Aug
8

Downcounting Backwards: Overman

Posted by on Friday, August 8th, 2008 at 09:00:30 AM

At some point Downcounting became too much of a chore to bear; it was a struggle to write something more cogent than variants on, “NO REALLY, WHAT IS ANYONE INVOLVED WITH THE PRODUCTION OF THIS BOOK THINKING?” Once it became obvious that Countdown to Final Crisis and its related titles weren’t really counting down to Final Crisis or anything else, I made peace with the fact that I had developed intimate knowledge of something with no real significance or worth besides being DC’s life-imitates-art “Great Disaster”.

But now that we know that Grant Morrison had literally nothing to do with the hundred-or-so books that were meant to lead into his Final Crisis series, picking through these books becomes a fascinating exercise in reverse-engineering. There are clearly threads that someone with access to Final Crisis’s plot decided to pick up on, though it seems much was lost in translation.

Take Overman, for example. The second issue of FC shows deposed Monitor Nix Uoton sketching out “visions” of superhumans, including sinister versions of Superman and Supergirl. The actual design doesn’t resemble anything in particular, though the lightning-bolt S shield calls to mind John Francis Moore and Kieron Dwyer’s Elseworld series Superman: The Dark Side where Kal-El’s rocketship lands on Apokalips.

Despite visual differences, it’s pretty obvious (and implied by the note written on the Evil Supergirl sketch) that these two characters are intended to be Overman and Overgirl. This is pretty much confirmed when the self-described “Ãœberfraulein” crash-lands in New York City in today’s FC #3. Overman is a character Morrison’s touched on repeatedly over the years, and Morrison has indicated he will be a member of Superman’s crew in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond:

[The book features] a team of alternate Earth Supermen: Captain Marvel from Earth 5, Ultraman, the evil Superman from the Anti-Matter Earth, Captain Atom from Earth 4 and the ‘Nazi Superman’, Overman, from Earth 10 in a kind of ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ voyage beyond the Multiverse.

Overman was a character Morrison introduced back in his Animal Man run, when as a “Second Crisis” loomed and beings from the universes destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths were streaming back into 1988 DC’s “One True Earth”. He was from some unnumbered pre-CoIE universe, a “realistic” one where all the heroes worked for the government and Overman contracted some sort of Super-syphilis that turned him into a nihilistic maniac:

animalman-overman

Animal Man managed to defeat Overman, and like all the pre-Crisis character he faded away and wasn’t seen again until a brief cameo in Infinite Crisis #5 by Geoff Johns & Jerry Ordway panel:

splittin-superman

 

As the DC Universe threatened to split back into “Infinite Earths”, pretty much every DC book made use of this motif of cascading alternate heroes in their pages. These were probably just Easter Eggs for hardcore fanboys, but since this particular cascade happened in the event book, they may well have been more thought put into it: Overman’s right between the “Tangent” Superman (currently starring in Tangent: Superman’s Reign) and the Silver Age “Nova”, the inspiration for 52’s Supernova. Perhaps Overman was already on the minds of Johns, Morrison and the rest of the DC Braintrust?

Regardless, about a year later we first saw the “Post-[Infinite] Crisis” Overman on Earth-10 in the Morrison co-written 52 #52:

overman52

 

Morrison’s 52 “exit interview” indicated big plans for this Earth:

…there could be one book or a whole line of books spinning out of the new Earth-10 (I handled that particular revamp, so I can tell you that the original concept of the Freedom Fighters on a world where the Nazis won World War 2 has been greatly reconsidered, expanded and intensified into something that’s a bit more Wagnerian and apocalyptic and a bit more adult.

So like so many other plot threads in Final Crisis, Overman and Earth-10 make a bowlderized appearance in Countdown and its related books. During one of the Monitor’s many speeches about a potential CRISIS, a “Nazi Superman” is featured in another cascading gallery of Supermen, which again contains Tangent Superman, Kingdom Come Superman (currently in Justice Society of America), Red Son Superman (subject of a Countdown one-shot and star of Countdown: Arena), Earth-2 Superman (freshly killed in Infinite Crisis) and Ultraman of Earth-3 (another Countdown cast member/victim). This wasn’t written by Johns, Morrison or anyone else who seemed to know what was going on, but given that the creative staff of Countdown seemed to at least be receiving vague dictation as to what was coming up, it’s reasonable to assume this is supposed to be Earth-10 Overman, even though his costume doesn’t look like the one in 52 #52:

crisis-a-comin

A couple months later when Monarch decides to build his Grand Multiversal Army (a major Countdown plot that still baffles me), his first visit is to Earth-10, in Countdown to Adventure #2. Though it’s never explicitly named in-book, promotional copy for the book states that “Forerunner travels to Earth-10, the universe where the Nazis won World War II” Now, it’s possible that out of fifty-two universes, there are a couple where “the Nazis won World War II” and has an evil Justice League working for them, and that they dropped the “Earth-10” thing because they realized it didn’t line up with Morrison’s plans. This theory is given some credence, as CTA #2 lacks the “Earth Numbering Logo” that most other Countdown books with multiversal themes had. Also, “Nazi Superman” (and “Nazi Wonder Woman”) are given dye jobs between solicitation and publication:

cta2-solicitvscover

 

Regardless, in CTA #2, Forerunner defeated the “JLAxis” (presumably from Earth-10) single-handedly, forcing them to the Monarch’s army. His recruitment drive continued in Countdown: Arena where Earth-10 makes an explicit appearance in the form Nazi Ray!

nazi-ray

I know singling out continuity errors in Countdown is just mean-spirited at this point, but the explicit premise for Earth-10 is a re-imagining of the pre-CoIE Earth-X, “the Freedom Fighters on a world where the Nazis won World War 2″. So choosing a member of the Freedom Fighters, one that even showed up in that 52 panel fighting the Nazi “heroes”, is a pretty hilariously ill-advised Token Nazi in Our Epic Fanfic Fight. He ends up dying, but it’s clear by this point that no one anywhere was paying attention to this.

Finally, in the main Countdown book, Monarch used his Big Army to fight a bunch of Monitors on Earth-51 – the Earth sheperded by Nix Uotan. It was a big fight with lots of ciphers fighting back and forth — Monarch actually says in the book that the names of the people involved “aren’t worth remembering”. Blonde Nazi Superman and other Nazi Justice Leaguers are shown in the background, fighting people. After four issues of this, SuperboyMAN Prime wanders in and rips Monarch’s containment suit in half, killing everyone in the universe, presumably including the Nazi Justice League. The only apparent survivors are Nix Uotan and a single plant:

nix-and-plant

This unfortunately isn’t the end of Nix’s trouble, and after Countdown #13 someone must have realized that this scene doesn’t line up at all to Nix’s FC #1 protestation: “I arrived too late to save Earth-51. There was sabotage, I swear,” so they went ahead and re-destroyed a miraculously reborn Earth-51 a few issues later. This time, Nix was mysteriously absent.

So what does this all mean? It means that we should probably take Morrison’s advice not to “spend the rest of the year fixating on the plot quirks of a series which has ended” and instead “breathe a sight of relief, settle back and enjoy”. I am trying to do the latter as much as possible, but I am sure people will continue to wonder about this, and hopefully this will save those poor souls some time.

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