something like Superman: For All Seasons or Untold Tales of Spider-Man, which derrive their purpose out of the actual meaning of the stories instead of trying to jump through the hoops other stories have arranged around the room.

Otaku-sempai there was a collection, of sorts, of The Untold Legend of Batman, in black and white digest form, that I remember ordering through the Scholastic book program in grade school. No badly done audio dramatization for me, sadly.

To the point at hand, DC’s history is so convoluted that each attempt to fix it only makes it worse. It makes me long for a “Hypertime” approach where it all counts (sort-of) and all the old stories are fair game as long as they fuel future stories. Which Morrison has done with Batman, to great effect IMO.

I’ve heard people say that continuity is basically a hinderance to attracting new readers, so that is why companies will take a fairly loose approach to it. I think this argument is really off-base. I first read comics when I was around seven or eight, and I loved that fact that there was an entire history and world just waiting for me to discover, especially convoluted ones like the X-Men. I don’t think writers should be slaves to what has come before, especially if what came before was just ill-conceived, but having events happen in a larger context and story is part of the fun.

Also, there’s no reason why reboots have to completely obliterate what came before. People change over their lifetimes, and an individual’s life can have several different stages to it. For instance, I’ve moved four times for work, school and personal reasons, and each move resulted in a fairly new and different life for me. It didn’t change what happened before, and it incorporated it. The companies seem so averse now to having characters grow naturally. I love the fact the DC had generations of characters who often change roles. That’s respecting continuity at its best. At its worst, DC can be so obsessive-compulsive about continuity that it just needlessly complicates things. If having a character return requires someone to punch reality, maybe that character doesn’t need to return.

All the more reason why I’m glad I grew up with the DCAU and MAU. No need for decades of inconsistencies and needless killings, or having to go through multiple reboots.

One of my favorite comics of my childhood was Action Comics 500. Not only did it have a great Infinity cover with Superman and Supergirl holding a copy of Action 500, but the issue used the opening of a Superman museum as a plot device to retell Superman’s life story. Also had a Luthor trying to kill Superman subplot. It was a $1 giant size issue. Probably came out in 1978 or 79. It was reprinted as a black and white paperback in the 1990s.

Claremont and Byrne used X-Men 138 (Jean Grey’s funeral) to recap the X-Men’s history in a similar fashion.

Both were helpful in filing in gaps in my knowledge on the characters and it also helped me in collecting back issues.

I just remembered a Green Lantern issue around the time of Crisis in which Englehart and Staton retold Hal’s history. Maybe issue 197 or 198. Staton mimicked Gil Kane, Neal Adams and MikeGrell’s art styles in the appropriate places in retelling the story.

For the record, I would KILL to see The Atlantis Chronicles get collected, and for that matter, PAD’s entire run of Aquaman from the ’90′s. DC don’t seem to understand that it doesn’t MATTER if a series is still in continuity or not, it deserves to be collected because it’s a fantastic story in it’s own right.

…Two points about PAD’s comments above:

1) “One does not thank Truth.” – Surak. Nevertheless, all praise that’s been given for Atlantis Chronicles is without question deserved.

2) PAD’s total frustration with the sales/marketing goons is one I can personally share, and can actually exceed in the level of disgust towards those particularly unevolved examples of bottom feeders. Back in early 1997, while working for D*ll as a test engineer, I was given a video capture card that Intel had produced for testing. The card was part of an ISDN video conferencing system they were pushing, and wanted D*ll to be the “exclusive distributor” of a wide-area ISDN-based solution for small to medium-sized corporate business networks. During the test process, I started pushing the card’s limits just to see what would break it, and found the best way to do this was to toss the 15 FPS “webcam” – believe it or not, the term hadn’t been invented yet! – and force a 30 FPS TV signal down the card through a VCR. Intel’s software package had included a capture/playback util, and one of the tests involved dropped frames during the capture phase. Although Intel had designed the card and the software to be optimized at 15FPS, it worked fine at 24FPS and 30FPS. The software also allowed for scheduled recording, as a possible spinoff was to use the system as a security camera system when not used for teleconferencing.

