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CSBG Archive

Meta-Messages #5

This is the fifth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) explaining the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today we look at an instance of Dan Slott poking a little fun at Infinite Crisis..

SO many readers wrote in asking me to feature this one, I guess I had to!

Okay, so to start, during Infinite Crisis (but not in the pages of the series itself, mind you) it was established that a group of characters from before Crisis had survived but were viewing the DC Universe from their, I dunno, inter-dimensional cave or something like that.

Anyhow, they took issue with some of the things that went on in the DC Universe, basically sort of like “we sacrificed everything for them and they’re screwing it up!”

Well, in Infinite Crisis Secret Files, we learned that one character, Superboy Prime, would punch the walls of their home, and those punches would affect reality itself and twist events, so, for instance, instead of Jason Todd dying, Jason Todd lived.

Well, a few months back, in the pages of the Mighty Avengers, the Absorbing Man absorbed the Cosmic Cube, which has reality-altering powers. So now the Absorbing Man had those powers, and he was using them to alter people’s realities by force.

And then he punched Ms. Marvel (secretly the villianous Moonstone) and split her into her two identities, to which she remarked…

And there you have it.


Funny, I think the Absorbing Man using the Cosmic Cube to alter reality is the stupidest @#$% thing I’ve ever heard of.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

May 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Errr…why, Philip? Isn’t that what the Cosmic Cube does, pretty much?

You didn’t think your knee-jerk smartassery through at all, did you?

To be fair, even Johns has made fun of the Superboy Prime punch at least once and arguably twice. (Definitely in Booster Gold, and arguably the climax of the final fight in Legion of 3 Worlds.)

You must not read a lot of comics then :-)

My comment was directed @ Phillip, of course.

A whole bunch of people have tried to use the Cosmic Cube to alter reality. The Absorbing Man is simply the one with the smallest profile

You know what I haven’t quite figured out? Grant Morrison actually predated the Superboy-punch in DC ONE MILLION #4. Superman-1,000,000 punches his way from 1998 to 85,271. The narrative actually mentions that his punching causes someone in the future to become a superhero a few seconds later than they should have.

The scene was a neat little throwaway. Why did I find the reality punch cool in DC ONE MILLION but stupid in Infinite Crisis?

@ Adam: maybe because it was like you said a throwaway bit. In Infinite Crisis it was the justification for resurrections and retcons.

OK, to be more specifc I think the Absorbing Man ABSORBING the Cosmic Cube to alter realty is the stupidest #@#% thing ever. It doesn’t have to be, but obviously the story wasn’t treated with a lot of weight even though you’d think a villain becoming technically a “god” would be on par with the Infinity Gauntlet in terms of a threat. Hell, in Earth X, Absorbing Man absorbed Ultron and killed the Avengers. But in this throwaway story Slott does nothing, but do the Marvel version of what everyone gets mad at Johns for supposedly doing, write fan fiction.

I think it’s the stupidest thing ever because it’s in an Avengers book published after 2003. Anything in The Avengers from issue 77, through Disassembled, New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, and all this new stuff I’ve lost interest in even trying to keep track of just gets lumped into one big “stupidest thing ever” compartment in my brain. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Marvel Zombie that didn’t like DC growing up who can barely bring myself to read any Marvel stuff anymore, and generally prefers DC. How the hell did they let things get to this point?

“A damaged psyche playing out the conflict of its dual nature…through comic book archetypes. So pathetic, I’d probably laugh at it…if the two of them weren’t strong enough to destroy all life on Earth!”

That sounds like a meta-message all by itself. Perhaps one from a comic book writer who secretly wants to say “I am embarrassed and deeply conflicted about my attachment to superhero comics, so if I keep having my characters exclaim how ludicrous and risible the things in superhero comics are, maybe that’ll take the curse off.”

I hate how suddenly the Absorbing Man has a new personality here. I hate it when new writers don’t grasp a character’s long-standing personality and so they make up their own. Bendis does this a lot. I don’t recognize the recent versions of Tony Stark, Thor, Steve Rogers, etc., because they have new personalities every time a new writer comes along.

And the “Superboy punch” was the stupidest thing to happen in comics. What could be crappier?

