Tuesday, May 7, 2013

True or False: Crisis on Infinite Earths Made Things More Complicated, Not Less, for the DC Universe and its Readers

Karen: Folks, I just learned that Ray Harryhausen, legendary master of stop-motion animation, has passed away at age 92. The man brought much joy to my life, and so many others.


J.A. Morris said...


I have no idea what the current state of the DCU is, but the Crisis made it easier for me to figure out what was going on in the DCU. I've always been more of a Marvel than DC fan, I found DC easier to follow post-Crisis.

But that's not why I started picking up more DC titles, that was due to Byrne's move to DC at the time.

Edo Bosnar said...

I find I really can't give a straight answer to this question. First, I have to say I didn't find pre-Crisis DC all that complicated, but all in all I found the Marvel U. much more appealing. So when DC became a bit Marvelized post-Crisis, I thought it was a pretty good move - kind of a shot in the arm that seemed to invigorate many of its properties at the time. And I briefly began regularly reading stuff I normally didn't follow before: like J.A., Byrne drew me to the Superman titles (by the way J.A., given your comments, shouldn't your answer be false?)

However, I think Crisis did screw up some things beyond repair, mainly the Legion of Super-heroes, but also really strong characters like the Huntress and Power Girl.
Also - and I can only comment on this from a distance, since my regular consumption of any ongoing series from either DC or Marvel stopped at around 1991 - it seems like the first Crisis led to these periodic Crisis-like 'events' meant to 'fix' some thing or another, ultimately leading to this 'new 52' silliness. So I guess I'd say my answer is sort of a tentative 'true.'

Kid said...

In the long run, most assuredly true. Especially as it led to future 'tinkering' with continuity that has left everyone and their brother totally baffled. If you stopped buying a title for a while, by the time you picked up an issue to see how things were going, the goalposts had been moved yet again.

dbutler16 said...

As far as I'm concerned, COIE (though I enjoyed the series on its own) made the DCU much more complicated. First of all, it opened the door for a DC reboot every 5-10 years. It also added confusion as to what "really" happened before and what didn't, what characters' origins really were now, etc. I don't see what was wrong with the previous DCU. The mainstream characters were on Earth 1, the Golden Age heroes (and their offspring) were on Earth 2, the Captain Marvel family were on Earth S, and basically each "family" that DC acquired from another comic company had its own earth, with rare interaction between the various earths.

Chris said...

At the time : FALSE

Post-Crisis DC was far more accessible to me who had grown up with Marvel and was (at that time) continuity obbessed!

Just like J.A. Byrne's move to DC was the shove I needed but it wasn't just Superman that I enjoyed back in the 80s. But it was nice to know when I did try DC that things weren't too complicated.

I've since read some pre-Crisis DC and found it really didn't matter either way to enjoy a stoty. But that could be just because I'm a few years and a few grey hairs older.

Anonymous said...

True. COIE started a trend for a new reboot series every few years. The reboots and retcons usually create more problems than they solve. Before long, the new series builds up its own intricate continuity, so everything gets as confusing as it was before. Long story arcs and line-wide events (requiring not only continuity, but consistent cross-continuity) further complicate matters. And there always seem to be glitches, as details from the old version pop up in the new series. You see the same thing in the rebooted Godzilla movie series and the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. It's as if they could not make up their minds what to delete and what to retain.

J.A. Morris said...

@Edo, yes, my answer should have been "False". That's what happens when I answer a question before consuming caffeine.

I stand by everything else I posted!

William said...

This topic is a little too complicated for a simple "True" or "False" answer.

Before Crisis the DC Universe was pretty complicated with all the different Earths and counter Earths. But in some ways it was simpler. Different eras were nicely compartmentalized on different Earths. This was a convenient way to explain how Superman and Batman could have been around since 1939. It was also a nice way to manage characters from other companies that DC had acquired. Like Captain Marvel (SHAZAM) for example. It was also a great device for writers to tell all kinds of different and whacky stories without compromising the continuity of the "real" DC Universe. It wasn't really all that hard to understand actually. Especially if you grew up reading the DC comics of that era.

Then when Crisis came along, I think it actually complicated things more for longtime readers (I was a Marvel guy myself). Suddenly DC had to figure out a way to combine all these myriad threads and timelines into one cohesive universe. To this day, they have never completely worked that all out. I think that's why they keep rebooting their universe over and over again. It's a desperate attempt to streamline their decades of continuity. I couldn't tell you almost anything about DC comics' these days. It's like an entirely new entity from anything it has ever been in the past, with characters that are barely recognizable from their former incarnations. (Marvel is becoming almost as bad).

