Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | For the Anti-Monitor, knowledge is power

Hey there -- you with the stars in your eyes...

I talk about Crisis On Infinite Earths a lot in this space, and justifiably so, given its place in DC history. However, I’ve never been entirely comfortable with its lead villain, and it starts with his name: The Anti-Monitor.

Now, I know he calls himself simply “The Monitor,” and I know (thanks to various recent DC events) that he’s actually the Monitor assigned to the Anti-Matter Universe. Still, he’s best known with the prefix — and again, the prefix is where the trouble begins.

See, Anti-M (so nicknamed by R.A. Jones, critic for the classic fanzine Amazing Heroes) isn’t the only villain defined as the evil counterpart of a familiar superhero. There’s the Reverse-Flash (and his Golden Age predecessor, the Rival), the Cyborg Superman, the Composite Superman, the Sinestro Corps, Black Adam, and probably some others buried deep in my Who’s Whos. Heck, I can think of three “anti-Batmen” right off: Cat-Man, the Wrath (parents fatally shot by Jim Gordon on the same night the Waynes were killed), and Prometheus (psychopathic-criminal parents also shot by cops).

Anyway, those villains all have the advantage of well-known opponents. The Anti-Monitor is the evil answer to … a guy DC readers barely knew.

Conceived as “The Librarian” by teenaged Marv Wolfman, and introduced in New Teen Titans as a mysterious supervillain-supplier who kept records on super-people, the (good) Monitor turned out to be something of a custodian for the old Multiverse. As Wolfman, penciller George Pérez, and inker Jerry Ordway explained in October 1985’s COIE #7, the Monitor was born billions of years ago on Oa’s moon. He spent the rest of his existence either cataloguing as much as he could of the Multiverse, fighting his dark twin (born simultaneously in the Anti-Matter Universe, on Qward’s moon), or both.

This gave the Monitor an obvious metatextual role in Crisis, which is also a nice way of saying he was very close to being a walking plot device. Beyond paternal affection for his protegé Lyla/Harbinger, the Monitor wasn’t working with much in the way of characterization. Instead, DC’s assembled heroes had to deal with his benign-but-inscrutable plans — and after his death in issue #4 (of 12), Harbinger and the rest of DC-dom were pretty much on their own.

Twenty years later, in the wake of Infinite Crisis, readers learned that there were multiple Monitors, one for each universe in DC’s newly-expanded cosmology. Featuring prominently in the Countdown miniseries and in Final Crisis, these Monitors were basically nigh-omnipotent beings, each struggling to some degree with those pesky human emotions. Final Crisis left only two Monitors standing, the “Over-Monitor” and his emissary Nix Uotan; but after spending the better part of three years with dozens of Monitors, neither the fans nor Dan DiDio seemed anxious to use them again.

Apparently none of that affected the Anti-Monitor, who has had a few different roles since Alex Luthor appropriated his corpse in Infinite Crisis. As the Sinestro Corps’ “Guardian of Fear,” he was killed by Superboy-Prime. He was then reanimated as part of the Black Lanterns’ Central Power Battery before being revived fully by the White Lantern. Now back in the Anti-Matter Universe, most recently he fought Firestorm towards the end of Brightest Day.

Through it all, Anti-M has been fairly one-dimensional, which is not surprising for a character designed specifically for destruction. Part of me is sorry the Monitor(s) won’t be back anytime soon, because the potential is there for a kind of Watcher/Galactus dynamic. In fact, I imagine the M/A-M relationship as “the Watcher and Galactus are brothers,” except that the Monitor would be more proactive, manipulating the Multiverse’s superheroes so as to thwart Anti-M’s rampages. (Helping him, perhaps indirectly, would be the Green Lanterns, charged for millennia with keeping the Qwardians, and related entities like the Sinestro Corps, in check.)

