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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #162

This is the one-hundred and sixty-second in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and sixty-one. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

One patriotic-themed legend this week, for the Fourth of July, plus I address a legend people have been asking me to talk about for quite awhile (plus one more sorta topical legend to close things out!).

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mr. America beat the Shield to the rights of being the first patriotic hero.

STATUS: False

Mr. Recommendation, John McDonagh, sent this one my way, and it’s an interesting dilemma that often shows up when people are doing reference work involving comics that they likely have not read (as they have not really been reprinted many places).

In the Wikipedia entry for the Shield, it states:

The Shield has the distinction of being one of the first superheroes with a costume based upon the American Flag, beating out Captain America by fourteen months. (Mister America, who later became Americommando was the first as he appeared at the same time as Superman in Action Comics #1, June, 1938, thereby beating Shield to the punch by some 16 months and thus beating Captain America by some 30 months.)

Here’s the problem, though – while Tex Thomson DID debut in the pages of Action Comics #1, he was just a standard adventurer.

Here, from the issue (drawn by Bernard Baily, written by Ken Fitch):

The Shield debuted in the pages of Pep Comics #1, in early 1940.

In late 1940/early 1941, Tex Thomson was thought dead when a ship of supplies to Europe was sunken by the Nazis that Thomson was overseeing (Thomson would routinely do assignments for the District Attorney). Since he was thought dead, Thomson took this opportunity to become a masked adventurer, becoming Mister America!

A little while later, he took the name Americommando (that’s him, on the far left of this Action Comics #52 cover).

So, yes, Tex Thomson DID beat the Shield into existence by a good sixteen months. However, he was not a patriotic hero until well after the Shield was introduced.

Thanks to John for the tip!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC bought a summer crossover series proposal from Alan Moore and then chose not to use it!

STATUS: True

I get people asking me about Twilight of the Superheroes fairly often, and I usually reply that I just find it far too known to really term it a legend. Recently, though, an e-mailer argued with me about the point, and I guess his point is well-taken – just because I (and I’m sure a bunch of you) know the story very well does not mean that there is a whole pile of people out there who have NOT heard the story, and as seen from the time I did the Amy Grant/Doctor Strange one (another one I figured everyone knew), I sometimes seem to think these stories are a lot more well-known than they actually are.

SOOO, with that out of the way, what is the deal with the Twilight of the Superheroes?

In 1987, hot of the heels of the success of Watchmen (and the success at DC of Crisis on Infinite Earths), Alan Moore was takes by DC Comics to come up with an idea for a big crossover. Moore’s idea was called Twilight of the Superheroes.

The basic gist of the story is thus:

It is around the year 2000, and superheroes more or less rule the world. There are eight “Houses” which are made up of related superheroes.

The two strongest ones are:

House of Steel – Superman and his brood (including Superman’s wife, Wonder Woman)

and

House of Thunder – Captain Marvel and his Marvel Family

These two houses are about to join with the marriage of Superboy (the son of Superman and Wonder Woman) and Mary Marvel, Jr. (the daughter of Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel – yes, I know, that is a creepy pairing – Moore does not shy from the creepiness of it).

The other six are:

House of Titans – Made up of, yep, you guessed it.

House of Mystery – Various magic characters.

House of Secrets – The remaining super-villains who have not been captured/killed.

House of Justice – The remaining unaffiliated superheroes

House of Tomorrow – Due to a flux in time, all time travelers have been stuck at this point in time, so they all gather here.

House of Lanterns – Abandoned, because awhile back, Earth has turned on aliens and driven them all out (Superman being the notable exception, of course). They currently have a base on the moon, waiting to get back to Earth, planning an invasion along with New Mars, Rann and Thanagar.

Okay, so the whole story takes place in a flashback at the beginning of a framing sequence with John Constantine at a bar in late 1987, reading a letter. A woman asks him for a lgiht, and he flashs back to earlier in 1987, and that begins the story.

It appears that the John Constantine from the future somehow helps Rip Hunter (one of the time travelers stuck at that point in time) escape to the present (1987), where Hunter teams up with 1987 John Constantine to warn all the heroes about the future. Future Constantine has told 87 Constantine (through Hunter) that the world of the future is awful, and he needs to help change it.

So anyhow, Constantine and Rip Hunter go to various heroes and warn them – presumably, these would take place in the various titles of the DC line of comics.

Meanwhile, in the Twilight of Superheroes series, proper, the Constantine of that time is the readers’ guide to the world of the future. Constantine is his normal self, just older, but actually in a happy relationship with a woman he’s been with for some time now – which is a nice change of pace for Constantine. So Constantine makes his way through the grimy world of the remaining human characters, the ones who don’t belong to the various Houses. He meets Green Arrow, etc. One notable absence, of course, is Batman. However, Constantine seems to be making various plans and contacts with people here and there. He is obviously planning SOMEthing. He keeps having mysterious meetings with people we don’t learn the importance of until later.

In the end, there would be a whole series of twists and turns.

That’s what happens in the long finale (I’d imagine the finale would be so big it would take up at least two issues, maybe three) – first, all the remaining Earth houses attack the wedding of Superboy and Mary Marvel, Jr., because they want to prevent that union. Massive bloodshed, but the House of Steel and Marvel manage to survive more or less intact (while mostly wiping out the other heroes).

When the dust settles from that fight, though, we get the big revelation that that Martian Manhunter has been impersonating Captain Marvel Sr. for the whole series, as part of an alien invasion. The Green Lanterns, the Rannians and the Thanagarians all invade at once.

