Welcome back to another monthly installment of “ASK… THE QUESTION.” I’m Alex Jaffe, better known in our illustrious Community as HubCityQuestion. For the past two years, I’ve had one mission: to take on any question you have about the DC Universe—no matter how strange, granular, or obscure—and present you with a satisfactory answer. As a faithful steward of the truth, I offer my time in this monthly column to address these inquiries. If you’d like to submit one of your own, you can stop by my office at any time in our Community to state your case, each of which I will in time address to the best of my ability. Let’s get some answers!
Check Your Sources
I really dig the Source Wall. As an idea, its conceptualization within various stories and panels, everything.
Space is theoretically infinite—even in the DC Universe, or at least so vast that nothing reaches ending points in any direction within its given lifetime. Yet, the Source Wall is just a wall—an impressive one, yes, but still a wall. Both in comics and in animated versions, a top and bottom of the wall seems to be clearly indicated. Has there been any story where the top and bottom of the wall have been acknowledged and has anyone just tried to go over or under?
Well, the first question we have to answer here is…is the Source Wall even a real, physical wall? Jack Kirby first introduced us to the universal boundary we call the Source Wall in 1971’s New Gods #5. But for the first decade of its existence, it had no tangible form. The Source Wall was more of a theory than an actual place you could visit—a colorful metaphor for the barrier which separated the physical world from the all-powerful “Source” which created the universe, according to New God theology. The closer one would get to “piercing” that wall by attempting to find the Source, the more perilous that pursuit became. It wasn’t until the ‘80s that the Source Wall began to be depicted as a real, physical wall, beginning with an intercompany crossover by Chris Claremont and Walt Simonson. And because comics are primarily a visual medium as opposed to a metaphysical one, that’s the interpretation which stuck going forward.
The next question we have to ask is, where is the Source Wall? Beginning in the ‘80s, there is a physical barrier we call the Source Wall that can be found at the edges of the universe, but Grant Morrison’s map of the multiverse for 2015’s Multiversity suggests an even larger Source Wall containing the local Multiverse:
It’s this multiverse-enclosing Source Wall that is breached at the end of Dark Nights: Metal, inviting our multiverse of 52 Earths to become part of a much larger, infinite omniverse of worlds, as we are now witnessing in the dawning of the Infinite Frontier era.
The answer to your question is that nobody’s ever really gone “over” or “under” the Source Wall because that’s three-dimensional thinking. That would get you nowhere—just further into space. The Source Wall as we know it is a unified barrier with manifestations throughout the multiverse, united through folds of time and space which we as limited beings can barely comprehend. It might help to think of the Source Wall not as a divider between one location and another, but as a padlock over a portal to a much larger world.
Sarge and In Charge
How many Poozers has main man Kilowog shaped into Lanterns?
Okay, Kilowog never tells us this outright, so we’re going to have to do some math and make more than a few assumptions. First of all, we have no idea how long Kilowog has been a Green Lantern, or how long he’s been a drill sergeant for the Corps. The first time he appears as one is in 1990’s Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn, which retold the origin story of Hal Jordan. But because this is a flashback story and due to the elastic nature of comic book time where years of stories can elapse over no time at all, there’s no telling how many Lanterns Kilowog may have trained between getting the job and his death in 1994’s Emerald Twilight. We can, however, safely say that at least one generation of Green Lanterns passed through his training during that tenure before his death and the subsequent death of the Corps until the mid-’00s. So that puts his total at 3,600, the number of active Green Lanterns in the Corps prior to the team’s resurrection ten years later.
Following 2004’s Green Lantern: Rebirth, nearly the entire Green Lantern Corps is restaffed from scratch. In 2005’s Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, the size of the Corps is doubled from 3,600 to 7,200, and Kilowog splits training duties with Guy Gardner—still giving each the responsibility of a class of 3,600.
Now, here’s where things get a little tricky. According to 2008’s Green Lantern #27, the average Green Lantern has a life expectancy on the job of “four years, three months, one day, thirteen hours, and seven minutes.” It’s impossible to say how much time has elapsed for Kilowog between the rebirth of the Corps in 2005 and the Infinite Frontier era of 2021. But we should note that in the comics, events which occurred a year ago in real time are often referred to by the characters as actually having happened a year ago, despite their stubborn refusal to age. With that in mind, while accounting for the average Green Lantern life cycle, Kilowog has overseen three additional crops of Lantern recruits since the Corps returned to service and will soon be due for a fourth.