However, because he’s still a Monitor, there is something of the scholar in Anti-M. Like his brother, he studied the Multiverse, and in particular learned enough to know which super-beings were of the most interest. During COIE he “recruited” Red Tornado and Psycho-Pirate for specific nefarious purposes, and abducted the Earth-1 Flash so that his dimension-hopping abilities wouldn’t be a bother. That tells me he’s more than a mere marauder (*cough*Superboy-Prime*cough*). It even makes him scarier, because in theory he knows a whole lot about our heroes, and is able to reach across the dimensional divide to get at them. (At least, he could do that during COIE, at the height of his powers.)

In other words — and I can’t quite believe I’m about to type this — he could be the thinking fan’s Superboy-Prime. Of course, S-P has become a straw figure, combining narrow-minded fandom with omnipotent petulance. For all his belligerence, Anti-M strikes me as smarter than that (again, perhaps not saying much), and therefore capable of being a real, continuing threat to any number of characters. I do like the idea of him and Deathstorm (sigh…) teaming up against Firestorm, because Firestorm is the fusion of two people, Anti-M is half of a set of twins, and Deathstorm is some weird amalgam of both. It would also not surprise me if the fundamental forces which power Firestorm have some connection to the Anti-Matter Universe; especially since COIE #7 revealed that anti-matter messes with his powers.

Anti-M’s apparent knowledge of DC’s characters also allows him to comment, perhaps not quite as fannishly, on their relative strengths and weaknesses. If Superboy-Prime is an exaggerated (I hope) caricature of message-board commenters, Anti-M could take a longer view, not unlike — you guessed it — a superhero-comics blogger. We fans come up with apocalyptic scenarios all the time, often without letting sentiment get in the way. Back in the heyday of Grant Morrison’s JLA (and before Mark Waid did it “for real”), Wizard explained in detail how Batman could take out his fellow Leaguers. Accordingly, emphasizing the Anti-Monitor’s intellect would be a nice counterpoint to (and reminder of) the Monitor’s exhaustive research.

Furthermore, there’s no reason to think Anti-M wouldn’t just pick up where he left off. He’s been studying the positive-matter universe(s) for eons, all the while with an eye towards conquest; he has no particular ideological axes getting in the way; he’s the ruler of an entire dimension, and he’s probably not working on deadline. Not that he would need it — he could put together a Kryptonian-killing army in a weekend and still have time for “60 Minutes.”

Trouble is, he’s recently back from the dead, so rebuilding his power base is probably a higher priority. Anti-M could even be prompted by an ambitious underling who’s reviewed his comprehensive records and has many ideas of his own.

Nevertheless, Anti-M faces only temporary setbacks. The current Monitor is inactive, and thanks to this week’s Green Lantern, Anti-M may actually have a pretty significant ally in a very prominent position. Never mind what could happen if Anti-M decides to throw his weight behind the Sinestro Corps again. What’s more, Anti-M can lie low in his home universe until the time is right. It is all very ominous.

(That is, it’s ominous as long as I don’t hear Anti-M speaking with the voice of Lrrr, ruler of Omicron Persei 8. For some reason I keep coming back to that….)

Anyway, I’m eager to see what DC does with Anti-M. Presumably we’ll see him in the new Firestorm series (co-written by Ethan Van Sciver, who also contributed to the “Sinestro Corps” saga), but I imagine the Green Lanterns will want to check up on him from time to time; and he’s just the kind of extinction-level adversary the Justice League should face. There is always room in superhero comics for a bad guy who knows more than the good guys do — or, at least, more than the good guys think he knows — and who isn’t afraid to act on that knowledge. I kid the Anti-Monitor, but he’s one scary dude. Besides, Trigon and Imperiex are dead, Brainiac’s out of commission, and Darkseid’s taking a breather. Right now DC needs all the credible omnipotent villains it can get.

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Comments

13 Comments

“Anti-M could even be prompted by an ambitious underling who’s reviewed his comprehensive records and has many ideas of his own.”

At the risk of going all meta–perhaps that ambitious underling is you, Tom? [cue ominous music]

The White Lantern took something from the Anti-Monitor. We never found out what. It was a blatantly-dangled plot thread that Geoff Johns just sort of…dropped…right at the end of Brightest Day. Ugh.

