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Crisis Made a Hot Girl Ugly

With the recent discussion of company-wide crossovers, and with the blog’s two-year anniversary, I thought it would be neat to share this interesting piece Joe wrote two years ago, soon after the blog began, about his thoughts about Crisis on Infinite Earths. Enjoy!

I thought I’d finally type out why exactly I don’t like one of my all-time pet peeve comics, especially since a sequel is rumored to be in the works. Now, this blog isn’t always going to be negative, but this was something I think I needed to get out of the way. Saying this usually causes shocked silence, loud rage, or a quiet “Yeah, me too.” Here goes: I think Crisis on Infinite Earths was an awful, awful comic book. It was awful in regards to its effects, its story, and its art. And if you listen up, I’m going to tell you why.

The DCU used to be like, say, Angelina Jolie: a hot girl . . .crazy, but the fun kind of crazy. Crisis removed those amazing lips, changed her eyes to something smaller and more close-set, added a hundred pounds or so and scarred up her face. It took something that was awesome as it was, and in some weird attempt to “fix” it, turned it into a boring piece of crud. First off, by consolidating all the multiple universes (yeah, it gets real nerdy here) it severely limited storytelling potential. No longer was anyone allowed to tell an “alternate earth” story. No more alternate versions of characters or timelines. The previously established Earths, all gone or combined. In doing this, another complication arose. Earth S had its own tone and feel. So did Earths 1 and 2, X, C, etc. By combining them all, these worlds had to find a common ground of tone. Now the Fawcett characters had to work in the same world, under the same rules as the modern DC, as the Charleton, as the Quality, etc. There was less room for individual voice. This paved the way for grim and gritty Elongated Man stories; when the shared universe became this absolute and this monolithic, there became less and less room for anything different. Mary Marvel gets molested. Sgt. Rock lived in a world of spandex. Uniformity trumped creativity.

On a side note, Crisis also paved the way for the rather lackluster revamping of the DCU. Byrne’s boringization of Superman, more and more writers misunderstanding Miller’s DKR, the Wonder and Hawk families making zero sense, and Hal Jordan becoming a drunk driving jackass. Now, I don’t blame DKR for stuff like this. It’s not Miller’s fault other writers and readers didn’t get the point (Batman being happy in the end). But Crisis was made expressly as a guidepost for the DCU. DKR and Watchmen were one-offs, special projects. Crisis was a company-wide directive.

Secondly, the story was sub-par at the very best. It substituted flash for substance, like a crap summer blockbuster starring Vin Diesel, but without the beautiful homoeroticism (well, with less of it). Anti-climax after anti-climax piled up as the heroes ONCE AGAIN set off after the Anti-Climax, I mean, Anti-Monitor. You can only pull that trick so many times. “The princess is not in this castle.” That’s why I stopped playing Mario brothers. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, eat shit.

What story was there made little sense. So we’ve got this multiversal problem, just the biggest thing to ever hit existence. So, let’s recruit a team of interdimensional heroes to solve this. OK, first on the list: Blue Beetle. Yeah, Blue Beetle. After him, I want another powerhouse like, say . . .Cyborg. How about Firebrand II? There is nothing wrong with these characters inherently (other than ugly, ugly design for Cyborg). But an all-powerful godlike being picking these guys and freakin’ Obsidian as the UNIVERSE SAVING TEAM is a huge case of what I’ve seen called “Plot-Induced Stupidity.” Why were these characters picked? Because Marv Wolfman wanted to write them, or something, I guess.

The third problem I have with the story in Crisis is that, really, the heroes lost. I mean, this is a huge fucking failure. We must save the multiverse! OK, we didn’t. But we managed to combine a few of the worlds in a way that makes all of them lamer! Wow, that’s great. It’s not that the heroes have to win every battle. They completely don’t. But this HUGE failure was treated like a great success. Imagine if the JLA was supposed to save the world, but instead managed to take pieces of West Virginia, Latvia, Egypt, and Thailand and smoosh them together. What kind of vitory would that be? That’s what happend in Crisis.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the art. Now, I realize that George Perez has his fans. I may not care for his art, but I do see that. But from what I can tell, his popularity is based on the fact that he draws a lot of details. Take Neal Adams (please!), add a lot more little lines all over the place, remove the distinction between background and foreground, and instill the worst design sense possible and BOOM you’ve got yourself a Perez. All those lines! Liefeld puts them in too, but it’s acceptable to make fun of him on the internet. But George Perez is like unto a god! Have you ever looked at his art in black and white? It looks like a combination of a really hard maze in a coloring book and spaghetti. Very little is distinguishable. I will admit that the best part of Crisis (other than the two emotional punches of Supergirl’s and Flash’s deaths) is the art. I would add, however, that’s akin to saying was the best part of being beaten up by a professional football team was they didn’t use their elbows very much.

That’s my take on Crisis. But I want to hear yours. Do you like it? Give me reasons, other than “It’s BIG!” That doesn’t count. Show me how it makes sense. Show me how it made the DCU more interesting rather than less interesting. Show me how to get away with weird Angelina Jolie metaphors in a blog about comic books. Show me the way.

