Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Planetary Annotations--"Dead Gunfighters" (Issue Three)

This--along with the next issue--is going to be the shortest of my annotations. Also the next two weeks will have no Wold Newton Apologia. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programing

Theme: Chinese Action Flicks

Quick Summary: The Planetary team finds a ghost cop gunning down mobsters in Hong Kong.

Opening Line: Ah. Money to make, drugs to take, whores to kill. Hong Kong is so good to me."


Page 3, panel 1: The signs say “RHS” and “Kent,” I don’t know what, if any, significance they hold.

Page 9, panel 4: “Weekly World News” was a tongue in cheek newspaper that had such headlines as “Hillbillies Shoot Angel” or “I was Bigfoot’s Love Slave.” The complete run can be read at Google Books.

Page 14: The structure of this thing is similar to the reality ship from Issue 4: “Strange Harbours”

Page 16, panel 1: “196,833” is the number that of universe that exist, according to Doc Brass.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Planetary Annotations--Island (Issue Two)

Theme: The early Godzilla films.

Quick Summary: The Planetary field team goes to Japan to attempt to rescue a group of Japanese cultists from Zero Island, the place where all the Godzilla type monsters originated from. The cultists are die during a confrontation with international guards placed on the isle to prevent people from discovering the giant bodies.

Opening Line: “It does us good to have our genitals frozen into small blue dead things.”


Pages4-5: This is the Kaiju, Mothra, from the Godzilla film series.

Page 6, panel 1: Three pop culture items are advertised on the electric signs. The apple is of course for Apple Computers, the “Zard” sign refers to the Japanese pop group, and the triple eyed smiley-face is from Warren Ellis’ comic series Transmetropolitan.
(It was also used as the symbol of the 2001 sci-fi film Evolution.)

Page 7: panel 3: Shinya has a Ninja action figure on his speakers. The ninja is, of course, one of the most prominent pop cultural symbols of Japan. (To foreigners like me, at anyrate.)

Page 9: panel 5: Both Shinya and Master Storyteller smoke Marlboros.

Page 10: panels 2-3: The Drummer is playing with a Game Boy Camera—a state of the art toy in 1999.

Page 10, panel 3: Aum Shin Ryko (Properly called “Aum Shinriko”) is a Japanese death cult that made a toxic attack on Japanese subways in 1995.

Page 11, panel 1: This is the Skelton of the kaiju King Ghidorah, the archenemy of Godzilla. (It is often named “Monster Zero,” perhaps this is the origin of the issue’s title.)

Page 12, panel 3: Note that Snow stole these cigarettes from Shinya. See page 9, panel 5.

Page 14, panel 3: This is Godzilla. King of the Monsters. Right now he is very dead.

Page 17, panel 2: Here Jakita shows another one of the Golden Age Superman powers: enhanced speed. (Faster Than a Speeding Bullet.)

Panel 4: The Zero Island guards carry WW2 era German MP40s. Perhaps this has something to do with the Nazi-Science left-overs that the Four started with. (See issue six, “4”)

Page 20, panel 2: The bright light was probably an extra-universal snow flake, much like the thing encountered by the pulp heroes earlier in 1945.

Page 22, panel 1: This is Rodan, the pterodactyl type creature from the Godzilla movies. He is the last survivor of Monster Island.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Planetary Wold Newton Apologia--"All Over the World"

"The Spider versus The Scorpion"

In 1943, The Spider magazine ceased publication, leaving a question as to what happened to the most blood thirsty of the pulp heroes.
The question was first given attention in the afterward of “A Look at the Wimsey Family” by Mark Brown. The theory put forth is that The Spider disappeared on a secret WWII mission in 1943.
But the truth is much darker. I assume that Jess Nevin’s theory on the identity of “The Scorpion” is based off of the costume differences from the character in Planetary and Page’s Spider. I, for one, cannot find any reason preventing Scorpion from being Spider.*
The Spider joined up with Doc Brass (James Anthony) to create the perfect world—a land, presumably, without the world-wreckers he encountered on a daily basis. As we know from “All Over the World,” the plan failed.

