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The Annotated "Crisis On Infinite Earths"
August 22, 2012 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Crisis on Infinite Earths was a 12-issue comic book maxi-series published in 1985 and 1986 in which DC Comics condensed their multiverse into a single universe, thus "simplifying" and "improving" it. Whether they succeeded in that goal is a good question, and one I shan't address. Crisis is, however, incredibly important to understanding DC continuity, as well as being possibly the most significant crossover series of all time.
posted by Egg Shen (121 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I just started re-reading it for the fifth? sixth? time and totally forgot this exists! Thanks!
posted by griphus at 3:53 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Crisis was (were?) pretty much the only DC title I enjoyed when I was a kid and knee-deep in comics. I borrowed them from a friend and tore through the whole series in a night or two. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew they were awesome.
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 4:06 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


But of course the multiverse is back no? The WildStorm universe had like half a dozen batmans and they are all back in the DC continuity.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:11 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Too bad most of the stuff COIE brought about has been retconned, rebooted, re-imagined, or new52ed out of existence. WHERE IS WALLY WEST YOU DC FUCKS?

Also, now this is happening. (JLA spoilers)
posted by PapaLobo at 4:11 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


The other day I was wondering if there are people who think of the post-Crisis DC Universe as not really being "real" in the same way I do the Nu52 DC Universe.

Of course both post-Crisis and post-Nu52 tales are imaginary stories... Aren't they all?
posted by Artw at 4:13 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, now this is happening. (JLA spoilers)

Yeah, that is some bullshit right there.
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


The same guy who wrote this also measured the infrared reflectivity of various colors of lego colors. Just in case you were wondering...
posted by Strass at 4:27 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, I learned about:

The Lieutenant Marvels: Fat Marvel, Tall Marvel, and Hill Billy Marvel (debatable)

So... that's... something.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:30 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So anyway, today at the comic store I was treated to some guy freaking out because the Rorschach comics had sold out - apparently the rest of the Before Watchmen comics hadn't been selling to their (high) orders and they'd scaled back, but that one they'd scaled back too much as it sold really well.

Fucking Rorschach, the psycho asshole who in today's comics would somehow be the "cool" one. People who buy a subtext free rehash of that character are basically DCs target market these days.
posted by Artw at 4:32 PM on August 22, 2012 [19 favorites]


half a dozen batmans

I'm with you but DC seems to prefer "Batmen".
posted by Egg Shen at 4:40 PM on August 22, 2012


Welll.. it is all the same Batman, each one is from one of the different 190k dimensions in the WildStorm multiverse. I guess there must really be 190k different Batmen now but we only see 6-7 total. Some Batmen must be almost identical, with minor differences in hair length or maybe a few are kinda hungry because they skipped breakfast.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:48 PM on August 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Fucking Rorschach, the psycho asshole who in today's comics would somehow be the "cool" one

That reminds me of the issue of the late-80s Question where Vic reads Watchmen, tries to emulate Rorschach, quickly gets bested in a fight and comes to a conclusion.
posted by griphus at 4:57 PM on August 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Lieutenant Marvels: Fat Marvel, Tall Marvel, and Hill Billy Marvel (debatable)

The best thing about Crisis was all the hillari-awesome minor characters it dredged up. The worst thing was everything else.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:57 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also Jesus fucking Christ that JLA cover. Why not just print "NO GURLS ALOWED" and get it over with?
posted by griphus at 4:58 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


The best thing about Crisis was all the hillari-awesome minor characters it dredged up.

This may account for why everyone had to constantly address each other by name.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:06 PM on August 22, 2012


Heh. Readers get pissed off if you don't do that at least once per episode containing a character even to this day.
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on August 22, 2012


And they killed off Supergirl. That's still annoying.
posted by Yakuman at 5:17 PM on August 22, 2012


Since then they've rebooted twice more, haven't they?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:18 PM on August 22, 2012


The problem with the New 52 isn't poor story-telling per se but way way too much editorial interference. Hell, even Rob Liefield has been driven out of the fold.

I am convinced that there are a ton of interesting stories to be told in the new continuity if the bosses would just get out of the way.
posted by djeo at 5:25 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The best thing about old-school (pre-DC) Captain Marvel was indeed the casual insanity of its supporting cast. A talking tiger, a rabbit with Shazam! powers, Captain Nazi, an evil puppet, crocodile men, hippo men, indestructible robots, Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini, and the world's wickedest villain turning out to be a two-inch worm from outer space.

Crisis on Infinite Earths was in some ways badly needed, in others a complete trainwreck. The fact that the DC universe contained multiple parallel universes with unique continuities, universes and characters folded in from purchased properties (Fawcett, Charlton, etc.), multiple versions of the same character and decades of backstories to weld together (along with umpteen Imaginary Stories, time travel paradoxes and whatnot) made the DC Universe a fascinating playground for storywriting but really complicated for newbies to understand.

So they smashed it all into one universe via Crisis on Infinite Earths. Then they undid part of it. Then they left it as one universe but endangered the timestream instead. Then they split it up even FURTHER with Hypertime. Then they pulled a Men In Black ending and revealed that the multiverse we'd seen was a tiny part of something much bigger. Then they smashed it all back into one universe. Then they split that into fifty-two. Then the Flash screwed things up and things got split up again and now NOBODY knows how many DC universes there are.

Don't worry. No matter where or when, Aquaman can still talk to fish.
posted by delfin at 5:29 PM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Not only did they kill off Supergirl but they also killed off Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash. The poor guy had just suffered through the overly drawn out Trial of the Flash storyline which was pretty painful. I consider it a mercy killing.
posted by GavinR at 5:29 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


More crap from DC editorial if you're interested.
posted by djeo at 5:30 PM on August 22, 2012


I started reading DC right after CoIE finished. My first Batman comic was issue 404 (Year One, part one). As far as I'm concerned, Crisis was the best thing they ever did and if I had my way, I'd send all these Silver Age fanboy writers who brought all the ridiculous cruft back into continuity off into a pocket universe never to be seen again.
posted by entropicamericana at 5:41 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Supergirl dying made me cry. That cover still gives me the chills.

