Secret Origins #23: Guardians of the Universe and Floronic Man

Ryan Daly and guests Chad Bokelman and Mark Marble review the origins of the Guardians of the Universe from Secret Origins #23. Then, Diabolu Frank helps Ryan learn the history of the Floronic Man, better known as the Plant Master.

Listen to Episode 23!

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Sample pages from Secret Origins #23, written by Todd Klein with art by Jonathan Peterson and Al Vey (Guardians), and Rick Veitch and Brett Ewins (Floronic Man), and a cover by Ed Hannigan and Steve Bissette.

#23cover #23page8 #23page11 #23page19 #23page20 #23Bpage4 #23Bpage6 #23Bpage8 #23Bpage13

Check out Chad and Mark at The Lanterncasthttp://www.lanterncast.com

Hear Frank talk about Ray Palmer and Captain Atom as part of the Power of the Atom Podcast at: http://themightymite.blogspot.com

And Frank’s Martian Manhunter podcast, the Idol-Head of Diaboluhttps://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/idol-head-diabolu-podcast/id951536541?mt=2

And his DC Bloodlines Podcast at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dc-bloodlines-podcasts/id991575714?mt=2

And his Diana Prince Wonder Woman Podcast at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/diana-prince-wonder-woman/id1010333234?mt=2

And the Marvel Super Heroes Podcast at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/marvel-super-heroes-podcast/id908880908?mt=2

“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music this episode: “Christmas Time is Here” by Vince Guaraldi Trio; “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd; “Millennium” by Robbie Williams.

Leave a comment, Secret Admirers!

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20 thoughts on “Secret Origins #23: Guardians of the Universe and Floronic Man

  1. You guys certainly did your best to bring enthusiasm to stories no one was enthusiastic about!

    The art for the Floronic Man story is weird, because in some spots they are lifting directly from Bissette and Totleben. Homage? Swipe? You decide!

    I would love to see the sales figures for the SO series. They must have varied wildly from issue to issue.

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    1. “You guys certainly did your best to bring enthusiasm to stories no one was enthusiastic about!”

      Rob Kelly ladies and gentlemen. King of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

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  2. Another stellar music selection this episode, extra props for using Pink Floyd as background music for the Floronic recap.

    In regards to Chad’s concerns that the Guardians story was extra new reader unfriendly, I feel like I can safely confirm that he’s 100% correct. Even just hearing the recap I was mentally going “wait, stop, stop, just STOP, I still don’t understand the thing from 5 pages ago.” And the framing device being tied up in an event that clearly nobody cared about but DC was pushing anyways certainly didn’t help.

    As for Floronic Man, like most people who fall somewhere between the casual and hardcore comic reading audience I know him from Swamp Thing and really liked his use there. The whole other dimension aspect to the origin just doesn’t work, and I agree that they really should have not tried to force Plant Master and Floronic Man to be the same person (and Crisis gave the perfect opportunity to correct that.) Floronic Man’s whole deal is this deep seated connection to the earth, so the idea that he’s not even from earth flies in the face of that. I did know a little bit about what’s been done with him in more recent times, like the super-pot thing and now being called the Seeder (winning first prize in the “We won’t even have to change the character name when we do the porn parody” competition, narrowly beating out the Shocker.) Overall he feels like a character who should have been left alone outside of Swamp Thing. Sometimes a character is perfectly suited for one specific thing, but then writers trying to find other things to do with him end up just spoiling it. Some characters just aren’t meant to be cogs in the greater universe and have a limited shelf life, which is fine if publishers would just accept that.

    Another great episode overall.

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    1. The Pink Floyd choice was sort of an easy layup as Floronic Man’s story was titled “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. But that song is musical-interlude proof so the only way to incorporate it effectively was to just put it in the background of Frank’s recap.

      The Robbie Williams track was partially inspired by a tweet from Paul Hix from WAITING FOR DOOM. I knew of the song and had it on my “maybe” list, but after Paul mentioned it I gave it another listen and decided it actually kind of worked for the Guardians in a weird way.

