Science of the New DCU

We did it! We survived a month of new DC books! And like the creation of any universe, fictional or otherwise, one must establish scientific ground rules. Now I sincerely doubt that the editors sat around a table and said, “What self-consistent laws should we impose upon this universe of ours.” Nonetheless these things do develop, and it’s my job to untangle the mess! And to do that I read every #1 DC put out last month. I didn’t take the time to write about it because I don’t hate my fingers, but I did at least absorb as much as I could INTO MY BRAIN. Thus in no particular order, I present some scientific observations of this brave and bold new world.

First things first: magic exists. Possibly now more than ever the DCU is a magical place. What does this have to do with science? Well nothing, really, but that’s kind of the point. So there are some books that I have nothing to say about for the purposes of this column. This says nothing about their quality, again, it’s just for this column.

But aliens also exist. And not just do they exist but they are prevalent. Superpeople, Green Lanterns aplenty, Martians, strippers, etc. I know the DCU has always been overrun with aliens since the building of the pyramids, but to see it all presented in 52 consecutive titles really made me reassess just how important non-humans are in the day to day of the DCU. And in Action Comics people seem very freaked out that Superman is an alien (even though he’s the most normal looking of the bunch) so I guess once Superman becomes a public good guy all the other aliens literally descend from the skies? These are the things I think about.

And while Aquaman appears to exist in the public consciousness, I don’t know if the general public of the DCU knows that Atlantis exists. Sure, that blogger knew, but he’s a blogger, he’s not really a person. I put this in the science category because Atlantis is a common pseudoscientific topic here on this earth and if it were found scientists (or maybe archaeologists) would be all over it faster than you can say Alvin. However, Aquaman himself has confirmed that fish cannot have coherent thoughts, which makes sense but does shatter hope for Topo. Although octopuses aren’t really fish, and are pretty danged smart too. Time will tell.

Plants are jerks that want you dead. In one of my favorite titles of the relaunch Scott Snyder points out through Alec Holland that plants are just as mean as animals given enough time. I loved this and hope it’s a theme he sticks with throughout his run on Swamp Thing. It’s a point of crossover between Earth Prime and the DCU because plants really are jerks! Well, maybe jerks is the wrong word. They’re just… alive. And sometimes to be alive other stuff has to die. And plants don’t like being eaten any more than an animal, so they have all kinds of built in nastiness to mess up whatever critter decides to down them. Food for thought the next time you’re offered something and told it’s good because it’s ‘all natural.’

Sci-fi, paranormalists, and futurists all try to tell us what may come tomorrow. Their success seems governed by nothing more than probability, luck, and a bit of extrapolation; thus the future remains inscruitable. And it’s the same in the DCU. And yes I’m making a Legion of Superheroes joke. I like the Legion. I’d read a Legion book I could understand. But I may as well have read those books through a blurry crystal ball. I guess the future will just have to remain unclear until it’s the present.

In the DCU there’s an afterlife and we can prove it! Which is not something one can say about our world. Deadman and Resurrection Man are semi-living proof of it, but at this point it seems more magical than anything else. No science to see here, moving on.

 

And finally Michael Holt PhD x 11. The potential Scientist Supreme of the DCU who just can’t seem to catch a break. I don’t want to sound like one of those guys, but I’ll admit I was skeptical the moment I saw the tatoos. I know a lot of academics, some of them even have tatoos, but it just didn’t seem to work for Michael. Then again I don’t know any decathletes, so maybe they’re all about ink and I’m just uniformed. But Holt’s physicality has always seemed more of a “oh yeah, and he’s fit enough to play ball with the big boys” explanation, it really is always about the brain.

I just want to see Michael Holt being smart, not just saying he’s smart. (Especially when he spouts nonsense, which happened in the new #1.) Mr. Terrific is a book I could even see myself writing and I generally have a very hard time thinking up storylines. But Holt is such fertile ground that I could sign a contract tomorrow (I wouldn’t though, I’m very busy at the moment). Yet this has become a digression, so I will end it.I think part of the problem is that Holt will always be smarter than the person putting words in his mouth. This should also be a problem for other smart characters like Batman, Lex Luthor, and Braniac 5, but it doesn’t seem as egregious as often. I think it’s because Batman is a detective, which is a very different mental skill set (deduction vs. induction), whereas Lex and Brainy are just jerks. I think it’s easier to write a smart smart-ass than someone who’s supposed to be sincerely nice like Mr. Terrific.

