February 22, 2018


A Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose is...

By John Byrne

Somewhere out there, Mark Gruenwald is smiling.


Not the Mark Gruenwald who lives on, six years after his untimely death, as the happy and sometimes poignant memory of a dear friend. Not some spiritual avatar of Mark who has "passed on" yet still lingers, able to look back on the world he has left behind. Not a Mark who might be ready to get chatty with John Edward -- were not Mark so utterly contemptuous of those who prey on the grief and suffering of others.

No, I'm talking about Mark Gruenwald. A real person. A human being. An inhabitant of the Planet Earth who did not succumb to massive heart failure and perish without the hope of easy resurrection so common to the comic book characters he loved so much. A Mark Gruenwald who is five years older, and perhaps five years wiser.

Maybe I should back up a bit.

Over lunch the other day I began reading "The Best Science Writing - 2002," a rather hefty collection of articles from many sources, edited by Matt Ridley. One of these, "Quantum Shmantum" by Tim Folger (originally printed in Discover magazine) discusses a scientist by the name of David Deutch, and his work on what has come to be called the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI), a mathematical system for making sense out of the wonders of Quantum Mechanics (QM).

Stephen Hawking has also embraced MWI, which will give you some idea of its credibility, though he employs it purely as a mathematical model. Dr. Deutch (and his increasing number of followers) take it literally. And what they take literally is this:

We are not alone. We are not unique. "We" is a very small and poor word, in fact, for dealing with the concepts inherent in MWI. The Universe in which we live is but one of many. An infinite number of them, in fact, and more all the time. Every logical universe exists, according the MWI, and every possible iteration of those logical universes exist or are born each time there is a point of divergeance.

That's the part that would make Mark Gruenwald smile. In comics, Mark was the High Priest of the MultiVerse. He loved "Earth 2." He shoehorned "alternate realities" into the Marvel Universe every chance he got. And he and I had many a debate over just how the MultiVerse worked, within that comic book context.

Mark liked the idea that universes were created by our actions (and by the actions of all life, everywhere in "our" universe). If you stub your toe, you instantly create a parallel universe in which you didn't stub your toe. Or in which you stubbed a different toe. Or in which you stubbed your toe a fraction of a second earlier. Or later.

And, actually "or" is not the appropriate word. "And" is the appropriate word. For the actions create all the variable, all the possible, logical universes, all that the same time! (As the article commented -- an infinite number of Ahabs pursue and infinite number of whales! I wonder if Superman is out there, somewhere?)

And this "universes appearing all the time" motif I did not like. I preferred the idea -- pure conjecture at that time -- that the Big Bang created an infinite number of universes from the get-go, and that therefore all the possible iterations of a single event were able to occur without universes being constantly created, and dragging along behind us like the chains upon Marley's Ghost.

But -- no. According to David Deutch and his comrades in theory, universes DO spring into being, out of nothing, every time even the slightest event occurs which might have had a different outcome. (Which means, basically, every time anything happens, since obviously not happening is an alternative. . . )

A lot of people don't like this theory. Martin Gardner, perennial curmudgeon, writing for The Skeptical Inquirer, dismissed Dr. Deutch and the whole theory of MultiVerses -- tho' truth to tell his reason for doing so did not seem to go much beyond the fact that the whole concept made him uncomfortable.

But, anyway, there I was, reading the article (and not reading the article) over lunch (breakfast, dinner, down time) on my porch (in the living room, the bedroom, the library, the back yard) and thinking (not thinking) that somewhere, somewhere, for real, Mark Gruenwald was smiling.

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John Byrne is one of the industry's most noted creators. In almost three decades, he has completed work on hundreds of books, including most of the "Big Two's" major titles. His previous achievements include classic runs on X-MEN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, AVENGERS, WEST COAST AVENGERS, SUPERMAN, THE SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK, and an expansive five-year run on FANTASTIC FOUR. Byrne's latest creator-owned monthly series, LAB RATS, debuted April 2002 from DC Comics. His next project is GENERATIONS 3, also for DC.

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