‘Flashpoint': Who’s Who In the New DC Universe
Last week, DC kicked off their latest summer event with the release of Flashpoint #1, taking readers on a whirlwind trip through an alternate version of the DC Universe, complete with its own cast of strange new versions of classic DC Characters.
After all, half the fun of an alternate universe story is checking out the new twists on familiar faces, but with the series' premise that most of the familiar Justice League is out of commission in some form or another, the spotlight's been thrown on a few less well-known characters. So if you've been wondering just who these guys are and how they differ from their regular DCU counterparts, don't worry! As always, ComicsAlliance is here to help with a rundown of Who's Who In the Flashpoint Universe! Just beware, there are plenty of spoilers to follow!Starting from the left in the picture above, we've got an interesting take on a long-time hero: Flashpoint's version of Captain Marvel, better known by his magic word, SHAZAM!
The most obvious difference here is that rather than being contained in one person, Billy Batson, the power of Shazam has been divided seven ways, and now resides in six kids and a tiger -- with a nod to Hoppy the Marvel Bunny thrown in for good measure. Each one seems to contain one of the aspects of Captain Marvel's power from the acronym that makes up his magic word, combining their powers like Jack Kirby's Infinity-Man -- or, for more mainstream pop-culture minded readers, Captain Planet.
As for the kids themselves, Billy's there in the center (possessed, apparently, of the Courage of Achilles), along with his sister Mary and, on the right, Freddy Freeman, known in the DCU at large as Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr., respectively. The tiger is, of course, a reference to Tawky Tawny -- Captain Marvel's sidekick and the bowtie-wearing prototype for Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen -- but the other three kids, Pedro, Eugene and Darla, seem to be new. They reference a difference in Captain Marvel's origin story, in that they were all aboard the subway train that originally took Billy to meet the wizard Shazam for the first time:
Of course, true to Flashpoint's darker nature, Freddy mentions the train being "hijacked," which raises the question of just what a tiger was doing on a subway car to begin with.
Once the kids say the magic word, though, another interesting difference is revealed. In addition to a new logo that looks more like the Flash's lightning bolt than his own and the transformation of the cringing Tawny into an armored up analogue for He-Man's Battle Cat, Captain Marvel has a new name: Captain Thunder, a reference to one of DC's greatest fakeouts of all time
Billed as "The Story You Thought We'd Never Dare Print," Superman #276 by Elliot S! Maggin and Curt Swan featured a battle between Superman and Captain Thunder, the alter ego of young Willie Fawecett, who shouted "THUNDER!" and rubbed his belt buckle to transform with a resounding -- no joke -- "Sha-Boom." Despite the promise of the cover and the fact that DC was publishing Shazam comics at the time, he wasn't the genuine article, but was revealed to be yet another dimension's version of Captain Marvel at the end of the story.
Additionally, "Captain Thunder" was also the name of a version of the character pitched by Roy Thomas, Don Newton and Jerry Ordway (who went on to do the Power of Shazam! series) that would've seen an African-American kid become Captain Marvel's "official" DC Universe counterpart.
A pretty fitting name for an alternate universe version like the one from Flashpoint.
Next up is Flashpoint's Green Lantern of Sector 2814, ABIN SUR.
If he's not a familiar face already, then I imagine he certainly will be when the Green Lantern movie hits theaters this summer. Suffice to say that the semi-cryptic promo that told us "his spaceship never crashed" referred to Abin Sur, Hal Jordan's predecessor. Without the crash that resulted from being chased through space by Legion, Abin Sur never would've passed on his ring to Hal, and would apparently be alive and well, albeit with a look the more closely matches the movie version. Weird, huh?
To his left, we have another interesting case: BLACKOUT.
Given the civilian name of "Farooq," Blackout would appear to be a new character for Flashpoint, but our own David Uzumeri has a theory of his own: Blackout is actually this universe's version of Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash.
As Uzumeri points out, it's revealed in last week's Flash #12 -- which came complete with a gigantic "Road to Flashpoint" banner across the cover -- that Zoom is capable of using the Speed Force to modify his own age, and even with all the Captain Thunder kids on the rooftop, Blackout's the only one whose age is stated. Throw in the fact Geoff Johns has said in interviews that someone on the rooftop remembers how the Universe used to be and that Blackout's logo looks an awful lot like Zoom's turned on its side...
...and it starts to make a pretty compelling case. Especially when you consider that not giving Zoom a big role in Flashpoint's first issue would be like the Johnsian version of Anton Chekhov leaving the gun out of his first act. Of course, we also see Zoom running really fast in another panel, so maybe not.
Either way, it's better than my theory on his identity based on his civilian name, which is that DC has secretly acquired the rights to and will soon be publishing stories about the WWF's Nation of Domination.
For a pair of definite Flash villains, however, you just have to keep moving to the right to get to The Pied Piper and Citizen Cold.
In the regular DC Universe, both the Pied Piper and Captain Cold are long-time members of the Flash's Rogues, but here, the script has indeed been flipped. For one thing, Captain Cold has apparently gained his citizenship and doesn't rob banks to attract the attention of sexy movie stars (his original M.O. in the Silver Age). Instead, he's a crime-fighter -- at least, allegedly -- who operates in the Flash's usual role of Central City's greatest hero.
The Pied Piper, meanwhile, remains an outlaw, contrasting his own role as a character who started out as a crook, but then reformed and became one of the Flash's staunchest allies during the Wally West years. Of course, now he has shattered vocal cords that were replaced by cybernetics, because hey, what's an Alternate Universe story about someone getting horribly maimed?
After him comes THE ENCHANTRESS:
Not to be confused with Marvel's Enchantress, who hangs out in Asgard and occasionally tries to scam her way into a date with Thor, DC's verison is the alter-ego of one June Moone. Originally referred to by the amazing Bob Haney as "The Switcheroo Witcheroo," the Enchantress originally appeared in 1966 and then quickly faded into obscurity before being revived by John Ostrander in Suicide Squad, and later, the Shadowpact.
Here, though, she's in another group, along with our next subject: SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN.
Shade's history reads an awful lot like the Enchantress's, except that he was created eleven years later and is not to be confused with Starman's shadowy villain of the same name. Created by Steve Ditko, Rac Shade was a security officer from a dimension known as "Meta," who posessed an "M-Vest" that would project an exaggerated -- and frequently horrifying -- translucent version of himself as a force field. Like the Enchantress, he would be revived in the mid-80s as a member of the Suicide Squad...
...who was trying to make his way back to Meta from Earth. But that's not the version seen here.
Instead, Flashpoint's Shade appears to be following in the footsteps of John Constantine by returning from the Vertigo version created by Peter Milligan, Brendan McCarthy and Chris Bachalo:
Vertigo's Shade was more liek a surreal version of Doctor Who, right down to the fact that the title character would occasionally die and return witha different look and attitude. In these stories, the M-Vest was shown to be the reality-warping Madness Vest, and while Johns refers to it here as the "Meta-vest," it certainly allows Shade to detect Element Girl's insanity. But then again, so would a pair of eyes.
Rather than the Suicide Squad, Shade and the Enchantress are both part of a team referred to as the Secret Seven, with the rest of the membership to be revealed in a tie-in mini-series written by Milligan. However, considering a few things that have been said in interviews and the fact that the Enchantress refers to one of her teammates, there's a good chance that this might be foreshadowing the return to of Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld.
Next up is THE SANDMAN.
Despite standing next to Shade, this isn't the Vertigo version created by Neil Gaiman, although he did star in one of Vertigo's best titles. This would instead appear to be the original Sandman, the Golden Age vigilante who battled mobsters with sleeping gas and prophetic dreams who was a founding member of the Justice Society of America. The interesting thing, though, is that unlike the current DC Universe where he's been dead for quite some time, Wesley Dodds is apparently still very much alive and kicking.
