Category Archives: Comic Book Critique

Comic Book Merged Humans

Comic Book Merged Humans Table Resized

While working on my List of Superpowers (200+), one of the more interesting superpowers I added, that was not on my previous list of 150 superpowers, was the ability to merge human beings into a single being (power 99). Writing about this superpower brought back a lot of memories. I first read Childhood’s End when I was a teenager and the book kind of scared the crap out of me because there was something deeply true about the novel. In Childhood’s End the Overlords look like demons. Our fear of demons is a premonition of a fate in which humans become a single organism. Childhood’s End is a novelistic version of the Omega Point put forth by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The recent TV series version of Childhood’s End also got me thinking about the subject of MERGED HUMANS!   This article will explore (1) how humans have been merged, (2) why humans have been merged and different (3) types of merging in comic books.

1.0) How would you create merged humans?

 1.1) Cybernetic

One way of merging human is via a combination of biological and technological means. This merging can be done for various ends. Transhumanism, or H+ for short, suggests we use emerging technologies such as genetic engineering and/or intelligence augmentation (IA) and artificial technology in tandem in order to enhance human potential. There are different flavors of transhumanism including: Abolitionism, Democratic transhumanism, Extropianism, Immortalism, Libertarian transhumanism, Postgenderism, Singularitarianism, and Technogaianism.

The flavor missing from the list is the flavor you see in any number of science fiction movies in which emerging technologies are used to enhance humans to serve the interests of the state which are generally military. Captain America is enhanced to fight Nazis as super soldier. In the future, the very same Marvel Comics super solider program is used to create Nuke (Marvel), a cyborg. I actually find the comic book version of a post human future more “realistic” than the H+ version. Enhanced humans will require deep pockets which only the state has and not the politically correct. The Kree Empire decides to use cyborg technology to create the Supreme Intelligence! The most famous cyborg collective intelligence is of course the Borg (Star Trek). The Borg have the amazing ability to assimilate both technological and biological uniqueness and then add them to the collective.

1.2) Superorganisms

A superorganism is an organism that consists of other organisms. In the case of superorganisms, humans are merged via biological means rather than cybernetic means. In one scenario, aliens may arrive and have the ability to merge humans via biological means and humans lose their identity as individual i.e. they become the fictional version of eusocial. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the seminal movie of this type. The comic book version of an alien that takes over humans is Starro (DC) and Starro uses little star fish that attach themselves to the head of humans including even Superman to take them over an make them part of a collective intelligence.

1 Comic Book Merged Humans - Starro - Justice League of America 190

Marvel decided to make a montage of the The Stepford Wives and The Midwich Cuckoos and created the Stepford Cuckoos (Marvel) who are quintuplets with a telepathic hive mind. Marvel also created the Uni-Mind (Marvel).  The Eternals are a race that has all the powers of Superman, more or less, and can merge into a single Uni-Mind due to their Eternal physiology rather than via technological means. There is a loss of individual identity but only temporarily. The Overmind (Marvel) is an alien belonging to the Eternals of Eyung and the receptacle for entire population of several hundred million minds. The individual minds have been totally erased.   The High Evolutionary use some sort of compound to accelerate human evolution and creates the Entity (Marvel) in What If -The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War V2 #1 but individuality is retained while powers are amalgamated.

The comic book writer, Alan Moore has the Swamp Thing accidently become a collective intelligence in Swamp Thing V2 #61 (1987). The Swamp Thing creates a plant based superorganism. Alan Moore always uses a unique POV to make an old topic interesting. The problem of unmerging the collective is seen from the POV of those merged first and the Green Lantern who wants to save the merged innocents and tries different solutions. Compare this POV driven approach to storytelling to how the Uni-Mind, Ubersaurus and Mangog are summarily unmerged.

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In Memetic (Boom), aliens use a meme of sloth with a hypnotic spiral in the background in order to create merged humans.

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1.3) Technological Singularity

In the technological singularity scenario, computers create even better computers and those better computers create even better computers and on and on until computers quickly reach a level of artificial intelligence (AI) that soon totally surpasses human intelligence. This article is about merging humans not AI so let’s assume computers don’t like waste and merge humans into the machine. In “real” life, I think super computers would either ignore us or eliminate us but conquering us or more salaciously conquering our women seems to sell more books and tickets!

In the comic book version of the technological singularity the computers mostly conquer humans or try to eliminate us but we put up a really good fight. Brainiac (DC) is the number one comic book robot that goes this route. Brainiac shrinks cities so he can study them the way a youngster studies an ant farm. The concept is totally insane but a lot of fun and allows for a slew of Kandor related stories since this is the city Brainiac “saved” from the destruction of Krypton. If there is no Kandor then there is no Superman Emergency Squad! Finally, if there is no Superman Emergency Squad then you can’t have a fight between them and Supergirl in Action 276.

2 Comic Book Merged Humans - Supergirls vs the Superman Emergency Squad - Action 276

Ultron (Marvel) used to want to eliminate humans but lately he has started to merge humans.

