DC History Club: Crisis on Infinite Earths, The History of the Greatest Event in Comic's History

I did say I was going for the easy answer.

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Hey, be it easy or hard, a good answer is a good answer

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Some paraphrasing from the above linked SyFy Wire article about COIE. This is one of the better sources I’ve found as the article is built primarily on interviews from not only Marv Wolfman and George Perez, but also former DC President Paul Levitz, artist/writer Jerry Ordway, and writer Roy Thomas. Each of these individuals comes at the story from a different perspective helping provide a fuller view.

-Wolfman: DC was writing for 8-12 year olds and loosing ground to Marvel. COIE was needed not only to simplify the DC Universe but to show Marvel fans that DC could do as well or better than Marvel.
-Levitz: DC was on an up curve at the time, helped by Wolfman/Perez Titans and other titles catering to comic shops. COIE was a great relaunch point, but we would have got there another way.
-Wolfman: Upper management did not get involved with plot, Perez and I handled it unfettered. My early plots were tight but once George signed on, George and I plotted the book together.
-Perez: If Marv wrote five characters, he’d get 15. I wanted to draw as many characters as possible.
-DC hired comic historian Peter Sanderson to note every DC comic since 1938, this turned into Who’s Who in The DC Universe This also helped with merchandising
-Wolfman: Killing the Crime Syndicate. I had decided we would not feature the main DC heroes in early issues, but I wanted to show how powerful the Anti-Monitor was by having him kill off their doppelgängers.
-Wolfman: Editors and management came up with a list of characters to kill. There was some pushback. I did not want to see The Flash die and I kept delaying it. Placing Barry’s death right after Supergirl’s, when no one would suspect we’d kill another, turned out to be the best thing for the story.
-Ordway: There were a few fans who threatened violence over the deaths, particularly Supergirl’s>
-Ordway: COIE was not popular among professionals I worked with, they laminated the loss of the multiverse
-Roy Thomas: Didn’t like COIE, thought DC was solving a problem that didn’t exist
-Ordway: Importance of COIE is that not even big characters were safe.

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I think the important point (that DC has forgotten) is that CoIE wasn’t necessarily popular with the professionals. I mean, I like Grant Morrison’s writing. But his “universe building” is awful. His high-concept storylines rarely hold together at the end. And yet, DC routinely chooses Morrison for high-concepts stories.

In my opinion, keeping the universe cohesive and easily digestible, with multiple jumping on points and reference-like titles (Who’s Who and History of the DC Universe), is what readers need. After all, it wasn’t until Zero Hour that the Post-Crisis universe started to really fall apart (and that could’ve been avoided with a stronger editorial hand).

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Personally, I think the Last Son of Krypton worked just fine. And I really liked Matrix. But I agree, Power Girl was screwed up - that could’ve been handled better. But I think that was more of a problem with the “mystic Atlantean” concept. It didn’t work for Arion or Aquaman either (although Peter David made it work for the Atlantis Chronicles).

I have a hard time going easy on comic writers. They can literally write about anything. When you’ve got time-travel, different dimensions, dreams, mind control, etc., it’s pretty hard to write yourself into a corner.

This is the main reason I think strong editorial control is important.

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Right? There were just alot of pocket universe half-measure solutions for stuff. It’s the reason I don’t care for Matrix on a conceptual level, but a more egregious example maybe would have been the fake pocket universe that the Time Trapper created to explain the Legion’s adventures with “Superboy”.

I realize that the sheer scope of DC’s ambitions post-Crisis meant that solutions probably had to be created quickly, this is just one of those hindsight 20/20 things for me

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I’d also like to address some of the other questions that @msgtv has posited. 1. I don’t know if DC HAD to destroy the Multiverse, but as @harley.333 has alluded to, editorial control was a massive necessity at that point. They could have probably executed the same end results another way, but I doubt it would have been as fun, marketable, iconic, or exciting as what we got.

  1. I think it’s hard not to say that, overtime, both DC and the industry as a whole has learned alot of the wrong lessons from Crisis. This is of course just conjecture, but both of the big two are conditioned now to do blockbuster events with “universe-shattering” implications at least 2-3 times a year. DC in particular has no qualms with hitting that big shiny reset button when sales are down or editorial has slipped
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Time to answer some of my own questions.

  1. The multiverse didn’t have to be destroyed, but it did lead to a singles unified history from the JSA, to the JLA and beyond. The omissions and mistakes we’ve cited are real but a lot was done right, the GL Corps, Superman’s updating and more. What was the number one complaint about New52? The erasing of that DC history even that it had only existed since COIE.
  2. We all will likely say the industry learned the wrong lesson from COIE, but how many years has a title with Crisis, Civil or Secret been at or near the top of sales charts? They sell, even the bad ones like Civil War II. My preference is for events that cross connected books or a space war where individual titles can sign in or largely ignore.
  3. Think “death”is a bigger issue. COIE’s were huge, lasted for decades. Superman’s was big, but we knew t was temporary. Now companies, Marvel in particular, kill off characters and the reader shrugs. Maybe they’ll have to wait a year or two but they’ll be back. If I’m in charge, any real death is a 5 year minimum, that includes Alfred.
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Oh man, the pocket-universe. I picked up LoSH #38 (vol 4) and was instantly hooked. I collected backwards and forwarded to eventually have that whole run and the Legionnaires spinoff. We’re talking about seven years worth of storyline.

