Armageddon 2001: Ten Years Later
by David R. Black
Truth is Stranger than Fiction
In 1991, Armageddon 2001 was DC's big summertime crossover event. The story had a simple premise - ten years from now, all of Earth's heroes will be killed by one of their own. The rogue hero, taking the name Monarch, would impose his own version of law and order on the world, and he/she would rule as an all powerful, all knowing dictator.
In a grim future similar to Orwell's 1984, Monarch sees all, knows all, and has an army of police officers (called the Peacemakers as a tip of the hat to the DC hero of the same name) to enforce his will. In 2030, a middle aged scientist named Matthew Ryder decides that he's sick and tired of living under the boot of Monarch. When a prototype time travel machine is developed by Monarch's scientists, Ryder volunteers to become one of the human guinea pigs used to test it.
The risks are great - no one has ever returned successfully from the trip back into time - but Ryder decides that if he can somehow change the future so that Monarch never came to power, the risks are well worth it. After convincing Monarch that he won't meddle with time (yeah, right), Ryder is thrust into the timestream.
His atoms scattered by the time travel machine, Ryder eventually manages to coalesce in the year 1991. But upon exiting the timestream, he is no longer Matthew Ryder, but an electromagnetic being named Waverider. With vast temporal powers, including the ability to see any person's timeline - past or future - by simply touching them, he begins his quest.
Which of Earth's heroes will become Monarch? To find out, Ryder must discover what each hero will be doing in 2001, the year in which Monarch comes to power.
In addition to two bookends, twelve annuals crossed over into Armageddon 2001 - Superman Annual #3, Batman Annual #15, Justice League of America Annual #5, Action Comics Annual #3, Flash Annual #4, Hawkworld Annual #2, New Titans Annual #7, Detective Comics Annual #4, Adventures of Superman #3, L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual #2, Hawk and Dove Annual #2, and Justice League Europe Annual #2.
The rest of DC's 1991 annuals didn't participate in the event. Green Arrow's annual, for example, celebrated his 50th anniversary instead.
The purpose of this article isn't to tell you who became Monarch, but if you must know, it was Hawk, Hank Hall. (Most readers know the story that Monarch, originally scheduled to be Captain Atom, had his identity changed at the last moment because the secret was leaked to the fan press).
This article, rather, looks back at the futures proposed ten years ago by DC's creative teams. The year 2001 has arrived, and comparing the "futures" as uncovered by Waverider to the characters' actual futures (meaning the present day, as they developed over 10 years of comics), is at times eerily accurate. Other times, the comparisons of present day situations and imagined futures are downright painful, especially with characters who have died.
And with that, let us begin.
Superman Annual #3 begins with Metropolis being annihilated by a nuclear bomb set by Intergang. Among the millions who perish is Lois Lane, Clark Kent's wife. As Clark/Superman watches the city he protected for so long turn to ash, "the horrors of an instant change a good man forever."
After re-marrying - this time to Lana Lang - Clark goes about ridding the world of its nuclear weapons and bringing to justice any and all countries who "violate the laws of Superman." As Superman's actions cause the death of seven American sailors and the Martian Manhunter, the parallels between this imaginary story and Emerald Twilight become uncannily apparent.
Hal Jordan, Earth's greatest Green Lantern, was also changed forever by a bomb that annihilated his city. And like Superman in this story, Hal went over the edge, murdering his friends in the Green Lantern Corps. And ultimately, both men die because of their actions.
The renegade Superman is killed by Batman, who uses a Kryptonite ring to poison his friend, but not before Superman realizes the error of his ways. Hal Jordan dies a repentant hero as well, using the last of his emerald energies to re-ignite Earth's dying sun.
Batman Annual #15 depicts a future in which the Joker is found sane, Tim Drake retires his Robin identity to become a United States senator, and Killer Croc is a television celebrity/professional wrestler. The story begins with a mysterious person killing Batman's adversaries, one by one. Scarecrow dies from a knife wound to the heart, Killer Moth is electrocuted, Scarface and the Dummy are both hanged, and the Riddler is shot to death.
Batman, the lead suspect in all the murders, turns himself in after the Penguin falls to his death during a confrontation with him. Tried, convicted, and sentenced to die for Penguin's death, Batman resigns himself to his fate, but when Anarky discovers that the Joker has framed Batman, the Caped Crusader swings into action once again.
