Thursday, June 2, 2011

DP09-AP(d) Retro Stories During The Giffen Period

.....This is actually the second half of an analysis of the story "Out Of Time" from The Brave And The Bold #34 (07/10)- 35 (08/10). In the previous post I provided the details of the creator credits and the rosters for the four teams involved. There's also my reasons for placing the story in the period of comics published c.1964. Anyone who had difficulty using the links provided in the previous post should check them again. They've been embedded again in a different manner and seemed to be working better than they did initially. Sorry about that.

.....This is a time travel story, which is a common enough plot device in comics that it shouldn't ordinarily require an explanation or map to guide the reader. The complications, and subsequent confusion on the part of many readers, can follow when travelling into the past multiple times results in crossing your own path and impacting the chain of events that brought you back in the first place. Douglas Adams once famously said that the most difficult part of time travel isn't really the mechanics of moving through time, it's conjugating the verbs afterward to describe what you did. The longer the story and the more often the trips taken, the more common will be the complaints of confusion, generally. Take Avengers Forever as a textbook example. Now put the Legion Of Substitute Heroes in control of a time machine and watch them try to 'fix' things. Thus we come to the following dual attempt to disambiguate the order of events, once in the order they take place in the world and once in the order they are experienced by the cast. That cast is abbreviated here for convenience: [DP] is the Doom Patrol, [LSH] is the Legion of Super-Heroes, [Subs] is the Legion of Substitute Heroes and [I5] is the Inferior Five.

.....First, the 'real time' account of events. Although the Original Period Doom Patrol stories were first published in the 1960's, the time in which they took place changes. Following what I suspect was Roy Thomas' approach of time compression employed at Marvel in the 1970's to explain why Peter Parker was allowed to pursue an undergraduate degree for thirteen years without being called up for academic review, DC since at least as far back as Zero Hour has used a similar conceit in which three to five years of publishing translates to one year in the life of the characters, working backwards. As a rule of thumb, if the story you are reading today references a story from the past, take the number of years since it was published and divide by, say, four. Subtract the result from the year of the newer story. For instance, if a story is published in 1965, then in 1969 stories it would be treated as though it took place in 1968. In 1977, it would be treated as though it took place in 1974. In 2005, it would be treated as though it took place in 1995. Thus, Lian Harper did not look 24 years old when she died. The three-to-five year standard would make her anywhere from five to eight years old. The reason I mention this is because segments in which the LSH locate the DP will be described as c.1964 in this post with the understanding that this is the period which they are obviously intended to evoke aesthetically. It is not actually stated anywhere in the story in what year those scenes occur. However, it is explicitly stated that the [Subs] find the [I5] in 1972, which is why I've included that scene and other specified dates with scenes from the Time Stream. The story does nothing to indicate whether the [DP] was formed and/or active before, during or after 1972 in this continuity frame of reference. Since, for these purposes, any of those scenarios would work equally well, we're not going to fret over it right now. Likewise, although the modern [LSH] is set in the 31st century, I'm referring to their home as the 30th century to conform to the c.1964 motif. If you want to know why that distinction is important, the best possible explanations can be found with the [LSH]-related links in the previous post.
  • {c.1964; #34/p.9} [LSH] arrive from the future (using Time Bubble 1) in [DP]'s headquarters and ask for their help.
  • {c.1964; #35/p.17} While [LSH] and [DP] discuss the problem in a different room, [Subs] and [I5] arrive (using Time Bubble 2) and switch machines, taking off in the one in which [LSH] arrived (Time Bubble 1).
  • {c.1964; #34/p.10} 7:15 minutes since page 9, [LSH] and [DP] return to the room where Time Bubble 1 was left and find Time Bubble 2 in a slightly different spot and speculate that it "shifted position". All but Caulder depart in Time Bubble 2.
  • {c.1964; #35/p.18} The departure of the [LSH] and [DP] coincides with the Time Stream sequence {#34/pp.11-13}(see below).