Crisis OIE, was a big jumping on point for a lot new readers (myself included). Prior to that, the only DC comic I read on a regular basis was The New Teen Titans. After Crisis,, much like J.A. and Edo, I followed John Byrne over to DC and started reading all the Superman books. I also read Justice League International and The Flash regularly, and I dabbled in a few other titles as well.

So, in my opinion, COIE made DC easier to get into and understand for new readers, but complicated things even more for long-time, loyal fans.

david_b said...


Agreeing with William. Perhaps easier and more 'Marvel-ous', but DC wasn't confined to 'one Universe' per se like Marvel(unless you count differnt era's like Conan..). It had the freedom to tell stories, using characters is liked.

Every so often it would throw us continuity nuts a bone by adding a "As seen back in ish #.. Editor.", but it had the latitude to simply write stories without contemplating whether that character is out in space with the JLA or something that same month.

I certainly didn't like the end of Barry Allen (back then, anyways), ruining the Flash as a hero. But I guess eggshells have to be broken to make an omelet.

mr. oyola said...

Depends on what you mean by complicated.

In the long run DC is as complicated as it has ever been, and it seems like most of the changes made in that first Crisis have been undone or tweaked in one way or another in the intervening years (my favorite is the ruining of Superboy Prime if only for the metatextual moment of him crying "You're ruining me!" as he accidentally decapitates nobodies from the Teen Titans).

I don't believe new stories (or versions of characters) blot out the old, but that they co-exist. Byrne may have "re-created" Superman, but that Superman would still make no sense without being informed by Silver Age Superman.

I feel like I am in weird position when it comes to DC Crises, b/c I usually ONLY read those big Crisis events when it comes to DC - I have never had a regular DC title (except for currently loving the latest version of Dial H). The story of the world is what interests me about DC - so I could get into those (and any kind of Elseworld alternate reality stuff).

Also, in recent years, have come to have a distaste for continuity (or at least slavishness to it), so the only thing that makes it "complicated" in my mind is the need to make it all totally fit together and make sense - which is totally unnecessary and mostly impossible. Furthermore, I think it is the gaps, mistakes and contradictions that make these superhero worlds (both DC and Marvel) so open to new stories and takes on the characters and events.

I could go on and on, but if you want to you can also read a post on my blog that touches on this topic: "No-Prize Is Its Own Prize".

Garett said...

As a kid, I found the multiple Earths concept easy to understand, and a delight! Traveling to an Earth in another dimension, with different heroes--exciting.

I suppose my answer to today's question is "False". They made things simpler, and far less interesting.

Doug said...

I enjoyed COIE simply for the massive amount of characters represented, as well as the Perez/Ordway art. The Crisis occurred just a year or so after I got back into comics. I was never a huge DC reader as a kid -- not as much as I was a Marvel reader. But I knew enough about the history to recognize Crisis as a pretty (excuse me) ballsy event for the company.

Personally, I didn't see that the multiple Earths was a problem; as others have said, it's what separated DC from Marvel and carried its own charm.

In hindsight, what came just after the Crisis -- which seemed to go hand-in-hand with TDKR, Longbow Hunters, etc. -- with all of the character origins revised to give everyone "an edge" was far more destructive than was the Crisis itself.


Anonymous said...

I kind of liked having everyone on the same "Earth" with a shared history, but by changing major characters' backstories (Superman and Wonder Woman especially) it paved the way for screwing up a lot of other characters (Supergirl, Power Girl, Donna Troy Hawkman, etc.). So I guess my answer is...yes, it did screw things up...eventually.

Mike W.

david_b said...

Agreeing with Doug and Mike W, Crisis was a bold move, but most of the aftermath was terrible. Hated Longbow, Flash, NTT, all the edgy stuff which came afterwards..

dbutler16 said...

I guess I should have started my post with the word "True".
anyway, I didn't think it wold be so at the time, but in retrospect, it's been a huge problem for DC, in my opinion. Like Doug said, I didn't think the multilpe earths was a problem, and it was a charming little differentiation between DC and Marvel.

Doug said...

Karen --

Just saw your add-on note to today's post. I will never forget the wonder with which I watched "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" in the theater when I was about 7 years old. Magical!


