“Three Spider-Men? In this economy?”

§ September 16th, 2022 § Filed under multiverse talk § 8 Comments

David Conner brings up

“I could see this [multiversal] stuff really confusing ’80s Hollywood people. OTOH, I think then as now, if Hollywood wanted to make a movie with both Doctor Fate and Shazam! characters, they’d just do it and ignore the ‘different Earth’ stuff.”

That is a point I never considered. I mean, you’re right, if they’re really on a tear about doing, I don’t know, a Johnny Thunder movie, they’re gonna do one regardless of how convoluted the character’s milieu may seem.

But I can see that parallel Earths business being an additional barrier to, well, in this case Hollywood folks, but in general to everyone else too. While it’s not too complicated a concept (often being explained in a single panel, or even a single caption box, when necessary), it’s possible someone looking for a property to exploit (or alternatively a reader just looking for something to read) might see this weird explanation about this character is from some Earth or ‘nother and think “nope, I’ll move onto something else less complicated.”

Now you know, and I know, and even pal Ian knows, the whole parallel Earth thing isn’t complicated. If I got it when I was, what, nine or ten years old, it couldn’t be that hard. But it could give off the appearance of complication, and even the smallest hurdle is enough to stop somebody. Even with “THE MULTIVERSE,” at least vis-à-vis comical books, being a thing in most everyone’s awareness and understanding now, not just with the funnybook-initiated, there’s still someone watching these Marvel movies and despairing aloud “what? Three Spider-Men? What’s going on? How did that happen? I don’t get it!”

• • •

Michael Grabowski slaloms in with

“I feel like this is a problem only comic book nerds have, as in the general public doesn’t particularly care. There are all the different movie & TV conceptions of Superman/Superboy and Batman of the last 50 years, and the people who watch those don’t seem to let continuity conflicts (or casting changes) get in the way of enjoying what they’re watching.”

Just imagine how many headaches could’ve been avoided if DC had started a new Hawkman series, and everyone had been all “how does this tie in with Hawkworld and Crisis and the Golden Age Hawkman and and” and DC’s response was “shut up, here’s a Hawkman comic, he fights gentlemanly ghosts and shadow crooks with a mace, DON’T MAKE IT MORE COMPLICATED.” But there’s always some measure of continuity shenanigans getting in the way (though the most recent Hawkman series leaned into it with good effect), not just with Hawkman but with DC’s incessant need to continually relitigate the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and explain the multiverse again. As the boy on a recent episode of War Rocket Ajax noted, it seems like DC’s multiverse has come back several times over the last few events.

It seems like the only way to break this cycle in comics is to…ignore it. Just tell the stories without wondering what Earth it’s taking place on. I know, I know, most do that anyway, but every time, DC has to go and remind everyone “oh hey remember parallel Earths? Let us explain them to you” However, the parallel universe thing is mostly restricted to these events, so it doesn’t interfere with the flow of the regular monthly books too much. Except when they tie in, of course.

The movies worked by simply not acknowledging the other films. “Here are four ‘Burtonverse’ Batman films” and “here are three Christopher Nolan Batman films” and never the twain shall meet, one does not refer to the other, and also the movies are several years apart so the idea of “hmmm, I thought Joker died, but here he is again, a lot skinnier and younger than last time” probably shouldn’t come up. (But, y’know, there’s always the one guy….)

Of course now the new superhero movies do all refer to each other, and like I referenced with those three Spider-Men earlier, now reference movies outside the world of the films. And we’ve got the multiverse thrown in for good measure. So far Marvel’s managed to keep everything more or less straight, with a minimum of confusion, and using the continual crossovers to drive audiences to the next installment, whatever it may be. Even after a decade or so, it hasn’t turned into a problem…yet.

8 Responses to ““Three Spider-Men? In this economy?””

  • Daniel says:

    “While [the multiverse is] not too complicated a concept (often being explained in a single panel, or even a single caption box, when necessary)..”

    This has always been part of the problem for me. The *idea* of a multiverse as a concept is a BIG, HUGE idea. But, as you said, it’s often explained away in a single caption box in order to get back to the business of just another generic super-hero slugfest story, when the conceptual idea behind the multiverse is potentially soooo much more interesting. If you’re going to insist on telling a multiverse story, then tell THAT story instead.

    A similar thing happened with the two recent Wonder Woman movies (I liked the first one a lot; hated the second one). The three Zack Snyder DC movies are logical, rational, pseudo-scientific presentations of fantastical ideas (e.g., if super-heroes actually existed in the real world, this is likely how things would play out, for better or for worse). But in the first WW movie (which is part of the same continuity), the filmmakers just casually introduced the idea that polytheism is real and monotheism is not. And, on top of that, they clearly and definitively established that human beings were created by these polytheistic beings in the image of these polytheistic beings. So in just a couple of off-handed remarks, the movies established that the entire monotheistic Christian-Judeo belief system that more than half the world believes in isn’t real AND evolution never happened. Maybe I’m being naive, but these are big, meaty ideas that, like the concept of the multiverse, are so much more interesting and so much more worth exploring than Wonder Woman hitting people. The same thing happened in WW84 when it was, again, definitively established that the afterlife and the soul are real things, but absolutely no discussion happened around this incredibly earth shattering idea because they wanted Wonder Woman to fight a cat-girl instead.