I was 10 though.
posted by bq at 5:41 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not only did they kill off Supergirl but they also killed off Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash. The poor guy had just suffered through the overly drawn out Trial of the Flash storyline which was pretty painful. I consider it a mercy killing.

For a long time that was the character death that actually took... And then it didn't.
posted by Artw at 5:42 PM on August 22, 2012


13 years. thatm ust be a record.
posted by griphus at 5:54 PM on August 22, 2012


Peter Parker's Uncle Ben. First appearance August 1962, died the same issue, still dead.

So far.
posted by delfin at 5:58 PM on August 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


And they killed off Supergirl. That's still annoying.
Annoying how they tried to bring a Supergiril back into the post-Crisis DCU, but the original pre-Crisis Earth-1 Kara's death was incredibly heroic, incredibly moving and probably the only time I've really felt just how much grief Superman must hold inside. And the cover is indeed iconic. Especially members of the Legion comforting Brainiac-5.
posted by PapaLobo at 6:00 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, I'd like to see the FringeDCU for reals.
posted by PapaLobo at 6:07 PM on August 22, 2012


New52 is a freaking nightmare currently to the point where outside a small number of almost completely self-contained titles like Wonder Woman I've already given up on it. The decision to hard reboot in some titles but not the Batfamily and Lantern titles plus the decision to place different books at different points in the continuity has resulted in some horrible, horrible continuity issues that are already being retconned in books 1 year after the launch of Nu52.

Yeah I think editorial interference has been a contributing factor but part of it was the apparent fear to undermine the current Batfamily dominance over DC sales and a reluctance to tell Morrison and Johns "Sorry bro, but we are going to have to reboot your current storylines because our current product offering is not measuring up".

Could Didio be handling stuff better? Probably but I don't like the excuse of avoiding editorial interference excuse Morrison's seeming refusal to turn scripts into editors in a timely manner and collaborate with other creators like Perez who kinda need to know what you are doing in the 5 years before present so that they can create the "modern" storylines without conflicting too much.

I don't really like how Marvel handles at lot of their stuff and god knows the 616 universe could use it's own Crisis but the practice of using writer retreats seems to actually create a more coherent vision of the marvel universe than DC is able to generate with their Nu52.

As to the upcoming JL cover with Superman and Wonder Woman I'm kinda meh, the JL book under Johns and Lee has been absolutely dreadful in a completely boring and worthless way but honestly Trinity shipping has been such an ever present thing in the DC fanbase for ages that having a Trinity Ship cover doesn't really bother me that much. Of course the pose is typical Jim Lee 90s never left us crap but honestly that's pretty much a given. Art in most cape books seems to be about 20-30 years behind the current rate of societal development.
posted by vuron at 6:10 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, they fucked around with Morrisons stuff quite a lot, just not in any way that makes sense. Possibly that has something to do with him leaving them.

If they actually get around to giving us the end of Batman Inc. I'm going to be pretend its set in the old universe anyway... Which it basically is.
posted by Artw at 6:14 PM on August 22, 2012


I pretty much assume that Bat Inc is an Elseworld's title like Earth2 and thus can be safely ignored if the content doesn't work with rest of the universe. Personally I'd prefer if he pretty much stayed on alt-continuity stories all the time because while I generally like his stories he definitely has a bit of "Does not play well with others" going on.

I think he'll probably do his Wonder Woman project exploring the golden age version of the character despite the distinct possibility that an exploration of Marston's Wonder Woman particularly by a male writer could go completely and horribly wrong. Fortunately ever indication that I've read concerning it is that it would be an alt-continuity book instead of undermining Azzarello's mythic Diana with a ton of bad super science and bondage.
posted by vuron at 6:23 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


F that noise. Lois 4ever.
posted by bq at 6:30 PM on August 22, 2012


In Marvel every What If... spawned a new universe right? I have an issue of What If where I swear it is "what if Spiderman had weird knees" and indeed Spiderman is drawn with weird looking knees. So on Earth 323456 there is a strange-kneed Spiderman.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:30 PM on August 22, 2012


Is there any more Diniverse stuff coming out? Those Adventures books are the only contemporary superhero comics I've heard almost universal esteem for.
posted by griphus at 6:31 PM on August 22, 2012


At this point I'm not reading new comics anymore. I'm much more interested in buying reprints of Silver and Bronze age stuff from the big two.
posted by GavinR at 6:36 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been trying to work my way through Morrison's New52 Action.
It's horrible. Worse than his Crisis.

I was hoping someone would do a Year of New 52 post (I don't feel qualified), but it's been fucking awful based on what I have seen so far.
posted by Mezentian at 6:47 PM on August 22, 2012


To this day, a serious discussion of DC Comics is going to be peppered with "pre-Crisis" and "post-Crisis". You can't get away from it, you can't ignore it, and you can't pretend it didn't happen. It will matter forever.

I'm not a comic reader, but from what little I understand, isn't it the case that the major comic companies really don't have the slightest respect for the notion of continuity? Mightn't DC gleefully pretend tomorrow that every single thing that happened is suddenly wiped away like Bobby Ewing coming out of of the shower if they thought it would sell a few more comics?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:50 PM on August 22, 2012


I've really dug his Action asides from the duff backups and the nagging feeling that it's out of order. It could totally exist in isolation from Nu52 though.
posted by Artw at 6:52 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mightn't DC gleefully pretend tomorrow that every single thing that happened is suddenly wiped away like Bobby Ewing coming out of of the shower if they thought it would sell a few more comics?

*cough*
One More Day.
posted by Mezentian at 6:53 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mightn't DC gleefully pretend tomorrow that every single thing that happened is suddenly wiped away like Bobby Ewing coming out of of the shower if they thought it would sell a few more comics?

