Welcome all to the 2nd volume of Super Blog Team Up. It is the Satellites privilege and honor to welcome several new blogs to our ever-growing roster! The Super Blog Team unite several times a year to bring the Blogosphere the biggest unified exploration of any one particular topic related to our favorite genre…Comics! For those new to the Satellite..welcome and for those faithful readers who often frequent our orbiting time traveling hulk of technology strap in! As we say here at the Satellite..Welcome aboard Heroes..today the Satellite takes us back to 1985…with a topic that sends shivers down the spins of comic continuity and universes and as well as us the fans..RETCONS! Be warned..what you think you know..maybe greatly altered in a moments notice. Without further adieu..
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Welcome back Satellite Subscribers, forgive the temporary system interruption a Retcon will do that to a Satellite. Forget what you know, even things that look similar are not as they were. If you were a fan of comics in the Golden and Silver Age then you were in on the joke that was continuity. As decades came and went so did story telling sensibilities. A lot can happen in 50 years worth of storytelling. With my ever-growing stack of comic books the 1980s were as readers of The Satellite know , were my favorite era for just about everything. in the 1980s. DC was about to embark on a reboot as such. I loved all comics DC was primarily my favorite company and it was a big surprise to me when they injected their universe with heroes from The Charlton Publishing company.
Near the back of my book shelf were my well-worn issues of Charlton Comics. In my home town it was rare to find any Charlton material but on that rare occasion when I would venture into the dusty depths of some out port Convenience stores Charlton treasures were uncovered and I snapped them up every time. In their tattered gritty, cheap newsprint format Charlton Comics were different from the norm published by the big two of DC and Marvel. Some of their books like their Horror titles were decidedly more adult in theme. They had licences like The Bionic man and Hanna Barbera that were unusual for a small publisher to gain these rights. The ads in the books were even more mature! I loved reading the stories of Blue Beetle, E-Man, Captain Atom Hercules, and Judo Master! Suddenly the Charlton Heroes that I had read sporadically for years were being reborn alongside my DC favorites like Batman, and Green Lantern! In 1985..DC and Charlton universes collided and the result..was the ultimate Retcon in comic book history!
How did Batman not age over the course of 50 years? Why did Robin take 30 plus years to graduate from school ? How did the lone survivor of Krypton, Superman, suddenly have a cousin Super Girl, as well as Krypto The Superdog, hell even DC even had Super Powered Horses and a Monkeys?
How did Flash meet The Original Flash Jay Garrick in the classic 1960s story “The Flash Of Two Worlds”? Why did Green Lanterns origin change several times without explanation over the years? How did heroes that existed in another Super Hero universe (and Publisher!) suddenly appear within the DC Universe? Even DC and their writing team had written themselves into a proverbial corner.
Thus was born the Multiverse. A series of parallel Earths that crossed over from time to time and explained away all the weirdness and continuity errors. If something didn’t make sense storyline wise it could now be explained away as having happened on a parallel world! With every backdoor though comes overkill. Earths 1 and 2 became Earths 3, and 4. We had Earth X, Earth S and so it goes. What started as a way to explain away continuity issues and to maintain the integrity of the Golden age, spiraled into a confusing mess even DC themselves could not get out of. After 50 years of publishing no one had ever taken the time to make sense out of 50 years of stories. There were stories of value in every era however how did it all make sense in the bigger picture? Easy answer..it simply didn’t. What was important..what was not? What was considered cannon and what were considered “What If” stories? There was no definitive answer. That is until writer Marv Wolfman of DC took on the task of making sense of 50 years of DC Comics continuity.
With so many stories interwoven into the fabric of DCs continuity making the decision on what should stay and what should go was not an easy chore. In 1985 Marv Wolfman alongside penciller George Perez , Jerry Ordway and (editor /inker)Dick Giordano embarked on a 12 issue Maxi series known as Crisis on Infinite Earths. Crisis was intended to eliminate the concept of the “Multi-verse” and streamline DC continuity once and for all. It is best known for the demise two key characters in the DC Universe Barry Allen (Flash) and Super Girl. For our purposes it is not the deaths that is the thrust of our discussion it is rather the inclusion a group of heroes RETCONNED into DC continuity by way of Crisis. That group of characters..The Charlton Action Hero Universe! How did an entire universe simply get absorbed into DC? With great difficulty filled with twists and turns that one might not have expected.
DC stalwart Paul Levitz of Legion Of Super-Heros fame was on of those responsible for bringing the Charlton Universe as a “gift” of sorts to his colleague and now Managing Editor Dick Giordano. Giordano a former member of The Charlton Action Hero creative team who carries a special place in his heart for the characters in the Charlton Universe. The Universe consisted of several Ditkionian era heroes such as Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) , Captain Atom, The Question, and Night Shade. It was easy to see why the company would have interest in acquiring theses properties. Others like Peace Maker, Sarge Steel, The Judo Master and Peter Cannon Thunderbolt would be added later as well.
It was decided that the introduction of Charlton’s Action Heroes into the DC Universe of the 1980s would occur through The Crisis event. All Earths of The Multiverse would be merged into one Earth..including the Charton Universe. In short all alternate Earths such as Earths 1,2,4, Earth X, Earth S, just to name a few are suddenly slowly merging cosmically and in doing so, some worlds such as Earth 3 are systematically destroyed as a result of the event. The Charlton Universe for our readers purposes was known as Earth 4. Before I confuse our reading audience with the already impossible to understand Crisis / Earths debacle I present to you a Crisis for Dummies if you will.
EARTH X :
EARTH ONE: DC PROPER.