Big fight with the remaining characters, and in the end, the aliens simply have too much manpower (including the Daxamite Green Lantern).

However, this is when Constantine’s plan comes into play – Batman and a small group of human heroes attack using armor created by the Metal Man Gold (who disappeared earlier in the series) and fight the aliens to a stand-still, but when it looks like a stalemate, Constantine reveals his final trump card. He has contacted the New God Metron (seen earlier in the series, although not made clear what he was doing), and used his chair to travel to Qward, where Constantine has sold the secret of Boom Tube technology to the Qwardians, so while the aliens are on Earth, their home worlds are currently being invaded by Qwardians. So the aliens all leave, and Earth is left with mostly humans and non-powered superheroes, so the world is ultimately (in Constantine’s view, at least) a happier place.

We cut back to the opening, and realize that the letter Constantine is reading in 1987 is from his future self. He is learning via a letter from his future self (that Hunter gives to Constantine after they warn all the heroes) that the whole thing has been a con, and he was meant to warn the heroes of 1987 specifically so that this future WOULD happen. Older Constantine apologizes, but says, on the bright side, A. I conned you for a good cause and B. at least you’ll end up with the woman of your dreams. In fact, I’ll even tell you when you meet her. She comes up to you and asks you for a light at a bar at the end of 1987.

So yeah, you guessed it. The young Constantine is so angry at his future self that he tries to think of a way to hurt him, and all he can think of is, when the woman asks for a light, he replies:

“No. I’m sorry. I don’t smoke.”

She leaves, and the books ends with Constantine drinking himself into a stupor as he weeps uncontrollably.

Cool, huh?

Anyhow, for whatever reasons (and really, you could make a legitimate case that this story was way too dark for a company-wide crossover, at least in 1987), the project never came about, although DC paid Moore for the proposal.

I always thought DC passed, but thanks to the great Scott Braden, here is Moore on the subject:

“There were a few raised eyebrows over some of the character portrayals,” Moore remembers, “but I gather they were generally in favor of the idea at that time. Of course, I had my famous rile with DC that was ostensibly over the introduction of a rating system, but that was really a last straw in a number of things, including problems with Watchmen royalties. So I withdrew the offer of writing Twilight, and that was the last I heard of it. But again, I gather that they were pretty keen on it.”

If you want more details on the story, well, DC feels that since they purchased the proposal, they own the copyright to it, so you can’t find it anywhere officially, so I will not send you any links, as why get the links shut down? But if you search, I bet you can find somewhere where they post the entire Moore proposal – he gets MUCH more into depth (especially with some of the creepier aspects, like what happens to Doll Man over the years, and Moore’s twisted take on Billy Batson).

What I will quote you from the piece is two interesting parts of the introduction. First, Moore on the commerical aspects of the “perfect mass crossover” (note how kinda sad it is to see his optimism about the Watchmen movie deal):

Firstly, as I see the commercial side, taking into account what Paul was kind enough to pass on to me, the perfect mass crossover would be something like the following: it would have a sensible and logical reason for crossing over with other titles, so that the readers who were prompted to try a new title as a result of the crossover or vice versa didn’t feel cheated by some tenuous linkage of storylines that was at best spurious and at worst nonexistent. It would provide a strong and resonant springboard from which to launch a number of new series or with which to revitalize old ones again in a manner that was not obviously crassly exploitative so as to insult the reader’s intelligence. With an eye to the merchandising that Marvel managed to spin out of Secret Wars, I think it’s safe to assume that if it were possible to credibly spin role playing games, toys, “Waiting for Twilight” posters and T-shirts and badges and all the rest of that stuff from the title, then that would be a good idea too. Ideally, it might even be possible, while appealing to the diehard superhero junkie, to produce a central story idea simple, powerful and resonant enough to bear translation to other media. I mean, I know that I’m probably still intoxicated by the Watchmen deal, but it never hurts to allow for these things as a possibility, does it?

and, secondly, Moore on DC’s continuity of the time:

To explain what I mean, I should perhaps look at a series that I have read, that being Marv and George’s excellent Crisis on Infinite Earths. Although the motive was pure and the aim true with regard to Crisis, I can’t help feeling that somewhere along the line, in the attempt to consolidate and rationalize the DC Cosmos, a situation even more potentially destabilizing and precarious was created. Instead of a parallel Earth cosmology that was, if the reader was sensible enough to overlook obvious discrepancies as what they were (i.e. simple mistakes), relatively easy to understand, in the wake of Crisis and related seismic impacts upon the continuity such as John Byrne’s new Superman books we have a situation far less defined and precise. In the wake of the time-altering at the end of the Crisis we are left with a universe where the entire past continuity of DC, for the most part, simply never happened. While I understand that Paul is attempting to sort out the Legion/Superboy problems over in LSH at the moment, and that other writers are tackling similar discrepancies, the fact remains that by far the larger part of DC’s continuity will simply have to be scrapped and consigned to one of Orwell’s memory holes along with a large amount of characters who, more than simply being dead, are now unpeople.

I believe this is dangerous for a couple of reasons. Firstly, by establishing the precedent of altering time, you are establishing an unconscious context for all stories that take place in the future, as well as for those which took place (or rather didn’t take place) in the past. The readers of long standing, somewhere along the line, are going to have some slight feeling that all the stories that they followed avidly during their years of involvement with the book have been in some way invalidated, that all those countless plotlines weren’t leading to anything more than what is in some respects an arbitrary cut-off point. By extension, the readers of today might well be left with the sensation that the stories they are currently reading are of less significance or moment because, after all, at some point ten years in the future some comic book omnipotent, be it an editor or the Spectre, can go back in time and erase the whole slate, ready to start again. I myself felt something similar at the end of the first Superman film, when he turns time back to save Lois. It ruined the small but genuine enjoyment that I’d got from that first movie and destroyed all credibility for any of the following sequels as far as I was concerned.

