And your writers shall see visions: writing superheroes in the DC Multiverse

When Flash #123 established Jay Garrick was as real as Barry Allen it changed the direction of the DC universe. It also established that at least some comic-book writers in the DCU are psychic.

Writing “Flash of Two Worlds,” Gardner Fox had to explain the unlikely chance that Barry Allen would land on a parallel world exactly like the one he read about in Golden Age Earth-One comics. Fox’s solution: his Earth-One counterpart could vibe (as the TV show puts it) on Earth-Two.

As we later learned, Fox also tuned into Earth-Two’s Justice Society, and by implication used the power for the rest of his Golden Age stories. This ability wasn’t unique. The Gardner Fox of Earth-Prime, for instance, vibed on Barry Allen’s Earth-One adventures and once picked up the thoughts of alien invaders (Strange Adventures #140).

Cary Bates of Earth Prime is not only tuned in to Barry Allen’s adventures, he once thought about them so hard it transported him across the dimensions to Earth-One. It also enabled him to influence events there, though this seems to have been a one-in-a-million fluke; neither he nor Elliott Maggin have the power when they dimension-jump in JLA #123.

(There’s also a story in B&B #124 in which terrorists think they can kill Batman by controlling the way Bob Haney and Jim Aparo write and draw it, but I’m inclined to treat that as just a gloriously weird yarn).

Not all superhero writers depend on this power. DC writers on Earth-Two were fictionalizing real events; Earth-One’s DC comics also published true-crime superhero stories in the 1960s (as detailed in Detective #398). Some comics superheroes may have been completely fictitious such as Earth-Two’s Geezer and Earth-One’s Crusaders (Freedom Fighters #8). However, as most comic books about the rest of the multiverse appear to be reasonably accurate — Captain Marvel’s portrayal on Earth-Two, Superman in Earth-S — it’s probable most writers have the knack. Given that Earth-Prime comics fans were able to teleport some of the JLA from Earth-One just by thinking about them (JLA#153), the writers psi-abiities are presumably present to a smaller degree in most DCU humans.

Although Fox-One got his story ideas in dreams, not everyone does; Bates-Prime vibes on Earth-One in that Flash story just by daydreaming and trying to develop ideas. Probably most writers and artists do it the same way: they start trying to come up with a story or a character and if their concentration is intense enough, they make contact with another world. It’s definitely possible for more than one creator to tap into the same hero, otherwise Bates and Fox wouldn’t both have vibed on Barry. Plus, of course, if the artists didn’t have the same power, the faces and costumes wouldn’t match the real people as well as they do.

It doesn’t follow, though, that the Earth-One comics about Earth-Two or Earth-Two’s books about Earth-S must have had every detail right. It’s possible vibeing isn’t always clear, or sometimes only gives glimpses (“I dreamed of Captain Boomerang shooting Flash into space on one of his giant boomerangs, hmm how can I make that different from the last story?”). And, of course, writers and artists may make changes to their impressions to create a better story. If we’d gone comics shopping on Earth-S or Earth-One, who knows what we’d discover?

#SFWApro. Images top to bottom by Carmine Infantino, Sid Greene and Cary Bates.

5 Comments

  1. Matt

    I recently bought Crisis on Multiple Earths vol 4 which includes a story wherein Malligan becomes a super villain on Earth 2 and ends up killing the Justice Society.
    Carie travels to Earth 1 and teams up with the JLA, while Carmine Infantino works to hide everything back on Earth Prime.

    I really lost any grasp of WTH was happening pretty quickly.

  2. Professor Xum

    Food for thought. The one thing I had noticed in a later Flash comic, v1 issue 137, was that the All-Star Comics featuring the Earth Two Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were published on Earth One… Did Gardner Fox in turn know the secret identities of their Earth-One counterparts? Did all comic book readers on Earth One know as well?

    My understanding was that Cary Bates’ “plotting power” established in The Flash v1 issue 228 was essentially the basis of his super-villain abilities in Justice League of America v1 issues 123 and 124.

    And I believe the “psi-abilities” present in some degree by all people of the Earth Prime universe as established in Justice League of America v1 issue 153 formed the basis of the “Superboy Punch” phenomenon in the Infinite Crisis series as well… though I understand completely if nobody wants to speak of that…

  3. Edo Bosnar

    (There’s also a story in B&B #124 in which terrorists think they can kill Batman by controlling the way Bob Haney and Jim Aparo write and draw it, but I’m inclined to treat that as just a gloriously weird yarn).

    Hm, no fair.

    Also:

    (…) just a gloriously weird yarn (…)

    As opposed to? 😛

    1. A weird and dumb yarn. Seriously, the story is a hoot. I might have listed it, but my Brave and Bolds were a mess from my last rereading and I can’t find it.

      Xum, I remembered Cary using the power in JLA 123, but when I reread it, it appears the Wizard just juiced him up — the Injustice Society was just interested in using his creative mind to come up with ways to outwit the good guys.

      I’ll go over what Gardner Fox of Earth One knew and when did he know it in the next installment.

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