There is a great appeal to the idea of parallel earths or alternate timelines. The world being different or wrong with characters in different roles to show how nurture helps build us, or show that they are the same person anyway showing that a heroic nature can always shine through, no matter where we are.
Here are 5 worlds that may not have lasted, but shine brightly nonetheless.
This was a 5th week/skip week event in the mid 90’s that leapt from the pages of the 90’s excess fest that was Marvel vs DC/Dc vs Marvel. It was briefly created when the DC and Marvel Earth’s merged and so did some of the characters. Superman and Captain America became Super Soldier, Superboy and Spider-Man became Spider-Boy, Avengers and X-Men became JLX and things like that. A couple of dozen comics were made and whilst not all great, all had interesting ideas and were lots of fun.
From around the same time as Amalgam, Marvel were enduring some difficult financial situation and sales on some of their oldest titles were getting very soft. What Marvel did was to go to Image comics founders Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld and let them produce four of their titles. Captain America and the Avengers went to Rob Liefeld, whilst Iron Man and the Fantastic Four went to Jim Lee and they were given a year to do whatever they wanted.
This didn’t really go to plan, but we got 52 issues of comics from Image studios that took the struggling core heroes into new and different places and whilst not all ideas were golden, some stuff took such as S.H.I.E.L.D. being more of a presence regarding the Avengers and Iron Man being more a story of redemption than before.
Ultimately this was reversed and the heroes returned, but that return led to some great comics too and was a massive shot in the arm to these heroes who for the most part didn’t fall back into the depths they were in before.
Forever Yesterday (New Warriors)
This was a three part story starting in issue 13 of New Warriors in March 1991 by the usual writer/artist duo for that book Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley. It was based around the Sphinx (an old Nova villain) or at least a new version of her, re-writing reality so that Egypt was the cultural and political centre of the world. The Avengers were more Egyptian themed with Captain Assyria rather than Captain America and Horus rather than Thor. The New Warriors were as we remembered them, but in different places in their lives. Nova was a junior member of the Avengers, Marvel Boy and Firestar were rebels and Night Thrasher went through his origin again, but with different people killing his parents. It was a great self contained story that examined these heroes in new places, exactly what alternate history stories should do. If redone now, it’d be 20 or 30 issues with tie ins and fancy trade dress, but this was a great 3 parter.
JLA: A Midsummer Nightmare
Back in 1996, DC were planning to restart their flagship Justice League title with JLA under superstar writer Grant Morrison. Rather than a mix of A and B list heroes (with the odd C-lister) this was going to be all A-List. To give that series an extra 3 months of lead time and showcase this magnificent 7 approach. Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza along with artists Jeff Johnson and Darick Robertson gave us a 3 part story reintroducing that team.
This was a world were there was no Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash or Aquaman. With their costumed lives seemingly erased we got reporter Clark Kent, philanthropist Bruce Wayne, school headmistress Diana Prince, artist Kyle Rayner, school teacher Wally West and fishing company executive Arthur Curry. The rest of the world was getting super powers instead. There was a mystery to solve and one by one, the leaguers remembered who they were and then found J’onn J’onnz who was living his life on Mars with his lost family who were killed again. Now reunited, they battled the architect of this plot to produce a world of super heroes, a man called Know Man. The heroes won the day of course and the world was put right, but Know Man warned them there was a threat coming and if not a world of heroes, then the 7 of them would have to be face it alone. This mini reformed the heart of the league, giving something for Grant Morrison to build a great title around.
Age of Apocalypse
In December 1994, Marvel suspended 9 comics from their X-Men line and relaunched them as part of a 4 month event known as the Age of Apocalypse. If you are familiar with it, then I need say no more, if not, I am currently in the middle of looking at it, on another blog which you can find here.
It was an ambitious and to my mind successful effort to tell an alternate universe story in a way that gave each element room to breathe and allow different writers a way to change the tone and feel of the story without affecting the whole of it in a negative way. When the four months were up, the 9 replaced titles simply returned, but there were repercussions that lasted for years after this.
So that’s my 5, what was your favourite of these? Did I miss a glaringly obvious one?