Well, since they did just that about a year ago it might wear a little thin... But, yes?
posted by Artw at 6:54 PM on August 22, 2012


I had my way, I'd send all these Silver Age fanboy writers who brought all the ridiculous cruft back into continuity off into a pocket universe never to be seen again

What, another one? HOW IS THIS HELPING?
posted by eriko at 7:02 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


from the duff backups and the nagging feeling that it's out of order.

It is totally out of order. And makes no sense. Kandor... His suit that seems to wave between armour and a T-shirt. His suit that is Brainiac. The fact that it doesn't mesh with Superman.

But Crisis, the topic du jour, confused me a little as a kid (so many characters I did not know), but as it contained Every Hero Ever, I kinda loved it. Moreso than Secret Wars, which was around at the same time, since that was a plan to sell toys and Crisis had a story.

Yay story!
posted by Mezentian at 7:03 PM on August 22, 2012


Well Crisis was the big experiment of seeing whether a company could jettison decades of continuity that only the most obsessed readers even remotely cared about and establish a brand new universe where the critical characters were trimmed down to their essential parts and given a new lease on life to rediscover and retell these modern day myths. It was freeing for the creator and the reader and in many ways help revitalize a company that had been struggling mightily to maintain some degree of relevance.

Many of the stories told in the immediate wake of Crisis such as Byrne's Superman and Miller's Year One went on to inform the next few decades of the characters arcs. Granted stuff from pre-crisis continuity continually leaked back into the DC Universe such as Superboy Prime and many of elements of post-crisis character development were later retconned or ignored but it was a massively influential event that for better or worse has shaped the editorial direction of DC pretty much since that period. By a similar token the relatively mediocre Secret Wars event has shaped Marvel into the company that continually cycles through event after even looking for increased sales due to event comics and even tie-ins.

I think the promise of Crisis is what informed my optimism for New 52 because sometimes you do need to retcon stuff in order to get rid of decades of detritus that get in the way of good storytelling and frankly the Marvel practice of using Marvel time and new constant soft reboots is grating. The fact that DC chickened out of doing a full hard reboot of the DC universe in order to maintain sales on popular books just cheapened the event and confirmed that is was basically just a relaunch gimmick to increase sales rather than a universe wide event designed to make classic characters more understandable and readable to modern readers.
posted by vuron at 7:30 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love the DCU where a crisis can be a good thing -- always a do-over and a second chance if the hero messed up the first hundred issues!

They kill you, but then they bring you back younger, hipper, better looking and more powerful than before! Wondy married boring doofus Steve Trevor, but then, hey, no need for a mid-life crisis, when she could have a DC-Crisis and and it brought her back a single lady who filled out her super-bikini just a little better than before!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:55 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was entranced with COIE as a big giant work of interconnected storytelling. That was before I realized it was a big giant work of interconnected Magic Slate that would just be erased whenever anyone felt like it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:08 PM on August 22, 2012


I am not even fucking talking about New 52, because that shit is dead to me. DEAD TO ME.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:09 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


They're doing Issue #0 of them all next month, aren't they?
posted by Artw at 8:12 PM on August 22, 2012


They're doing Issue #0 #-1 of them all next month, aren't they?
posted by Cosine at 8:15 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crossovers, is what I'm hearing.
posted by Artw at 8:17 PM on August 22, 2012


I keep hearing reports of a Black Adam event in JL before too long but I've gotten to the point where I don't care what happens. The reboot of Billy Batson as a little shithead does not seem to be winning many fans though. Johns seems to be confirming the observation that not only does he not read other people's books but he just doesn't care if his plot points completely invalidate someone else's arc in an ongoing happening in the same month.

Which is a shame because his GL and his Aquaman show that when he's passionate about a character he can actually do some pretty interesting and if not innovative then compelling stories when he puts in the effort but god his JL is truly, truly dire.
posted by vuron at 8:24 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


How did Jim Lee ever get to prominence at DC?

I can just see the creative team meeting ... "OK, I've got a one word fix for all your titles: Daemonites."
posted by benzenedream at 8:26 PM on August 22, 2012


It will matter forever.

Oh, sweety. Forever is such a long time.
posted by yoink at 8:27 PM on August 22, 2012


Cosine: "They're doing Issue #0 #-1 of them all next month, aren't they?"

p.s. that's issue #3.1415926 for everyone else…
posted by Pinback at 8:29 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Superman + Wonder Woman = <3 In 'Justice League' #12 [Kissy Kissy]
posted by homunculus at 8:30 PM on August 22, 2012


issue NaN.

I don't usually read super hero comics unless they are adult as fuck with like heroin overdoses and Batman and Superman Midnighter and Apollo getting gay married and adopting a kid together but the description of what sounds like a total clusterfuck has got me intrigued. I am going to have to read all this stuff before they are all recalled and burried in a hole in the New Mexico desert.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:41 PM on August 22, 2012


it's been fucking awful based on what I have seen so far.

That's all I keep hearing from my Serious Comics acquaintances, and I believe it completely, but I also just talked last weekend to a pal who owns a comic book shop, and he says the New 52 stuff is continuing to sell like crazy and has brought him a ton of new subscribers. "I don't like it myself," he told me, "but it's hard for me to argue it hasn't been a success."
posted by mediareport at 8:46 PM on August 22, 2012


I don't usually read super hero comics unless they are adult as fuck...

You mean like a felon confronting his wasted life and squandered youth? Like a son hearing about his father's part in an honest political conversation between an Irishman, and Englishman and a Scotsman during the Time of Troubles? You mean like women following their own desires, even when it conflicts with others?

