Monday, February 16, 2009

Knight and Squire and the Club of Heroes

One of the coolest Silver Age concepts Grant revived was the idea of The Batmen of all Nations (now referred to as The Club of Heroes), a group of heroes inspired by Batman throughout the world who occasionally meet to solve mysteries.

Initially, the idea was presented as kind of hokey, with their adventures involving goofy gimmicks and bad guys.

Early appearance by the Batmen of All Nations

Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, though, they were retconned into a group calling themselves the International Club of Heroes, and they operated as an arm of a group called the Dome, which worked toward world peace by employing an international group of superhumans. The International Club of Heroes were now inspired by the original Justice Society of America, had ties to the All-Star Squardron, Infinity Inc., and the Young All-Stars and they begat the Global Guardians - a modern, international peace-keeping super-team.

That's a VERY brief historical synopsis, but you'd do well to check out this link, which has an easy-to-follow detail of the team's incarnations along with images to support the info. I'm skipping the dive into too much detail on them because I want to focus on Grant's work with the team. For our purposes here, all you really need to know is they have ties to the Global Guardians.

Anyhow, in Grant's run on Batman, which began with issue #655, the Club of Heroes has popped up a couple times. First, and most notably, an updated, more serious version of the Club joined together for one of their meetings in the storyline "The Island of Mister Mayhew" in Batman #667, #668 and #669. This time, looking like this:

Left to right: The Musketeer, Dark Ranger, El Gaucho, Raven Red, The Legionary, Man-Of-Bats, and Wingman.

For those who want to know (and you should), artist J.H. Williams III (who drew the "Mayhew" arc) explains who he was paying homage to with each of the characters right here. He explains that each character was drawn in different homage styles, adding to the "holy shit!" of the mind-blowing art.

Other than their appearances here in the "Mayhew" arc, the Club showed up in Batman #681 near the end of the "Batman: R.I.P." arc to lend Robin a hand as he tries saving Gotham from imploding in the absence of the Dark Knight.

The Club in Batman #681

Of all the Club of Heroes members, Knight and Squire are the most interesting, in my opinion. They are also the members Grant played with most. There was the original father and son version, which were practically just a British Batman and Robin crime-fighting duo. Then, the father died and the son took over as the new Knight. The new Knight then recuited in a young girl as his new Squire. In effect, they are a "What if Dick Grayson became Batman and hired a new Robin?" team.

But it gets very interesting when you take into account that the first place Grant played with the Knight and Squire characters wasn't in the pages of Batman.

As far as I can tell, Grant first wrote the characters into his continuity starting with 1999's JLA #26, the third chapter of a 3-part fight between the Ultramarines and the JLA. Just as a brief aside, the Ultramarines were an all-new, four-man military superteam who made their first full debut in JLA #24. They fought the JLA for a couple issues, then realized the error of their ways and started in a new direction with issue #26. Knight and Squire joined the Ultramarines in the final few pages of issue #26 alongside fellow former-Global Guardian members such as Vixen and Jack O'Lantern (as you'll recall earlier, I noted that in post-Crisis continuity, the Batmen of all Nations/Knight and Squire had ties to the Global Guardians).

Here's a shot of the new team as they appear at the end of JLA #26:

Far left is Knight and far right is Squire

This scene features the Corps announcing their new line-up and debuting a new headquarters called Superbia, a floating futuristic city hovering above the ruined remains of Montevideo, a South American city destroyed in the pages of DC One Million. It's interesting to note that the four-man incarnation of the Ultramarines had a cameo in the shadows of DC One Million #2 before their full debut in JLA #24. Likewise, the roles of Knight and Squire on the team aren't explored beyond the above group photo, making their appearance really just a cameo. But this is still the first Grant plays with the characters.

It wasn't until 2004's JLA: Sceret Files #4 that we got a glimpse at the Ultramarines again. They only appeared in the following pin-up in that issue:

This was in anticipation of 2005's JLA: Classified launch, in which Grant made a return to writing the team for issues #1-#3 alongside artist Ed McGuinness. It's all collected here.

