Monday, September 26, 2011

Moments That Made the Bronze (and Modern) Age: Crisis On Infinite Earths

In the mid-80's, DC took a bold step and admitted it had a problem. They just had too many different Earths floating around out there! Initially it was used to explain how the Justice Society of the 40's could exist and still work with the JLA 20 years later, which was a good idea. Unfortunately, they soon started creating new worlds whenever they needed a convenient excuse, giving us Earth 3 with the Crime Syndicate, Earth X with the Freedom Fighters, and many more.

The time came for a clean-up, and DC gave it to the world in a big way. Creating a 12-issue maxi-series, giving it to one of their best artists ever (George Perez), and deciding it was time to kill some major heroes, DC boldly stepped forward and blew my mind with every issue. But the one that truly blew me away had to be the death of my favorite hero at the time: The Flash.

Now I've mentioned Barry Allen's death before in other posts, but that pivotal moment in the series changed the landscape of the comic book world for me. This was years before the Internet, so finding exact issues where other heroes had died wasn't something I'd been able to do with regularity. Yes, I knew the Batman of Earth 2 had died somehow, and I'd seen the JLA issue where Mr. Terrific died, but most hero deaths were stuff that happened in books I would never get to read. The Flash's death, however, I held in my trembling little hands and couldn't believe as I sat in the floor of the drug store in front of the magazine rack.

The Flash's death was preceded by Supergirl's in the previous issue, but I'd never been a big fan of her's so it didn't bother me nearly as much. I kept waiting for the next issue to come out and say that Barry was alive somehow, but it never happened. Wally West stepped in and became the first major sidekick to take on the role of his mentor.

Marvel didn't sit on the sidelines though, as they unleashed Secret Wars and tried to make some changes. They gave us the symbiote Spider-Man suit,, the suit was cool. They just weren't able to pull off the universe-altering effect DC did with this series.

Another favorite of mine who died was the original Dove, Don Hall (his death is pictured in our blog's title image). Again, I'd hoped for a return, but it never happened. Even up to this day, Don has never come back, even though Supergirl, Barry Allen, and even the Crime Syndicate has found their way back to the land of the living. Oh well, if I ever get the chance to write for DC...

The thing that makes this series stand out is that the changes here were long-lasting--for comic books anyway. Wally West stayed the Flash for the next 20 years as Barry Allen stayed dead. We had just one Earth to deal with, but all the heroes were on it.

Then someone got the stupid idea to try and write a sequel to this hit and we ended up with the "Phantom Menace" of the comic book world: Infinite Crisis. That series decided the hero of the last maxi-series should actually become the villain of the new one. Fortunately for them, Grant Morrison took everyone on such a mind trip in the follow-up Final Crisis, that he was able to make IC look almost readable.

All cruel words aside, Crisis on Infinite Earths was, to me, a pinnacle for the 80's. I still hold it as a standard I judge other miniseries by and think DC really knocked it out of the park with this one. I consider the Absolute Edition of this story a must-have simply because seeing George's artwork in the larger-than-life format is a real treat.

I have just a couple more stories to mention over the next two weeks, and then I want to dive into the black hole decade of the comic book world as we discuss what went horribly, horribly wrong in the 90's. But first, next week: A guest shot in another comic had this hero defeated in his first fight, but his next appearance in the comic world helped create one of the most popular titles of all time...


Reed S. said...

Great post, I just started reading DC and COIE was my entry point. I loved every minute of it, it was big it was fun and I had prior knowledge of most of the characters so there wasn't need for too much character development.

I've read a lot of the Marvel Crossovers and COIE was the first one I actually thought was...well good. Not that the others were bad they were just ok. I'd come in with high hopes and leave on a "That was it?"

Mike said...

hmmm.................I'm thinking Secret Wars was before Crisis. This post makes it sound like Crisis was first.

Big fan of Crisis on Infinite Earths even though I didn't read it until about 10 years after the fact. I collected Secret Wars as they came out.

Mars Will Send No More said...

Just how oversized is the Absolute edition? Is it the size of Marvel Treasury Editions?

We always enjoy re-reading this series, but if we could get all those teeny tiny pictures of everyone blown up on nice paper, we'd be thrilled.

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