45 Comments

Joe said: Saying this usually causes shocked silence, loud rage, or a quiet “Yeah, me too.”

I think I’d fall into the me-too brigade, but with a couple of provisions…

1. I like George Perez’ art here, especially after Ordway took over the inking. Sorry.

2. I came to the conclusion with the benefit of hindsight, and after seeing what a train wreck the RAMIFICATIONS of it became. When it was happening, it was all very exciting. You have to remember, this was one of the first BIG! CROSSOVER! EVENTS! and not only that: fans of my generation, especially, had very fond memories of the old JLA-JSA Crisis stories. This was one of those, turned up to eleven on the nerd-o-meter. So we tended to get kind of caught up in it. Only after it was all over and the dust settled did we all start saying, hey, wait, that doesn’t make sense. At the time we were all “MAN, this is SO much better than SECRET WARS! Rawk!”

But it really didn’t age well, especially after everyone kept picking at it and picking at it.

While a lot of your points have merit, I kinda like the George Perez ‘lots of heroes stand around and look confused scenes.’ Some might call it Where’s Waldo for Vibe fans, but it’s fun to see the Warlord, Sgt. Rock, and Jonah Hex rubbing elbows with Batman, the Creeper, and the Metal Men.

Of course, it was fun once. Once. After Crisis, none of those characters needed to come near a superhero universe, ever again. That way lies Power Girl in Skartaris, senior citizen Rock in the Suicide Squad, and Hex.

Then there’s the inherent not-smartness of destroying or condensing an infinite number of alternate universes down to 6 or so, then 1. Infinite means infinite! The Anti-Monitor could destroy a million alt-realities a day and still not get anywhere. Grrr.

I must concur with what Greg said.

“MAN, this is SO much better than SECRET WARS! Rawk!”

Ha! That was me, 20+ years ago.

I also tend to like Perez art.

But COIE wasn’t a well-told story, really, and it the feel of a bad retrofit. The Monitor debuted as a connector of hitmen and their clients, and an arms dealer. This was explained as a necessary way to get resources, but it doesn’t make much sense.

And the removal of the multiverse was just as bad for DC as Joe says. TOO many supercharacter in one earth, and all the fun of the wacky universes (Freedom Fighters on a world where the Nazis won, a world where nobody much noticed a talking tiger in a business suit, an alternate universe inhabited by funny animals) is gone.

I agree; I miss the DCU where Wonder Girl could just exist all of a sudden and all Superman’s friends took turns getting super powers every issue. As much as I love that fast, loose, “let’s try anything and everything and see what sticks” attitude, I always felt that alternate reality versions of characters, like future versions of characters, was lazy. It’s one step in the lazy ladder above evil twin or clone. If not being able to do an alternate reality story means you have no ideas then you have no ideas.

Granted it was a little different with DC because of the JSA and Seven Soldiers and Freedom Fighters and Captain Marvel and blah blah blah but you still have a lot of the same problems. Where was Captain Marvel when Superman was getting killed by Doomsday? I don’t know. Same time, a quick hop to Earth 2 and Earth 2 later and you’ve got two Supermen AND Captain Marvel beating up Doomsday. Neither sounds much better to me. Not to mention how insane things get when Doomsday teams up with Earth 2 Doomsday and forms a Doomsday Duo, then the Legion of Supervillains brings Future Doomsday back in time to make it a TRIO….

Wonder Woman had a secret origin for her shoes. Flash got his powers from the 5th dimension. And let’s not forget Martian Manhunter’s brother. I’m not saying the current DCU doesn’t have a lot of problems- a shared universe has problems inherently, having about eight shared universes in one universe is ridiculous- but I don’t think everything was necessarily better when the universes were “Shared But Not Really” and all it took was waiting a few months before Wildcat could show up to help fight.

I’m not a huge fan of the way Perez’s characters look. There’s this kind of more-defined-than-reality-dipped-in-plastic thing to ‘em.

But the man has some serious design skills. He’s one of the best in the medium in terms of page composition.

When I was 16 and Crisis was first being published, I loved it. Mainly I loved the attention to detail (and not just in the art), seeing all these characters at one time (having “every character in the DC universe” in one series was kind of a dream come true for comics-geek teenagers in thos days), seeing a bunch of new characters I was barely familiar with (such as the Charlton ones), it was just cool.

I don’t agree that the ‘victory’ of the heroes was treated as a “great success”; my impression is that it was treated (by the characters) as a pyrrhic victory, only a victory in that they were able to save something. But Crisis doesn’t have much denouement, so we don’t get to see much depth there.

Beyond that…

20 years later, the story doesn’t hold up well. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, really. And structurally it’s basically a “the villain tries one thing, that doesn’t work; he tries something else, that doesn’t work; and finally the heroes catch up to him and get him” sort of story, which is not very deep.

To the extent that the story works, it’s the characters which carry it, especially their reactions to how everything changed after the multiverse collapsed. So it’s still an interesting curiosity, perhaps a bit overwritten, as some of Wolfman’s cliches show through a little too much.

And, of course, I loved the multiverse and feel that it was a mistake to get rid of it, no matter how much fun Crisis was. I think it completely destroyed the Justice Society, for instance.

