Tuesday, January 3, 2012


We knew it was going to be a strange decade when the first big news was Superbaby. Thankfully Darwin Jones, who called himself the science detective and was the source for most of what we came to learn, didn’t look into that one too much. Instead, he claimed that the best way to understand our future was to examine the past, where he discovered the existence of the Tomahawk Rangers, who he said was responsible for much of the frontier justice some of the more notorious elements of the 19th century managed to obscure. Still, when pressed, he did look into the absurd claims that came out of Smallville, and interviewed Lana Lang, who he said only pretended ignorance on the subject, but again, he didn’t press the matter. Astra, the so-called “girl of the future,” briefly consumed his attention, but was another subject that quickly became an afterthought, even though she seemed to have quite a bit of valuable information, which he necessarily kept close to the vest.

Jones wasn’t the only magnet of the decade. The mysterious Batman in Gotham City was a continuous source of fascination. A pair of British heroes emerged, calling themselves Knight and Squire, and for all intents and purposes could pass for dead ringers of the Dark Knight and his sidekick Robin, who were themselves busy dealing with Killer Moth. Jones reported, however, on the Knights of the Galaxy, whom he said had been referenced by Astra and held a key to one of the great surprises that lay ahead. It wasn’t, however, Captain Comet, a galactic hero who worked alone. All Jones was willing to admit about what he knew was that he had his own partner in these matters, Johnny Peril, who necessarily handled the most difficult assignments. He did not, however, claim association with Rex the Wonder Dog. When asked about the Phantom Stranger, he admitted even he was ignorant.

In Metropolis, Jones had an extensive interview with Halk Kar, who had claimed to be Superman’s older brother, but the truth was even stranger than fiction, given that his true origins were from an entirely different alien world, but the exact details were matters he believed better kept hidden from the general public, lest anyone learn too much about Superman; the last thing he wanted was to adversely impact the life of the man Halk would still have proudly called family. Someone else associated with Superman also bowed out, the whiz known as Captain Marvel, who could also just as easily have been related to the Man of Steel. Jones didn’t have concrete information on another subject, either, reports of a strange new visitor possibly hailing from Mars, but he vowed to learn more soon. He was on the scene, however, when Superman and Batman shared an adventure, and he reported goosebumps, “as if it were history in the making.” He declined to say whether or not he’d been told about it by Astra.

Another associate of Mr. Jones was Congo Bill, who began making global headlines for his daring escapades. More reports of heroes inspired by Batman, meanwhile, continued to pour in, including the existence of Legionary, Man-of-Bats and Dark Ranger. Rex the Wonder Dog was seen romping across the countryside with Krypto, or maybe it was just a matter of someone’s imagination getting away from them, since even Jones couldn’t confirm whether or not “Superboy’s dog” actually existed, either in the strange Smallville past or our present. There was no denying Ace, the “Bat-hound,” however, because everyone saw those pictures.

Dipping back into history, and cryptically suggesting that he may be speaking of actual familial relations to Superman, Jones helped resurrect the adventures of Brian Kent, the Silent Knight, possibly to deflect any comments on reports that “Superboy” had decided to leave Smallville, but again, with so little confirmation on any of these youthful adventures of Superman, what was he to say? He was far more eager to introduce the world to the Martian Manhunter, who he said would be one of the most powerful superheroes ever. In Gotham, Batwoman appeared, while in Central City, The Flash came in a crimson burst, the first time a hero went by that name since the one who mysteriously vanished years earlier along with seemingly the rest of Keystone City. Perhaps the daredevil Challengers of the Unknown could explain his speed, but Barry Allen, who worked for police forensics, wouldn’t. At least, he was late for his interview with Jones, who grew impatient and left.

He instead turned his attention to a fairly tall tale about Superman’s father, Jor-El, who was supposed to have gone into the heroic business years before his son. Again, however, Jones couldn’t confirm, since of course Jor-El is deceased, along with the rest of Superman’s alien countrymen from the world of Krypton. Captain Cold provided distractions for the Flash and everyone else when he made his chilling debut, at any rate. More unsubstantiated reports had Batman taking a journey into space, where he visited the world of Zur-En-Arrh. Perhaps at a loss for credibility, Jones spoke for the first time about the Legion of Super-Heroes, probably an association he’d heard about from Astra, though he said they’d been spotted in Smallville interacting with “Superboy,” but were actually from a thousand years in the future…Next he tried relating to whoever still wanted to listen the fantastic origin of Wonder Woman, the existence of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, and even the Bottle City of Kandor, which he claimed came from Krypton but had been miniaturized by a villain named Brainiac. It was probably worth a shot. Maybe he could claim that the Space Ranger told him about it.

Batman’s efforts to capture the Calendar Man proved diverting for a while, but then Jones brought up Bizarro, an “imperfect duplicate of Superman.” Maybe he wanted to come off as a lunatic? Adam Strange was more convincing, claiming that he was having adventures on an alien world called Rann, and had the tech to prove it. Sympathy for Jones began to surface when his friend Congo Bill was turned into an ape, and started to refer to himself as Congorilla. The Blackhawks, longtime associates of Jones, meanwhile, helped balance his fortunes by admitting Zinda Blake, the first female to join their high-flying ranks. She was better off in the air than on the ground, where Mr. Freeze menaced Batman and Mirror Master plagued the Flash. Blake probably heard tales of Sgt. Rock and the Easy Company from her fellow Blackhawks, who no doubt coordinated missions with them during WWII. Maybe the Flash could have used them to fend off Gorilla Grodd and the Pied Piper.

Jones was happy to report that the appearance of Supergirl was no hoax, that Superman really had just discovered another survivor of Krypton, who just happened to be his cousin! Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy, however, was reported to be experiencing anxiety, fear that he might be replaced, something his counterpart in Batman’s family, Robin, had successfully avoided., or maybe it was just Robin’s way of coping with Bat-Mite, by denying reality. Who knows? Jones avoided that one, too, but at least had Rip Hunter and the Time Masters to talk about, or even the grim story of Rick Flag, Jess Bright, Hugh Evans, and Karin Grace, the Suicide Squad.

But the time had finally come for him to reveal the greatest secret revealed to him by Astra, after test pilot Hal Jordan finally resurfaced after having gone missing for weeks. He and Jones helped reveal the existence of Green Lantern, who was just part of an intergalactic police corps that would no doubt make not just the universe but our world a safer and more stable place than it had been throughout the strange and unsettling decade. No one ever asked Jones why he’d seemed to so deliberately encourage all that nonsense himself…

Adapted from DC COMICS YEAR BY YEAR: A VISUAL CHRONICLE, based on entries from
SUPERBOY #8, 10, & 68
BATMAN #62, 63, 78, 92, 113, & 121
SUPERMAN #80 & 113
DETECTIVE COMICS #215, 225, 233, 259, & 267
ADVENTURE COMICS #210, 217, 247, & 260
SHOWCASE #4, 6, 8, 15, 17, 20, & 22
ACTION COMICS #241, 242, 248, & 252
THE FLASH #105 & 106

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