Eruditorum Press

Gaze not into the abyss lest you accidentally write a book

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

16 Comments

  1. Daibhid C
    October 22, 2014 @ 1:37 am

    It's never occurred to me before (possibly because I first read this long after the event), but in a way the Byrne reboot highlights the truth of "Aren't they all?", even from what one might call a Byrnist perspective. Not just "This is a story that didn't really happen, just like all Superman stories", but also "This is a story that isn't really in continuity, just like all previous Superman stories".

    And while by the Byrnist definition Byrne's upcoming stories aren't imaginary, this is only with the caveat "…yet", because once DC have rejected all previous continuity once, there is no reason they can't do it again. (There have been at least three new Superman origins since then; Waid's Birthright and Johns's Secret Origin, both of which contradicted Byrne without any in-universe explanation, and most recently, of course, Morrison's Action Comics, which did follow a line-wide reboot.)

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  2. Anton B
    October 22, 2014 @ 2:17 am

    What I find most depressing about Byrne's reaction to "…aren't they all?" is that, apart from mixing his metaphors, he seems to be suggesting that exposing the Wizard of Oz as the 'man behind the curtain' or revealing that 'the Emperor has no clothes' is somehow a bad thing. Displaying a basic misunderstanding of the moral of both tales.

    Moore's use of Mxyzptlk as the 'big bad' – taking a 'joke villain', a trickster figure and ramping up his effectiveness and capacity for evil echoes his use of Kid Marvelman, Johnny Bates in Marvelman.

    Also I've only just noticed the similarity between Superman's secret retirement plan as an auto-shop repair man and Hollis Mason/Nite Owl's in Watchmen.

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  3. Lo-Fi Explosion
    October 22, 2014 @ 3:20 am

    For me, the "aren't they all?" gives legitimacy to Moore’s story, and instead of it being “just” an imaginary story, by drawing attention to every story being imaginary, this is the equal of all of the previous stories, and this ceases to be an imaginary story, but actually the End of Superman.

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  4. Neo Tuxedo
    October 22, 2014 @ 3:49 am

    a jackboxer from the Manhattan saltbogs of Soto

    It's an honest mistake on your part, given the fluidity of John Costanza's lettering, but I always read that "Soto" as "5070".

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    • Aberrant Eyes
      March 27, 2016 @ 3:14 pm

      And I do mean “always”; as I just noted elsewhere, Swamp Thing #46 was my first encounter with the War, and specifically with Alan Moore. The scene in an early issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths where the Legion of Super-Heroes works to contain a stampede of displaced woolly mammoths through 2985 Metropolis (to name one high-concept moment) shows you what the end of the world looks like; Clyde Barrow watching the ending of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde through teary eyes, on the other hand, shows you what it feels like. I was 15 going on 16 with very little grasp of my own emotions, but I could tell that difference, and I could tell that I wanted to know how the Swamp Thing had got there. Not far into the new year, I persuaded my parents to pick me up the Swamp Thing issues back to when John Constantine first came into Alec’s life. The rest, as Butterfly St. Cyr would say, is nonfiction.

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  5. Ice
    October 22, 2014 @ 5:40 am

    John Byrne is such an interesting and strange character within the super hero comics story. His personal online forums are interesting.

    This is offtopic for this post, but on topic (I think, anyway) for The War's narrative in the future. I realized the other day that I can think of one artist who's worked with almost all of the subjects of The War over the last 16 years or so: JH Williams III has worked with Moore, Morrison, Ellis, and currently Gaiman.

    I wonder if there are any artists who've had that much to do with the various major players in The War.

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  6. John Seavey
    October 22, 2014 @ 7:00 am

    I realize you only mentioned it tangentially, but Superman #149 is amazing. The pure scope of it is breathtaking–Lex Luthor cures cancer as part of a plot to lure Superman into a deathtrap. It may be an imaginary story, but I think that may well be the purest expression of Luthor as a character; his intellect is beyond compare, but his ambitions are stunted by his selfish sociopathy to the point where he would only save millions of lives if it helped him gain petty revenge for a childhood slight. That is absolutely operatic in its scale, and it's part of why I actually adore the Silver Age Superman pretty unironically.

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  7. Daibhid C
    October 22, 2014 @ 7:07 am

    Absolutely. I wonder if that's part of Byrne's problem; this guy was assigned to write a non-canon story that serves as an epilogue to a history that no longer matters, and the first thing he writes is "This story matters as much as any other one does". Including the upcoming one that tells you what the "real" Superman is for the next seventeen years.

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  8. Adam Riggio
    October 22, 2014 @ 10:52 am

    Part of what I loved about your analysis of Moore and Byrne's difference over "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" and the larger Crisis storyline (when I read the whole thing a couple of months ago) is how you highlight a similar theme that arises in the same era of Doctor Who on the Eruditorum. The overwhelming importance of creating an entirely fixed, totally internally consistent continuity for the universe of characters.