All that said, I can’t maningfully relate to your comments about Perez’ artwork. I think he’s the best artist in comics today, with an unbelievably imaginative design sense while still drawing completely readable layouts. His ability to render different faces, a wide variety of expressions and costumes, while having a strong sense of anatomy and a strong ability to draw settings and objects is unequalled among today’s comic book artists. His ability to add details to his panels is really just gravy; he’d be a terrific artist with or without that.

He’s gotten even better since Crisis. I think his best work ever was his run on Avengers with Kurt Busiek.

And yes, I’ve seen his work in black and white, and find it only slightly inferior to his colored work, but that’s only because I prefer colored art to B&W art in general. It’s still perfectly readable.

Clearly you and I just see Perez’ artwork completely differently, and there’s not really any point in arguing about it. I only wrote the above to demonstrate how my opinions are just diametrically opposite from yours. No doubt you don’t understand my point of view either. :-)

Was Crisis a success? Well, it was a fun read in its day and is still kind of fun today. And Perez’ artwork is (to me) fantastic, which is worth the price of admission all by itself. But ultimately I do agree that it was a mistake, as I think DC’s characters and universe have been the worse for it since it came out.

Also I think comparing Perez to Rob is pretty ridiculous, as if Avengers #1 and Captain America #1 reflect the same amount of effort and detail and attention. I know Rob is a byword for “I think this artist is a hack” online but you can hate Perez, perhaps not without reason, without getting nuts about it. I think it undercuts some of the valid arguments you make here when you descend into that kind of associative hyperbole.

I’m not comparing Liefeld to Perez. Clearly Perez is MUCH MUCH MUCH better. I just hate the little lines in both cases.

In an industry with Eisner, Miller, Clowes, Cooke, Williams, Quitely, and the like, I just can’t see how Perez merits much of a mention. It’s like the people obsessed with story minutae are also obsessed with drawn minutae.

Well said. As someone who didn’t get into superheroes in my youth and instead discovered them through their rich history, few things dismayed me more than seeing how DC tried to throw everything into the toilet with the Crisis. In fact, I think you can trace most of the problems the comic industry and general and superheroes in particular have been having in the last 20 years to Crisis–dismantling history for the sake of an uninvolving new direction, a desperate uncertainity as to whether they’re writing for kids, teenagers, or undeveloped adults, and a “clubhouse mentality” that focuses on stuff like continuity at the expense of accessibility for new readers. At this point, the concept of a “multiverse” is a much simpler, easier to grasp idea for anyone who doesn’t read comics than what’s been done since. So why the resistance to bringing it back?

I do like Perez’s art, though…

I think Titans more than anything is what secures his legacy in the minds of most but I haven’t made a thorough survey of the run, so I can’t say if it’s warranted or not.

Good list, by the way. Still, shout out to all the people who brought up KB’s Avengers so far:

“Ultron. We would have words with thee.”

In an industry with Eisner, Miller, Clowes, Cooke, Williams, Quitely, and the like, I just can’t see how Perez merits much of a mention. It’s like the people obsessed with story minutae are also obsessed with drawn minutae.

Perez has a particular skill none of those you mention have; he has a ridiculous amount of talent for composing scenes with a huge number of different characters, and far from simply making it not be confusing, Perez makes it not only easy to follow but allows the story to flow through his visual progression. There’s a reason all his best and most famous work has either come in huge crossovers (Crisis, JLA/Avengers) or team books (like his various runs on “Avengers”).

No other artist excels at this like Perez does. Honestly, it’s not even close. Go look at the composition of the fight scene between the Charlton heroes and Blok/Flash/Katana/Martian Manhunter in Crisis #6; Perez cuts back and forth between half a dozen individual fight scenes and does it absolutely flawlessly, allowing the various subfights to progress in turn.

Perez combines this with a design sensibility that’s just incredibly strong; he’s not a groundbreaker like Eisner or Miller, but he steals from the best and uses their ideas in ways they never would have, and that’s good enough for me. If occasionally his human mouths look a little too knobbly on the page, I can deal with it to get that design and composition.

Not to sound like a suckup, but I pretty much agree with everything that Joe said about COIE. I didn’t get a copy of it until last year, and it was a pretty big mess.

That said, the story rocks from the viewpoint of an 8 year old kid, as it pretty much follows the formula of any animated movie or “event” at that time.

And I dug Secret Wars way more back then, for that very reason.

My favorite Perez book is Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect. I love how he communicates the hustle of the market scenes, the despair of the wasteland survivors, and the Maestro revelling in his power. Add in some excellent chase- & action-sequences and a dark sense of humor, and you have a hell of a good super-hero comic.

No, Perez isn’t Eisner, etc. For that matter, Pearl Jam isn’t the Beatles, and Casino Royale isn’t Casablanca.

Re Crisis: I didn’t read it until it was released in paperback. Ugh, was it hard to get through. Wolfman’s dialogue, the sheer amount of crappy characters, and the nonsensical plot made reading Crisis a chore.