Other members of the Bat family make cameos. Alfred, now semi-retired, has delegated most of his duties to a robotic version of his younger self. Selina (Catwoman) Kyle doesn't seem to have changed much, but in the course of helping Batman, she's killed by the Joker's minions.
Jim Gordon remains the police commissioner, and his wife Sara is alive and well. As seen in recent Bat books, Gordon has retired, and Sara was killed by the Joker during No Man's Land.
All of the Batman rogues killed in this future are still alive and well in current continuity. Bonus points should be given to Alan Grant, the writer of this issue, for turning Killer Croc into a DC version of Hulk Hogan. Croc's television show features WWF-like wrestling matches in which Croc fights "villains" to the cheers of his fans, the "Crocamaniacs." It's all fake, and as Catwoman points out, "You've gotten old and soft, Croc. You're a TV wrestler, a phony. You've forgotten everything you ever learned about street fighting."
Justice League of America Annual #5 features Keith Giffen's story telling at its finest. Tongue planted in cheek, the Leaguers' futures are revealed with a tad of seriousness and a large dose of humor.
Living atop a snow covered mountain, the Martian Manhunter becomes the "Green Guru," an enlightened soul to whom people trek to discover the true meaning of life. Most people go away angry when he tells them that "life is like an Oreo cookie." We should note that this is the second of J'onn's possible futures revealed by Waverider. In Superman Annual #3, J'onn remained a member of the JLA but was killed by Superman. Thankfully, the present day has J'onn with the league, but alive and well.
Guy Gardner's future sees him becoming a cult idol who preaches about "the healing power of obnoxiousness." Made rich by his numerous followers, Guy is hit on the head before one of his speeches, and his personality changes from loud and crass to sweet and loving. His followers riot and run the new, "nice Guy" out of town. Interestingly, the current Guy Gardner, having matured a bit, is less obnoxious than his former self. Anyone who could've predicted Guy getting Sinestro's yellow ring, becoming a Vuldarian warrior, and then opening a bar, deserves a medal.
Having sold the rights to Blue Beetle to a fashion company run by Beatriz Da Costa, Ted Kord is barred from using his own crime fighting name and costume. Despite being grossly overweight and suffering from depression, Ted tries fighting crime as "The Stupendous Silverfish," but fails. Ted is eventually arrested for copyright infringement. Just as in this future, the present day Ted Kord did retire his costumed identity for a time. He's recently returned to action due to the prompting of Barbara Gordon.
Living alone in the suburbs, Ice has retired from superheroics, content to care for her numerous cats. When Guy Gardner is run out of town by his former followers, Ice rushes off to help him, shouting "He needs me! After all these years, he needs me!" Tora and Guy rekindle their long dormant love, get married, and have kids. This sweet future is sad considering that Ice died while fighting the Overmaster in Justice League Task Force #14.
Beatriz Da Costa, a.k.a. Fire, becomes a millionaire when her fashion company makes it big time. While at Guy and Ice's wedding, Bea is surprised when Oberon, Mister Miracle's dwarfish manager, proposes to her. Bea says yes. In current continuity, Fire was last seen in Martian Manhunter #10, being written rather out of character.
Booster Gold returns to the 25th Century, is arrested, and spends two years in prison. He ends up right back where he started - as a janitor in the Space Museum. History repeats itself as Booster steals another time machine, and sets off to find Maxwell Lord and recreate the JLA. Presently, as of Green Lantern #116, Booster formed a courier company which used the JLA teleporters to transport goods. Unfortunately for him, Batman found out about the unauthorized use of JLA property and shut Booster's company down.
Scott Free, Mr. Miracle, creates "The Miracle Squad," an ensemble of performers and actors who perform daring escape acts, death defying stunts and the like. His wife, Big Barda, and successor, Shilo Norman, are part of the troupe. Presently, Barda is a reserve member of the current version of the JLA, and Scott has pretty much faded into limbo, making an occasional appearance now and then.
General Glory, having retired and reverted to his alter ego of Joe Jones, is persuaded by Maxwell Lord to lead a new Justice League. He requires all Leaguers to wear bowl shaped "Ernie" haircuts, much like his deceased sidekick Ernie (and later Guy Gardner) used to wear. In current continuity, Joe Jones passed away in Justice League Quarterly #16 and passed on the General Glory name and powers to a paralyzed police officer.
Action Comics Annual #3 sees Superman becoming President of the United States! After Pa Kent is killed in an accident, Clark invites Ma Kent to come to Metropolis to live with him and Lois, who have recently married. When Clark's friend Congressman Pete Ross announces his candidacy for President, Clark resigns from the Daily Planet to become Ross's top campaign aide.
