Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Crisis on Infinite Earths
Crisis on Infinite Earths was a 12 issue comic book mini-series produced by DC Comics in 1985 in order to clean up their 50-year-old, convoluted and confusing continuity. Written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Pérez, Dick Giordano and Jerry Ordway , the series did away with the concept of the Multiverse in the fictional DC Universe, while also depicting the deaths of such long-standing superheroes as Supergirl and The Flash. The title of the series was inspired by earlier crossover stories involving the multiple Earths of the Multiverse, such as "Crisis on Earth-Two" and "Crisis on Earth-Three", but these earlier stories were much smaller-scale, generally involving only the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America.
The series (often referred to as simply "Crisis") was one of three major comic book stories published by DC in the same year that had a profound effect on the comic book industry as a whole. While Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns were widely praised and credited with giving mainstream acceptance to comic books as a form of serious literature (rather than "children's entertainment"), Crisis was a success from a marketing point of view. It was rooted firmly in the cliché-ridden stereotype of "superheroes battle to save the world;" nevertheless, it was an exceptionally well-written and -drawn example of the costumed superhero genre, and an entertaining story in its own right. It successfully returned DC to its position as a major publisher of superhero comic books (the field was largely dominated by Marvel Comics in the late 1970s and early 1980s).
Crisis also created the formula of the line-wide "crossover" comic book series. Since the series was published, both 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). These crossover series, sporting such titles as Millennium, Invasion!, The Final Night, and Zero Hour have boosted comic book sales, though from a storytelling point of view they have generally been less well received than Crisis. Marvel initiated its own series of crossovers at the same time, beginning with Secret Wars and continuing with its own "epic storylines" including The Fall of the Mutants, Acts of Vengeance, and The Infinity War.
The story introduced readers to two near-omnipotent beings, the good "Monitor" and the evil "Anti-Monitor" (both of whom died, or were destroyed, before the series finished). The Monitor had made cameo appearances in various DC comic book series for two years preceding the publication of the series, and at first he seemed 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 universe – not just one universe, but 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 to destroy and conquer the various dimensional versions of the universe. Under the initial guidance of the Monitor, a select group of heroes were assigned to protect massive "tuning forks" designed to hold off a wave of antimatter (unleashed by the Anti-Monitor), that had already annihilated untold numbers of alternate Earths. Eventually the conflict grew, as nearly every DC hero got involved in the battle. The Monitor himself was murdered by his servant Harbinger, whose mind was being controlled by the Anti-Monitor.
The Monitor's death unchained a release of energy which allowed the last five parallel Earths (the home of the known DC Universe) to survive long enough for the heroes to lead an assault on the Anti-Monitor. The attack was successful enough to make the villain retreat, but at the cost of Supergirl's life. An apparent lull in the war provided some breathing room for the heroes, but at this time the various DC supervillains joined forces under Brainiac and Lex Luthor to attempt the conquest of Earth, while the second Flash died stopping the Anti-Monitor's back-up scheme of destruction. The Spectre called a halt to the battles on the Earths with a warning that the Anti-Monitor was planning to travel to the beginning of time to prevent the Multiverse's creation. The DC Heroes and villains joined 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 have allowed Anti-Monitor to succeed in his efforts.
In the resulting battle the villains failed at their objective, and Krona proceeded with his experiment, while the heroes supported the Spectre, who grappled with the Anti-Monitor which created an energy overload that literally shattered space and time. With that, a single DC Comics universe was created and all the superheroes found themselves in one reality where the various elements of the five Earths were fused into one. The Anti-Monitor attacked one last time, but fell to a carefully planned counter-attack devised by the DC heroes with some quiet help from the New Gods' adversary, Darkseid.
Readers unfamiliar with the complicated continuity of the DC universe may find the story of Crisis on Infinite Earths confusing, as it was written especially for readers who were intimately familiar with the many hundreds of characters created in the pages of DC comics over the space of fifty years.
In the "post-Crisis" timeline, an epic "Crisis" still occurred in which numerous heroes opposed the Anti-Monitor's intention to destroy the positive-matter universe. While the Flash still died, Supergirl did not as she had "never existed".
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 Perez's relaunching of Wonder Woman, and John Byrne's reimagining of Superman (see The Man of Steel) all took place shortly following Crisis on Infinite Earths, and changed substantial elements of the character's backstories.
Conversely, several other titles which were not significantly retconned were taken in very different directions following Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Flash was relaunched starring a new main character, and the Justice League of America title was cancelled, to be replaced by a new comic, entitled simply Justice League, and featuring an entirely new cast, many of whom had been culled from what had previously been different universes in DC's pre-Crisis multiverse. While some of these revamps of classic superheroes were less successful than others, their new beginnings can generally be attributed to the success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and helped revitalize DC Comics as a major player in the comic book medium. As a signifier, characters and other elements established before Crisis (especially those eliminated by it) are considered "Pre-Crisis" and revised ones are considered "Post-Crisis".
None of the crossover series since Crisis have had such a profound and lasting effect on the histories of so many well-known comic book characters in such a short period of time.
The changes made in the wake of Crisis were ushered in gradually; several months of stories set in the "old" continuity continued to be published following the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Furthermore, revamped or relaunched versions of series did not debut at the same time, and DC continued to feature the "old" versions of characters until new versions were launched, sometimes or year or more later. The character of Hawkman was one of the most problematic, as a new version did not appear until 1989, raising the question: Who was this "Hawkman" character that had been running around with the Post-Crisis heroes since 1986? Similar problems faced the Legion of Super-Heroes, which had been affected by the removal of Superboy from DC continuity, and successive attempts to "repair" it had met with mixed results. In 1994, DC produced a mini-series Zero Hour which attempted to resolve these problems by again rebooting the DCU, but with fewer wholesale revisions.
Although the characters of the present DC Universe are for the most part unaware the Crisis occurred, 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.
Crisis (along with The Watchmen and The Dark Knight) was parodied by Simpsons Comics' Radioactive Man series: Radioactive Man #679 (Sept 1994), entitled "Who Washes The Washmen's Infinite Secrets Of Legendary Crossover Knight Wars?" by Steve Vance.
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