Or did you just mean lots of cursing, naughty bits, and guts flying everywhere?
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:02 PM on August 22, 2012


Well I did read Astro City. I was particularly fond of the Steeljack stories but I am a sucker for Robert Mitchum. And I do have a few issues of Dazzler and I bought the Longshot 6 issue series when I worked at the comic store in college. So I guess I do read some superhero comics. I was really just kidding with the adult as fuck part and I guess I'll take Astro City over The Boys.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:10 PM on August 22, 2012


How did Jim Lee ever get to prominence at DC?
Oh, just Hush.
posted by PapaLobo at 9:13 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know what I miss? Marvel's New Universe. Psi-Force, DP7, Spitfire and the Troubleshooters. Man. I'm still bummed those didn't take off.

I know, I'm the only one.
posted by nushustu at 9:21 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Sorry about the lame commentary in the last link in my post - it was the only on-line source for that scene. It's important, as it presents women as intelligent and motivated when it comes to sex and romance, which was something of a revelation to a kid who grew up with pure and perfect Disney/Barbie princesses as his only role model for selecting a date. Claremont, as piggish, perverted and prone to over-exposition as he was, managed to capture real women dealing with real, adult emotions, jealousy and lust, in his heroines.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:25 PM on August 22, 2012


Compare the Jim Lee cover with this month's Cliff Chiang cover. They both picture Wonder Woman flying around and kissing a dude.

But they are day and night. One is gorgeous and empowering, the other is a sexist embarrassment. They make for a perfect illustration of the right and the wrong way to do women in comics.

Azzarello and Chiang's Wonder Woman is the only thing keeping DC's entire catalogue from being utter trash. The best thing about the continuity craziness going on at DC is that it'll probably let them ignore whatever is happening with Wonder Woman in the other titles.
posted by painquale at 9:34 PM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was also making two specific references to The Authority. The Doctor overdosing and the appearance of Jenny Quantum. I had already said a couple things about WildStorm being brought into Earth 50 or 52 whichever the main DC earth is and WildStorm was DCs adult imprint. I was acknowleging my strange obsession with WildStorm, which actually includes Astro City.

Now that I over-explained that.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:37 PM on August 22, 2012


. One is gorgeous and empowering, the other is a sexist embarrassment.

Somewhere, in the DC office:
"It's okay. I have an idea. get Lee on the phone and get some cameltoe on this Azzarello now!"
posted by Mezentian at 9:39 PM on August 22, 2012


Azzarello and Chiang's Wonder Woman is the only thing keeping DC's entire catalogue from being utter trash. The best thing about the continuity craziness going on at DC is that it'll probably let them ignore whatever is happening with Wonder Woman in the other titles.

Here's the thing: the New 52 features a lot of dross, but the move also let them make some genuine genre titles part of their universe, and I can't help but think that's a good thing. I've been reading and enjoying Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E, Animal Man and Swamp Thing. These titles also exist in their own little corner of the world, tucked away from the dumb-as-bricks attitude that seems to permeate the majority of the titles.

Superhero-wise, I think that if I can't have Grant Morrison on the main Batman title, the Scott Snyder's Englehart-esque take is just fine by me. Action Comics is just fine, and Action is fun, if not essential for anyone beside's DC's lawyers needing to pull the character further away from the original mythos.

(And for the record: I can't stand Crisis On Infinite Earths. It's bookkeeping disguised as storytelling. I've only made it through the entire thing once and that was when I was 12 and didn't realize how effectively I was wasting time I could have spent reading actual stories, like Wolfman and Perez's still-very-readable The New Teen Titans.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:17 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


...this month's Cliff Chiang cover.

Wow, that's gorgeous!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:27 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Lieutenant Marvels: Fat Marvel, Tall Marvel, and Hill Billy Marvel (debatable)

So... that's... something.
Something brilliant. Y'all know Captain Marvel's (the real one) origin right? Young orphan Billy Batson is lured into an abandoned subway by a strange old man, who turns out to be a wizard, rather than a kiddy fiddler and gives him strange magical powers if he shouts the wizrd's name: SHAZAM.

Then the wizard died.

Some time later, three boys come to Fawcett city, home of Captain Marvel for something or other and all turn out to be called Billy Batson: one is tall, one is fat, one is a yokel. As this is comics, they of course get involved in a fight of Captain Marvel with whoever he was fighting that week, he's captured, only they can help him and it turns out the dead wizard wasn't all that bothered which Billy Batson got his powers, as them shouting SHAZAM also turned them into Captain Marvel.

So, the Lieutenant Marvels.

Only slightly more dumb than the origin stories of Mary (billy's sister, so genetics) Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr. (got a bit of Billy's powers after being mortally wounded by Captain Nazi, activated by shouting the name of his hero, Captain Marvel), much less dumb than Uncle Marvel, basically a drunken, lecherous old man hanging around these kids in a Marvel costume.

There's also a Marvel Bunny of course.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:46 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Marvel Bunny? As a bit of a Black Adam fan (for life, for some reason: the story of Teth-Adam really resonated with me as a kid, and his arc in Final Identity Crisis was one of the more interesting bits. Well, I liked it) I was overjoyed to read this: Hoppy faces Captain Black Bunny, who is based on Captain Marvel's foe Black Adam..

I may just have found a tattoo design.
posted by Mezentian at 12:52 AM on August 23, 2012


beaucoupkevin: THANK YOU FOR VALIDATING MY LOVE OF THE NEW 52 ANIMAL MAN.

It's like Darkhold Redeemers meets Princess Mononoke...
posted by donquixote at 1:09 AM on August 23, 2012


Here's the thing: the New 52 features a lot of dross, but the move also let them make some genuine genre titles part of their universe

I'm not with you on Frankenstein -- it's too squarely a piece of the trend that gives us things like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter -- but Animal Man and Swamp Thing and Batman are good. I shouldn't have said that the whole catalogue is trash. Still, they're pretty trashy, and I don't find them really all that revolutionary. There are all sorts of really great comics being published right now (Saga, Morning Glories, Manhattan Projects, Daredevil, Invincible), and Wonder Woman is the only DC comic that holds a candle, I think.
posted by painquale at 1:51 AM on August 23, 2012


What did you guys think if Infinite Crisis from a few years ago? I'm not a big follower of the genre (I skew toward Manga and Spawn, and old comedy titles like Gru), so I really had no idea who was who and what, but I really enjoyed the series, especially the covers.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:44 AM on August 23, 2012


The single-universe model was a great strength of Marvel's. It allowed them to cross market thier titles to fans of different characters, e.g. Wolverine/Howard The Duck teamups.

