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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Crisis On Infinite Earths. A Great Comic Book Series...but was it a Con?

Sales of Defective Comics since yesterday have picked up so there are now far fewer to buy. Just letting you know.

Last night, after all the "DC and Marvel Comics are dead" talk I decided to try to read Crisis On Infinite Earths again.  I never made it past part 1.  Now this was a series I came across in the odd newsagents shop and it took a year to get all 12 issues. I read them.  My brother read them.  I read them so much that I needed to buy the trade to stop the covers falling off.

I know some people do not care about the Silver Age Flash. But even a Mervelite has to have something to read and those old Justice League of America comics, and occasionally my older brother's DC comics, fitted the bill.  I was reading the fanzines and talking to fans back then. "They killed the ****** Flash!" about sums the response.

Then...then they killed Supergirl...


Oddly, that face kind of sums it all up.

Now I was a Marvelite and here I am seeing some of DC Comics greatest heroes being wiped out. People in the DC Universe could not even remember them. If I was left slightly shell-shocked you can imagine how the true DC comic fans were feeling.  They had invested a lot of emotion in some of these characters -some from a very early age. Now their heroes were being wiped out.

Yes, DC had continuity problems. Golden Age and Silver Age Superman, not to mention Superboy and there was a Golden Age Aquaman as well as the Silver Age one.  You see, National Publications (DC) were publishing comics to make money  -why should they care if there was no continuity? The rags made money so screw that.

But it was not always like that.  In the 1940s some of DCs top super heroes such as the Green Lantern, Atom, Hawkman, etc. teamed up to form the Justice Society of America.  Fans at the time suddenly realised that all these characters inhabited the same world.  Wow.  And let's not forget Timely and The All Winners Squad. But All Star Comics #3, Winter 1940/41 was the first appearance of the JSA.
 The team were back, on and off, up to the early 2000s (based on Earth 2 of course) but after the 2007 series it all went, as we are want to say in Bristol, "tits up".

But with Crisis on Infinite Earths everything had changed and we even saw old Charlton Comics characters (let's say they were "legally" purchased from the old company because that deal is so fraught with dodgy deals...) such as the Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, the Question and others enter The Crisis. Some of these characters, post Crisis, got their own comic series because Crisis had made them part of the DCU post Crisis.

As people noted, however, continuity -the whole supposed reason for the Crisis series- started falling apart even as Crisis On Infinite Earths #12 hit the shelves. John Byrne was brought in to reboot Superman and others came in to usher the new Post Crisis era in.  But as we know now, things were not that smooth (or pleasant for some of the creators).  See, Sean Howe needs to do a "DC Comics Behind Closed Doors" -which should be fun because people who spilled the beans on Marvel for that book have spilt more than a few cans of beans on DC....before jumping back on board....and off again.

DC Comics had discovered their little "continuity cleanser" made a barrel load of money. Uh...maybe another little Crisis might make more money again? It did.  No one seems to talk about Zero Hour? It's taken a couple decades but comic fans have tired of all the reboots.  They settle into a new Batman or Superman then..reboot.  Over and over.

You know, I had a panic email from the old editor at Silver bullet Comics (it used to be a great interview site) I worked for  - he had the opportunity to interview Marv Wolfman who had adapted the new Superman Returns movie into a novel.  The studio put him up for interviews but the editor had fan-boy nerves so I explained how to handle the interview. I got to, uh, "interview" the "legend". It's all in The Hooper Interviews and will never be posted online so you want to read it....

Anyway, Wolfman was a pain.  He did not want to answer questions on the novel adaption -"non disclosure agreement".  In fact, I did wonder wtf he was willing to talk about since the studio arranged everything -he did confirm he was Marv Wolfman, though.  Eventually I thought: "I'll ask about Crisis On Infinite Earths -no non disclosures there!"  With the press pack came the lines: "Marv adapted his historic comic book series Crisis On Infinite Earths into an epic novel"  Well, I had never seen it nor read it so I thought as a writer he'd like to blow his own trumpet a little. I asked about how hard it was to adapt a 12 issue major comic series into a novel? "It's not based on the series".  Okay. He didn't want to talk too much but he did state he had left a "Get out of the ramifications of COIE" sequence in the comic.

Was it the one DC used for Final Crisis?  Who knows.  Buy the book and read the interview.

But things Wolfman said stuck in my mind.  Why would DC be publishing COIE to tidy up decades of messy continuity and let Wolfman put that "Get out and return everything to normal" segment. "It's what DC wanted" he said, though by that time my patience was up with the "Star".

Later I checked and talked to a few people who had been at DC at the time and even some of the old fan press people who were old pals with the DC writers. One person told me something. Unbeknownst to a second person what he told me matched with what person One told me.  Then a third and a very-hard-to-get-info out of fourth person.

