One of DC Comics' favorite things in the world is killing off longtime characters for shock value, promising they'll never bring them back again, and then doing that when they've run out of ideas. Nowadays that means "two months later," but there was a time when these things actually stuck for a while. For instance, the Flash (Barry Allen) died in Crisis on Infinite Earths and managed to stay dead for an impressive 23 years.
... or 5 years, if you count the time Marvel (you know, DC's biggest corporate rival) shamelessly brought him back and renamed him "Fastforward."
They wanted a monopoly on wise-cracking characters in red tights.
I'm not talking about Marvel creating a Flash knock-off, by the way (they already have one). It was the same guy. In 1985, the Flash had one of the most awesome deaths in or outside of comic books when he ran so fast that he dissolved into energy while destroying an antimatter cannon and saving the universes (that's plural). Here's that touching scene:
That's how I wanna go, too.
Writer Marv Aqua- I mean, Wolfman wrote a loophole into that scene in case they wanted to bring the Flash back via time travel, but DC never used it. Marvel, however, is another story. In a 1990 issue of Quasar (a Marvel character that I'll look silly for calling obscure when they eventually do a big movie about him, so I'll assume everyone knows him), a space god organizes a race to the moon to find out who's the fastest being on Earth. During the competition, someone materializes out of pure energy in the middle of the track:
Or like 80 percent energy, 20 percent beard.
Despite sporting a new hobo look and having had his costume reduced to a pair of spandex shorts, that's clearly a resurrected Flash collecting his molecules after the little "running to death" incident. To make it more blatant, he later says he can't remember his name, but that it's something like "Buried Alien" -- which is like a post-autocorrect version of the Flash's secret identity, Barry Allen. Obviously, he wins the race, because even Marvel knows that DC's characters are more powerful (plus, they just stole him, so it makes no difference).
But this is nothing more than a friendly homage to the distinguished competition, right? Yeah, if they'd left it as a short cameo, but "Buried Alien" later showed up again with a new costume, the name Fastforward, and absolutely no desire to go back to his original universe, since he doesn't seem to be a big fan of DC's editorial practices:
"Also, like half your superheroines have giant boobs. It's awesome."
Yeah, that's less "friendly homage" and more "taking digs at the other company through their own character." Geez, what did DC ever do to deserve such treatment, Marvel? Well ...
I mentioned comic book legend Jack Kirby before, and how he hated Marvel with the passion of a million Galactus farts. One of his problems was that he wasn't getting enough credit for the mountain of popular superheroes he created for the company, so in 1970 he jumped ship to DC Comics and splurted out a whole bunch of completely new and original characters for them -- including one of comics' most formidable villains, Darkseid.
Wait, did I say "completely new and original" characters? Because that, ah, depends on your definition of those words. You see, while he was still at Marvel, Kirby did a series of short stories called Tales of Asgard, in which he fleshed out the Norse gods in Thor's supporting cast, as well as the magical world they lived in. Stan Lee didn't give much of a fuck at this point and let Kirby do whatever he wanted -- so Kirby killed everyone.
"Whoa whoa, Jack! We can't say 'asunder'! This is a family comic!"
It was only a "prophecy" based on the Norse legend of Ragnarok (the final duke out between all the gods), but still, this got Kirby thinking: wouldn't it be cool to brutally murder all the characters, including Thor, and replace them with new ones? You know, like they did between Saved by the Bell and Saved by the Bell: The New Class? Kirby even included a line in his prophecy about a "young, new race of gods" that would rise from Asgard's ashes. This what they looked like:
An era of technology, wonders, and even more ridiculous headgear than before.
In 1966, Kirby went to Stan Lee with the idea of mass killing a bunch of profitable superheroes, and Lee presumably still hasn't stopped laughing. Kirby put his "new gods" concept aside, but four years later he moved to DC and started a series called ... New Gods. Which, what do you know, opens with an epic final duke out between a race of suspiciously familiar looking characters. Check out the dude with the hammer here ...
That's right: It's Steel, from the 1997 Shaq motion picture, Steel.
... whose winged helmet is seen again in a later issue when one of the characters is exploring the ruins of the old, lame gods. Look familiar
But Kirby put in another, sneakier connection between his old and new work: most readers (and future writers) assumed the planet of the New Gods existed in the DC Universe, but the only way to get there was through a "Boom Tube" -- a hole in reality that Kirby described as a "dimensional bridge." In fact, he kept referring to the New Gods as living in another dimension ... a place where Thor existed, where everyone wears ridiculous headgear, and where cosmic beings fly around using sporting goods ...
Yep, Jack Kirby was writing a comic set in the Marvel Universe and publishing it at DC. And he killed like 200 characters in the first issue. Just when I thought Cracked had already published the weirdest sentence about that guy, he keeps surprising us.