Thursday, February 17, 2011

Did I Err?

Let's be charitable and say that perhaps I overstated things a bit.  Though the truth is that I'm guilty of passing on unsubstantiated rumor as fact.  I should have my own show on Fox News.
Back in October, in my post entitled "Death and the Captain",  I related the story that Neil Gaiman had been so angered by the use of Death of the Endless in Captain Atom #42 in 1990 that he insisted that no one could use Death or any of his Sandman characters without his express permission.  Well, Brian Cronin addressed this very issue this past weekend in his latest installment of "Comic Book Legends Revealed."  It turns out I got quite a bit wrong.
Whereas I was relying entirely on hearsay for my account, Cronin went straight to the source and talked to Gaiman himself.  The Sandman writer denies having "laid down the law," as I put it in that earlier post, to DC, and says that he was not angry about the story.  In fact, he tells Cronin that " wasn't a big deal."  I suppose if I were to characterize Gaiman's feelings about the Captain Atom issue as related by Cronin, I would say he was "chagrined."   Cronin quotes Gaiman as saying:
"I just felt it confused things — she wasn’t an 'aspect' of Death. She was Death. When one day Nekron or the Black Racer stops existing, she’ll be there to take them."
That part, at least, I got right, by the way.
Gaiman goes on to say:
"If the script or lettered comic had been run by me back then I would have noticed the continuity issues and corrected them. As it was, it wasn’t a big deal: it was a fine comic as far as it went, but it tried to shoehorn Death into DC Continuity and got it wrong. So I clarified matters in Sandman 20."
That last part is something I hadn't heard before.  Gaiman's response to the story in Captain Atom was not to make unreasonable demands of DC management, but to write a story of his own in order to define and clarify Death's true nature and role in the universe.  That story, entitled "Facade," appeared in Sandman #20 and is reprinted in the book Dream Country.  In it, Death encounters Urania Blackwell, the Element Girl, a long forgotten supporting character from Metamorpho's Silver Age series.  She is depressed and wants to die, but her elemental nature makes killing herself almost impossible.  She encounters Death, who had come for the woman upstairs and heard Urania crying.  Ultimately, the Sandman's sister gives the Element Girl some advice to help her attain her goal. But first, Death takes a few panels to explain just who and what she is.

My purpose in writing about Captain Atom #42 in the first place was to show that Death's recent appearance in Action Comics was not, as some were claiming, the character's first appearance in a mainstream DC Universe super-hero comic.  Cronin's column actually reinforces that point by mentioning a Death cameo in Legion of Super-Heroes in 1992 that I'd been unaware of previously.  LSH #38 was the issue where Keith Giffen and Tom and Mary Bierbaum blew up the Earth, so it's only logical that Death should be on hand for the festivities.

I apologize for the error.  I'll try to be better at checking my facts in the future.  Because I really hate to be wrong.

1 comment:

  1. I think the character of "Death" also appeared in the "Mr. E" mini series.