Comic Book History: DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths

In 1985, DC’s continuity was a mess. Granted, it’s still a mess, but at the time it was especially bad. Few characters were created to be in the same world. Many of the characters owned by DC were acquired during different purchases over the years. Beyond that, many characters had conflicting origins. Batman had been active for decades and during different vital times in history, such as World War II, but was still young in the 1980’s. There were two versions of Superman; one closer to the version we have today and the original, who couldn’t fly and really could only leap tall buildings in a single bound (Kal-El and Kal-L). More over, Superman was no longer the last son of Krypton, as he had a cousin and dog, Supergirl and Krypto, plus the shrunken city in a bottle, Kandor. There were two Green Lanterns; one being the space cop Hal Jordan and the other was the magic based Alan Scott. It was a mess.

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Enter Marv Wolfman (writer) and George Perez (artist), one of the best creative teams since Jack Kirby and anyone (Jack Kirby made everyone look good). Originally, to help explain the different teams, they introduced different Earths. The Justice League (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, et al) was on Earth One. The WWII superhero team, the Justice Society of America (Jay Garrick Flash, Alan Scott Green Lantern, Wildcat) was on Earth-Two. Earth-Three was a world of opposites where all the heros were villains and vice versa. Earth Prime was our world, populated mostly by DC editors. Strange times indeed. Whenever their was a crossover, the event was dubbed Crisis on wherever. Eventually these parallel worlds were dubbed, the multiverse.

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This 12 issue maxi-series was to celebrate the 50th year of the company. Wolfman took the opportunity to streamline continuity, killing off many heroes and worlds. A new character, the Monitor, was introduced. Initially thought to be a villain, he was a cosmic being capable of seeing and travelling to all worlds. His opposite, the Anti-Monitor, was in the process of destroying the multiverse to lord over it. I don’t know how he could rule over something he destroyed, just go with it. The Monitor began gathering heroes to fight the Anti-Monitor. Many characters that no one cared about died in single panels, most of which haven’t really been seen again (Angle Man, Immortal Man, Sunburst). There were two notable deaths in the event, Supergirl and Barry Allen Flash. The former spawned a cover that has been mimicked countless times since. Barry however, remained dead for over 20 years. This was before Superman broke death in comic books.

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The event ended with Alexander Luthor (the good Luthor from Earth 3), Superboy Prime (some kid who randomly got Superman powers from Earth Prime), and original leap-tall-buildings Superman and Lois surviving, with their worlds destroyed. They chose to live in some pocket dimension for 20 real years, not to be seen again until 2006’s Infinite Crisis.

All the characters that mattered now lived on one Earth, as the rest were destroyed. None remembered the event save for villain Psycho-Pirate. Power Girl still existed, but her origin was a mystery. The Monitor hasn’t really been seen since, but the Anti-Monitor has made a few appearances recently, mostly as a Green Lantern villain. Again, in Infinite Crisis 20 years later, many of the dangling plot threads were addressed by undoing most of the events of original, recreating the multiverse. DC editorial cannot leave well enough alone (see the last decade).

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Crisis on Infinite Earths was one of the first line wide comic book events, and was a very good one. The work still holds up today. It is a little dense reading now, as it requires a bit of a history lesson, but it’s not impenetrable. If you’re interested in some of DC’s history, this is an excellent place to start.

What did you think of the event? What’s your favorite comic book event? Comment below!

“These days… y-you just never know who’s going to die… and who’s going to live.” – Psycho Pirate 

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