    In all of these cases, the creators can’t see the forest for the trees. They’re using these potentially amazing ideas as a throwaway bridge to tell forgettable stories instead.

    The only stories that I’ve read that have taken the idea of the multiverse seriously and used the concept to tell interesting stories are 1) the His Dark Materials trilogy, and 2) Black Science from Image Comics. In both cases, the creators explore the logic behind this fantastical idea and use that logic to tell interesting stories about the concept itself.

  • I gotta throw my lot in with Mr. Grabowski on this, at least from the commercial perspective. How many James Bonds and Ms and Qs and Ernst Stavros Blofelds and Felix Leiters have there been and how many SPECTREs and SMERSHes? I dunno, but it’s a lot. And (until recently, arguably) they never explained why and the audience never cared. Even I didn’t, and I was a movie nerd and a comics nerd (and had the Dr. No play figures).

    I test out how much continuity matters with some of my, um, civilian friends, and yeah, they pretty much don’t care.

    Now the *artistic* discussion is a whole ‘nother other…

  • Daniel says:

    I think the movie audience sees a change in actors playing James Bond, etc., as being like a change of pencilers on a comic book. It’s not the beginning of a new continuity every time a new penciler starts on a book any more than it’s the start of a new Bond continuity with every change of actor (pre-Craig).

    That said, for me as a viewer, such cast changes are incredibly distracting (just as changes in creative teams on a comic book mid-story are incredibly distracting). Which is probably why I never warmed to the James Bond films until Craig took over the role and the producers hard-rebooted the series with a focus on narrative and stylistic consistency. And it’s also why I tend to bail on books once they do change creative teams, particularly when no regard is given to maintain stylistic consistency with the previous creative team (Brian Azxarello’s run on Wonder Woman is Exhibit A for this. Cliff Chiang was an amazing artist on that book. His fill-in artist…was not.)

  • Dave-El says:

    “Just tell the stories without wondering what Earth it’s taking place on.” Hey, if that approach was good enough for Bob Haney, then it’s just fine with me.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Dave-El —

    I love zany Bob Haney Silver/Bronze Age comics…but ultimately he got let go by continuity cop Paul Levitz…and “The Super-Sons” stories from World’s Finest were disrespected when the Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. were deemed mere holographic computer simulations or something instead of existing on an alternate Earth or timeline…but at least Haney, E. Nelson Bridwell, Arnold Drake, and Steve Skeates brought
    some pizzazz to otherwise boring ’60s DC Comics.


    I can see not digging Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan (although I hope he’s great as Dr. Fate!) as Bond–but you didn’t like Sean Connery??…he’s the definitive James Bond! Whoever they cast after Daniel Craig (I’d go with Tom Hardy), I wish they would set the new Bond film iteration in the early 1950s–like the actual first Fleming novel– and work their way through the Cold War era with the new Bond actor for a decade of films which would all precede Sean Connery’s 1962 debut. in Dr. No.

    I guess when/if The Flash movie gets released we will have our answers, but’d I’d go with Michael Keaton Batman providing the exposition to Ezra Miller Flash about parallel Earths and the Multiverse…it would make sense that Batman–being the greatest detective on all Earths–should know this. Of course, if a Jay Garrick were to be cast for the film and make even a cameo appearance it would also make sense for him to provide the exposition non-comic book nerds watching the movie might need to follow the plot.

    I doubt that the Black Adam movie will dive too deeply into JSA lore, but I do wonder if Pierce Brosnan Dr. Fate will have a soliloquy where he talks about the original Justice Society founder members or WW II or anything? Speaking of Black Adam, shuouldn’t his first appearance in JSA and Justice Society of America be gaining in value as well as his Captain Marvel Family and Shazam! first appearances?

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Sean, what you want is the BBC’s James Bond radio series. These are generally faithful adaptations of the novels, set in period, with remarkable casts (David Suchet as Dr. No, Ian McKellan as Goldfinger, Rosamund Pike as Pussy Galore, Alred Molina as Blofeld, Joanna Lumley as Irma Bunt, Peter Capaldi as Major Boothroyd, Tom Conti as Largo. and so on). They have never been given a commercial release–supposedly, Eon Productions forbids this–but (ahem) they can be found on YouTube and at Archive.org.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Turan, Emissary of the Fly Word:

    Cool! Thanks for the info. I’ll search YouTube.

    Based on your name, I take it you are a fan of The Fly/Flyman.

    I’ve managed to track down several Silver Age issues of The Adventures of The Fly, and have the complete run of the ’80s Red Circle/Archie Adventure series revival. Do you have a favorite era for The Fly? I thought the Steve Ditko issues (no. 3-8) were pretty interesting and tha art was great…also liked the James Sherman art of the first two issues and those Steranko covers. Similarly, I thought the ’80s iteration of The Mighty Crusaders started off fairly strong under Rick Buckler’s guidance (although I think they should have just called Lancelot Strong by his civilian name to avoid confusion with the o.g. Shield…). It would be cool if DC Comics and Archie Comics would let there be a limited series where the JSA/All-Star Squadron and MLJ ’40s characters cross over in a WW II-era story arc–preferably produced by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Walaka of Earth Two: “the Dr. No play figures”

    There were Dr No figures??


    Sean Mageean: “if Pierce Brosnan Dr. Fate will have a soliloquy”

    Brosnan’s certainly the right one to do it!