Suddenly, this guy called the Time-Trapper shows up and there’s all this talk about a pocket universe. BOOM! Zero-Hour happens, and I’m completely lost. I tried to stay interested, but it was too difficult.

Years later, I learn that DC was purposefully reintroducing some of the most confusing elements of the Pre-Crisis continuity. Why? To this day, I have no idea.

Unsurprisingly, Legion’s been in bad shape ever since.

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One of the ironies of destroying the multiverse is that you did it in part to compete with Marvel and make DC more accessible to new readers. Not only do your writers start to rebuild the multiverse, but Marvel follows along. Ultimate, zombie, and the whole darn Spiderverse. I say that modern readers are accustomed to the idea of alternate universes and timelines from Star Trek, Man in the High Castle, to Doctor Who. The phrase Earth 2 as an alternate take an events in our world has entered the popular lexicon along with Bizarro and Kryptonite. All because of Two Flashes and despite COIE.

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Over at Everything DC Final Crisis Trailer are this post and the two below it discussing how Wonder Woman from Earth 1 died or more accurately turned back into clay.

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I’m here!

While I’ll agree that “need” is a strong word, I think it was at least a good idea to condense the “main” earths into a single timeline. The multiverse can be confusing and offputting for new readers, it gave them an opportunity to use all of their characters together (rather than keeping them in the defined “buckets” of Earths 1, 2, X, S, and 4), and it let them revise and update their major characters’ origins. I think the multiverse at large was a useful storytelling tool that didn’t need to be eliminated, but blowing everything up certainly ups the stakes for this story.

I think event comics are a good idea but they’re often flubbed in practice. Personally, I think there are surprisingly few event comics that are actually good stories. Legends is the only other really good event I can think of off the top of my head. Maybe Joker’s Last Laugh, but that’s basically a Batman story that grew out of control like some mutant blob monster and made a bunch of other titles come grinding to a halt to fight Jokerized villains. Infinite Crisis had some good components (Villains United, Day of Vengeance, 52), but the event miniseries itself (along with OMAC Project and Rann/Thanagar War for that matter) is surprisingly awful.

This was a double-edged sword. We’re talking about two of the best-executed (so to speak) deaths in comic history, but it also set this weird precedent where every event feels like it needs to kill somebody so people will remember it and understand that it’s really serious, man. So, while it didn’t set the precedent for the meaningless shock death, it still caused deaths like that to become normal.

I think the “cheapness” of death is less traceable to COIE, since all of the deaths in this story did stick for extended periods.

I mean, I see where they were coming from with this idea. The fact that Kal-El is the Last Son of Krypton feels more meaningful when he’s, you know, actually the last Kryptonian. But on the other hand, Supergirl had enough history and characterization that people were interested in her independently of Superman. So, it was just cutting off an avenue for more and more interesting stories in the name of being “iconic,” which is a recurring problem with these kinds of reboots.

As for other changes, I’ll point out that while George Perez’s Wonder Woman run is excellent, it is predicated on the terrible, nonsensical retcon of her being a completely new superhero.

By and large, though, I like how the actual reboot part of COIE was handled, where Pre-Crisis continuity was still broad-strokes accepted except to the extent writers chose to contradict it. Admittedly, that led to some weird bending over backwards to explain how certain pieces of continuity still happened (the Legion’s pocket dimension being a good example) when it might’ve been easier just to rewrite it a little.

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@BatJamags just a quick question before work today, see you added Shazam and Freedom Fighters. But, the Freedom Fighters are in All Star and JLA before that. The Cap Marvel family I’m not sure of. DC published them before this, right? We’re those not in the DCU or were the separate?

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They were on separate Earths just like the Charlton characters. Technically, all of them were already owned by DC for some time.

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DC had bought both the Quality Comics characters as well as the Charlton heroes well before Crisis. They had been licensing the Fawcett characters since the 70’s, and would gain full ownership in the 90’s.

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For the Vote and Defend round coming up this weekend I see three questions 1) flash v supergirl deaths 2) deaths of other characters 3) new characters. So, for the third what constitutes new? Right now I’d say if they’ve interacted with the main DCU like Freedom Fighters not new, but Charlton I believe this is their first showing (can confirm later at home) so new. Where do the Marvel characters fall in this spectrum?

Per the Marvel Family, the following started in Earth S

Original series
JSA
JLA

Crisis was the first time the Charlton Characters appeared.

The Quality.characters appeared in the JLA Earth X Nazis world before appearing in All Star Squafron. There was a discussion on the Acquired Book Club

So Captain Marvel does interact with Earth 1/2 prior to Crisis, right?

@BatJamags hey,glad you’re here. Agree it’s not the multiverse that’s the problem so much as getting your main characters together, then using the other universes for alternate takes. Events are a real mixed bag, but do sell well. I’m afraid to reread some because they may not come off as well the second time around. Probably right on deaths, COIE did it right, then imitation dilutes the meaning. I think what post COIE proves is that no matter how well you plan and execute a reboot you can’t think of everything.

@msgtv

Yes since he interacted with the All Star Squadron in terms of DC history that is more thab forty years prior to Crisis

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