DC comics was so unsure of what they were doing with killing all the characters off that there was an element of fear that fans would create a back-lash -these were, after all, legendary DC Comic heroes. So, if the back-lash happened everything could be undone quickly with another series. DC had that little faith in what they were doing and it is unclear whether they did not care about the fan back-lash that happened because it did not affect sales badly or whether it was a case of "Screw it".  It was interesting that several people mentioned the existence of at least one "reverse the Crisis" script but who wrote it -? There were even rumours that the script in question was used to form the Zero Hour series.

The thing is that COIE followed on from Marvel's successful Marvel Super Heroes Secret War so was the whole "continuity clean up" really nothing more than a way to try to make money out of fans and beat Marvel? Just look at DC comic history since then. Every other year we had another crisis, trade reprints of the old JLA-JSA team ups were all Crisis On Multiple Earths, we had Identity CRISIS.....well, we know that "Crisis" popped up in the first JLA-JSA cross-over but let's have a count here:

  • 1"Crisis on Earth-One!" and "Crisis on Earth-Two!"
  • 2"Crisis on Earth-Three!"
  • 3"Crisis on Earth-A!"
  • 4"Crisis Between Earth-One and Earth-Two!"
  • 5"The Super-Crisis That Struck Earth-Two!" and "The Negative-Crisis On Earths One-Two!"
  • 6Undeclared crises
  • 7"Crisis on Earth-X!"
  • 8"Crisis in Eternity!", "Crisis on Earth-S!", and "Crisis in Tomorrow!"
  • 9"Crisis in the 30th Century!" and "Crisis in Triplicate!"
  • 10"Crisis from Yesterday" and "Crisis from Tomorrow"
  • 11"Crisis above Earth-One"
  • 12"Crisis on New Genesis", "Crisis Between Two Earths", and "Crisis on Apokolips"
  • 13"Countdown to Crisis" and "Crisis in Limbo"
  • 14"Crisis on Earth-Prime"
  • 15"Crisis in the Thunderbolt Dimension"
  • 16"Family Crisis"
  • 17Crisis on Infinite Earths, "Last Crisis on Earth-Two", and "The Final Crisis"
  • 18"A second Crisis"
  • 19Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!
  • 20"Crisis Times Five"
  • 21Countdown to Infinite Crisis
  • 22Infinite Crisis
  • 23Final Crisis

That is 23 crises. The use of "Crisis" begins in 1963 and most comic fans seem to be unaware of this and some think the title Crisis On Multiples Earths might be to cash in on the COIE rather than being a title created to gather together the 1960s JLA-JSA crises.

So...are you seeing a connection here?

"Infinite Crisis is a 2005–2006 comic book storyline published by DC Comics, consisting of an eponymous, seven-issue comic book limited series written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Phil JimenezGeorge PérezIvan Reis, and Jerry Ordway, and a number of tie-in books. The main miniseries debuted in October 2005, and each issue was released with two variant covers: one by Pérez, and one by Jim Lee and Sandra Hope.
The series storyline was a sequel to DC's 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, which "rebooted" much of the DC continuity in an effort to fix 50 years of contradictory character history."
Could it I could tell you to go look at advertising ploys.  "Key words" and how to exploit them.  Draw the punters back over and over by doing the same thing but selling it as wholly new by adding a few new elements, but keeping it the same story.

Wait.  I'll let that sink in.

Here -different writers but the same basic old story.......

 The penny has finally dropped. Yeah, they got me with Zero Hour but through the art (in fact, I never bought that series -it was given to me and the person told me "great art but crap story")

And DCs 52 was a "crisis" without "Crisis" in the title.  Maybe DC tried to catch us out with that one?  I actually got all the 52 trades for about £3-5.00 each ($7-10.00).  Read straight through them all in a week.  Some good art.  Some great art.  Some not quite good art.  The mix looked messy.  The story...not that great at all. 

"The New 52 was the 2011 revamp and relaunch by DC Comics of its entire line of ongoing 
monthly superhero comic books. Following the conclusion of the "Flashpoint" crossover storyline, DC cancelled all of its existing titles and debuted 52 new series in September 2011 
with new first issues."

So, as I tried to read Crisis On Infinite Earths last night, well, it was after Midnight so this morning if you want to be technical, I just thought about that Wolfman interview and the things I'd learnt back in the 1980s and even last week! Crisis On Infinite Earths has a place next to Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in DC comics history but when you start to think about it, yeah, good story but there is that bad taste in the mouth...continuity never meant much to DC and after its "clean up" it still meant nothing.  A few years back, when Howard Chaykin was at a Bristol Comic Expo he stated (and I wrote about this before): "F*** continuity.  Continuity is shit!"  DCs Bob Wayne sat next to him and agreed.

I have no idea what DC is doing now. Most people are saying the books such as Green Lantern are not actually "going anywhere but just going over things from previous issues".

This is why I say DC Comics is dead. I think Crisis On Infinite Earths was a good comic but comic fans were conned.  We just never knew.  Do your own research -see what you come up with.

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