So, anyhow, that’s Twilight of the Superheroes!

Thanks to the multitudes of people who have asked me to feature it over the years! You finally got your wish! I hope my summary made some sense (it’s a LOT of info to parse)!

And thanks to Scott Braden for the awesome Moore quote!!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Steve Englehart reworked Madame Xanadu for a comic at Eclipse.

STATUS: True

Reader Jeff Durkee wrote me:

Now that DC and Matt Wagner are bringing back Madame Xanadu for Vertigo could you do a column on how Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers took their origin of Madame Xanadu over to Eclipse Comics and changed the name to Scorpio Rose ?

I seem to remember reading this somewhere as a kid?

Jeff’s basically right, although I do not believe this was as blatant as Englehart’s previous efforts with Mantis.

The deal was, Englehart and Rogers had done a fill-in issue on the 1978 DC series, Doorway to Nightmare, which starred Madame Xanadu.

The issue did not see print, but in 1981, figuring Englehart and Rogers were now a star pairing, DC decided to use this older fill-in issue as the first issue of a brand-new series starring Madame Xanadu (note the prominent use of their names on the cover).

As you might expect, taking an old “done in one” fill-in issue and making it the first issue of a new series does not work too well, and the series ended with that first issue. However, while thinking of ways to extend the series into an ongoing, Englehart came up with some plot ideas.

These plot ideas were then taken over to Eclipse, and used on the character Scorpio Rose, who became a supporting character in Englehart’s Coyote.

So it wasn’t one of those “find and replace all Madame Xanadu and replace with Scorpio Rose, then print it” deals, it was close enough to that to count for what Jeff is asking me.

Thanks to Jeff for the question, and thanks to Steve Englehart for the information!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!

Have a happy Fourth of July!!

64 Comments

Whenever I read Moore’s “Twilight” pitch, I can’t help but think of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Moore’s Twilight/SH pitch is a fantastic thing – a real tragedy it was never picked up.

I’d love to know the exact reasonings as to why it never saw the light of day.

I urge everyone who digs Moore to give it a read – it’s still out there, in cyberspace…

SanctumSanctorumComix

July 4, 2008 at 5:58 am

How prophetic (and true) were Moore’s comments on the errors of discarding/retconning huge past segments of publishing history?

In this day and age of multiple Crisis & Brand New Day’s, readers of longstanding feel cast off, and newer readers understand that any investment (emotional, mental, financial) into their own published era, might be unceremoniously made null and void at any time.

Ahhh….. oh well.

It’s sad to see how stoked he was at the Watchmen deal, only to have himself burned by DC time and again, so that now he holds them in disdain.

—————————–

I remember buying the MADAME XANADU/Doorway to Nightmare issue on the stands and waiting for the follow up.
Then, when Coyote and the spin-off SCORPIO ROSE came out, I immediately sensed that THIS was what happed to it and was an immediate fan.

Then THAT went away and she popped up here and there, until even those appearances stopped.

Englehart & Rogers were a FABULOUS team (and equally awesome in their own rights)!
Englehart is obviously fabulous on mystical (and cosmic) themed books, and Rogers’ architecturally based style lends grounded reality to even the most surreal mystic adventures.
It’s one of the reasons that his tenure on Doctor Strange was so perfect.
It led credibility to every scene.

Good times…

~P~
PTOR

The Madame Xanadu one-shot was also the first Direct Market only title from DC. I think it was also Brian Bolland’s first American work.

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 4, 2008 at 6:29 am

Regarding the Alan Moore situation is another fine classic example of dumber moves made by DC.

Dumb
Dumber
Dumbest
Dumberer

I’m sure many of you will take umbrage at this (or will dismiss it as the ravings of a grouchy old dinosaur) but, in my opinion, whoever turned down “Twilight of the Super-Heroes” (and yes, I’ve read the proposal) showed more common sense and good taste than I would’ve thought anyone at DC–then or now–possessed. Much as I generally enjoy Mr. Moore’s work, I found TotSH revolting, even hateful. Had DC published it as a stand-alone graphic novel, I would’ve had no objections (I wouldn’t have bought it but still…) but as part of mainstream continuity (albeit as one possible future of same) I think it would’ve been ruinous. (It is interesting, though, how much of TotSH found its way into Kingdom Come.)

All done now. Flame away!

Thanks for the info on TotSH — that all went down 15 years before I would have noticed. I see others disagree, but I think that would have been fascinating to read (perhaps, though, as an Elseworlds story rather than a summer crossover event).

the shpongelettes

July 4, 2008 at 7:46 am

cei-u, cei-me
sing it together, naturally.
there’s no flaming going on
except from Xuxu and her pon-pon
not always you’re off
we thinks you are dead on.

agna, burta and cassiopeia.

Cei-U, if Twilight of the Superheroes were published in 1987, it would probably have been almost unanimously loved.

No disrespect meant to your oppinion, but I think it is the sort of oppinion that started to become popular in the late-1990s, as a reaction to the glut of grim’n’gritty material.

It’s funny to think that the “retro” movement (the idea that superheroes should discard sexual themes, graphic violence, political issues, etc.) came to become popular with the fandom as a response to grim’n’gritty.

