Category Archives: Comic Book Critique

Size Lessons in Comic Books

Size is Relative

A story with the size lesson tries to teach the reader a lesson related to size in a literal sense. The lesson might be that what is big in one setting is small in another setting. Conversely what is small in one setting may be big in another setting. In short, size is relative.

Archie’s Madhouse revisited the size is relative theme again and again in issues #48, #52, #53 and #62.

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Harold is small compared to the Silver Surfer but a giant compared to a planet filled with life that is so small only Harold can perceive them (Silver Surfer V6 #8).

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Harold’s story is basically a remake of Horton Hears a Who! A big elephant because of his big ears can ironically hear the inhabitants of Whoville that are too small to be perceived by anyone else. We learn that a person is a person no matter how small they are.

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Journey into Mystery V1 #63 shows that there is always someone bigger in the universe in “Goliath! The Monster that Walked Like a Man!”

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Journey into Mystery V1 #72 shows that baseball can be seen from a different perspective.

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In “Brief Lives”, Omega Men #26, the Spider Guild tries to conquer giant aliens in the planet Ogyptu that live for millennia and move, think and perceive the world at a geological pace.  The entire invasion by the Spider Guild over a thirty year period is barely perceived by the giants.

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Tales of Suspense (Marvel) revisited the size is relative theme in issues #9, #13, #23, and #34.

Tales of Suspense #9 “Earth Will Be Destroyed!”

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Tales of Suspense #9 “Earth Will Be Destroyed!”

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Tales of Suspense #13 “When the Earth Vanished!”

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Tales of Suspense #23 “The Changeling”

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Tales of Suspense #34 “The Coming of the Giants”

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Tales to Astonish (Marvel revisited the size is relative theme in #3, #5, #18, #37 and #49.

Tales to Astonish #3 “I am the Giant from Outer Space”

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Tales to Astonish #5 “I Landed on the Forbidden Planet”

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Tales to Astonish #18 “Monsteroso”

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Tales to Astonish #37 “The Star Raiders”

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Tales to Astonish #49 “The End of the World”

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Small is Beautiful

The lesson can be that small beings are more useful than big beings in some situations. Bigger is not always better. Sometimes small is beautiful to quote the economist E. F. Schumacher.

The Lion and the Mouse is an Aesop fable in which a mouse is spared by a lion. The lion is pretty arrogant about his size. Later the mouse frees the lion from a net by gnawing at the ropes. The small size of the mouse allows the mouse to do something the lion cannot. This is a small is beautiful lesson.

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Marvel has Ant-Man (Marvel) who ironically defeats Loki in the debut issue of the Avengers.

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DC has the Atom (DC) saves the Justice League of America in the same issue he joins the Justice League in Justice League of America V1 #14.

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Harold in Silver Surfer V6 #8 uses his small size to help the Silver Surfer during various adventures.

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Birds of a Feather Applies to Size

Birds of a feather flock together applies to beings of the same size in Archie’s Madhouse #23 and 124#.

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DC vs. Marvel: Abstract Entities

DC vs Marvel-Abstract Entities

This essay will explore the nature of abstract entities, their relative place in the hierarchy of cosmic entities and then compare and contrast abstract entities in more detail in the DC and Marvel universes. Certain entities are the anthropomorphic equivalent of what is known in philosophy as an abstract object. In the DC and Marvel universe these types of beings are generally referred to as cosmic entities. All abstract entities are cosmic entities but not all cosmic entities are abstract entities. For example, the Celestials (Marvel) have permanent bodies and are cosmic entities but not abstract entities. How do you know if you are dealing with a cosmic entity or an abstract entity? There are three big tests.

1) If the entity has to shape shift in order to have a different appearance to fit different audiences then you are probably dealing with a cosmic entity that is not an abstract entity. If the entity appears to be different to different beings automatically with no effort on the part of the entity then the entity is probably an abstract entity. Mere mortals cannot perceive the abstract entity directly so they create a concrete perception on their own as a perceptual filter.

Dream appears as a Martian version of Dream in The Sandman-Preludes and Nocturnes V1 (Vertigo).

Abstract Entities 1-The Sandman-Preludes and Nocturnes V1 (2010) (Vertigo)

Dream then appears as a cat to a cat in The Sandman-Dream Country V3 (Vertigo).