Agreed on the inherent silliness of the name, and many other comic character names. But then, most comic characters have a degree of silliness to them, and you either take the name as part of the camp, or you try to come up with a “cooler” name that just doesn’t cut it. (How many names has Monica Rambeau been through? How about renaming Aqualad “Tempest” because we didn’t like the “lad” part anymore? Is anyone really comfortable calling Jean Grey “Marvel Girl” when she’s a woman, “Phoenix” when she’s not, or just “Jean Grey”?)

Now whenever I read Anti-M, he will forever be voiced by Maurice LaMarche in my head. And I genuinely thank you for that.

Huh. When I looked up “Maurice LaMarche,” I kept getting references to the Brain (as in, “Pinky and”). I understand Tom’s reference now…but too late, I’m stuck with the Brain as the Anti-Monitor.

“…the same thing we do every Crisis, Psycho-Pirate…TRY TO DESTROY THE POSITIVE MATTER UNIVERSE.”

The original Monitor was a thinly disguised rip-off of Marvel’s Watcher. (The multiple Monitors introduced after Infinite Crisis only make the fact more obvious.)

That said, the Anti-Monitor DID come across as fearsome, the ultimate life-destroying lifeform. For a mainly one-dimensional character, he was effective as COIE’s main menace.

But he should have stayed dead. He’s been reduced to a plot device to make OTHERS sound more threatening. I’m not impressed at all.

And all that stuff Morrison wrote in Superman Beyond about The Monitors being the embodiments of stories and the DC Universe ACTUALLY being fictional was not only too convoluted (and with lots of borrowed ideas, like the Beyonder’s origin) but it was very annoying, like trying to watch a movie with someone constantly pointing out that “it’s just a movie, you know!” (I know, now shut up and let me enjoy it!)

Nice analysis of the character. I’d like to see you do one on one of Godzilla’s deadliest foes: Destoroyah, the living embodiment of the weapon that killed the original Godzilla, the oxygen destroyer.

I don’t think SInestro is an ally of Anti-M. The whole Sinestro Corps War in which he worked with him was a gambit to get the GLC to toughen up, essentially. Now that he’s back in the Corps I don’t think he’d want to work with the Anti-Monitor again.

One more thing: your bit about the Monitor/Anti-M relationship being similar to the Watchers/Galactus may have been answered:

http://red-rum-18.deviantart.com/gallery/10467425

He did a twist on Amalgam Comics and made coherent mergers. Two of them were the following:
-Uatu the Watcher+The Monitor=Dax Uatu, The Observer
-Aron, the Rogue Watcher+The Anti-Monitor=Aron the Anti-Observer

It’s never been clear to me what the Anti-Monitor wanted with The Red Tornado? Was it because Reddy had been revealed to be the Tornado Champion and the Anti-Monitor wanted to figure out a way to separate the Champion from Tornado’s android body and control him? Or was it because Tornado had existed on both Earth-2 and Earth-1?

given with darksiede and braniac are on the shelve. dc could use a big bad cosmic threat like am though calling the anti monitor anti m sounds like auntie em from wizard of oz. for dc universe is long over due for a threat to unite it again. and the anti monitor running around lose is perfect if nothing else try and do some more house cleaning of the dcu history.

Simon DelMonte

July 15, 2011 at 1:13 am

Anyone know what happened to RA Jones?

I’m with Sijo, AM should have been retired after Crisis on Infinite Earths. He was indeed just one big plot device, and after fulfilling his role he should have shuffled off, not be brought back continually as a reminder that continuity can change in a flash.

I wish Marv Wolfman had created a proper pair of motivational forces to instigate the Crisis – suddenly teling us that penny ante weapons broker the Monitor was in fact a cosmic being supplying villains with the equipment to test heroes for the coming Crisis made little sense.

So that’s who that was. I only know the Monitor & Lyla from a few panels in Len Wein & Dave Gibbons’ run on Green Lantern. I didn’t realize he was a good guy; he seemed sinister.

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