Zor-El of Argo

May 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm

The Superboy Punch was not the stupidest @#$% thing ever. It justified the stupidest @#$% thing ever: The resurrection of Jason Todd!

I dunno, Watcher, I thought Absorbing Man was in character … what did you find different from past portrayals?

As for Brian Bendis, I don’t find he gives anyone a new personality so much as he gives everyone the same voice. Apples and oranges and all that I guess.

I’ve seen Superboy Punch referred to a lot on this site, but I never knew exactly what it meant.

So the Absorbing Man was in Mighty Avengers just a few months ago? He was in a Spider-Man story a few weeks ago, and in the most recent X-Factor I’ve read. He’s been busy lately. Did any of these writers talk to eah other? That’s something that bothers me a lot– when a character appears in a several stories at the same time and they don’t fit together. (I didn’t see any obvious contradictions in the two stories I read, though, so it may not be a problem in this case. I just get nervous when I see characters appearing everywhere at once, though, because it so often causes problems. I have been wondering when Titania returned to normal size, as she was in X-Factor. Last I saw her, in She-Hulk (by the same author), she was teeny-tiny.)

I can only imagine the conversation that lead to the Superboy Punch.
“We need Superboy to change reality. What powers does he have?”
“Um, he’s good at punching stuff.”
“OK … he’ll punch reality different. Problem solved, what’s for lunch.”

Titania was shrunk down in She-Hulk because she was in prison. Obviously, she was either released or escaped. (I’d bet on released sometime during Osborn’s tenure.)

Titania had already escaped when she was in She-Hulk, but she was still tiny. She was not captured at the end of the story, she was eaten by a shark. But I assume she could punch her way out easily enough, presuming she could hold her breath long enough. And the Absorbing Man got absorbed into water, but he’s suffered that fate before and managed to come back, so that didn’t concern me.


Is Superboy’s reality punch the stupidest thing ever in comics? Maybe we need a top 64 tournament for the stupidest things to ever have occurred in any comic continuum.

There has to be some list for that; Spidey clone and Superman Red/Blue jump out as pretty stupid, but that’s barreling down the obvious. Hmm…there’s the rainbow corps (only because the premise is flawed; death, life, willpower, hope, and greed, generally speaking, aren’t emotions). Then there was Wolverine wearing an eye patch and pretending not to be Wolverine for a while, the X-Men killing Magneto (presumably) and then in the next panel going out for a beer, and Oliver Queen deciding to blow himself up completely instead of letting Superman save him (yeah, he would have been maimed, but the friggin’ JLA can build a moonbase, they can build an arm).

That’s just off the top of my head. I might have to work on a list…

Travis Pelkie

May 30, 2010 at 11:37 pm

You know, I heard that the Superboy punch created the Sentry.

But that was, like 2 weeks ago, when I made it up over on Random Thoughts.

But wow, reality punch is a 5 year old joke now, huh? I expect better from Slott. He wrote Ren and Stimpy issues, dammit!

Let’s see, stupidest comics things… surprisingly, I can’t think of any right off, but don’t let that stop me. The Superboy Punch comes to mind more for what it “rationalized”, like Jason Todd’s resurrection, or (apparently) Wonder Woman being in the JLA from the start, which led to that issue of Brave and the Bold that Burgas didn’t like. Identity Crisis was pretty stupid, and this Rogue and the Sentry thing sounds dumb. Killing off Ryan Choi for no good reason. Norman Osborn in charge of (was it US security, essentially?), even though it seemed like people knew he had been the Green Goblin. Capwolf.

50 years from now, will comics readers look at the comics out today with the same sort of “kitschy” fondness that a lot of us have for the Silver Age?

There have been so many stupid ideas, it’s hard to choose. There was an old Marvel Team-Up, which I haven’t read, that had Manhatten getting moved and Hercules towing it back into place. I don’t know what was supposed to have happened with all the water and sewer lines, or the electric and telephone cables, or the subway tunnels.
Norman Osborn coming back is a big one, but I know a lot of people will disagree.
Alicia Masters turning into a giant spider. That was just sickening.
Alicia Masters being revealed to have been a Skrull for the previous 100 issues. That was even worse.
Peter Parker’s parents returning. Even though they were fake, it was simply nauseating.