An assassin wounds Ross terribly while on the campaign trail, and in the process of saving his friend's life, Clark's secret identity is revealed. After much thought, Clark announces that he will take Ross's place on the ticket. The team of Superman and running mate Sarah Hemmings win the election with a landslide victory. And when Lex Luthor's plan to destroy the newly elected President is uncovered by the Secret Service, he is arrested and imprisoned.
Roger Stern, who wrote this story, must have some degree of precognitive ability. Little did he know that ten years after writing this, a member of Superman's supporting cast would be in the White House. As seen in recent Superman titles, Lex Luthor won the presidency and Pete Ross won the vice presidency. Truth is stranger than fiction!
Additional DC characters appear in this annual, but none are significantly changed. Jon Stewart and Hal Jordan are still Green Lanterns, Will Payton is still Starman, Dr. Fate is still Ingrid Nelson, etc, etc.
Flash Annual #4 sees Wally West living in the FBI's witness protection program under the name Michael Edwards. When Wally's wife Bonnie Blackmon testifies against a meta-human named Diogenes, the two go into hiding and Wally gives up superheroing. It seems that Diogenes had the power to absorb a person's memories just by touching them, and "with that kind of information at his disposal, he could motivate and manipulate men with ease."
Unable to hide from Diogenes because he had absorbed their memories, Wally and Bonnie became Michael and Diane Edwards. The two have a son named David, and he inherits Wally's speed powers, but not the aura which protects Wally from the friction and excess heat associated with moving at superspeed. If David were to use his powers, the internal injuries would be life threatening.
Diogenes eventually finds Wally and sends most of the Rogues Gallery after him. Asides from a few cosmetic changes - the Weather Wizard has gray hair, the Rainbow Raider has gone bald, Captain Cold has a huge scar on his face - the Rogues remain virtually the same. We do learn, however, that Dr. Alchemy turned the Turtle into a cloud of magnesium sometime during the intervening years.
By the conclusion of the story, after Wally defeats Diogenes, Speed McGee develops a way for Wally to transfer his superspeed into young David. Although it means losing his powers permanently, Wally gladly agrees, and David is given the full Flash powers. A fourth generation Flash is born!
Other characters in the annual include the long forgotten Tina McGee, Jerry "Speed" McGee, and Chester Chunk. Chunk, now much skinnier, dies during a confrontation with Paradox, one of Diogenes's henchmen. Incidentally, we also learn that Ralph (Elongated Man) and Sue Dibny had a son, and "he tuned out OK."
The only major thing this future has in common with the present day is that Wally has married. As any Flash reader knows, he and Linda Park finally tied the knot a year ago.
Hawkworld Annual #2 has the Thanagarian Hawkman and Hawkwoman coming out of retirement to fight Attila for the final time. Attila was the vengeful robot that threatened the Hawks in Hawkworld #17-19.
There's not much to say about this one really. It is interesting, however, that the return of the Hawks in this annual and the "Return of Hawkman" storyline in JSA both take place in 2001. 2001 must be a good year for rebirths and renewals.
And the current status of the Hawks? I don't want to touch this with a ten foot pole. Let's just say that the Hawk avatars of every era were merged into one Hawkman. This created such a mess that the resulting creation was banished to comic book limbo. Only now are two writers - David Goyer and Geoff Johns - brave enough to give the character another chance.
New Titans Annual #7 begins with Waverider looking into Nightwing's future. He discovers that Nightwing will lead a new group of heroes - Kilowatt, Mirage, Nightrider, Prestor John, Redwing and Terra - the Team Titans! In their first appearance, the Team Titans and Nightwing go up against Lord Chaos, Donna Troy's future son.
Incidentally, Lord Chaos's headquarters in the UG Corporation Building are built over top of the ruins of Titans Tower. The story also contains a whole bunch of hooey about aliens and mind control material.
Nightwing reminds me of Batman in this story, and in current continuity, I suppose he's indeed heading that way. By getting his own title, base of operations (Bludhaven), and specialized equipment (the Nightwing motorcycle), Nightwing has definitely stepped out of his mentor's shadows more and more in the past ten years.
The Team Titans, on the other hand, were revealed to be traitors during Zero Hour. After sales on their series began to drop, I guess DC just decided to rid themselves of them. Having read some of the Team Titan's 24 issues (yuck!), I don't think it was such a bad idea.