JLA: Classified #1-#3 are BRIMMING with connections to other Grant stories including all of Seven Soldiers (2005) and parts of All-Star Superman (2006), but I'm NOT going to get into that more expansive stuff now. I will in time, though, I swear. :)

Variant cover to JLA Classified #1 featuring Knight and Squire

For now, though, I want to focus on Knight and Squire in the story arc. Basically, the JLA (minus Batman) become trapped in a parallel dimension (that we later learn is Earth-Prime/Qwewq, the infant universe, which I plan on exploring in a future post) while Gorilla Grodd teams with Nebula Man (who we later find out is a matured, evil, sentient Qwewq and we later-later find out is a major player in Seven Soldiers) to take out the Ultramarines (minus Squire). So it's up to Squire and Batman to save the day. Get all that? I recommend reading it again without the parentheticals.

This arc is the first time we get to see the Ultramarines working as a team and using their extraordinarily science fiction-y powers in new ways. We also get to see Knight kicking major ass as a near Batman-level goodguy and this is the first time Batman meets or works with Squire, although Batman has known Knight since Knight was a young boy (when Knight was formerly called Squire). In the following panel, Batman discusses this very subject while Alfred name-drops the Club of Heroes. It's the first time under Grant that the team name has been uttered (almost three full years before he'd do anything with the Club in the pages of Batman):

Sci-Fi closet

I'd like to selfishly note the "Sci-Fi Closet" and how I'd love to read a miniseries by Grant about its origins/artifacts. It feels a bit like the Black Casebook, a notebook referred to several times in Grant's Batman run which contains notes on some of his most extraordinary, unexplainable adventures. I'd also like to note the little Dalek (from Doctor Who) in the bottom-right of the closet under Batman's armpit in the above image.

Anyhow, Batman and Squire face Gorilla Grodd and Nebula Man with a team of JLA robots and then have to battle a more Global Guardians-infused, albeit mind-controlled Ultramarines team:

Eventually, the JLA escape Qwewq and square off in a very cool fight with the Ultramarines before learning that this has all been a scheme by the Nebula Man (who is way more substantial a threat than he ever let on before) to prepare for the coming of the Sheeda (a race he works with in Seven Soldiers, and, again, I swear I'll tackle this in way more depth down the line...). Superbia crashes into the Earth and the arc ends with Superman sending the Ultramarines into Qwewq to protect it, because until then, it had no superheroes.

Heading inside Qwewq

Knight and Squire next appear under Grant in the pages of Batman alongside the Club of Heroes (which I mentioned earlier in this post), so that catches you up on Grant's use of the characters.

As for the rest of the Ultramarines, the next time they're seen is briefly in the pages of 2008's Final Crisis#4 as Superbia is seen AGAIN falling from the sky:

Superbia crashing...AGAIN

Quick general notes:

I assume Grant will one day tell the story of how Knight and Squire got from Qwewq back to the DCU and into the pages of Batman. But, then again, maybe that's a story he plans on leaving between the panels.

It's interesting how Grant kept the Global Guardians and the Club of Heroes and the Ultramarines only a step removed from each other. The connection between the Global Guardians and the Club of Heroes was something that predated him, but I'm glad he kept the connection going and even expanded it by adding in the Ultramarines.

It's also interesting how much of a springboard JLA: Classified was for Grant's other stories between 2004 and today. He's still mining that arc for mind-bending content and almost not even a page goes by without ties to something he's done since.

Quick note from JLA: Classified #1-#3: We find out Batman has a remote JLA lab on Pluto that he travels to by Boom Tube. In DC One Million, each of the JLA members looks after a single planet all their own. Future Batman looks after Pluto. It would seem present-day Batman is just getting in early on the renovations. :)

TRY AND TRY AGAIN: Death of Martian Manunter

Killing superheroes is hard.

