Hits off the Source, Part Two: Hyper-Crimes in Hyper-Time with Superboyman-Prime

Posted by on Wednesday, January 9th, 2008 at 03:59:29 AM

In August 2002, on the middle of his run on New X-Men, Grant Morrison did an interview with the always-insightful Sequential Tart that had what was, at the time, a discussion of a project unlikely to see the light of day. The entire excerpt is relevant to this discussion, so see below:

ST: Did you at that time think that if you got your hands on the DCU, you’d put it right (I always thought so from the last few issues of Animal Man)?

GM: Of course. I plan my comics years in advance and I plan my life the same way so it usually works perfectly to plan. The seeds of Hypertime are all there in Animal Man but my multi-dimensional enfolded realities concept had no name until I scrawled a weird geometric figure and explained it to Mark Waid, who yelped ‘Hypertime!’ in that frightening, high-pitched way.

ST: Did Hypertime “cure” the Crisis mess or cause more problems?

GM: Yes, it cured all the problems but since nobody quite seems to grasp the concept and I didn’t get to stay on long enough at DC to explain it, Hypertime has been quietly ignored and no-one quite realises how elegant and perfect the theoretical framework is. It’s very simple. I have a diagram.

My one regret about my brief falling out with DC after the ‘Superman Incident’ is that I didn’t get to do my Hypercrisis series at DC to explain all this stuff and set up a whole new playground. It’s the one thing I could still be arsed doing with classical superheroes. If I ever go back, I’ll explain the whole Hypertime thing and recreate the Challengers of the Unknown as Challengers: Beyond the Unknown.

It’s one thing I still want to do. It had a monster eating the first few years of the 21st century and Superman building a bridge across this gaping hole in time. A bridge made of events. The Guardians of The Multiverse and a new Green Lantern Corps made up of parallel reality Green Lanterns, the Superman Squad and the mystery of the Unknown Superman of 2150 etc, etc. There’s a huge synopsis filled with outrageous stuff.

ST: Uh, just how the heck did the Superman of the future “punch a hole through time”? That aspect of DC 1 Million always troubled me.

GM: It’s just superhero poetry. Send Right-Brain Barb to read the sequence again. It’s sheer comic book poetry — Superman punches through things, right? Superman 1 Million, who’s from the great wide-sky-Texas that is Tomorrow, punches through things too but it’s not just brick walls and steel vault doors for him, oh no … this guy can actually drive his fist through the alleged ‘time barrier’ we’re always hearing about. Bask in the audacious, absurd beauty of a man literally battering his way through the ‘time barrier’. And luxuriate in how very beyond the Silver Age that is. Like Superman I’m leaping ‘from world to world …’

There are a number of extremely, extremely telling statements in this excerpt. These statements, when combined with the evolution suggested for the DC multiverse in The Invisibles and the previous chapter of this feature, cast a fascinating light on the developments of the past few years, at least since Infinite Crisis and slightly before.

First, the mention of the Challengers of the Beyond heavily suggests that Final Crisis is, at least in part or in form, derived from his original plans for a Hyper-crisis. In 2002, Morrison was way too jazzed about the idea of this series — so when he signed his DC exclusive contract at SDCC in 2003 less than a year later, it seems logical that they’d start moving the pieces into place. 2003, by the way, was when they started having the first meetings and rumblings of the plans for Infinite Crisis and beyond.

Acting off of these assumptions, and I freely admit they are assumptions, it provides a perspective on numerous ideas. Many of them evolved in separate directions — the “monster eating the first few years of the 21st century” can be seen as influencing the final forms of both the Chronovore from All Star Superman and Mr. Mind from 52 — but considering Morrison’s love for this topic, the lingering influence of the “time is broken” subplot, and Mr. Mind being mentioned as a “hyperfly” (52 #52), it seems highly unlikely that Morrison would finally get around to his big, epic Crisis and not involve Hypertime. Questions about it at recent DC convention panels have been met with the traditional Didio snark (“What’s hypertime?”) or a comment that the only person who can get it right is Grant.