Crisis tells the story of two God like beings, the Monitor and the evil Anti-Monitor, both created by the Multiverse experiment. The Monitor was teased in many DC comic book series for two years prior to the launch of Crisis. The Monitor was teased to be a villain but he is revealed to be working on a seemingly futile plan to stop the inevitable destruction of the Multiverse hands of the Anti-Monitor. The Crisis event throws the DC Super in a desperate war to stop the Anti-Monitor’s plan rule the entire Multiverse.
The Monitor is murdered by Harbinger, his own assistant, while under the possession of the Anti Monitor . All 5 Earths (1, 2 4, S, and X) are merged into one LIMBO universe, however Harbinger, coming out from under the spell of the Anti Monitor unifies the heroes of all worlds (Including the Charlton Action Heroes) to bring down the Anti Monitor.
However, it would be the Spectre`s battle with the Anti-Monitor,that creates an energy overload that shatters space and time.The result …the ULTIMATE RETCON.. A single universe is created and all the superheroes return to a present-day reality where the various elements of the five Earths were fused into one single Earth, with no one except the people present at the dawn of time remembering the original reality.
DC had much bigger plans for the Charlton universe. Not only would they have a role in the events of Crisis but DC took a gamble that these Heroes could draw an audience by themselves in solo titles! Personally this was an exciting time as a fan as new title popped up everywhere with DC throwing new concepts at the wall attempting to feed off of the buzz of Crisis.
Blue Beetle flew out of his flying Beetle on the cover of his official DC solo series in 1986! I remember pulling this and Captain Atom #1 off the spinner rack with my 20 dollar a week allowance and drooling over these new heroes!
To this day Blue Beetle #1 serves as the way you showcase a hero on his debut issue! Beetle not only brought along some of his rogues gallery like The Madmen. His title also served as a launching pad for the return of Charltons The Question who returned in issue 5 of the series.
Of course each series would have varying degrees of success, DC also embedded these characters permanently into the DC universe. Beetle joined The Justice League, Atom lead the Justice League Europe, Nightshade was a member of the Suicide squad! Everywhere you looked DC took full advantage of these properties and did not let them go to waste. As a fan Justice League was my all time favorite team book and heroes like Beetle and Atom were easy favorites!
Blue Beetle came into his own and gained full acceptance as DCs fun-loving tag team partner of Booster Gold and perennial team member of the Justice League. Captain Atom went on to greater heights and actually captained a branch of the Justice League dubbed The JLE, Or Justice League Europe. Both titles were big sellers for DC and prominently featured the Charlton flagship characters.
The Charlton Action Heroes arrived in the DC Universe mostly intact with a few differences in origin and slight appearance modifications. Beetle retained his classic look while Captain Atom was dramatically streamlined into a chrome skinned embodiment of nuclear power, a much-needed upgrade from his dated Charlton look. His origin however was modified to fit the times. Nightshade arrived in her original guise but would be altered for the 80s in her Suicide Squad attire. The Question survived both in look and origin. Later additions to the Charlton gang would be Peace Maker, Judo Master, Peter Cannon Thunderbolt and Sarge Steel all of whom were given ill-fated solo runs and didn’t catch an audience like the Ditko characters. All in all the Charlton Action Heroes were now officially DC Super-Heroes and now firmly entrenched in DC hallowed halls. I was a fan and these were great times as a reader! DC had been relaunched and had been injected with a dose of new characters to move forward with!
However the introduction of The Charlton Heroes into DC almost took a much different path….
Prior to the decision to Retcon the Charlton heroes into the DC universe via Crisis, fate could have taken a much stranger turn. After the Charlton acquisition by DC comics Managing Editor and former Charlton creator Dick Giordano was approached with an informal proposal by writer Alan Moore. Originally the proposal involved the use of Archie Comics MLJ group of Heroes. Moore want to use the death Mighty Crusader, The Shield as the thrust for the story that would eventually become the most famous graphic novel of all… Watchmen. After this idea fizzled it was Moore’s proposal that the newly acquired Charlton Action heroes be used as the central characters in the storyline. The original concept was a story called “Who killed the Peacemaker?” The story would be a deconstructionist piece that set the Charlton Heroes in a desperate race against the clock to investigate a murder and to stop a nuclear apocalypse. Giordano who had an investment in the characters from his time at Charlton Publishing deterred Moore from using the characters and instead swayed him to use archetypes based around the Charlton Heroes for the story instead. Moore convinced that as long as the characters felt familiar he would be able to project the same sense of investment a reader would have in the actual characters…and boy was he right. Thus was born Nite Owl, Doctor Manhattan, Silk Specter, Rorshach, The Comedian and Ozymandias…THE WATCHMEN.
Had Moore had his way our Heroes would never have existed in the same fashion that they had been introduced into the DC Continuity in the 80s! As cool as it may be to have my Charlton heroes as Watchmen I much preferred the manner in which I came to enjoy each of these heroes in the DCU!!
For those who are wondering its more than clear who inspired each hero in the Watchmen universe. For those who could use a little more clarity here’s your Watchmen/Charlton cheat sheet!
Well that’s it Heroes!! After all this Retcon talk, I am retiring to the Satellites hibernation chamber for a long nap as we set course to return back to present day! One more extra before we go..I mentioned prior to our conclusion here that The Charlton Heroes introduction required a light modification to their Charlton origins..so I have included complete DC Who’s Who Bios of the core Characters so we have a complete go to source for your Charlton/DC Retcon needs!! Enjoy!
If You have enjoyed this blog contact me on Twitter @Charlton_Hero and join the conversation using #SuperHeroSatellite Thanks for reading!
Okay its time to check out the continuation of this cant miss series! Retcon Continues NOW: Super Blog Team activate!
7. Super-Hero Satellite: Hey you are here already!! RETCON: Crisis On Continuity Earths
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