In Episode 20 of Parallel Lines: The DC Comics Tangent Universe Podcast, Shawn Engel and I will begin our coverage of TANGENT: SUPERMAN’S REIGN, which is a story that sees the Tangent Universe characters clash with their main DC Universe counterparts.
But that series, published in 2008, wasn’t the first reappearance of the Tangent characters after the conclusion of the second wave a decade prior.
About six months after the second wave of Tangent books, DC began publication of THE KINGDOM, a Fifth Week event meant to serve as a sequel to the extremely popular miniseries, KINGDOM COME. The series, written by Mark Waid, also introduced “Hypertime,” a version of the multiple-Earths concept DC had done away with following the publication of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.
Hypertime served to bring the Tangent Universe into “official” continuity in THE KINGDOM #2 as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and more got their first glimpse at Hypertime and the infinite number of universes contained within in it, which included Tangent.
That universe’s versions of the Joker, the Flash, Batman, Supergirl and Powergirl were seen, with art taken from their respective titles from the first and second Tangent waves.
Unfortunately, the Hypertime concept was rarely used and soon abandoned altogether with no more visits being paid to the Tangent Universe.
The next nod to the Tangent Universe came in 2000 via SUPERMAN AND BATMAN: WORLD’S FUNNEST #1, written by Evan Dorkin. Officially labeled an Elseworlds, the story saw the World’s Finest Fifth-Dimensional Pests, Mr. Mxyzptllk and Bat-Mite, hopping from alternate universe to divergent future to parallel dimension and back again in a cosmos-spanning game of one-upmanship.
As the story builds to its climax, a sequence illustrated by Ty Templeton features a look-in to the Tangent Universe. The one-panel cameo by that universe’s versions of Batman, Green Lantern and Superman marked the first time the Tangent characters had appeared in new artwork — and by creators not involved with the original events — since the second wave’s conclusion.
And here’s the full page for context.
But after that?
Radio silence. For more than five years.
Hypertime quietly faded. Comics trends came and went. Fans of the Tangent Universe might’ve been in crisis mode — and for good reason: It would take a Crisis to bring back the universe.
In 2006’s INFINITE CRISIS, writer Geoff Johns and a slew of artists restored the original Multiverse, albeit temporarily and with some additions — including the Tangent Universe.
It began in issue #5 of the series when Alexander Luthor used the Superman of Earth-Two to facilitate the restoration of the multiverse, and by doing so give us a panel showing us the Supermans from a myriad of Earths, including the Tangent Earth.
As issue #6 continued the story, no sooner than its official creation/recreation, we saw the looming demise of the Tangent Earth itself, now given the numerical designate of Earth-97. (The 97 was a meta-textual reference to 1997, the year of publication for first Tangent event.)
The Superman, the Flash, the Joker, Manhunter and Pooch, Plastic Man, the Spectre, the Atom, Batman and the Green Lantern are all among the fray, aiding the terrified populace. Of note in this panel is the Green Lantern interacting directly with other people — which she had not done in any of her four appearances to this point.
Immediately after INFINITE CRISIS, DC began publishing 52, a weekly series that ultimately created a new multiverse, similar in many ways to the previous, but with with a limit of their being just 52 worlds.
Published simultaneously with 52, was ION, a series which not only gave us a visit with the characters of the Tangent Universe, but the biggest use of the characters since their independent series of books in 1997 and 1998.
It began in issue #8 of the series, where two boys discovered a familiar — to Tangent fans, anyway — lantern.
What became of the lantern, and how did it effect the boys’ lives? Find out as Shawn and I discuss issues #9 and #10 in Episode 19 of the show where we cover issues that act as a prologue to SUPERMAN’S REIGN.
But with the new Multiverse established at the end of 52, DC began a countdown to their next big event with another weekly series, appropriately titled … COUNTDOWN. The third issue of the reverse-numbered series, #49, began a 12-part backup strip, “The History of the Multiverse,” detailing … well, the history of the Multiverse. (DC wasn’t really burying the lede at this stage.)
Regardless, three installments of this series, which was written and penciled by Dan Jurgens (making his return to the characters born in the event he spearheaded) and inked by Norm Rapmund and Jerry Ordway, made references to the Tangent Universe. These included the Green Lantern and a miscolored Atom in issue #41, while issues #40 and #38 showed us two takes on the Superman, adding him to a myriad of Superman analogues from throughout the Multiverse.
A COUNTDOWN companion series, COUNTDOWN: ARENA, saw characters from several different Multiversal worlds being thrown together for a big ol’ Fighty McFightenstein (copyright 2011 Andrew Leyland of Hey Kids Comics, all rights reserved). Most notably, at least as far as we’re concerned, was that among the gathered characters was Lia Nelson, aka the Flash of the Tangent Universe.
The series, by Keith Champagne, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, gave the Tangent Earth the new numerical designate of Earth-9. Unlike the previous designate of Earth-97, however, the number 9 seems to hold no significance beyond random assignment. (It is an interesting coincidence, however, that the original Tangent waves each contained nine books.)
Lia’s part in the four-issue series was small, but did provide for some good interactions with her a pair of fellow bearers of the Flash mantle (including Jay Garrick of Earth-2 and the Crime Society’s Johnny Quick of Earth-3) before she was ultimately defeated in the battle of the Flashes.
While her part in the series was minor, the references to her celebrity status and teenage-girl personality ultimately rang true to the character as she’d been presented in her initial appearances. It also helped raise the character’s profile ahead of her next appearance — and the next use of the Tangent characters — in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #16.
And for more on that issue, which is an official opening salvo in SUPERMAN’S REIGN, be sure to listen to Episode 19 of Parallel Lines: A DC Comics Tangent Universe Podcast, where Shawn Engel and I will continue to document the stories and lives of everyone’s favorite Tangent Universe characters!