  • {c.1964; #35/pp.5-6} After [LSH] and [DP] leave, [Subs] arrive from 30th century (using Time Bubble 2) to find Caulder alone. Exercising characteristically poor judgement, their attempt to 'fix' their situation results in creating multiple anomalies of themselves.
  • {c.1964; #34/p.22} [LSH] return [DP] to their proper time (using Time Bubble 2) and are greeted by Caulder shortly after he has spent an exhaustive afternoon (presumably figuring out how to collapse a telescoping time anomaly). [LSH] then return to the 30th century.
  • {Time Stream; #35/pp.7-10} Having been set right by Caulder, [Subs] reach a timeline in which [I5] exist, in 1972 (using Time Bubble 2).
  • {Time Stream; #35/p.11} [Subs] and [I5] realize that none of them can remember the Hawking Theorem, key to solving their problem. (In Time Bubble 2.)
  • {Time Stream; #35/p.12-13} [Subs] and [I5] locate Dr. Stephen Bawking (probably in the 1990's), who explains the theorem to everyone. (In Time Bubble 2.)
  • {Time Stream; #35/p.22} [Subs] strand [I5] 30 years in their future, on July 14, 2010 (using Time Bubble 1).
  • {Time Stream; #35/pp.14-16} Dumb Bunny's pink fluffy tail gets stuck in the tachyon collector of Time Bubble 2, causing it to stop moving forward at 2193. Knowing that [LSH] beat them to finding [DP] (they found Caulder alone), [Subs] and [I5] return to {c.1964; #35/p.17} (see above) in order to switch time machines.
  • {Time Stream; #35/p.18} occurs simultaneously with...
  • {Time Stream; #34/pp.11-13}. After the time machines have been switched, [LSH] and [DP] travel forward in Time Bubble 2, which stalls at 2193. When they investigate, Lightning Lad finds and removes Dumb Bunny's pink fluff. He speculates that it belongs to Cosmic Boy because it matches his costume's color scheme. With the Time Bubble 2 working again, they continue on into the 30th century.
  • (Both teams travelling forward can now reach the30th century. [Subs] and [I5] arrive after [LSH] and [DP]. See #35/p.19 below.)
  • {30th Cen.; #34/pp.2-3 in flashback} Lightning Lad returns to Earth after a patrol in a conventional space vehicle and witnesses a Black Hole event en route towards Earth. He races ahead of it to warn the Legion.
  • {30th Cen.; #34/pp.14-19} [LSH] and [DP] try unsuccessfully to drain the Black Hole (using Time Bubble 2).
  • {30th Cen.; #35/p.19-20} [Subs] and [I5] arrive (in Time Bubble 1) before [Subs] initial disastrous attempt to view the Black Hole (see #35/p.3, below). This appearance also causes a 'time surge', with the difference being the presence of [LSH] and [DP].
  • {30th Cen.; #34/pp.20-21} The 'time surge' causes the efforts of [LSH] and [DP] to drain the Black Hole to have the same effect as though they had been working at it continuously for days (still with Time Bubble 2).
  • {30th Cen.; #35/pp.20-21} [Subs] and [I5] witness the Black Hole being drained (in Time Bubble 1) and [Subs] decide to abandon their plans to try taking credit for [LSH]'s plan before anything else goes wrong.
....At this point the story diverges to two possible outcomes: one in which the Earth is destroyed and one in which it is saved. Because some of these scenes play out in concurrent parallel time lines, pinning down when something would have occurred relative to events that happened instead becomes understandably tricky.
  • {30th Cen.; #35/p.3} Having just acquired Time Bubble 2, [Subs] materialize within viewing distance of the Black Hole event between the time Lightning Lad witnesses it and the time he reaches Earth to warn them. Somehow, their sudden emergence from the near future accelerates the Black Hole's approach towards Earth.