Abstract Entities 2-The Sandman-Dream Country V3 (2010) (Vertigo)

2) If the entity has a clear function that supersedes their personal whims and identity then you are probably dealing with an abstract entity. Being an abstract entity in both the Marvel and DC universes seems to be accompanied by a certain level of dehumanization. In The Wake, when the original Dream dies and Daniel Hall, a mortal becomes the new Dream, the new Dream no longer has the same feelings for his mother.

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Thanos (Marvel) decides to keep a physical body despite having infinite power due to the Infinity Gauntlet. Mephisto (Marvel) reflects that this is a fatal flaw that will ultimately be the undoing of Thanos. Why does Thanos do this?

Abstract Entities 4.1-Silver Surfer V3 #45 - Page 32

If you take on a role in the universe then perhaps the being becomes amoral and more duty bound and perhaps this is the reason Thanos does not ascend to the status of being an abstract entity. If Thanos for example becomes death then Thanos cannot become the lover of death which is his main goal in life! Conversely, Death is incapable of sharing her role with Thanos because of her status as an abstract being. Abstract entities may sacrifice a certain degree of free will even as they become more powerful.  Do abstract entities lose their subjective nature and become more objectified? Thanos may not understand this trade off consciously but senses this trade off at an unconscious level. Anyway, this sort of trade off would make cosmic entities much more interesting! You get more power over external reality and greater durability at the expense of your free will.

3) The entity may appear god like but the entities power level is absolutely independent of worship and actually many abstract entities are totally unknown to any being that is not a cosmic entity. This is especially true of the Seven Friendless (Marvel).  Bast, the Egyptian Goddess, has suffers due to a lack of worship.

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Furthermore gods may begin in dream.

DC Abstract Entities-Dream-The Sandman-Fables and Reflections V6 (Vertigo)

DC

Type of Universe

The DC universe is Abrahamic. The highest being operates via aspects of his being and through angels as agents. Many of the angels have Judeo-Christian names.

Highest Being

The Presence is the highest being in the DC universe and operates not only through abstract entities but also uses aspects of his being and angels to manifest his will.

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Aspects of the Highest Being

The aspects of the Presence are at the top of the cosmic hierarchy in the DC Universe. The aspects follow certain laws and if even very powerful cosmic entities try to violate the laws associated with the aspects then disaster will follow. Are aspects of the highest being abstract entities? The highest being in the DC universe seems to be beyond human understanding and beyond concepts of abstract versus concrete objects. The highest being in the DC universe might even be the source of abstract versus concrete objects. The Presence is mysterious and not easily classified. The Presence may ultimately be noumenon as opposed to phenomena and by definition unknowable. The Presence takes on a familiar form in order to explain itself.

The hand is one way the presence communicates and leaves a cryptic message “To know everything is to know how much is not known” which could be interpreted as saying that total knowledge of phenomena means we understand that noumenon is beyond our knowledge!

DC Abstract Entities-Hand-New Gods V3 #19 - Page 20

The immortal and powerful Krona creates a machine that can peer through time and sees the Hand of Creation but tries to see what happens before the Hand appears then evil is unleashed upon the universe. This story seems to be a cosmic version of the Adam and Eve story. The apple represents knowledge that is not meant for mortals. The Hand of creation represents knowledge that is not even meant for immortals.

DC Abstract Entities-Hand-Green Lantern-The Secret Origin of the Guardians V2 #40 (DC)

The Source is the source of all creation and all being in the DC universe. Jack Kirby made the Source very mysterious. Jim Starling, does what he always does with cosmic entities, and reduced the very interesting Source into yet another predictable and boring slug fest cartoon character in Death of the New Gods.

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The Source is guarded by the Source Wall.

The first version of the wall is less a wall than planetoids with giants bound to the planetoids.

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The latest version of the Source Wall looks more like a wall.

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The wall is very inappropriately turned into yet another slug fest device in Green Lantern Annual V5 #3. Black Hand controls the dead and uses his power to control the dead embedded in the Source Wall.

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The Voice is divine will and the progenitor of the Word. The Voice is never heard but the Word is very active in Swamp Thing V2 #168-170.