Now you have a brief rundown of the new science in the DCU. Not much seems to have changed from before, but a month of #1s just seemed like a good time for a synopsis. As usual, I expect I have forgotten some awesome revelation that you noticed, so let me hear it in the comments!

And yes, if I wrote Mr. Terrific he’d get his jacket back post haste.

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Ryan Haupt is glad he’s not on tenure track in the DCU. Publish or perish seems more literal there. Hear him sci-opine weekly on the podcast Science… sort of.

Comments

  1. the new blackhawks had a lot of cool sciency stuff with the nano bots. A lot of it sounded theoretical. But i’m no scientist.

    • Oh yeah! I want to see a Mythbusters episode about shooting water with a gun, because I really don’t think that would work.

    • @Ryan: They did one about shooting at someone who was underwater. Is that what you mean?

    • No, there’s a moment in Blackhawks when she’s falling towards the water and gonna get smashed because of the surface tension, so she shoots the water with a submachine gun. But I can’t imagine how that would work. She’s not slowing down, and surface tensions works on an atomic scale.

    • @Ryan: Oh, right, right. Forgot about that.

    • Jeff Reid JeffR (@JeffRReid) says:

      MythBusters did that water/surface tension myth but they used a hammer. It was a very early episode. You’re right, Ryan. It wouldn’t work.

    • Jeff, you are a font. Thank you.

    • Jeff Reid JeffR (@JeffRReid) says:

      Can I be anything except Comic Sans? I want people to like me. (And you’re welcome.)

    • @ ryan Any thoughts on the nanobots though?

    • I get bored by nano stuff. Might as well say quantum magic for all the actual science in there, right?

    • Parri Parri (@pazzatron) says:

      Re: breaking the surface of water to help survive a fall… When building the Sydney Harbour Bridge a worker fell from a great height into the water and survived. They say that throwing the hammer from his tool belt in before him is what saved his life.

      (Info courtesy of the girl that took my bridge climb tour. If you go to Sydney climb that bridge; it’s awesome.)

  2. If Mr. Terrific is a sign of science in the New 52….GULP! What a terrible first issue.

  3. The Yale and Harvard tweet made me laugh… in my office at a university that is not at Yale or Harvard.

  4. Frankenstein: AoS had tons of fun/crazy science stuff, shrinking tech, disposable workers & a guy who randomly turned into a japanese girl in a domino mask:) awesome.

  5. Jeff Reid JeffR (@JeffRReid) says:

    I never understood how characters like Mr. Terrific (and Tim Drake, I think) were atheists in the DCU. As you said, there is tangible proof that there is an afterlife in these stories. I mean, wasn’t it the Specter who even told Michael Holt to become the new Mr. Terrific? Who did Michael think the Specter was? Makes no sense to me.

    • Yeah, that’s bugged me but I haven’t known how to write about it. Clearly there needs to be a diversity of ideas and people in the funny books, and many scientists are non-believers, but if there was tangible proof it’d be tough.

    • I always thought that the “scientists” in DC, Marvel or whatever, probably just see these manifestations as coming from alternate dimensions or a form of magic rather than from some omnipotent creator. Take Mephisto for example.

  6. I agree 100% Ryan – that jacket was dope.

  7. Two thoughts regarding Mr. Terrific. 1. Since there was no JSA on this world, there would have been no Terry Sloan, the original Mr. Terrific. So how did Michael arrive at that name? It sounds a little strange if you think about it. 2. What is the purpose of the face mask? It wouldn’t disguise him anymore than painting my face would disguise me. So does the mask have some other purpose?

  8. What about the science in the green lantern corps? Every space sector is basically a wedge so every sector contains Oa? arent they just making a perimeter patrol take 6 times as long. Those pesky gaurdians put ego before efficiency everytime!