      As for the Peanuts Christmas music, Chad, Mark, and I actually joked about using that song as a segue when I joked about the Christmas tree. They said I should get a twisted version of the music to sell how awful the cover is, but any time I tried to distort or filter the track, you couldn’t tell what the hell song was playing and then the joke doesn’t work.

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    2. I don’t know if I would say that no one, but DC, cared about Millenium. Sales were pretty good for it and there was a lot of excitement going into it. It was marketed to be gamechanging; and, after Crisis, readers had been adapting to more and more change. Plus, Engelhart was a name with some cache. The problem was how it unfurled and when excitement turned into puzzlement, then disappointment. It’s really more in retrospect that people don’t care about Millenium. In many ways, it was more tightly plotted and orchestrated than Legends, yet Legends spawned better comics. Not much came out of Millenium, that stuck, and that is what condemns it. For my money, Invasion and War of the Gods were far worse. Engelhart at least had a destination in mind. Unfortunately, it was a destination most didn’t want to visit.

      On the plus side, it unfolded over 8 weeks, rather than 8 months.

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      1. NONSENSE!!!! Invasion gave us L.E.GI.O.N., for one thing, so it will always be better than Millennium even before we look at the story, its core book, and its tie-ins. Now I KNOW I have to complete work on my Invasion! podcast!

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  3. *Pops neck, stretches, pops knuckles, sighs* Here we go…

    GREAT job editing this episode Ryan. Given the sheer amount of rambling I allowed to spew forth unhindered, you did a great job reigning it in on the back-end. Though, if I wanted to justify it, I could just say that I purposefully crafted my comments to be just as scattered and oddly informative as the story itself…you know, for symmetry’s sake.

    Apologies for not commenting recently but (as I told you outside the record and stop button) I’ve been behind on my listening of podcasts and, though I make a point to be caught up on yours, I just fail to remember to pop over here and contribute to the conversation. As a fellow podcaster, I know just how precious and reaffirming every bit of feedback is. And yes, I know it’s ironic I’m FINALLY commenting on an episode that I appeared on.

    I wonder if I could benefit from going in to episode #36 (Hal and Tom’s “origins”) with some notes to make sure I don’t lose track while on some abstract line of thought. I’ll give it a shot for a few minutes when we record next and probably abandon it completely halfway in.

    As for the Guardians…well Mark and I said it all in the episode didn’t we? But, for shits and giggles, I figured I’d give a SORT of breakdown of everything tied into the Guardians history. (Don’t worry, I’m not doing comments on each event.)

    Guardians : Kronas “sin” inspires events of the Crisis and creates the ENTIRE multiverse
    Manhunters – Massacre of Sector 666 – Inspires Atrocitus – Red Lantern Corps
    Starheart – Alan Scott – Jade & Obsidian
    Green Lantern Corps – Hal – Guy – John – Kyle – Simon Baz – Sinestro – Alien Lanterns
    Psions – Lizard race created by Matusian experiments

    Zamarons : Star Sapphires – Carol Ferris

    Controllers: Darkstars – John Stewart – Merayn

    Leprechauns : (See ‘Ganthets Tale’, also revealed in that story is that the “hand” seen at the beginning of time is a LIE created by the Guardians)

    ^ All of that? SUPER micro breakdown. You could take ANY ONE of those and extrapolate a sequence of events into the larger DC universe. (Example: Sinestro – Qward – Weaponers – Yellow Ring – Sinestro Corps – Anti-Monitor Returns – Sinestro Corps War – Guardian gets burned – becomes Scar – Scar helps bring about Blackest Night – etc.) And some of that is HYPER specific. Like the Manhunters obviously did more than JUST Massacre Sector 666 (See episode #22). So good luck to ANYONE trying to cover EVERYTHING the Guardians “went on to do after this issue of Secret Origins” in one relatively brief segment. Haha!