Detective Comics Annual #4 finds Batman crippled after a fight with Ra's al Ghul and his minions. The fight not only leaves Ra's dead, but it destroys most of Wayne Manor. Inheriting her father's empire, Talia has no choice but to hunt down and destroy her beloved.
Without Batman to protect it, a major crime wave sweeps through Gotham City. "Where is Batman?" read the newspapers. Busy recuperating and building himself an exoskeleton that will allow him to walk again, Bruce Wayne cannot stop Tim Drake from donning the cowl of Batman.
Tim combats the crime wave, but Talia's hired help eventually succeed in gunning him down. Unmasking the wounded young man, they are disappointed to discover that Tim's not the real Batman (even though they don't know Batman's true identity, Tim's much younger than Batman should be). Talia's goons kill him and leave his body in an alley for the police to find.
Enraged at his ward's death, Bruce Wayne tracks Talia to her snowy mountain retreat. Still nowhere near peak form, Batman is severely wounded and is killed before he can extract his revenge. Or is he? Knowing that Talia would try to revive him using the Lazarus Pit, Batman sets a device on his body to explode should he come into contact with the pit's waters. His ploy works, and Talia and her followers are killed in the resulting explosion.
This story has interesting parallels to Knightfall (keep in mind this annual was written a few years before) . In both cases, Bruce Wayne is crippled and another man takes on the Batman identity. And Bruce eventually regains his rightful role after a long rehabilitation.
In present continuity, Talia has accepted Lex Luthor's offer to become CEO of Lex Corp while he is President. As "Talia Head," she has distanced herself from her father, especially her father's former hired hand Bane.
Adventures of Superman Annual #3 shows us a third possible future for the Man of Steel. While readying to give birth to their child, Lois Lane dies, and in a fit of grief, Superman leaves Earth. Travelling through space, he eventually finds love with Maxima, the red-haired ruler of the House of Almerac.
Although Lois and Clark do not yet have a child in present continuity, Lucy Lane (Lois's sister) and her husband Ron Troupe were recently blessed with a newborn.
Since 1991, Maxima has been a member of the Justice League, became a quasi-villain again, and seen Almerac invaded by Starbreaker and, later, War World. The last I saw Maxima (In Superman: The Wedding Album), she had left Earth, disgusted that Superman had yet to regain his powers after losing them during Final Night. Mate with someone who was just like an ordinary human? No way!
L.E.G.I.O.N. '91 Annual 2 finds the tables being turned on Waverider. Up to this point, he's been safely able to view people's futures without most of them realizing it. When he tries to view Vril Dox's future, Waverider winds up captured! Conveniently, Dox makes Waverider show him his future anyway.
The future shows a galaxy living under the boot of the L.E.G.I.O.N. Dox and Lady Quark, possessed by the Coluan Computer Tyrants, attempt to use the still captive (!) Waverider to unlock the timestream's secrets. The former L.E.G.I.O.N. members reunite to overthrow the duo. Officer Cybo, a possible descendant of Sergeant Megara, appears for the first time in this issue.
Lady Quark never survives to the year 2001. She is killed by an alien parasite (in L.E.G.I.O.N. #62 ) which then assumes her appearance and masquerades as her.
Vril Dox, having reformed L.E.G.I.O.N with the help of Captain Comet and Lobo (see the R.E.B.E.L.S. series), is currently retired. He has taken up botany and also cares for Stealth's son Lyrl, who lost his advanced intelligence in R.E.B.E.L.S. #17.
Hawk and Dove Annual #2 presents three possible futures for the heroic duo. In the first, Hank Hall is one of Monarch's "Peacemaker" police officers. When his superiors discover that Hall's attitude is becoming more and more anti-Monarch, they attempt to kill him. Transforming into Hawk for the first time in ten years, Hawk goes on a rampage, hoping to draw out Monarch and fight him personally. He succeeds, and despite his newfound power to turn into a large dinosaur-like monster, Hawk can only fight Monarch to a stalemate.
In the second future, Dove confers with the Lords of Order, and they decide that Monarch must be stopped before his influence spreads beyond Earth. After a brief stop to check on her child, Dove returns to Earth. Teaming with Hawk once again, they try to overthrow Monarch, but they fail.
In the third future, a woman named Dr. Arsala learns that she is the long lost daughter of Hawk and Dove. With a vial of ink and the bottled essence of Kestral (icons of Order and Chaos, respectively), Arsala discovers that she can become Unity - a metahuman with the combined powers of her parents. Unity succeeds where her parents failed, and she destroys Monarch aboard his personal satellite.
