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Crisis on Infinite Earths is a 12-issue American comic book limited series (identified as a "12-part maxi-series") and crossover event, produced by DC Comics in 1985 to simplify their then-50-year-old continuity. The series was written by Marv Wolfman, and illustrated by George Pérez (pencils/layouts), with Mike DeCarlo, Dick Giordano, and Jerry Ordway, (who shared inking/embellishing chores). The series removed the concept of the Multiverse in the fictional DC Universe, and depicted the deaths of such long-standing superheroes as Supergirl and the Barry Allen incarnation of the Flash.

The title of the series was inspired by earlier crossover stories involving the multiple parallel Earths of the Multiverse, such as "Crisis on Earth-Two" and "Crisis on Earth-Three," but instead of lasting two to five issues and involving members from as many superhero teams from as many parallel worlds, it involved virtually every significant character from every parallel universe in DC's history. It in turn inspired the titles of six subsequent DC crossover series: Zero Hour: Crisis in Time (1994), Identity Crisis (2004), Countdown to Infinite Crisis (2005), Infinite Crisis (2005-2006), Countdown to Final Crisis (2007-2008) and Final Crisis (2008).

OverviewEdit

Prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC was notorious for its continuity problems. No character's back story, within the comic books, was entirely self-consistent and reliable. For example, Superman originally couldn't fly (he could instead leap over an eighth of a mile), and his powers came from having evolved on a planet with stronger gravity than Earth's. Over time, he became able to fly, his powers were explained as coming from a yellow sun, and a more complex origin back story was invented. Later it was altered to include his exploits as Superboy. It was altered further to include Supergirl, the bottled city of Kandor, and other survivors of Krypton, further watering down the original idea of Superman having been the sole Kryptonian to survive the destruction of his world. There was also an issue of character aging. For instance, Batman, an Earth-born Human without superpowers, retained his youth and vitality well into the 1980s despite having been an active hero during World War II, and his sidekick Robin never seemed to age beyond adolescence in over 30 years. In addition a number of new versions of classic characters such as The Flash, The Atom, and Green Lantern were created, often with origins, and even powers, which were different from previous versions. Originally little attempt was made to explain away these differences.

These issues were addressed during the 1961 story Flash of Two Worlds, which featured Barry Allen, the then currently published version of The Flash meeting Jay Garrick, the version originally published by the company. The meeting was made possible by the introduction of the idea of two parallel worlds: Earth-One was the contemporary DC Universe, which had been depicted since the advent of the Silver Age; Earth-Two was the parallel world where the Golden Age events took place, and where the heroes who were active during that period had aged more or less realistically since that time. This idea was eventually expanded into a the concept of a multiverse including such worlds as Earth-Three which was an "opposite" world where heroes were villains, and historical events happened the reverse of how they did in real life (such as, for instance, President John Wilkes Booth being assassinated by a rebel named Abraham Lincoln) and Earth Prime which was ostensibly the "real world," used to explain how real-life DC staffers (such as Julius Schwartz) could occasionally appear in comics stories; and so forth. If something happened outside current continuity (such as the so-called "Imaginary Stories" that were a staple of DC's Silver Age publications), it was explained away as happening on a parallel world, a premise not dissimilar to the company's current "Elseworlds" imprint.

Over the years, as new readers were introduced to the DC Universe, the "multiverse" theory — with its attendant multiple versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et al. — served to confuse those who did not have a working knowledge of DC's history. As the volume of published work within the DC Universe became larger there were certain problems both with reconciling different plot points and in keeping track of differing versions of different characters.

Crisis was originally conceived to be a celebration of DC's 50th anniversary; however, Marv Wolfman and Len Wein saw it as a chance to clean up DC's rather convoluted continuity (which was thought to have put many new readers off buying DC titles) that had built up over that time. The term "Crisis" was a word used frequently in DC Comics of the time, as it denoted an inter-dimensional crossover, such as the yearly Justice League/Justice Society crossovers that began with "Crisis on Earth-Two".

