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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 9:58am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

This subject keeps coming up, but in other topics. So let's get down to brass tacks.

First - does anyone not know the set up? Back in the early 80s, DC editorial decided that their books were two confusing, what with all the Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-S, etc. craziness. So it's time to clear the decks, start over, and make it easy to understand for everyone.

Which I believe is a huge lie. I think what happened is that Marvel was pretty dominant over DC, and they needed a BIG idea to get readers back. How? Start 'me over from scratch. After all, who wouldn't buy the hell out of a new Superman or Batman #1? And - so SOMEONE thought - no writers would ever have to rely on a past story or element. They could make it up as they go.

CATASTROPHE #1: Writing doesn't depend on one book and one writer. What happens with team books, where the same characters are being written independently by two writers with carte blanche (e.g., Justice League of America)? Or characters such as Superman and Batman, who have multiple books? Now TWO writers are bound by each other's continuity.

The Plan: Find a story that will give DC a reason to get rid of ALL EXISTING STORIES, CHARACTERS, HISTORY, and CONTINUITY. And let's call it a crisis, since the first universal crossover was called Flash of* - that is, Crisis on Earth-1. It has to be far ranging to *pull in every reader of every title* - No, no! To affect every character from Anthro to Kamandi to Dr. Fate to Amethyst to Jimmy Olsen to the Legion of Super-Heroes to Hawkman to Wonder Woman to Superfriends.

*Flash #123, "Flash of Two Earths", was the first crossover book. But "Crisis of Two Earths" isn't quite as dynamic a title. No complaints about "Crisis on Infinite Earths' as a title.

Solution? Create a story that literally erases the DC Universes in every way shape or form.** Everything starts over from brand spanking new, and they can go whatever direction the writer wants.

**"Hey, can we erase and rewrite the Marvel Universe too? Those four crossover books are legit and part of history that CAN'T be changed." "Shut up, Melvin."

Once the DC Universe is entirely removed, we start again from scratch - every character. It has to be everyone or it doesn't count. So it is decreed, so it is done.

CATASTROPHE #2: They cheated and didn't restart everyone. Among whatever others anyone can think of, Batman, Green Lantern, and New Teen Titans were NOT restarted - they were barely touched by the Crisis - because they were selling so well, and DC didn't want to kill the Golden Geese. So there's a brand spanking new Superman, a totally recreated Wonder Woman - and 45 years of Batman continuity that now not only DOESN'T start from the beginning again, but has to be fine-tooth combed as far as existing history to see what to keep and what to dump.

CATASTROPHE #3: In addition to some titles cheating as above... some writers just played with it a little, and found that they didn't WANT to recreate Green Arrow from the very beginning. So they throw in story elements that they want, but don't coordinate them with others, or even with the original stories. Just little bits, not enough to build a story on.

CATASTROPHE #4: Atom, Flash and Green Lantern from Earth-1 and Earth-2 are pretty independent of each other; no need to consider too much crossover. But we get to Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin - even Aquaman, Black Canary, or Hawkman. It's a new universe; they CANNOT be in two separate times**, because DC isn't doing time travel any more***. This has to be resolved, and Roy Thomas made a creditable effort for the 40s. But how do you replace Superman and Batman and Robin? In a way that makes them believable?

** All hail Mr. Byrne, who found a perfect way to address Wonder Woman as secretary of the JSA... or at least, as perfect a solution as I could conceive or desire.

** Time travel became forbidden. Oh, but we can't just abandon the Legion of Superheroes - they're selling too well. And now that there is no Superboy (per editorial dictate, 'cause I'm sure Mr. Byrne could have easily addressed this), those books and stories got turned round and round and ended up stuck standing on their heads.

These are some of the reasons that Crisis just plain failed; it fixed a problem that didn't need to be fixed (except for increasing sales) and it wasn't done as described, nor consistently.

Now, let's see what you think. What worked? What didn't? COULD it have worked? Let's chat!


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John Byrne
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 10:06am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

As I have said before, I knew CRISIS was doomed to failure when Dick Giordano told me they were getting rid of all the alternate universes “except the one with Captain Carrot.”

sigh

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Peter Martin
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 2:34pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Crisis of clashing asterisked footnotes!