Meh. DC was never, EVER a hot girl. And definitely not a Angelina Jolie-like wildcat. What hot girl sits around waiting for her phone to ring while another girl is getting all of the attention? Because that was basically the state DC comics was in pre-Crisis as Shooter’s Marvel Comics was getting all the critical and fan attention and DC was just languishing as an also-ran, a relic from the past. Sure the hardcore comic fans that are into comics enough to read about them online may wax nostalgic about how nothing was wrong with them pre-Crisis and how they were more exciting, but growing up in the Shooter era I remember how no one in my school..and I mean NO one…read DC books. Among the casual young comics fan, they represented stiff and boring characters and stories. Marvel was the hot girl, DC was the homely older sister.

The only thing that kept DC alive was emulating Marvel…Grell and Cockrum giving the Legion a makeover that made them resemble Marvel characters more. Englehart doing Batman in Marvel style, Wolfman and Perez doing a comic in a watered down Marvel style called New Teen Titans, Miller revitalizing Batman and Byrne revitalizing Batman. The most enduring DC epics are those where they emulated the Marvel style or used Marvel creators. Post-Crisis DC was smart in that it took the Marvel emulation even further by abandoning the goofiness of multiple earths.

Other than that, alot of your other claims simply don’t hold up, since DC combined incompatible characters from different worlds long before the multiple earths concept was abandoned. There were plenty of stories of Sgt. Rock meeting superheroes during pre-Crisis DC. And the complaint about lighthearted heroes becoming grim and gritty because of the combined earth is also not true. They became gritty because DC was desperate to recreate Marvel’s success and went overboard in the imitation while missing the inspiration. They thought the key was the grittiness, so they decided to get even MORE gritty. They would have done this even if the multiple earths stayed separate, it would have just been gritty stories on separate earths instead of one shared one.

pre CRISIS I read far more Marvel than DC, after it gradually reversed. CRISIS streamlined and helped make DC coherent.

HOWEVER–it also ruined 2 of my favorite books-All Star Squadron & Infinity INC–neither were the same, and Young All Stars wasn’t that good.

Good column, Joe. I may not agree on Perez’s art — like most people here, it would appear — but overall I find Crisis extremely lacking, few redemptive bits aside.

I understand DC’s desire to streamline its universe and make it more accessible and modern, but the elimination of the Multiverse is still kinda silly — I mean, alternate universes are one of the most commonly-used ideas in comics and DC was fooling themselves if they thought they could have avoided them. All Crisis did was give us years of stories with parallel Earths being called “pocket universes”, which doesn’t even make sense as a term. I think the more reasonable thing would have been to just start fresh with a new Earth in 1986 and go from there — kind of like what Marvel eventually did with the Ultimate books, only line-wide.

I have no problem with the Crisis as a loss for the heroes. The real shame is that there’s so little denouement that there’s no opportunity to play up the sense of poignancy that should accompany that. That, and most of the heroes don’t actually remember the Multiverse, so they have no idea how spectacularly they failed.

Had DC played their cards right and brought the Multiverse back this year, with Infinite Crisis serving as the victory that eluded the heroes twenty years ago, it could have served as a fantastic meta fictional device signaling the end of the dark-and-gritty age. Oh well.

Also worth noting is how crappy a villain the Anti-Monitor is. He’s eeeeeeeevil! Why? Who knows, that’s just the kinda guy he is. Total plot device.

I think the first Crisis would have been a fine, typical, crazy comic book story if it was self-contained. Destroying ideas in comic book land seems to be, in general, a bad thing. The prime example seems to be the explicit reduction of the Superman mythos after Crisis, which, I agree, made him pretty boring. It seems much better for writers to just ignore ideas they don’t like so that future writes can return to them later after they like. I would liken DC less to Jolie and more to a young, carefree girl you enjoy spending time with during Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis I would liken DC to a grim and gritty old prostitute. This, of course, being an exaggeration.

I liked the characters, Harbringer and Pariah, that were sort of fleshed out in Crisis. In particular, I really enjoyed the ending where they find themselves stranded on (basically) our world. That was a nice human touch that complimented the general insanity.

Perez’s art is also to my liking. I know the enjoyment of art is subjective but I think one of the things you can use to measure an artist’s ability is his/her consistenty in a project. Do you agree that George demonstrates a very high degree of consistency in his distinctive, detailed style in Crisis as well in the numerous other projects he has undertaken?

Patrick wrote: Also worth noting is how crappy a villain the Anti-Monitor is. He’s eeeeeeeevil! Why? Who knows, that’s just the kinda guy he is. Total plot device.

I can’t believe I’m about the defend the Anti-Monitor, but actually he wasn’t just plain evil: He was the embodiment of the anti-matter universe and wanted to destroy the positive-matter multiverse so that only his domain would remain. Considering that matter and anti-matter just don’t coexist all that smoothly, his motivation seems understandable.

Considering Wolfman hit us over the head with plenty of other things in the series, it’s strange he didn’t whack us with the Anti-Monitor’s motivation on a regular basis.

That said, an understandable motivation doesn’t make him a good villain.