Wolfman came up with an idea which would reach across the entirety of the DC Universe and its half century of history. The groundwork for Crisis was laid over the year preceding its publication as one of the chief characters of the series the Monitor was introduced into various comics. In these original appearances, the Monitor was portrayed as a shadowy figure and a potential villain. His face was never shown, perhaps to imply that he might be an established DC villain, and his most common appearance was as a source of technology or information for various villains in the DC Universe.

The series was highly successful from a marketing standpoint, generating renewed interest in the company's books, enticing readers with the tagline that "the DC Universe will never be the same." Along with Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, it contributed to the commercial and creative revitalization of DC Comics, which had been dominated in the market by rival publisher Marvel Comics for years.

Crisis also helped popularize the formula of the line-wide "crossover" comic book series, a concept first seen in Marvel's Contest of Champions (1983) and Secret Wars (1984). Since 1985, superhero publishers such as DC and Marvel have had frequent "summer crossover" series designed to tie many of their comic book titles together under a single storyline (and thus sell more comic books).

Plot SummaryEdit

The story introduces readers to two near-omnipotent beings, the good Monitor and the evil Anti-Monitor, who had been created as a result of the same experiment that created the Multiverse. The Monitor made cameo appearances in various DC comic book series for two years preceding the publication of the series, and at first appeared to be a new supervillain, but with the onset of the Crisis, he was revealed to be working on a desperate plan to save the entire Multiverse from destruction at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. The Crisis series highlighted the efforts of DC Comics' superheroes to stop the Anti-Monitor's plan. Under the initial guidance of the Monitor, a select group of heroes was assigned to protect massive "tuning forks" designed to merge the surviving Earths into one that could be protected from the antimatter that had already annihilated untold numbers of alternate Earths. Eventually the conflict grew, and nearly every DC hero became involved in the battle.

The Monitor was murdered by his own assistant, Harbinger, while she was temporarily possessed by one of the Anti-Monitor's "shadow demons." However, he expected the attack and allowed it to happen so his death would release enough energy to protect the last five parallel Earths (the homes of the known DC Universe) long enough for the heroes to lead an assault on the Anti-Monitor, under the guidance of the Monitor's assistants, Harbinger, Alexander Luthor, Jr., and Pariah. The villain is forced to retreat, but at the cost of Supergirl's life.

This lull in the war provides some breathing room for the heroes, but the various supervillains join forces under Brainiac and Lex Luthor to conquer the Earths, while the Anti-Monitor causes chaos on the Earths by forcing the Psycho-Pirate to manipulate the emotions of their inhabitants. The second Flash dies stopping the Anti-Monitor's backup scheme of destruction (to use an antimatter cannon to penetrate the protective aura). The Spectre halts the hero/villain conflict, warning that the Anti-Monitor is traveling to the beginning of time to prevent the Multiverse's creation. Heroes and villains join forces in response with the heroes traveling to stop the Anti-Monitor, and the villains traveling to the planet Oa in antiquity to prevent the renegade scientist Krona from performing a historic experiment that would allow the Anti-Monitor to succeed in his efforts.

The villains fail, and Krona proceeds with his experiment, while the heroes support the Spectre, whose battle with the Anti-Monitor creates an energy overload that shatters space and time. A single universe is created, and all the superheroes return to a present-day reality where the various elements of the five Earths were fused into one, with no one except the people present at the battle at the dawn of time remembering the original reality.

The Anti-Monitor attacks one last time, transporting Earth to the Anti-Matter universe, and summons a massive horde of shadow demons. However, he falls to a carefully planned counter-attack, culminating in a battle with Kal-L (the Earth-Two Superman), Alexander Luthor of Earth-Three, and Superboy of Earth-Prime, with some unexpected last-second help from the New Gods' adversary, Darkseid. As the Anti-Monitor crashes into a star and dies, Alex sends himself, Earth-Two Superman, Earth-Two Lois Lane, and Earth-Prime Superboy into a paradise reality.