In present continuity, Hawk and Dove are both dead. Dove died at the hand of Monarch in Armageddon 2001 #2, but a alternate dimension version of her showed up briefly in JSA #14 and #15. Hawk, eventually revealed to be Monarch, was lost in time for a while (Armageddon: The Alien Agenda, Armageddon: Inferno), became the time manipulating villain Extant (Zero Hour), and recently died while fighting the JSA (JSA #15).
Justice League Europe Annual #2 reveals that the team is still together in the year 2001, but when an accident involving Mitch Wacky's time machine sends the Leaguers to different time periods, it's up to Ralph Dibny to rescue them!
Rocket Red finds himself in ancient Camelot, and with his Apokolips built armor, he quickly finds himself one of the greatest knights in the land. Known as "Sir Dmitri of ye garbled tongue," Rocket Red comes to a violent end when a jealous Merlin sics Entrigan the Demon on him. Dmitri hasn't been seen much since the end of the Giffen era JLA, but the Rocket Red Brigade did show up in a few issues of Chase.
Transported to World War II England, Power Girl meets General Glory and Ernie, the Battling Boy. When Ernie is killed by a falling brick wall, General Glory asks Kara to become his new sidekick. She reluctantly agrees. In current continuity, Power Girl occasionally appears in Birds of Prey, and she will play a role in the JSA issue of Our Worlds at War.
Metamorpho winds up in the post-apocalyptic future of Jonah Hex. After helping Hex defeat a few baddies, the two go off to have a beer, content to argue about which one of them is the ugliest. Since 1991, Rex served as a member of the JLA, and he sacrificed himself to save his teammates in JLA #1. Technically not dead, the Element Man is considered "inert."
The Silver Sorceress ends up in a prehistoric era with dinosaurs and primitive humans. Attacked by a dinosaur, a caveman runs to her rescue. The Sorceress didn't have much of a future. She died while fighting Dreamslayer in Justice League Europe #35.
The Crimson Fox went west - to the Wild West, that is! After helping Bat Lash escape from a bunch of card players he cheated, the Fox went about finding some clothes that didn't make her "look like a Dodge City dancing girl". In current continuity, Crimson Fox is also dead - both of them (twin sisters played Fox). Vivian died in Justice League of America #104 (2nd series) at the hands of a half human, half worm creature named Puanteur. Constance died in the infamous Starman #38 at the hands of the Mist.
Bluejay found himself in the 30th Century, in the middle of an audition for membership in the Legion of Superheroes. Rejected by the Legion because his powers were "like Shrinking Violet, but with wings," Bluejay accepted Polar Boy's offer to join the Substitute Heroes. Asides from a flashback sequence in Martian Manhunter #24, I don't think he's been seen since the end of the Giffen era JLA.
Elongated Man journeyed to London in the year 1895, and he becomes a better known detective than Sherlock Holmes. ("Boy that Sherlock sure is a sore loser" remarks EM after catching Professor Moriarty). He also becomes an assistant to H.G. Wells, helping him perfect his time machine. He then uses it to rescue the rest of the time lost JLE members. In the present day, Ralph has made the acquaintance of another time lost detective - the legendary Hamilton Drew. After moving to Opal City, Ralph and Drew helped solve the curse of the Black Pirate (see the Grand Guignol storyline in Starman).
Captain Atom, the only JLE member not lost in the timestream, retired in the late 1990's because his activities as Captain Atom were disturbing the quantum field. His vow to not become Captain Atom was so strong that he refused to use his powers when a plane he was on crashed. The resulting injuries never healed fully, causing him to walk with a limp. When Peacemakers kill his entire family in 2001, Cap breaks his promise. Tapping deeply into the quantum field, his activities enable Monarch to travel to 1991 to confront the heroes of the past! Thus the stage is set for the conclusion of Armageddon 2001!
And Captain Atom's real future? Well, he was lost in time for a while (see Armageddon: The Alien Agenda) discovered he might really be a clone of himself (see Extreme Justice), and recently got a new costume (see The L.A.W.)
With all this talk of real and imagined futures, I find myself thinking not only about the future, but the past as well. Would the 1991 version of me like the 2001 version of me? Would he be satisfied or disappointed in how the intervening ten years have changed me?
It's an interesting question, one that's not easy to answer. Only in comics can we easily put 1991 and 2001 side by side, compare and contrast them, and determine who made the most of ten years of change.
David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....
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