You can't just step up and shoot them in the face. Generally. You have to take them out over time. And sometimes you have to try and re-try the same method before it's actually effective. Just ask Grant.

In 2008's Final Crisis #1, Grant successfully killed the Martian Manhunter in a pretty depressingly bleak scene by way of the newly revived Libra and his fire staff/sword. And all while in front of a group of villains, no less!

But that wasn't without some practice on Grant's part.

In Grant's JLA: Classified #3 (2005), Martian Manhunter just barely escapes a similar death-skewering at the hands of Olympian!

Martian Manhunter was able to walk away from that fight, but as we know, he couldn't dodge an inevitable impalement from Grant for very long.

UPDATED: Forever Objects: Who are those tiny JLA-ers?

UPDATE: See bottom of post for new info discovered after this post went live

It's been a while. I apologize. I'm back.

So, as we all know, Grant has his own continuity blazing through the DCU. Beyond just characters being effected by this subtle continuity, though, you also get recurring objects that pop up from time to time in the writer's works. For the sake of this blog, I'm calling them "Forever Objects," and the first one I'm taking a look at is the tiny JLA.

In the 2000 prestige format one-shot titled JLA: Earth-2, the regular JLA travel to a parallel universe where evil counterparts of themselves rule the world. In that universe, Lex Luthor is the last hero and here he can be seen standing over a canister in the regular JLA's trophy room. Inside that canister is a miniature version of the JLA.

And then in 2008's Final Crisis #4, aboard the floating space station the JLA uses as a headquarters, several heroes run through the JLA trophy room on their way to fight attackers. While running through, we're treated to a quick glance at a bottle holding a tiny JLA!

Far as I can tell, there's no story featuring the JLA (or even a doppleganger team) shrunk down and STUCK that way, allowing them to remain forever imprisioned in a bottle. They do get shrunk down here here and here, but not permanently (thanks to Douglas for the heads up on that). It's probably just set dressing by Grant; albeit very particular set dressing.


I guess I should've waited a few hours before originally posting this, because I actually discovered what the tiny JLA is all about.

In JLA: Secret Files #2, in a "Lost Pages" story by writer Mark Millar and artist Christopher Jones, Zauriel gives a brief tour of the JLA trophy room. During the tour, he comes to a tiny, bottled version of the JLA and says the following:

So, there you have it! They're from a previous adventure with Abra Kadabra and Toyman. But as far as I can tell, they've only been in the Trophy Room when Grants writes a scene there, so hopefully we get treated to that adventure down the line.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Linked Elixirs of the SuperGods: Who is the Black Glove?

The good people over at the comic book news site Comic Book Resources have posted a new story debating the identity of The Black Glove - the mega-villain behind Grant's entire run on the Batman series.

I know I haven't stepped into Batman yet here on the blog, but I will! In the meantime, take a look over at their wonderful theories and exciting supplemental images (some of which I'd never seen) before the final issue of the "Batman R.I.P." arc ships this month and we all find out the true identity of The Black Glove.

After all, part of the fun behind Grant's run on the book starring the World's Greatest Detective is unraveling the mystery ourselves as we read.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Part of the excitement I felt when reading All-Star Superman came from connecting the continuity dots between it and DC One Million, Grant's traditional superhero crossover event from 1999 that had present-day heroes facing off against a threat from the impossibly distant 853rd Century. I hadn't heard Grant straight up say that the two were connected until I read Part One of Zack Smith's Q&A with the writer over on Newsarama.

When discussing the origins of All-Star Superman, Grant said, “Some of it has its roots in the DC One Million project from 1999. So much so, that some readers have come to consider this a prequel to DC One Million, which is fine if it shifts a few more copies! I’ve tried to give my own DC books an overarching continuity intended to make them all read as a more coherent body of work when I’m done.”