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Angels

The angels clearly have bodies. They have a singular appearance and do not change their appearance for different audiences which is one of the hall marks of an abstract entity.

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Dumas is an angel that never talks and might be an aspect of silence.

 

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Gabriel is the lord of the cherubim and seraphim.

Garaquael is in charge of spirits.

Lucifer is a fallen angel and the adversary.

Michael Demiurgos controls the demiurge.

Raguel is the vengeance of God.

Raphael oversees humanity.

The Saint of Killers is an angel of death willed by God.

Spectre is an angel of vengeance.

The Furies in the DC universe specialize in vengeance on those who have killed family members.

Abstract Entities

The Endless are the only cosmic entities in the DC universe that are clearly abstract entities. Everything in the DC universe is below aspects of the highest being including the Endless. The Endless do seem to be more powerful than gods. Gods fade as their nations and worshippers fade and the Endless are well endless. The Endless are clearly less powerful than at least one angel. Dream is clearly fearful of Lucifer. Lucifer is by far the most powerful of all the angels so being less powerful than Lucifer does not mean the Endless are less powerful than all angels.

DC Abstract Entities-Lucifer and Dream-The Sandman-Season Of Mists V4 (2011) (Vertigo)

1) Destiny is the embodiment of predestination. Do abstract entities lose their subjective nature and become more objectified as their power level increasesDestiny (Vertigo) does not appear to have much in the way of free will and is generally considered to be the oldest and therefore the most powerful of the Endless.

DC Abstract Entities-Destiny-The Sandman-Season Of Mists V4 (2011) DC Abstract Entities-Destiny-The Sandman-The Kindly Ones V9 (Vertigo)

2) Death is the embodiment of the end of life. Death is a psychopomp, guide to souls, unlike her Marvel counterpart. Death generally dresses like in black casual clothes and wears a silver ankh on a chain around her neck, and has a marking similar to the eye of Horus around her right eye.

Death explains what a lifetime is to someone who has managed to live fifteen thousand years!

DC Abstract Entities-Death-The Sandman-Brief Lives V7 (Vertigo)

 

Death explains her role to Element Girl in The Sandman – Dream Country V3 (Vertigo).

DC Abstract Entities-Death-The Sandman-Dream Country V3 (Vertigo)

3) Dream is the embodiment of dreaming.

DC Abstract Entities-Dream-The Sandman-Season Of Mists V4 (Vertigo)Dream is tired of his role but his function is so much a part of who he is that he must engineer his destruction through an unconscious series of events.

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Dream explains to Desire that abstract entities are a principle of causality rather than manipulators of causality! Becoming part of the very firmament of the universe means a price must be paid.

DC Abstract Entities-Dream and Desire-The Sandman-The Doll's House V2 (Vertigo)

Abel (Vertigo) provides a short but incisive explanation of the secret of how immortality works for an abstract entity.

DC Abstract Entities-Abel-The Sandman-The Wake V10 (Vertigo)Lucifer (Vertigo) explains free will to Delirium (Vertigo) the nature of free will for abstract entities and the choices seem bleak.

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4) Destruction is the embodiment of destruction and creation.

Destruction (Vertigo) walks away from his role in the universe and he tries to explain why he walked away to his brother Dream (Vertigo).

DC Abstract Entities-Destruction-The Sandman-Brief Lives V7 (Vertigo)

Destruction states, “Are not gross Bodies and Light convertible?” This is Newton’s version of what will eventually become the principle of Mass–energy equivalence (E = mc2) that will eventually lead to atomic weapons and a whole lot of destruction!

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 5) Desire is the embodiment of emotion including love and hate.

DC Abstract Entities-Desire-The Sandman-Season Of Mists V4 (2011)

 

Desire explains her antipathy towards dream and her/his role to a moral supplicant in Endless Nights (Vertigo).

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6) Despair is the embodiment of the emotion of despair.

DC Abstract Entities-Despair-The Sandman-Season Of Mists V4 (2011)

7) Delirium is the embodiment of madness. Delirium was Delight until she was transformed.

DC Abstract Entities-Delirium-The Sandman-Season Of Mists V4 (Vertigo)

 

Delirium was once Delight!