Back in 1987, probably anything that pushed the envelope would be seen as worthy, bold exploration of the frontiers of the genre. Particularly something written by Alan Moore in his gritty, intense phase.

And yeah, count me in as another one who’d love to see this series coming into being.

Doctor Orient looks like Neil Diamond. That is all.

I tend to agree with Cei-U.

I bet the series would have been great on its own, but would have inspired even more extreme excesses of “grim and gritty” superheroes than Watchmen, Killing Joke, and Dark Knight did.

There also used to be online some commissioned sketches of the Twilight characters. I remember one of Doll Man, I think by John Totleben (or maybe Steve Bissette), that was just super-creepy!

I agree with Cei-U: TotSH might have been an interesting idea, and probably well written as well (as most of Moore’s work is) but it would be a terrible fit for the DC Superheroes. I can understand that some heroes might go astray over the years, but ALL of them? Sorry, but Kingdom Come made more sense. And note how the whole thing seemed to be just a way of having Constantine (Moore’s creation) turn out to be smarter than anybody else. Biased much? No, in the end it was better that TotSH never happened (not that the current DC administration might not go for it one day… :-( )

I think a lot of the first issue of Final Crisis was Morrison teasing the idea that it was going to be his translation of “Twilight,” but Terrible Turpin in the Constantine role (I mean, someone actually says the title at one point). The second issue shut down that theory quickly enough and probably for the better.

The line “Batman and a small group of human heroes attack using armor created by the Metal Man Gold,” can’t help but remind of the scene in Justice wear the heroes wear Gold and the other Metal Men AS armor… which might be a stretch, but I think could be used as a case that Alex Ross has tapped the “Twilight” well more than once.

Stephane Savoie

July 4, 2008 at 8:46 am

Has it been absolutely confirmed that Moore penned that Twilight proposal?
I remember when it was circling online in ’92 that it wasn’t a question of whether Moore had penned a proposal, but whether Twilight was it. Real deal, or simply somebody conjuring up something in a very Moore-ish style?

Sijo, the idea of a dark future where society went wrong and so the superheroes were forced to step up as rules isn’t so far-fetched, I think.

And in Moore’s outline, not all superheroes went “astray”. It’s the world that became darker due to human society colapsing, and the heroes changed in various ways trying to adapt to that. If I remember right (it’s been more than a year since I last read the proposal), some heroes are benign dictators, some are nostalgic for the past, some are part of a grass-roots resistance.

Of course, you could make the point that the DC superheroes would never let society colapse in the first place (though I’m doubtful, seeing how most heroes don’t like to meddle in politics and the societal status quo).

to step up as RULERS, I meant

And yeah, I think it was confirmed that the proposal was Moore’s.

That Action Comics #52 cover is badass. I choose to believe that the reason “52″ became so important to DC is solely because of the epic impact of seeing Congo Bill, Americommando, Zatara, Vigilante and whoever that guy in the middle is, ready to kick butt for justice.

Has it been absolutely confirmed that Moore penned that Twilight proposal?
I remember when it was circling online in ‘92 that it wasn’t a question of whether Moore had penned a proposal, but whether Twilight was it. Real deal, or simply somebody conjuring up something in a very Moore-ish style?

Fine question.

I dunno if I ever DID see Moore specifically say he wrote it. I know I have seen DC say that it was purchased by them (which is why they claim to hold the copyright of it), so it’d be odd to see DC claim it was purchased by them, but it being someone pretending to be Moore.

I know I have an old article about the story – let me take a look to see if Moore is quoted in it!

Frankly, I think any series where Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel are fucking is better off never seeing the light of day.

But would it be incest if Martian Manhunter is impersonating her brother?

I presume the argument against incest is saying that while Billy and Mary might be related, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel might not be.

But yeah, still, ick.

The Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel relationship is a direct rip from Robert Mayer’s Superfolks.

So is the ending of What Ever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?

Andrew Collins

July 4, 2008 at 11:00 am

Considering Moore’s Watchmen and Miracleman are two of my all-time favorite comics, I would have loved to read Twilight Of The Heroes, it sounds very much in the same vein and attitude. Reading about the ending where Constantine screws over his future self’s love life actually gave me chills, and is very true to the character. Oh what could have been…

In the story, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel are heads of a royal family, and probably considered akin to gods. Kings marrying their sisters isn’t something unheard of. In Ancient Egypt, for instance, where Shazam was a wizard.

In the story, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel are heads of a royal family, and probably considered akin to gods. Kings marrying their sisters isn’t something unheard of. In Ancient Egypt, for instance, where Shazam was a wizard.

Yeah, I meant to mention that, too, that that was likely his other argument.

Reading about the ending where Constantine screws over his future self’s love life actually gave me chills, and is very true to the character. Oh what could have been…

Yeah, whatever else you think about this story, THAT part is just awesome.

Cei-U, if Twilight of the Superheroes were published in 1987, it would probably have been almost unanimously loved.

I’m pretty convinced that would have been the case too. This was an era where Adam Strange was retconned into being little more than a bredding stud for Alanna (courtesy of Mr. Moore), Barbara Gordon gets shot in the spine by the Joker (ditto) and Black Canary gets tortured. Even Superman kills (though this wouldn’t be until ’88). And let’s not forget that little Dark Knight Returns project. It fits perfectly with the ethos of the era.

That said, I agree with Cei-U in that I’m sort of glad it didn’t get published because in some ways it was the zenith of where everything seemed to be headed.