3 Comic Book Merged Humans - Age of Ultron - The Complete Event (2014) - Page 272

A similar plot twist happened in the Terminator franchise. In Terminator Genisys, Skynet turns John Connor, the leader of the human resistance, into a Terminator! I suppose both 1.1 and 1.3 are examples of cyborg technology from a technological point of view but I would say if you as a human are mostly computer and more importantly it was done to you by a computer than it’s still an expression of technological singularity and a very important difference in terms of novelistic conflict.

1.4) Unknown Means

In the case of the Omega Point, the role of biological and technological merging of humans is not specified and/or irrelevant. Merged humans provide theological answers so the ends not the means are more relevant. In Childhood’s End one assumes scientific means are used but as in the case of the Omega Point, the details of how this merging happens is not specified. Odin creates Mangog (Marvel) using magic but magic isn’t much of an explanation. Mostly I just don’t want to make a whole category just for Mangog!

2.0) Why would you create merged humans?

2.1) Evolutionary Imperative

Merging human is just the right thing to do! Come on humans as individuals suck! You know it! I know it! We are going to destroy ourselves in the next twenty minutes anyway so we might as well merge and go up the evolutionary ladder. Do you think microbes liked being part of a larger multicellular body? Of course not! It’s the next stage and we will be happier for going up the ladder. The Borg know assimilation is just the right thing to do! Teilhard de Chardin doesn’t suggest there is a choice but God is behind the plan so it must be the right thing to do.

2.2) Governance

Two brains are better than one and two thousand brains are probably better than two. The Kree Empire use technology to create the Supreme Intelligence which is an amalgam of the best and brightest minds of Kree history. The Supreme Intelligence is created to create a cosmic cube but refuses but is kept around anyway for governance. The Eternals merge into a Uni-Mind temporarily to make big decisions.

2.3) Military

Merged humans might have military applications. Maybe the Borg didn’t create a hive mind mostly for military purposes but they do tend to kick Starfleet around without much trouble. Even the Q (Star Trek) don’t mess with the Borg. The Overmind (Marvel) and the Ubersaur (Astro City) were created specifically for combat!

2.4) Punishment

“Hell is other People”, according to Sartre. Odin is obviously a big fan of Sartre and decided the best way to punish a people was to merge them into a single entity called Mangog. Mangog in turn almost destroys his kingdom. Odin’s merging makes no sense whatsoever but this is often the case with the Marvel version of Odin! However, the idea of a criminal feeling the pain of their victim does make some sense. In The Crow, protagonist Eric Draven makes villain Top Dollar feel 30 hours of his (Eric’s) murdered girlfriend Shelly’s pain in one moment.

3.0) Type of Merging

There are at least three possibilities when it comes to merging (3.1) Mind only, (3.2) Body mostly (lack of super intelligence) and (3.3) Mind and Body. The type of merging is sadly neglected in one of the most popular fan boy fights: What would happen if the Uni-Mind fought the Supreme Intelligence. The Uni-Mind can fly and seems to be an amalgam of the Eternals physically not just mentally (3.3). The Uni-Mind, unlike the Supreme Intelligence, is more like a thousand Supermans in one big body. Actually the Uni-Mind hasn’t really shown any super intelligence feats but has vast psionic powers and is used for governance sporadically so one assumes there is some sort of super intelligence at work.

The Supreme Intelligence is probably more intelligent because more minds make up the Supreme Intelligence than the Uni-Mind. However, physically the Supreme Intelligence physically is a collection of computers and brains and can only control three androids to fight (3.1). However, the Supreme Intelligence does have vast psionic powers. The Supreme Intelligence is one of the great manipulators of the Marvel Universe and ruthlessly created the Nega-Bomb to force the evolution of the Kree race while not letting the Kree know about its genocidal plan directed at the Kree themselves for a larger end! The Supreme Intelligence can access all the information of the Kree Empire, process that information and come up with extremely complex plans that have been successful in the past.

Minus prep, the Uni-Mind wins in a conflict with the Supreme Intelligence. The Uni-Mind is powerful enough to just fly through Kree space and blast the Supreme Intelligence to death. The Supreme Intelligence has some psionic powers but not to the same extent as the Uni-Mind. Without prep then the conflict is more or less Superman versus a computer installation!

If there is prep then the Supreme Intelligence has the vast resources of the interstellar Kree Empire and superior intelligence to use those resources. This would be Superman versus a computer installation which is guarded by an insane level of military resources and they know you are coming and of course they can come after you first! The Kree Empire did create the Inhumans as their answer to the Celestial created Eternals and if they can create a super race then surely they can create weapons to take out a super race.