Why did I find the reality punch cool in DC ONE MILLION but stupid in Infinite Crisis?

Ha ha, I think the words “Grant Morrison” might have something to do with it…

Hmm…there’s the rainbow corps (only because the premise is flawed; death, life, willpower, hope, and greed, generally speaking, aren’t emotions).

Death, life and willpower aren’t emotions, but I’d argue that greed and hope are. Greed, for example, is an offshoot of desire.

I think willpower, though not an emotion, deserves its place on the spectrum. If rage and love are the extremes, then willpower is the neutral center. It’s also the tool that allows all power rings, regardless of their place on the spectrum, to function. I suppose it’s Geoff Johns’ way of saying that it’s one thing to feel something, but it’s another to act on those feelings. Which is where willpower comes in.

Johns isn’t saying that death and life are emotions, by the way. Death, according to Johns, is the ABSENCE of emotion. Life, on the other hand, signifies the presence of emotion. “To live is to feel.”

Actually, I actually considered it along with Kirk Warren of The Weekly Crisis that a more aptly named for Superboy Prime Punch would be, “RETCON PUNCH!!!!!!!” ala Super Smash Brothers Captain Falcon. To be totally honest though, I thought everyone thought about this the same way.

So yeah for me, the moonstone joke falls short as the real comedy comes in thinking in comics “RET-CON PUNCH” in all the fancy splashes fist to face pages.

Travis Pelkie

May 31, 2010 at 1:32 am

@Gokitalo: That explanation of the “Rainbow Corps” was succinct and made me think more highly of the concept. Nicely done. “Death is the absence of emotion” seems to tie into Morrison’s Final Crisis/Anti-Life Equation ideas as well.

If you read the Batman: Hush Returns collection, you’ll discover that there are 5 distinct human emotions, and the fifth one is revenge. I guess, as Gokitalo says about greed, that revenge is an offshoot of desire, but it was a jarring contention. Of course, that wasn’t exactly a good storyline. Heart of Hush by Dini, though, turned out fairly well.

Thanks, Travis! Yeah, revenge is an odd one. It does stem from desire (and usually anger), but I think it’s really more of an action. Although Hush’s comment doesn’t surprise me, seeing how his whole life has revolved around revenge…

Lord Paradise

May 31, 2010 at 6:26 am

It baffles me that there are people who don’t like Dan Slott. He’s so… wholesome.

Dan Slott always seemed to me to be the embodiment of every comic fan on the Internet who thought he could do it better, assuming that that fan is right. He does it better.

Let’s see… early in Thor’s original run, the Absorbing Man tried to absorb the power *of the Earth* but it was TOO MUCH for him and it turned him into gas. So here he’s absorbing the power of a Galactus-level cosmic being (which is what the Cube is) with no problem? He even mentions he can’t absorb even Sentry’s power! Ah well, it’s comics, anything can be explained off.

As for stupid @#$% , here’s the worst one (related to the Absorbing Man) that I’ve ever read: the time he was tricked into turning into COCAINE, and was then SOLD and USED by drug addicts across New York who turned into “absorbing people” themselves before Creel reformed… in the sewers, which I think means he had to wait until they all CRAPPED HIM OUT. Seriously, it was in a Spider-Man story. Same one that made fun of Superman with a hero who *thought* he could hide his identity just using glasses. Talk about take-thats.

As for the “Hercules dragging Manhattan” story, that has been specifically retconned as being just something Hercules made up to impress some kids.

Superman is unimpressed with Herc’s Manhattan-dragging. Dragging a planet, now THAT’s a workout.

I haven’t read this story, but maybe Crusher Creel was able to absorb the Cube’s power because he asked the Cube to left him do that.