DC has done a lot of copycatting of Marvel's strategies in this regard. Inferno vs. Invasion for example.
posted by clarknova at 3:04 AM on August 23, 2012


Also, DC sucks for giving Frank Miller a career and a platform.
posted by clarknova at 3:20 AM on August 23, 2012


The problem with the New 52 isn't poor story-telling per se but way way too much editorial interference. Hell, even Rob Liefield has been driven out of the fold.

I am convinced that there are a ton of interesting stories to be told in the new continuity if the bosses would just get out of the way.
posted by djeo at 5:25 PM on August 22 [1 favorite +] [!]


I can see that, and I can see how there's some writers trying to work around the cluster fuck that is the New 52, but it's just... bad. I mean, just a few of the problems:

1) New 52 was meant to be "EVERYTHING IS NEW AGAIN", but then they backed down and certain series/characters aren't apparently set in the New 52, or are, or whatever. Leads to a weird situation where there are multiple Batman myths in the New 52. Seriously, depending on which Batman comic you're reading, it's debatable as to how many Robins there have or haven't been at this point.

2) Everything you knew about the characters, every character you'd grown to know and love? Doesn't matter for shit now. That all didn't happen. Oh, unless it still did, like in Green Lantern or some of the Batman comics.

3) The ramming together of different universes which don't fit together, at the expense of the characters. The Authority in the Wildstorm universe was essentially "what would happen if the JLA actually cared about politics?" To quote Hawksmoor directly:
"You are not in the position to define our competences, Mr. President. Our main goal may be defending Earth, but this doesn't mean we'll tolerate human rights violations under our nose. We are not a comic-book supergroup that fights useless battles every month to keep the status quo. This must be a world that deserves being saved, for my colleagues and me keep risking our lives in the first line."
The New 52 now has members of this team in the JLA.

I could go on, but it'll just annoy me more. Pretty much given up on DC since the New 52 started.
posted by MattWPBS at 3:35 AM on August 23, 2012


I enjoyed Infinite Crisis. A lot. As confused as it was, but not that awful. And I was a Marvel reader as a kid. I know a lot of people disliked it, but I enjoyed the way it wove stories in and out. And I did enjoy 52.

I can't say the same for Blackest Night, Brightest Day, Trinity, or most of the mega crossovers in recent years. They seem like a bad idea, but SOMEONE is buying them since sales get a lift.
posted by Mezentian at 4:13 AM on August 23, 2012


I have to say that the obsession with continuity seems misguided in the first place. Why not just let every new author do whatever the heck they want, whether it's keeping continuity or starting fresh?

It's not like problematic parts of continuity aren't conveniently ignored anyway - honestly, they'd have to be, in a multiply-authored title that spans so many decades. Why not just be honest about it?
posted by kyrademon at 5:09 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I spent all of last summer rebooting my own version of the New 52, bought maybe a handful of the #1s, then promptly forgot about DC as an ongoing source of new comics. Maybe it's because I tend to read in trade form so I'm not used to waiting for the next issue - I'll buy single issues in batches of trade-like size on ComiXology is there is a good sale.

The New 52 were pretty frustrating to read about. It was clear some of the comics were not going to survive (Mr.Terrific, Blackhawks, Men of War), that others existed to revamp characters for later movie roles (Aquaman, Batgirl), and still yet others were still mired in generations of continuity that they were in theory just freed from (Superman, Batman, Lantern, etc). For that first group, I thought it was great that they were trying new things... except that they were not trying new things. In fact, there was very little new about the New 52 (and we're talking new in terms of cape comics, so the bar is so low that The Atom has to worry about tripping over it). There were no new characters, just revamps of existing ones, and even then, those revamps were not very interesting.

The changes to DC characters seemed to be focused all one way - standardizing characters so they could be used in movies. Surely there was room in 52 titles for some new characters, ones not imported from another fizzled comic line or brought out of the past? For all the emphasis on bringing in new readers, the 52 seem to reply on nostalgia an awful lot. Even the new waves are intent on bringing back characters we already know.

To find Newness in the 52, you have to look at the niche comics, the Houses of Mystery and the Animals Men, the little guys whom everyone ignores until the inevitable line-wide crossover event. I sort of wish Morrison and his strange "yeah, no, I'm ignoring you, Editorial" powers were focused on those titles rather than a tent-pole like the Batman franchise. Instead, with lesser clout creators building those comics, I'm reluctant to dip in because I know there will be a moment that, no matter what the driving drama is, the title will be called upon to support an "Earth 2 Invades!" crossover summer event.

(Side note: I picked up Waid's Daredevil in ComiXology of late and really liked it ... until the first time I hit the second part of a two part crossover story that began in a different title. Ungh. Now Allred's on art duties and I think I'm the only person in the universe who doesn't like his art, thinking it looks like Patrick Nagel took his prints down from the local Hair Connection II and slapped capes on everything.)

But given the sales numbers, the hell do I know?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:09 AM on August 23, 2012


So anyway, today at the comic store I was treated to some guy freaking out because the Rorschach comics had sold out - apparently the rest of the Before Watchmen comics hadn't been selling to their (high) orders and they'd scaled back, but that one they'd scaled back too much as it sold really well.

