This will hopefully be an insightful part of our Grant Morrison Reading Project and a continuation of my own Bat-Journey. As I gather some references and take some notes before I delve deep into the Morrisonian version of the Greater DCU, I want to look at Final Crisis Sketchbook (Jl'08) which came out the same time as FC #1. It contains, naturally, some sketches by J.G. Jones and comments by Grant Morrison in this comic book version of a DVD extra. Some highlights, note-wise:
Everyone please feel free to comment on this as I want this to be, as Figs believes, the culmination of the Post Crisis DCU that deserves to be celebrated!
Next: Who is the God Destroyed? or Just the Cosmic Facts, Ma'am!
But what was the point of all this manipulating of the Kirby characters and concepts into position like this? Was he working under the understanding that DC would run with these set-ups, so that there would be the beginnings of things like the GPA in DC stories going forward, and there would be a world in the multiverse where certain other Kirby concepts could exist?
I have my reservations about parts of Final Crisis being devoted to that. It's very like what I lambasted Waid for doing with his two issues of JLA that tried to reset Adam Strange to his original setting. It's just not the business of storytellers. Kirby's concepts were mauled and devalued in the years since their original creator let go of them, no less than Adam Strange had been, but 'you can't go back' as they say.
I've mentioned before how many big-name creators took a crack at Kirby's Fourth World to show how they could could make the characters "successful". Here Morrison is focusing on the concepts as if reminding both current readers and creators how deep Kirby's ideas went and that they could be integrated into the DCU, or the DCnU if that was even considered in 2008.
The Flash represents speed, despite all the other characters that are capable of being super-fast. He does not fly. He runs. That is physically relatable. All kids love to run. He is free from distance and time. He is the ultimate traveller through time and space. He is also the herald. He brought forth the Silver Age and his death truly ended it. Now he has returned to start another cycle of endings and beginnings. I think that Morrison brought Barry back because only Barry meant that much. He could unite generations of heroes and generations of readers. He is that important.
The strange thing is that Kirby himself probably didn't want his OMAC or Kamandi to be linked to the regular DCU. He wanted them to be self-contained series about whacky ideas and adventures. Even that issue of Kamandi where the apes are worshipping Superman's costume and trying to be like him could be portraying a society that hadn't realised that the stories they'd received from the past about a Superman were just fictions. (Much like how subsequent generations took the completely fictional adventures of King Arthur as historical fact.) Kirby made it deliberately ambiguous. We don't even see Superman's 'indestructible' 'Kryptonian' suit being tested in any way.
Of course, Morrison is being nothing if not deliberately ambiguous with his Kirby references in FC. To say the least!!
I'd love to hear what anyone else might have to say about the references to Kamandi and OMAC in Final Crisis. They hadn't been linked to the New Gods before like this. And why is the Demon absent? (Although Morrison was originally going to have the Demon as one of his Seven Soldiers before replacing him with Frankenstein.)
Barry does perform the roles you ascribe to him here. The role of herald is very similar to the Mercury/Hermes messenger persona that Morrison identifies him with. That interpretation of the Flash works for me, and he is very powerful in that role and he definitely belongs in this story on those terms, ... but I still think he was boring as a person!
I thought this statement from Iris West was a little bit meta:
"They said he was dead... All these years... and I knew, knew he'd never been outsmarted before. Not my Barry."
She is of course, talking about the Silver Age Flash. The seemingly final and tragic end that took Flash in COIE was a changing of the Silver Age rules. In the Silver Age stories, the Flash always found a way to overcome his foes and survive. That Iris is referring to that stage of his career as a stage that felt real to her is another example of Morrison's particular brand of 'realism'. He's showing us what it would feel like to be these characters who lived through all the different phases of superhero history.
Iris' statement also seems to be saying that with Barry's return, the rules of the Silver Age are still in effect. His long disappearance was just like the middle bit in Silver Age stories where the hero seems to be defeated. This is foreshadowing the upbeat ending, even as we see the 3 Flash's fail in their attempt to save Orion and even as Barry and Wally hurtle into the near future where Darkseid has succeeded in taking over the Earth.
Then in a swamp at the Legion of Doom's HQ from Challenge of the Super Friends and that's what it is, straight up.
Again the reference to animated properties! Its a way to break out of the 'comics about other comics' mode that is sucking the life out of today's superhero stories. I'm not sure cartoons are a big improvement on old comics as a source of content, but note that the cartoons are devised for a much wider audience so they do have that going for them.