The aftermath of the crisis plays out a few pages later, including Wally West becoming the new Flash. The final page shows the Psycho-Pirate, who was now imprisoned in Arkham Asylum, talking to himself in a monologue:{|class="cquote" style="border-style: none; margin: auto; border-collapse: collapse; background-color: transparent; width: auto;" |width="20" valign="top" style="padding: 10px; color: rgb(178, 183, 242); font-size: 35px; font-family: 'Times New Roman',serif; font-weight: bold; text-align: left;"|“ |valign="top" style="padding: 4px 10px;"|I'm the only one left who remembers the Infinite Earths. You see, I know the truth. I remember all that happened, and I'm not going to forget. Worlds lived, worlds died. Nothing will ever be the same. But those were great days for me... I had a good friend in the good old days, really. He was the Anti-Monitor. He was going to give me a world to rule. Now he's gone, too. But that's okay with me. You see, I like to remember the past because those were better times than now. I mean, I'd rather live in the past than today, wouldn't you? I mean, nothing's ever certain anymore. Nothing's ever predictable like it used to be. These days ... y-you just never know who's going to die ... and who's going to live. |width="20" valign="bottom" style="padding: 10px; color: rgb(178, 183, 242); font-size: 36px; font-family: 'Times New Roman',serif; font-weight: bold; text-align: right;"|” |- |style="padding-right: 4%;" colspan="3"| —Psycho Pirate, Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, p.42 |}


Alternative Ending(?)Edit

According to George Pérez in a Wizard magazine interview in 1994, Chris Claremont suggested that Superman of Earth-One dies in the final battle with the Anti-Monitor in Issue 12. After the Anti-Monitor was destroyed for good, Kal-L from Earth-Two realizes that he is now alone, without his Earth, without his Lois, and now the new single Earth is without a Superman. Then he remarks "Don't need this anymore," and brushes the white dye off his hair and other make-up that he apparently used to make himself look aged. The other heroes are surprised by this and Kal-L simply explains that he'd stopped aging when he reached the peak of his powers. He returns with the other heroes to the new Post-Crisis Earth, taking the place of the Earth-One Superman.

If this idea had been used, the The Man of Steel would have marked the return of the "Original Super-Hero" as Kal-L (now switched to Kal-El) began his life on the post-Crisis Earth that is similar to his old life but with distinct differences. Despite this "culture shock," Kal-L endured and was given a new lease on life by being deposited back to the early days of the modern heroic age of the Post-Crisis Earth. However, this was discarded when the John Byrne version of Man of Steel was planned.

Animal Man (Of Grant Morrison)Edit

Hayden (the Psycho-Pirate) shows up again in Grant Morrison run on Animal Man, imprisoned in Arkham Asylum. He ends up releasing characters destroyed during the Crisis back into the world. Many of these characters come to realize they are just characters in a comic book. After an intervention by Animal Man, Hayden, seemingly happy, fades away into nothingness (due to the strain from releasing all the forgotten characters, removing him from reality, heading to the limbo that DC characters go when not being written about). James Highwater, one of the Asylum staff, is left to wear the Medusa Mask and keep the forgotten worlds contained. The other staff members come to accept Highwater as a patient, not realizing anything is wrong.

Tie-In IssuesEdit

Post-CrisisEdit

Characters and other elements established before Crisis on Infinite Earths (especially those eliminated by it) are considered pre-Crisis, and revised ones are considered post-Crisis. However, with the advent of the 2005-2006 mini-series Infinite Crisis (see below and main article), another continuity-altering storyline, pre- or post-Crisis alone is no longer a definitive identifier; it is now necessary to make clear which Crisis one is referring to. A recent term adopted because of this problem is "Crisis-era," which refers to all the events between the two crises.

Crisis was used by DC as an opportunity to wipe much of its slate clean and make major changes to many of their major revenue-generating comic book series. Frank Miller's revamp of Batman with Batman: Year One, George Pérez's relaunching of Wonder Woman (see Gods and Mortals), and John Byrne's reboot of Superman (see The Man of Steel) all took place shortly following Crisis on Infinite Earths, and changed substantial elements of the characters' backstories. Green Lantern was also changed, to Green Lantern Corps, chronicling the adventures of a group of Green Lanterns led by Hal Jordan and stationed on Earth.

