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iFeature | DC’s CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS 39 Years Later

A Pop Culture Feature

Almost four decades later DC’s CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS remains the tectonic shift that forever would reshape the DC comics multiverse and have a profound impact across the medium leading to a new era, a superhero renaissance!

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Imagine if you could two of the most prolific talents in comic books, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez basking in the success of their profound achievement, the comic book was gaining a huge audience in the late 70s and increasing into the 80s. Wolfman and Pérez were largely responsible for putting the spotlight on DC with their collaborative revitalization introducing The New Teen Titans. The book that brought together the major DC Comics sidekicks had dropped off the radar, but as readership became more sophisticated thanks to Marvel’s own best-selling The Uncanny X-Men, DC took a page from the competitor and reignited the Titans.

A dash of old and new, the Teen Titans reunited legacy fan favorites Robin, Boy Wonder, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl, with surviving Doom Patrol member Beast Boy (now calling himself Changeling), and introduced some new faces, the man-machine Cyborg, the alien powerhouse Starfire, and the mysteriously ethereal Raven. Character was key accompanied by awe-inspiring art design, and deeply dramatic story arcs, that depended on real emotion, making the new series a top seller. The parallels between the Titans and Marvel’s X-Men were also so apparent that they led to a landmark teaming up of the two imprints and the super teams.

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Although this monumental crossover event between the two powerhouse teams took place outside of regular comics continuity for both DC and Marvel readers, for a long time DC had endured a very vigorous and complex continuity that convoluted histories and resorted to dividing the Golden Age and Silver Age distributing the heroes of each era to two separate worlds, inside a volume of a multiverse. The DC characters introduced in the publishing giant’s “Golden” era, printed during a grueling world war on Earth-2. While their “Silver” era, the products of an Atomic Age and rising interest in science-fiction inhabited a more contemporary Earth-1.

The multiverse largely existed without one, intersecting with the other, but that all changed with the landmark release of a story appearing in The Flash #123, “Flash of Two Worlds” published in 1961. The story written by Gardner Fox, introduced The Flash of the Silver Age (Earth-1), Barry Allen, to his predecessor, Jay Garrick, The Flash of Earth-2. It was explained that the multiple earths were separated by a specific vibrational frequency, which is why the speedsters were the first to crossover. Since their fateful team-up, the heroes of each Earth began to meet regularly in epic often cataclysmic events, that although exciting, would often cause more continuity issues in their fallout.

As a creative pairing, Wolfman and Pérez were considered golden! The creatives had the undivided attention of the imprint’s editorial staff, including DC Comics’ president Jenette Kahn, and along with the collaborative efforts of additional longtime comic creatives, Bob Greenberger, Roy Thomas, Dick Giordano, Wolfman had undertaken the heavy-lifting of pitching his story that would redefine the DC comics continuity. As DC Comics approached a major celebration, its 50th-anniversary creating legends, Wolfman proposed that it was time for the imprint to “clean house” and make some sense of its lengthy history.

The Infinitude Shuddered.

The result of their creative efforts led to one of the most groundbreaking narratives ever told, as the legacy of DC came alive explosively (literally) in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths promising that nothing would ever be the same again. Though the main effort of this “crisis event” was to help usher in the next age, the next 50 years for DC comics storytelling, at the core of this extraordinary story is one of heroism and sacrifice. During the year-long arc, DC heroes and villains of every generation faced insurmountable odds to save lives, thwart an evil opponent, and ultimately save as many lives as possible. “Worlds will live, worlds will die, and nothing will ever be the same.”

Nearly four decades later, the standard remains, untouchable.

This month DC commemorates the Crisis on Infinite Earths anniversary by re-releasing the original 12-part maxi-series in monthly increments, perfectly reprinted in various deluxe formats including a reflective foil card stock cover giving George Pérez’s wraparound cover art a beautifully enduring sheen. The “1st Issue Spectacular” is appropriately spread across the top-line banner over the main title, and once inside the story begins to unravel, as the origin of the multiverse is revealed. An all-consuming threat is spreading across the multiverse destroying one world after another. A gathering of costumed adventurers from every world and time is assembled as the frontline defense is staged!

I’ve written many times about the impact and relevance of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series especially because of the personal and deep reverence I have for this magnificent work. The series changed the way I looked at comic books, by bringing front and center the significance (the importance) of legacy and the proliferation of mythology, or in this case, the modern mythologies relating to the superhero genre. Wolfman and Pérez touch very urgently on the weight of “legacy” and respecting all that has come before, weaving a tale that transcends the modern (the current) and enhances brilliantly what has come before.

Throughout the 12-part saga, there are far-reaching touchstones of significant emotional depth, as the “crisis” is revealed and the heroes are faced with the magnitude of what they are facing. The brushed palette of characters from across all of DC comics that are recruited by the Harbinger are nonetheless impressive in their myriad diversity, but it’s the introduction of the story’s mysterious Monitor that dramatically raises the stakes. The alien’s sheer presence is enough to inspire awe and the knowledge that this specter has been suspiciously keeping an arm’s length from events throughout some time (in the pages of The New Teen Titans) adds another level to his enigmatic profile.

Crisis on Infinite Earths evolved the superhero genre, and especially how audiences digested those narratives. Suddenly there were consequences, our legends made blood and bone, their lives as fragile and as complex as ours. The superhero and its journey became relatable in a way that had not proven itself to resonate with audiences before. The Crisis would prove generationally influential and lead to similarly large-scale events that would lead to earth-shattering results. It would also transcend media and prove a leading trajectory that defined the live-action iteration of a combined DC primetime universe. Crisis on Infinite Earths indeed changed everything and remains the most influential event in any multiverse.

CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #1 | 39th Anniversary Re-Release | by Marv Wolfman, George Pérez,  and Dick Giordano |  is available now and in various editions. $5.99

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