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Tangent Comics was a DC Comics imprint created in 1997–1998, developed from ideas created by Dan Jurgens. The line, formed from various one-shots, focused on creating all-new characters using established DC names, such as the Joker, Superman, and the Flash. Contrasting the Tangent Universe with the DC Universe Jurgens commented:
|“||The Tangent Universe tells the story of an Earth greatly influenced by the presence of super-powered beings. While the DCU Earth is essentially the same as our own, no more advanced in terms of technology or communications despite the existence of those qualities within the super-powered community, Earth Tangent is greatly influenced by all of that. Earth Tangent's economic, geographic and political landscapes are defined by the superhero community, whereas in the DCU those aspects exist unaffected by the superhero community.||”|
Dan Jurgens recalled the reconceptualization of Superman "went through many permutations." An early idea eschewed powers altogether and revolved around highlighting the "man" in "Superman," and making him "a cop, or a doctor or something different. A guy with no powers but tremendous character who fights on behalf of his fellow man." Writer Millar noted that "the classic Superman role is already filled by the Atom," and wanted to echo "Kafka's metamorphosis where we actually see this likable, regular guy transform into a superhuman." Thus Millar took Jurgens' early idea "of the average Joe as the superMAN," and used artist Guice's "unique approach to the flashback scenes" (as seen in his Resurrection Man work) to create a different style than that used by Guice on his Action Comics work. The Tangent universe's Superman utilises the name of DC villain Two-Face (Harvey Dent) rather than the name 'Clark Kent.' Superman's powers, according to his writer, are that "his brain is evolving at an accelerated rate" thanks to a 'god-force'.
Writer Peter David worked from Jurgens' concept that Tangent's Wonder Woman is "a female warrior" exiled to Earth for sins committed on another world. Seeking a twist to make her different from the original DCU character, David thought up Wanda's origin as "a symbol of what [her] world could be if [her people] were united." Combining two diverse aspects, she "seems distracted in any combat situation" and "would rather not fight," preferring "pondering some deep philosophical point." After the character conception, artist Gene Ha produced design artwork, initially of a bearded lady, but eventually merely "a very alien woman."
Writer Ostrander previously wrote Nightwing for the first wave of Tangent issues, and for his second wave issue christened the team (Hex, Black Orchid and Wildcat) 'Nightforce'. Citing the benefit of the Tangent line as giving "a far greater freedom to sculpt the world in any fashion we want," Jurgens said that for the second wave he hoped to "see Earth totally and completely subjugated." As the Tangent universe's premiere covert team, much of the "mammoth task" of staging a pivotal Tangent event fell to Ostrander, who installed an undead, vampire Stalin as head of a Soviet Empire. Ostrander also revealed the 'Dark Circle', whose members could be killed and "resurrected as a warrior, Night of the Living Dead style, for the Ultra-Humanite."
The history of the Tangent Universe radically diverges from the real world due to the presence of superheroes. The interference of the original Atom causes the Cuban Missile Crisis to escalate into a limited nuclear exchange that results in the nuclear obliteration of Florida and Cuba. The aftermath of the destruction of Florida shapes the lives of several characters.
The city of New Atlantis is created out of the remains of the city of Atlanta and is later the birthplace of the Joker. A group of sea creatures are mutated by the radioactive fallout into humanoid form and become known as the Sea Devils. The other major event to have repercussions is the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which leads to the creation of the Manhunter and deployment of alternate Metal Men as a US black ops squad. As a result of the Cuban War in this timeline, the Soviet Union still existed in the late nineties, and was still a world superpower. However, China was not involved in this nuclear exchange and has its own metahuman genetic experimentation program, resulting in the creation of Supergirl and Powergirl.
- Doom Patrol
- A team from the future arrives in the present, warning of the impending destruction of the Earth. Team members include Doomsday, Star Sapphire, Firehawk and Rampage.
- Green Lantern
- A woman with a lantern which, when placed upon a grave, can bring the dead back to life just long enough to complete unfinished business.