To be fair, the Rorschach one appears to be the best of the bunch so far (which isn't saying much).
posted by panboi at 6:05 AM on August 23, 2012


I liked Secret Wars better than COIE.
posted by josher71 at 6:18 AM on August 23, 2012


I think Waid's Daredevil isn't as good as some critics indicate but honestly the more swashbuckler take on Daredevil which was more common in the 60s and 70s is kind of refreshing in comparison to the endless cycle of people wanting to continually do Miller Daredevil after Miller Daredevil. I've never been someone that absolutely has to read Daredevil but it seems like anytime I'd give it a try it was recycling the same basic "Matt's life must be absolute hell, oh and ninjas" that seems to have been the only take on the character since Miller redefined the character.

I don't always care for Waid as a writer, I think his Fantastic Four is overrated (largely because his Doctor Doom is laughably one-dimensional) but I do think it's good for comic book creators working on books for the big two to re-evaluate the characters periodically instead of keeping them locked in amber.

I'm generally not a fan of Allred's art even though I can appreciate that he places a unique spin on his art that is not common in the comics world but for some reason I actually don't mind his Daredevil. I'm less confident about him and Fraction doing FF though.
posted by vuron at 6:27 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed Infinite Crisis quite a bit, but the weekly series "52" is the best thing DC's put out since then.
posted by PapaLobo at 6:33 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was a Marvel reader at that time, and dutifully plowed my way through Secret Wars. I have forgotten almost all of it.

Oddly, the only part of it that stuck in my mind was an astonishingly powerful scene wherein Doctor Doom and Magneto teamed up to beat the hell out of the Red Skull because it turns out that, guess what, not all villains agree with each other and Magneto (Jewish concentration camp survivor) and Doctor Doom (Romani ruler of a continental European country with a sizable Romani population) both hated Nazis with a passion and REALLY resented being put on "the same team" as one.

I say oddly because, having curiously googled about that scene a few minutes ago, I'm getting nothing. Although both Magneto and Doom have apparently fought the Red Skull at least once (Magneto in Captain America, Doctor Doom in Astonishing Tales), I can find no indication that they ever did so together and certainly no sign that it ever happened during Secret Wars. In fact, although Doctor Doom and Magneto were both in Secret Wars, Wikipedia tells me that the Red Skull was not, and a plot summary indicates that while Doom proposed an alliance with Magneto, it was turned down.

Meaning that one of the most memorable scenes from Marvel comics in the 1980s exists and has always existed ONLY IN MY MIND.
posted by kyrademon at 6:49 AM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Meaning that one of the most memorable scenes from Marvel comics in the 1980s exists and has always existed ONLY IN MY MIND.

kyrademon, do you offer subscriptions? I'd like to read some of that.
posted by eoden at 6:52 AM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Meaning that one of the most memorable scenes from Marvel comics in the 1980s exists and has always existed ONLY IN MY MIND.

Nope. You've just confused your crossovers. Sometime in 1989 (iirc) there was Acts of Vengeance, where a mysterious and powerful stranger offered the key villains in the Marvel Universe the chance of avenging themselves on their enemies, by, erm, switching between them. So every hero got to fight different villains than they were used to, while the core five (Red Skull, Magneto, Dr Doom, Wizard and Mandarin) squabbled amongst themselves and that mysterious benefactor looked on mysteriously.

The core crossover was an Avengers storyline, but in Captain America Mark Gruenwald made good use of it. It's there where Magneto attacked the Red Skull once the latter had confirmed he was the one true original Skull and nazi war criminal. Cue epic battle, cue Magneto beating the Skull easily, kidnapping him and leaving him in a small underground room with enough water but no food for a couple of weeks to slowly starve to death. It was a brilliant sequence, making good use of the characters of both the people involved.

The whole run from #357 (start of the Bloodstone hunt six parter) up to #371 (Cap going on a date with Diamondback) is brilliant, one of my two favourite Captain America runs (the other being the much earlier Roger Stern/John Byrne run). Excellent writing by Gruenwald, great art by Kieron Dwyer and Ron Lim.

Dr Doom however was barely involved, iirc only sending a Doombot to the meetings while in the Fantastic Four comic he used a machine sending subliminal telepathic messages to get every third and fourth rate villain in the Marvel Universe to attack the FF. Because nobody but Doom gets to defeat them.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:17 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, DC sucks for giving Frank Miller a career and a platform.

Wha...?

My favorite Crisis crossover was in Moore's Swamp Thing, when Swampy and John Constantine stop by the JLA satellite for about ten minutes, Constantine comments something to the effect that "a whole lot of people will end up dead, but it'll work," and then he and Swampy go off to confront the brujeria, who are using the events of Crisis to engineer their own Cosmic Crisis, which could result in the destruction of Heaven and Hell and everything else.

And, of course, Contantine's prediction proves true for his mission as well.
posted by Gelatin at 7:23 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did read about that one while googling, MartinWisse. I think it's entirely possible that some vague memory of it may have been an inspirational springboard for the scenes I somehow invented (although I'm not sure how, since I'm pretty sure I'd stopped reading Captain America years before that; the Scourge storyline is the last one I remember clearly. Maybe I saw the covers? Maybe I leafed through it in the store?)

But my memories of the scene-in-my-mind are very specific -- it was during Secret Wars, it ended differently than the one in Captain America, it was both Doom and Magneto -- and bear in mind, I am remembering completely nonexistent SPECIFIC PANELS AND ARTWORK with all three of them.

So yes, sure, no doubt that Captain America storyline is probably what I actually at some point saw, but the one I *remember* is totally different.

Pity, it was really good. Maybe my mind can pay Mark Gruenwald royalties or something so I can keep it.
posted by kyrademon at 7:34 AM on August 23, 2012


Yeah pretty sure that's the Acts of Vengeance event by Gruenwald which is one of the few marvel events from that period that I look back on with any degree of fondness.

Secret Wars and Secret Wars II were fun books in many ways and had some cool visuals such as Hulk keeping a mountain from crushing the heroes but the overall quality was somewhat suspect. I think it's a big part of the reason why we have the current completely mediocre AvX event though.
posted by vuron at 7:52 AM on August 23, 2012


I made the mistake of rereading The Infinity Gauntlet recently. It was so great in my memories. I think I'll leave Secret Wars alone.
posted by painquale at 8:46 AM on August 23, 2012


... You know what? From this point on, I'm just going to assume that the reality in which Doom and Magneto fought the Red Skull during the Secret Wars got destroyed during the Crisis.
posted by kyrademon at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why not just let every new author do whatever the heck they want, whether it's keeping continuity or starting fresh?