Several other titles which were not significantly retconned were taken in very different directions following Crisis. However, to give readers breathing room, these revamps were delayed for a year so that they could be tied into DC's next "big event" storyline, "Legends". The Flash was relaunched starring a younger main character, the previous Flash's sidekick, Kid Flash (also known as Wally West). The Justice League of America title was cancelled, to be replaced by a new series entitled simply Justice League, featuring a new and uniquely diverse cast, many of them drawn from what had been different universes in DC's pre-Crisis multiverse. A new Suicide Squad title was launched, as was Captain Marvel given his own new mini-series to establish his new post-Crisis origin.

Acknowledgment of the CrisisEdit

Since Crisis on Infinite Earths created a new, singular universe, with a new back history, the Crisis event itself (as told in the limited series) is obviously not part of it. Regardless, various "revised" DC Universe characters have often referenced a past event called "Crisis". In this history, many heroes opposed the Anti-Monitor, who sought to destroy the (single) positive-matter universe in favor of his anti-matter universe. Supergirl did not die as she did not yet exist, but Barry Allen sacrificed his life to save the universe. Examples where this interpretation does not fit are:
  • Action Comics #590: The narrator recounts exactly how Chemo is destroyed on Earth-4 by the Negative Woman in Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 stating: "Weeks ago on a parallel earth that no longer exists," then it goes on to specify about how he survived when all the earths merged into one single earth at the end of the Crisis. The problem is that if the Multiverse is not supposed to be remembered by anyone, then Chemo's destruction should have been re-imagined to fit with the new single universe theory.
  • Superman #8: Superman was referred to mistakenly as Superboy (the young Clark Kent from the Time Trapper's Pocket Universe) by the Legion of Super-Heroes. He recalls meeting a Superboy (Earth-Prime) during the Crisis and that he wasn't around long enough to make any enemies. The problem is that Earth-Prime Superboy shouldn't be remembered.
  • Legion Of Super-Heroes #38: during the mourning of Superboy, a statue of Supergirl is seen. The statue like the others in the background are made in dedication to fallen Legionnaires. The Supergirl statue would be removed by issue #51 when DC enforced her nonexistent status.

The majority of DC Universe characters are unaware that the original, multiverse-wide Crisis occurred. Although the characters who were present at the epic battle at the dawn of time (Crisis on Infinite Earths #10, "Death at the Dawn of Time") - Psycho-Pirate, Lady Quark, Harbinger, and Pariah - were initially treated as exceptions, this idea did not stick. There have been occasional references to the event. A 2002 storyline in the Supergirl comic book saw the original pre-Crisis Supergirl landing on post-Crisis Earth, for example, and established that the Spectre, being able to see across dimensions and timelines, is aware the Crisis occurred. In addition, Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man, heralded for its deconstruction of the concept of the comic book, initiated a "Second Crisis" in which characters such as the original Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-Three came back to life thanks to the Medusa Mask owned by the Psycho-Pirate, who remembered the original Crisis. Per Degaton is aware of the pre-Crisis timeline; he told the JSAs of the present and of 1951 that he would retcon them out of existence the same way the Huntress of Earth-Two was. With the Fourth World existing outside the Multiverse proper, Darkseid has also acknowledged the events of the Crisis. Members of the Green Lantern Corps were also aware of the Crisis, even though none participated in the battle at the beginning of time. Corps member Ch'p, the only Earth-One character to have his timeline completely erased by the Crisis, was nonetheless recognized by his fellow Green Lanterns. John Constantine is also aware of the Crisis, as seen in Swamp Thing vol. 2, issue 70; additionally, a folder titled "Crisis" was seen in Constantine's possession in Hellblazer issue 10. Finally, in the Planetary special Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth, it was implied that Elijah Snow had somehow temporarily left the Wildstorm universe to witness the Crisis.