First I'd like to say I get a little sad when I hear Grant even mention the day when he will be “done.” Like when your folks first talk about their life insurance policies in front of you or something.

Nextly, His quote about giving his books an overarching continuity intended to make them all read as a more coherent body of work is EXACTLY what I'm trying to shed some light on with this blog, so that's a validating high-five for me. Thanky, Grant.

Anyways, this post is about those very connections between All-Star Superman and DC One Million. I've found several, so here they go, in no particular order. Follow me here.


In DC One Million, Kal Kent is the Superman fighting crime and nastiness across the cosmos in the 853rd Century. He's hanging in the present day for a while while present-day Superman kicks it in the future. I've talked about him before, but basically, he's part of something called the Superman Dynasty – a bloodline of Superman descendants.

In All-Star Superman, Kal first shows up in issue #2 as a visitor in All-Star Superman's Time Telescope, a device All-Star Superman uses to enlist the aid of his successors to “help prevent threats before they even occur.”

Later, in issue #6, Kal shows up as part of a time-traveling team of Supermen.

Also on the team is the “Unknown Superman.”

And for the record, Unknown Superman also cameoed in issue #2 as a visitor in All-Star Superman's Time Telescope...

And the third member of the time-traveling team is a Superman from a plane of reality called the 5th Dimensional (home to Mr. Mxyzptlk, and a place Grant actually deals with a lot in his writing, which I'll get into later).

Anyways, they all get together to fight something called the Chronovore. In DC One Million #1, Kal also mentions this adventure. For more info, see my previous post.


Again, I mentioned this here, but here's a quick recap:

As Kal Ken and Present Day Superman discuss the differences in their powers in DC One Million #1, Kal explains off-hand that the Superman Dynasty gained another level of powers when a royal from the 5th Dimension married a Superman Dynasty member and introduced those abilities into their bloodline.

The marriage ceremony actually makes a cameo in Superman: Man of Tomorrow #1,000,000, a tie-in to the DC One Million crossover that featured an oral history of the Superman Dynasty.

In All-Star Superman #6, this whole story is also recounted by the above mentioned Superman from the 5th Dimension.


Introduced in DC One Million #1, Solaris is essentially an evil, artificial, sentient, tyrant machine sun. According to Superman Dynasty lore, he's been Superman's greatest enemy for forever and a day. And in the DC One Million arc, Solaris is in cahoots with an 853rd Century Vandal Savage (an immortal baddie who's been a thorn in the side of heroes throughout history) and when it's not busy creating itself in the past (that's not a fair statement to make without further explanation, but I swear, it's coming in another post), Solaris plans on taking over the universe in its free time.

In All-Star Superman, Solaris appears on my favorite cover of the series - issue #12 (that's him in the link behind the super-powered Luthor). But he appears nowhere inside the actual issue. Through dialogue inside, though, you find out Solaris had teamed with All-Star Lex Luthor to destroy Superman, but Solaris double-crossed Lex, opting instead to just turn the sun blue and high tail it outta there. Even still, that's clearly him on the cover.


In DC One Million, the heroes of the future come to the present to invite these legendary heroes back to the future for a massive celebration. The celebration is the return of someone called Superman Prime. Here's a pic of him coming back in issue #4.

He's been in the sun for millenia and now he's finally coming out. Legend has it, he's “the first Superman.” Automatically, everyone (readers and the characters in the story) assumes the present day DCU Superman is Superman Prime. But...

In All-Star Superman #1, Supes is poisoned when he gets WAAAAY too close to the sun on a rescue mission. All through the series, in an ironic twist of fate, All-Star Superman is dying because he got too much of the very thing that gives him power (a yellow sun). In Issue #12, All-Star Superman is literally glowing from within as the solar energy inside him worms its way out.

What's an All-Star Superman to do? What else? He flies directly into the sun - which Solaris had turned blue, remember - to turn it BACK into a yellow sun. He's fixing the battery that gave him his powers and Earth its life.

