Funnybook Babylon

January 9, 2008

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

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 3:59 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.

16 Comments »

  1. Aren’t the Source Walls up because anyone hopping from one multiverse to the next risks causing a Crisis Wave? That was the one part of Countdown that actually made sense to me.

    Comment by Andy — January 9, 2008 @ 10:04 am

  2. Terrific work, David–these two essays are valuable not just as a detailed and evocative reading of modern DCU continuity, where it’s been and where it could be going and what has influenced both, but also as a look at Morrison as a writer and artist.

    Comment by Matt — January 9, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  3. […] part one of “Hits Off the Source,” and here’s part two; David promises more as the story develops, and I can’t wait to read […]

    Pingback by alert nerd. » Blog Archive » Taking Hits Off the Source — January 9, 2008 @ 12:26 pm

  4. I’m digging this essay. I always like hypertime and thought that it was a shame they weren’t using it any more. I wonder though what the end result of Final Crisis / Hyper-Crisis will be. No hyper-time? Infinite earths? One earth? It all seems in flux.

    Comment by Lawgiver — January 9, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

  5. Great essay. I honestly love the idea of Hypertime if I understand it correctly. It would essentially be an infinite worlds theory of reality like the theories of Robert Stalnaker of MIT, right? something like the reason why we can think of things that might be is because somewhere that thing is (c’mon, undergad philosophy come back!) But how does that fit with an idea that this is all a test? Is it like realizing all possibilities is more efficient for finding a solution?

    Comment by Michael Craven — January 9, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  6. I’ve got to go ahead here and look like some sort of troglodyte, but from what I can tell of Stalnaker’s theories off Google it’s not exactly the same, although it’s close.

    The difference with Hypertime, is like — let’s say you went out to lunch this afternoon. On timeline A, you got pizza. On timeline B, you got sushi. This would be a standard, comics continuity conflict. (“How can Batman be in the Batcave AND on Krypton at the same time? BULLSHIT!”)

    The thing is, with Hypertime, you can say they both happened in different timelines, and then the timelines *re-merged*. And for future stories, it doesn’t matter what the hell you had for lunch that day. The re-merging aspect is what separates Hypertime from your standard “all ideas are true in different timelines” thing.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — January 9, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

  7. Great article, but doesn’t this seem like a massive risk for DC? They seem to be placing an inordinate amount of faith in Morrison’s ability to provide the closing scene in the crossover orgy, but I wonder if their expectations are too high.

    Comment by Jamaal — January 10, 2008 @ 10:49 am

  8. This reminds me of the way some conversational choices occur in Mass Effect. They don’t always lead to completely different reactions. Instead you walk out of them with very similar results.

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — January 10, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  9. Thanks for the response. I don’t claim to know all that much about this. Just the description reminded me of something senior year of college. Seems like Hypertime is a great way to let anyone pick up a book, but a really good way to anger teh fanboys.

    Comment by Michael Craven — January 10, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  10. What’s clear, from the quoted portion of that old interview, is the way that Grant Morrison is just brimming with ideas and enthusiasm about those endearing if not idiosyncratic aspects of the Silver Age. That enthusiasm, the optimism that he brings to some of work, might be a hint of how (well) “The Final Crisis” will turn out.

    Comment by catullus — January 10, 2008 @ 10:09 pm

  11. I love this post and look forward to part 3. I realize it’s over a month old at this point, but I just reread The Kingdom #2 and had some thoughts I wanted to get off my chest.

    I have always loved the concept of Hypertime, and until I read this article I had always thought the Retcon Punch was a totally unnecessary and silly explanation, as Hypertime explained the continuity problems perfectly. Now, having read it, I’d like to riff on your theory with further speculation. I think Hypertime explains even more about current DC continuity than you mentioned.

    In 52, Waverider is referred to as the “seer of Hypertime.” This is a new designation, but it fits his modus operandi perfectly. When he was first introduced in Armageddon 2001, Waverider had the ability to see alternate futures by touching people. Essentially, what they are saying here is that he was glimpsing other Hypertimelines. Nice.

    This reference is perhaps more significant, however, because it is an in-continuity inclusion of the Hypertime concept in a recent high-profile book, co-written by Morrison.