The Supreme Intelligence can send out an armada that conquers worlds, Sentries, giant robots with vast destructive potential, and specialized weaponry designed to take out Eternals merged or not. The Supreme Intelligence is the brain of the Kree Empire. The Uni-Mind is more agile as a body and brain in one package but the Supreme Intelligence has a body which is the Kree Empire at its disposal with prep. Also, the Supreme Intelligence is more redundant. The Supreme Intelligence is a vast network and the pieces can be replaced with more brains and more computers. The Supreme Intelligence is more of a distributed network. The Uni-Mind is a single entity flying in the sky. A really powerful entity but one target when it’s all said and done. The Uni-Mind was been taken out by a single blast from a Celestial in the past!

Comic Book Merged Humans - Uni-Mind vs Celestials - Thor #300 - Page 25

The Overmind (Marvel) received vast psionic powers due to his merging but not the physical powers of the millions that he is the merged version of or super intelligence.

What if there is a physical merging but not a merging of minds (3.2)? You merge beings to get super strength. There are major disadvantages to having an amalgam body lacking super intelligence or psionic powers. Mangog is a savage creature of unbelievable strength and is much stronger than Thor. However, Mangog is easily taken apart by Odin. Super intelligence could have given Magog the ability to create a defense against Odin.

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Ubersaurus (Astro City), in a manner similar to the Eternals, uses the inherent super powers of their alien physiology to create a collective being that has a collective body but the Ubersaurus doesn’t appear to be all that smart and is easily defeated by some sort of ray that a super intelligent being would have anticipated (3.2). If the Ubersaurus had psionic powers then it might have erected some sort of psionic force field to stop the ray.

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The Swamp Thing becomes a physically impressive specimen but the merging leaves him in a state of shock.  A merged creature minus super intelligence or psionic defenses is easily unmerged with the right technology and this seems to be the main weakness of this type of merging.

I am going to argue that the Borg are an example of 3.3 but the Borg have their little version of 3.3 which makes them very interesting. Do the Borg as a hive mind have super intelligence? The Borg can store and process huge amounts of information as a hive mind that consists of countless assimilated species. The Queen of the Borg serves some sort of information processing nexus function that is not totally explained in the Star Trek universe. The Borg can adapt to all sorts of technology almost instantly and if this isn’t super intelligence certainly this ability mimics super intelligence.

However, stratagems by Starfleet do seem to work against the Borg and Borg intelligence seems to have blind spot when it comes to individuals. The Borg do not so much assimilate individuals as civilizations so individuals are ignored and an individual might be able to slip past Borg defenses and do damage to the Borg that is disproportionate to the apparent potential of the individual. A Borg, Hugh is infected with a computer virus and the Enterprise crew is pretty sure their stratagem will work if Hugh is assimilated again. The human equivalent would be blankets with Small Pox given to Native Americans and a being with super intelligence would see through such a trick easily. The Borg have assimilated humans so this particular historical example would be in their data base. The Borg are like an idiot savant in some ways. Their knowledge is deep and detailed but their thought sometimes lacks common sense. The Borg are more robotic and slow moving and slow thinking than human and agile of mind and body.

The Borg can create a custom nexus similar to the Borg Queen that deals with particular problems. The Borg created a nexus called Locutus out of Captain Picard in order to take out the Federation. This custom made nexus seems to give the Borg the advantages of both a hive mind and a quicker more agile individual mind in one package. I see Locutus as being a custom made chip designed for a particular problem. The Borg as a collective are a cybernetic system that is smart enough to create a cybernetic expert system when needed and by assimilating Captain Picard avoid the knowledge acquisition problem.

Do the Borg have some sort of ability to merge their humanoid bodies? The Borg as a cube ship seem to have some sort of ability to draw on the physical reserves of all the individual Borg in the cube ship for regeneration from attacks that would destroy any Starfleet ship (3.3). Individual Borg outside of the cube ship do not have this ability.

I would say the Entity is an example of 3.3 taken to a higher level than any other being in comic book history. The Entity can destroy both Eternity and Death physically because it’s an amalgam of most of the Marvel Universe superheroes who have also been evolved. Even the merged humans, not super humans, can disintegrate a Celestial with just a thought!

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In conclusion the topic of merged humans in comic books appears to be simple but actually has a lot of components that make the topic more interesting.

 

Orange Werefox versus Justice League

Orange Werefox versus the Justice League Resized

The Orange Werefox reveals his sinister plan to take down the Justice League!

