Aalok Deciphers DC : Introducing Crisis on Infinite Earths

26 Dec

Through this column we plan to review and analyze every major event within DCU since COIE, in the hopes that this becomes a  road map of sorts to the continuity laden streets of DCU.
If you are an old fan, come enjoy reminiscing with us through the good and the bad DC had to offer.
If you are an old fan getting back into comics , let us help you get upto date sequentially
If you are a new fan you will get our help in unraveling the mysteries of current DCU
If you are not reading DC comics, let us tell you why you should be.

As promised , starting this week the adventures team casts its eyes on the Big Daddy of all events

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artists: George Perez & Jerry Ordway

Publication year: 1985
-Article by Aalok Joshi
– Edited by Manks

Once upon a time, in a comic land far far away, a comic company decided to do the unthinkable for their 50th Anniversary- They decided to destroy their comic book universe and build it anew.

Why? What publishing house would ever commit such an insane act?
It was DC Comics, who had given the world the most popular Superhero, Superman (1938) and the World’s Greatest Detective, Batman (1939). Wonder Woman came later (1941) and formed the third cornerstone of the DC Universe (or Trinity, as they like to call it nowadays). Subsequently came other characters some of which were primarily featured in back up features in the comic books featuring the big three, while some others were given their own magazines. Then came team up books, of which the Justice Society Of America or JSA was the first, followed by the Justice League Of America. However, the company soon ran into a few problems.

With another company called Marvel comics (though around since 1939 as Timely comics, what is called as “The Marvel Age of Comics” started in 1961, under helmsman Stan Lee) dominating the sphere of Science Fiction heroes and space Adventure, DC was in trouble. They tried everything to stay on top:
Which included:
-Character revamps (Green Lantern, Flash)
-Recruiting top talent (Jack Kirby on NEW GODS, FOREVER PEOPLE and SUPERMAN’S PAL,JIMMY OLSEN)
-Introducing multiple universes and characters through way of the theory of Infinite Earths, each occupying a specific vibrational plane of reality. Most were generated due to chronological abnormalities

 The last one proved to be a major confounding factor. The Silver Age revamps occurred as the golden Age stuff (with the exception of the Trinity) wasn’t selling anymore.

When Flash ; Green Lantern were revamped, they decided to make a new team called the Justice League instead of the Justice Society. However, in order to continue the Justice Society some day when profitable, instead of establishing that the Justice Society existed in the past, they established another Earth, Earth – 2 for the Justice Society adventures while the Justice League was on the original earth Earth – 1 which contained the revamps, Hal Jordan as Green Lantern; Barry Allen as Flash. But Superman had been continuously published since 1938 in both Justice Society and Justice League. So they had to create another Superman for Earth – 2, called Kal-L and older than Kal-El. Other Earths were created for the incorporation of the Fawcett characters (Shazam!) and Charlton characters (Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, The Question, The Peacemaker)

 Still with me, folks?

 Then, DC decided to have the characters of different Earths meet each other. The Justice Society and Justice League met every year to celebrate Thanksgiving. Whenever some character was supposed to be killed in an issue, he usually turned up later saying”I’m alive. It was the _____ of Earth-____ who gave his life to save me. I shall never forget his valiant spirit , noble sacrifice.” or somesuch. One day, after 50 years, DC finally decided that in order to bring new readers to DC it would be best if they declared everything in the past as null and void and start, bottom onwards on a new slate. Finally they decided to make a story out of it and thus was born CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.

 To answer a few important questions:

Q. So everything was destroyed. I haven’t read any of the pre Crisis DC anyway. How does that make it important today?
A. Yes, almost everything was destroyed. In those days, whenever a startling revelation (such as the identity of a super hero to the public) was made, it was either revealed to be a dream, a hoax or an imaginary story (Origin of the cover blurb: Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story!
Millions lived, Millions died and the DC universe was never the same. But the story has had far reaching effects that continue even today. And in the end, it’s just a good story.

Q. Was it successful?
A. Yes and no. It couldn’t completely accomplish what they had decided to do, but it did succeed in giving them a blank slate (kind of). The revamped titles had fresh talent and were classics and are remembered fondly even today.

Q. Should I read this if I don’t want to follow the DC Universe in particular, just some character?
A. Today the DC universe exists as a whole, definitely larger than the sum of its parts. A crossover event takes place every summer, and most have references to the Crisis, some are even named such. So even if you want to invest in one character, chances are that you’ll venture into the realm of crossovers. This was the first. So it should be read.

Q. Is there anything that should be read prior to starting this book?
A. Not really. Whatever you’ve read so far in this column should suffice. If you want to have an idea of what the Multiple Earth stories were like or just want to get a taste of the confusion, you can start reading these. Not Essential reads to get into the DC universe per se’:

Crisis on multiple earths vols 1-5
Crisis on multiple earths: the team ups vols 1 & 2
Huntress: darkknight daughter
Dc’s greatest imaginary stories
Justice society vol 1 & 2
Dc comics classics library: batman-the annuals 1 & 2

Q. Was there anything significant, in the vein of good stories that took place before the Crisis?
A. Yes. Author Mark Waid’s opinion is that good stories should define continuity, not the other way round. However, today most writers treat most of these stories as null and void, while some choose to bring them back. I will say, just read them as they are worth the effort:

The new teen titans: who is donna troy?
The new teen titans: terra incognito
The new teen titans: the judas contract
The new teen titans: the terror of trigon
Batman: strange apparitions
Dc comics classics library: superman- kryptonite nevermore !

Dc comics classics library: the legion of super heroes – the death of ferro lad
The legion of super heroes: the great darkness saga
The legion of super heroes: an eye for an eye
The legion of super heroes: the more things change

Most of the Superman and  Batman stories of this era were one offs, rarely collected other than the Golden age material. However I shall be reviewing the must read above stuff soon. Stay tuned for the next installment – the actual review of the sense shattering event.

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