“Tex Thomson was thought dead when a ship of supplies to Europe was sunken by the Nazis that Thomson was overseeing”

was sunken?

Thomson was overseeing the Nazis?

Twilight would indeed have sold like crazy…Alan Moore writing DC’s heros after having come off Watchman during the grim and gritty 80′s. Dc would probably have been printing money for awhile.

I gotta say though Im glad this didnt happen. If it was a elseworlds that would be one thing, but to have DC’s heros locked into such a awful future is depressing.

I guess you can count me as a memeber of the retro movement, but anytime a proposal is discussing possible incest (and its not like what Moore did to the real Cap was any better) I think that you may be going a little too far with your story.

Did anyone ever noticed that the tarot cards Xanadu´s are holding in that cover belong to the Crowley deck?

A bit of an occult easter egg, I guess.

there you go, related legend: was TotSH reworked into Kingdom Come? I’ve only read the proposal once, years ago, but it was on a site that drew parallels to KC and seemed to be trying to suggest that Waid and Ross had taken the bits of the proposal they liked and used them in their own story…

Ha. The best crossover is the one that never was printed. Peace.

“Twilight” was not reworked as Kingdom Come by Waid and Ross, although there are some admitted similarities of elements, the plots are different. Read the actual treatment and then come back and say whether you think Kingdom Come ripped off Twilight.

Was it really written by Alan Moore? I asked on Compuserve’s Comics and Animation Forum in 1995, and got affirmative answers from Kurt Busiek, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Chris Miller, and some guy named Rich Johnston. A good summary (that was put in place after DC requested that the original be taken down) is on Negative Space, but of course the original can be found in any number of places on the intarwebs.

Earlier discussion of Twilight from 2006here on CBR and Newsarama.

As for Madame Xanadu, I was under the impression that it was always meant to be a one-shot, available in the brand-new direct market only, rather than the first issue of a miniseries or ongoing series. It was also DC’s second direct-only comic, not the first. Madame Xanadu #1 came out in April 1981, while a one-shot Superboy Spectacular came out in Dec. 1979.

Expletive Deleted

July 4, 2008 at 5:53 pm

there you go, related legend: was TotSH reworked into Kingdom Come?

I’d heard that before, too, and I thought it made a lot of sense. I’d be interested to hear if Waid or Ross had ever commented on it.

TotSH isn’t really that much like Kingdom Come, is the thing, other than “dark future of the DCU”. After all, Kingdom Come is a reaction to precisely this kind of overwhelming darkness. If you read the whole proposal (which can indeed be found in at least one place I’ve seen), the differences become even more apparent; the whole generational conflict in the center of KC is nowhere to be found.

Reading about the ending where Constantine screws over his future self’s love life actually gave me chills, and is very true to the character. Oh what could have been…

Yeah, whatever else you think about this story, THAT part is just awesome.

That could always have been interpreted in the continuity as part of Constantine’s experience his future self remembers which does nothing to alter the future.

Reading about the ending where Constantine screws over his future self’s love life actually gave me chills, and is very true to the character. Oh what could have been…

Yeah, whatever else you think about this story, THAT part is just awesome.

That could always have been interpreted in the continuity as part of Constantine’s experience his future self remembers which does nothing to alter the future.

Ah, but what if Future Constantine KNEW that that would be 87 Constantine’s response, and is giving him yet another level of mindf*ck? And/or with that choice, 87 Constantine just caused the 1988 megacrossover event to occur.

If present John Constantine negated the whole Twilight future by not hooking up with that woman, then wouldn’t he lose all memory of the Twilight, as if that future no longer existed, Future JC wouldn’t have been able to write that letter in the first place? Or maybe I’m just not getting it…

Given how dark and bloody and violent and ‘DEATH GOOD!’ DC and Dan Dildo seem to be these days, I’d be inclined to believe this is something DC would want to print today. I mean, I haven’t read the details of Twilight’s proposals, but it can’t be any less vicious and violent that Final Crisis was.

I was reading an old Marvel Bullpen yesterday and it said Lobdell was working on a comic with Gilbert Gottfried? This was about 1993 I think. Any info on THAT gem?

Has it been absolutely confirmed that Moore penned that Twilight proposal?
I remember when it was circling online in ‘92 that it wasn’t a question of whether Moore had penned a proposal, but whether Twilight was it. Real deal, or simply somebody conjuring up something in a very Moore-ish style?

Oh yeah, sorry, forgot to reply again, yeah, Moore wrote it.

I’ve got to throw in my lot with those who say this was better for not being printed, much as Watchmen is better for not having used the Charlton character themselves in the end.

As a standalone story, it’s absolutely brilliant, if perhaps a bit sentimentalist and Romantic in the end. The message, after all, seems to be fairly traditional Romantic notions of humanity and heroism: Human beings are best when they control their own destiny, rather than being ruled by the gods! A man can fight his own fate with free will! Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven (or serve your happy future counterpart, anyway). But then, the Class of ’86 was always far more sentimental than people seem to recall; Green Arrow was the story of the love between Ollie and Dinah as much as it was a gritty vigilante thriller; Watchmen has an inhuman god touched by the wonder of human life and ends with a hint that the manipulative amoralist may yet be undone by the moral absolutist thanks to pure chance and the shlubbiest of ordinary folk; and even the grizzled Batman of Dark Knight Returns can feel a swell of empathy for poor Harvey Dent, and work to redeem the Sons of the Batman and mentor Carrie Kelly.