    As for Floronic Man, I really have no interest in the character. And Frank (despite my jest at his expense at the end of the first half of the episode) really did do a great job teaming up with Ryan to get the relevant information out there. So kudos to Frank and his persistence in making me feel inadequate in my comics knowledge. The character as a whole? I just don’t care. I cannot get past his look to be honest with you. He looks UTTERLY ridiculous. I have no desire to read more about him and I don’t perceive him as a relevant and formidable threat in the first place. Maybe my perception of him is colored by my dislike of his design. I’ll try and give some of the “recommended reading” a try, but no promises. Maybe Alan Middleton can find me some key issues in these quarter bins that only he seems to be able to find…

    Great episode (and more importantly great podcast) as always Ryan! You never fail to impress.

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  4. Still listening, but I just wanted to drop a note that Jonathan Peterson was also an editor at DC. He may have been an assistant at this point, but he eventually becomes editor of the New Titans title, and gives that book a much needed shot in the arm, right around the Titans Hunt era. He unfortunately left staff before all the major plotlines came to fruition, and a succession of editors squashed all the good will and excitement he had helped build for the title.

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  5. I don’t have a lot of thoughts about this issue. It was one that bored me then and doesn’t do much now. However, in terms of the discussion of the Guardians and the Green Lanterns, I do think you could have done more mature stories, had they approached Green Lantern as a police drama, ala Hill Street Blues or something along those lines; kind of like Alan Moore did with Top Ten. It gives the concept some flexibility. The other route is to follow the inspiration for all of this, the Lensmen. The Lensman Saga deals with a battle between two different ideologies and races, with their soldiers, the Galactic Patrol and the Boskone Pirates) caught in the middle. Engelhart threw a bit of the Lensmen model into the series (with homages, like Arisia) and it seems like that is kind of what he was trying to do in Millenium; but, he didn’t pull it off. By contrast, the Lensmen Saga also influenced Babylon 5 (the Shadows and Vorlons and the Rangers). That might have gotten me to read the series; but, it didn’t. Really, I could never get into Green Lantern because the ring seemed to powerful a construct (even with the yellow achilles heel of old).

    One of the other things that underwhelmed me with this was tying so many things together. I’m old and can remember when continuity wasn’t god at DC and everything didn’t need to connect to everything else. Sometimes, that worked pretty well. Characters didn’t have to be related, we didn’t have complex manipulations or massive family trees. You just got on with the story. Sometimes that works a lot better. Some books had more continuity than others and that was cool. With something like the Legion of Superheroes, where they were mostly playing in their own sandbox, it worked pretty well.

    I’m not a fan of the post-Crisis singular Earth, though I like a ton of the post-Crisis comics. I always felt a lot was lost, especially with Earth-2. However, I also felt that if DC was going to erase the slate with Crisis, they should have started all of their books from square one, like the did after Flashpoint (though the post-Crisis DC of 1986-1988/89 was a heck of a lot better than the New 52). It certainly would have saved a lot of bother in Hawkman and more than a bit with Green Lantern and Justice League. The event crossovers that follow Crisis really convinced me that they should have just started over and this issue kind of rams it home, for me.

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  6. Great episode of a mixed issue. I have no time for the Guardians tale as it is delivered in the ‘storytime with the patronising aliens’ manner that makes so much of Millennium an interminable slog.

    The Floronic Man story on the other hand has more going for it than Ryan or Frank give it credit. In the post-Crisis environment and the style of delivery, there’s a very valid interpretation of the story as being the ramblings of a delusional human. This is a mad scientist who destroyed his own physical humanity with a formula. If you put the story through the filter of Jason Woodrue being a homo sapiens nut-job then it becomes a more subversive work by Rick Veitch. The writer is saying goodbye to the character for Swamp Thing purposes and showing that he is a poisoned pill for the Guardians. It was pity this was never explored as a terrible misjudgement by the selection committee in New Guardians. It could have been an examination of there being far more than genetics to make someone right for evolutionary elevation. It is certainly evident in his return to crazy after the 80’s.

    I also really enjoy the Killer Croc entry and exit into the subject. Yes it could have been reduced, but excising it would make the story less unique and much more conventional as was the tradition with Secret Origins at this point. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Arkham Asylum, which unlike present day, was not the setting for every third page of a Batman book at this point of time.