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In The Sandman: Overture #5, (8) Time is revealed as the father of dream. The equivalent of Time in the Marvel universe is Eternity. (9) Night is the mother of Dream. (10) Dusk is a distant sister that serves under Night.

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What is the first circle in relation to the other cosmic entities reviewed in this article? Delirium swears by the first circle in Brief Lives.

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The Glory of the First Circle commends Dream in the name of the first circle in The Sandman – Overture #6.

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Marvel

Type of Universe

The Marvel universe is essentially a dharmic universe i.e. there is a highest being but the highest being works through abstract entities that represent laws and principles of the universe rather than through direct agents. In Buddhism dharma means cosmic law and order. The Marvel universe has a clock maker but once the clock was made the clock maker decided to leave the clock alone.

 Highest Being

The highest being in the Marvel Universe is the One-Above-All not to be confused with the One-Above-All (Celestial). The One-Above-All does not use an army of angels or aspects of his being as his agents and solely relies on the Living Tribunal as his agent. There does not seem to be very much communication between the One-Above-All and the Living Tribunal. The Living Tribunal generally acts autonomously.  Thanos and Warlock have a rare extended conversation with the One-Above-All in Thanos-The Infinity Finale.

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Aspects of the Highest Being

There is no Marvel equivalent to the aspects of the highest being that exists in the DC universe. This is because the Marvel universe is a dharmic universe which operates via laws rather than through the direct will of the highest being.

Angels

 There are angels in the Marvel universe but they have nowhere near the importance of angels in the DC universe. The role of angels in the hierarchy of the Marvel universe is irrelevant given the dharmic structure of the Marvel universe.

Abstract Entities

1) Anomaly creates bodies for abstract entities.

Anomaly first appears in Quasar V1 #20 and Anomaly is killed and replaced.

Marvel Abstract Entities-Anomaly-Quasar V1 #20 - Page 2 Marvel Abstract Entities-Anomaly-Quasar V1 #20 - Page 3The new Anomaly makes a deal with Oblivion in Quasar V1 #21.

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2) Death is the embodiment of the end of life. Death also exists in the DC universe and has similar powers but is much more likeable. Death in the Marvel universe looks fearsome but takes on different appearances and even different genders with different persons.

Death first appears in Captain Marvel V1 #26.

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3) Empathy is the embodiment of the emotion of empathy.

4) Enmity is the embodiment of conflict.

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5) Entropy is the embodiment of destruction.

Entropy first appears in Captain Marvel V4 #4 (2003).

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Entropy explains what he is in Captain Marvel V4 #5 (2003). Entropy has some serious daddy issues.

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6) Eon nurtures sentient life. Eon first appears in Captain Marvel V1 #28.

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7) Is Epiphany the embodiment of madness? Epiphany first appears in Captain Marvel V4 #5.

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8) Epoch nurtures sentient life. Epoch first appears in Quasar V1 #27.

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9) Eternity is the embodiment of time of the universe.

Eternity’s first appearance is in Strange Tales V1 #138.

Marvel Abstract Entities-Eternity-Strange Tales #138 (1965) - Page 16 Marvel Abstract Entities-Eternity-Strange Tales #138 (1965) - Page 1710) Eulogy is in charge of endings. Eulogy first appears in Captain Marvel V4 #25 (2004). Eulogy seems to narrowly be in charge of comic book character endings. In the DC universe characters go to Limbo but Eulogy guides characters to a mysterious glowing door instead.

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11) Expediency is in charge of quick solutions. Expediency first appears in Captain Marvel V4 #25 (2004).

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12) In-Betweener is the embodiment of duality. The In-Betweener first appears in Warlock V1 #9.

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13) Infinity is the embodiment of space in the universe.

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14) Is Kronos the defender of the universe?

Kronos first appears in The Invincible Iron Man #55.

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15) The Living Tribunal maintains the cosmic balance at a multiverse level. The Living Tribunal first appears in Strange Tales #157 (1967).

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16) Lord Chaos is the embodiment of chaos. DC has the Lords of Chaos and Order but they seem to be gods rather than abstract entities. Lord Chaos and Master Order both appear for the first time in Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977).