Libra shoves a Justifier Helmet on the Human Flame, deriding him, forcing him to listen to the Anti-Life Equation, making him a mindless drone just as Luthor enters.
Darkseid has snuffed out the Human Flame! This scene is the reason Morrison had to use this particular obscure old villain and caused such anguish on the internet of 2008. Still, the fact that he is such a no-hope also-ran adds some texture to his scenes. I even see something of myself in Mike Miller that I wouldn't be able to see in the likes of Lex Luthor or Mirror Master. Instead of having a series of exciting adventures like them, life has passed him by... There's pathos there.
Libra has had enough with diplomacy! He states that the ability to make decisions will soon be "forcibly removed" and demands that Luthor renounce science and pledge to serve Darkseid willingly or he will be his slave!
Lets go back and look at the exact words Libra uses:
"Renounce science, swear an oath on the Bible of Crime and pledge your service to the master of evil!"
Isn't it strange that Libra identifies Lex's allegience to science as a problem from evil's point of view? When you consider that science is under attack from Creationism these days, and Creationism is always championed by what look to me like the dark forces of medievil superstition and bigotry, it would seem that Morrison is slipping some more real-world commentary into his cape-opera. Stuff that matters very much indeed!
For added chuckles, leave out the words 'of Crime' from Libra's quote above. :-)
In any case, it's an interesting take on Lex Luthor. Even though science doesn't really help him with his moral compass, at the end of the day, Luthor believes in something larger than himself - a belief system with truth at its centre and the search for answers as its first commandment. That Darkseid and Libra find it so problematic reflects well on Lex, and Lex does indeed make some interesting choices later in the book.
Kirby didn't even link Kamandi to OMAC, let alone the DCU. Denny O'Neil wrote Kamandi #50 that had OMAC be the Last Boy's grandfather. Of course, that doesn't mean the grandfather who died in Kamandi #1 was an elderly Buddy Blank. Then again, if OMAC was supposed to protect humanity, he obviously failed.....big time!
Weird about this "renounciation" of science from Apokolips since Darkseid's entire scheme depends on science and technology. There is little "magic" in the Fourth World. It's all devices and gizmos and weapons. Maybe he wants science only for Apokolips and in his service!
FINAL CRISIS #3 (Con't):
Next we have two pages of Clark Kent at the hospital watching over a severely-injured Lois Lane. This is both heart-rending and unprecedented. Superman always saves Lois and Lois never gets hurt. Never. Characters can get injured for one issue and be fine by the next. Morrison throws all that out the window. And it's not just Lois. Perry White is on life support! Any Silver/Bronze/Post-Crisis/Etc reader would not be expecting that. Longtime supporting cast members can become iconic and thus untouchable and unkillable (see Aunt May or Alfred...and they tried!!).
Clark's grief and guilt is as paralizing as Green Kryptonite and even more painful. And he cannot leave. His heat-vision is the only thing stimulating Lois' heart! Jimmy Olsen goes off to find the "missing" Superman so Clark can remain with his wife. Could Jimmy finally suspect? Or has he known all this time?
With hands that can bend steel gently holding Lois', he stares at her wedding band, ironic now that DC has negated their marriage! But here he is super-devoted, wishing that he could take her pain away when he is confronted by a Mysterious Woman who knows that he's the Man of Steel. But now he almost doesn't care until she gives him a chance to save her life but they must leave this world now and enter a 3-D one in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond! More on that later.
At the same time, Hal Jordan is being taken to Oa in emerald chains, apparently guilty until proven innocent. Worse he can't remember where he was when Orion was killed or John Stewart attacked. Still he feels that it will be fine when he speaks to the Guardians, though we see him led away by "Kraken" who, of course, dismisses Wonder Woman's theory about Evil Gods. She and Black Lightning (finally a JLAer after all these years but in an awful costume) can do nothing. Luckily there is a REAL Super-Hero around in Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern (f/a All American Comics #16 [Jl'40]), the only GL not bound by the Guardians' rules or authority. Faced with the prospect of fighting Darkseid without the New Gods' involvement, the heroes declare WAR! Using the All-Star Squadron as a reference (and that brought a smile to my face! Another book that Grant and I read!), they summon the JLA, JSA, Teen Titans, Outsiders, Shadowpact (including Detective Chimp!!), the Birds of Prey plus a new Aquaman, Freddy Freeman as Shazam!, the current Supergirl and the fighting-the-draft-all-the-way Green Arrow urged on by a stern yet sexy Black Canary!
"Let's see any enemy stand against us." (Brave &) Bold words that would have worked before but at this point, Orion, Martian Manhunter, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, the Flash (Wally West), Batman and Superman have been taken off the board. And the worse is yet to come!
