The Bottle City Travel Guide: 853rd Century Metropolis
DC's Convergence crossover is built around pitting cities pulled from different eras against each other in an ultimate battle to determine which continuity reigns supreme, and as you may already know just from reading that sentence, that can get a little confusing. With all the Gothams and Metropolises (Metropoli?) throwing their heroes against each other, we thought it might be useful to offer our readers a handy guide to telling Pre-Flashpoint from Post-Crisis with a series of Bottle City Travel Guides!
Today, we're heading to the distant future of 1998 for a look at the world that gave DC its greatest crossover event ever: DC One Million's 853rd Century!
853rd Century Metropolis
Major Players: This version of Metropolis comes from the extremely distant future of the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe. Specifically, it's the year 85,371 AD --- exactly one million months after the release of Action Comics #1 in 1938 --- when humanity has colonized the entire solar system, and each planet is protected by a member of Justice Legion A.
The original crossover was a line-wide event that took place in every DC Universe title, so there's plenty of characters beyond the Justice Legion --- there's an entire planet of Green Arrows, for instance, and an Atom who, instead of shrinking, can divide himself into progressively smaller microscopic people linked by a hive mind --- but the crossover seems to focus on the JLA itself. Here's who's on the roster:
- Superman - Kal Kent, a distant descendant of the original Superman, who possesses both the familiar Kryptonian physical abilities as well as a host of new powers inherited from when an ancestor of his married a princess from the 5th Dimension. All this combines to give him the ability to do stuff like literally punch through the time barrier, one of the many reasons that DC One Million is amazing. In addition to serving as the leader of Justice Legion A, he's also a member of the Superman Squad, a cross-time team composed of Supermen from different eras that appears in All Star Superman.
- Batman - Protector of Pluto, a prison planet (or planetoid, I guess) that houses the solar system's most dangerous criminals. The son of guards who were killed in a planet-wide prison riot, he took the identity of Batman and dismissed everyone else, becoming the sole warden along with a robotic Robin, the Toy Wonder. Human, but with training in martial arts, criminology, and the limited telepathy that all humans are going to have in 80,000 years.
- Wonder Woman - A marble statue animated by the Goddess of Truth. Protects Venus, home of the Amazons, with a pair of semi-sentient bracelets named Harmony and Charity, which have the ability to project transparent weapons and armor. While it's never stated, it's safe to assume that the Goddess of Truth is Diana, the 20th-century Wonder Woman, who has ascended to godhood permanently, after a temporary stint in the late '90s.
- Aquaman - A distant descendant of the 20th-century Aquaman. Protects Neptune, because the Amazons relocating to Venus and Pluto being a prison could not possibly stand as the most egregious planetary puns of the future. Carries a giant anchor to beat people with, like a Guilty Gear character, and has the ability to control water, to the point of being able to form it from loose hydrogen and oxygen molecules in the air.
- Flash - John Fox, the only member of the Justice Legion who wasn't specifically created for DC One Million. Instead, he's a time traveler from the 27th century who met Wally West while West was exploring the timestream and decided to give it a shot himself. Wound up in the 853rd century and ended up joining the Justice Legion, which is no mean feat when you consider that he's from eighty-two thousand years in their past, which would be like just letting a straight up caveman join the Justice League if he could run really fast. Incidentally, I have a pitch for a story where a caveman with super-speed joins the Justice League, if anyone's interested.
- Hourman - A sentient machine colony created by Tyler Chemorobotics, the far future version of the chemical company founded by Rex Tyler, the Golden Age Hourman. Possesses the Worlogog, an artifact of the New Gods that allows for the control of time itself. After the events of DC One Million, in which he's used as a Trojan horse to infect 1998 with a techno-organic virus, he stays in the 20th Century with Snapper Carr and his amazing collection of t-shirts. He's still a reserve member, though, but his control over time --- which he limits after the events of One Million to avoid the temptation of screwing up the timestream --- is likely why he's not included in the roster seen in Convergence, since time-travelers like Per Degaton and Chronos are bottled elsewhere.