Photo Album at:

http://s883.photobucket.com/user/foxhugh/library/Orange%20Werefox%20versus%20Justice%20League

Hugh Fox III - Alien Glow (2)

 

 

American Comic Books versus Japanese Manga

American Comic Books versus Japanese Manga Table Resized

Document at:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/240044346/American-Comic-Books-Versus-Japanese-Manga-Worksheet

Hugh Fox III - Army

 

 

Image

Name the Captain

Name the Captain

Name the Captain Answer Key

Hugh Fox III - Baby

Alan Moore’s Novel Use of Point of View

“Superman/Swamp Thing: The Jungle Line, 2000 AD, a Mister Mxyzptlk, A Small Killing, A1#1, Abby Arcane, Alan Moore, Anthony Lilliman, antiheros, “Pog”, Big Numbers, daughter of Miracleman, Dazzle Comics, DC Comics Presents #85, Delia Surredige, deus ex machina, Dr. Manhattan, E.T., Eric Finch, Ethan Crane, Evey, Ghost Dance, Great Britain, Hallucinogenic POV, hippie, Intelligent ethically ambiguous POV, Kryptonian fungus, Larkhill, LSD, Marvelman, metafictional, Milo, Miracleman, Miracleman #13, Miracleman #14, Miracleman #16, narrative. Alien POV, Norsefire, Omniman, peyote, Pog comic strip, Pogo, point of view, POV, Qys, rebooted. Supreme #53, Skizz, Story within a story POV, Stream of consciousness POV, superhero universe reboots, Supreme, Survivor guilt, Swamp Thing, Swamp Thing v2, Szazs, Tales of the Black Freighter, the Comedian, The Green, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Punisher, V is for Vendetta, V is for Vendetta #5, v2, Vertigo, Walt Kelly, Warpsmiths. Qys, Watchmen, Watchmen #12, Watchmen #4, Watchmen #9, Wolverine, WW III

Alan Moore is one of the top comic book writers of all time.  Alan Moore uses many specialized techniques to entertain the reader including superhero universe reboots but another technique he uses to make his stories especially engrossing is the novel use of point of view (POV) in his narrative.  Moore uses alien POV, hallucinogenic POV, intelligent ethically ambiguous POV, stream of consciousness POV, and a story within a story POV in order to make his fiction more interesting.

Alien POV

Dr. Manhattan is Superman type character in the series Watchmen and exists simultaneously in the past, present and future as part of his superhuman condition.  Dr. Manhattan may have been human at one point but due to an accident became a being that is growing distant from humanity.  Ozymandias on Dr. Manhattan, “If there’s one thing in this cosmos that that man isn’t capable of doing it’s having a political bias. Believe me… you have to meet him to understand. I mean, which do you prefer, red ants or black ants?” Dr. Manhattan can also make multiple versions of himself and does this for practical purposes but also because this is a point of view that he finds interesting.  Dr. Manhattan can perceive subatomic particles that exist for nanoseconds.  Dr. Manhattan has developed a nihilistic view of reality due to his superhuman perceptions that is shared by very few human beings but The Comedian is one of them (see Figure 1 below).

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Figure 1- Watchmen #4 (of 12) – Page 20

Dr. Manhattan is so removed from the human POV that he almost does not intervene to save the world from WW III (see Figure 2)!below

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Figure 2 – Watchmen #9 (of 12) – Page 11

And true love does not change his mind but instead he has some sort of eureka experience related to human individuality relative to probability (see Figure 3 below) and this insight causes him to try to stop WW III.

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Figure 3 – Watchmen #9 (of 12) – Page 28

The Swamp Thing discovers in Swamp Thing, v2, #21, the first issue of this character that Alan Moore wrote, that he is actually a plant not a human and this knowledge causes him to change how he views  humanity and temporarily flip out and commit his first murder.  Alan Moore decides to turn a superhero that was a man with plant features into a plant period with a plant POV!  This story is aptly titled “The Anatomy Lesson” and is a POV driven plot (see Figure 4 below).

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Figure 4 – Swamp Thing V2 #21 – Page 13

Alan Moore decided a superhero even more removed from humanity would be more interesting.  The Swamp Thing can also perceive and move through “The Green” which is some sort of dimension that contains the consciousness of all plant life.  As a plant and later an elemental, the Swamp Thing sees the human struggle between good and evil in a larger transhuman context.  Humans are one of many species and the welfare of humans at the expense of the environment is not acceptable.

In a two issue story arc, the story is told from the POV of an alien that happens to be an Earthling!  In “Mysteries in Space”, Swamp Thing, v2, #57 and “Exiles” Swamp Thing, v2, #58, Adam Strange is the hero of planet Rann.  The inhabitants are more advanced than Earthlings and have difficulty doing “primitive” things like fighting and procreating.  Adam Strange has slowly become aware that the Rannians see him as an ape-man errand boy and the statute erected in his honor as the hero of Rann is a façade to flatter him into doing their bidding.  There is plenty of action in the story but Adam Strange’s internal dialogue about he is perceived in the Rannians is actually more interesting.  In the end his relatively, to Earthlings, Rannian girlfriend, Alanna Strange, is found to be pregnant and this is the first pregnancy in quite some time on Rann.  The Earthling “alien” has done the “job” he was probably recruited and manipulated for in the first place (see Figure 5 below)!