For as long as it's been a thing, Crisis has never failed to confuse me. Full disclosure though: I was a Marvel reader and not a DC reader at all before and during Crisis. So my experience is as an outsider who liked comics and might possibly want to jump aboard. So really, what Crisis was ostensibly trying to achieve should have been right up my street. 

So, for me, the Man of Steel reboot made perfect sense by itself and was very appealing. A writer/artist whose work I knew and adored from Marvel. A retelling from the start, streamlined to keep the essential elements, but remove the barnacle-build from all those accumulated decades of stories. Fine. Just what I needed.

But then if you looked around at other DC books, it was a really confusing web. Not everything seemed to be moving in tandem. 

Of course, there wasn't really a need for reboots anyway. Batman was the other DC hero I was interested in and, as Eric says in his post, Batman was not restarted. A few years after Crisis, I started buying Detective Comics regularly, when Grant/Wagenr/Breyfogle were telling the tales, and these were generally self-contained stories -- and you didn't need to know any of the history/continuity to enjoy them. Which is, of course, really how it should be.
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Jason Larouse
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 3:50pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I re-read CRISIS a little while ago and was struck at how there was absolutely no indication that it was supposed to lead to a Superman reboot. The Superman at the end of the story was pretty clearly still the Bronze Age Superman. It shows how poorly planned the whole thing was. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 4:10pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

POORLY planned would have been a step UP.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 4:15pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Batman only had to wait a year or so for Frank Miller's Year One to come along and re-structure his history, along with Max Allan Collins' rewrite of Jason Todd's history. That's within the same timeframe it took DC to corral Perez into dusting off Greg Potter's WW proposal and running with it himself. 

The issues of those comics published in-between the end of Crisis and the new relaunches may or may not constitute "catastrophes" on their own, but they certainly didn't help. In any case,  Batman was no more immune to the history-altering effects of Crisis than anyone else. It just took a while for DC to hire the guy they wanted to knock him into shape for the new DCU. 

I've long considered the Tangent Universe "skip-month" event to be the way Crisis should have been done. Everyone starts over from day one. The characters are different enough that no one is "importing" stories over from the past and "rewriting" them to "fit" in the new cosmology. 

I don't believe those specific versions, conceived to be as different from the mainstream characters as possible, literally the same "in name only," would have worked as the Post-Crisis versions of DC's main characters, but they certainly needed to be a bit more daring out of the gate and been ready to go all at once when the starting gun was fired. 

Their lackadaisical, meandering approach allowed them to get the best people to produce some really good work, but it also scuttled the overall rebuild and twisted their new, "perfected" timeline into some pretty wonky pretzel shapes. 

Bad calls like setting "Hawkworld" in the present ("What? It worked for Wonder Woman...") and stacking Power Girl's origin with amnesia on top of a reboot just made the whole affair even more ungainly and stumble-footed. 

It should be mentioned that Captain Carrot's world was preserved at the time because the long-delayed Oz/Wonderland War was running concurrently with Crisis. When it was over, Earths C and C-Minus were as dead and gone as all the others. 

Crisis simply avoided the issue of their existence at the time rather than effectively tell readers the funny-animal characters in the book next to Crisis on the rack were all going to die soon anyway. 

At the time, I was annoyed that DC's writers, editors, and press releases all included C and C-Minus on their lists of the "confusing" parallel Earths  (both joke Earths from a knee-slapping Marvel emigre having his yocks at DC's expense), and yet didn't even allow Carrot and his crew to appear in Crisis at all. I don't think they even appear in a crowd scene anywhere. They were cited by many as a tipping point for the whole parallel Earth overflow problem but not allowed to take part in the "solution." 

Honestly, at the moment I think the worst thing to come out Crisis for DC as a company was Zero Hour, where they learned readers would not only sit still for a series that "fixed" the last one, but financially reward the company for having screwed up in the first place. If Zero Hour had failed to sell, we wouldn't be having these non-stop impulse restarts every time DC's head honchos feel they need a new car.

