The origin of the DC Universe

(I’ll trim the post later, now I’m tired)

I’m reading DC’s classic “Crisis on Inifinite Earths” to be ready to tackle the more recent “Infinite Crisis” and I’ve noticed that the triggers of the “Crisis” itself are two different moments with a lot in common:

1- On planet Oa one of the most brilliant scientists decides to discover the origin of the world, in spite of legends that foretell destructions if this happens.

In Mark Waid words: “Ten billion years ago when Earth was little more than cooling gases, the inhabitants of Oa, at the center of the universe, were immortal and had the powers of the legendary gods. They always strove for continued advancement, but their science became perverted, for one of them, Krona, swore to discover the secret of the universe’s creation. Others warned him away, vowing that legends told of destruction to come to any who plumbed the mysteries of Creation.”

(From: Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, October 1985)

(click to continue reading)

2- Pariah, also himself a talented scientists, discovers the origin of Multiverse and, from there, up to the origin of the universe, challenging a similar prohibition.

In Mark Waid words: “Parah now takes up the tale, explaining that he himself came form an Earth alien to them all, on which he was the greatest scientist, responsible for weather control, and the destruction of disease. He soon discovered the origin of the Multiverse, and used that knowledge to discover the origin of the universe, despite the legends common to all planes that such knowledge would lead to destruction.”

(From: Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, October 1985)

In practice everything is set in motion by a “thirst for knowledge”. Now this passage reminded me the book of the Genesis in the Bible: live and prosper in the garden of Eden, but don’t touch the tree of knowledge or you’ll face God’s anger.

Why this knowledge has to be considered as “evil” or deceiving? There’s a first explanation ala “Swamp Thing”, ecologist, that says that unrestrained knowledge brings to disharmony, ruin and corruption. But it’s not like this theory holds well in the original “crisis”, where nothing is really explained about the reason why the act of the two scientists was so inconsiderate and unacceptable.

So it came to my mind a book of Niklas Lumann (a genius modern sociologist) that may reveal the “true” origin of the DC Universe, and the true reason why that thirst for knowledge couldn’t have been tolerated.

What Luhmann explain is that anthropolgically both religion and magic have a specific purpose: create “meaning” without being put in doubt (or, more or less in his words: erase the improbabilities of the communication system). He says that there’s a tribe where the problems of communication are being solved, or at least “structured”, by repressing the communication itself. The society’s essential knowledge, meaning what is worth of preservation, hence the knowledge of holy matters, is made accessible only to males, and to them only after a rite of passages that is structured in seven grades. The preservation of the secret delimits arbitrariness. In other words, the knowledge must be protected from communication, since it exists only as the result of this protection. Otherwise people would rapidly become aware that “holy bones” are just… bones.

In my own words: the “magic” itself is in the prohibition to investigate. Why? Because if you investigate you would soon discover that, well, there’s no magic. Luhmann says that these “prohibitions of knowledge” are a necessity to preserve the secret that we attribute to religion. Because the trick is that behind the magic curtain there’s nothing at all. Or, better, there is something. Something absolutely precious: what people think is there. Beliefs, hopes.

There are some tribes exploiting one trick: if you go investigate the “holy” you aren’t anymore “elected” to see it. So you lose the possibility to see it. Meaning: you can “see” only till you keep your eyes closed. Brilliant ;)

So knowledge and magic are in antithesis. One the opposite of the other, one annihilating the other if both exist in the same place. A bit like the story of the Monitor vs the Anti-Monitor. Matter and anti-matter. And, ultimately, the war between good and evil.

In practice the “magic” itself is in the denial to discover the trick. Being unaware. Because if you are skeptic and go discover the trick then you lose the right to that magic, as that magic effectively doesn’t exist if not when believing it, let’s say, “blindfold”. Without proofs ;)

Now, what’s the “magic” to not be revealed in the DC Universe? Well, I was thinking about the image from where all begins. A “cosmic Hand holding the galaxies in its palm”:

(From: Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, October 1985)

What’s then this terrible secret that our heroes are forbid to discover?

Simple: the fact that the universe was created by a writer(s), whose hand symbolically holds all the universe in its palm :)

What DC heroes cannot discover is that they are made of paper and ink, conceived by a writer and an artist. And they cannot discover that the “Crisis” comes from the practical need of bringing back the continuity and proliferation of alternate universes to a manageable level.

(From: The Official Crisis on Infinite Earths Index – Flood Control Comics – March 1986)

This fracture between universes that DC heroes fight against is just the meta-narrative representation of a real fracture due to the dispersion of universes, comic books, and conflicting continuities produced in the years, that they (the DC heroes) cannot see for what it truly is, but only in its fictional representation.

As if at some point they started to fight against the “void” generated by a rip in the page… Something that Grant Morrison knows very, very well:

(From: The Filth, book 3 of 13 – Vertigo – October 2002)

(From: The Filth, book 3 of 13 – Vertigo – October 2002)

(From: The Filth, book 3 of 13 – Vertigo – October 2002)

(From: The Filth, book 9 of 13 – Vertigo – April 2003)

They harvest the INK. And the ink brings hings tay life. Forget god. Forget Greg an the cat an everyhin else. Time meenz nutten tay man green/man yella.

Here’s how it IS.

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