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Figure 5 – Swamp Thing V2 #58 – Page 23

Another story of Swamp Thing tells the story totally from the point of view of an alien!  In “Loving the Alien”, Swamp Thing, v2, #60, an alien that is a planet made of biomechanical material is telling the story of her courtship of the Swamp Thing.  I guess alien biomechanical planets have a hard time finding suitable mates and all prior attempts at failed and often caused the death of the potential mate.  Swamp Thing tried to escape but she used a “chronofracture” which reverses time to get a second chance at catching the Swamp Thing and she has her way with him.  She transfers all the information biological and otherwise into her reproductive system and voila little baby aliens that want to hear the story of their mothers courtship and mom wonders if dad would love his children if he had gotten to know them (see Figure 6 below)!

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Figure 6 – Swamp Thing V2 #60 – Page 19

Miracleman is another Superman type character radically rebooted by Alan Moore who reflects on his superhuman condition has changed how he views the world.  Even his “father” who is a genius by human standards cannot understand the perspective of Miracleman in the opinion of Miracleman (see Figure 7 below).

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Figure 7 – Miracleman 07 #1440 – Page 16

Miracleman’s perceptions evolve and he recognizes his superhuman condition probably distances him from humanity and he sees this as a negative (see Figure 8 below).

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Figure 8 – Miracleman 16 #1440 – Page 29

The Miracleman’s universe includes two alien empires including the Qys and the Warpsmiths. The Qys can change bodies the way we change clothes and this radically changes their sense of self.  This ability changes the aesthetic of the Qys so radically that they are ruled by what to a human would seem like a giant monster (see Figure 9 below).

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Figure 9 – Miracleman 13 #1440 – Page 5

The Warpsmiths have the power of teleportation and with this power also perceive time very differently than humans.  There are hints that this power changes how they perceive the universe and their role in the universe (See Figure 10 below).

10-A1 Ghost Dance Warpsmiths

Figure 10 – A1 Ghost Dance Warpsmiths

For Alan Moore, superpowers are not just tools for fighting crime but create sensibilities that change POV radically.  The daughter of Miracleman realizes that Miracleman’s perspective is too human for her growth and development as a superhuman and leaves her father to go live with the Qys despite being a newborn (see Figure 11 below).

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Figure 11 – Miracleman 14 #1440 – Page 7

Skizz is a character that Alan Moore created for 2000 AD.  Skizz resembles an E.T. the movie sort of alien and one biker actually refers to Skizz as being like E.T. in the movie.  Skizz is an interpreter and not very formidable physically and we get to see Earth from the point of view of an alien that finds us barbaric (see Figure 12 below).

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Figure 12 – Skizz – Page 14

More than any other comic book that I am familiar with, the story of Skizz revolves around the POV of an alien rather than relying on action for plot delivery.

In Swamp Thing v2, #32, “Pog”,  Alan Moore treats us to an alien that in a manner similar to Skizz provides an alien point of view in which we are seen as barbarian but even more than that a savage planet.  On the planet of Pog, even different species of animals coexist but in our planet a cartoonish crocodile will be eaten real crocodiles (see Figure 13 below).

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Figure 13 – Swamp Thing V2 #32 – Page 17

There is a metafictional aspect to Pog since Moore is comparing two types of comic book universe not just aliens and Earthlings.  The comic strip Pogo universe of Walt Kelly is being compared with the grittier Vertigo universe that Swamp Thing inhabits.

In Swamp Thing v2, #61, “All Flesh is Grass”, Swamp Thing meets a Green Lantern (Medphyll) on his alien home world in which plant life is sentient.  The title “All Flesh is Grass” is from the Bible and refers to the transitory nature of existence.  The story is told from the POV of Medphyll and the reader is treated to a description of an alien world of sentient plants and the art, religion and plant based architecture of the planet are described in detail.  The Green Lantern oath reflects the plant POV of the ring bearer:

“In forest dark or glade beferned,
No blade of grass shall go unturned.
Let those that have the daylight spurned,
Tread not where this green lamp has burned.”

The Swamp Thing is the horror from the stars in this story and we are reminded that what is a hero or a monster is a matter of perspective.  The Swamp Thing inhabits the form of Medphyll’s deceased and beloved teacher Jothra and the Swamp Thing and the reader are given a tour of this very interesting planet (See figure 14 below).

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Figure 14 – Swamp Thing V2 #61 – Page 18

Aliens like Dr. Manhattan, the Swamp Thing, Miracleman, Skizz and Pog view the world in a radically different way that in turn change how they think.  Super powers do not just let the character smash mountains but change how the characters perceive mountains and this is actually often more interesting.

Alan Moore wrote three stories about the Green Lantern Corps for DC Comics.  In the story “In Blackest Story”, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #3 (1987), the Green Lantern Katma Tui has a very difficult time explaining the whole concept of the bright light of Green Lanterns fighting darkness because the alien, Rot Lop Fan,  Katman Tui is talking to cannot see and has no concept of light (see Figure 15 below).

15- "In Blackest Night" Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #3- Page 4

Figure 15 – “In Blackest Night” Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #3

In “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize”, Green Lantern, v2, #188, the bad guy cannot find the Green Lantern until he realizes the Green Lantern Mogo is not an inhabitant of the planet but the planet itself (see Figure 16 below)!