I can’t believe I’m about the defend the Anti-Monitor, but actually he wasn’t just plain evil: He was the embodiment of the anti-matter universe and wanted to destroy the positive-matter multiverse so that only his domain would remain. Considering that matter and anti-matter just don’t coexist all that smoothly, his motivation seems understandable.

Oh no, I understood that, and it certainly makes sense from a certain angle, but it’s not an interesting motivation for a villain…

Really, it’s essentially the same as saying he’s evil because he’s the embodiment of evil, and that sort of self-evident reasoning can sort of work if you do it right (Darkseid being an example) but with the Anti-Monitor it’s just not compelling.

I’ll say this for COIE though: it always felt like it was really trying, and like both of its creators threw everything they had into it. It’s a far-cry from most crossovers, which generally feel half-assed, lazy, or not well-thought-through.

I always considered the real villain of Crisis to be Pariah whose power was bitching a lot. And before you say that’s not evil I defy you to read through crisis without thinking at least once per issue “Damn, dude, shut UP…”

I find it interesting that at 12 issues the story STILL feels like they’re rushing through things. There are so many odd details and fiddly bits, like Superman-2 and Superboy-Prime not merging with Superman because they were present at some battle and also they need to do a big sacrifice scene at the end (which is actually the one really moving passage in the story, and of course is the one that INFINITE CRISIS pisses all over.)

The art is good, though. One thing I’ve noticed about Perez is that he draws costumes well. Not designs them, so much, as draws them in such a way that you don’t notice that the characters are wearing stupid multicolored tights for no good reason. It’s just their livery.

Wow, that Doomsday Duo and Trio idea sounds SO much better than the original Death of Superman! I’m a sucker for characters from the future, though, like Kang/Immortus/Rama-Tut. Guess it happened on Earth-8 in an “alternate multiverse.”

Two things.

1- I agree with the hate for Perez art. His art just never really clicked with me.
2- I know a lot happens in the issues, but I think the overall mini is way way way way too long. Some of it just felt like padding.

I’m pretty sure I said I basically agreed last time and I still basically agree, but T has a point.

DC from 1980-’86? Not that good. I mean there’s some decent stuff written by Robert Loren Fleming, but other ‘en that it was in post-implosion re-hash, re-use, re-cycle mode. Not a helluvalot going on, and lots of the cool crazy diluted by years of use and lack of creative nourishment.

I think the creative shake-up was a good thing, mostly.

I mean, sure you Wolfman/Byrne Superman which was, at it’s best, one/seven billionth as good as Elliot S! Maggin’s. But the Flash and Wonder Woman got instantly less bad, and you got neat books like JLA/I/E and Suicide Squad outta the deal.

The point is not how good DC superhero comics were immediately preceding the Crisis dumbness. The point is the inherent potential it once carried within, and how much of that potential was editorially mandated out with one big crossover. The cool crazy wasn’t being used well, no, but that in no way meant they should have just chucked it out permanently.

Imagine the best writers and artists around today with access to that kind of, well, infinite storytelling potential, and then try to tell me Crisis was a good idea. I mean, really, is there anyone who can read but is confused by alternate earths? I know my second graders never were.

Weirdly, I know a bunch of younger comic readers who aren’t confused by the multiverse concept, but just absolutely hate it. They think the idea of two Supermans or different worlds with different timelines able to cross over all the time is ragingly stupid. They don’t seem to mind self-contained what-ifs like DKR or Kingdom Come or what have you, but don’t like it when that stuff then shows again in a “regular” book.

In retrospect, Crisis wasn’t necessary to my mind, so much as it might have been time to draw a moratorium on stories where the different Earth timelines mingled. I mean, toward the end of the Bronze Age, Earth-2 characters could apparently just bop on over to Earth-1 to hang out whenever they wanted. I like the multiverse and that’s really a bit much for me.

As a crossover I found Crisis basically readable, and that’s more than I can say for 90% of its ilk. I’m not sure it’s an editorial decision I would’ve agreed with had I been a fan at the time; and in general I’m not a fan of turning editorial housecleaning into a storyline.

As an editorial decision, the continuity restructuring really has its ups and downs, and I’m kind of ambivalent about it in retrospect. Not happy it happened, not exactly sure it didn’t need to happen. I’m not old enough that I was a reader at the time, so I’ve only seen its effects in back issues. I know a bunch of series I grew fond of via dollar boxes just went all to crap once they hit their post-Crisis issues. LOSH to this day has never really recovered. Had Infinite Crisis brought back the multiverse, I would’ve been quite happy, as I am rather fond of Earth-2 stories.

This being said, there’s a bunch of post-Crisis stuff I enjoyed that would not have been possible if not for the multiverse being done away with. Suicide Squad, Giffen/DeMattheis Justice League, and a host of other books were specifically possible because of the opportunity for a full continuity restructuring that Crisis posed. I definitely don’t think you would’ve gotten stuff like Sandman, Swamp Thing, or the other Vertigo forerunners if not for the experimental attitude fostered in DC’s first five years or so post-Crisis.

I don’t think experimentation needed a nerd puzzle story to begin.