@Gokitalo: I guess the rainbow corps boils down to how you perceive what emotion is. I don’t see greed as a pure emotion but rather a character/personality trait (for example, there are plenty of people who view the accumulation of money, goods, etc. as important in their lives [think of the “greedy Wall Street” type], but that’s more of the nature of the person than any singular emotion guiding them; for example, I want to make a lot of money, but I don’t feel an emotion there to do so; there’s no change in state of mind, which is what an emotion would indicate). The same view for me extends to hope; for example, I hope I have a job tomorrow, but there’s no real emotional push there at all. I hope for world peace, but I don’t feel anything in doing so. It seems to me that if someone is hopeful, that’s great, but there’s no real emotional state there (though I do appreciate that they acknowledged that hope and willpower need to work together; it still doesn’t make it an emotion in my mind).

However, if you want to argue that greed is an offshoot of desire, as an extreme, we get into the other flaw I have: the storyline doesn’t account for all emotions even though it claims that there are seven broad parts of the emotional spectrum. Sadness/melancholy, for example, doesn’t fit anywhere here (“compassion” would probably be close, if you stretched it, but it doesn’t fit neatly at all). Happiness as “genuine joy” and not “love euphoria”, stress (in some cases as an outcome of fear, you could have stress, but then there’s stress that arises from, say having too much work to do or from technology, which are wholly different states having nothing to do with fear), depression, etc. are all missing, but there’s no denying they exist as emotions.

If you wanted to do a story with multi-colored rings, and the black rings can raise the dead and the white rings restore life as part of their powers, I don’t have a problem with it per se, but the trying to make it larger than it is by giving a reason for why every color needs to exist or what it needs to power the ring is just really hit or miss for me (especially since Guy Gardner and Sinestro worked a yellow ring on willpower alone for years prior to this and Star Sapphires seemed to shoot lasers just fine prior to here). Different strokes for different folks and all that…

Oh, and the JLA stopping the White Martians the second time by sending the moon on a collision course with the Earth: stupid.

Even though it didn’t hit, the devastation from the gravity pulls and everything else would have wreaked total havoc on the planet.

Dear Omar,
I would like to say that as a long time reader and lurker on this forum who has no stake in the comments of Philip or any other poster, you and you alone are known to me as a muddier of CSBG waters as demonstrated by comment #2. I find the whole of your postings to be of the confrontational, self-serving, long-winded, pompous, pedantic vein, consistently adding minimal insight to the topic at hand, and immediately turning the tone of the comments section from enjoyable engaging discussion to obnoxious adolescent one-upmanship. It is a credit to the CSBG posting community that the majority of posters do not take the bait and pffer mature well thought out responses to your pejoratives . Kindly reevaluate your commentary approach to enrich the overall discussion experience Thank you for your time.

They had all the magicians counteracting the gravitational effects of that one, Smokescreen.

Louis Bright-Raven

May 31, 2010 at 5:07 pm

“But wow, reality punch is a 5 year old joke now, huh? I expect better from Slott. He wrote Ren and Stimpy issues, dammit!”

Uhm, isn’t that damning enough evidence to demonstrate he CAN’T do better? ;-)

“As for stupid @#$% , here’s the worst one (related to the Absorbing Man) that I’ve ever read: the time he was tricked into turning into COCAINE, and was then SOLD and USED by drug addicts across New York who turned into “absorbing people” themselves before Creel reformed… in the sewers, which I think means he had to wait until they all CRAPPED HIM OUT.”

I love that story. I mean, I haven’t read it; maybe it’s terrible. But the plot?


Dear Philip,
We all know that’s you.

Mr. Slott, you really like to kick some dead canines, don’t you?

(Not that I don’t agree with you. It WAS the stupidest @#$% thing I’ve ever heard of.)

Perhaps when we move out of May’s “Best of” voting, we could move into June and do voting on the worst ideas in comics. It could be along the lines of “Worst Retcon Explanation” (reality punch would be an example) to “Worst Personality Change” (some of the hero-to-villain-to-hero transitions that make no sense) to “Worst Crossover Event.” I think this forum with its intelligent and informed readership could make some interesting arguments for a lot of “Worst of”s.

Not me, but I think it’s pretty cool that person had my back.

“They had all the magicians counteracting the gravitational effects of that one, Smokescreen.”

Ah, I’d forgotten about that. Thanks for the refresh. Still, the plan was to throw the moon at the Earth to burn the Martians up. And they got the moon and the Earth close enough together to have an atmosphere on the moon.