* One exception exists. In the novel Invisible Death, by Lin Carter, the protagonist briefly meets a man named "Wentworth" who is engaged to a miss Nita Van Sloan. Perhaps

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Planetary Annotations--All Over the World (Issue One)

Issue One “All Over the World”

Theme: The 1930s pulp heroes.

Quick summary: Elijah Snow is a grumpy one hundred year old man who gets pulled away from his wilderness shack to consult for the organization Planetary. There he meets his teammates Jakita Wagner and The Drummer, and is sent out to a secret bunker in the Adirondacks. This bunker was used as a secret base by analogues of the pulp heroes. In 1945 they attempted to run a system that would turn Earth into a perfect planet, but their attempts were stopped by an alternate universe’s Justice League.

Opening Line: "Coffee tastes like your dog took a leak in it."


Page 7, panel 2: The Drummer is drinking Whak Cola. “Whak” is probably a reference to the slang word “wacko,” as in The Drummer is out of his mind.

Page 7, panels 3 and 4: Note that the New York skyline is photographs. Something Jack Kirby often did in his later work.

Page 8, panel 3: Instead of typing, Drummer communicates with the computer by tapping on it with his drumsticks. Also note the little plastic frog head atop his machine. Is it supposed to be Kermit the Frog?

Page 10, panel 2: The drummer is communicating with the helicopter. Why?

Page 11, panels 2 and 3: here and through the rest of the series Jakita has the powers and temperament of Golden Age Superman. Considering what we learn of her parentage, it seems unlike that Superman had any influence on her. Though this could be Ellis’ playing with Golden Age superhero tropes. (Here Jakita jumps from a helicopter, and states that she probably could kick a rhino across the Grand Canyon.)

Page 12, panel 2: “The Vulcania Raven God” is probably a reference to all of the Lovecraftian horrors that stalked the 1930s.

Page 12, panel 3: “The Hull of the Charnel Ship” ties forward to issue 4, “Strange Harbours.” The second display case reads “Vestiments of the Black Crow King,“ I have no idea what this refers to. The third case: “The Murder Colonels” seem to be Ellis’ attempt to create a generic pulp villain.

Page 13, panel 1: This is Doc Alex Brass, the Planetary analogue for the pulp hero Doc Savage.

Page 14: The seating arrangement of the room is a morality index of the pulp heroes. Hark, the Fu Manchu analogue, and The Spider[1], analogue of The Spider, are the darkest men in the room. Neither would hesitate to brutally kill any who opposed them. Next two are Jimmy, Operator #5, and Lord Blackstock, Tarzan. Neither goes out of his way to kill, but they (sometimes) enjoy it more than they should. On The third tier we have Edison, Tom Swift, and the Pilot, G-8. I don’t think that Tom Swift ever killed anyone, and G-8 can be excused for his killings since they all happened during the course of the First World War. Lastly, we have Doc himself. In the pulps Savage rarely killed anyone, preferring to have them sent to his Crime College where the criminals could be lobotomized into model citizens.
However, there is another more simple explanation for the seating. Fu Manchu and The Spider took their personal wars seriously, never enjoying themselves; unless that enjoyment was found in torturing an enemy. Tarzan and Operator #5 had fun in their adventuring on occasion, but were mostly grim. G-8 and Tom Swift lived for the fun of action, the adrenalin rush of combat with evil. And then, Doc Savage; despite his high morals, he readily admitted through all his pulp novels that he adventured for the pure fun of it. While unlikely, there is a certain charm to this explanation.

Page 16, panel 1: The “computer” that Brass is working on seems very similar to the Blue Lantern technology from issue 10, “Magic and Loss.”

Page 17: This is the first full appearance of the “snowflake,” a representation of the multiverse. As for “196,833”; this is the “Monster” number. For more information, see here:

Page 22: The invaders are analogues of the Justice League. Starting at the top and running clockwise, they represent: Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman.
Page 23: Note that in the fight parings, Ellis is comparing the pulp heroes to their descendants, the superheroes. Doc Savage and Superman, the ultimate men, battle. The Spider and Batman, the terror shades of the night. Tarzan and Wonder Woman, those who were born in a more savage state. Hark battles Martian Manhunter in a battle of foreigners. (During the 1930s, China and Mars might as well have been the same distance for the normal person.) Edison takes on Flash, scientist versus scientist. Perhaps G-8 is fighting against the Green Lantern analogue as both were pilots.
The rest are less clear. I’m not quite sure why Operator #5 was killed by Wonder Woman, or why G-8 is killed by the Aquaman analogue.

