SPOILER ALERT!!! Forever Evil #1 …
I’m breaking today from my usual Tigwissel Tuesday’s format of presenting quack science found in 19th and early 20th century comic strips and cartoons, to focus on a comic book released barely a week ago.
Reading super-hero comics (or for that matter, any science fiction or fantasy, presented in any medium), requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. Everyone has their own particular things that, when an author violates it, their suspension of disbelief is shattered. Mine is when authors have stories space science, they should at least get basic astronomy and the laws of physics involving stars and planets, correct. (Exception: Al Williamson space scenes packed tightly with dozens of close-together planets, so close they can’t be anything but on the verge of collision. Such a scene will stop me every time, but the beauty of Williamson’s artwork soothes over my “That’s not possible” reaction, with its “looks cool” factor.)
I started and threw out what I’m about to say half a dozen times now, thinking I should just keep my mouth shut. Science violations of this nature probably appear in comics far more often than I’ve noticed – I simply don’t read super-hero comics as much as other genres. But, I’m finding these two particular comic book pages continuing to annoy me days after I read them. Nothing else in comics has done that to me, since Peter David took over what had been one of my favorite comics series at the time – Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar (a space adventure series) – and in his first issue David repeatedly proved that he hadn’t the faintest understanding of astronomical distances. That issue is still the only one I’ve ever thrown across a room in disgust (and twice, after I decided to give it a second chance, by resuming my read). That was nearly twenty-five years ago.
Which brings me to… FINAL SPOILER ALERT WARNING!!!… Forever Evil #1 !!! …
The last two pages of Forever Evil #1. We’re on Earth. It’s near dawn. The moon has not been shown all issue. Ultraman — an evil alternate universe version of Superman, who draws power from kryptonite, and is made weak by our sun’s rays — physically pushes the moon to eclipse the locale on Earth where he’d just been standing…
I’m not questioning whether Ultraman/Superman has the power to shove planets around. I’m not quibbling that he has nothing in space to provide the leverage behind his pushing Earth’s Moon. Nor that if he did lay hands on the moon (as shown) to push it, that the crust wouldn’t remain rigid at the point of contact so that the whole Moon could be pushed, rather than Ultraman burrowing into the Moon’s interior. Somehow, for a Superman variant, I would have suspended disbelief.
It’s not that in order to fly to an angle to push the Moon, Ultraman would have had to have spent a certain fraction of space flight time exposed to direct, unfiltered sunlight (he should be inside a crater to hide from the Sun when he’s pushing – instead we see him exposed to what he’s exerting to block)!
It’s not that the tidal forces resulting from the sudden shoving of the Moon to a new position, would result in massive earthquakes and ocean upheavals, destroying much of what the villains seek to rule! (That doesn’t bother me, because I figure Ultraman wouldn’t care if it happened, apart from the “Whoops, now we gotta find another alternate Earth to rule…”)
What bothers me, is not even the absolutely laughable panel showing Ultraman pushing the Moon. Laughable, because the way it’s drawn, inadvertently implies that Ultraman grew to gigantic size to do this. I’m convinced this was neither the writer’s nor artist’s intent — we see a full picture of the Moon, where Ultraman is not visible, followed by a closer inset distance shot, showing Ultraman pushing the Moon. Problem is, that inset shot still shows the curvature of the Moon, meaning that the shot is far distant — so far that Ultraman would have had to have grown to gigantic proportions to be seen. That the writer (assumably) requested a full shot plus inset, shows he was trying to avoid what the scene still ends up looking like. And the artist?? Well, to depict this without a laughably gigantic Ultraman, would have required a series of panels, each moving closer, until we see Ultraman inside a crater protected from the Sun (as he should have been), followed by a face close-up, showing him gritting his teeth with effort (rather than what would have appeared as merely a hand-stand on the surface), and THEN cut back to the view from Earth. Doing that, however, would have meant multiple panels on the last page, and the creators preferred a full page single panel ending for dramatic effect.
All of the above, I somehow, illogically, might have suspended disbelief for.
What is bothering the Hell out of me here, is that in order to move the Moon, Ultraman either accelerated and/or decelerated the Moon’s orbital speed (plus shoved its orbit, to get it to eclipse the spot he wanted rather than one North or South). Logically that final page of Forever Evil #1, should be the last we see of Ultraman, as he’ll have to spend the remainder of the series constantly jostling and adjusting the Moon’s position, to keep it eclipsing wherever location he wants to be in! (And what’s the point of that, since all his time will be spent adjusting the Moon?)
(All this ignores that if he decelerated the Moon, its orbit will decay, bringing it crashing to Earth. Or alternately, if he accelerated it, it could escape Earth’s orbit, becoming an independent, Earth-crossing planet, eventually leading to… Never mind questions such as what this does to the Moon’s spin – is the “Far Side” now facing the Earth?? Does the part of the Moon we now see, constantly change??)
I’m certain the creators did this, because they thought it would be a cool ending to the first issue. And for the majority of readers it probably is. Me, I thought it was a nice, cool twist, when it looked like the ultra powerful Ultraman was going to have to flee in fear from the Sun, either “going to ground” like a vampire, or flying to a new global location every eight to twelve hours to remain in nighttime, for the entire series. As I said at the open, though, getting elementary astrophysics wrong will always boot me out of my ability to enjoy a story.