Indeed, that’s what went wrong, really, with grim and gritty: unlike the books it mimicked, it had no heart in the end, no morality. Leave talent and skill aside: grim and gritty is justly derided because it mistakes a surface for an ethos.

But Twilight would have been a poor idea in another sense, the same sort of sense in which

Nor do I hold with those who say it would have been taken in the spirit of the times. Recall, please, a far milder subversion of Superman when John Byrne had him execute a trio of genocidal Kryptonians on the world they had exterminated. The hue and cry that “Superman’s not like that” would be a thousand times louder if applied to Twilight, and I shudder to think what the public response to a story in which superheroes perceived beyond the (even in 986) insulkar world of superhero readers would have made out of a tale featuring an incestuous Shazam! family and a tyrant Superman. Unfair as it would be, you’d be lucky if it didn’t end with a new Comics Code and Ed Meese trying to prosecute Alan Moore for obscenity.

More to the point, I think it’s a very rare example in which Moore misreads or underestimates the degree to which the really iconic characters have a kind of power in the minds of most readers or viewers. You may, for example, find Wally Wood’s Disneyland Memorial Orgy a clever satirical jab at Disney’s trademark-guarding and bowdlerizing tendencies, or even a strikingly original deconstruction of the chaste universe the characters normally seem to inhabit. I’d wager that most people, even quite literate and cynical people who are fairly “inside” Disney fandom, would be revulsed. The same people, I am sure, had no problem slobbering over Jessica Rabbit or guffawing at Bakshi’s or Crumb’s Fritz the Cat.

And so too Twilight of the Superheroes. The Charlton heroes are minor enough in comics fandom tyhat they might have survived Watchmen, and Watchmen survived them. The big-name DC heroes, not so much. You’d have fans disgusted by the Superman portrayal as they were disgusted by Byrne’s twist ending; you’d have fans complaining about a pet character like Constantine — at that point, recall, nothing beyond a know-it-all supporting cast member in Swamp Thing — being the lynchpin of the regular DC Universe.

The critics of grim ‘n’ gritty do often forget the tenor of the mid and late 1980s; but the champions of Twilight, I think, forget the limits the revolution reached and the reason it failed when applied to characters like Spider-Man and, yes, Shazam! (in the form of Roy Thomas’s excruciating miniseries attempting to maturate the basic setup).

Ah, but what if Future Constantine KNEW that that would be 87 Constantine’s response…

That’s what I meant when I said (or tried to say) Constantine’s rejection of the woman may have done nothing to effect or alter the continuity.

Y’know… It really is hard to judge the quality of an actual finished work from a pitch.

I just read the ‘pitch’ and believe it will never be published as the definitive future of the mainstream DCU. Or, if it ever does see the light, a lot of the characterization will be changed. I mean, really, Plastic Man as a male gigolo? The incestuous relationship of the Marvels, where Mary Marvel sleeps with BOTH Captain Marvel and Junior? Platinum of the Metal Men works in an autosex bar? These elements and others may be do-able in a adult-oriented magazine, but even at the height of the ‘grim and gritty’ era, DCU rightly declined to put that story in print.

It is disturbing to think that someone could describe a very drear, unflattering future for a team like the Metal Men, and then say something to the effect of getting some “darkly comic stuff out of them”… And this was his proposal for a major crossover event. Wow.

I think if that story ever sees print, especially as a mainstream DCU story, it will be the end of my purchasing comics. That’s not the type of characterization I would love to see in ANY story, much less a comic book.

I rather doubt that the publishing of Twilight would lead to a new “Comics Code”. Comics were then (and still are) lower in the radar of censors than most other media, and we also have to remember that conservative censors are often more disturbed by obscene images and graphic aspects of something than by obscene content. What gets parents in an uproar is the depiction of a sex scene; how many of them back in 1987 would even bother to read the comic itself to find that Mary Marvel is married to her brother? As long as the art never showed a graphic sex scene, this comic would not shock anyone except a minority of old-time fans.

In this, I very much disagree with Omar Karindu. While there was a portion of the readership that could have been called “old-fashioned” in the 1980s, their voices were pretty much drowned out by all those that were eager to see anything Alan Moore or Frank Miller would do to stretch the limits of the genre. Back then, sympathetic gray-haired villain Deathstroke being in a illicit sexual relationship with 16-year old Terra was seen as bold characterization by Wolfman and Perez, today it would have called for Wolfman to be arrested as sympathetic to pedophilia, but back then it was seen as cool, and I don’t remember concerned parents or old-fashioned fans calling for Wolfman’s head and instuting a new Comics Code because there was pedophilia in DC Comics’s best-selling book.

I wouldn’t say we are more prudish or conservative today, but I say that today it’s accepted for people discussing comics and movies to voice conservative oppinions without being labeled as tragically uncool. It’s the retro-movement I talked about earlier, that only gathered steam after the mid-1990s. While protective feelings over the Silver Age were always there, they only became a force to be reckoned with among fandom after the mid-1990s. Back then, they appeared as the lone, unloved letter in a letercol full of other letters praising the boldness and the “comics aren’t for kids” aspects of the revolution.

Again, Rene, I’d note that in your example the characters involved are a) brand new, b) in a title which is far more obscure to the general public than either Superman or Captain Marvel, and c) featured the villains doing, well, villainous stuff.

Superman stories get noticed — the Death of Superman, and before it John Byrne’ relaunch got a fair bit of mainstream press coverage. (Byrne’s Superman even made the cover of Time Magazine.)

