The Many Worlds of DC - Part 1
Posted by Tony Ingram on Jun 17, 2008
As Final Crisis prepares to confuse us all again, a working knowledge of DC’s various alternate Earths might be useful. So, just to entertain, here’s your rough guide to DC’s many worlds past and present!
The first world to be seen in a DC title was, illogically enough, the one which would later be called ‘Earth 2’. Though it’s difficult to say for certain when it first appeared (possibly in New Fun #1, Feb 1935, the first wholly original comic book published by DC) it’s first positively verifiable appearance would be in New Fun #6, later that same year. This was the issue which introduced Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Dr Occult the psychic detective-the first continuing character to still be a part of DC’s shared universe, and technically the world’s first costumed superhero as well! These days of course, almost no-one has heard of Dr Occult, but that’s ok because almost no-one had heard of him in 1935, either.
Rather better known inhabitants of Earth 2 include Batman (who died in 1979 after coming out of retirement for one last case), his daughter the Huntress (killed in 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #12), Robin (likewise killed in COIE #12), Wonder Woman, the Justice Society of America, the 7 Soldiers of Victory, Johnny Quick, Wildcat, Alexi Luthor and some guy named Kal-L of Krypton—the original Superman!
Several Earth 2 characters, including Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Air Wave and Green Arrow later proved (in the 1960’s) to have virtual duplicates on Earth 1, all of whom were conveniently a few decades younger than the originals, while others such as Flash and Green Lantern proved unique, although different individuals adopted the same names as them on Earth 1.
The last Earth 2 character definitely identified as such was Aquaman; though we’d known for decades that the Aquaman seen in the 40’s could not be the same guy who worked with the later Justice League of America, the Earth 2 Aquaman wasn’t positively identified until All-Star Squadron #60 (1986), the last ever story set on Earth 2 (until now). Earth 2 was merged with Earths 1, 4, X and S in Crisis on Infinite Earths #11, but appears to have been recreated-though it is now subtly different!
It’s equally tricky to say just when Earth 1 first appeared. This was the world inhabited by the Silver Age Justice League of America (including the second Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman and the one and only Martian Manhunter) and so received wisdom has it that it first appeared in the mid ‘50’s, when Barry Allen became the Flash and the Martian Manhunter first came to Earth.
By then though, Captain Comet-later established as a resident of Earth 1-had already concluded his 1951-54 run in Strange Adventures. More significantly, in late 1944 (still very much the ‘Golden Age’ of comics) DC had begun publishing a series featuring Superboy (“the adventures of Superman when he was a boy”) and it is now pretty well established that one of the things that distinguishes the Earth 2 Superman (Kal-L) from his later counterpart (Kal-El) is that he never had a career as Superboy!
Other inhabitants of Earth 1 who were not represented on Earth 2 included the Teen Titans, Supergirl (though Earth 2 did have a ‘Power Girl’ who shared the same history and real name) and Lex Luthor (though the bald Lex had actually begun appearing back in the 40’s, the red haired Alexi having originally only been seen once). All clear so far? No? Well, don’t worry: it gets worse!
Earth 3 first appeared in JLA #29, and was a parallel world plagued by the Crime Syndicate of America-Ultraman (a counterpart of Superman), Superwoman (an alternate Wonder Woman), Power Ring (Green lantern), Johnny Quick (oddly, an evil version of the Flash, not of the Earth 2 Johnny Quick) and Owlman (Batman). The only superhero on Earth 3 was Alexander Luthor, whose son, Alex Jr, would sadly later prove to be rather less heroic. Earth 3 was destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 but, like Earth 2, a version of it has since been recreated. Alex Luthor Jr, of course, died in the ‘Infinite Crisis’.
Earth 4, not introduced into a DC title until Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 in 1985 (though it was misidentified as Earth 1 in that issue and not properly named until COIE #6), was the home of Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, the Question and the rest of the characters formerly owned by Charlton comics. All the stories originally published by Charlton would logically have taken place on Earth 4, though where the 1940’s Blue Beetle series from Fox Publications was set is anybody’s guess. The original Blue Beetle has the same name as the first Charlton version (Dan Garrett), but does not appear to be quite the same character. Earth 4 is now back too, though apparently minus Charlton’s second Blue Beetle, Ted Kord.
Earth 6 (Hey, what happened to Earth 5? Oh well, never mind) first appeared in Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 and was destroyed soon after. Its only positively identified inhabitants were its superhuman Royal Family, Lord Volt, Lady Quark and Princess Fern, though only Lady Quark escaped its destruction. She has been seen infrequently since the first Crisis ended, and was once an operative of the L.E.G.I.O.N., an intergalactic police force.
Earth 12 was the home of the Inferior Five (and versions of the JLA and others), first seen in Showcase #62 (1966) but not positively identified until Oz-Wonderland War #3 (1986). It was presumably destroyed in the Crisis, though the Five survived, somehow.
Earth X first reared its Nazi dominated head in JLA #107, in which the JLA and the Justice Society traveled there and met the Freedom Fighters, all characters originally owned by Quality Comics (curiously the Blackhawks, also ex Quality characters, had by this time been established as living on Earth 1, though later stories showed they also had counterparts on Earth 2-but not on Earth X!). The Freedom Fighters migrated briefly to Earth 1 in the 1970’s for a short lived series of their own, while a later story in All-Star Squadron (set in World War II, and therefore technically an earlier story!) established that they were all originally from Earth 2 but had relocated to Earth X in 1941.
At times, it did seem as though interdimensional travel in the DC Universe was as easy as catching a bus! Curiously, although the Freedom Fighters’ history showed a world where World War II lasted into the 1970’s, Quality had published several post-war stories featuring some of these guys, so they can’t have been exactly the same characters. Maybe there was also an ‘Earth Q’ out there, somewhere?
Earth S was first seen (in a DC title) in Shazam #1 (Feb 1973) and was the home of the characters originally published by Fawcett, including Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, Ibis the Invincible, Minuteman, Bulletman and Spy Smasher. Another resident of Earth S, for some reason, was Kid Eternity-a former Quality Comics character!
Possibly the oddest of DC’s alternate Earths, though, was Earth Prime (introduced in Flash #179, 1968), simply because it was supposed to be the Earth on which we, the readers, lived! Prominent inhabitants included DC’s own Julius Schwartz, Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin, all of whom apparently based their comic book stories on events actually occurring on Earths 1 and 2 (which they somehow “tuned in” to as they dreamed)! Earth Prime’s history appears to have diverged from ours, though, with the arrival of the super powered Ultraa in JLA #153 (though he quickly moved to Earth 1) and, later, the unveiling of that world’s version of Superboy. Earth Prime was destroyed in the great Crisis, Superboy Prime its only survivor (unfortunately).
In 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #11, the five surviving alternate Earths were seemingly merged into one ‘New’ Earth, the principal Earth of the modern DC Universe, its history a mix and match of what had gone before on the various vanished Earths. Alternate Earths continued to appear, though, as we shall see next time…
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