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Mysteries Of The DC Universe That Need Answers

Comic book mythology can be dense and complex, with hundreds of stories jostling to fit in with one another and still collectively make sense. DC Comics' universe became so complicated that they decided to tear the whole thing down and start over in a controversial event called New 52—but even that didn't save the convoluted publisher's continuity. There are many mysteries and plot holes that plague the DC Universe, and here are some of the weirdest.

What is the Anti-Life Equation?

The science fiction of Jack Kirby is so bizarre that decades of DC Comics' creators have been unable to truly explain some of Kirby's unusual concepts. One such concept is the Anti-Life Equation, a mathematical formula that proves the futility of life. Once someone hears this equation, they lose all free will and become an obedient slave, which is supervillain Darkseid's ultimate goal. While author Grant Morrison came up with his own ridiculous word salad of emotions and mathematical operators, the true mechanics of this formula defy explanation. Do you have to understand the equation in order to feel its effects, or is it more like a magic word that burrows into your psyche to destroy all hope? Or maybe it's just the pilot script for 2 Broke Girls? Same thing, really.

What's in a Mother Box?

Continuing with the Kirby weirdness, a Mother Box is the sci-fi precursor to the smartphone. The Mother Box is a brick-sized, uh, box that gives its user unconditional love and tranquility, is filled with Element X, is divinely attuned to the universe, and might also be a sentient supercomputer that only speaks in pings. No one really knows the truth, because no one's about to crack open something called a Mother Box. These things have been carried around by select superheroes since 1971, but their incredibly bizarre powers are never completely explained. Of course, any box filled with love and tranquility probably has at least a little bit of bacon and gin inside.

Who is The Phantom Stranger?

Not a whole lot is known about the Phantom Stranger. Introduced in 1952, Stranger is cursed to wander for all of eternity and watch bad stuff happen, all without being allowed to directly interfere. He's known to guide heroes towards the proper course of action, and was once even offered a place in the Justice League, but the Phantom Stranger transcends almost everything in the DC Universe. At least six possible origin stories have been presented for the guy, but none of them make his origins, or the full breadth of his powers, any clearer. But it's sometimes implied that he's the DC Universe version of Judas Iscariot. For now, he just shows up when writers want magic-y things to happen (or not happen), as neither a phantom nor a stranger.

Why Did Superman's Parents Blast His Dog Into Space?

Superman's scientist dad was a gigantic super-jerk. Fearing that their planet was about to self-destruct, Jor-El started sending stuff into space in his homemade rockets, hoping that one would find another hospitable planet to live on. One of the first things that old Jor-El grabbed was little Kal-El's beloved pet dog, because there was simply no time to find any other animals that Superbaby didn't have an emotional attachment to in his highly-advanced lab. Like maybe a lab rat or something. While the dog eventually landed on Earth years after Superman landed, and became Krypto the Superdog, were there really no other Kryptonian animals to launch to their certain death?

Why Does Anyone Stay in Gotham?

Gotham City is plagued by surreal super-crimes, malicious villains, and a hero who uses terror to keep its citizens in line. It's a terrible place to live, and it probably doesn't even have any really good delis. Gotham has been through earthquakes, mass-poisonings, and has plenty of senseless murders on the daily. So, why does anyone stay there? If people can abandon Detroit, the real-world black hole into which all hope and love vanishes, they can certainly leave Gotham City for one of the less murdery suburbs and let some of their bullet wounds heal for a little while. Or is the despair of Gotham so great that it just causes people to abandon all hope? Maybe the Anti-Life Equation is just "Gotham."

How Do Animal Man and Ambush Bug Break the Fourth Wall?

When comic book characters leave their pages and realize that they're in a meaningless comic, it's usually either for comedic effect or because the writer's run out of ideas. While it's usually weak writing when a comic creator writes themselves into a comic to hang out with their favorite heroes, it's also a device that stabs the joyful escapism of comics right in the butt. Cheapness aside, DC Comics has never been able to suitably explain the mechanics that exist when a superhero breaks free of the page. Ambush Bug (and, briefly, Animal Man) can hop around between comic panels and be a dingus for days, but there's never been a solid reason, in comic canon, as to how or why it happens.

What's The Joker's True Origin Story?

Like the Phantom Stranger, Joker's origins are shrouded in misremembered insanity. Batman's origins are crystal clear and repeated ad nauseam, but it makes sense that his arch-nemesis would be his opposite in every way. For Batman, those moments of origin define Bruce Wayne's entire character, while the Joker's fixation on chaos can't really be bound by a singular, fixed event. As a metafiction, it's a stroke of genius to make the Joker an untethered wild card, but some readers would really love to pin down the villain as definitively as they did in Tim Burton's 1989 film. Would it really make a big difference if we knew the Clown Prince of Crime's real name?

Why Hasn't Super Science Made the World a Better Place?

The DC Universe has access to technologies that enable people to travel through time, cheat death, and avoid paying too much for their car insurance. But with all of this stuff at the disposal of our heroes, why is the average human still living in comparatively primitive conditions? It's as though the superheroes exist in a completely separate social class than the non-powered. While science is often dangerous and usually goes awry in the DC Universe, and there are heroes who try to bring these advances to the masses, little Timmy is still going to fall into that well and no one's gonna find him, even though the Justice League Watchtower has a special Timmy-finding beam.

Who's the Most Powerful Being in the DC Universe?

The easy answer would be Superman, but it would be wrong. DC nerds know that there are cosmic beings who are magnitudes of awesomeness more powerful than Superman, like the Spectre, who can use his immortality, precognition, and omnipresence to monitor and manipulate everything in the DC Universe. Still, the same powers are shared by few other god-like figures. The Spectre was given his power by the Voice, which may or may not be a fancy, comic-y, politically inoffensive word for "God." But knowing that the DC Universe can break the fourth wall, is that God a creation of Jerry Siegel? Our money's on Jerry Siegel's grandpappy as the most powerful being in the DC Universe, but the jury's still out on this one.