- Starman - Farris Knight, last descendant of the Knight family and, with it, the Starman legacy, which has left him resentful of his role as a hero. Wields the Qarvat, an incredibly powerful "gravity rod" that can channel and manipulate cosmic forces. Spoiler warning for a comic that came out 17 years ago, but he dies at the end of DC One Million, and his absence here, and Hourman's, indicates that this story takes place after the events of the crossover, as does the presence of...
- Owlwoman - Starman's replacement, who makes brief appearances in the DC One Million 80-Page Giant. She's visually inspired by equal parts Nite-Owl from Watchmen, Owlman from the Crime Syndicate, and Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Has wings made up of photon-processor "feathers" that allow her to fly at light speed. Half human and half Qwardian, which explains a) why she's a legacy character from the Crime Syndicate, since the pre-Flashpoint universe placed their evil Earth in the Anti-Matter universe of Qward, and b) why the Justice Leagion gets pit against the Crime Syndicate in Convergence.
Also, while he's not a member of the Justice Legion proper, it's entirely possible that we might be seeing this guy:
- Superman Prime - The original Superman, Clark Kent, who has been living in a Fortress of Solitude in the sun for the past 83,000 years.
Major Attractions: When visiting the scenic 853rd Century, make sure to stop by Solaris the Tyrant Sun, the occasionally reformed sentient robotic star that handles all information processing for the system-wide Internet:
Just watch out for its occasional fits of genocidal rage. You're gonna get that with your Tyrant Suns, you know?
Major Storylines: The obvious touchstone here is, of course, DC One Million. The thing is, that story's a thoroughly bizarre combination of extremely tight focus and absolutely sprawling. In addition to the four issues that made up the core story --- which focus on the Justice Legion A team stranded in the 20th Century, and the Hourman virus and the cross-time revenge plot from the immortal Vandal Savage --- it ran through just about every single superhero comic DC published that month, which means there were 34 issues plus the main series plus an eighty-page giant, all published in a single November. That leaves us with a whole lot to get through.
There are some definite highlights to check out, though: JLA #1,000,000 features the Justice Leaguers left in the present (Huntress, Steel, Plastic Man and Zauriel) battling against their future counterparts who have been affected by the rage-inducing Hourman virus, Flash #1,000,000 has Wally West racing against himself by skipping backwards through time, and Hitman #1,000,000 is a pretty hilarious epilogue from the series about a bunch of kids who try to bring Gotham City's greatest hero to the future and end up with a guy who kills people for money.
Starman #1,000,000 is arguably the best piece of the entire crossover, especially if you're reading it in the context of Starman as a run, which you should. There's also a great follow-up that runs a few years later in Tom Peyer and Rags Morales's highly underrated Hourman called, appropriately enough, "Hourman One Million."
Also, that a bit very early on where Kal Kent mentions a team-up with the Superman Squad where they fight the Chronovore, and the idea of Superman emerging from the sun after centuries? That stuff all appears in All Star Superman, which would be published seven years later. Solaris is in there, too.
Why It Ended: The idea of the 853rd Century as the official far-distant future of the DC Universe actually stuck around for a pretty long time, even if it was very rarely referenced or acknowledged. That, I think, is one of the benefits and drawbacks of setting a story that far into the future. If the Legion of Super-Heroes is isolated by ten centuries, imagine what 830 of 'em will do.
That said, there were a few bits and pieces of the universe that were specifically tied to the DCU of 1998 that are no longer in place --- Kyle Rayner's Green Lantern ring being the last one in existence was a pretty big plot point, and the current DC Universe doesn't have the same kind of legacy that would produce Starman and Hourman. While there are still occasional acknowledgements, I believe that the most recent mention of the 853rd Century or the Superman Squad came in the last issue of Action Comics before the New 52. Could be that their time is up 83,356 years early.