This is pure conjecture on my part, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's a safe bet that Johns is playing with one of the elements of the Sandman's story that he used when he brought back his sidekick, Sandy the Golden Boy, in his run on JSA from a few years back. In the regular DC Universe version, Sandy was turned into a sand monster and as a result, he never aged. Considering his remarks in the panel above, I'd put even money on the Flashpoint version flipping things around so that it's Dodds who was transformed instead.
Next up, Element Girl!
The Element Girl of Flashpoint is named Emily Sung, a new character who steps into the flourine footsteps of the original Element Girl, Urania Blackwell:
As you'd expect from the name, the Element Girl was a woman who shared a set of powers with Metamorpho, the Element Man. She's probably best known for appearing in an issue of Sandman -- and there's that Vertigo connection again -- where she died, with Neil Gaiman citing one of his inspirations as her being so obscure that she didn't appear in Who's Who until after he'd killed her off. Unlike the brooding super-spy, however, Sung's Element Girl is far more manic and pixieish, who seems to be an outsider even among the twisted heroes that Cyborg gathers up to go fight whatever it is they're going to go fight.
But not as much of an outsider as... well, THE OUTSIDER:
This is probably the most obscure reference brought up in this issue, and considering that I've already written about Captain Thunder, Element Girl and Amethyst, that's saying something. Originally appearing as a disembodied voice in in 1964's Detective Comics #334, the Outsider was a Batman villain who was known for tiny shorts and extremely terrible skin:
But here's the thing: The Outsider was actually Alfred.
I've covered the full saga here at ComicsAlliance before, but the short version is that after Alfred sacrificed his life to save Batman and Robin, his corpse was stolen from his grave because Batman didn't really bother to check if he was really dead before burying him. The corpse-thief turned out to be a mad scientist -- because of course he was -- who used his regeneration ray to bring Alfred back to life, with the side effect of seriously gross skin and a mind turned to eeeeevil.
It would be pretty interesting to see Alfred as the Outsider in a world without Bruce Wayne, but it doesn't look like that's the case here, as Flashpoint's Outsider refers to India as his "homeland." I suppose it's possible that it's possible that the Flashpoint universe is one in which India was never freed from being a British colony -- which would give the British somewhere to hightail it to when the Amazons forcibly annexed England -- but most of the changes in the story don't seem to go back as far as 1947. Instead, I think we're dealing with an entirely new character stepping into that role.
And of course, all of that brings us to our last Flashpoint character: Batman.
David Uzumeri has already examined the very significant changes to casting Thomas Wayne as Batman rather than his son Bruce, but there's an interesting similarity to it that he didn't bring up. In having his wife and son murdered and becoming a hero as an adult, Thomas Wayne's origin has less in common with "our" Batman's than it does with the Punisher, right down to killing his enemies in Crime Alley.
Plus, there's a nod to another one of Gotham City's more brutal vigilantes. The line "She slipped" is a direct callback to one of Jason Todd's defining moments in the very first Batman comic I ever read: "Diplomat's Son" in Batman #424, where Robin's response to a drug dealer who beats his girlfriend until she commits suicide but can't be prosecuted due to diplomatic immunity is to straight up kick him off a balcony to his death.
For the record, I read that when I was six. Regardless, it underlines the differences between the Batman we know and his Flashpoint counterpart. I've said before that one of the things necessary for Batman is that when his parents die, he's old enough to understand what he lost but young enough to still believe that it's possible for one man to end crime by becoming something more. With Thomas, however, that youthful idealism is gone, leaving in its place a desire for revenge by any means necessary. For me, that's some pretty interesting stuff.
And with that, you're all caught up, and you're ready to learn more about the new versions of these characters and their alternate universe exploits. Until next month, anyway. I just hope I get to detail the Flashpoint version of Super Hip.