  • {30th Cen.; #34/pp.1-4} On Earth, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy are both awoken by Lightning Lad's arrival. He explains what he witnessed in space and that they must prepare a defense in the few days remaining. They then notice that the Black Hole's arrival is imminent and must resort to time travel to stop it at an earlier stage.
  • {30th Cen.; #35/p.1} [Subs] watch a television report praising [LSH] for averting the Black Hole event with the help of [DP] by traveling into the past. Jealous, [Subs] decide to use the same method of time travel to replicate the feat and reap the glory.
  • {30th Cen.; #35/p.2} This remains the most confusing sequence in the story. [Subs] enter [LSH] clubhouse to steal the Time Bubble. Their plan is NOT to: (a) take the bubble, use it and then return it at that moment in time so that no one will notice that it is missing; nor (b) take the bubble, travel backwards just one hour to where they know it was sitting before and get into the earlier version so that it never appears to have left (then make sure they get it back an hour later in time to return it right after their earlier incarnations took it). Instead they (c) take the bubble, travel forward one hour to where they find the bubble still there, take that bubble and continue on their adventure. Now, obviously (a) is the simplest approach, but nothing is simple where [Subs] are concerned. The (b) scenario, while reasonable on the surface, would require a time paradox of a time machine traveling backwards one hour, then sitting unoccupied for an hour (effectively traveling forward in time, albeit at 'normal' speed) until it is then used to travel backwards an hour again, in an infinite loop. This would mean that a time travel machine existed that was never manufactured and runs infinitely without ever being refueled. It would also mean that the time machine used in the adventure was picked up at the beginning of that hour and deposited at the end, with a separate existence from the one in the infinite loop. The (c) scenario only means that at some point between stealing the bubble and finding it again one hour in the future, the bubble had been returned after the adventure at some point during that hour. [Subs] then get out of the first bubble, get into the returned one, have the adventure and return during the hour and leave it for them to find again. All this just means that there is a different infinite loop, just a much, much longer one. The explanation for what's going on here, if there is one, is that [Subs] departing doesn't change the fact that [LSH] departed, too. Each took and returned Time Bubbles, but from and for each other, not themselves. What we have here is not a loop so much as a figure eight. If [Subs] took Time Bubble 1 one hour into the future to switch with Time Bubble 2, it could only be after [LSH] returned from the successful version of the mission, otherwise they wouldn't have a reason to set out and upstage them. Therefore, from the perspective of the machine itself, the [LSH] adventure concluded before the [Subs] adventure began. Yet, [LSH] concluded their adventure in Time Bubble 2 and presumably parked it in the clubhouse, then informed the media, who in turn broadcast the story, inflaming [Subs] who took the Time Bubble left by [LSH], moved it forward an hour and took it again at another point in its time, damaged it with Dumb Bunny's tail, went back to 1964 to switch it with itself at another point in time yet again, meaning that the Time Bubble used by [LSH] for the remainder of their adventure and parked where [Subs] found it and subsequently switched with itself an hour in its future has a separate timeline (and existence) from the Time Bubble [LSH] started with and [Subs] ended with, when they dropped off [I5] in 2010. But there's only ever been one Time Bubble. I've only been designating them '1' and '2' in order to keep straight when, in the bubble's history, it was being used. Eventually, either Time Bubble 1 becomes Time Bubble 2 or vice versa. What I've just described is instead two parallel continuities. Unless...
