Planetary (comics)

From Academic Kids

Template:Superteambox Planetary is an American comic book series created by Warren Ellis (writer) and John Cassaday (artist), published by the Wildstorm imprint of DC Comics. Planetary also refers to the group portrayed in the series.

Planetary was previewed in the September 1998 issues of Gen13 (#33) and C-23 (#6), and issue #1 was cover-dated April 1999. It was originally intended to be a 24-issue bi-monthly series. However due to illness (Ellis) and other commitments (Cassaday), the series was put on hiatus for over a year in 2003, it has since restarted and Ellis has spoken of extending the number of issues to as many as 27.

Contents

The premise

Planetary are an organization billing themselves as "Archaeologists of the Impossible", tracking down the world's secret history. Funded by the mysterious Fourth Man, who it is said could be anyone from Bill Gates to Adolf Hitler, the field team consists of three superhumans: Jakita Wagner, who is strong, fast and nearly invulnerable; The Drummer, who can talk to computers; and the new recruit Elijah Snow, who can control temperature.

The series occurs in the Wildstorm Universe, along with other titles such as Stormwatch, The Authority and Gen13. For instance, Snow was born on January 1, 1900, as was Jenny Sparks of The Authority, and the two know each other. Despite this, Planetary intersects only a little with other Wildstorm series.

Planetary's field team travels the world investigating strange phenomena: monsters and other beings, unusual relics, other superhumans, and powerful secrets which certain individuals are trying to keep hidden from the rest of the world. Their purpose in doing this is partly curiosity, and partly to use what they learn for the betterment of mankind. There are, however, groups who oppose their goals, and the organization has a substantial history which is gradually revealed during the series.

In later issues the plot becomes increasingly related to The Four, analogues of Marvel's Fantastic Four whose goals run in direct contrast to that of the Planetary team.

The series

One of the series' main hooks is that it portrays alternate versions of many well-known (and obscure) figures from popular culture. At various times we are shown versions (sometimes multiple versions) of John Constantine, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Nick Fury, the Justice League, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Godzilla, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, Tarzan and other pulp fiction heroes. There is even a pastiche of the modern League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, not to mention Japanese monster movies, 1950s horror/science fiction movies, Hong Kong action movies and more. This provides a rich backdrop for the ongoing story, and is similar to Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton family.

(In general, the public domain characters such as Holmes appear as themselves, while those still under copyright appear in altered but recognizably similar form. In some regards the series is thus similar to the series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)

The idea of the series is to create a concise world in which archetypes of superheroes, pulp fiction heroes, sci-fi heroes, and characters from just about every possible mass media format, live in one large universe while the Planetary team investigates them and ties together the ends. As Warren Ellis said in his proposal (http://home.earthlink.net/~rkkman/frames/summaries/Sproposal.htm) for the comic series: "[W]hat if you had a hundred years of superhero history just slowly leaking out into this young and modern superhero world of the Wildstorm Universe? What if you could take everything old and make it new again?"

The comic relies heavily on Cassaday's detailed and imaginative artwork and it features a variety of styles of cover with no consistent logo or layout. The mysteries Ellis sets up are what ultimately drive the book, as he gradually shows us the characters' relationships, their histories, and who the Fourth Man is.

References

In addition to the references to superheroes and literary figures, the mysteriously unnamed "Fourth Man" may be a reference to the unnamed "Fifth Man" from the Cambridge Five, whose identity was a hotly pursued mystery for some time.

There are multiple references to the pulp heroes of yesteryear. The hero Doc Brass is a direct reference to Doc Savage, who was sometimes called The Man of Bronze.

Bibliography

Series

  • Gen13 #33 and C-23 #6 (preview - same story included in each issue)
  • Planetary #1-22

One-shots

  • Planetary/The Authority: Ruling the World: Standalone story featuring two Wildstorm groups in a plot tangentially related to an element in the first issue of Planetary.
  • Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth: Standalone story featuring alternate renditions of Batman in what is otherwise a straightforward Planetary tale.
  • Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta: Standalone story featuring an alternate version of the JLA - Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman - facing an alternate incarnation of Planetary. Completely detached from the main Planetary storyline.

Collections

  • All Over the World and Other Stories (collects preview & #1-6; hardcover and softcover)
  • The Fourth Man (collects #7-12; hardcover and softcover)
  • Leaving the Twentieth Century (collects #13-18; hardcover and softcover)
  • Planetary: Crossing Worlds (collects the three crossover one-shots above; softcover)
  • Absolute Planetary (collects #1-12 and includes some extra material; hardcover; published in November 2004)
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