Literally inside the sun, it's easy to see the connection between him and Superman Prime.

But that's not all! Superman

Prime also showed up in All-Star Superman #6. At the end of the issue, it turns out that regular ol' All-Star Superman (the one who appeared in issues #1-5) has been disguised all along as the “Unknown Superman.” All-Star Supes was in the past, after all, and couldn't let his younger self see his older self, so he hid out in plain view as another visiting member of the Superman Dynasty.



Anyways, after Pa Kent passes, that time-traveling pack of Supermen I mentioned above (who were in on All-Star Superman being disguised the whole time) approach the grieving All-Star Supes to console him. Meanwhile, a portal opens and out pops the Superman Prime seen in DC One Million #4!

And there's a funny, little, clue-filled exchange when All-Star Superman asks Superman Prime which of All-Star Superman's descendants Prime is. You see, the other Supermen in the Sueperman team told All-Star that all the Superman Dynasty stemmed from him. So, sure, he'd think a golden Superman would also be his distant relative. BUT! We know better. And so when Prime laughs a quick “Ha,” in response, WE know it's because Prime and All-Star Superman are actually one and the same and only Prime knows this.

But, so, what's Prime doing there and what's he got in his hands? Well, that's part of our next item...


When the day is saved in DC One Million #4, the present day Green Lantern known as Kyle Rayner explains what he witnessed in the future. And that was this: After Superman Prime emerged from the sun and dispatched Solaris, a place called “New Krypton” was created as a welcome-home present to Superman Prime from the God-like Hourman of the 853rd Century (who later went on to star in his own book, which is really really amazing and not collected at ALL). Hourman did this by taking a chunk of time and “playing with it like Silly Putty” to bring Krypton back into existence for the returning hero.

So then jump back over to the scene where Superman Prime approaches All-Star Superman in All-Star Superman #6. Remember the thing in Prime's hand? Well, he's there to present All-Star Superman with “an indestructible rose from New Krypton” so that All-Star can place it on Pa Kent's grave! Here, he says it better:

So this rose is from New Krypton, making New Krypton canon in both works.

And lastly, the one I'm most excited about:

P.R.O.J.E.C.T. 2

Throughout All-Star Superman, Supes knows he'd dying from the solar poisoning so he's trying to map his DNA in order to give it to the smarty pants doctors at Cadmus, a super-science operation run by a man named Leo Quitum (I have a LOT to say about Leo soon...), so that they can “make” a new Superman. This plot is left in the background for most of the series, but literally becomes the wall all readers are faced with at the end of issue #12. With Superman now in the sun and no one knowing when he may come back – if ever- Leo knows he needs to start working on making a new Supes. And in a defiant, semi-spooky, optimistic stance, he proudly looks over his shoulder at a door marked with a massive 2 in the place of an “S” in Superman's classic insignia. What's behind that door? Obviously it's the next Superman.

Back over in DC One Million, in Superman: Man of Tomorrow #1,000,000, early on in the oral history of the Superman Dynasty, the name of the first Superman to show up after Superman Prime disappears is exquisitely revealed: “Superman Secondus.”

And so there you have it. Leo goes on to MAKE Superman Secondus and even more than that, births the Superman Dynasty.

I'm assuming I'll find more of these connections, but as of now, these are the only ones I've found. But you gotta admit, they build a rather strong bridge between DC One Million and All-Star. Maybe even stronger than Grant lets on.

Also of note:

Since DC One Million, the name “Superman Prime” has been used for this character. He's a REALLY interesting character, and if I didn't connect all this All-Star stuff, I'd have thought it was HE who was in the sun in DC One Million.

Also, in recent months, DC has introduced a GROWN version of the shrunken Bottle City of Kandor - a long-lost metropolis that was kidnapped from Superman's birth planet, Krypton, before it exploded – and they are calling this full-size city “New Krypton." Again, had I not known about the All-Star Superman connections, I'd think DC was trying to tie these recent events to DC One Million in some way.