So, what was Hypertime? Simple in concept but deviously difficult to explain, perhaps the best analogy for internerds everywhere is a CVS tree of events. The DC Universe has a storytelling trunk, with multiple branches/elseworlds/alternate earths shooting off. Sometimes those alternate earths link back in to the main branch – so continuity issues can be perceived as simply two parallel Hypertimelines that eventually merged back together. In relation to The Invisibles, Hypertime is the fifth dimension, the area people travel through when they can see all of time at once — what Morrison calls the caterpillar effect: if we could see our entire bodies, through time, we would look like an enormous centipede from birth to death that continues on from our mothers. It’s certainly a heady concept, but a powerful one when it comes to visualizing the parallel-universe model that DC built on, denied, and is now building on again for so long.

the-kingdom-02-large-40.jpgThe last major story we got featuring Hypertime and revealing an aspect of it was Mark Waid’s largely misunderstood The Kingdom series. It was basically a huge battle in Hypertime, and at the end DC’s Big Three were feasted with the sight of the the fullness and extent of Hypertime, and what it makes possible. On the final page, the Superman of Earth-2, unseen since Crisis on Infinite Earths and not seen again until Infinite Crisis, remarks that “deserved heaven, not prison” – but now he knows a way out.

scan0032.jpgWhat was that way out? Well, according to Infinite Crisis, it was what Grant Morrison himself called “superhero poetry” – he slammed his fist into the dimensional barrier until he got to Earth. Of course, as voracious DCU readers since 2005 well know, that’s not the only reality-altering bare-knuckle fisticuffs that occurred in the “spacetime nexus” where Superman-2, Lois-2, Luthor-3 and Superboy-Prime spent what were, to us, twenty years.

scan0017.jpgNo, there’s still the matter of the highly fan-polarizing, overused gimmick of Superboy-Prime punching that ‘reality wall’ until events changed. More “superhero poetry.” The vast majority of DC’s continuity hiccups between 1986 and 2006 were explained as a result of his tantrums — that, by hitting this crystal wall, he was just… changing events, with no clear explanation and much to the confusion of even Alexander Luthor, Kirbytech scientist supreme.

The only reasonable framework presented in the DC Universe thus far where reality could be “realigned” and measured discretely in events is Hypertime. Given the method by which reality was changed – the “poetry” of a very powerful Kryptonian just hitting something – and the fact that what was essentially done was reconfiguring which alternate timelines were in the “trunk” of the story, it – and I admit I’m venturing into speculation here – seems very possible that manipulating and “breaking” Hypertime was what he was doing. That the pointless, out-of-left-field retcon device we got in 2005 wasn’t as pointless or as out-of-left-field as it seemed — these plans were clearly already in place, for Battle for Bludhaven had already begun production and Captain Atom: Armageddon was in the middle of being published, which was the beginning of the whole Monarch story that’s taken us to Countdown and probably beyond. Hypertime wasn’t gone, but has been the driving engine of these events all along.

At the end of the day, it simply doesn’t make sense for Morrison to discard this concept after the considerable amount of work placed into its construction. It really doesn’t make sense for him to come up with a story that, in ways, echoes the grand Crisis he had planned a mere few years ago, but not take advantage of the model upon which it was built. For the DC Universe to evolve, like the Earth of the Invisibles, into the “All-Now”, it needs an All-Now to evolve into. It also gives him the chance to tie DC’s multiverse in with Warren Ellis’s “Bleed” idea from WildStorm, the specificities of which we haven’t yet seen.

This still opens up, and leaves, a lot of questions, none of which have definite answers just yet. Why is the vibrational multiverse back? Why are the Source Walls separating the universes? Is each Earth of the 52 just an “access point” to a different Hypertimeline? Was the Source Wall a machine built by the Old Gods to traverse Hypertime? I have no idea, but with this concept in play, suddenly the upheaval and time manipulation that’s been the focus of the past few years makes considerably more sense, or at least it’s possible that there’s some kind of logic and framework behind it, as well as a way to make to end.

This, for now, is the last installment of this column. I’m really interested to see what kind of discussion it raises — I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface — but I’m certainly going to revisit this material as discussion continues and Final Crisis looms closer. Until then, I guess all I can do is follow Dan Didio’s advice and look to the skies.

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