Next: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary and It's the Internet's Fault!
No f/a for Black Lightning?
Superman always saves Lois and Lois never gets hurt. Never.
Didn't Lois get shot while on an assignment in Kandahq (or whatever it's called) in the Superman comics in the year or two before Infinite Crisis?
But I take your point. It is heart-rending stuff. They've hit Clark right where he lives. I'm still not sure how heat-vision keeps someone's heart beating. Thematically though, we have the same confluence of heat/movement/life that we just discussed regarding the Flash's return. Jones does a wonderful job of making Lois' injuries and peril seem as real and prosaic as possible. Right down to the little band-aids on her fingers and the bruises around her eyes.
Normally superhero comics focus on the moments of violence - slowing them down and stretching them out before our eyes. Superhero comics have always been about violence. What's more, they usually ignore any consequences of violence. Everyone's fine by the next issue/storyline, as you say. Final Crisisgives us the moments of violence in an eyeblink, but lingers on the consequences. The explosion was a panel or two, but here we have two pages of a distraught husband sitting by his wife's hospital bed. (Not to mention the war, but Martian Manhunter's funeral got more panels than his actual execution too. The fact that the execution scene wasn't drawn out enough, with more blows exchanged, completely threw many readers who were expecting the usual superhero grammar of violence.)
The appearance of the Mysterious Woman is another understated glimmer of the marvelous through the 'realistic' grim and grit that makes up the first half of Final Crisis.
Although there are many cuts between the scene where Hal gets carted off to his 'trial' and the one where Alan Scott addresses the newly drafted superhero army, it all runs together very coherently. Tawky Tawny the tiger butler, Supergirl relaxing in her apartment, and the mysterious new Aquaman getting his draft from a dolphin are all charming scenes, for all their brevity. We understand a lot about these characters in only a panel, and there is some warmth and affection for them conveyed.
Aquaman's Silver Age look is a prophecy of what will follow in a few years, but you can tell in only a panel that this guy wouldn't dream of making a point about how 'normal' and 'not a joke' he is by ordering fish and chips in front of a bunch of strangers. If conversations between people and sea creatures isn't one of the reasons we read superhero comics then leave me out of it! The JLA wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Peter the Puffer Fish anyway. I'm guessing Johns left piscene Peter out of his new origin of the JLA, but it just goes to show he doesn't get it. :-)
That one panel of teenager Supergirl is one of her most appealing and charming scenes since the debut of this version. She just comes across as a likeable teenager, intersted in all kinds of stuff. Note that her entire posture and demeanour is focused on her farewell to the cat, rather than some pose to please unseen lechourous fanmen. The sick b@*******
Black Canary does have something of such a pose, but all-in-all her scene with Ollie is of two grown adults having some healthy 'relationship' time together. Again in just a few lines of text and pencilwork, we get how relaxed and intimate with each other they are. This is very healthy superhero sexuality on display. Morrison hits Ollie's blowhard obstreporousness on the head. You can tell exactly why he annoys people, and why they love him too.
Using the All-Star Squadron as a reference (and that brought a smile to my face! Another book that Grant and I read!), they summon the JLA, JSA, Teen Titans, Outsiders, Shadowpact (including Detective Chimp!!), the Birds of Prey plus a new Aquaman, Freddy Freeman as Shazam!, the current Supergirl and the fighting-the-draft-all-the-way Green Arrow urged on by a stern yet sexy Black Canary!
Was the superhero draft called Article X in the All-Star Squadron comics? I've recently read some of that series. It's highly enjoyable and this callback to it is welcome. Morrison is celebrating the richness of DCU history, but it's used well here. Never having read an issue of All-Star Squadron wouldn't make you feel left out of anything in this series. (Everything else about Final Crisiswould apparently do that though! Hee hee!)
I've just realised that Donna Troy, Huntress and Shazam, who are front and centre, are stand-ins for Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, respectively. Donna and Huntress are straightforward enough, but Freddie is a typical Morrison curve-ball to ensure things aren't too simplistically systematised.
Viewing the heroes from a high 'camera angle' as here often accentuates the feeling that they are under pressure or not in control of the situation. It's an old artist's trick. This looks like a rallying of the heroes, but as before in this series, it's a false start/ too little, too late.
Black Lightning first appeared in, well, Black Lightning #1 (Ap'77). I believe that you would find DC's original concept for a black super-hero rather....shocking!
No f/a for Black Lightning?
Just googled it. Wow, is all I can say!