    Further, the reference to Mr. Mind as a “Hyper-fly” is very telling. In 52 #52, it is said that he “feeds off time and space.” Rip Hunter and Booster Gold observe the newly created 52 Multiverse (all identical worlds created from the excess energy of Alex Luthor’s experiments in Infinite Crisis). As Mr. Mind feeds off them, they change drastically (the JLA becomes Crime Society or Marvel Family or Wildstorm, etc.). In the story it is explained that Mr. Mind is “eating years and events” which cause the changes, but, in and of itself, that explanation seems silly. However, if you assume that Mind’s actions are actually forcing a Hypertime shift (like Superboy Prime’s punch), it makes perfect sense. Essentially, Mind’s power is forcing various Hypertimelines to be physically mapped onto the 52 worlds of the Multiverse.

    Additionally, the depiction of time travel in Geoff Johns’ comics (from JSA to 52 to Booster Gold) is totally consistent with Hypertime. When an historical event is changed, a character will often “fade out” Back-to-the-Future-style. As explained in The Kingdom #2, this is actually what one sees when a new Hypertimeline is created. Marty McFly isn’t fading into non-existence (which doesn’t really make sense if you think about it too hard), he is transporting back to his own proper timeline. (The anomalies shown during Zero Hour also fit this system. How cool!)

    52 ends in much the same way as the Kingdom, with Rip Hunter excited about the possibility of exploring the Multiverse, but wary of telling others about it because it would be dangerous. (The Rip Hunter of the Kingdom is clearly from a different timeline than the one in 52, by the way. In the Kingdom, he hints that he spent years trying to unlock the secrets of Hypertime for a very specific unrevealed purpose. My guess is that it is because the Kingdom version of Hunter is the Pre-Crisis Hunter who survived the original Crisis (he played a major role in COIE 11 & 12), and then discovered his entire history was gone and he had been replaced by the Post-Crisis Hunter (seen in Time Masters and 52). He needed to unlock Hypertime in order to find the timeline where he belonged.)

    With 52 basically echoing the ending of The Kingdom, and with the current arc in JSoA featuring Gog and the Kingdom Come Superman, one might think that the Kingdom (and Hypertime) might be no longer relevant, but actually The Kingdom and the JSoA arc sync together quite well. It has been mentioned several times in JSoA that New Earth differs greatly from the Kingdom Come world, where there was no JSA to train the next generation of heroes. Where did the divergence take place that split of Kingdom Come onto its own Hypertimeline? It happened in the Kingdom, where the present day Superman vowed never to let the events of Kingdom Come come to pass on his world. A few years later, he would stand with Batman and Wonder Woman (in JSoA #1) asking Jay Garrick and Alan Scott to reform the JSA, and thus prevent the events of Kingdom Come from occurring.

    Perhaps most interesting is Rip Hunter’s offhand reference in 52 #52 to a coming “Megaverse.” This Megaverse is clearly something altogether different (and one would assume bigger) than the 52 Multiverse.

    Thoughts?

    Ed

    Comment by Ed Sudoku — February 28, 2008 @ 4:21 am

  12. […] For those who missed them: Hits off the Source, Part One: Kirby, Evil and the Invisibles Hits off the Source, Part Two: Hyper-Crimes in Hyper-Time with Superboyman-Prime […]

    Pingback by Funnybook Babylon » Blog Archive » Hits off the Source, Part Three: ¡Lucha Libra! — February 28, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  13. I thought the Kingdom Rip was the Post crisis Rip and the one we are seeing now is the Pre crisis Rip….

    Comment by trevor — May 3, 2008 @ 11:57 pm

  14. […] the anti-Gnostic sentiments put forth by the finale of The Invisibles. (A lot of this ties into my article about a year ago that predicted the broad strokes of the story being told here.) The idea of a […]

    Pingback by Funnybook Babylon · Archives · Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 — August 28, 2008 @ 5:07 am

  15. […] but if you are curious about what he means by hypertime and hypercrisis, here’s a link to an interview as well as an explanation. He has been known to say that he intends to make the DCU a […]

    Pingback by Grant Morrison’s Hypercrisis | MF Downloads — June 4, 2010 @ 2:18 am

  16. […] Hyper-Crimes in Hyper-Time […]

    Pingback by Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law: The Kingdom | Fourth Age of Comics — February 16, 2011 @ 2:46 am

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