Can you solve it before we do?note
The DC Challenge was a 12-issue maxi-series published by DC Comics from November 1985 to October 1986. It was a Round Robin series, with each of the first 11 issues helmed by a different author and artist, who ended each issue on a Cliffhanger which the next team had to resolve. The final issue was a collaborative effort by six of the authors.
The story eventually revolved around a plan by an alien named Bork to merge the Earth with a demon dimension, and the efforts of the heroes to both figure this out and to stop him.
- Chapter 1
- Author: Mark Evanier
- Artists: Gene Colan, Bob Smith
- Chapter 2
- Author: Len Wein
- Artists: Chuck Patton, Mike DeCarlo
- Chapter 3
- Author: Doug Moench
- Artists: Carmine Infantio, Bob Smith
- Chapter 4
- Author: Paul Levitz
- Artists: Gil Kane, Klaus Janson
- Chapter 5
- Author: Mike W. Barr
- Artists: Dave Gibbons, Mark Farmer
- Chapter 6
- Author: Elliot S! Maggin
- Artists: Dan Jurgens, Larry Mahlstedt
- Chapter 7
- Author: Paul Kupperberg
- Artists: Joe Staton, Steve Mitchell
- Chapter 8
- Author: Gerry Conway
- Artists: Rick Hoberg, Dick Giordano
- Chapter 9
- Author: Roy Thomas
- Artist: Don Heck
- Chapter 10
- Author: Dan Mishkin
- Artists: Curt Swan, Terry Austin
- Chapter 11
- Authors: Marv Wolfman, Cary Bates
- Artists: Keith Giffen, Dave Hunt
- Chapter 12
- Author: Mark Evanier, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Dan Mishkin
- Artists: Dan Spiegle, Luke McDonnel, Stan Woch, Steve Lightle, Denys Cowan, Tom Mandrake, Ross Andru
The DC Challenge provides examples of:
- Big Bad: Darkseid, but teased with Mongul and The Joker.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Joker demolishes that Fourth Wall. He narrates much of the issue with his first appearance and in a later issue kills an alien about to tell Batman everything because it wasn't time in the series yet. After delivering one lengthy recap/commentary, he remarks that he got picked for the role because the story is completely insane, just like him.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Eli Ellis, a minor scientist from the first chapter of the story, became key to solving it by the end when Batman finally decrypted the cipher to reveal his name.
- Circling Vultures: Aquaman is stranded in the desert, dying of dehydration. (This is the "can only be away from water 60 minutes" version of Aquaman.) Vultures are circling. What can he do? Wait until one lands and then open it up and drink its blood - since blood is like 98% water, it counts.
- Cliffhanger: Each issue ended on a seemingly impossible to resolve cliffhanger, for the next creative team to get the heroes out of.
- Demonic Possession: Eli Ellis ends up being possessed by a demon follower of Darkseid, who wants to detonate the nuclear device he's left in charge of.
- Deus ex Machina: Mr. Mxyzptlik arrives in the story, seemingly just to resolve some cliffhangers.
- Formulaic Magic: There were a series of numbers in the first issue (written by Mark Evanier) that were somehow important — but none of the other writers could ever really figure out how. Several of them later used the numbers in formulas for this, that, and the other. The secret? Add them up on a calculator and turn the calculator upside down; it spelled out the name "ELI ELLIS", a character from the first issue who was key to the whole crisis.
- Godwin's Law of Time Travel: Because of meddling Guardians, an alien ship sent back in time causes a temporary reality where Nazis won World War II and Adolf Hitler is still alive in his 90s.
- Hell on Earth: Bork's apparent endgame.
- Kudzu Plot: This was a miniseries in which every issue was done by a different writer and artist, none of whom could use any characters they usually worked on. Each issue was supposed to end with a cliffhanger or puzzle for the next team to solve. It reached Gordian Knot status by about the third issue.
- Magic Countdown: A bomb, which is far away, is about to detonate in 8 seconds. Batman is confronting the villain at a power plant. The following exchange takes place in the time it takes the bomb to count down from 0:08 to 0:05.Villain: Now do you believe me, Batman? You can't radio for help because I'm jamming all the channels — and all the phones are dead as well, so you cannot contact your butler!
Batman: You lousy little maniac!! You're going to tell me how to stop that bomb, or I swear I'll—!
Villain: Really, Batman — wasting what precious little time you have left on empty threats? Frankly, I had thought you above such childish displays!
Batman: (thoughts) He's right... can't afford to lose control now... have to focus... have to think... there has to be some way to disarm that device...''
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: The authors were allowed to use any character from DC's history who they were not writing at the timenote . Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and various other "current" characters were involved, but also Jonah Hex, the Viking Prince, the Blackhawks, the Challengers of the Unknown, and so on.
- Portal Network: There's a whole dimension for them, which can send people to any place and any time.
- Random Events Plot: The first issue started with multiple strange events occurring and only got crazier from there.
- Round Robin: The format of the series was as this.
- Space Is Noisy: Superman and, especially, Mongul talk freely in space—despite it also being mentioned that an arriving Boom Tube can't be heard because space is noiseless.
We solved it--have you?