Plus Twilight, unlike Watchmen, was intended to be a line-wide crossover — the non-direct-market books would be participating as well, titles like Action Comics and Batman. That’s going to be noticed in a way a subplot in Teen Titans, a comic most people have never heard of (at least prior to the recent anmated series) wouldn’t be.

It has nothing to do with Silver Age retro nostalgia, which we agree post-dates this era. It has much to do with a fairly long and fairly apparent history of public and popular reactions to supposedly “adult” uses of certain widely-known and falsely-recalled characters.

In any case, that’s not the only problem that would accrue to Twilight as proposed. I’m not sure entirely how to read your “in this, I disagree” with regard to the other points I made, but as your prior response was quite thought-provoking even if I disagreed with it in the end, I’d be interested to read your thoughts on other aspects of the Twilight proposal and its potential audience reception at the time.

Omar, I agree with you that Superman becoming a tyrant for good in the regular comic would’ve gotten (some) people riled up. Or Captain Marvel being in a sexual relationship with his sister. But I don’t think it would have caused much aggravation to have such things in a “possible future”, even if it’s a line-wide crossover, in the end of the day you have an imaginary story set in a future dystopia.

Why would Superman the Future Benign Tyrant get people in arms when Superman the Future Pathetic Government Stoogie didn’t? Do you think Twilight would get a lot more coverage than Dark Knight Returns did? They’re both stories of possible futures.

And while the incestuous marriage of the Marvels is more explosive, I wonder if the world out there would really have cared? Is Captain Marvel such a household name among people who never cracked open a comic book?

I still think people are unconsciously transposing today’s attitudes to 1987, and also transposing their own reactions? (“If I find such material repulsive, then the public will do too”).

Or maybe I’m wrong, maybe today’s attitudes are even more blasé than they were back then. Some comic industry execs and fans are always worrying about such things, but sometimes I think that you could have Superman sodomizing Luthor in a comic, and as long as the scene itself weren’t shown graphically, only alluded to, the big world out there that doesn’t read comics would only shrug, and there would be a snickering note in some news programs, and we’d have a few concerned mothers, but the big organized family values groups would be too worried about television or videogames.

And that is Superman. If it’s Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman they’d care less.

Captain Marvel incest in 1986 or 1987 would likely have caused loads of problems, precisely because the character’s extraordinary popularity during the 1940s — he actually outsold Superman, you’ll recall — meant that he was a somewhat cherished childhood memory to people in their 40s and 50s. In other words, he would be better remembered by exactly the age group likely to exert public pressure and political influence.

Also, the quality of the actions the character performs differ in key respects. Superman in DKR is a government stooge, but in the end a decent (if dangerously naive) fellow who lets Batman stay underground with a wink and a smile. He’s recognizably a wrong-headed good guy. Incest and tyranny are far harder to spin that way, especially when the story’s own solution is to treat the iconic superpeople as irredeemable and kill them off accordingly. There’s also that traditionally American mode of double standard, the one in which prolix and grotesque violence is far more permissible than supposedly (and, in the case of incest, actually) deviant sexuality.

We should all recall that the 1980s was a more censorious time than our own memories of Madonna’s provocations and Alan Moore’s groundbreaking Swamp Thing work would reflect. I namedropped Ed Meese, then-Attorney General of the United States, who commissioned and filed a report on the effect of pornography on society that ran to nearly 2,00 pages…and reached the expected condemnatory conclusions. It wasn’t restricted to one side of the political aisle, either — Tipper Gore helped launch PMRC, a ratings board for popular music with aspirations of outright censorship. The fact that most adults Tipper’s age weren’t listening to Motley Crue and Public Enemy didn’t prevent the RIAA from being pressured into adding warning labels, a move whose effects have been significantly far-reaching. (Ask yourself why Wal-Mart carries censored versions of albums the PMRC-inspired ratings system deems obscene.)

DC at this time was slapping “Mature Readers” labels on material as it was, to the point that Moore got fed up and left. How would one label a newsstand copy Twilight tie-in issue of Action Comics or The Flash? And if the solution is to avoid the newsstand books, then in what way was Twilight suitable as a line-wide crossover? I can see exactly why DC rejected the story, and frankly I tend to think of it as a quite sound and culturally informed business decision, albeit that it’s certainly a case of business interests getting in the way of a potentially quite interesting bit of art.

Comics like Watchmen and Dark Knights return did indeed fly under the radar — they were Direct Market only, they were miniseries, and they were marketed in a fashion that made it clear to whom they were targeted. The problem with a massive crossover is that it ties in with most of the books for sales purposes, or it’s not worth doing. Targeted marketing and clear labeling seem at cross purposes to the 1980s crossover format as far as sales purposes go. And let’s face it, a crossover is a sales gimmick first and foremost.

Again, the key to me seems to be a sort of perfect storm of three elements: the use of characters more popularly known than the relative obscurities in the genuinely rough stuff during the 1980s maturation of the genre; the fact that this would be a line-wide crossover tying into newsstand comics and thus gaining visibility beyond the confines of the ghettoized comic-book shop; and last but not least, the significant difference between Twilight as a prominent pan-DC storyline and publishing initiative and those famous mature readers works exaggerating the traits and qualities the heroes already possess for satiric purposes (DKR) or deconstructing inventions and obscurities (Green Arrow; Watchmen).

You do make a very good case, I’m forced to admit.

Though I’m still not completely sure that Twilight would result in any real trouble for DC. Comic industry big shots are understandably cautious regarding their icons (Jim Shooter would not let Peter Parker have a bastard child, for instance), but comic books are a very ghettoized media, and were back in the 1980s too, even though they sold a lot more back then.