Deaths During CrisisEdit

The following DC characters were explicitly shown to have died during Crisis on Infinite Earths:

Some of the dead characters reappeared or disappeared in some way later:

  • Gunner showed up alive and well later in the comic Creature Commandos (albeit with cybernetic enhancements)
  • A Hawkman issue revealed that Nighthawk is believed to have died under different circumstances
  • Lori Lemaris' death has been erased from continuity
  • The Crime Syndicate were later brought back into continuity in the comic JLA: Earth 2 (however, this is a different version of the Crime Syndicate, from the antimatter earth in the universe of Qward, as opposed to the pre-Crisis version on Earth-Three)
  • It was revealed in James Robinson's Starman comics that Prince Gavyn's spirit actually survived and bonded with the superhero Will Payton
  • Wonder Woman of Earth-One was revealed to have not died, but instead sent backwards through time, de-aging in the process until she reverted to the clay she was originally sculpted from, and spread over Paradise Island (this laid the groundwork for George Perez's re-introduction of Wonder Woman in the post-Crisis continuity)
  • Psimon was resurrected.
  • After the events of Infinite Crisis and 52, Earth-Two (albeit a different version) was resurrected with many of the characters that had died in Crisis alive and well on the new Earth-Two.
  • Twenty-three years after his landmark death in the original Crisis, Barry Allen returned to the DC Universe on the last page of Grant Morrison's Final Crisis #2.

New Characters and ChangesEdit

Several new characters were introduced in Crisis. The Monitor's assistant, Harbinger, and scientist Pariah played major roles in the story. Lady Quark was introduced as a survivor of one of the destroyed worlds. A new Doctor Light, this time heroic and female, was introduced. The former Charlton Comics characters - notably Blue Beetle II - were introduced to the DC Universe.

After the Crisis, former Kid Flash Wally West took over the mantle of his predecessor The Flash. Jonah Hex was transported to a post-apocalyptic future but this did not prove popular and subsequent stories brought him back to the Wild West. The JSA member Wildcat was briefly replaced by his god-daughter, Yolanda Montez. The Guardians of the Universe departed for an unknown dimension, and the Green Lantern Corps was reorganized, with Hal Jordan leading a team of Green Lanterns based on Earth.

Continuing Continuity IssuesEdit

The changes made in the wake of Crisis were not implemented consistently. The series was published over the course of a year, with ongoing series continuing simultaneously. In addition, several stories set in the previous continuity were published following the series' final issue. Initially, characters who were present at the final battle in the Dawn of Time remembered their original histories until their post-Crisis histories were fully established, a process that sometimes required years to completely play out. Furthermore, revamped or relaunched versions of titles debuted at different times, with DC continuing to feature old versions of characters until new versions were launched, sometimes a year or more later. As a consequence, a series intended to streamline DC continuity introduced additional complexities.

The most notable, controversial example of this would be the handling of the Silver Age version of Hawkman; in the wake of the "Year One" mini-series "Hawkworld", DC decided to copy the reboot of Wonder Woman with the character when an ongoing series was spun out of "Hawkworld". This created severe problems for the rest of the writers at DC, as Hawkman had made numerous appearances in the meantime, rendering the character unusable for many writers and ultimately led to him being shunted off into limbo for the bulk of the 1990s, before officially retiring the alien Hawkman in favor of reintroducing the Golden Age Hawkman as the definitive version of the character.

Similar problems faced the Legion of Super-Heroes, which had been affected by the removal of Superboy from continuity. There were also continuity problems with the characters Donna Troy and Power Girl, who had their origins substantially rewritten to match the new DC Universe timeline. In 1994, DC's mini-series Zero Hour attempted to resolve these conflicts by again rebooting the DCU, this time with fewer wholesale revisions.

The erasure of Superman's cousin Supergirl from DC continuity was slowly revised in the years after 1986; a variety of characters named Supergirl were introduced, to differing degrees of fan response. It would not be until 2004 that DC officially re-introduced a new Kryptonian Supergirl back into DC Universe canon.

Relationship to Other CrisesEdit

At the 2008 New York Comic Con Dan DiDio described how Crisis on Infinite Earths was the first of a trilogy of "Crisis" limited series that showed different stages in the development of the DC Multiverse::

  • Crisis on Infinite Earths: "death of the multiverse"
  • Infinite Crisis: "rebuilding of the multiverse"
  • Final Crisis: "final saga of the multiverse"

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