DC took it to heart that any and every restart thereafter only had to look good for a few months, maybe a year or two, coast for a while, and then they could run to the bank again promising the next fix would be the real deal, once and for all. (Wink!)


Edited by Brian Hague on 01 October 2019 at 4:22pm
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 4:38pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

It should also be noted that, here, decades after the fact, DC has no cause whatsoever to regret any aspect of Crisis and what it's multiple errors and idiocies did to the company. 

Thematically, a third Flash should have been created. There was Jay at the dawn of the Golden Age, Barry at the start of the Silver, so there should have been a new someone, divorced from the others, to kick off the New DCU. But no, they went with Wally*, which meant that Barry never fully left the stage. He was there, in spirit, or in caption, throughout Wally's run as the Flash. So Crisis never really left the Earth-1 universe behind it. It dragged it along, explaining changes and contradictions constantly as they arose.

It never really jelled, but Wally readers embraced their new Flash, written just for them, and rejected his constant flashbacks to his time with Barry, loved his wife and his two kids who grew up in real time apparently, and declared the changeover a complete success.

Until DC reneged on their commitment to Wally and brought Barry back, inflaming the ire of Wally fans who saw this as a backwards move, just as the return of Hal had been. But sales... Sales kept rewarding this sort of storytelling; this inward-looking, navel-gazing, meta-textual approach where the characters themselves were all painfully aware of how precipitously unreal their realities were and how they had to fight to prevent being re-written into new continuities where maybe they'd remember their loved ones or maybe they wouldn't and that's if they existed at all. 

That's nuts. That is an extremely stupid hook to hang your storytelling upon. But DC keeps it up, and they seem to be doing fine by it. Yes, periodical sales everywhere are dwindling, but as far as their place it the market goes, DC's bread and butter are Crises, each  one more unrewarding and incestuous than the last. 

Besides, killing Barry and Kara in Crisis arguably led to the level of fan interest and availability that makes them television's sweethearts today. If we didn't kill Barry back then, we couldn't have brought him back in Flashpoint later, and based our TV show on that story now... 

What's to regret? Everything's working out like gangbusters**. Reboots sell. Crises excite the fans and the fan press. Who cares if none of it "works?" Clearly, it doesn't have to!

* Post-Crisis Wally had an entirely different set of parents from his Earth-1 self, by the way, which made the whole Millennium crossover kind of weird for older readers. "So... everything's the same... except this..." 

** Although not like THE Gangbuster. That guy can't sell a book to save his life. 


Edited by Brian Hague on 01 October 2019 at 4:41pm
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 5:09pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

And then three years after CRISIS which got rid of the Multiverse, DC started giving us prestige publications by the very best talent and called it ELSEWORLDS, tales which "might not exist, but probably do."  Which begs the question why all the history of beloved Earth-2 couldn't just be considered one of the "Elseworlds" instead of trying to merge continuities which continue to resist merging to this day.

I was flipping through the latest JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA issue, drawn by the great Jim Cheung (so I was tempted to buy) and I saw Shayera/Hawkgirl back again!  Yay!  Okay, take my $4 (or is it $5 now?)!  And then I continued flipping and saw that it was--well, no spoilers for anyone who plans to buy.  But it's clear to me that over thirty years later, DC is STILL playing off of CRISIS OF INFINITE EARTHS!  With some writers (still) trying to fix things, and others writers forever enjoying the chaos.


Edited by Eric Jansen on 01 October 2019 at 5:10pm
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 5:27pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Bad calls like setting "Hawkworld" in the present ("What? It worked for Wonder Woman...")

=====================================================

As I said in another thread John Ostrander and Tim Truman lobbied against this, but DC editorial mandated it had to happen in the ongoing continuity.
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Mike Norris
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 6:52pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I wish the entire post Crisis launch had been handled like Man of Steel. Including Wonder Woman. Though I'm not sure how George and the rest the WW team would have liked that.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 6:55pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

...handled like Man of Steel...

•••

Poorly?

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Mike Norris
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Posted: 01 October 2019 at 8:58pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I liked the concept of miniseries that set up the new status quo.I thought you did a great job of getting the character back to basics. 
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