  • {30th Cen.; #34/pp.5-6} [LSH] rush to the room where the Time Bubble is housed. Before they reach it, it appears to shift to the side. With no time to truly figure out why that happened, they dismiss it as a side effect of the extreme magnetic forces present due to the Black Hole. They board the Time Bubble in its new position and begin the successful version of the adventure. Had they reached the Time Bubble while it was still in it's original position they would have traveled to [DP]'s Original Period, brought them back to the 30th century to drain power from the Black Hole... and failed, resulting in the destruction of the Earth. The plan was good in theory, but the scale of the problem would simply be too overwhelming for it to have worked. Besides, they were running from the Black Hole in a timeline where it had already advanced too rapidly for them to confront. They knew their only hope was to intervene hours earlier, just after Lightning Lad became aware of it, creating a new timeline. So what really happened to the Time Bubble? The initial image of the bubble belonged in a timeline where [LSH] failed, a failure that was caused by the acceleration of the Black Hole's advancement, an acceleration caused by [Subs] (see #35/p.3, above). Therefore, the Time Bubble didn't go anywhere. It was still in the room, but part of a separate timeline in which [Subs] screwed things up. After [LSH] and [DP] succeeded and [LSH] returned the Time Bubble, [Subs] take it and go an hour forward, illogically expecting the bubble to still be there for them to find. The Time Bubble they find an hour in the future is the one that disappeared in front of [LSH]. Think about it; it's a time bubble that belongs to a timeline where [LSH] fail because of an effect caused by [Subs]. It has to be the second bubble [Subs] take, because it's the Time Bubble they were in when they caused it. The Time Bubble that takes them to it, an hour into the future, is the one that already succeeded in averting the disaster, creating a separate timeline, and was left there by [LSH]. Therefore, the Time Bubble that appears in front of [LSH] to replace it, the one that [LSH] assume is the same bubble shifted to the side by magnetic forces is the one [Subs] moved forward one hour. It, too, was in the room the whole time, but did not become visible to [LSH] until the timelines shifted. They take it, meet [DP] for the first time and, while they're out of the room, [Subs] and [I5] switch it for the earlier damaged incarnation, which [LSH] and [DP] use for the remainder of the adventure. Eventually [Subs] return it after stranding [I5] in 2010.
  • {30th Cen.; #35/p.4} [Subs] discover that they inadvertently caused the Black Hole to accelerate it's path to Earth, destroying it. Now they have no choice but to duplicate [LSH]'s feat by retrieving [DP] from the past.
  • {30th Cen.; #34/pp.7-8} [LSH] witness the destruction of Earth one day after Lightning Lad's warning. They must travel backwards to a point before this timeline formed and somehow avert it.
.....Which they did.


.....And now, as promised, an account of events from the perspective of the only one, true witness to all of the events in this story: The Time Bubble.
  • The Time Bubble sits, ready and waiting in the [LSH] clubhouse.
  • {#34/pp.1-4} Lightning Lad witnesses the Black Hole event in space en route to Earth. When he arrives to warn the others, the Black Hole is suddenly almost upon them.
  • {#34/p.5} [LSH] attempt to use the Time Bubble to avert disaster, causing an alternate timeline. They disappear.
  • {#35/p.2} [Subs] arrive from an hour in the past in my future self. They board me. I am now referred to as Time Bubble 2.
  • {#35/p.3} [Subs] try to witness the Black Hole event sometime after Lightning Lad discovers it, accidently causing its acceleration.
  • {#35/p.4} [Subs] witness the destruction of the Earth.
  • {#35/pp.5-6} [Subs] take me backwards to find [DP], but we arrive shortly after my future self has departed with [LSH] and [DP] on board. They briefly create multiples of ourselves before the clever monkey with the broken legs sorts them out.
  • {#35/pp.7-10} [Subs] take me to 1972 and add five more monkeys to the crew, called [I5]. Their legs work... but they're not clever.
  • {#35/pp.11-13} [Subs] and [I5] don't understand the Hawking Theorem and make another stop to have someone explain it to them.
  • {#35/pp.14-16} Part of Dumb Bunny's costume gets stuck in my tachyon collector while we're traveling in the Time Stream. Because of this, I can't get past 2193.
  • {#35/p.17} We travel back to a point between [LSH] meeting [DP] and the two groups departing. [Subs] and [I5] disembark from me and board my future self. So, there's that to look forward to.
