Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #217: We Used to Call it Elseworlds

With the multiverse becoming a major staple in superhero fiction over the past decade—from the various films to crossovers to Rebirths to Multiversity Guidebooks—it’s hard not to want to delve into the stranger aspects of what these archetypal characters can do. We used to see it fairly regularly from DC in the form of the Elseworlds label that gave us stories like Gotham by GaslightSuperman: Red Son, and Justice Riders. But with the consolidation of DC’s multiverse into the 52 separate universes, the frequency waned. However, as the infinite universes have returned, so has the off-canon weirdness in the forms of series like DC Mech and The Jurassic League.

Both series center around their universe’s version of the Justice League—either as a continuation of the Justice Society once titans from Apokolips eviscerated most of the original team or as the original coming together of a group of dinosaurs to protect their world from something sinister. No matter the incarnation, Darkseid is prepared to devour everything. This, then, is where the series become much more interesting in terms of how they tell their stories. DC Mechhas a team already assembled with the late-coming Superman and his mech looking to avenge his homeworld after Darkseid’s siege of Krypton but causing more problems for everyone due to his single-minded nature. The Jurassic League, by contrast, has a team of villainous dinosaurs working together to hatch the egg of Darkseid while a disparate group of heroes come together at the end to hold back the great evil. They’re condensed versions of what we know of the Justice League, their dynamics, and the larger evils they usually fight, but it’s this familiarity that makes these two series so unique.

Much of what we recognize in comics is some form of shorthand. We know Batman. We know Wonder Woman. We know Green Lantern. Even if we’ve never picked up a comic, we have a sense of who these characters are via cultural osmosis. And the creators of these series know that all too well. With only colors, symbols, and a few flashes of personality, we know instinctively who these characters are from the beginning and what they’re going to be about despite them being in wholly different situations compared to their original counterparts. As a result, DC Mech and The Jurassic League can play with expectations and archetypes—we have an expectation for Superman and, when he goes against that, we’re immediately more interested in his story. It’s the core of what made many of the original Elseworlds stories so compelling. We have our expectations and ingrained ideas about every character in DC canon and that makes us so much more susceptible to something different.

Kenny Porter, Baldemar Rivas, Mike Spicer, Tom Napolitano, Juan Gedeon, Daniel Warren Johnson, and Ferran Delgado together have created these dueling series that show so many different ways that superhero comics can be interpreted. They delve into the odd ideas that fill the margins of our notebooks and flesh them out in ways that feel fresh and familiar. It’s why we always end up coming back to these kinds of superhero stories—we know them well enough that we could plot them out in an afternoon, but that just leaves us open to having every expectation defied. 

Get excited. Get weird.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


The Drunken Odyssey is a forum to discuss all aspects of the writing process, in a variety of genres, in order to foster a greater community among writers.


%d bloggers like this: