My Thoughts on “Crisis on Infinite Earths”

It’s tough for most modern readers to get in the mindset of a rabid comic-fan of the mid-1980s. These days Marvel and DC have a “reality shattering” event every year, and most fans are trained for that. They are used to the plentiful, yet generally meaningless mini-series that litter comic shelves and the pricey one-shots that flank them.

Modern fans are used to the build-up to these events like graffiti on every cover, ad page and poster for months leading up the ambiguous first issue. It’s so predictable you can apply it to almost any crossover, from Marvel’s Civil War to DC’s Blackest Night. With every company-wide crossover, the blueprint is basically the same.

So, where did that roadmap come from?

I bring you to the first half of the 1980s and we have a comic market not doing the best. The generational problem of readers getting on in age and buying less was upon the market DC made the decision to make some drastic changes. Enter the peerless team of George’ Perez and Marv Wolfman given the task and charge to rewrite the DC timeline and make a punch-list of alterations and changes to adapt the multiverse to a “new” age.

The consequences of this mega-crossover are well known to mostly all comic fans with the deaths of Supergirl and Flash being pivotal events for many years until the circuitous writing in DC made these events obsolete. This crossover also set up the relaunch of “Superman” by John Byrne and also the new Blue Beetle, as well as planting the seeds for many events decades later.

So how does this crossover stand the test of time?

Let’s look at the book itself. Twelve issues by a comic superteam, as in addition to Perez and Wolfman, comic legend and later DC editor, the late, great Dick Giordano did inks on the series. With all impacts and reverberations aside, you have a book being produced by some true legends in the industry that generally make gold of all they touch. Then you give these guys 12 issues to make this story, with, depending on who you ask, almost a year to set it up with carte blanche from the editorial staff to tinker with the ongoing books to “tease” the audience.

Now let’s introduce the madness of DC continuity at this time. Since the revamp of DC’s line in 1970’s, thanks to the late Julius Schwartz, the books had become stagnant and for the avid reader there were many conflicting bits of story with little attempt by the writers of the day to fix or make these conflicts connect to the monthly fare. With universes being created within the DC publishing multiverse purely for the sake of back-up stories and “what if” scenarios, great care had to be taken to catalog and categorize these veins of creation and decide what to do with them.

For an example, check out the “Absolute Edition” and you will find Marv Wolfman’s exhaustive commentary on every DC universe at the time.

In terms of a crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths was the true definition of that, because it literally made most DC universes connect within the panels of the maxi-series and many more to be obliterated in the connected books or simply never be spoken of again. When the dust settled after the year-long saga had reached its end, the DC pantheon of universes had been reigned-in and very fitfully sorted out. In the process DC managed to sell tons of comics!

Perhaps one of the unintended side-effects of this series was setting sales records and still being a top-selling collection many, many years later. Not to mention the iconic posters of Superman holding a dead Supergirl or the action figures and re-releases of the collection in various form.

Calculating the phenomenal success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, it’s easy to see why Marvel would be quick to follow suit with various major crossovers in the 1980s and the huge events in the 1990s centered around Adam Warlock and the Infinity Gauntlet. DC followed up later with a plethora of crossovers rooted in the mythos of Batman and Superman in the early 1990s. Of course the boom period of the 1990s made it easy for just about anything to sell, but the formula of the mega-crossover carried over to the new millennium with Marvel’s Civil War and DC’s Infinite Crisis and Final Night events.

While all these events sold books and may have won many awards, it’s hard to argue that anything in the above-mentioned crossovers hold any water these days. With maybe the exception of Marvel’s Civil War, you’d be hard-pressed to find a crossover that was “game changing” at the time of printing, that is more than a footnote today.

Literally, open a dusty copy of the DC encyclopedia and read about the events of “No Man’s Land” if you can even find an entry for it.

The need by these publishers to make every event seem “can’t miss” is a standard in every facet of entertainment, but in comics I think it is becoming dangerous. As readers go from year to year seeing every event being the end-all, be-all event meaning nothing the following year, it begs the question of how sustainable is this?

How long before readers get wise to the fact that…well, nothing, really changes?

Sure there might be a good story with good art, but when the story is over it’s like nothing ever happened. Read Marvels Siege or Dark Reign, or DC’s Blackest Night and you will find good comics that promised to change the landscape of comics forever, but really only set the stage for new (or renumbered) ongoing series from each publisher.

So, really, nothing changed.

Not so in Crisis on Infinite Earths where, literally, everything changed. From the ground up, DC continuity was shook up and remained so until the revolving door of writers and editors wove an even more intricately confusing web of history and DC had to restart…again.

Just wait for it, the Marvel restart will be next. FYI.

It’s just one guys opinion, but events should be events, not gimmicks. Keeping a calendar based on a yearly event will hit the point of diminishing returns at some point, and then where do you go? It seems the idea of making great monthly books is out of the question when you can have an even run 6 months out of the year. While Crisis set up the monthly books for years to come, monthly books now seem to set up for events.

The Verdict: 10/10.

For my money, there are some stories in comics that are untouchable and this is one of them. An incredible story, with real things at stake, created by a team of legends at their peak is a real no-brainer. If you don’t own this, get it right now on you iPad from Comixology or head to the bookstore, you won’t be disappointed.

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