Therefore, by my calculation, between his first tour of duty before Emerald Twilight, the first batch of recruits in Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, and the three subsequent batches which have accumulated over time, Kilowog has been responsible for training about 18,000 Green Lanterns. Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of poozers.
A True Heat Visionary
Why didn’t Superman have heat vision when he was created and how did he gain his heat vision ability?
The Superman of 1938 as he debuted in Action Comics #1 was a very different hero than the one we know today and one who was perhaps truer to his name: all of his abilities were defined by the fact that he was a Super-Man. Like any circus strong man, he could run, jump, lift and shrug off body blows, but at a larger-than-life, superhuman scale. This was explained in the issue itself by the fact that Earth’s relatively low gravitational pull compared to his home planet of Krypton gave him proportional super abilities. (The explanation of his powers being fueled by the “yellow sun” wouldn’t come until much later, some time after Supergirl entered the picture.)
So, at first, Superman couldn’t do things like shoot beams out of his eyes or fly because that wasn’t an exaggeration of what a human could do on his own—they were new powers altogether.
The very first power added to Superman’s arsenal on top of his original set of superhuman feats wasn’t heat vision, but x-ray vision—in 1940’s Action Comics #11, not much more than a year after he was first introduced. From that point on, Superman begins to project a whole series of other ocular powers: telescopic vision, microscopic vision and even the rarely used “spotlight vision,” where Superman projects beams of illuminating light from his eyes. But in 1949’s Superman #59, something interesting happens. Using concentrated heat from his x-ray vision, Superman is able to melt a glacier through the force of his eyes.
For over a decade from that point, Superman’s ability to melt and burn objects was treated not as a separate power, but as a subset of Superman’s x-ray vision. The term “heat vision” wasn’t coined for this application until 1961’s Action Comics #275…when Superman temporarily grows a third eye and uses the heat vision from all three eyes to defeat Brainiac. Comics.
Bachelor of Martial Arts
Can you tell me what if any degree Dick Grayson completed? I feel like there was one but can’t remember.
Dick Grayson left Wayne Manor to attend Hudson University in 1969’s Batman #217, but the degree he received upon completion is never actually specified. In fact, we can’t be 100% sure he even got one. In 1980’s Detective Comics #495, Dick flunks out of college after a failure to juggle his crimefighting and academic lives. Every job Dick received from that point on was one not reliant on his resume, but through pure gumption and the occasional backroom deal. When seeking career advancement, it never hurts to be the ward of a billionaire.
(An additional note from my fellow columnist, Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Dick returns to college in 1982’s Detective Comics #511, this time at Gotham University, but later issues continue to refer to Dick as a college dropout.)
One thing we can say about Dick’s matriculation on at least some Earth is that on the Pre-Crisis Earth-Two, Dick Grayson eventually grows out of crimefighting and makes partner at the law firm of Cranston and Grayson, in 1978’s Batman Family #18. So if Dick Grayson ever did complete his higher education, it would be most reasonable to say he received a law degree.
Open the Door, Get on the Floor
What’s with that dinosaur in the bat cave? Is it real, or a robot?
It’s a robot, but exactly which robot is a matter of some debate. Batman and Robin first encounter an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1942’s Batman #10, when they are tricked by a hoax dinosaur attack into becoming the unwitting lead actors in a monster film. More commonly, however, the T-Rex is attributed to 1946’s Batman #35, where Batman and Robin are invited to a hunt on Dinosaur Island, which at the time (long before Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park) existed as a park filled with animatronic dinosaurs. Either way, Batman ends up taking the prop dinosaur home as a souvenir.
Not only does the dinosaur function as a memento of one of Batman and Robin’s earliest globetrotting adventures, it’s also a last line of defense for the Batcave itself. You can see it tearing into the Court of Owls’ Talon assassins in 2012’s Batman #9. And in 2020’s Dark Nights: Death Metal, a Dark Multiverse Batman uploads his own consciousness into the animatronic T-Rex as a last ditch effort to prolong his life. I suppose you could say he spared no expense.
Well, that’s all the space we have in the column this month. But you can join me to swap inquiries and gather data all day and every day in the DC Comics community, and who knows? I may just stop by in between columns to give you an answer myself. After all, it never hurts to ASK… THE QUESTION.
Got something that’s keeping you up nights? If you have a question about the DC Universe that you’d love to get answered, you can head on over to the DC Community and ask it here.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly “Ask the Question” column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCItyQuestion.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.