It really shouldn’t, but that’s long since been the score with superhero books (and superhero readers). The fault for this may lay with CoIE’s considerable influence, since previous house-cleaning revamps tended to happen after characters had gone out of publication for awhile and nobody was likely to give a damn about prior fiction. Certainly in modern superhero comics, sweeping editorial mandates are often accompanied by some sort of much-hyped maxi-series that fictionalizes the desired changes.

I have to vehemently disagree here. I was a Marvel fanboi in the pre-Crisis era, and was wholly uninterested in DC. Crisis cleaned up a lot of cruft which had built up – it could have done so without ending the multiverse, true, but I remember it being the first time I ever saw a big ultra-mega-mega event where things actually changed afterwards.

I, for one, find and found Byrne’s Superman to be far more compelling than the Silver Age one, who could move planets with ease and whose only limitation was the deus ex machina du jour.

And Perez’s art is phenomenal, IMO: after characters have been through fights, their costumes are damaged in ways which actually make sense.

So everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I’d have a hard time agreeing with pretty much anything you wrote in this case.

Crisis made DC a much more fun version of the Marvel universe in a lot of ways, and certainly something i’d much rather read about.

I hate, hate, hate reading DC comics from the 60s. They make me want to stab my eyes out. But I love almost everything DC put out from 86-90 or so. And I love DC in the second half of the 90s. And I love DC now (though I’m increasingly wary about some things).

T. wrote: And the complaint about lighthearted heroes becoming grim and gritty because of the combined earth is also not true. They became gritty because DC was desperate to recreate Marvel’s success and went overboard in the imitation while missing the inspiration. They thought the key was the grittiness, so they decided to get even MORE gritty.

Have to disagree with this.

If anything can be credited with sparking the “grim and gritty” era of superheroes, it would probably be the success Moore & Gibbons’ Watchmen rather than any attempt to emulate Marvel.

(sure, DKR also bears mention here, but I’d say Watchmen was probably more influential in this particular case)

Also, it’s pretty reductionist to suggest that the only successes DC had pre-Crisis derived from emulating Marvel or using “Marvel creators” (a term which is problematic in of itself).

There’s no denying that Marvel definitely was more popular than DC during the Shooter era, but offerring the fact that nobody in your school read DC really isn’t much of an argument since that was probably more of a function of the “Make Mine Marvel” propaganda machine than of the actual quality of the comics.

I found Maggin and Bates Superman stories very meandering and dull. The conflict was minimal to nonexistent, and way too much story time was dedicated to constantly fawning and reminding the reader what an important and inspirational icon Superman was, even though most of the time he was fighting mundane and pedestrian threats. I did like his confidence and willingness to trash-talk though.

“Certainly in modern superhero comics, sweeping editorial mandates are often accompanied by some sort of much-hyped maxi-series that fictionalizes the desired changes.”

If I had a magic wand and could undo ONE particular weirdness about superhero comics as a whole, that would be it.

It’s not just Crisis — it started with Marvel, particularly Secret Wars and the black spider-Man costume — but it was Crisis that really codified it and made it THE way of doing things.

Really a lot of the comments I’m seeing here are making me feel very old. The actual reason DC was trying to look like Marvel back in the 80’s? Because suddenly they WERE Marvel, as far as staff was concerned. In very quick succession, Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Steve Gerber, Doug Moench, Gene Day, John Byrne and Frank Miller had fled Marvel for the creative freedom of DC. Not to be outdone, Denny O’Neil and one or two others had left DC for Marvel. The conventional wisdom of the time was that Marvel had the better books but DC had the better characters. Now we were going to see the Marvel style and excitement applied to the great iconic DC characters at last!

A couple of times we actually did: you could tell Roy Thomas had been waiting his whole life to write a book like Infinity Inc., and that passion came through. More often we got pale imitations of successful Marvel books, like Night Force from Wolfman and Colan. And Crisis was the ultimate expression of that whole We-are-going-to-do-for-DC-what-we-did-at-Marvel kind of thinking. That’s where it was coming from. There really wasn’t anybody working there at the time to raise their hand and say, “Y’know, DC’s NOT Marvel, we shouldn’t completely submit to that style.”

I really, really hated Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story was just so stupid. I mean, if you have three Supermen, The Spectre and Firestorm, do you really need 457 more superheroes to face the threat?

And the art was just so bad. Tiny little panel after tiny little murky panel of 345 heroes running towards some big goofy-looking tower. Oh, I can’t wait until next issue when 254 other heroes run toward some other big goofy-looking tower! Ooo, is that Halo? Wait, I think it’s Nightwing. Who is that little dot there in the corner under Red Bee’s elbow? You shouldn’t have to use a magnifying glass to read a comic book.

50 years from now when historians try to figure out why comic books went the way of the dodo, they will trace it back to one event: the Death of Barry Allen.

Really a lot of the comments I’m seeing here are making me feel very old. The actual reason DC was trying to look like Marvel back in the 80’s? Because suddenly they WERE Marvel, as far as staff was concerned. In very quick succession, Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Steve Gerber, Doug Moench, Gene Day, John Byrne and Frank Miller had fled Marvel for the creative freedom of DC.

