Thursday, May 29, 2014

Home Sweet Universe

Back in Fantastic Four #123, Reed Richards conceived of a plan to finally rid our world of the threat of Galactus--by taking the world-devourer's ship hostage, and threatening to destroy it unless Galactus vowed to depart and leave Earth involate, forever. But Galactus came back with a deadly counter-offer:

Reed had no choice but to accept Galactus's terms. But he had one trick left up his sleeve, a part of his plan which he tried to make clear to the Surfer before the sky-rider took off after his master:

Chaos erupted, with no one understanding why Reed was apparently endangering the Earth by restraining the Surfer and consequently causing the return of Galactus, who might then reconsider his decision to leave and follow through on destroying all life on Earth. But, by mystic means, Reed addressed the people of the world and explained that the world need never fear Galactus again:

Things now look pretty good for Earth... for the FF... for the Surfer (well, maybe not for the Surfer, since he's still trapped on our planet)... but they sure don't look good for the inhabitants of the Negative Zone, since Reed has now dumped on them a destructive force that will methodically seek out their worlds to feed on, killing billions upon billions. A place which Reed seems to think very highly of, when his planet isn't on the line:

So the point where Reed doesn't "turn his back" on the Negative Zone seems to have one large exception--and it goes by the name of Galactus.

Which brings us to a somewhat negative

Marvel Trivia Question

Why did Galactus abandon the Negative Zone?

Imagine everyone's surprise when, two years after Galactus is sent to the Negative Zone, the alien being called Firelord arrives on Earth and announces the impending arrival of his master:

An announcement which has Thor voicing the same sentiment the rest of us are: "Huh??"

Even the man on the street (in this case, a reporter) remembers the previous encounter, and the fact that Galactus has no reason to even be in our universe again, let alone threatening the Earth:

Galactus, however, makes it clear to us that he means business--and it doesn't look like his stay in the Negative Zone has whetted his appetite for good 'ol positive universe worlds:

It turns out that Galactus, after his return, made another attempt to defeat Ego, the Living Planet--but he found that Ego in his absence had been driven mad, and so Galactus came to Earth seeking Thor to establish an alliance in order to bring about Ego's end. But that still begs the question: Why did Galactus leave the Negative Zone? I suppose he had no real reason to stay, unless upon arrival he found himself surrounded by worlds rich in life force energy and concluded that the Zone was definitely the place for him. If that wasn't the case (and it's indeed unlikely), he'd be in the same situation he was back on Earth: at a loss to find worlds in a timely fashion without a herald like the Surfer to act as a scout. So why wouldn't he immediately return, tell Reed "Nice try, but no dice," and take the Surfer? The way that writer Stan Lee ended that story was all very rushed and doesn't stand up well to scrutiny--and it should, given that this was a four-part story with plenty of elbow room for a more laid-out ending.

At any rate, we never get a clear answer from anyone as to why Galactus returned. The Thor story only broaches the subject in order to keep a sense of continuity, but doesn't otherwise deal with it. The only real answer we get--that is, if you want to call it an answer--comes from Reed some time later, when the FF is about to enter the Zone in an extended exploration:

It was an "explanation" clearly meant to leave the issue at that, and move on. I don't know why Galactus would be concerned with the "mysteries" of the Zone, any more than he was with the mysteries of our universe, since he has tunnel vision in terms of his hunger and is on a single-minded quest for new planets. Still, I'm guessing we're all pretty happy to have Galactus threatening us all again. We're certainly not going to hear the people of the Negative Zone complaining about it anytime soon.


Murray said...

I have never understood the Negative Zone. We're constantly being told that it is too mysterious, too weird, too wild and too strange. Yet, anytime the FF or others go to the Zone, we're shown nothing but scifi aliens and worlds that would be lame even in a 1960's episode of "Lost in Space". I think the "negative" aspect is this parallel universe's overall quality. It's the "Everything for a Dollar" cosmos. Galactus returned because it was all too low-rent and junky.

Chris Tolworthy said...

The Neg Zone is subspace: see FF51 when it was introduced. That is, it is the space that links OTHER places. In FF 51 it is defied as the way that Galactus and others travel faster than light. So leaving him there was like leaving him on a highway - not on location as such. As for how planets exist in the Neg Zone, that's an interesting question. I would love to study it one day. But my guess is that things are not as they seem: for example, the way that rocks continually fall toward Earth and explode, yet we don't see them from our side. Or the way that breathable air fills the space around that Earth, and possibly the entire dimension. It's a fascinating topic for future study.

Anonymous said...

I think that on a very basic level, Galactus is like all of us. Upon arriving and seeing his new environment, he most likely found some place to stop and get his bearings. Being the Negative Zone, vast, awe inspiring and full of wonder, that place was most likely a Stuckey's. A boon and source of succor for travelers of countless generations. Being a smart and rational being, Galactus probably filled up on GooGoo clusters, pecan logs, YooHoo and sweat tea. And bought a map. After the sugar crash, inevitable that it is, and finding himself unable to refold that darn Negative Zone map, he most likely screamed: "F this! And F you Comicsfan (you being his main nemesis and all)." Hung and u-ey and went back where he came from.

The Prowler (running into the sun and I'm running behind).

Comicsfan said...

Chris, it may be wasted effort to chart the evolution of the Negative Zone in such a way. Given what we've seen of the Zone, it's likely that Reed's experiments in those FF issues you mention were likely preliminary conclusions only, since he was exploring the idea of their being no defense against a faster-than-light attack and perhaps thought he was onto something with this gateway. Reed had already taken the FF through what he defined as "sub-space" when the team traveled to the Skrull galaxy (in FF #37)--and since they obviously didn't travel through anything resembling the Zone (and accessed it rather easily, at that), clearly his ideas on the subject in later issues were still in flux. That said, the other points you mention have always been intriguing about the Zone--the matter/anti-matter areas with exploding atmospheres, the fact that space in the Zone (a "cosmos" in its own right, as Reed points out) is breathable, etc. I really wished they'd stuck with the notion that the Zone was simply a negative version of our own universe--it would have explained a few things, and would have forced it to remain a dangerous environment best left inviolate, and entered only at extreme risk.

Chris Tolworthy said...

Comicsfan, Without a detailed study I can't say anything definite, but I don't see any contradiction between the negative zone (an antimatter universe) and sub space (the space between dimensions). I agree that the zone has often been portrayed as simply a negative universe, but I think all the weird stuff there (negative matter, matter always falling toward Earth, time moving much faster, the fact that a single cosmic control rod can exist enabling one being to govern the entire universe, etc., etc) suggests to em that there is plenty of fodder for theorizing some very interesting possibilities.

It may be that the transfer from matter to antimatter is the key to jumping instantaneously across time and space. It has been theorized that the Big Bang could be the point where the entire universe switched from anti-matter to matter: .

For the purposes of relativity we can treat time like space, so the Big Bang, rather than being "long time ago" is simply the part of the multiverse where everything connects: the crossroads of infinity, if you will. I think it all fits rather neatly.

I am quite attached to the "subspace equals neg zone" theory for three reasons: first, Reed repeatedly referred to the place as sub-space in FF51, the defining story. Second, all the sub-space .neg zone stories seem very consistent to me (e.g. comparing FF 37, 51, 151, 319, etc.). And third, it all neatly fits as the origin Franklin's dimension changing power (note the 1998 annual in particular: Frank is a living conduit to the neg zone).

Finally, regarding FF 37, I agree that this issue is crucial. For me the evidence points to Reed using the Skrull power ray, rather than reinventing the wheel, but that's a whole other topic. :)