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Lord Chaos and Master Order attempt to convince Galactus with argument and then force to once again take on his role as the devourer of worlds and renounce his new role as a life bringer. Galactus ultimately wins (Ultimates #6, 2016). Galactus is part of the cosmic hierarchy but not an abstract entity. Galactus resembles Shiva the Destroyer in Hinduism. Both are destroyers but Shiva’s roles are much more complex and even contradictory. Shiva is part of a triad called the Trimurti that also includes Brahmin and Vishnu. Galactus is part of a triad as well that includes Eternity and Death. The Hindu dharmic universe has a superficial resemblance to the Marvel dharmic universe.

Marvel Abstract Entities-Galactus vs Lord Chaos and Master Order-Ultimates #6 (2016)1 Marvel Abstract Entities-Galactus vs Lord Chaos and Master Order-Ultimates #6 (2016)2

17) Master Order is the embodiment of order.

18) Mirage is the embodiment of nothingness. Mirage first appears in Iceman V1 #3.

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19) Mistress Love is the embodiment of love. Mistress Love first appears as a man that the Enchantress falls in love with in Defenders V1 #107. Mistress Love is identified in the next issue, Defenders V1 #108.

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20) Numinus is the embodiment of numinosity i.e. causes small changes to create awe in the universe in the person affected. Numinus first appears in Power Pack V1 #51.

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21) Oblivion is the embodiment of nothingness. Oblivion has a brief cameo in Iceman V1 #1 but his first important appearance is in Iceman V1 #3.

Marvel Abstract Entities-Oblivion-Iceman V1 #3 - Page 10

 

22) Sire Hate is also known as Master Hate and is the embodiment of hate. Sire Hate first appears in Infinity Gauntlet #3.

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23) Unbeing is the embodiment of un-creation. Unbeing first appears in Quasar V1 #18.

Marvel Abstract Entities-Unbeing-Quasar V1 #18 - Page 28Jim Starlin is the foremost creator of the over the top cosmic entity conflict and in marked contrast with Neil Gaiman’s emphasis on internal as opposed to external conflict. The Infinity Saga includes the Infinity Gauntlet #1-6, Infinity War #1-6, Infinity Crusade #1-6, Warlock and the Infinity Watch (1992) #7-10 & #18-22, Warlock Chronicles (1993) #1-5, and Marvel Comics Presents (1988) #108-111 and uses the fist a cuff approach when dealing with cosmic entities.

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Since this article was posted, Marvel has added some layers to their cosmic hierarchy including the Proemial Gods (Marvel) introduced in Annihilation – Heralds of Galactus #2. This suggests that in some ways Galactus is like the New Gods in DC i.e. an inheritor of the universe from older Gods. I would also add that the Proemial Gods appear to be exhibit more physicality and capriciousness as opposed to their successors Galactus, Eternity and Death.

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In Ultimates 2 #2, Lord Chaos and Master Order destroy the Living Tribunal!

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In Ultimate 2 #3, Lord Chaos and Master use the In-Betweener to unite and become Logos (Marvel). Logos (Greek) is an important concept in Greek philosophy. Logos (Christianity) in Christianity is the title of Jesus Christ! Logos (Marvel) is surrounded by angelic wings suggesting visually that the dharmic Marvel universe is becoming more Abrahamic!

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Comic Book Proposal: The Mad Immortals

Jim Starlin, to his credit, wrote the first modern cosmic entity story titled …The Birth of Death which was first published in Star Reach #1 in B&W in 1974. The story was reprinted and colorized by Eclipse in Star Reach Classics #1. I read the original story in a head shop while I was still in high school and the story just blew me away! I explore the impact of comic books on my life in my essay titled Hugh Fox III Comic Book Autobiography. In the interests of comic book history I present the Eclipse reprint version below.

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There are some visual similarities between the characters in the Starlin story and He-Man characters. Death does resemble Skeletor visually. The unnamed muscular opponent of Death resembles He-Man visually. He-Man was designed by Mark Taylor in 1976 which is two years after …The Birth of Death was published. Maybe Mark Taylor saw the story by Jim Starlin and got some ideas or maybe not.