You’re right that DC started recruiting ex-Marvel staff in quick succession, but that just bolsters my point…they were doing it in order to imitate Marvel. They consciously wanted to imitate Marvel, and many people on their staff were simply incapable of doing that. Curt Swan is an excellent artist, but he isn’t able to recreate that dynamic Kirby style that “pops” off the page. Even alot of Marvel alumni couldn’t originally do the dynamic Marvel style when they first started working at Marvel until Stan had Kirby teach them via storyboards and sit-down sessions. So if DC wanted to be more like Marvel to compete with Marvel, what better way to do that than to use Marvel creators?

The conventional wisdom of the time was that Marvel had the better books but DC had the better characters. Now we were going to see the Marvel style and excitement applied to the great iconic DC characters at last!

Again, I disagree. The conventional wisdom in my opinion was that DC had more iconic characters than Marvel due to their age, but Marvel’s characters were actually more interesting AND more exciting.

For those of you who wonder about DC’s sales success vs. Marvel’s during the period immediately preceding ‘Crisis': Marv Wolfman said sales at DC were somewhere around a third of what they were at Marvel at the same time. (IIRC, he cited 100,000 at Marvel to 30K at DC.) That’s a pretty significant gap, more than just “everyone at my school read Marvel” territory.

Personally, I think that discounting “It’s BIG” as an appeal of Crisis is like saying, “Tell me what’s impressive about the Statue of Liberty, and don’t say, ‘It’s BIG’.” Crisis is big. It’s bigger than big, it’s genuinely epic on a scale that I don’t think anyone has successfully matched before or since. Hundreds of super-heroes fighting the most powerful villain imaginable–a villain so powerful that he wipes out a whole universe on page one. An alliance of super-villains the likes of which the world has never seen, demanding three entire universes of their own as ransom. The death of the Flash, the passing into the light of the original Superman and of Superboy, Supergirl’s funeral…and the knowledge that this wasn’t a bluff, it wasn’t a wink wink “epic of the week” that would be retconned away in next year’s “event”, it was massive and permanent change. The disgusting part is that they’ve been undoing bits of it lately.

(And while we’re on the subject: What purpose would really be served by bringing back the multi-verse now? It was always intended to explain away how these heroes who we’ve never seen co-existing could co-exist…but we do see them co-exist now. There’s no need to involve parallel universes in an explanation of how the JLA and the JSA could meet when they’re sitting down to dinner together.)

i just finished reading the Essential Super-Villain Team-Up, which is good dumb seventies Marvel fun.

in it are a few Avengers issues by George Perez, and they must be really early work by him, cause writer Gerry Conway makes a point of writing CAPTIONS just about how great his art is.

and you can tell it’s at a moment where he’s really expanding his thinking about page layouts; one page in particular, with a recap of the story so far in panels down the middle while break-off fights between various heroes and villains are set up on the side with no panel barriers, is just amazing.

and that is why I don’t think perez is overrated, something someone’s already said, but it’s worth sayin again: his page layouts are genuinely creative, innovative, and fresh. and that’s a consistent thing from pretty much every moment of his career. he certainly spawned plenty of creative children for his art style, but he’s probably got his own little subsect of descendants based just on his approach to laying out the page.

I don’t know about confused by alternate realities but I don’t like them. If I can keep up with Kang’s chronology, the strange history of Bishop going to the past then to AoA then back again, or any of the maddening X-history, figuring out who Power Girl is no problem. A second grader could do it. I’m just saying I haven’t been digging on “A story with TWO Supermans!” since about the fifth.

Superman’s really the center of this though. Superman had a lot of stupidity in his stories, oh God yes, at the same time looking at Whatever Happened To the Man of Tomorrow? and Man of Steel, or Death of Superman, or Return to Krypton, or the wedding issues, or Our Worlds At War, or the Elite story, or really anything except maybe All Star which is so much larger the comparison might not be fair…Which is better? Which is the most inventive, which is the most daring? Don’t say Death Of either, Superman “died” so many times he got a free sandwich from Subway back in the day.

Insano adventures, wacky adventures and artifacts, the Superman family, the dog, the Legion, they were part of Superman. They helped make Superman. Nothing stopped Superman, he did whatever he wanted and went wherever he wanted and so had these far out, fun adventures. Sometimes they were extremely stupid. In fact I would say about 50% of them were and that may be being charitable. But they were very, very fun. And to an extent I think losing that killed him as much as moving from Whiz Comics killed Captain Marvel. This is not the same character, to me. That’s literally what Crisis did, it made a new universe with fresh characters. On one level, that can be really enjoyable. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of JSA for its run and Justice Society before that and so on. But in a real way, this is not the Justice Society of America. And if a story was going to cut all these characters off at the knees and eliminate the possibility for their unfettered future adventures, it’s reasonable to expect that story to be at least as good as any of those bygone stories if not better. Not only do you not get that with Crisis (though it has virtues), I don’t think you CAN get that from Crisis.

Besides, dude, look at what happened to Superman.

I admit that growing up in the 80’s, I was one of those fan boys that was absolutely blown away by Crisis. Thinking back then I remember anxiously waiting every day for the next issue to come out. I re-read each issue so many times that Im suprised that my copies are are still in top-notch condition.

