“Worlds will live.  Worlds will die.  And the DC Universe will never be the same again!”  So went the tag for DC’s milestone 50th anniversary series, ‘Crisis On Infinite Earths’, which made its appearance thirty years ago this summer.  As a callow teenage youth of 14, I was utterly entranced by the series and its endless barrage of heroes I’d never heard of and alternate worlds that kept falling to a mysterious anti-matter wave from deep space.  In retrospect, it’s easy to write off my excitement: After all, CoIE was primarily designed as a sales/housekeeping gimmick, to help streamline and simplify the five decades of DC stories into one clearer narrative.  In the first point, it was a huge success, but on the second (arguably more important) point, it was a world-class failure, as the continuity patches began appearing even before the 12-issue maxiseries ended.  Hawkman, among others, has never recovered from the changes, and nearly everything that series established (the deaths of Flash and Supergirl; the destruction of Earth-3; the destruction of the Guardians Of The Universe and dozens of other plot points) has been overturned in the ensuing decades.  Indeed, a cynic might say that the only real lasting effect of the Crisis was proving that such events could be profitable and making it possible for universes to just flat-out reboot when continuity gets too interlaced, leading us to today’s antimatter query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is fine with aging and the pitfalls thereof, but occasionally still misses those more innocent days where it seemed like anything could happen in comics, regardless of profit margins, asking: Do the literally earth-shattering events of Crisis On Infinite Earths actually matter anymore?

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

6 Comments

  1. From an in-universe, continuity standpoint, no they probably don’t. As you said, Matthew, most of the “changes” from the original Crisis have been wiped away to the point of this summer’s Convergence basically hand-waving it away as something that never happened, Obi-Wan Kenobi-style (“These aren’t the events you are looking for. You don’t need to see his copy of Crisis #12”).

    From a personal, reader-level standpoint, Yes, it still matters. I read Crisis as a 13 year-old kid and story points like the death of Kara, the sacrifice of Barry Allen, and the merging of the remaining Earth’s into one still resonate with me as part of what I call “Good Superhero Stories.”

    Sure Kara and Barry are both back among the living, but without Crisis as an event we wouldn’t have gotten Ted Kord, Jaime Reyes, and Captain Atom as we did. The “bwa-ha-ha” JLI would probably never have come around in the form it did, either. For that reason, I think the original Crisis still matters.

    Do other “earth-shattering events” still matter as well? From the individual reader’s eye, I would say “yes,” even though a particular event may not be up my alley.

  2. Crisis On Infinite Earths is still very readable — gutsy plotting, good writing, and strong art (despite requiring so many characters and so many little panels to tell the story in each issue). The many recons since then don’t matter too much for me — as with the continued power of X-Men #137, despite Jean Grey having been reborn, rekilled (?), time travelled, never-dead in the first place, whatever her statusis at the moment, heh.

  3. COIE is a darned good story in and of itself. It was epic, star studded and there were consequences, and a lot of those consequences were long lasting and felt very real for the DCU for some time.

    On the other hand Crisis set a precedent for the ‘Universe is in peril and nothing will EVER be the same!’ that infected both Marvel and DC to the point where the novelty of the ‘Shared Universe’ would effectively be destroyed. Reboots, retcons and the massive event crossovers that spawn them took the novelty of a shared world and mutated it into a set of ‘problems’ that every writer seems convinced they must solve.

    Every fix is like a patch on a patch and the once fairly coherent ‘shared universes’ don’t really feel shared at all (except when the latest event demands it). Much of it feels more like authorized fan fiction that obsesses over minor details and inconsistencies than a set of intertwined tales building a greater whole.

  4. Stephen Jedynak Steve_Zirc in Tadpoles and such on

    I think that it is still a pretty decent example of a good crossover formula, and it is historically significant. It was also my window, as a 12 year old, into hundreds of characters I had never seen on Saturday morning. It may not have quite the gravitas as some other events, but it is wonderfully drawn and filled with intense moments and I think that still makes it at least partially relevant.

  5. I have a little bit different viewpoint than most of the people here, I´d thnk: I read Crisis in around 2010, never knew about it back in the 80´s, nor was it released here. There might have been a mention of it in letters page in Superman or Batman (only DC books published here regularly) but I´m not sure.

    It was an okay story to me, but much of the dramatic effect has worn off over the years, since everything has been destroyed and these same characters died so many times now. So, certainly no in-universe significance but I can see how it has it on personal level.

    On the other hand, my Crisis was Secret Wars, that one I read right when it came out here, in 1987-1988 as a backup of Finnish Edition of Spider-Man. As I have mentioned before, our books were considerably thicker, containing usually 2-3 American issues, sometimes more. First half was Amazing Spider-Man, second was Secret Wars. I was new to superhero comics and just learned to read properly, as I was 7 or 8 at the time and it was incredible to me. So many characters, most of who I´ve never seen, especially on the villains side. I knew main heroes and X-Men, but not all of them, villain side only Galactus, Dr. Doom and Dr. Octopus. I learned as things went on and learned more about these guys, I dont think it was necessary at all to have previous knowledge.

    This series gave me good overview of many of the most important Marvel characters and cemented Dr. Doom forever as the most dangerous villain in Marvel Universe in my mind, as it elevated Captain America to its bravest hero too. Still my favorite comic book “event” and probably stays that way forever. I can easily imagine Crisis on Infinite Earths to be very similar to many people.

    At the end of the day, it doesnt matter if it has any lasting effect to current comics, it will always be a personal thing to every one who remembers it fondly, like all good stories.

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