    Another interesting inclusion is the slimy Doctor Huntoon. who appeared in Swamp Thing and even early Hellblazer IIRC. He’s is the embodiment of the fan who pushes his pet theories and stubborn interpretation of characters in the DCU regardless of what is actually evident.

    As always good music choices!

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  7. Another of the issues I don’t own so appreciate hearing about it. Just a couple of comments.

    It shows the cynicism of the world that the peace-loving Guardians who are looked upon as the ultimate heroes/conscience of the universe in their early days have now become controlling evil fascists. That’s right everyone. Law and order now equals fascism and a military state in the world these days. Sort of sad. I completely agree that making them ‘evil’ makes the GLC ‘evil’ by extension.

    That panel recounting the Crisis is hysterical. Hal in his flight gear fighting Goldface! Nothing says the Crisis more than that!

    As for the Floronic Man, I loved his story in the earliest Moore Swamp Thing issues. He was a great foil. But otherwise, I know very little. This story sounds interesting and the art is intriguing. But is it enough to have me search for this issue? I don’t think so.

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  8. WordPress ate my comments! Seriously, I had a long diatribe all typed up, but it winked out of existence. Since I’m too lazy to retype all of that here are the highlights:

    • Chad and Mark were having a lot of fun, and their love for GL is infectious. Looking forward to their coverage of Hal’s origin.

    • I believe that is Goldface in that Crisis recap panel, not The Key.

    • Now that I know that this is Jonathan Peterson, editor, I can understand some of the somewhat “not ready for prime time” artwork here and there. I think Al Vey saves the day on this one. He’ll go on to ink Titans under editor Peterson.

    • When I picked this one up, I was much more interested in Killer Croc than Floronic Man. Croc had been royally screwed by the Post-Crisis revision to Jason Todd’s origin, which erased Croc’s murder of Jason’s parents, and thus his motivation to become Robin. I was unaware of any appearances in Swamp Thing, so I was flummoxed by his state here. He didn’t fare any better over the next few years until BTAS gave him a shot in the arm. The Bat-creators revived him just to have Bane beat him up to prove his uber-manliness.

    • I can appreciate Ryan and Frank’s urge to “get this over with”, as it seems Millennium wore out it’s welcome LAST issue. Still a fun episode, but yeah, go away, awful, awful crossover event.

    • I’m going to miss Secret Origins for two months, but I totally understand your need to take a break Ryan. Enjoy.

    Chris

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  9. This will be a challenge if you decide to read it, but…

    When you guys were talking about Woodrue’s list of names and mentioned ‘Seeder’, I heard ‘Cedar’. Now, although a little uninspired, ‘Cedar’ is at least a bit better than ‘Seeder’ as a name because, yeah, ‘Seeder’ is just plain awful.

    I had managed to completely repress all memory of the Qaballah-lite aspect of the Millennium main series, so thanks for bringing that back up to the surface.

    I’m pretty sure that that issue of Swamp Thing was originally written as an official Millennium crossover, but that they decided to back off on letting a Mature Readers book join in. (It also features John Constantine and an autistic savant child relating the story of Crisis on Infinite Earths with action figures followed by an even briefer version of Millennium itself that nonetheless is better than the real thing. (A few years later it would be okay for Invasion to cross over with the same book, though.)

    And I’m still going to say that War of the Gods and Genesis both top Millennium for worst DC linewide crossover.

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  10. @Paul Hix
    Crazy like a fox!

    Remember that, with Jack Warden?

    Where was I? Oh, yeah, Invasion.

    Invasion, like Millenium, started with a big bang and ended with a thud, and little to show for it; but, I give points to Engelhart for actually having an ending and a purpose. Invasion was more of, “Hey, these event things move some comics, let’s do another!” and “Wish we had mutants… hey, maybe we can call them metahumans.”

    Invasion burned me out a lot faster than Millennium . Quite frankly, Crisis on Infinite Earths was the only mega-crossover I enjoyed, for the event itself. In every other instance, I only enjoyed a story here or there, and rarely in the crossover centerpiece.