In the story, Death manages to kill all the mad immortals except seven of them! There are also seven Endless! Maybe the seven mad immortals are the DC antimatter universe version of the Endless! I really think Jim Starlin and Neal Gaiman should team up on the story of the Seven Mad Immortals! Brian Michael Bendis in the comic book Alias (Marvel) goes back and forth from a more realistic art style to a more cartoonish art style. The standard superhero story with an emphasis on superhero fist a cuffs is presented in the more cartoonish style. The personal story of how mind control effected the heroine Jessica Jones internally is drawn in a more realistic manner. Scott McCloud explains how these two different art styles effect the reader at the cognitive level in Understanding Comics –The Invisible Art.

Abstract Entities-Comic Book Counterpoint

Jim Starlin could write a story about the fights of the seven Mad Immortals and draw it in his fairly realistic manner. Neil Gaiman provides a counterpoint story from an internal POV of the Seven Mad Immortals in a more anime style. The comic book switches back and forth between the two story lines and thus the first comic book using counterpoint is created! The following is my list of the Endless of the anti-matter universe. All of the Mad Immortals have enhanced durability due to their abstract entity status. The Mad Immortals see themselves as champions of life not mad but have decided to appropriate the name Death has given them. The Anti-Matter universe is asleep and dreaming unlike other universes. The Mad Immortals have learned how to manipulate this state of affairs to their own advantage.

1) Amnesia has the power of memory manipulation on a planetary scale. Amnesia routinely erases memories so Death has no trail to follow. Amnesia can insert memories to create a false trail but generally erases memories. Amnesia can also scan the memories of any being.

2) Ghost has the power to make himself and the other Mad Immortals totally imperceptible to all except Death who can see through this power but only if right next to the person using this power.

3) Logos has super intelligence and is the leader of the group. Logos can also merge the Mad Immortals into a single being that is omniscient and combines all the powers of the Mad Immortals but only for a short period of time.

4) Machine can turn others into robots that serve the Mad Immortals on a planetary scale.

5) Mirror can make duplicates of himself or others. The duplicates of others retain all abilities and powers but have to obey Mirror. Mirror can make thousands of copies. Mirror can also make duplicates of objects and creates copies of money and resources such as weapons as needed.

6) Phobia can cause fear on a planetary scale and uses this to power distract Death.

7) Twilight has the power of metafictional transportation. Ghost can transport herself and others into fictional realms that Death cannot enter. Ghost can only enter stories that have a critical mass of followers and therefore can make the story manifest in the imagination of the universe. Normally even abstract entities cannot enter the imagination of a universe but a sleeping universe is more vulnerable to such transport than a universe that is awake. Ghost can also banish Death to a metafictional realm for a time if Death is within her line of sight. Death can leave a fictional realm once Death has finished the story. However, if Death does not finish a story successfully that is according to the logic of the story then Death may be trapped in a story forever.

The Mad Immortals want to awaken the universe to create a being akin to Eternity in the Marvel universe and therefore radically diminish the power of Death in the antimatter universe. Death must destroy the Mad Immortals before their plan can be accomplished.

Conclusion

There are far fewer abstract entities in the DC universe than the Marvel universe. The abstract entities in the DC universe are less likely to be involved in fist fights than the abstract entities in the Marvel universe due largely to the influence of Neil Gaiman. The main conflict of the DC abstract entities is between their sense of duty and their desire to be free rather than conflict with other cosmic entities. Abstract entities occupy a more central role in a dharmic, Marvel universe than an Abrahamic, DC universe. Abstract entities of the DC universe largely appear in The Sandman series. Abstract entities in the Marvel universe appear prominently in the Infinity Saga which is the brainchild of Jim Starlin and engage in more external as opposed to internal conflict.

Neil Gaiman decided to give all the Endless names starting with “D” after Daniel the Biblical prophet. The letter D is the most negative letter in the alphabet. The letter D corresponds to the number 4, and the planet Saturn or Pluto, and the principles of matter and death. The Chinese consider 4 to be the most unfortunate number and avoid it at all costs because it sounds like “death” when pronounced in Cantonese, and actually helps bring it about. It is perhaps our version of the unlucky 13 which adds up to 4(1+3) in numerology. The Endless do seem to be much more tragic than their Marvel counterparts.