It’s a funny situation in that characters like Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man are in blockbuster movies and TV shows, but the comics themselves have a lot less impact than we comic book fans would like.

I dunno, Omar. I think I just have trouble picturing society at large (in the 1980s or now) making such a fuss over any comic books, no matter how outrageous their content.

But we’ll never know for sure what effects Twilight might have had.

“I wonder if the world out there would really have cared? Is Captain Marvel such a household name among people who never cracked open a comic book?”

Captain Marvel had a TV show in the 70′s. I would imagine there’d be people who remember the character by the 80′s.

…One of the things you left out was the circumstances of how the Martian Manhunter replaced Captain Marvel. As Moore would have shown us, Billy doesn’t age as a side effect of his changing to Captain Marvel a lot. His mind matures, but his body doesn’t. Part of that maturity is a rather active sex drive, one that manifests itself into a bit of a perv streak. The problem is that he still can’t get laid because Billy is still kid-sized, and while he remembers everything that Captain Marvel does, it’s more like a tape-delayed replay that he watches as a rerun and doesn’t exactly feel the experiences. And since he’s a kid, the only way he can get laid is to pretend to be a midget and seek out hookers for sex. Which is how J’Onn winds up replacing him – he morphs into a hooker, picks up Billy as a – no pun intended – “john”, and then before he can even think about uttering his magic word, J’Onn breaks his neck, disposes of the body, and assumes the form of the Big Red Cheese.

…The whole idea of Billy becoming a sex dwarf didn’t sit well with DC at the time, but when you consider that DC turned SuperBOY-Prime into a psychotic mass-murderer, has a somewhat-closeted lesbian Batwoman, and for a while had Hal Jordan as much a psychotic mass-murderer as Prime…well, let’s just say that Twilight would have been a better crossover series than the one they’re currently running. And probably would, if Alan Moore wasn’t being such a pompous ass towards the Big Two over really petty issues.

…yeah, this seems to be Pour Shit On Final Crisis Twilight Would’ve Been So Much Better day, and I say thee nay. I doubt that Twilight would’ve gotten DC into any kind of legal trouble, but it would’ve been the nadir of the grim ‘n gritty era. I’m sorry, but comparing Batwoman as a lesbian to Billy Batson as a hooker-soliciting sex dwarf is silly.

I grew up in Kuwait, and I knew about Captain Marvel from a really bad Saturday morning TV show. It was about a bunch of lame super-heroes, and he had a back-up cartoon (I believe the show was called “The Kids Super Hour Show with Captain Marvel” or something). My cousins in the US would tape Saturday morning cartoons for us and send them to us. Point being, if *I* barely knew who he was, I’m sure people in the US would be much more familiar with the character in the 80s…

“Tipper Gore helped launch PMRC”

…The memory of which is what many political analysts consider was a not-too-minor source of lost votes for Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential elections. Had Tipper minded her own busines and kept her big fat mouth shut, the number of voters who were not of voting age when the “Tipper Tantrums” were being foisted on musicians on Capitol Hill – where Frank Zappa’s finest hour was shown live on C-Span – would not have been soured against the idea of Tipper being the First Lady, and there wouldn’t have been quite enough chads in Florida to have kept Al Gore from winning.

…The lesson learned was one that candidates have known for the past couple of centuries: the wives should be seen and not heard, especially if they’re dumber than a box of rocks.

I can’t understand people who don’t want sex dwarfs in their comic books. You Silver Agers have no sense of daring. (That was tongue-in-cheek, by the way. Sorta. I really wanted to read Twilight)

“The lesson learned was one that candidates have known for the past couple of centuries: the wives should be seen and not heard, especially if they’re dumber than a box of rocks.”–Jesus. Really? I guess I should thank you for reminding me that disgustingly sexist ignoramuses still exist in America.

For the record, I’ve never heard of the Twilight proposal before.
Thanks for covering it.

I’d also add; in the proposal when Moore talks about present events in the DCU linking up with- and ominously foreshadowing- “possible” future events, it made me think of what DC’s doing now with regards to Kingdom Come and DKR, specifically within the pages of JSA.
They’re fostering that kind of “Will it all come true? Will some of it? Most of it?” fan feedback, long after the completion of the stories themselves.

Also he mentions the possibility of making stories like DKR and Kingdom Come into actual alternate worlds, so as to enjoy the stories but not feel locked in to this paticular outcome of (Batman)’s story. And of course this is now the new status quo for most Elseworld and Elseworld-type stories, including those mentioned.

(Sorry for multiple posts; I’m still reading the proposal now.)

That Lobdell/Gottfried book was an issue or two of “The Adventures of Superboy” (the one based on the syndicated TV series of the late 80s/early 90s).

Thanks Frank! Weird how it was mentioned in a Marvel book, but I guess that’s why they didn’t mention a title. was it anything to do with Mxyzptlk by any chance?

Smallville91505

July 18, 2008 at 10:42 am

I think Bolland’s first American work, at least published, was the cover of Green Lantern #127. The Madame Xanadu story was a holdover from the cancelled Mystery in Space revival, which came after GL in the summer of 1980.

[...] a one-page text feature, “Tarot Reading,” explaining how tarot cards work. … According to Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, Englehart and Rogers morphed unused Madame Xanadu material into their Scorpio Rose series for [...]

reading Moore’s misgivings about rebooting DC continuity in 1987 is really interesting now that they have the new 52. he predicted the future pretty precisely!

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