Page 25, panel 1: The cargo of the third helicopter is possibly explosives, as seen in issue 18, “The Gun Club.”

Panel 4: The motto of the Planetary series is spoken for the first time. “It’s a strange world.” “Let’s keep it that way.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Planetary Wold Newton Apologia--"Nuclear Spring"

This will be one of the shortest of the Wold Newton Universe (WNU) apologia entries, as there is so little to "fix" in order to let it slip into the small superhero corner of the Wold Newton Universe.

Right now, I am willing to take this as the more-or-less true account of the WNU Incredible Hulk, with three exceptions.

A) Bruce Banner (called David Paine in Planetary for legal reasons) was baithed in extra-universial energy saving a teenage boy, not the wife of General Ross.

B) The Hulk could change back into Banner from Hulk mode. While I disagree with Dennis E. Power's theory that Banner was some sort of lycanthrop, I agree whole heartedly that he is a desendant of Mr. Hyde.

C) The Hulk was finally captured by the American government in 1983 and left at the bottom of a deep shaft--he died ten years later in 1993.

James Bojaciuk

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Planetary Annotations--Nuclear Spring (Preview Issue)

Preview Issue: “Nuclear Spring”

Theme: The Incredible Hulk

Quick Summary: The Planetary team breaks into a secret government base where an aged general tells them the Planetary Universe version of the Incredible Hulk story.

Opening Line: "You come on in, boys. Have a drink on me. Been a long day."


Page 4, panel 1: The general seems to be overly green, his shirt, eyes, and skin all sharing in this tone. Perhaps this is a reflection of his hatred of David Paine.

Panel 2: It’s stated the experiment took place in 1962, this was the year the first issue of The Incredible Hulk hit the news stands.

Panel 4: The general makes mention of “integral series” bombs; then in the next panel notes that the bomb is also a computer. This relates to the mathematical Integral Test for Convergence. This test is used to find if a series of positive numbers are convergent. Perhaps this “convergence” relates to Planetary’s theme of attempting to break and analyze the veil between universes.

Page 5, panel 1: Paine was trying to “monkey” with the “machinery of the universe.” The result of the bomb, had it been successful would be more or less to replace the matter from Universe A with matter from Universe B; or as we see, take the matter from Universe A and combine it on the atomic level with matter from Universe B.

Panel 4: Paine called his device a “quantum box,” a theory more popularlly known as Schrodinger’s cat. This means in the context of the story that Paine doesn’t know what the result of the bomb blast will be since because of the bomb’s nature all possible states exist within the affected matter until it is observed.

Page 8, panel 1: This is the battlefield where the US army combated Planetary’s Hulk analogue. The way the general talks it seems that this battle happened shortly after Paine was blasted with the universal matter swap. But note the wreckage in the upper left corner. It is an Apache Helicopter, a piece of equipment that was not introduced to the army until 1984. In fact the first test flight was in 1975.
Surely you must be thinking that this is a simple error I uncovered, but I don’t think it is so simple. With any other comic series I would agree—a simple lapse on the part of Cassaday—but here, with the level of interconnectiveness and continuity, I can only assume that a later date during the 1980s is being hinted at.

Panel 4: “He finally died. In nineteen eighty three.” 1983 saw a story line where Bruce Banner’s mind took full control of the Hulk. This is most likely Ellis’ comment that the Hulk comics ran out of story lines there.

Planetary Annotations--Introduction

Up to this point, no one has annotated the comic series Planetary—aside from one abortive and cluttered attempt by a college professor. (You can find his work, some of which I do adapt, at

So I’ve taken up the job of searching every panel of Cassaday’s art for material worthy of comment. And since he’s a detail guy, and Warren Ellis adds so much to script, there is a lot of stuff to find—so keep watch.

The schedule for these posts will be an annotation of an issue on each Saturday. On Sunday, if applicable, I will post an apologia on how that issue of Planetary fits into the Wold Newton Universe.

Next: Nuclear Spring Annotation

James Bojaciuk