    When I was a teenager, I used to believe that consistency among all storylines and stories in a given sci-fi universe was absolutely necessary. It irked me to see inconsistency. I was treating each sci-fi universe I encountered as if it was a real world, and I treated the real world as if all of physical reality needed to be entirely consistent. It was only later, as I engaged with the most unpleasantly fanwanky of Star Trek: Enterprise episodes, that I realized what a pain it was to care about internal consistency of your imaginary world more than the quality of stories I was telling. Your analysis of Ian Levine's influence on Doctor Who only convinced me of the point. I'm now on the verge of producing my own sci-fi universes, and continuity be damned if it gets in the way of a good story.

    The truth is, it shouldn't even have mattered that the character and world histories of DC were going to be rebooted anyway. I'm glad that was going on, which was why Moore's "Tomorrow" was greenlit. But we shouldn't have needed that excuse. I think it would be a cool idea for DC if, every decade, they were to commission their most prominent writer in the stable or an otherwise famous outsider to write their own take on the death of Superman.

    It's only a very immature understanding of narrative and literature that would understand these fictional characters, cities, and Earths as if they were real things and places which should obey the same laws of consistency as we expect physical objects to do. Pulling back the curtain and understanding them as fictional entities with creators who craft their narratives with immense skill and knowledge doesn't ruin anything, but adds to the fascination. But I also say this as someone who creates fiction. Then again, so is John Byrne.

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  9. Spoilers Below
    October 22, 2014 @ 1:22 pm

    Byrne's annoyance and the overall nerd fixation on authoritative readings and continuity remind me a great deal of Josh Marsfelder's points in his excellent reading of Roots.

    http://vakarangi.blogspot.com/2014/03/sensor-scan-roots.html

    If the point is to do a complete and exhaustive story, the "Real Story", then absolutely a tale like Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow is anathema. If the point is to tell a story with the characters, and the story they are telling is the point, not whether that story jives with the other stories they have told, then Moore's is a perfect addition. The Super Mario series of video games, and the anime Tenchi Muyo are less heavy examples of this style of story telling. Why are Mario and Bowser suddenly tennis and go kart buddies? Wasn't Ryo-Oki Ryoko's pet, not Sasami's, before Tenchi in Tokyo? These are unimportant questions in this story telling style. (That both of these examples use a ton of theatrical imagery and cues is intentional, and is a topic for a much larger essay on this subject)

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  10. Kit
    October 22, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

    This made me think to do a google: looks like the only time Todd Klein has worked on an Ellis book was specifically to keep collaborating with JHW3 after Promethea. (He has, of course, been the letterer of choice for the other three on many or all of their major projects in comics over the last couple of decades.)

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  11. John Seavey
    October 23, 2014 @ 9:23 am

    I both agree and disagree. I agree that caring about consistency to the exclusion of quality is a mistake; however, that consistency is important for two reasons. One, it helps to create a sense of verisimilitude, which can be profoundly lacking in a science-fictional universe. Assuring your readers that the world today's story takes place is the same world as yesterday's and tomorrow's stories helps to create a sense of believability to what can otherwise seem like very implausible stories. It's a storytelling technique that definitely has its uses.

    The other thing it helps with is…well, I don't want to say "laziness", but I will say that having to keep things consistent prevents problems like just making up a new power for Superman every time he needs to get out of a jam, or conveniently forgetting that Cally is a telepath every time it would cause the writer difficulties. Once you decide that narrative consistency isn't important, especially in a science fiction/fantasy universe, there's very little to prevent the writer from just changing all the rules whenever they feel like it. That can be its own set of problems.

    Consistency shouldn't be to the exclusion of all else, but nor is it unnecessary.

    Reply

  12. BerserkRL
    October 23, 2014 @ 10:19 am

    after two thousand years of being a mischievous imp, he’s grown bored and decided to spend two millennia being evil instead

    Have you read Shirley Jackson's story "One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts"?

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  13. BerserkRL
    October 23, 2014 @ 10:23 am

    Reply

  14. Eric Gimlin
    October 23, 2014 @ 8:58 pm

    Have you ever seen the prints Todd Klein has done? He's actually gotten both Moore and Gaiman to write original stories just for him to show off his lettering; and Williams to illustrate one showing a passage from Le Morte d'Arthur. Beautiful pieces.

    http://kleinletters.com/Blog/signed-prints/

    Reply

  15. Web_Weaver
    October 26, 2014 @ 1:13 am

    Presumably Byrne is haunted by the text in "Whatever Happened…" because the story is about him. Superman has pre-emptively escaped his fate by killing the man behind the curtain.

    The child making diamonds represents how children will always own these stories, not the new guard seeking to control them.

    Reply

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