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Figure 16 – “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize”, Green Lantern #188, v2 – Page 6

In “Tygers”, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 (1986), a hyper rational Green Lantern, Abin Sur, fails to understand how a demon of the Empire of Tears, Qull of the Five Inversions,  can use his perceptual abilities that combine clairvoyance, cunning and an understanding of mortal psychological weaknesses in order to create a death trap with words alone.  Abin Sur feels protected by his scientific world view but in fact the supremely evil POV of the demon allows the demon to murder Abin Sur even though the demon is imprisoned and should be helpless (see Figure 17 below).

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Figure 17 – “Tygers”, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 – Page 12

In all three Green Lantern Corps stories, there are two aliens that have such radically different states of being that their POV makes mutual understanding difficult.  The Green Lantern Corps are aliens.  Moore realized the rich potential in exploring the alien side of the Green Lantern Corps rather than treating them like Earth based super humans that happen to look funny due to a third eye or some other cosmetic difference between the alien and us.  The Green Lantern Corps stories are even more POV centric than the other superhero stories mentioned previously.

Alan Moore develops the Alien POV idea even further in the Omega Men series.  The Omega Men are a team of extraterrestrial superheroes in a solar system other than that of Earth called the Vegan system.  Alan Moore did two back stories for the series that take place in the Vegan system but do not involve the Omega Men directly.  In “Brief Lives”, Omega Men #26, the Spider Guild, giant intelligent spiders, try to conquer giant aliens in the planet Ogyptu that live for millennia and move, think and perceive the world at a glacial pace, literally.  The entire invasion by the Spider Guild over a thirty year period is barely perceived by the giants.  The invasion fails because the POV of the giants is so radically different than that of the Spider Guild that the invasion cannot even be perceived and therefore cannot be successful (see figure 18 below).

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Figure 18 – “Brief Lives”, Omega Men #26 – Page 27

In “A Man’s World”, Omega Men #27, a female xenobiologist, or possibly an anthropologist since she mentions the rules of inter-system anthropology, studies a tribe called the Culacaons that reproduce minus women.  The female alien named Leelyo pays the ultimate price for not understanding the POV of the males in the tribe.  After probably three rereads, the reader figures out that the males of the Culacaons stab giant snails and plant their babies into the giant snails. The reader can infer that the Culcaon male stabs
poor Leelyo and probably deposits the children in her body after stabbing with
her with his Gamugha stick. Apparently, the male tribesman sees the female alien not as a fellow humanoid but as more similar to the giant snails and deserving similar treatment.  From the POV of the male Culacaon Leelyo is more like the giant snails than like him!  This story is widely dismissed as a very poor story.  However, if you reread the story then the horrible truth of the story becomes apparent and the true meaning of the title, “A Man’s World” becomes horrifyingly apparent (see Figure 19 below)!

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Figure 19 – “A Mans World”, Omega Men #27 – Page 24

Hallucinogenic POV

Swamp Thing was radically changed during his tenure under Alan Moore.  The Alan Moore Swamp Thing has tubers growing from his body that more or less has the same effects as peyote.  In “Rite of Spring”, Swamp Thing v2, #34, the Swamp Thing gives his girlfriend Abby Arcane a tuber in order to educate her about his perception of the Earth via The Green (see Figure 20 below).

20 Swamp Thing V2 #34 - Page 12

Figure 20 – Swamp Thing V2 #34 – Page 12

In “The Return of the Good Gumbo”, Swamp Thing v2, #64, the Swamp Thing again gives his soon to be wife Abby Arcane a tuber to eat since nothing says love like hallucinogenic tubers.  Abby is literally eating a part of her lover and has hallucinations that help her understand how the Swamp Thing perceives the world and they also have really good sex (see Figure 21 below)!

21-Swamp Thing V2 #64 - Page 14

Figure 21 – Swamp Thing V2 #64 – Page 14

In “Windfall”, Swamp Thing v2, # 43 a hippie named Chester found a tuber lying around the swamp and brought it to Baton Rouge.  Pieces of the tuber end up in a woman named Sandy painfully dying of cancer and she hallucinates a luminous body free of pain and is transported to a radiant heaven like garden in which she dies in the arms of her husband (see Figure 22 below).

22-Swamp Thing V2 #43 - Page 19

Figure 22 – Swamp Thing V2 #43 – Page 19

A sleazy drug pusher named Milo has a really bad trip and hallucinates some of the very ugly and evil villains the Swamp Thing has encountered.  The tubers as parts of the Swamp Thing apparently contain the memories of the Swamp Thing at some level (see Figure 23 below).

23-Swamp Thing V2 #43 - Page 18

Figure 23 – Swamp Thing V2 #43 – Page 18

When Chester finds out what happened to Sandy and Milo he theorizes that the tubers bring out what is in your as a person.  Good people have good trips.  Bad people have bad trips.  Chester ponders whether or not to take what is left of the tuber and decides not to.