You could do that, have every single comic book be an isolated story with no narrative connection to any other. Or, less radically, have every author's run be isolated, so that, say Ann Nocenti's run on Daredevil is self-contained, making no reference to other Daredevil stories or events and never being mentioned by any other author in any other story.

But if you do that, you'll eviscerate the entire genre. I think you'll find that almost every single acclaimed story about established superhero characters is good, at least in part, because it builds on or reacts to something that came before. Events in characters lives are meaningful because of their past history.

A figure steps out of the shadows. It's that guy! This cornerstone of comic books is only possible because of continuity.

Superman and Batman team up to fight Lex Luthor. What do they say to each other? Have any of these characters met before? That's continuity.

Ever notice how long-running TV series are often said to really take off after the 2nd or 3rd season (e.g. Buffy)? That's only partly because the creators got better. It's also because you can do things with characters who have been established and have a year or two of history behind them that you can't do with brand-new characters.
posted by straight at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


While reading this thread it slowly dawned on me that DC contains multiple multiverses. At that point the decision to not return to DC became much, much easier.
posted by mecran01 at 9:10 AM on August 23, 2012


COIE is a Marvel story. All the characters that are relevant to the plot, with the possible exception of Barry Allen, are ad-hoc analogues of Marvel characters (Anti-Monitor = Galactus, Pariah = Silver Surfer, Dr. Light II = Monica Rambeau, Alexander Luthor = Franklin Richards, etc.). This is why so many plot beats treated as big and important fall flat: Uatu the Watcher recruiting and empowering his first-ever herald in spite of his non-interference pledge would have meant something, unlike The Monitor turning Lyla into Harbinger.
posted by hilker at 9:10 AM on August 23, 2012


COIE is a Marvel story. All the characters that are relevant to the plot, with the possible exception of Barry Allen, are ad-hoc analogues of Marvel characters

Wow, somehow I never caught that, but you're totally right.

Honestly, COIE was doomed with me from the start just because Pariah keeps turning up looking like a man with purple hair and a serious pants-shitting problem. At least the Silver Surfer 1. doesn't have purple hair and 2. rarely looks like he's in the middle of shitting his pants.
posted by COBRA! at 9:13 AM on August 23, 2012


In point of fact, the Silver Surfer doesn't wear pants any more.

Which is one of the many benefits of the Power Cosmic.
posted by delfin at 9:15 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, DC sucks for giving Frank Miller a career and a platform.

DC rocks for recognizing a fine comics talent and giving him a platform to do some of his greatest work, none of which is made retroactivly bad by the fact that Miller went mental post 9/11.
posted by Artw at 9:15 AM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Like some other conservatives 9/11 definitely broke Miller but honestly the quality of his work was in marked decline even before he went irretrievably insane.

Reading something like his Daredevil just showed how innovative he was as a visual storyteller but like many of the biggest names of that time period he got big enough that editors just quit trying to keep him under control thus we get absolute drek like ASB&R
posted by vuron at 9:21 AM on August 23, 2012


Allred's on art duties... ...thinking it looks like Patrick Nagel took his prints down from the local Hair Connection II and slapped capes on everything

I love Mike Allred, but this description is so spot-on. I'm totally stealing it.
posted by brand-gnu at 9:50 AM on August 23, 2012


straight, I was figuring that some writers would in fact still keep to continuity as closely as possible, while others would run wild and free.

It would probably sometimes be the best of both worlds and sometimes be annoying, but it might be a nice alternative to "continuity is all important until every twenty years or so when it gets to be such a pain that we have to clear the whole universe out with a hose" paradigm.
posted by kyrademon at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2012


The best sort of continuity was the sort that Marvel had from about a few years into the Silver Age up to the mid-eighties or so, where you had a shared universe, heroes knew each other, teamed up, but vast overwhelming crossovers were rare to non-existent and the universe was not so big yet that ot was possible to follow one small corner of it and ignore the rest.

I liked how everytime something cosmic happened, there would be a page or so of Mr Fantastic behind his superscience monitor noticing something, Dr Strange sensing a shift in the cosmic axis, Spider-Man's spidersense going haywire and the Silver Surfer or Captain Marvel suffering headaches as somebody messed with their senses.

Or how Spider-Man could be an old friend to some heroes (bickering or otherwise, as with Johnny Storm) but still be somewhat suspicious to anybody who hadn't met him yet.

How the FF and the Avengers were the establishment heroes if you saw them from the outside, always referenced in other stories when a big enough threat shows up, but had their own problems with the authorities still the same.

How everybody lives in New York and how real the city was, how much of a presence in the Marvel U compared to the fictional cardboard cutouts of DC.

I miss it.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


kyrademon, that's what everyone always proposes (Mark Waid's ridiculous and incomprehensible "Hypertime" idea is the reductio ad absurdum version), and in practice, it doesn't work.

Every writer who claims to want to ignore continuity still can't resist making a connection to at least one of those ideas or events or characters in the past (otherwise why, are they writing Superman at all instead of a completely new character?) That's why COIE was such an utter failure. It tried to throw out too many irresistible things that were constantly luring DC writers back.

And once you give in and make a single reference to the past, the whole door blows wide open. It's like the old adage about trying to make a lean, stripped-down word processor. 80% of readers only remember or care about 20% of the continuity -- but it's never the same 20%.

Usually we consider a novelist a failure if the stuff in Chapter 16 ignores what happened in Chapter 3. The problem and glory of superhero comics is that they're on Chapter 3275.

