This article from the blog at identifies the story in Wonder Woman #100 (AUG58) as the first multiverse story:  "The Forest of Giants!/The Challenge of Dimension X" (16 pages) featuring an identical twin of Wonder Woman.

Just after that, 10-year-old me picked up two consecutive issues of Adventure Comics off the spinner rack. Adventure Comics #252(SEP58) and #253(Oct58) had the first and second parts of a continued Green Arrow story (12 pages in all) illustrated by Jack Kirby. Enormous arrows are investigated by Green Arrow and Speedy. It turns out that they were shot through a comet-caused (those pesky comets) dimensional gateway by the child (!) of a giant alien counterpart of our Green Arrow (dressed exactly like him).

Were there any multiverse stories before 1958. In DC comics? In other comics?

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It's difficult for me to accept any Wonder Woman story written by Robert Kanigher as being even remotely canonical since he basically made stuff up to fit his plots. He was, after all, the king of the "impossible" story. 

I'm not so familiar with DC in the 1950s as to be able to pinpoint any specific stories that might have included characters from eventual multiverses unless they were retcons.

Randy Jackson said:

It's difficult for me to accept any Wonder Woman story written by Robert Kanigher as being even remotely canonical since he basically made stuff up to fit his plots. He was, after all, the king of the "impossible" story. 

You say that as if that's something a fiction writer is not supposed to do ... 

I believe that if a fiction writer is creating the plot and characters that they can do pretty much anything and it's fine. I may not want to read it, buf I have no problems with it. However, if a fiction writer is contracted  to write a story using characters owned and created by someone else, that writer should do their best to maintain consistency at least with characterization and lore. 

I'm not talking about What Ifs and Elseworlds or a new take on a character either. I'm aware that a fresh perspective on a character can work wonders (for example Frank Miller's Daredevil). However, I also see a lot of fiction writers (especially superhero comic writers) who decide their plot is more important than the established histories and characterizations of the existing characters and have these characters make decisions that have no connection to who they've been in the past. 

You can have a Batman that's a literal vampire, but to me that's no longer Batman. You can have a Superman who turns evil and kills the Justice League as well as most civilians on Earth, but to me that's not Superman. If as a writer you want to tell those stories, there are ways to do so without using those characters. 

Kanigher was generally very professional in his writing even if he tended to overuse plots again and again and again. And to be honest, the Impossible stories were generally pretty good. However, I wouldn't call any of them canonical. Nor do I think he was trying to write anything canonical. He was just doing his best to churn out an entertaining story by his deadline. So in my opinion, if we're trying to identify the first canonical multiverse story in DC's history, I wouldn't look to something written by Kanigher. 

Now, if we're not worried about canon at all, I'm sure you could find plenty of stories from Superman in the 40s where he ran into characters from another dimension. In fact, one if his oldest antagonists, Mr. Mxyztplk is from another dimension. 

ClarkKent_DC said:

Randy Jackson said:

It's difficult for me to accept any Wonder Woman story written by Robert Kanigher as being even remotely canonical since he basically made stuff up to fit his plots. He was, after all, the king of the "impossible" story. 

You say that as if that's something a fiction writer is not supposed to do ... 

Randy brings up, obliquely, my first thought when I saw your question, Richard: What's your definition of a "multiverse story"?

Randy accurately points out that other-dimensional beings have been part of comic book lore since the '40s. And heck, even predating Randy's Mxyptlk example, Wonder Woman was meeting/fighting other-dimensional beings in the Marston/Peter stories. JSA stories involving Per Degaton hinted at, and sometimes briefly showed, alternate timelines.

So I'm guessing you have a more specific idea in mind?

(Also, Randy, I don't mean to ignore your Kanigher argument. It's interesting, and I'd like to follow that discussion further, if you want to start a thread on it. But this is Richard's thread.)

In Superman #19 (D'42), Clark and Lois sees a Fleischer "Superman" cartoon and Clark does his usual tricks to prevent Lois from seeing the cartoon Clark change into the Man of Steel.

Now this was a cute way to promote the cartoons but the story was done by Siegel and Shuster so does that make the cartoons a separate reality and thus two versions of Superman?

About 20 years later, Gardner Fox established that there was a comics writer called Gardner Fox on Earth-1 who wrote stories based on his dreams of Earth-2.  This made it possible for Barry (Flash) Allen to be a fan of the comics adventures of Jay (Flash) Garrick.  Do we assume that Clark and Lois's trip to the movies in Superman #19 takes place on Earth-2?  If so, it suggests that the Siegel and Shuster of Earth-2 might have been dreaming of yet another Earth.  Earth-2.5 perhaps, since it's obviously not Earth-3, where Superman's counterpart is the villainous Ultraman of the Crime Syndicate!

I remember a story we discussed on the old board (a story I still have not read, BTW), which was, IIRC, a back-up feature in a pre-Hal Jordan GL issue of Action Comics (I think). In it, a group of "Guardians" (yellow-skinned, I think) sent all Evil to another universe. Or something. I've been searching but I can't find it. Does anyone here know the story I'm referring to? 

Jeff, are you possibly thinking of "Guardians of the Clockwork Universe"?  This is a Captain Comet story originally published in Strange Adventures #22 (July 1952).  It was reprinted in World's Finest #204 (August 1971), which is where I encountered it. The story is by John Broome, and appears to be a source of inspiration for his later creation of the Green Lantern Corps' Guardians in GL #1 (July-August 1960).

Synopsis of the Captain Comet story here on the DC wiki.

YES! That's it exactly! 

(Obviously, I misremembered some of the details.)

And apparently those Guardians contacted Captain Comet again in Strange Adventures #35 as well.

I understand what some of you are saying. I guess I should have been more specific. In the article about Wonder Woman #100 (I haven't read WW 100), the author asks in the first paragraph "When did DC’s creative talent first start taking advantage of the idea of alternate Earths, with characters crossing paths with very different versions of themselves?"

(I would not limit this to DC)

As noted, these stories should be canon, not Kanigher's "Impossible Stories," Weisinger's "Imaginary Stories" or Dreams, and not the intention Elseworlds or What Ifs of more recent times. As far as I know, the Wonder Woman "Impossible Stories" were labeled as such. I don't think Wonder Woman #100 was labeled that way, so it is canon (just like Egg Fu).

Wonder Woman meets an alternate version of herself, so that qualifies even if no one else has an alternate version in that story. The dimensions housing Mxyzptlk and the many one-off characters don't qualify because they don't contain alternate versions of the heroes or (like the JLA/JSA stories) complete earths with different heroes.

I suppose that there may be qualifying stories in Jack Schiff's Batman run. Are there?

Did DC or Timely of other companies in the Golden Age have any qualifying stories?

I just finished reading "Guardians of the Clockwork Universe" online. It is definitely not the story I thought I remembered, nor does it fir Richard's criteria. I originally wanted to read it, years ago, to see if it could be tied to the GLC Guardians (answer: "no"), but I couldn't track down a copy of World's Finest #204 (not at a price I was willing to pay, anyway. I'm sure I conflated the "other dimensional" angle from the Starheart, but that was a retroactive construct. 

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