In V is for Vendetta, the lead detective, Eric Finch takes LSD at the shut down concentration camp Larkhill.  The psychedelic imagery used is disturbing and unnerves the reader.  Finch hallucinates the naked torsos of a man and a woman perched on barbed wire (see Figure 24 below).

24-V For Vendetta #9 - Page 4

Figure 24 – V For Vendetta #9 – Page 4

Finch hallucinates wearing the striped garb of a prisoner.  Finch has a hallucination about a crowd of black people, presumably killed at the camp and they are friendly towards him but ultimately move away from him and disappear into a wall.  Finch is then transported in to his middle class house but this is also a hallucination.  Finally, Finch takes off all his clothes and experiences freedom from social constraints in the center of Stonehenge.  Stonehenge may or may not be a hallucination.  Eric Finch is using the LSD experience to help him understand how V thinks and to some extent succeeds.  V is an anarchist and Finch does develop an understanding of freedom that helps him in turn understand V.

In DC Comics Presents #85: “Superman/Swamp Thing: The Jungle Line”. Superman is hallucinating due to an infection by a Kryptonian fungus and has flash backs about Krypton that reveal a great deal to the reader about how Superman handles his Kryptonian heritage.  Swamp Thing is perceived as an enemy due to the hallucinations and is almost destroyed.  Some of the more interesting hallucinations Superman has are talking with his empty Clark Kent clothes and the empty suit explains to Superman that he is dying and furthermore that he is nothing special.  Superman seems to suffer from Survivor guilt which manifests in his hallucinations (see Figure 25 below).

25-DC Comics Presents #85 - Page 13

Figure 25 – DC Comics Presents #85 – Page 13

Swamp Thing can enter the hallucinatory world of Superman because this world is in part generated by a “plant”, strictly speaking a fungus is not a plant, and the Swamp Thing takes Superman into “The Green” which breaks contact with the scarlet jungle of the fungus Superman was dying in.  In this plant dimension the Swamp Thing soothes Superman so he can sleep and this allows Superman to recover.

Alan Moore returns to the use of a hallucinogenic plant as a central plot device a third time in “For the Man Who Has Everything”, Superman Annual #11.  This is of course the second time Moore has Superman hallucinating due to a “plant” (see figure 26 below).

26-Annual Superman V1 #11 - Page 12

Figure 26 – Annual Superman V1 #11 – Page 12

A large alien plant called the Black Mercy has Superman trapped in a coherent hallucinated world on the planet Krypton and this is supposed to be his deepest desire.  This is the Krypton that would have happened if Krypton had not blown up.  Superman has never been Superman and has a Kryptonian brother and a niece.  This alternate world is supposed to be what the person really wants but soon turns ugly due to Kryptonian xenophobia and presumably this is the unconscious of Superman trying to free himself from the grip of the Black Mercy.  Batman also ends up with the plant on his chest and in his hallucination he is in a world in which his parents were not killed.  Finally, the bad guy, Mongul, ends up with the plant on his chest due to Robin.  Mongol has a hallucination of a world of endless conquest and Superman’s head on a pike.

In all the stories examined, the person hallucinating does gain insight that is often helpful.  The hallucinations are not always pleasant but generally reveal truths rather than being random and meaningless.

Intelligent Ethically Ambiguous POV

Generally in comic books the hero is simplistically good and the villain is simplistically bad.  Alan Moore departs from this practice and presents antiheros.  Comic books have any number of muscular tough guy antiheros like The Punisher and Wolverine but generally ruthless intelligent characters are invariably super villains.  Alan Moore uses intelligent antiheroes that present a compelling argument for ruthless action.

Ozymandias is a major character in Moore series Watchmen.  Ozymandias is considered the smartest man in the world. This very intelligence forces him to see the world differently than his fellow superheroes that are not as intelligent.  Ozymandias is at the upper limits of human intelligence but probably does not possess super intelligence.  The only Watchmen superhero to really agree with the actions of Ozymandias to save the world is Dr. Manhattan who probably possesses out and out super intelligence.  Ozymandias manages to save the world from WW III but kills millions in New York do accomplish this task.  The reader is allowed to share the triumph of Ozymandias directly and the background picture of Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian Knot is intentional (See Figure 27 below).

27-Watchmen #12 (of 12) - Page 20

Figure 27 – Watchmen #12 (of 12) – Page 20

V in V is for Vendetta is an antihero and is a powerful fighter but what makes him really dangerous is his super intelligence.  V uses strategy to take apart the fascist party Norsefire that rules Great Britain.  V commits various acts that may be considered unethical.  V kills a Bishop, Anthony Lilliman.   However, the bishop is also a pedophile so that’s probably ok.  V kills a doctor, Delia Surredige.  Dr. Surredige has clearly repented for her sins in the concentration camp V was in.  Killing a woman is generally not done by heroes.  Killing someone who has reformed is also not generally done by comic book characters.  V also kills the hired help of Norsefire that happens to be in the way.  V doesn’t do comic book things like use stun guns, non lethal Karate chops, or shoot their pistols out of the hands of henchmen.  Generally V throws knives into the hearts of the henchmen.  Killing the hired help is something the Punisher and Wolverine also do so this is not new ground for a comic book antihero.  V does imprison and torture Evey, a girl he had saved previously, and even used as a side kick.   Evey is clearly an innocent.  V tortures her to set her free by toughening her up!  V does provide the reader with a very eloquent defense of his actions (See Figure 28 below).