  • {#34/p.10 and #35/p.18} [LSH] and [DP] return from a briefing session believing that I am the craft they arrived in, when I am in fact the craft they will arrive in. Both groups board me and enter the time stream.
  • {#34/pp.11-13} Inevitably, [LSH] discover that they can't get past 2193. They find and remove the pink fluff ball and soon we're back on course.
  • {#34/pp.14-19} We stop in the 30th century right after Lightning Lad witnessed the Black Hole's approach but before [Subs] caused the time surge that pushed it towards Earth. [LSH] and [DP] make a valiant effort to drain the Black Hole, but the sheer size of it is too much for them.
  • {#34/pp.20-21} The sudden, heroic appearance of my future self causes a time surge, but instead of accelerating the Black Hole's travel by several days, it accelerates the drainage by several days. [LSH] and [DP] are able to accomplish in accelerated time something that would have killed them in natural time. This must be the event that caused me to jump timelines when [LSH] tried to board me at the beginning of this mess.
  • {#34/p.22} Back to the 20th century to bring [DP] home. This must be after my first arrival with [Subs] because the monkey looks exhausted.
  • Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Whoever said working with teenagers will keep you young can go fry their-- ooh, wait, [LSH] are on the video news. They're getting credit for stopping a threat that nobody remembers happening. Good for them. Even if it didn't happen, who could get mad at that?
  • {#35/p.1} Ooooooh, right.
  • {#35/p.2} [Subs] enter my docking room to try and duplicate what [LSH] have just done in order to get the credit. At this point I'm referred to as Time Bubble 1. They think that they can take me without anyone noticing if they go forward in time one hour and take my future self. Well, that's just plain foolish; if you take me forward one hour, the room will just be empty for an hour until I get back. Oh, no, now I remember. I've already been through this. This is when the timelines shifted. Yes, there I am. There they go.
  • {#34/pp.5-6} I've seen [Subs] dematerialize in my past self, but I'm still there. Now [LSH] are rushing in. They're looking panicky, they see my past self dematerializing. Now they notice me. They board me.
  • {#34/pp.7-8} [LSH] take me one day forward and see the Earth destroyed by the Black Hole. They'll have to take me back through this timeline before it branched off into disaster, then go forward again into the one I've just been to.
  • {#34/p.9} [LSH] take me into the past to fetch [DP]. They all go into another room to confer.
  • {#35/p.17} Ah, yes, right on cue. [Subs] and [I5] arrive in my past self and leave it, er, me, in order to board my present self.
  • {#35/pp.18-21} Back in the Time Stream and headed for the 30th century. We arrive shortly after I was previously here with [LSH] and [DP], but before [Subs] caused all that grief by accelerating the Black Hole. My only consolation is that I know what's going to happen. Sure enough, our appearance has caused the temporal wave that turned the efforts of [LSH] and [DP] into several days' worth of work.
  • {#35/p.22} [Subs] seem eager to get [I5] back home. July 14, 2010... I thought we picked them up in 1972? Well, not my problem.
  • I'm back in my dock, taking a breather. Too many alternate timelines just aren't good for you. I'll have to ask Brainiac 5 to replace my Claremont filter.
.....So that's it for now. In 1965, Lightning Lad lost an arm fighting "the Super-Moby Dick of Space". «sigh» I am so glad Mort Weisinger didn't edit Doom Patrol. That story was in Adventure Comics #332 (05/65). He and Saturn Girl would eventually become an item (I'm guessing after they found a pink puff ball in Cosmic Boy's colors in the Time Bubble's tachyon collector). Twenty years on, about the time COIE was published, Cosmic Boy and Night Girl became an item. Hopefully that did something to cool down the rivalry between the Legion and the Substitutes. By the way, the disambiguation above is my own personal attempt and not necessarily official DC continuity. I'd be extremely curious if anyone on the Legion blogs knows of an established timeline that's been leaked. Comments, criticisms, additions and detractions are all welcome in the comments section below.