The Pitt

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This article is about a Marvel Comics event. For other uses, see Pitt.
The Pitt
Cover to The Pitt one-shot
Art by Michael Heisler
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics as part of its New Universe line
Format one-shot (47 pages, no ads)
Publication date December 1987
Main character(s) See Main characters
Creative team
Writer(s) John Byrne, Mark Gruenwald
Penciller(s) Sal Buscema
Colorist(s) Janet Jackson

The Pitt is a 1987 one-shot comic book written by John Byrne and Mark Gruenwald, and illustrated by Sal Buscema and Stan Drake. It was published by Marvel Comics as part of its New Universe line. The story depicts the total destruction of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a result of the careless actions of the wielder of the Star Brand and its immediate 12-hour aftermath.

Major characters[edit]

  • Starbrand (Ken Connell) - a young aspiring superhero and native of Pittsburgh bearing a mysterious sigil granting him potentially infinite power. Though the instigator of the Pitt, his presence in the story is limited, appearing in only a few panels without dialog or being named.
  • The Witness (Nelson Kohler) - A man who went into a coma precisely when the White Event occurred and subsequently died. His intellect reincorporating as a ghost-like psychic projection, he cannot be seen or heard, neither can he interact physically with the world in any way, but he can travel anywhere at will to observe events. He is compelled by a strange pull to witness people manifesting paranormal abilities.
  • MacIntyre (Mac) Browning - Colonel in the Army's Defense Intelligence Agency called in to assess and handle the situation.
  • Jenny Swensen (Spitfire) - Government agent and operator of the M.A.X. Armor, which is used to investigate the scene and try to rescue survivors.

Setup to "The Pitt"[edit]

The storyline of "The Pitt" actually begins in issue #12 of Star Brand. In the previous issue, Ken Connell used his power to become the world's first costumed superhero. Now enjoying growing fame, he makes an appearance at a local Pittsburgh comic-book convention. Unfortunately, a recurring enigmatic foe known only as the Old Man ambushes Connell at the show, destroying the building and killing hundreds of by-standers. After escaping, Connell realizes that he was able to read the Old Man's mind during the encounter, and thus learned that he is a centuries old human who bears a brand like his own and was driven insane by it. Fearing the same thing may happen to him, Connell resolves to rid himself of the star brand immediately by flying to the far side of the Moon and dissipating nearly all its energy. However, as he begins the flight he has second thoughts about possibly being stranded so far from medical aid if anything should go wrong, and instead sheds the Brand ten miles (16 km) above the Earth. The issue ends with a massive ball of light erupting from Ken Connell.


The destruction of Pittsburgh occurs at exactly 6:06 pm Eastern Standard Time on December 22, 1987. The spontaneous release of energy caused by the Star Brand instantly and silently disintegrates all matter in a massive spherical volume of space, fifty miles in diameter, centered ten miles (16 km) above ground level. Where the sphere intersects the ground, a perfectly symmetrical concave void in the Earth's crust fifteen miles (24 km) deep (far enough to expose the hot mantle) is made. The city of Pittsburgh and its immediate suburbs lie within this region, thus these settlements and nearly half a million people are destroyed instantly. Thousands more are killed in neighboring areas by violent winds several times greater than hurricane strength, as the atmosphere rushes into the sudden vacuum.

The abrupt silent flash of white light can be seen for hundreds of miles, but with the immediate cessation of communication from the area no one knows what has actually happened. The federal government sends in a military reconnaissance team led by Colonel Browning to assess the situation, assisted by Jenny Swensen and her Spitfire robot suit. Faced with the enormity of the disaster and the possibility of it being a Soviet strike, Browning institutes a severe security lockdown, ordering Swensen to abandon attempts to rescue survivors and shooting down a news helicopter that tries to investigate. Swensen ignores Browning's orders to make no contact with civilians and retrieves a car holding a family of survivors who were pulled into the crater by the winds and are slowly sinking into the mire of debris and liquid accumulating in its depths. She rescues the family, but some of the "Pitt Juice" seeps through her armor and impairs her systems. When she returns, Jenny learns how severely Browning has sealed up the area and his increasingly paranoid attempts to cover-up the truth of the event. She abandons Browning to try to help as many people as she can, and is threatened with summary execution for doing so. However, the search proves fruitless, and Browning allows her to return without incident after conceding that the tragedy is beyond the military's ability to cover-up, or indeed human society's ability to comprehend.

Parallel to the main storyline, the Witness observes the unfolding of events, from Ken Connell's initial cause (which he mourns being unable to prevent) and a possibly hallucinated encounter with the vengeful souls of all those who died in the Pitt. At one point, Jenny Swensen sees and attempts to communicate with him, one of the few times a living person has been able to do so.

The crater itself is referred to as The Pitt, as is the event that created it. Within the fictional universe, it is occasionally also referred to as The Black Event (in contrast to the earlier White Event).

The destruction of Pittsburgh (and the unsolved mystery of its cause) lead to a dramatic rise in international tension and a vast militarization of American society, including the suspension of some civil rights. Many cities suffer dramatic drop in population as residents fear becoming victims of another "Pitt". New York and surrounding areas in particular suffer severe economic downturn as, in addition to general depopulation, ash and smoke drifting Eastward from the Pitt have a negative environmental impact.

The Pitt lead into the following mini-series The Draft and then The War, and ultimately the conclusion of the entire New Universe.

Pitt statistics[edit]

  • Volume of sphere of effect: 65,313 cubic miles
  • Area of land eradicated at ground level: 1,590 square miles
  • Volume of earth eradicated: 14,888 cubic miles (62,060 km3).
  • Population of Greater Pittsburgh Region: 430,000

Pitt timeline[edit]

  • December 22, 1987:
6:06 pm: Pitt created, as all matter within a sphere of approximately 25 miles radius, centered approximately 10 miles above the city is annihilated or converted into a strange form of matter at the bottom. A vortex of air begins to rush in from all directions.
6:17pm: Griffis Air Force Base in New York detects the Pitt.
10:00pm (approximately): Tornado force winds begin to subside.
  • December 23, 1987:
1:43 am: The president authorizes a complete lockdown of the area.
4:27 am: News airs the first images of the Pitt to the nation.
  • April 1988 (approximately): volcanic deposit begins forming a mound in the bottom of the Pitt.
  • July 1988 (approximately): "Mt. Pittsburgh" volcano in the Pitt's center reaches 7 miles (11 km) from the bottom, and approximately 1-mile (1.6 km) below the top. Volcanic ash begins to blanket the region.

Pitt Juice[edit]

The disintegrated matter of the Pittsburgh area, mixed with sucked in debris (much of it organic), water from the severed Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers (all presumably affected by exposure to the energies of the Star Brand) accumulates in the Pitt and combines into a sludgy liquid that comes to be known as "Pitt Juice". Able to seep through even the tightest of seals, it has mutagenic properties that can affect people and animals who come in contact with it, often grotesquely so. In particular, those exposed to the Juice often meld with other nearby lifeforms or materials, creating mineral-organic hybrids and chimaerical monstrosities. Pitt Juice eventually seeped into the area surrounding the Pitt, turning it into a dangerous wasteland stalked by hostile mutants.

The following characters were exposed and changed:

  • A family of four was huddled together in a car while exposed, and eventually merged into a collective monster that hungered for new flesh, the so-called "Famileech."
  • Jenny Swensen was exposed to the substance while inside her Spitfire armor, causing her skin to later transform into living metal.
  • Randy O'Brien (DP7) was exposed while inside the "skin" of his antibodies and was later unable to absorb the antibody inside himself and effect a normal appearance.