    Crazy? Well to that I say left handed chickens boogaloo across the pumpkin patch!

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  11. This will always be the issue with Floronic Man standing in a toilet, and for that, I’m grateful to the comics gods.

    A two-month break eh? Well, you’ve earned it. It’s still hard to believe how you’ll have delivered the first 26 episodes, as big as they are, on a weekly basis. If it had been me, each origin would have been a stand-alone episode, because I would have been too lazy to record and edit so much material. I would have looked forward to the ‘Mazing Men of this world too.

    At least I can catch up now (see? lazy listener too!)

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  12. Given that I am looking at a cover featuring the Guardians of the Universe and the Floronic Man, it is likely the best possible outcome for that proposition.

    I cannot believe that award-winning letter Todd Klein screwed up the credits, putting himself as writer and editor Jonathan Peterson as artist! This is nearly as egregious as the Dollman credit cock-up! So the first thing I notice opening the book is that the drawer (Agustin Mas, I guess) has a seriously dodgey pin-up-in-the-letters-column-of-a-fanzine conception of human anatomy. Luckily, candidate for greatest inker of all time Al Vey helps cover penciler Carl Gafford’s distorted oblong butt! Boy, if scripter Greg Weisman only knew what he was getting into!

    Show of hands– how many people wanted to stop reading the lead story on the first page when you saw the New Guardians sitting on the proverbial stoop waiting for you? As much as I hate Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen, they retroactively win their every whiny bitch fest with the Guardians by virtue of never having said anything as demonstrably untrue and aesthetically harmful as “…you will be ready to begin your millennium of evolution– ready to take our place as guardians of the future!” Admittedly, these guys still have 972 years left to prove themselves, but that doesn’t seem long enough, and by the way, The Legion of Super -Heroes don’t say hi because they never heard of you!

    Whoa– despite my best efforts to filibuster, I made it to page two, and dat Katma? Must be an alien, because that isn’t how human bodies work.

    Had to take a break on page 4. This is like being in 5th grade science class, except why aren’t I in the back of the room drawing crude violent comic strips about a slovenly mercenary for hire in my notebook like I did back then? God, my childhood was one big terroristic threat trigger warning-a-palooza, wasn’t it?

    Reached page 10. Was going to compare the story to those of the TRS-80 Whiz Kids, but they never made out, and my childhood is grateful for that. Oh hey, these visuals remind me of that film with all the Beatles songs (Across the Universe?) that my sister once made me watch that was terrible.

    Page 13. Oh my god this thing just keeps on going. It’s like abstinence training, and both the Oans and Zamarons are warped irreparably by it. Do not trust the “Guardians of the Universe,” which come to think of it, kinda sounds like a Super-PAC anyway. And of course a race of men with literal blue balls would come up with Manhunter robots programmed only for genocide. If they can’t copulate, no one can.

    Page 15. I took the rest of the day off and have come back to this thing. Of course it starts with “As more ages passed…” Tell me about it. How invested can I reasonably be expected to become in the human drama of child abuse and forbidden love involving an unremarkable alien whose name I refuse to commit to memory but sounds like the Greek letters of a fraternity and who looks like the Wintermint Keebler Elf?

    Oh great. The romance of Lambda Lambda Lambda and Omega Mu was finally requited, and we’re folding back into the New Guardians. No wonder everyone hates Millennium.

    I often criticize John Ostrander’s run on Martian Manhunter, but he set up a deep animosity among Martians toward The Guardians of the Universe, and it’s great that we’re on the same side of this issue.

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  13. I have to be honest. I really dug Millennium when it came out. And listening to these podcasts about the Manhunters and the Guardians of the Universe and whatnot really takes me back. I wish I could travel back in time to when I was first buying all those Millennium crossovers. I’d see my younger self, all starry-eyed and full of wonder, plopping down my $8 a week allowance at Komics Castle, anxious to run home and read what new twists and turns awaited me in the whimsical world that was being lovingly crafted by DC Comics…

    …and I’d punch that little twerp in the face.

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