Thursday, September 1, 2016

Through A Glass Weirdly!

My first time was probably the two hundredth issue of Superman. How I came to have a copy of this comic I don't recollect. One of my cousins (with more resources at his disposal thanks to being an only child) seemed to have plenty of DC Comics.

I tended to get Marvel when I was able to get comics, but I was nonetheless attracted by the four-color offerings from their Distinguished Competition. (I was a big fan of the Ross Andru and Mike Esposito Flash for instance.)

But for whatever reason, it was this extended yarn with an elegant Curt Swan cover and typically robust Wayne Boring artwork on the story itself that initiated me into the wacky realm of "Imaginary Stories", tales which violated in some significant way the core premise of a series. Superman had a bunch of these (in the infamous Mort Weisinger era) and this story of his clash with his non-existent brother to win the mantle of Superman was just one in a long line of such whimsical fancies. I do know that I for one liked these off-kilter adventures, I liked it when they played with the mythology. Perhaps it was the presumption that a continuity of sorts did in fact exist outside these imaginary jaunts, or perhaps it was just the pure fun of such wacked out variations.

Marvel being newer and more intentional about their continuity didn't really go in for this sort of whimsy. The alternative stories at the House of Ideas began when the heroes discovered alternate timelines in which often they chance upon dopplegangers of themselves or others they knew who had taken a different turn. The first time I really remember this idea being developed much at all was in the glorious second Avengers Annual which took the Assemblers to another Earth, one which had seen the original team stay together and under the sway of arch-villain Scarlet Centurion become a force for oppression on a world which cried out for true heroes.

I never got confused by such wanderings, nor was I ever put off by having multiple versions of a character extant. That excuse for such stories not being produced always struck me as facile at best.

Eventually Marvel got around to producing a lot of these kinds of stories in the delightful What If? series, but truth told after several issues they seemed to lose focus as really key points of departure in the still relatively young Marvel Universe were still relatively few and far between. Nonetheless it was a hoot.

Perhaps Marvel's greatest single tale of this kind was the epic Avengers Forever saga by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco. I've been hankering to tear into this one again and this is a propitious time to do just that. Likely too I will be reading vintage Kang stories to enhance my appreciation of the myriad references in this epic tale of time travel and intrigue.

So "Imaginary Stories" have always appealed to me. Expect this month to see me comment on a few of these as I will be taking a closer look some of DC's more peculiar trade collections which gather together some of their oddest such stories.

In the spirit of such weird reflections the "Favorite Cover" section this month will feature some of the more entertaining comic covers showcasing odd reflections in mirrors and such. Mirrors have long shown us more than we wish, and in comics they can do even  more.

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  1. the imaginary stories are favorites of mine too :)

    1. There's a freedom which makes these stories have real surprise. The modern trick of killing off heroes only to have them return a few years later has made much of this moot, but back in the day it really had oomph.

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