For April Fool’s Day last year, The Great Curve crew did a series of posts “written by” various comic characters, like Dr. Doom, Bizarro and Delirium. Below is one of Tom Bondurant’s contributions, as he took on the guise of Zatanna. Yojne!
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! Zatanna here, taking a break from magic and superhero stuff to talk a little comics.
You might think it’s been a rough couple of years for ol’ Zee, after being Miss Mind-Wipe 2004, but thanks to my new best friend Grant, I’m back in the high life again. I now have cred with the mega-crossover crowd and the hipsters, without the editorial hassle of going back and forth across imprints! How great is that?
(Big ups to my manager for putting together that deal, by the way. I didn’t know if DC would go for it, but he just said “Hey, I’ll ‘ekam ti neppah!’”)
(With finger quotes.)
Anyway, since the title of the column is “Backwards Masking,” I’ll be discussing some of the more well-known hidden messages in comics. See, in the old days, parents used to worry that their kids would play their favorite songs backwards and hear all kinds of evil things. Today, we’re much more sophisticated, because we know that backwards-talking doesn’t work unless you’ve got some Homo Magi blood in you.
Or if …
Look, just don’t do it, okay? And, uh, stay in school.
So. Hidden messages. Actually, these are stories that looked back on history to pull out themes that had apparently been there all along. S’tel og!
1. “T’nod etad ruoy ssob!” Hal Jordan’s relationship with Carol Ferris was, in a word, complicated. She was his boss, and returned his advances, but she’d still have thrown him under the bus for a chance with Green Lantern. That is, she was in love with GL on the days she wasn’t Star Sapphire, ceremonial Queen of the Zamarons and GL’s sworn enemy. When Hal quit the Green Lantern Corps to be with Carol, everything looked both hunky and dory – until she was kidnapped by a new villain, the Predator. In Green Lantern #192 (September 1985), writer Steve Englehart, artists Joe Staton and Bruce Patterson, and a series of flashbacks explained Carol’s history as both Star Sapphire and the Predator. The story was so steeped in GL lore that it was presented without footnotes, and spawned a lettercolumn contest to see who could spot all the references. (Footnotes? Lettercolumns? Ask your parents.) Whether you like the story or not, you have to admire the effort that went into justifying the Predator’s origin.
2. “Revoc rof em, Tobmood!” Public figures from Santa to Elvis to Saddam Hussein have employed lookalikes when their schedules got too hectic, or when they just wanted to get away. However, only Doctor Doom has turned the art of plausible deniability into a science – literally – through the use of Doombots. Defeated by Ant-Man? Doombot. Wiseacre strike a match on your armor? Doombot. Humiliated by Squirrel Girl? Well….
3. “Uoy tsuj tih eht topkcaj!” Every superhero in a serious romance has to face the big question of how to tell the significant other about the alter ego. (All these pop-psych buzzwords! When did I become Read Ybba?) There’s always a danger that the big moment will wreck everything, because the S.O. will feel deceived (and rightly so). Sometimes, though, our heroes get lucky (so to speak), because the objects of their affections have known all along. Such was the case with Mary Jane Watson, who saw Spidey sneaking out of Peter’s house the night his uncle Ben was killed. She told Peter in October 1984′s Amazing Spider-Man #257, and the story was revisited in the 1990 graphic novel Parallel Lives and Untold Tales of Spider-Man #16 (December 1998). Sure, MJ must have been a pretty good actress to pretend she didn’t know for all those years, but at least it’s one more hurdle Peter didn’t need the proportionate strength of a spider to overcome.
4. “Scisyhp, scisymhcs!” Jay Garrick and Barry Allen were both scientists, so how come it took college dropout Wally West to question all the physical laws they broke just about every second? (I kid because I love, Wally!) Between the frictionless aura and Wally’s temporary need to consume mass quantities, the Flashes each nodded in the general direction of plausibility, until Mark Waid revealed the all-purpose answer. Not only was the Speed Force a limitless reservoir of super-speed energy, it facilitated time-travel and acted as an afterlife. (And it tasted great on pie!) What it lacked in scientific accuracy it made up for in elegant simplicity. It was a little more than a “just because” answer, but it was a lot more satisfying than the whole Mopee mess.
5. “Ton ytliug!” When alleged mob boss Fred Flintstone goes on trial, his defense attorney Harvey Birdman argues that “capo di tutti capi” is just another in a long line of fictional personae brought on by repeated blows to the head with a bowling ball. Wish I’d seen this before the whole Dr. Light business — “Llab, ekirts Thgil!” — and a good blow to the head did wonders for Guy Gardner too! Hey, Guy, c’mere….
Well, that’s all for now, folks! Time to blow some teenagers’ minds! Retal!