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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.


  1. Bat Masterson
    May 6, 2021 @ 4:01 am

    Your Doom Patrol thoughts will belong in a museum (one hopes).


  2. Douglas Muir
    May 6, 2021 @ 3:23 pm

    I feel like you’re rushing through this a bit. I hope that in the final version, you’ll expand a little more.

    — The “I SEE YOU!” scene is indeed iconic, and it’s also a pretty key turning point in Morrison’s career — and, arguably, in the War. Morrison had dabbled in breaking the fourth wall before, but this is the first time he clenched, swung, and punched right through.

    Was this the first such break within the text of superhero comics? I can’t think of an earlier one offhand.

    — Taking peyote: was this issue Comics Code approved? [checks] Nope, guess not. Interesting. Was the entire run non-CCA? Also, was this before or after Morrison’s famous Nepal experience?

    — There’s an entire issue devoted to Buddy’s grief and it is actually pretty hard to read. (Also, it ends with him getting ready to commit suicide out of sheer misery, which… I think might have been another superhero comics first?) Truog’s art is actually really good here, especially the repeated fades in and out of blackness.

    — “I put on leather; old stuff from when I was a punk. Dress in the dead skin of animals. Calling on the animal powers.” HELLO. Morrison, former punk, is about to enter a period of dressing himself variously and curiously, including cross-dressing, as part of his magickal self-education.

    — This whole run has Morrison bouncing back and forth between riffing on Moore, hommaging Moore, flat-out ripping off Moore, and doing his own completely new thing. In the “flat-out ripping off” category, I’d put the revenge issue — it’s very close to a cut-and-paste of the next to last issue of Moore’s Swamp Thing run, where he hunts down and creatively kills the Sunderland employees who “killed” him and took him away from Abby. It even has the exact same pattern. Four kills: three nobodies, then the guy most immediately responsible.

    — Except! As you correctly note, the end of the issue takes it emotionally and thematically in a completely different direction. Moore gives us the revenge fantasy; the villains were evil, they deserved to die. Swamp Thing gives them grisly but appropriate deaths straight out of good old EC comics, and that’s the whole story. Morrison has Buddy doubly traumatized. He’s explicitly rejecting the revenge fantasy, which has been one of the pillars of superhero comics literally since Action Comics #1, and which had become a particular staple during the 1980s.

    — The lines the Psycho-Pirate quotes are from Ishtar’s invasion of the Underworld in Mesopotamian mythology. Best guess is that Morrison got them from “Mythology of the Microcosm” by Brian Lasater.

    — “Down Among the Dead Men” is straight from Moore, as is the Phantom Stranger as a helper and guide, and of course we get a couple of pages of Jason Blood being gothic. And Swamp Thing makes a one-panel appearance in the time travel issue, and… yeah, the glimpse of Overman’s world? It’s pretty much straight out of That Issue of Miracleman.

    — McCulloch’s not a Flash villain here, and he pretty much steals the show in the revenge issue. He’s minor but he’ll recur. Morrison likes this character.

    — The time travel issue! Come on! This was AMAZING stuff. This issue blew my mind when I read it, and it has stayed with me for 30+ years. Buddy’s grief and determination and despair are all note-perfect, as is the description of the futility of deterministic / can’t-change-the-past time travel. It’s a tour de force.

    — Also, note that Morrison had clearly been looking forward to this issue since… what, issue #5 or so? Whenever ghost-Buddy first showed up. A year and a half, in real world time. He’d repeat this several times, with Invisibles and Batman, but this was his first time doing it — and I /think/ it was the first time anyone had done it, at least in superhero comics.

    So while it’s possible that editorial interference may have triggered the onset of Morrison’s final arc, that arc had clearly been plotted out literally years in advance.

    (Also, the horrible guest art in this issue shows us just how much Chuck Truog actually had going on.)

    — On a quick reread, I notice Morrison playing with insect motifs — the repeated appearance of butterflies (representing hope and renewal) and flies (nothing good). Insect symbolism will continue to pop up in his work for a long time to come.

    — Finally, can we just note here that Dolphin was a fellow Forgotten Hero, foreshadowing not only the return of the minor characters a few issues later but also his abiding fondness for obscure DC history — something he’ll carry on with right up to the present day.

    Doug M.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      May 7, 2021 @ 12:06 pm

      Doug, I’ve got nearly 18,000 words on Animal Man alone. Expansion is not, shall we say, my priority.


    • Matheus de Arruda
      August 6, 2022 @ 10:31 am

      In Morrison’s own “Supergods” they credit the first major fourth-wall break that inspired them in the The Flash n.163 with the Flash’s “Stop! Don’t pass up on this issue, my vife depends on it!” towards the reader, although that was technically only the cover.


  3. Douglas Muir
    May 7, 2021 @ 11:52 am

    A general comment.

    You’re going with the metaphor of a War. Okay. Well, if you’re going to talk about War, I invite you to extend the metaphor a little bit and think about force structure.

    Force structure is the sum of all the different ways a combatant brings force to bear in war. It’s most commonly thought of in terms of weapon systems, but it’s bigger than that. All conflicts involve differences in force structure, but the most interesting and iconic ones usually involve dramatic differences. Like, one bunch of armored knights taking on an almost identical bunch of armored knights? Not that interesting. But armored Crusaders taking on Saladin’s fast-moving horse archers? That’s must-see TV.

    Legion vs. Phalanx. Heavily armed GIs vs. pajama-clad Viet Cong. 400 redcoats vs. 10,000 Zulus. World War I is boring to read about because it’s identical mass armies just grinding it out. World War II is interesting to read about because one side has blitzkrieg and V-2s and Tiger tanks and jet fighters and U-boats, and the other side has the Royal Navy and Bletchley Park and the Red Army and mass production and the Manhattan Project. Asymmetric warfare is just inherently more interesting.

    So… what’s the difference between the two sides of your War? Not just what are they trying to accomplish, but what are the different means that they’re using? Because it definitely feels like asymmetric warfare of some sort.

    Doug M.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      May 7, 2021 @ 12:02 pm

      A good observation, but three or four volumes too early. (Moore hasn’t even realized he’s a magician yet, after all.)


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