And the Earth apparently was fine five minutes later.

The kicker is that the JLA had made it so that fire was a viable weapon again on Earth and they had forever to plan it out since the martians had no clue (at that point) they were out of the zone.

I really enjoyed Waid’s JLA run (save the Faerie Queen story), but that one threw my suspension of disbelief off too far into “that was the best they could come up with? Why would they even consider that?” and it never really worked as an ending to an overall solid story otherwise.

I’m not sure Slott should be quite so snotty about someone else’s ret-con story when his features The Sentry.

I mean, it’s kinda funny and all, but people working in glass houses shouldn’t throw stone.

Travis Pelkie

June 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm

@Louis Bright-Raven: I’m sorry, but those early Ren and Stimpy issues rock. “I am the punt pole on the gondola of life!” (issue 2, a Frankenstein riff). I love those issues, and I loved them reading them again in the last year. So, yes, Slott can do better (She-Hulk with Ty the Guy Templeton, too).

I loved that moment in Mighty Avengers.

But, Absorbing Man’s punch didn’t “split [Karla] into her two identities”, it just changed her back to her Moonstone appearance.

reading all your posts is the stupidest stuff ever

The use of the Absorbing Man here does seem a little busted, but maybe I just need to know about the Cosmic Cube.

The Absorbing Man absorbs properties of the object he touches. If he touches a tree he gets the properties of wood. If he touches a fishtank he absorbs the properties of glass. When he touched the Cosmic Cube, he should have absorbed the properties of whatever the surface of it is made of. Likewise, when he touched Ultron in Earth X, he shouldn’t become some version of Ultron, he should have just absorbed the properties of adamantium.

The Superboy Prime Reality Punch doesn’t bother me a bit. There’s a crystalline wall in “Limbo” through which Alex Luthor and Superboy Prime can observe the universe they left behind. Because it resonates with reality SP’s punches can cause “ripples”and changes in said reality. I’ve read better but I’m pretty sure I’ve read worse.

The aforementioned Hercules pulling Manhattan with a chain comes to mind.

The Human Torch creating a vortex that sucks Sub-Mariner and the corpse of his “pet” Giganto out of NY and back into the Atlantic is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read.

Mephisto undoing spider-Man’s marriage? “it’s Magic!”

Marvel Zombies eating the Silver Surfer and Galactus? Really?!? I know it’s supposed to be a lark but c’mon…

Superboy’s “reality punch” is quite possibly the most moronic idea in mainstream comics in the last 20 years. The idea of the Absorbing Man stealing the power of the Cosmic Cube, on the other hand, not only fits into both his well-documented powerset but also the well-documented powers of the Cube.

Did Creel use it like Thanos did? To achieve Godhead? Or was the Absorbing Man too much of a flunky to think that far ahead?

Yeah, I have to agree that there are worse things than the retcon punch and resurrection of Jason Todd….and they are all called Brand New Day.

“Okay, so to start, during Infinite Crisis (but not in the pages of the series itself, mind you) it was established that a group of characters from before Crisis had survived but were viewing the DC Universe from their, I dunno, inter-dimensional cave or something like that.”

To be fair, the concept was created at the end of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths – if you want to see it’s “creation”, check COIE #12. Using the pocket dimension, DC didn’t have to KILL the first Superman and Lois Lane, the First Couple of DC Comics. Now, why Alexander Luther and Superboy from Earth Prime had to be in there too… I dunno. I suppose Alex was there because he had dimensional powers and was the deus ex machina required to put them there.

Prime – if he were left out, we might have been spared some of the worst of Infinite Crisis.

The Superboy reality punch is bad, of that there is no doubt. However, there are other things that are just as bad or worse that seemingly get a pass. All of Final Crisis is retarded! From the concept to the follow thru. DC even had to throw in Obama Superman to try and look hip. Hell if Superboy could reality punch that crap away I’d be all for it. All of Bendis’ characterizations are bad. Most of his heroes come off more like a-holes than anything else. Norman Osborn being made head of Metahumans in Marvel is insanely stupid. Heres a guy tat the month before was in the Thunderbolts having to take medication to maintain his sanity. I mean really, you just had trouble because no one was overseeing Stark so you put an insane supervillian in charge. Anything to do with the Sentry. The fact that no one acknowledges that Marvel ripped off the idea from DC (Triumph being a forgotten member of the JLA. in fact the one who got them together). Triumph predates Sentry by several years.

