"Earth Exceptionalism" In The DC Omniverse

Until we have a title for it, we are calling the big DC Comics relaunch in March, the DC Omniverse. Yesterday I mentioned how Death Metal: Rise Of A New God may be showing how that may start to play out. But the introduction to today's Tales Of The Dark Multiverse: Hush outlines some interesting subtext in recent superhero universe storytelling.

"Earth Exceptionalism" In The DC Omniverse
"Earth Exceptionalism" In The DC Omniverse

And I don't just mean that now that Dan DiDio is gone, a lot more DC Comics are running page one recaps like Marvel do. No, it was the sentence, talking about the multiverse – omniverse of different realities, "in every one, of great interest is the planet Earth".

"American exceptionalism" was originally a critique of the United States of America, a phrase coined by none other than Josef Stalin. That the country sees its history and its nature as inherently different from that of other nations. But it is a phrase that has been unironically embraced by those who openly believe that's true, championed by Ronald Reagan. That, as a result of the American Revolution and a uniquely American ideology based on liberty, equality before the law, individual responsibility, republicanism, representative democracy, and laissez-faire economics, and a direct blessing from God, the USA is just better than everywhere else at everything – and certainly more important than anywhere else. And to be fair, pretty much every country – every county – every town and village has it to some degree. I grew up in Yorkshire, nicknamed "God's Own Country". Britain still sings "Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves" despite every indication to the contrary,

And even when the concept is challenged by, say, more liberal voices – it just manifests in different ways. Take the DC multiverse, the main universe is Earth One, the parallel version is Earth-Two, another twisted version on Earth-Three. After the events of the New 52, with 52 alternate universes, the DC universe was Earth-Prime, and the differences between realities was all down to what was happening on Earth, despite each reality containing an entire universe.

It took a Brit, Alan Moore, to declare that the Marvel UK universe he was writing in, was Earth 616. A random, unimportant number, well down the dimensional dial, and one eventually picked up by the Marvel Universe. It was funny, self-deprecatory and full of perspective. It was the voice of someone living in a country that was once the dominant world power, but now an international irrelevance. Britain used to be Country 1 and was now Country 616.

While Marvel creators enjoyed it, editorial did not, and eventually used the Secret Wars event to remake the Marvel multiverse and to make the Marvel Universe, Prime Earth. The idea of American exceptionalism had just switched to Dimensional exceptionalism. And all the different parallel universes having something different to do with Earth, rather than, say, the Skrull Homeworld, or Apokalips.

Which weirdly makes superhero multiverse storytelling a version of geocentric beliefs, that the sun, and all the other planets, orbit the Earth. A belief entrenched for millennia and maintained by the Church even when science disagreed. It's a human trait to believe that everything revolves around oneself, it's just curious to see the many ways that exhibits itself. Of course, for Presidential candidates, that can sometimes end up being true… and so we have the DC Omniverse. A multiverse of multiverses, each with infinite universes, each with uncountable galaxies, each with uncountable stars and all revolving around, as Douglas Adams put it "Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea." Alan Moore liked Douglas Adams too (Dirk Gently inspired From Hell) – and this attitude seems to come from a similar (if not total) sense of perspective…

Following the smash success of last year's Tales from the Dark Multiverse series, DC returns with five new tales that explore dark, twisted timelines spinning out some of DC's most iconic stories. It begins with the story that kicked off the modern era for Batman…"Hush"! The landmark story introduced Bruce Wayne's childhood friend Tommy Elliot as he tried to destroy the Dark Knight…but what if Tommy had ruined Bruce's life when they were children? Tommy Elliot grew up to be the Dark Prince of Gotham City with the help of Talia al Ghul, Oswald Cobblepot, Harvey Dent, and Jason Todd! But vengeance is coming in the form of Batman the Silenced…who will tear Tommy's life apart! Written by rising star Phillip Kennedy Johnson (The Last God) with jaw-dropping artwork from Dexter Soy (Batman and the Outsiders)!In Shops: Nov 03, 2020 SRP: $5.99

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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