When I was a kid, there was Earth One and it had the Justice League. Earth Two had the Justice Society. Earth Three had the Crime Syndicate (they were evil dopplegangers). There was Earth X, where World War Two never ended and it was the place the Freedom Fighters called home. Earth S is where Shazam lived. Earth C was either the Charlton characters or the birthplace of Captain Carrot. As a kid, I knew all this on the level of religious devotion. I knew each Earth and I knew that there were many Earths, each one different & distinctive, hanging in the sky like incandescent jewels, strung like pearls across the cosmos. Earth Prime was OUR Earth and it had no superheroes*.(*Well, it had one but he was terrible.)
Marvel had “What If?” What if Spider-Man was in the Fantastic Four? (They’d have to change the name, obvs.) What if Bucky didn’t die? What if Galactus ate the Earth? Counter-factuals to the established reality, to what we know really happened – what if this happened differently or didn’t even happen at all? What if? What then?
What if they were both right? What if there was an infinite number of worlds, strung like pearls across the cosmos? We don’t live in a Uni-verse. We live in a Multi-verse.
In a Multiverse, there’s a planet where I am President of the United States, for some reason. On another world, I am a black woman. Keep searching and you’ll be sure to find one where I am the first black female President of the United States.
It’s all about decisions, choices, options but there’s an element of destiny, too. You are what you are but you could be anything, LITERALLY ANYTHING. Including the first black female President, yo.
I knew this when I was five six seven eight years old. Believe me when I say, I put more stock in this concept than I did in religion. I knew that Jesus would never swoop down and save me. Never once did Jesus ever swoop down and save me (and I could have used some saving when I was a kid). Neither did Superman. But I knew Superman wasn’t real and I figured Jesus was the same. I liked reading comic books and I hated going to church when I was five six seven eight. If Jesus really loved me, I wouldn’t have gotten soaked on Halloween when I was four (while dressed as Superman, coincidentally enough). Was God trying to tell me something? If He was, it didn’t work.
Or did it?
We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds (said Captain Understatement). We live in the world we’re in and it’s up to us to make it the best of all possible worlds. All of us, working together, like the League, like the Society, to make this the best of all possible worlds, where everyone has a magic word and a flying Bat-Mobile in every garage.
I knew this when I was 5 6 7 8.
And now, we dance!