A KRYPTONIAN ONION ON MY BELT INSTALLMENT 1 – ZERO HOUR IN 1994

Installment One: Zero Hour in 1994

(Welcome to the first installment of A Kryptonian Onion On My Belt, an irregular feature here at the Fortress where I ramble on about something to do with Superman, however tangential.)

Earlier today I was scrolling through the various social media apps and came across an article from ComicBook.Com about the upcoming Zero Hour 30th Anniversary Special and, I’m not going to lie, I got excited.

Like really excited.

Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, for those of you who haven’t read it or just forgot, was a five-issue event that was published on a weekly basis through the month of July and into the first week of August in 1994. It was an event with a purpose. The Post Crisis on Infinite Earths era of DC was becoming muddled, at least as far as the continuity of the universe was concerned. Certain characters were getting revamped, and those revamps started playing havoc with the other titles.  The biggest “offender” was Hawkman. Initially Hawkman was relatively untouched by the Post Crisis makeovers, but in June of 1989 DC put out the first issue of a three issue prestige series called Hawkworld. Written and drawn by Tim Truman, Hawkworld did an overall on Katar Hol, the second version of Hawkman that first appeared in Brave and the Bold #34 (Feb/Mar 1961). Because of the changes to Katar’s history, most of his Post Crisis appearances were suddenly filed under, “That Didn’t Happen.”

This had an impact on Action Comics #650, published in January of 1990, and became one of many issues writer/artist Dan Jurgens had with DC’s continuity. He told Wizard: The Guide to Comics in 1994, “Continuity wise Hawkman was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back. When we did Action Comics #650…we wanted a flashback sequence to Superman #18…when Hawkman took Superman to what was left of Krypton. And the Hawkman editor at the time said, ‘No, you can’t do that. Hawkman and Superman have never met.’ Huh? A year and a half into the new Superman and you’re re-writing Superman’s continuity already? You can’t do that—that’s screwing the fans. That’s really what happened—all these changes ended up screwing the fans.” He went on to say, “I don’t think fans should have to have a clear-cut understanding of what happened in a 1965 DC comic book, but, by God, if you’r reading a character we restarted a year and a half ago and you’re already being told a story didn’t happen, you’re getting the shaft! That’s irresponsible of the publisher.

You have to admire Dan’s commitment to the readers. Some creators would have probably just rolled with the punches and found a work around, but Dan wanted to play fair with the people buying and reading the comics. This led Dan, along with editor K.C. Carlson, to pitch the idea of Zero Hour, which was a way of reestablishing the relationship between the characters and where they stand. Dan also wanted to give the DCU a fresh kick off, which would come in the form of a Zero Month.  During Zero Month, all participating books would put out a zero issue that would either introduce the character (if they were new) or reintroduce the character (if they needed it).

DC pulled out all the stops when it came to this event. The promotional materials were top tier, and they even produced a video that was sent to shops that had the various editors explaining what Zero Hour and Zero Month was and what they can expect from the various characters. This video was hosted by someone dressed as Parallax and…you know what…just watch it for yourself. It’s pretty awesome.

I was eighteen years old in the summer of 1994. I had just graduated from high school (late because of the wave upon wave of winter storms that smacked the east coast around the previous winter) and because I was a smart but lazy kid and didn’t apply myself with my studies like I should have I had to attend a six-week program to get into college. This meant spending those six weeks living in a dorm and taking classes in math, English, and the ambiguous sounding course called study skills. The downside was having to spend six weeks out of the summer going to college. The upside was I scored so highly on the English portion of the entrance test that I was able to take a credited course and began my college career with a 4.0 grade point average.

You take the bitter with the sweet.

Monday through Friday I would be at school. Friday afternoons I would pack up some clothes and head back home (I was living with my friend in his basement at the time) and go by the comic shop to pick up the latest issue of Zero Hour and the crossover issues I was buying. It was such a weird time. I was pretty much on my own and independent in a way that I had never been before. While that was happening, DC Comics was changing, and I was able to be there as those changes unfolded. I came into collecting comics as a going concern in 1987, so I missed Crisis by two and a half years, so this was my first (though far from my last, as it would play out) reality re-setting/refreshing event as a reader.

For five weeks I would head home, buy the books, have a weekend with friends and my girlfriend at the time, and then take the comics back to my dorm and read them once I got settled. I didn’t buy all of the tie-ins, but I did pick up all of the Superman books (this is when I began buying Superboy regularly and I’m convinced that if the Steel issue had been bannered as a Zero Hour tie-in, which it should have, I would have started buying that book then and there), the Batman titles, Green Lantern, and Flash and I loved all of them.

Green Lantern was a special case. A few months before Zero Hour began my friend Eric and I skipped the Senior Picnic to go hang out at the mall and after I dropped him off, I drove over to the comic shop I called home at the time (Comic Quest in Emmaus, Pa) and there, on the shelf, were Green Lantern issues 51 and 52, which were the first and second issues with Kyle Rayner as the new Green Lantern. It was like they were waiting for me. Kyle became an instant favorite, and I started buying the book then and there. Outside of Tim Drake becoming Robin, I had never experienced being there when a new iteration of a character was introduced. I knew nothing of the controversy the revamp caused because my only window into the larger world of comics was Wizard: The Guide to Comics and I had only just started to buy that magazine.

(I would learn of the vitriol that Emerald Twilight caused when I first got “online” in 1998. I discovered a group called H.E.A.T. that was dedicated to restoring Hal as the one, true Green Lantern and boy is it great that comic book fandom has learned from all of that and never freaks out and makes demands of creators and companies to put the genie back in the bottle when big changes are made. It’s just nice that we’ve grown beyond that.)

(looks at camera)

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since all of that went down. My fan journey has taken me back to where I was at the start…reading the Superman books and occasionally reading a random book that catches my eye…and I know that I will probably never feel that connected to DC and its characters again. Zero Hour itself is a little rocky as a story, but to be fair, there was a lot to do in a short amount of time, so that makes sense. The tie-ins are, for the most part, a lot of fun.

I’m so excited that DC is putting out this special. I loved the Death of Superman and Return of Superman 30 Anniversary specials, so Zero Hour getting the same treatment was a welcome surprise. I’m glad that Dan Jurgens, Ron Marz, Jerry Ordway, Paul Pelltier, Kelly Jones and Jon Bogdanove are all involved.

I may not be able to have another Zero Hour summer, but with this special I can remember that feeling of excitement that the story gave me.

And that’s really cool.

If you are interested in listening to my co-host Jeffrey Taylor and I covering Zero Hour and all of the tie-ins, you can listen to episodes 180, 181. 182. 183. 184, and 185 of From Crisis to Crisis either going through the Classic feed on your podcaster or go to the links above. Also, Jeff and I talked to Dan Jurgens about Zero Hour on episode 200 of From Crisis to Crisis, which was a lot of fun to do.

Below are some of the cool bits of business used to promote Zero Hour. Enjoy.

And here are some Zero Month promotional materials.

One thought on “A KRYPTONIAN ONION ON MY BELT INSTALLMENT 1 – ZERO HOUR IN 1994”

  1. I had come back to comics in early ’94 after a few years away and was all the way back in on DC. This event cemented my love all over again, not just for the story, but for the titles that launched from it. Triangle Era goodness and more.

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