Welcome to Vanishing Point, a monthly column about the more outré continuity problems in the DC Universe, and my personal *non-canon* attempts to make sense out of them. This month's column is:
Who is like God?
Recently, there has been tremendous controversy on the Internet concerning the characterization of Zauriel, soon-to-be member of the JLA, and quite definitely an angel of God. It seems that several readers are upset that DC seems to be making the tacit assumption that the Christian version of the afterlife is the correct one.
(Before I go much further, I want to reiterate that this is just my opinion of how things work in the DC universe. This is neither official DC policy, nor an attempt to reconcile *real* religious beliefs)
Well, our crack staff here at the Point (that is to say .me) have researched the topic quite carefully, and it looks like that there may be a way to reconcile most, if not all, appearances of various deities without offending too many people.
So, to quote from Jesus Christ Superstar, "Who up there besides yourself's the cream of the crop?". First the bad news .anyone who gets their powers from the Source isn't a supreme being. This eliminates Shazam, the New Gods, the Guardians, and the various mythical pantheons (Greek, Orishan, and possibly Norse there's a bit of difficulty about the Norse, due to recent issues of JK4W, but it's clear that they aren't all powerful. In fact, Norse mythology itself proclaims that the Aesir can die.)
Further support for this contention can be drawn from the War of the Gods during which Darkseid takes his place among the other gods of war at a pivotal moment. Quite simply, since all of them cannot be the Creator, none of them are. In addition, the various gods seem much to human to be the ineffable Creator of All. They have too much personality.
So what are they? Spectre #0 may supply the answer. While binding the Spectre to the mortal named Caraka, the Archangel Michael transforms himself into another aspect, the goddess Kali. Now, I'm not saying all of the Gods are angels in disguise, but they very well may be intermediaries of a sort, fragments of a greater whole, steeped in the power of the Source. They can even have their own afterlives, but there's a strong implication that these exist only at the sufferance of Someone else.
A real world example may clarify this in ancient times, it was common to propitiate the gods for luck or blessing..but nowadays that function is taken over most often by the saints (including the archangels).
What about Gaea? A good question, and one that I've mulled over many times. I'm tempted to say that she's the Holy Spirit, but since that doesn't answer anything, let's just say that she is the embodiment of Life itself, and hence does not enter into the afterlife equation. (BTW, it seems to me that the only way to reconcile Gaea and the last arc of Swamp Thing is to say that Swampy didn't go through all that to replace Gaea but to earn the right to be her ambassador in the Parliament of Worlds).
Next on the docket is the Source itself, personified by the Uni-Friend. It certainly gave Spectre a run for his money, and it definitely goes back far enough, but it doesn't include any concept of life-after-death, either via reincarnation or spiritual existence. It just is this massive pool of force, primordial and powerful, but not particularly spiritual. I suspect that the Uni-Friend is a kind of guardian angel, watching over those who tap into the Source directly (i.e. the Gods of New Genesis).
The Lords of Order and Chaos have a strong case, but their most common depiction has them forming *after* creation, possibly during the same event that created Apokalips and New Genesis. Also, in one issue of Spectre (#14?) Nabu, in full regalia, was unable to prevent the Spectre from doing pretty much anything.
The Endless are. While Teleute certainly appears at most (if not all) deaths, she doesn't claim to have any idea what happens afterwards. Now, one issue of Sandman implies that the Greeks, at least, had their own afterlife setup, but in this case it definitely seems to be more of a Hell than a Heaven. And those are the subject of the *next* Vanishing Point.
Pretty much all that's left are (surprise, surprise) the major religions still being worshipped today: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and the Judeo-Christian-Islamic hierarchy. Now, as I've shown above, the Hindu gods (possibly including Rama Kushna, of Deadman fame) have been shown as equivalent to the JCI bunch not lesser than, merely different.
The Taoists worship an impersonal force of unified opposites. I don't think any Taoists would disagree that the Tao = the Source. The Buddhists have many variant beliefs, but the question of who created/runs the afterlife isn't of paramount importance, since all of the real work seems to be done by highly advanced souls, not gods. People who've come back from the afterlife, to help others along. (Comparisons to the Speed Force beg to be made, here. I'm not going to.
That leaves JHVH/The Holy Trinity/Allah. Unfortunately, it doesn't really help, since there are several inconsistent depictions of that guy in recent memory. In no particular order we have: The Spectre. Zauriel. Remiel and Duma. The Beings from American Gothic (Swamp Thing), and even Supergirl.