There are ways to deal with this problem. Good writers find ways to connecting with previous stories while ignoring stuff that doesn't fit. But the right solution is almost never to just come out and say, "some of the stories you read in the past didn't actually happen." Because then you have to make a list of what's in and what's out, a list which is invariably more confusing than the mess you started with, and a list that has been proven a failure over and over. No group of writers and editors can stick to their own list.
posted by straight at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2012


On the other hand, 70+ years of continuity could be kind of a deterrent to new readers, couldn't it? Especially when Bruce Wayne is certainly no older than thirtysomething?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:13 AM on August 23, 2012


straight - Fair enough. I suppose it's a problem with no real ultimate solution, which may be why the attempted grand solutions tend to fail and leave me to wonder why they bothered. I don't think we're actually too far off in our views ... writers "connecting with previous stories while ignoring stuff that doesn't fit" sounds great to me.

vuron - I'm now aware that I must, logically, be having some kind of misremembrance of that storyline, yes. It's just hard to reconcile that with impossible, never-happened lines of remembered dialogue as bizarrely specific as:

"The WORLD may have forgotten the fate of the Latverian Gypsies during the Second World War ...

... but DOOM has not."
posted by kyrademon at 11:26 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the trick is that finessing continuity always has to be an art rather than a science.

Any attempt to explicitly systematize how you will deal with continuity (definitely including a complete restart like COIE or the New 52), actually adds yet another layer of continuity, making the whole problem worse. Like the XKCD cartoon about how attempts to make a universal standard usually end up creating one more competing standard.

"The WORLD may have forgotten the fate of the Latverian Gypsies during the Second World War ... but DOOM has not."


I'm pretty sure that's a line from the Acts of Vengeance crossover. Both Doom and Magneto snarled at the Red Skull during their meetings for being a Nazi, but only Magneto actually physically attacked him. I'd think Magneto (or Magneto & Doom) hunting Red Skull and other Nazis would be an obvious story for Marvel to do, especially after the X-Men First Class movie, except that Red Skull is so obviously outgunned, I'm not sure how you make it interesting. Probably needs a Cosmic Cube and starts with Cosmic Red Skull targeting Doom and Magneto.

Red Skull was never part of the Secret Wars stories, except in this lame Spider-Man cartoon version.
posted by straight at 12:17 PM on August 23, 2012


This makes me feel so old and clueless.
posted by srboisvert at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2012


> "I'm pretty sure that's a line from the Acts of Vengeance crossover ..."

oh thank god I'm not just insane then
posted by kyrademon at 12:46 PM on August 23, 2012


I hated Acts of Vengeance at the time, but then I harken back to Inferno (which worked) and Fall of the Mutants (which was sort of a non-cross over), and I think forward to X-cutioner's Song... and now I think it might have been the last good crossover at Marvel.
posted by Mezentian at 5:18 PM on August 23, 2012


Hey guys! Don't worry! DC is pretty commuted to diversity! They just introduced a new Arab American Green Lantern, which is pretty cool, that being an underepresented minority in media, and... Uh oh, what in the fuck?
posted by Artw at 10:18 AM on August 25, 2012


There is no way, absolutely no way, this will not end badly.

Who thought that was a good idea?
posted by Mezentian at 5:42 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the run up to Nu52 they actually pulled a Superman story that would have introduced, or reintroduced, an Arab American superhero who WASN'T wearing a ski-mask and waving a gun around.
posted by Artw at 6:34 PM on August 25, 2012


Previously touching on that.
posted by Artw at 6:42 PM on August 25, 2012


New 52 is -- to my mind -- a great idea (it's the idea that Marv Wolfman had as a follow-up to COIE, but which was shot down) that definitely succeeded in terms of pulling in readers and partially succeeded in terms of creatively revivifying DC's line, neither of which is a small thing. If the expectation was that every one of fifty-two comic books would be great, or even worthwhile, then I think the real problem here is an unrealistic expectation. Yeah, there are character revamps that don't work for me, and yeah there are comics that have creative teams I just wouldn't care for no matter what the book was -- but what else is new?

The changeover hasn't been completely smooth, but where it's most bumpy is where DC has been most protective of old stuff it wants to keep. Batman continuity may not make too much sense, but not sweating that means we can have Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman as well as Batman, Inc., and I'm okay with that. Green Lantern continuity is kinda wonky, too -- you have to do some mental gymnastics to even just make Johns's original run (which featured the pre-New 52 Green Arrow, for one thing) work with the prevailing linewide continuity -- but DC would have been nuts to scuttle their most successful reboot in a decade. You just gotta make some allowances as a reader. Again, though, this is nothing new to comics people: No one in 1965 was wondering why Superman only looked thirty when he should have been sixty. Weaving the unwritten retcon into the story you're reading is just a thing people who read superhero comics do.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:10 AM on August 26, 2012


SPOILERS FOR WONDER WOMAN #12:

The New Gods are now descended from the Olympus pantheon? You mess with Kirby you GO TOO FAR.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on August 26, 2012


Oh, there's been plenty of playing around with the Fourth World the last couple years. Never sticks. You can't improve upon Kirby.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:51 AM on August 26, 2012


Looks like the Wonder Woman thing Morrison has been threatening is Wonder Woman: Year One - so out of continuity.
posted by Artw at 2:03 PM on August 27, 2012


The CW Is Developing a Wonder Woman Origins Series
posted by homunculus at 8:20 PM on September 6, 2012


The CW? So, it'll be called Diana, or Prince, and she won't don the bustier until the final seconds of Season 10?

Wicked.
posted by Mezentian at 3:11 AM on September 7, 2012


DC Listens To Internet Criticism, Fixes ‘Catwoman’ Zero Cover

Previously
posted by homunculus at 4:55 PM on September 11, 2012


That looks... differently bad?
posted by Artw at 5:03 PM on September 11, 2012


It s a slight improvement.
posted by bq at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2012


Remember when Superman disarmed a bomb by disco dancing?
posted by homunculus at 11:36 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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