28-V For Vendetta #5 - Page 9

Figure 28 – V For Vendetta #5 – Page 9

V and Ozymandias are intelligent men that employ ruthless means to accomplish noble ends and we are privy to their thought processes which generally is the POV of a super villain like Doctor Doom not a hero and this use of POV forces the reader to go beyond the simple structures of good and evil normally associated with comic books even comic books with antiheros.

Stream of Consciousness POV

Comic book writers did not employ stream of consciousness in early comic books.  The use of stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that is employed more and more in comic books in the present.  Alan Moore makes extreme use of an interior monologue in all of his comic books.  Rorschach’s internal monologue is used extensively in Watchmen.  However, Alan Moore pushes the comic book envelope of stream of consciousness in A Small Killing.

Alan Moore has used a stream of consciousness POV exclusively in A Small Killing and the narrative the use of images from the inner world of the protagonist.  There is very little action in A Small Killing and we follow the protagonist as he is haunted by a ghost like child that is presumably a hallucination of himself as a child.  However, there is a hint that the child might be an actual ghost rather than a hallucination (see Figure 29 below).

29 Alan Moore - A Small Killing - Page 11

Figure 29 – A Small Killing – Page 11

Incredibly I didn’t care about the nature of the child because the protagonist is an unlikeable whiner and I am sad that the “ghost” child did not succeed in killing the protagonist.  A slow read that is POV technique driven to the point that reading pleasure is sacrificed for art.  The favorite device for exploring stream of consciousness for Moore seems to be via the use of hallucinogens by the characters in his stories which is already discussed in detail in the prior section of this essay.

Story within a Story POV

Alan Moore often employs the metafictional device of a story within a story in order to give his narrative added depth and complexity.  In Watchmen, one of the children is reading a comic book about pirates called the Tales of the Black Freighter and the bleakness of the story makes the already “real” story of the Watchmen even more nihilistic and acts a plot juxtaposition device.

Miracleman was programmed in a reality that resembled a superhero comic book.  The adventures of the Miracleman family in this virtual reality can in turn be self contained stories.  There was a Marvelman comic book published in Great Britain in the fifties and from the perspective of the Moore series, those adventures took place in a virtual reality which explains the lack of “reality” in those adventures.  Miracleman is also a comic book fan and comic books are part of the narrative but this device was exploited more by other writers after Moore such as Neil Gaiman in Miracleman: Apocrypha.

Alan Moore’s Supreme has many metafictional layers but I will stick to the story within a story elements.  In the Supreme comic book, Moore’s Supreme has the secret identity of Ethan Crane who works Dazzle Comics on a character named Omniman that is being rebooted.  In reality, Supreme is a Superman character that is being rebooted by Alan Moore.  The comic book within a comic book is a parallel story! Eventually Supreme even has a fight with his own comic book creation in Supreme #53.  Supreme becomes a character in a comic book that fights Omniman (see Figure 30 below) but of course there is a “logical” explanation and a Szazs, a Mister Mxyzptlk,  clone, is the cause.

30-Supreme #53 - Page 6

Figure 30 – Supreme #53 – Page 6

In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore creates an entire universe made up of fictional characters from novels.  This is not exactly a story within a story device but is a metafictional device.  Basically Moore’s League invention is a pastiche of prior stories!

Conclusion

Alan Moore uses certain novel POV techniques with different characters in different comic book series in order to consistently make his stories more interesting.  There is a synergistic effect created by using so many POV techniques within a single narrative.  The combination of POV techniques causes the reader to feel transported to an unnerving and alien reality and upon reflection the cause of this feeling is hard to pin point but I would argue the POV techniques are a major cause.  POV drives plot in many instances.  How the character perceives reality not only explains the behavior of the character but often acts as the deus ex machina of an Alan Moore story.  The character must behave a certain way because of their perceptions.

Alan Moore uses caption boxes instead of thought bubbles to show the thoughts of the character.  This allows for lot more information to be expressed.  Alan Moore uses a lot of caption boxes relative to speech bubbles compared to other writers and this shows that POV is more important to Alan Moore than other writers.

Many of Alan Moore’s comic books have been made into movies including some discussed here (Watchmen, V is for Vendetta).  The art and text attempting to show the POV of Dr. Manhattan is one of the high points of this series that was not really explored in the movie and this lack of the comic book POV devices made the movie less interesting in many ways than the comic book series the film was derived from.

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