Edo Bosnar said...

Ah, man, sad news about Ray Harryhausen. I know he lived to a very ripe old age, but still...
Like Doug, I loved all those movies he worked on when I was a kid, and still marvel at his technique today.

Bruce said...

Like Kid said, in the long run, it has made things more complicated, as DC just can't stop revisiting Crisis. For example - Barry Allen returning.

At the time, though, it did seem to revitalize DC. It paved the way for the Byrne Superman, Perez Wonder Woman, etc.

And Crisis itself was great (hard not to be when George Perez is involved). It blew Secret Wars out of the water!

Bruce said...

Doug, I disagree about Dark Knight Returns and Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters being destructive. I think the problem was that too many subsequent writers tried, in a ham-fisted way, to capture the edginess of those two series.

But I don't think you can blame Miller and Grell (or Alan Moore) if subsequent creators tried to copy their work with disastrous results. Taken on their own merits, I thought DKR and Longbow Hunters were masterpieces.

Doug said...

Bruce --

I don't think I stated myself clearly, certainly not as clearly as your last point. I fully enjoyed TDKR and Longbow Hunters when they were published and have gone back to them a few times since. Your point about the copycats and this "new standard" of grim & gritty is spot on. I should have emphasized that it's what came after this 1986-87 period that for me began a downward spiral of quality and enjoyment.

If I hold Miller, Grell, Moore, et al. to any responsibility, it's merely to the point that what they did became a trend.


Anonymous said...

Lurker here....
My two favorite DC books were the All Star Squadron and the Legion...so the Crisis did me no favors.
The changes that were made were much harder to keep up with than the Multiple Earth system ( that I loved!)
Zero Hour somehow made it worse.
After 52 and Countdown the multiple Earths were brought back and things were looking up.
...but the New 52 was just too much and I'm too old to care anymore. That did it for me. Not just DC but all comic books.
I regressed back into my collection... and that's how I stumbled on this place.

Wait .... What was the question?

Inkstained Wretch said...

Let me echo 100% d_butler's first post on the subject.


In. No. Way. Was. The. Original. DC. Continuity. Too. Complicated.

It was perfectly simple: Everything happened on Earth-1, with the exception of the "golden age" stuff and a few other characters who rarely interacted with the other mainstream characters. Sort of like the Squadron Supreme in the Marvel Universe.

DC's multi-verse was actually less complicated than things like -- oh, I don't know -- trying to figure out how the Asgardian & Greek deities, and Atlantis, and the Inhumans and the Kree, and the Elders of the Universe, and the Celestials figure in to Marvel continuity.

Yes, DC had multiple versions of the same character unlike, say Marvel, which had how many different versions of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Goliath, Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman? Yes, the origins got a little convoluted at times, unlike ... say, I dunno, the Vision or the Scarlet Witch?

Prior to the Crisis, it was perfectly simple what happened where and when. The only notable violater of DC continuity was Bob Haney and his stuff was so wacky it was all non-canonical from the start anyway.

It would have been one thing if the Crisis simply retired certain characters, but rewriting history to completely exclude the Golden Age Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman created massive holes in the history that were never adequately filled. This was then made even worse by subsequently wiping out Superboy, Supergirl, the Golden Age Captain Marvel and the Silver Age Wonder Woman and Hawkman too. The Legion of Super Heroes history in particular became impossibly convoluted because Superboy was so integral to it. Attempts to patch it up by creating new characters to replace the old classics mostly flopped.

Moreover the Crisis gave writers license to relaunch characters and rewrite history willy-nilly -- which was supposed to be the exact opposite of the exercise in the first place!

If it seemed less complicated to new readers that's only because they were new readers. Longtime DC fans like myself could not make heads or tales of it. After a few years of trying to roll with it, I gave up on comics altogether.

As you may have gathered, I am still a little upset about it 25 years later. But just a bit.

(Quietly under my breath) "&*%##$%&ing idiot DC publishers..."

Inkstained Wretch said...

To fully grasp my prior post, please imagine the sound of someone pounding on a table while you read it. This works best if you also imagine that you are wiping the spittle from the lapels of your coat.

Teresa said...

True: Crisis on Infinite Earths Made Things More Complicated, Not Less, for the DC Universe and its Readers.

It uncorked the Reboot Genie and DC continuity has been cursed with unsure footing ever since. After multiple reboots the readers don't invest in the characters. Everyone figures a reboot is coming soon.

