High Five! Comics

WTF Is: DC Challenge

Posted on: May 12, 2010

How have I never seen this before? DC Challenge seems like it’d be so far up High Five’s alley, I’m pretty sure it has to buy us breakfast in the morning. Check it.

According to legend (or the back pages of issue one, whichever), Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Mark Evanier, Bill Rotsler, and Bill Warren all ended up piss-drunk at some Marvel party at the Executive Hotel during 1983’s San Diego Comic Con. Describing it as a “sauna,” they all retreated to the roof to air out a bit. While up there, Evanier suddenly came up with the idea for a year long round-robin style maxiseries between eleven DC writers and twelve DC artists, announced it, and got the ball rolling. By the time security showed up and kicked them off the roof, Dick Giordano had approved the project and the order of collaborators was set: Evanier, Wein, Doug Moench, Paul Levitz, Mike Barr, Elliot Maggin, Paul Kupperberg, Conway, Roy Thomas, Dan Mishkin, and Marv Wolfman (with Cary Bates) would write while such DC greats as Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Dave Gibbons, Giordano, Don Heck, Curt Swan, Keith Giffen, George Perez and others (goddamn!) would tackle the art.

Finally, the rules were established. Each issue would end in a near impossible cliffhanger (or five) that the next author would have to figure out how to fix. The previous author would also get to name the next issue, which would have to tie in at some point. Meanwhile, the two writers couldn’t talk to each other about the project at all. Considering that this book was pretty much a gigantic experimental exercise in comic writing, the authors started getting just plain sadistic trying to fuck each other over with titles such as “If This is Love, Then Why Do My Teeth Hurt?” and “If There’s a Hole in Reality, Is Life a Cosmic Donut?”

Writers could use any characters from the DCU with the exception of any they were writing for at the time. This led to a ton of awesome rarely-used Golden and Silver Age characters popping up such as the Space Cabby, Darwin Jones, Son of Vulcan, and Woozy Winks. Considering that between it’s conception in 1983 and it’s actual release starting in November 1985, that whole Crisis on Infinite Earths thing started making this so non-canon. As a matter of fact, this really kind of helped make DC Challenge a send off to the multiverse.

So, what’s it all about? Well, that’s a bit of a clusterfuck. A race of aliens known as the Moltanians discover that when they die their souls inhabit the bodies of demons in the netherworld. A Moltanian named Bork started the Black Counsel, whose intention was to transport the demons to both Rann and Earth, where the “fabric of reality is much thinner” (thanks to a half-melted Darkseid, apparently). The Guardians of the Universe try their damnedest to prevent it and end up hiring another Moltanian named Kaz to fix everything. Easy enough, right?

Yeah, not really. They try to fix shit by sending a bunch of the heroes to different periods in time where they think they’ll do better. Instead, the Nazis find a spaceship sent back with the Blackhawks and win World War II. Uh, hooray?

As a whole, this book suffers from that old adage “too many cooks in the kitchen.” In theory, yeah, having all these well known writers and artists on one project would be totally awesome! In practice, you get “We Are the World.” In the back of the last issue, DC Challenge‘s Robert Greenberger summed it up when he muses about how “Amazing Heroes says we’re exploitive and Comic’s Journal complains we don’t make any sense.” No shit, it doesn’t make any sense! I mean, how does Aquaman hydrate himself after getting trapped in the middle of the Sahara Desert?

Delicious, delicious vulture juice.

Granted, this book is an interesting (albeit accidental) bookend to the pre-Crisis DCU. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like the finished product was as glorious as intended by those drunken rooftop comic writers. It does raise the question, though: What would happen if DiDio went ahead and gave the okay to a DC Challenge 2?

Oh, right. “We Are the World 25 for Haiti.”

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2 Responses to "WTF Is: DC Challenge"

A actually read this when it was new. I had just gotten into reading comics at the time, and I *think* I read the whole series…but I can’t remember a thing about it!

very few products are as glorious as intended by the drunken rooftop writers.

it’s a life lesson.

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