- Metal Men
- The Metal Men are a covert military group, so named because they came back from every mission unscathed. The members are nicknamed "Hawkman", "Lobo", "Gravedigger", and “Black Lightning”.
- A group of agents from a mystical secret society that controls much of the world go renegade.
- Sea Devils
- A society of mer-people are created by the nuclear exchange that destroyed Cuba and Florida in 1962.
- Secret Six
- The Secret Six are a covert group of heroes who are formed when the Flash, Atom, the Joker, Spectre, Plastic Man and Manhunter join forces to combat Dr. Aquadus, a living ocean.
- The Atom
- The grandson of the Tangent Earth's first superhero, an atomic veteran, takes on the mantle and learns a horrible truth about his family.
- The Flash
- The first baby born in space grows up to become a teenage superhero with light-based powers. She can move at the speed of light and create holographic constructs.
- The Joker
- A costumed anarchist in the city of New Atlantis uses pranks to highlight the failings and hypocrisy of those in power.
Because the Tangent titles were not linked to DC Comics' shared universe, they were free to make sweeping changes. In the Tangent one-shots published in 1998, a huge electromagnetic pulse disables all technology worldwide, and an incredibly powerful being called the Ultra-Humanite begins taking over the world.
- US agents attempt to kidnap China's genetically-engineered superhuman. Written by Ron Marz, with art by Dusty Abell.
- Nightwing: Nightforce
- The Superman
- Tales of the Green Lantern
- The Green Lantern tells three possible, and contradictory, stories of her origin. The framing sequence was written by James Robinson and drawn by J. H. Williams III and Mick Gray. The first two alternate origins were written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, with art by Mike Mayhew and Wade von Grawbadger; Georges Jeanty & Drew Geraci. The third was written by John Ostrander, with art by Ryan Sook.
- The Batman
- A knight who once fought King Arthur is forced to atone for his sins, seeking justice through an empty suit of armor for all eternity.
- The Joker's Wild
- Trials of the Flash
- Wonder Woman
Tangent: Superman's Reign (2008)
The twelve issue limited series was the revisiting of the Tangent Universe 10 years later, both in reality and fiction. The series ran between March 2008 until February 2009, and was written by Dan Jurgens with art by Carlos Magno. The series was met with favorable reviews, noting strong character development and plotting.
In efforts to aid an alternate-reality-displaced Tangent Flash (Lia Nelson), Green Lantern (John Stewart) and Flash (Wally West) are inexplicably transported to Earth-9, the Tangent Universe, by the Green Lantern. The trio joins Tangent Spectre and Manhunter in freeing the Atom, leaving John Stewart captured by the Tangent Superman, ruler of Earth-9. While being interrogated by the Tangent Superman, John Stewart's ring is contacted by Hal Jordan’s ring, which the Tangent Green Lantern uses to bring additional members of the Justice League to Earth-9. The rescued Atom is revealed to be the Tangent Powergirl, lover to Superman, and a fight ensues. Tangent Manhunter is brutally murdered. The Tangent Superman takes Stewart’s power ring, and uses the ring, augmented by his psychic powers and the magic of the Tangent Orion to travel to New Earth, home of the main DC Universe. Meanwhile, Batman infiltrates the Core, hub of information on Earth-9, and is saved by the Tangent Batman while escaping, who is mounting a revolution against the Tangent Superman. Tangent Superman and Powergirl battle their New Earth counterparts, only to escape and destroy the White House. The Tangent Superman proceeds to kidnap the world’s leaders, cede power from them and detonate a nuclear weapon to distract New Earth’s heroes. While on Earth-9 the heroes find and recruit Tangent Superman’s last tie to humanity, his wife Lola Dent. The heroes on Earth-9 transport themselves back to New Earth, where the combined forces of New Earth’s and Earth-9’s heroes fight against Tangent Superman and Tangent Powergirl and a cadre of villains the Earth-9 ruler has gathered from New Earth (the Joker, Lex Luthor, Mr. Freeze, the Icicle, Black Manta, Poison Ivy, Felix Faust), as well as the Tangent Ultra-Humanite. The raging battle against the Tangent Superman weakens him, allowing him to be ultimately defeated by his wife, concluding the story.