But this all raises the following 2 geeky questions:

1.If we just learned that the 853rd Century seen in DC One Million is actually the future universe of the All-Star Superman series, then how did the 853rd Centurians find their way into the regular DC Universe and is that a story we may eventually get from Grant?

2. If we just learned that the 853rd Century seen in DC One Million is actually the future universe of the All-Star Superman series, then that TOTALLY means DC One Million was a crossover between the regular DCU and the ALL-Star Superman Universe!

Linked Elixirs of the SuperGods: All Star Superman post-mortem

If you're a fan of All-Star Superman and you've finished the series, you absolutely owe it to yourself to check out Zack Smith's Q&A series with Grant Morrison over at the mainstream comic news site Newsarama. It's a fun 10-part interview that covers pretty much every aspect of the series to varying degrees of depth. Right when I finished issue #12 of the book, I was hoping someone would have one of these discussions online. And here it is:

From why he chose the characters he did to who was set to provide art initially on the series to the spiritual meanings behind it all, Grant lays a lot on the table. In some places I'd have liked a follow-up question here or there, but that's not to say this interview is anything less that fantastically satisfying and a surprisingly fast read. Great work, Zack!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Chronovore

In case you're not fully familiar with the DC One Million event, basically a Justice League super-team from the future (the 853rd Century, to be exact) comes back in time and invites the present-day JLA to a ceremony in the future where the "Prime Superman" will be returning from a self-imposed exile within the sun. Some stuff goes bad, which I'm sure I'll explain further in another post, and yadda yadda yadda.

Now, while all the future heroes are in the present, some of them spend time kicking it with their present-day counterparts. At one point, in DC One Million #1, the Superman from the 853rd Century tells present-day Superman that he just recently fought something called the Chronovore with a team of Supermen from throughout time.

Eagle-eyed readers would have caught that very Super-team fighting the Chronovore in All-Star Superman #6!

It's also worth noting is that a few panels previous to this one, the Superman from the 5th Dimension (uh, the gentleman with the Mxyzptlk hat) talks about the extra senses gained by the Superman Dynasty after Superman Purple married a 5th Dimension royal.

That same explanation of the new senses was explained a few panels away from the scan from DC One Million #1!

Okay, I'll make this last one short.

I went through some of the DC One Million tie-ins and found something interesting in Chronos #1,000,000 written by John Francis Moore with art by J.H. Williams. In the issue, the new Chronos steals time travel gauntlets from John Fox, the Flash of the 853rd Century. Chronos then runs off to a chronally-challenged bar in 11,021 A.D. where (holy poop!) the Chronovore is attacking Japan! Because the Chronovore's chronal attack is funking with time, the bar is the perfect place - and time - for Chronos to hide out from the time-shifting Fox.

I found some interesting things here. First, the Chronovore seen here is a massive bug and not that sick ball of blood bubbles and weirdness that Frank Quitely drew in All-Star Superman #6.

Next, the Chronovore made his first appearance, as far as I can tell, in this issue written by Moore. So was the Chronovore an idea from Grant that was given to Moore? Or did Grant re-imagine the creature for use in All-Star #6 some eight and a half years after Chronos #1,000,000?

Lastly, between the bug look and the fact that Moore's text describes the Chronovore as "eating time," it hit me that the Chronovore has a very clear connection to Mr. Mind's transformation into a reality-eating monster in 52 #51.

Grant was a writer on that very successful (in terms of both creativity and sales) series alongside the talented Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Greg Rucka. That's all I got right now on the Chronovore.


A couple pages later in Chronos #1,000,000, at that time-lost bar Chronos is at, you see that Ambush Bug is there as the bartender. And the Legion of Super-Heroes' Brainiac is there eye-balling a Time Sphere that just pulled up as if it were a cherry '68 Mustang. Heh.