Spectre's view of the afterlife is fairly traditional. Big gates, big guys with wings. In issue #61 of his book, it appears that this variety of heaven is no more, as God has apparently gone insane. Clearly, as Father Craemer noted, this wasn't the case, since the sun was shining, birds were singing, etc. In fact, one soul which was supposedly devoured was (apparently) present to greet Corrigan when he finally let go (in the very next issue). I'll come back to this later, as this is rather important.
Zauriel's Heaven annoys me..not because of any religious beliefs, but because it's chock full of the same personality which caused me to reject the other gods above. However, there was one thing missing in his Heaven, one which gives me an out .people.
With the exception of J'onn J'onzz (who shouldn't have been there anyway..he's not subject to JCI dominion) there were no dead spirits floating around. I think that Zauriel's battle took place in the Silver City (mentioned in various Gaiman works), a sort of angel barracks, and not necessarily Heaven per se. Remiel and Duma probably came from here as well (albeit from the Man Host..the iconography Grant chose uses Lion, Eagle, Bull and Man as symbols). I'll bet that J'onn was sent there on purpose, by the yet unrevealed Presence to get the job done.
Angels (as disembodied spheres of light) showed up in Swamp Thing during Crisis. It's likely that since this was battle on a purely spiritual level, they merely didn't bother with humanoid forms. Alternatively, they could be angels of a higher (lower?) rank, and merely appear differently.
The real problem is Supergirl. There, God is the grandson of a nice old couple, and an artificial being from another dimension, merged with the spirit of a dead teenager, is now an angel. Methinks the only possible response to this is "Yikes."
Now, PAD would probably disagree with this, but I suspect that the God in Supergirl is an aspect of God like the Spectre and the Word. For lack of a better name I'm calling him the Lamb. A fraction of the Big Guy, incarnate in a human form (as they all must be, since that unfortunate incident in Jerusalem.) Supergirl Supergirl is a problem, but being that she's mortal (so far) calling her a saint probably wouldn't be too far off. The whole "Chosen" thing also supports this. The Lamb (a much nicer aspect, and certainly better dressed) has something in mind and later issues will reveal whatever *that* is.
Almost forgot the recent Rogues one-shot implied another supreme being, complete with messianic prodigy, angelic protector, and problems with demonic beings. I can deal with him to. Not only that, but an "angel" was revealed as a power source for Thanagar's anti-gravity technology I wonder if Zauriel (who may be the new Hawkman) knew him.
So what does this all mean? How's this sound?
In the beginning (waaaay back) something created the Word, and there was light. This was the Source. The next step was the separation of Light from Dark, Order from Chaos, possibly even New Genesis from Apokalips. Now, whoever or whatever is behind it all is beyond mere Terran/Martian/Thanagar understanding. That's why I called him ineffable a few paragraphs back.
When it becomes necessary for him to appear on a spiritual level, he appears to them in the form that they can best deal with Jim Corrigan was in a bad mood, so he got the really angry, Old Testament "Voice", while Boston Brand, a much more laid-back fellow, saw Rama Kushna. "Michael" (the Spectre version, not the ex-Host warrior) was a go-between used when the Spectre looked like it might be getting out of hand (Corrigan can go to heaven..the Spectre can't).
After fifty years or so, Corrigan finally started to figure things out..grow beyond his primitive version of God .and that God was destroyed (to him, anyway). When his time finally came to lay down the mantle, he was able to perceive a much more advanced aspect and earned his rest.
Whether Michael is still around is a judgment call, but I like to think he still has his uses. So where was he in Paradise Lost? Since the Presence (a bodiless being, one notes not some glowing bearded fellow on a throne..which came as a surprise to Asmodel) had everything planned from the get-go, Mike could stay at home.
Now, some cultures, due to societal pressures perhaps, didn't think of just one God behind everything (at least not directly most of them have a primeval creator or abyss). So when they petitioned the spiritual realms, the beings they envisioned were spawned by the Source in other words, Man created the Gods..not the other way around. Now, this is fair, since the various aspects of the Big Guy are also man-made .the true form is ineffable, remember?
There does seem to be one important difference, since the afterlives dependent on monotheism seem to have more validity..I suspect that's more due to editorial pressures if you claim Yahweh is just an aspect of the Source oy, what tsuris. On the other hand, how many worshippers of Zeus are around to complain? :-)
So to sum up .the Judeo-Christian God is the proper god in the DC Universe. So is Brahaman, Rama Kushna, Meshta, and H'ronmeer. It's all in how you look at it. When dealing with humans, He/She/It occasionally uses avatars like the Spectre, the Word, and the Lamb. When dealing with demons though S/He prefers using angels, like Zauriel, Remiel, and Mahkalli.
Or then again, maybe not it's only a theory.
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