I think less is more when it comes to cosmic entities in general and abstract entities in particular. I remember my first Galactus story way back when in Fantastic Four #48 and how special this story was. Galactus has been overused and so have cosmic entities in general in the Marvel universe. Also, having Galactus get defeated over and over again makes him much less awe inspiring. I mean Galactus is even defeated by Squirrel Girl in Squirrel Girl V1 #4.

Abstract Entities-Galactus vs Squirrel Girl-The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4 (2015) - Page 3

No, not really and actually the Squirrel Girl story might be my favorite Galactus story ever!

Abstract objectification as a superpower is explored at:

Abstract Objectification

DC vs. Marvel Articles

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60+ Comic Book Catch Phrases

60+ Comic Book Catch Phrases Table

Aquaman – Great Neptune

Banshee – Saints preserve us

Batman – Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot.

Batman – To the Bat-pole Robin

Beast – Oh my stars and garters

Captain America – Avengers Assemble

Captain Marvel – Shazam

Colossus – Bozhe Moi

Colossus – By the White Wolf

Colossus – Lenin’s Ghost

Conan – By Crom

Deadpool – Ready to die

Doctor Horrible – I have a PhD in Horribleness

Dr. Strange – By the Hoary hosts of Hoggoth

GI Joe – Go Joes

Green Lantern – In brightest day in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight Let those who worship evils might beware my power–Green Lantern’s light

Hulk – Don’t make me angry… You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry

Hulk – Hulk Smash

Human Torch – Flame On

Judge Dredd –I am the law

Juggernaut – I’m Unstoppable

Lilandra – Sharra and Kythri have mercy

Lobo – Bite me fanboy

Lone Ranger – Hi-Yo Silver…away

Luke Cage – Sweet Christmas

Mighty Mouse – Here I come to Save the Day

Mr. Terrific – Fair Play

Nightcrawler – Mein Gott

Robin – Holy _____, Batman

Spider-Man – It’s your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

Spider-Man – My Spider-Sense is tingling.

Spider-Man – With great power comes great responsibility

Stan Lee – Excelsior

Storm – By the goddess

Sub Mariner – Imperius Rex

Superman – Great Krypton

Superman – Great Rao

Superman – Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman

Superman – Truth, Justice and the American Way

Superman – Up, up, and away

Superman (Perry White) – Great Caesar’s ghost

Teen Titans – Teen Titans, Go

Teen Titans – Titans Together

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Cowabunga

The Joker – Why so serious?

The Riddler – Riddle me this

The Shadow – Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows

The Thing – Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew

The Tick – Spoon

The Tick (Arthur) – Not the face not the face

Thing – It’s Clobbering Time

Thing – What a revoltin development this is

Thor – Odin’s beard

Underdog – When Polly’s in trouble, I am not slow. It’s hip hip hip, and away I go

Venom – I’ll eat your brains

Wolverine – I’m the best there is at what I do

Wonder Twins – Wonder Twin Powers Activate

Wonder Woman – Great Hera

Wonder Woman – Suffering Sappho

Wonder Woman – Thunderbolts of Jove

Yukio – Gotcha

Zod – Kneel before Zod

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Comic Book Merged Humans

Comic Book Merged Humans Table Resized

While working on my list of superpowers, 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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Brit (Image) fights a one-shot unnamed merged human supervillain.

Comic Book Merged Humans - Brit V1 #1 - Page 6

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.

4 Comic Book Merged Humans - Thor #157 - Page 28

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.

5 Comic Book Merged Humans - Ubersaur - Astro City #30 (2016) - Page 19

 

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!

Comic Book Merged Humans - What If The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War V2 #1 - Page 18 Comic Book Merged Humans - What If The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War V2 #1 - Page 25 Comic Book Merged Humans - What If The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War V2 #1 - Page 26 Comic Book Merged Humans - What If The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War V2 #1 - Page 27 Comic Book Merged Humans - What If The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War V2 #1 - Page 28 Comic Book Merged Humans - What If The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War V2 #1 - Page 29 Comic Book Merged Humans - What If The Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War V2 #1 - Page 30

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.

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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!

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Hugh Fox III - Alien Glow (2)

 

 

American Comic Books versus Japanese Manga

American Comic Books versus Japanese Manga Table Resized

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Hugh Fox III - Army

 

 

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Name the Captain

Name the Captain

Name the Captain Answer Key

Hugh Fox III - Baby