My two favorite DC books were the All Star Squadron and the Legion, so the reboot was not in my favor.
Before COIE Roy Thomas had smoothed out Earth 2's continuity using All Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. No reboot needed there. They could have used his talents in the post CIOE universe.

Multiple Earths was DC's style. We didn't needed a Marvel knock off.

I enjoyed the Earth 2 "sandbox" It allowed DC to reinvent Supergirl (for the 70s) in Powergirl. Earth 2 killed off Batman and Catwoman, never to return. Their daughter became the new Dark Knight Detective. These two characters were fresh and had back story.

I did enjoy COIE as a story. But the result wasn't a clean slate, so the "new" continuity was confusing post reboot.
LSH continuity was never on solid ground again. Powergirl? What the...How is she still her? etc...

DC hadn't even though through which characters remembered what from the pre Crisis universe. It was very confusing.

Inkstained Wretch said...

What Teresa said

Matt Celis said...

i read lots of DC starting around age 6 and never had any trouble with alternate earths. never met anyone who was confused by it. more confusing is "this story never happened but this other one did, wonder woman is a brand new heroine and was not in the jla, there was no superboy but the legion of super heroes is still around, everything you know is wrong unless we change our minds again." i gave them a chance but they pretty much lost me forever as a reader within a couple of years.

Karen said...

This post was entirely self-serving because I've felt for years that DC really mucked things up with Crisis. So thank you, particularly the impassioned responses from Inkstained and Teresa, for validating my feelings in this matter.Consider yourselves BAB no-prized.

And as for the passing of Mr. Harryhausen, it's a milestone, another titan who shaped my childhood (and beyond) gone from this Earth. What an incredibly talented, creative man he was - the sheer number of films and their splendid imagery astounds. Just last night, I received in the mail an X-Plus resin figure of his wonderful Hydra from the film "Jason and the Argonauts." Did anyone ever create such beautiful monsters as he?

Anonymous said...

Lurker here again...
When Jason and the Argonauts fought Achilles was one of my great childhood memories.Harryhausen's depiction of that fight was as close to being there as my over active young boy imagination Could muster.
Today's CGI almost seems like a cop out to chilling appearance and movement he gave to his effects

MattComix said...

Both. Then as with now some corners of the DCU creative are all in and some are allowed to continue what they were doing before but now the backstory is different, or not.

MattComix said...

Additionally, the level of confusion that the multiple Earth's caused is a bit over estimated and what there was of it is the more the result of carelessness than the concept.

Plus there is other inter-company things like DC deciding to make a distinction between the Superman they merchandise (Pre-Crisis) and the Superman they publish (Post, or now nu52 popcollar lad). Well, if the merch sells then why not make comics of the guy on the merch? (and I say that as someone who actually enjoyed aspect of post crisis).

J.A. Morris said...

I was saddened to hear about Harryhausen. He had a good run at 92, but this feels like the end of an era.

I was fortunate enough to see him give a brief speech in my city in 2006. He gave the introduction to a screening of 'Jason Of The Argonauts'. When it was over, the packed theater gave Harryhausen a standing ovation.

I've always been happy that unlike some others (like Willis O'Brien), he was able to retire and live long enough to know how loved and appreciated his work was.

Anonymous said...


RIP Mr Harryhausen. My fondest memories of his work include that famous skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts and his stop motion Medusa in the original 1981 Clash of the Titans movie. Somehow, I found his version scarier than the CGI one in the recent remake. Like any true artist, the maker is gone but his work will live on for generations to come. Thank you Mr. Harryhausen.

- Mike 'another master is gone' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Matt Celis said...

Now why would they want to publish a version of a character rhat has resonance with the general public and captures the popular imagination when they can instead disregard that and put out an "improved" niche version that sells maybe 100,000 copies in a nation of 300,000,000?

Next you'll say maybe Marvel should put out comics with characters that resemble the successful animated and film incarnations. Y'know, and maybe pick up a reader or two out of the millions that saw the films but never read the comics.

Unknown said...

True, True, True, True, True!

Teresa said it well-"Multiple Earths was DC's style"

I was momentarily confused by the parallel worlds concept when I stumbled upon a JLA/JSA teamup in the the third grade...and then I wasn't.

I really grew to appreciate the multiple DC Earths. It was exciting for me to track down silver age back issues with the Flashes, GLs, Atoms teaming up. Black Canary's identity crisis after switching Earths signaled deeper characterizations in the JLA. Power Girl, Huntress, Earth X, and a grown-up Robin were great examples of the story possibilities available with the multiple Earths.

