Forgotten Favorites: DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths
This column looks back at the vast pop culture wasteland we as a society leave in our wake. It spotlights the odd, weird, forgotten and yet totally awesome games, movies, comics and television shows that we here at Strange Kid’s Club believe deserve to find a new audience or get re-discovered by their original one. Join me for this look back at some forgotten favorites.
After Superman and Batman were introduced in the 30s, DC received tremendous success with all of their super hero comics. These years are called The Golden Age of comics. In the late 40s, however, the popularity of all of those heroes died out in favor of war, detective and true crime comics. Only Superman and Batman were able to stay in publication.
In 1956, DC debuted their first new super hero in years, a modernized version of the Golden Age Flash. The Flash’s “reboot” would become known as the start of the Silver Age. In an interesting twist, according to the origin story, the new Flash was inspired to become The Flash after reading exploits of the original Golden Age Flash in comic books when he was a kid. While a clever idea, it eventually would cause a problem because Superman was still around from the 40s. And he fought alongside the original Flash in the Justice Society of America. And now he’s fighting alongside the new Flash in the Justice League, but Flash’s origin had just established that the Golden Age was fictional. See the problem?
So beginning with Flash #123 (The Flash of Two Worlds) DC established that their Golden Age heroes actually existed on a separate world in a different dimension. This allowed Golden Age heroes to “guest” in their modern counterpart’s comics. This “separate world” idea would be further defined in 1963 with Justice League of America #21 (Crisis on Earth-1) and Justice League of America #22 (Crisis on Earth-2). This two part story established that the new Silver Age heroes exist on Earth-1 and the original Golden Age heroes exist on Earth-2 (shouldn’t that have been the other way around?). This concept was expanded even further throughout the years including dozens of other “Earths” by the time the 1980s rolled around.
During the early 80s, DC realized that this history and multiverse they’d created was becoming slightly more convoluted and complicated than the Skywalker family tree. Something had to be done or new readers would be frightened off trying to decipher what the hell was going on. Marv Wolfman pitched a grand idea to “clean the slate” of DC’s past and simplify things to better appeal to the 80s comic reader.
This led to the 12 issue maxi-series event, Crisis on Infinite Earths in April 1985. The name was taken from the JLA stories mentioned above. Marv Wolfman wrote the sprawling epic, George Perez did all the layouts and pencils and Dick Giordano inked it. It was one of the first company-wide crossover events in comic book history. Yes, I know it’s hard to remember when Marvel or DC didn’t have annual company wide crossover events. But before Crisis, no one did it. Especially on this scale. The main Crisis title was a twelve issue “maxi-series” with over 50 crossover issues. By comparison, DC’s Blackest Night series was only 8 issues with maybe 40 crossover issues. This event was HUGE.
The gist of the story in Crisis revolved around two powerful beings; the Monitor and Anti-Monitor. They were created during the same “big bang” that created the rest of the DC Multiverse. They started making small cameos in DC titles over a year before Crisis even started. The Anti-Monitor had a complex plan in place (with backup plans) to destroy the multiverse and rule the one universe that is left. The Monitor enlisted all the heroes (and a bunch of villains) from the DC multiverse to help defeat the Anti-Monitor’s plans. In the ensuing war, many, many heroes die, most notably the Monitor himself, Supergirl and the Barry Allen Flash.
After all was said and done, the DC multiverse was left in shambles, millions upon millions of people died (heroes and civilians) and everyone was left to pick up the pieces. The series changed the entire DC Universe. Even to this day, talk of the history of DC comics is usually referred to as “pre-Crisis” and “post-Crisis”. Shortly following the groundbreaking event, Frank Miller would revamp Batman’s origin with his “Year One” storyline, George Perez would relaunch Wonder Woman and John Byrne would completely reboot Superman in his Man of Steel series.
DC saw the 1985 destruction of the multiverse event as the first in a trilogy. So, in October 2005 DC would release Infinite Crisis, the first direct sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was written by Geoff Johns, and described as the rebuilding of the DC Multiverse. Then in 2008 Grant Morrison would write Final Crisis which was touted as the “final saga of the multiverse”. While these sequel events were huge and bloated like their ancestor, neither could reach the “shock and awe” of the original world killing super saga.
If you would like to read some more about this topic, check out my article 12 of Superman’s Most Absurd Pre-Crisis Super Powers over on my blog, Cavalcade of Awesome. I also reviewed the 1986 John Byrne Man of Steel “reboot” for it’s 25th anniversary this year.