5BC: Five Times DC Self-Mythologized

While as we’ve seen, Marvel was relatively quick to begin to self-mythologize its creative staff and editorial Bullpen, rival publisher DC (then known as National Periodical Publications in an attempt to disguise the fact that they published evil comic books in the aftermath of the senate hearings) wasn’t as quick to follow suit. Even creator credits on DC strips didn’t become the norm until the late 1960s, and even then they were never quite as complete as the equivalent Marvel credits. Every once in a while, a creator or an editor might make a cameo appearance, but that was about it. But slowly and surely, things began to change. So here are five times DC self-mytholgized.

FLASH #179 – The first real instance of this over at DC, and the first FLASH story sold by writer Cary Bates, who would later go on to write the series for over a decade. The young Bates reasoned that if the Justice League live on Earth-1, and the older Justice Society live on Earth-2, and that creators on Earth-1 saw their lives in dreams and made comic books about them on Earth-1, it stood to reason that there must be an “Earth-Prime” in which we all lived. And so, in the course of an otherwise mundane adventure against an alien creature, the Flash finds himself knocked into another universe–our universe. A world in which his every thought is laid bare on the pages of the FLASH comic book. In order to get back home, the Scarlet Speedster needs to build a duplicate of his cosmic treadmill. And the only person he can turn to who might believe his crazy story is the editor of FLASH, Julie Schwartz. Flash is ultimately able to convince his editor, and Schwartz gets him all the parts that he needs–god only knows how he afforded this on an Editor’s salary, to say nothing of where one shops for elements of a dimensional treadmill. But don’t think about it too much, it’s all in good fun.

FLASH #228 – Not content with having made editor Schwartz into a comic book character, after he became the regular writer of FLASH, Cary Bates went ahead and did the same for himself. In this story, Cary is plotting a new Flash adventure while driving to his class reunion in Athens, Ohio, and his concentration is so powerful that it actually opens up a wormhole between Earth-Prime and Earth-1 through which the writer passes. He finds himself in Central City, home of the hero that he writes, and witnesses the events he just got done imagining come to pass. Cary feels responsible for what has happened and goes to Barry Allen’s home to offer his assistance, accosting his subject in order to get him to believe his tale. Thereafter, Cary uses his “plotting power” to compel the Trickster to commit a particular crime, one which positions him perfectly for the Flash to capture him. And then, his job finished, Bates drives away back through the wormhole and back to real life.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #124 – Leave it to writer Bob Haney to dream up the craziest version of this concept. The first seven pages of this story are just a regular Batman adventure in which he teams up with Sergeant Rock in the present day to combat some terrorists. But things take a decidedly odd turn on Page 8, as we pull back to see artist Jim Aparo drawing the story in question. Nothing too strange so far–until the selfsame terrorists burst into Aparo’s studio and attempt to force him to draw Rock shooting and killing Batman, reasoning that this will cause it to actually happen. The intrepid artist is able to slip away from the terrorists, though, and what ensues is a long game of cat-and-mouse where Aparo continues to elude his pursuers long enough for him to complete the story of Batman and Rock taking them down. There’s no quasi-explanation for any of this, not Earth-Prime rationalization or anything. Somehow the boundaries between fact and fiction have been breached for just this one adventure. It’s an amazing thing to read, honestly, and Aparo does his typical great job in illustrating it. But it does make one wonder what Haney and editor Murray Boltinoff were thinking.

SUPERMAN ANNUAL #9 – And then there were stories like this one, affectionate tributes to long-storied creators. In “I Flew With Superman”, the Man of Steel’s longtime artist Curt Swan falls asleep at the drawing board and awakens to find himself in Metropolis. Upon realizing his location, Swan wastes no time in making his way to Clark Kent’s apartment at 344 Clinton Street, which he’d drawn so many times before, and introducing himself to the Man of Tomorrow as his artist from Earth-Prime. By this point, Superman had met Julie Schwartz as well, as so Swan’s story doesn’t throw him for an instance. He takes the artist on a flight with him, let’s him watch as he stops a mugging in progress, and promises to get him home. But then Swan wakes up at his drawing board–but he’s still got the souvenir bullets that Superman gave him that had bounced off of the Kryptonian’s bulletproof chest. The whole adventure is designed to shine a bit of a spotlight on the underappreciated Swan, and was worked out by Elloit S! Maggin and Schwartz himself. Swan even inked this story himself, a rarity in his career.

SUPERMAN #411 – Schwartz himself was the subject of a similar tribute story, this one created and produced behind his back in honor of his 70th birthday. (Much to Schwartz’s horror, the story interrupted a three-part adventure in which Superman battled Luthor.) At this point, everybody involved knew that CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS was going to wind up eliminating the DC Multiverse (at least for the time being) and so this was labeled “The Last Earth-Prime Story.” In it, we meet the Earth-1`Julie Schwartz, who has been homeless and destitute for years. He’s a contemporary of Perry White’s, who like his Earth-prime counterpart worked as a science fiction literary agent for the likes of Ray Bradbury before moving into comic books. Sadly for the Earth-1 Schwartz, every time he’d come out with a character, a real-world version would show up, putting him out of work. The suicidal Schwartz is captured by a villain who wants to tap into his imagination, but Superman saves him–and Schwartz askes the Man of Steel to take him to Earth-Prime. There, he merges with the Prime Julie, who is celebrating his own 70th birthday. Schwartz has a somewhat more contentious history in real life, and a track record of bad behavior, but this is nonetheless a lovely little story about a seminal figure in the history of comics.

2 thoughts on “5BC: Five Times DC Self-Mythologized

  1. Despite of (or perhaps because of) its awfulness, I remember the return of the Earth-Prime Cosmic Treadmill in Justice League of America #123 (1975). Cary Bates uses it and somehow sends himself to Earth-Two, gaining incredible reality-warping powers (because he writes this story, you see). But he also falls under the thrall of the Injustice Society, and tricks the JLA into killing the JSA. Co-writer Elliot Maggin, having used the EPCT himself, defeats Bates by mocking him, the Spectre secretly gets Jehovah to grant the dead JSA members a mulligan, and everyone gangs up on the Injustice Society. Maggin and No-Longer-Evil Bates are allowed to return home, where they strive to come up with an explanation for the JSA’s resurrection while editor Julie Schwartz just wants to “slurp my bean soup in peace!”

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