And to this day, I still absolutely love the Crisis. As many have said above, it was the first time in comics history that worlds stayed erased. That heroes sacrificed life and limb for the sake of others. And that they stayed dead. How many big event since have been able to capture the feel of Crisis? None.

I do agree that the plot devices in Crisis were a bit unexplained and dragged out. But that didnt matter to me. It never did, and it sill doesn’t. What mattered to me then was the not knowing of what was going to happen to whom in which issue. Supergirl? No Way! Flash! Aww man! Huntress? Robin? Wonder Woman devolved? Are you serious? One Earth! With both a JSA and a JLA?

Looking back in the mid-80’s, DC only had a handful of very succesful titles: New Titans, Legion, All-Star Squadron, Infinity Inc, Swamp Thing. But look at the flagships. Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash. Blah.

It was do or die time. And Crisis made it a do time. It gave DC the ability to revamp and refresh their entire line. It gave DC the media coverage that they so sorely needed. And lets face it, the only super heores that really ever get media coverage are Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man.

By turning the DC Universe upside down, it made way for Doom Partrol, Vertigo, even Watchman. Would we have the Ultimates line today from Marvel without a Crisis? Civil War? Witchblade, and Spawn, and Wildcats, ad naseum…. Who knows. I think in many ways, the Crisis SAVED the comics industry, not take away from it.

I think that the Crisis showed us and the creators that it was okay to pass the torch on to someone else. That a hero can stay dead, and not wake up in the shower and realize that it was all just a dream. That it was okay to take a risk, to try something different. That not everyone wants to read about spandex. That men in trenchcoats can be just as interesting as those in capes.

Anyway, the whole point Im trying to make is that, good or bad, the Crisis changed the industry. And from my point of view, thats a good thing.

“Anyway, the whole point Im trying to make is that, good or bad, the Crisis changed the industry. And from my point of view, thats a good thing.”

It changed the industry all right. Crisis marks the point where the industry decided not to make comic books for children anymore. Now, 21 years later, they wonder where the new fans are. Well, duh!

Even now, I find it hard to judge Crisis, because of what it was for me at the time: basically a kind of crash introduction to various corners of the DCU. At the time, I had grown out of my blind company loyalty to Marvel and was starting to give DC a try (I had given Teen Titans a chance, but somehow it hadn’t grabbed me). The exodus of people from Marvel hadn’t escaped my notice either, and the idea of following creators was starting to really sink in, as well as the fact that Marvel was starting to decline in my eyes.
I had never had any problems with DC’s multiverse (I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with or blindly hostile to all things DC before then; there were comics read at other kid’s houses, comics bought by well-meaning adults, comics bought when no others were available, etc.), so I probably would have done just as well with a similarly expansive, high-speed, throw-in-
everything-and-everyone-we-can series that didn’t even do away with them.
And finally, as much as I usually scorn “Oh, yeah? well this other thing was worse!” arguments, at least its ending doesn’t leave you going “That’s IT??” in terms of hyped-up supposed “big changes” like the ending of IC. Whether you liked the changes or not, at least they approached the hype to some extent (unlike the changes after IC, which lived up to their hype basically not at all).

Perez is great at designing pages. Costumes, not so much. Dave Cockrum was the costume guy. Perez is the “fit a hundred distinct characters into a single panel” guy. Tragically, most excuses for putting a hundred characters in a single panel tend to be stupid.

I find it wierd that nobody questioned Alex’s statement that “the Multiverse has to be a Universe again!” or tried to figure out the consenquences of a move like that. But the ending is philosophically bleak since people were ERASED, not merely dead.

And that is my problem with Crisis On Infinite Earths

For what it’s worth, you can mark me down as a long-time comic reader who had little interest in the DC Universe before Crisis. After Crisis, I bought a LOT more DC titles, so I’d have to say that Crisis did exactly what it was designed to do, and all others have been pale and unsuccessful imitations.

My problem is that now DC and Marvel rely on regular crises, and I find that irritating. Once is fine. Every year is annoying.

If a title is more than peripherally involved in a major crossover event, I’m out. I very much resent being forced to buy a miniseries to read about events that have a major effect on the title that I’ve been faithfully reading. I deserve to have those events unfold in the comic that I’ve been paying for, and if I don’t get that consideration, then I don’t buy the comic any more. It’s like following a weekly television series only to be told that I have to go see a movie to find out how things end.

That’s why no major company “event” since the first Crisis has inspired me to buy more titles. Invariably, I’ve cut titles after almost every single major event at either company. I no longer buy any flagship titles from either Marvel or DC — only “secondary” ones.

For what it’s worth, I also vastly prefer Byrne’s retooled Superman to the older version. Omnipotent Supes held no appeal for me as a child, and still doesn’t. I’ll grant that the old stories have a certain charm, but I don’t care for them on an ongoing basis. I followed the Super titles until they started seriously undoing the reboot, and then I dropped them all and haven’t ever looked back.

Personally I find all those stories where vast crowds of superheroes and villains run around plugging continuity holes and trading overwritten dialogue turgid beyond belief.

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