…During all the testing, it hit me: if the frame capture size could be increased to at least 640×480 pixels – preferably 800×600, or even 1024×768! – then this could be used to capture entire TV shows off the air through a VCR. Add in a cheap tuner card and feed it back into the capture card, and you could have a digital VCR for a reasonable price. With some simple hacking into the software, 1024×768 was possible, and the frame drops only occurred at the start and finish of recording, and those were limited to no more than two frames either side – a *lot* less data loss than you’d get starting up the VCR. So, after assembling and testing a hardware solution in my spare time, working up the documentation, and noting the requirements for a software package that would make it, and then submitted it to my manager for patent consideration. He went apeshit over it, and started passing it up the ladder on a “hot track” to get this approved and patented ASAP.

You can see where this is going, right? Yep. In early 1997, I came up with what we now call a DVR or a TiVo.

…Here’s where my hatred of marketing scum comes into play: When the proposal got to marketing, they also went apeshit, but for the completely opposite reasons. Their freakout wasn’t about the fact that I’d come up with this “better mousetrap”, but that they were afraid that D*ll would get sued by the WiMPAAs and their ilk the second they realized that “The Box” could be used to pirate TV Shows and Movies. It didn’t matter that the concept and implementations were already protected by the same court decisions that protected home use of VHS and Betamax almost 15 years earlier. All the marketing slime saw past their own craniorectitis was that D*ll could be sued, and that’s all there was to it. They were so scared of Jack Valenti’s pack of thugs that they didn’t even dare attempt to patent the concepts and methods. From what we were able to get out of our marketing contact, the proposal was *shredded* and we were ordered not to discuss the concept either internally or externally. They even went so far as to scrap the Intel video conferencing deal, and it actually delayed the widespread implementation of CD-Rs in D*ll systems for a year. By the time M*chael D*ll managed to straighten out the marketing department – and fire about six dipshits in the process – over the CD-R flap, it was too late to make another attempt with “The Box”. TiVo had already patented many of the concepts I’d introduced, and announced their first products at the 1999 CES.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t own a TiVo – hey, I still use the same prototype box to rip programs off the air, thankyouverymuch – and the main reason when someone tells me with pride they’re in marketing, I want to kick the living shit out of them with just as much pride…:(

The Golden Age – Perhaps the original intent was for it to be canonical and it was changed to an Elseworlds, but as it came out issue by issue, I thought it was labeled an Elseworlds or at least identified as being out of contnuity.

Now, I assume it pretty much is entirely in continuity.

Untold Legend of the Batman is my gold standard for these kinds of comics, and I haven’t seen it surpassed yet, although that may be due in part to my nostalgic love for the series.

Joe Young said: “The Golden Age – Perhaps the original intent was for it to be canonical and it was changed to an Elseworlds, but as it came out issue by issue, I thought it was labeled an Elseworlds or at least identified as being out of contnuity.”

You are correct. As it came out, it was considered an Elseworlds. But as more and more of it, especially his characterization of Ted Knight (and his “vacation”) showed up in Starman, it was phased into continuity. To the point that recent reprints of the trade are now labeled JSA: The Golden Age.

I am not finding so many mistakes in the DCU Legacies. The main character is an old man today and was a kid during WW2, my father (74 years old) is, too. Surely, he gets quickly mature and stay relatively young for so much time, before becoming old, but I think that goes with the time-compression technique of comics continuity. I am not either upset by the “mistakes” in placing event. It’ s narration of post-IC, post 52 Earth-0, they are recomposing history to differentiate periods with big “mood”. So, having AC junior dying later that it should have been, they are just putting the event in a dark momento for the universe. As for the Supergirl problem, what I am understanding is that the current Supergirl IS the Supergirl that has been part of the first legion of Superheroes, but has yet to live that moments. And she will die sacrificing herself in the cirsis of Infinite Earth, in the past for ours, and in the future for her. I, frankly, love this kind of retconning, because it keeps “real” a great momenti in DC Universe history. I also loved Hippolyta being retconned into being the Golden Age WW, and find it strange they have cancelled that.

But I also believe they are preparing a big switch to Earth-One for the main line of comics, set for some year form now, after some more Graphic Novels, so I guess will see a very wild continuity for the next five years, and then a big Ragnarock final mega-story for Earth-0…

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