I can’t believe it took that many posts to bring up Mephisto undoing Spider-Man’s marriage. I’m guess I’m impressed the Internet has forgiven that so quickly.

In regards to ‘Mephisto (or Dr. Strange, Reed Richards) undoing Spider-man’s Marriage’ most of us older readers never forgave that. It was a bad idea to begin with, just offering fans big story introductions that don’t go anywhere. The Other isnt’s a Spider-man story and is totally bizarre. That stuff that comes out of that is just set up for Civil War, which itself has no ending. Plus you get the biggest thing of all and they had no idea what to do with a story about everyone knowing who Spider-man really is. They never intended one doing and I think it ruined the character and the credibility of the book. Any press it got that would of gotten new readers was completely wasted as there was no specific story about that Unmasking and sales dropped. They changed Spider-man everyone month or two about that time. Oh yeah, then the Mephisto thing.

I don’t even think an apology would help now. It was obviously bad from inception.

In DC’s defence, having not read that issue but having read other recent DC stuff, I can see why they are doing so well.

Well DC and stupid go hand in hand.

I gotta say, I wish Sentry had stayed like this. Silver Age style Sentry is awesome and fun as heck, and Void? He just looks straight up SLICK in that outfit.

Mychael Darklighter

July 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm

reality punch rules.
eh, haterz gon’ hate.

Wolverine beating the Hulk. How did that EVER sound like a good idea?

After what he’s done with Spider-Man during his run, Slott doesn’t have the right make fun or anything or anyone.

Why are people getting so bent out of shape about this? I read it as a nod and a wink towards DC, and even Marvel for the Sentry. Funny, tee-hee, and that’s it.

So Creel can absorb the properties of a Cosmic Cube, but not the Sentry?

Power level comparison check, anyone?

As stated earlier the absorbing man powers were always to absorb objects. A cosmic cube is an object. The sentry is not. I dont think the absorbing man not being able to absorb sentry was a power issue… I think that it was a complexity issue being that hes a living human (with the power of a million exploding suns) and the cube is an object that is created for the purpose to allow the user to do whatever they wanted… In this example for instance Creel used the power of the cosmic cube to absorb the cosmic cube. It works for me idk…

A reality punch though… His powerset was superstrength! Why can he punch reality? And isnt he supposed to be part of reality so wouldnt this be like punching himself?

I think it would of been funny if Superboy Primes punch retconned every crisis crossover event and hisself out of existence. That would of been cool. Lol

I seem to recall that the first time that the Absorbing Man fought the Incredible Hulk, he absorbed the Hulk’s powers by touching him. And then as he was about to drop a mountain top on the unconscious Hulk, the Hulk reverted back to Bruce Banner and since the Absorbing Man was touching him, he became human again.

So there’s precedent for the Absorbing Man being able to absorb the powers of living beings by touching them.

Also aren’t Cosmic Cubes sort of like eggs or embryos for advanced cosmic beings like Kubik, the Shaper of Worlds and Cosmos (a.k.a. the Beyonder)? In which case it may not be as clear of a distinction between an object and a living being (which the Absorbing Man has been able to absorb the power of in the past).

I’ve always thought that the biggest problem with the GL spectrum concept was calling it emotion. I’ve always thought that a more accurate description (albeit still imperfect) would be aspects of human motivation (again, this is a description and NOT what they should be called).

Even willpower can loosely be tagged with determination. All the aspects are triggers for some kind of action (physical or otherwise). Hope, and along the same lines faith, can drive a person against odds and logic. Fear, Anger, Love, Greed (and by association, desire and hunger) are primal motivators. Determination (willpower) is a manifestation of exerting one’s own direction on one’s personal reality. Compassion motivates one to act in the interest of others. Death of course is the end of all action and motivation. Life is the ability to exist and act.

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