Interaction with the main DC Universe
The Kingdom (1998) revealed that the Tangent universe was part of Hypertime, a fluid system of alternate realities based on splitting and re-merging timelines. Regular DC characters became aware of the Tangent universe, but did not interact with it.
Infinite Crisis (2006) identified the Tangent universe as Earth-97, part of the recreated Multiverse. As Earth-97 was being destroyed in the chaos, Green Lantern said that the heroes had to follow her lantern's light in order to survive. At the end of the story on New Earth, two children found the lantern belonging to the Tangent Universe's Green Lantern washed up on a beach.
The Tangent universe’s Green Lantern, Flash and Atom appeared in Ion #9 and #10 (2007), in which they displaced Ion and the two children who had found the lantern. Ion found himself in The Bleed, where he encountered Captain Atom. Upon returning to Earth, Ion defeated the Tangent heroes, apparently by sending them back to their native dimension. During this appearance, everything said by the Tangent heroes was a repeat of lines from the original Tangent comics run.
The Tangent universe's Green Lantern later appeared in Justice League of America #50, where she fled to New Earth in order to warn its heroes of an impending attack by the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. During the issue, it was revealed that the Syndicate members had ravaged the Tangent Earth and killed many of its heroes in the process. The Tangent Green Lantern later became instrumental in the ensuing battle by temporarily resurrecting Alexander Luthor, and by the end of the story, the Tangent Universe had been restored to its former state.
'The "History of the Multiverse" backup stories in Countdown established that the Tangent Universe now exists as one of the new fifty-two alternate universes. DC's official list of the current known multiverse lists the Tangent universe as Earth-9.
DC Comics began reprinting the Tangent Comics one-shots in 2007 with a series of trade paperbacks.
- Tangent Comics Vol. 1 (August 2007), 208 pages collecting the Tangent Comics: The Atom, Metal Men, The Flash, Green Lantern and Sea Devils one-shots.
- Tangent Comics Vol. 2 (January 2008), 192 pages collecting the Tangent Comics: Joker, Nightwing, Batman, Secret Six and Doom Patrol one-shots.
- Tangent Comics Vol. 3 (June 2008), 208 pages collecting Tangent Comics: Superman, Wonder Woman, Joker's Wild, JLA, Tales of the Green Lantern, Power Girl, Nightwing: Nightforce, and Trials of the Flash.
- Tangent: Superman's Reign Vol. 1 160 pages collecting #1-6 and Justice League of America #16
- Tangent: Superman's Reign Vol. 2 144 pages Collecting #7-12
- Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1990s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 281. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "A series of nine one-shots springing from the imagination of writer/artist Dan Jurgens, the Tangent Comics imprint introduced an entirely new universe of heroes."
- Renaud, Jeffrey. "Jurgens Talks "Tangent: Superman's Reign" Comic Book Resources; January 8, 2008
- "Tangent Comics: the background - Man of Tomorrow" in Tangent Comics Volume Three (DC, 2008) ISBN 978-1-4012-1806-5, p. 199
- "Tangent Comics: the background - Wonder Woman" in Tangent Comics Volume Three, p. 200
- "Tangent Comics: the background - Nightwing Nightforce" in Tangent Comics Volume Three, p. 201
- Tangent Comics Volume Three, p. 4
- Manning "1990s" in Dolan, p. 281: "The Secret Six found their own monthly one-shot title written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Tom Grummett."
- "Review of ''Tangent: Superman’s Reign'' #1 at Girls Entertainment Network; April 2, 2009". Girlsentertainmentnetwork.com. 2009-04-02. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- ""Review: Tangent: Superman's Reign Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)" Collected Editions; March 16, 2009". Collectededitions.blogspot.com. 2009-03-16. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- "THE BEAT » Blog Archive » DC’s Collected Editions — May/June ‘08". Pwbeat.publishersweekly.com. 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2011-02-03.