Black Canary in particular was rendered irrelevant by Crisis. Her backstory was so tied up in the Earths 1-2 concept, that she never fully recovered. The same is true for Power Girl, The Huntress, and god knows who else. And don't get me started on Hawkman!

If DC really had to take such a drastically stupid step, they should have gone all the way. They should have put Bob Haney in charge. Imagine what a story that would have been!

I've always had a fair degree of respect for the achievements of Kahn, Giordano, Orlando, and Levitz. But why they were confused by something a third grader could understand is a question for the ages.

James Chatterton

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I would have to say it made more things complicated. I’d have to say True. It’s because of all the things DC did to touch up and add to post Crisis. The year this came out, 1986, a lot of Marvel’s talent defected to DC because of Jim Shooter’s poor treatment of the talent. Just look at the small list:

Frank Miller: Batman: Dark Knight Returns

John Byrne: Superman: Man of Steel

Marv Wolfman and George Perez: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Teen Titians

Gene Colon: Night Force, Batman, Wonder Woman

Jim Starlin: Assorted Superman and DC titles

Howard Chakin: Superman portfolio and Star Trek Who’s Who covers.

Jack Kirby: Super Powers, Hunger Dogs, redesign of New Gods characters for action figures.

It was because of this mass defection of talent that I finally took notice of DC. It was also the year of the best DC comics of my generation.

But I digress, back to my point. The DC Universe has been rebooted so many times with several crisis events since Crisis on Infinite Earths, I’ve never been able to keep track, nor could I afford to. Post 1986 I always went to buy paperback collections or hard covers and much less in the way of comic books. I believe it was the late 80’s when the Marvel Masterworks and DC Archive Editions were being released. I was saving my money for those hard cover items which I still have today.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading the J.L.A and All Star Comics in the early-to-mid 70's and being confused as hell. The Earth-1 and Earth-2 thing confused me to no end, especially All-Star Comics,(which I think was great, by the way.) Why, I thought, were these W.W. II guys running around like kids in the 70's and what is Superman doing on their Earth, anyway, with gray hair, no less. And where do Captain Marvel and Plastic man figure into this whole mess? I eventually figured it all out, sort of, although nobody's ever figured out Hawkman, and please don't mention the Haney-verse.
I thought the Crisis streamlined the whole thing while keeping a bit of an air of mystery about it.
Why shouldn't the original Flash and Green Lanterns be mentors to their successors, instead of alternate-universe doppelgangers? They should've done that from the get-go, in my opinion.

Rip Jagger said...

Absolutely true!

The very fact we have Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis "continuities" to contend with is all the evidence one would need.

I don't hold the Crisis against them (save for what it did to Roy Thomas and All-Star projects) but DC sure gummed up any sense I have of being connected to the heroes. More recently Marvel has done the same thing.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

I think that part of the problem with the D.C. universe was that trying to understand the damn thing was like a young priest trying to make heads or tales of the apochryphea from the old testament. You wanna care about these characters, but their histories are so old and get so confusing and contradictory that no person could possibly understand it unless they've been following it for years. Think about the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Green Arrow used to be in it, but not the same Arrow we see now, or the one we saw in the 70's. And the Vigilante...is he still dead? And Wonder Woman, or Black Canary... Grant Morrison tried to clean some of these contradictions up but even that was a along time ago. What makes me mad is that Morrison and Peter David created a great version of Aquaman, and D.C. killed him off. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

Even though the Crisis sorted somethings out, certain characters like Powergirl, Supergirl, Hawkman Plasticman, Freedom Fighters and the Seven Soldiers were left in chaos.

Matt Celis said...

That dig at Shooter was so unnecessary, not to mention untrue. Maybe a couple of those named had a problem with him. Certainly he was not the issue for Miller and some others.

Kid said...

The fact is, the given reason was only an excuse to pique reader-interest and sell more books. At the end of the day, it was really nothing more than a sales push.

Anonymous said...

True -- "Crisis On Infinite Earths" was a fun read but it didn't have an ending (that hand of God stuff was laughable, didn't age well) and DC's entire Golden Age continuity was sacrificed for nothing except more confusion.

They should've pared down the multiverse to Earth-1 and Earth-2. Then Earth-3 could've reared it's head at some point.

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