Sunday, July 10, 2005


This is the first issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths that I bought, and it was the cover that sucked me in.

Of course, I ended up getting all twelve issues of Crisis, but back in 1985 I was only vaguely interested in the book, and had no idea that Crisis was going to be this big epochal event – I just thought it was a cool cover, and I was right. Check that shit out. How can you resist that bad-ass George Perez cover, with an army of colorful DC villains comin’ atcha? You can not.

I’m not going to go into the whole Crisis mini-series here because really, who has the energy? I’ll do a whole big-ass post about it someday when I’ve had too many Red Bulls and I’m bored. Suffice to say that Crisis on Infinite Earths was a fictional pogrom, a ruthless editorial purging by DC of all the redundant/confusing/wacky multiple Earths in their comic book universe. In story terms that meant a whole bunch of people had to die!

Regardless of what might think of the overall quality of Crisis, you have to acknowledge that it was a massive creative undertaking. Crisis involved just about every DC comic book character -- I don’t know how writer Marv “Teen Titans” Wolfman and penciller George Perez kept track of all those characters. Most heroes and villains were relegated to cameos and bit parts, but still – Perez had to draw all of them. That sounds like a one way ticket to Carpal Tunnel City if you ask me.

The inclusion of just about everybody in the Crisis storyline is at once the book’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. The story feels epic and comprehensive, and everybody gets to see their favorite character, if only fleetingly. Crisis rewards the avid comics fan with lots of “Easter eggs” and fun details, but that same encyclopedic quality makes it impenetrable to new readers. This is not entry-level stuff. The density of the art and sheer number of characters and locations in Crisis robs the story of a narrative momentum, and the reader ends up bogged down in a superheroic “Where’s Waldo?” full of neat details instead of getting pulled into a gripping yarn.

Having said all that, I am a geek and I actually like pouring over Perez’s tiny, detailed little panels. Crisis #9 was a particularly strong issue in the series because it focuses on a big superhero war, and that’s never bad. The villains of the various Earths band together and take over several planets, apparently killing more than a few heroes who stand in the way.

Here are a few panels, narrated by Lex Luthor and Brainiac. The Earth with the Charlton heroes – Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade, The Question – falls to the villainous invaders.

That’s the original Captain Atom in the first panel.

Check out that second panel, with the Beetle’s Bug burning off New York as Chemo stands near a headless Statue of Liberty in the background. Good stuff.

Boy, I hope Blue Beetle’s okay…

On another of the many many Earths, the battle rages on. Let’s see, in the first panel that’s Earth-S Superman (right?) versus Captain Nazi (really) while below, Katana fights Scarecrow and um, Samurai, I think. In the next panel Wildcat kicks Cheshire with Dr. Mid-Nite in the background. In the next panel we have Dr. Phosphorous and Northwind in the background while Hawkman 1.0 swats Blockbuster with a flail. No idea who that guy in the background is…

Here’s another super-dense panel featuring one of my favorite villains, Validus, the huge guy with the visible brain. What a great character design. This panel also features a match-up we’ve all been waiting for: Firestorm vs Penguin! I wonder who wins? Actually, considering that Firestorm fights lame-asses like Slipknot, maybe Penguin is just his speed.

You see what I mean about the “Where’s Waldo?” factor. The whole story screeches to a halt while the reader tries to figure out who everybody is. It’s fun, but I don’t know how compelling it would be for a Normal Person.

I would be remiss if I did not leave you with an image of The Creeper, one of the coolest/goofiest heroes ever. Here he is leaping through Metropolis, giving everybody a look at his striped green underwear. The Creeper is aptly named.

“One word of caution – in his presence… beware.” Yes, beware. The Creeper ate a couple chili dogs earlier and he is just rank.


Greg said...

I still have no idea who most of the people in Crisis are, because I don't care. It's not the greatest story, but it's pretty good. And you're right - Perez is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Crisis was the first comic I ever read. Issue 8, the Death of the Flash, was my first comic book story, which I read while over at my cousin's house for a Christmas visit in 1989. You say it's too dense but that series was like mainline crack for kids, or at least for me. I didn't know who all the characters were, true, but goddamn did I want to know by the time I finished it!
Crisis was fucked up with worlds exploding, time travel, sacrifice, the whole thing. That series was amazing.
It's true that a lot of bad fallout came of Crisis, but I think that was the fault of DC not having a great post-Crisis gameplan.

Tom Bondurant said...

Perez did get carpal tunnel from drawing JLA/Avengers #3.

Now that's a "Where's Waldo?" miniseries for the ages. Man, I love George Perez.

Kevin Church said...

OK, I think Perez is the business, right, but Crisis is like reading a really shitty Feng Shui manual. So much housecleaning instead of actual story, you know?

But damn, I'd totally do his Cheetah.

Anonymous said...

Dude, Perez got carpal tunnel from drawing the cover of JLA/Avengers #3. He put more work into that cover than most guys put into a whole book. The guy is crazy. God love him!

SW said...

I always dug alternate universes in comics, especially DC's. There was just something cool about slipping out of your reality into someone else's.

As you can probably imagine, I had a hey-day with Crisis. If anything, it made me want to see some of these Infinate Earths interact a little more, like seeing the JSA take on the Charleton heroes, or the Marvel Family take on the Crime Syndicate.

On the Marvel front, 'What Ifs' didn't do much for me, because they were like watching episodes of the Twilight Zone (a throw-away story that lead you to a zinger at the end). But give me an alternate universe I could get invested in and you had me hooked. I wish we could have seen more of the Pre-'Supreme Power' Squadron universe. I don't know if anybody else in the Long Box posse feels this way, and think what you will of Gruenwald's non-cap work, but I was very fond of Quasar's universe hopping story arc.

Cove West said...

Sometimes I wish Crisis had been an emotionless black hole of editorial write-by-numbers drek, rather than the epic drama it was. Crisis put the ultimate stamp of COOL on the multiverse and its characters right before it destroyed the concept. I would have been much more accepting of the whole thing had Crisis been something like Onslaught. "Just get it over with! Merge the Earths already!" But nooooo, Wolfman and Perez had to make me CARE about everything as it died...

Sorta like what Countdown to IC did with Beetle. The whole concept/storyline of Identity/Infinite Crisis is leaving a taste of regurtitated pizza in my throat, but taken on its own merits, Blue Beetle's story was pretty awesome. Beetle hadn't been that cool in a LONG time. And then...splatter. What, they couldn't have made him an annoying prick before killing him? Or a useless idiot? Why couldn't they have made Beetle someone I'd WANT to die?

Anyway, back to Crisis. Amazing how Wolfman was able to juggle all those balls and retain both the nature of each character and all the required emotion. I hadn't read a single Barry Allen story before I read Crisis, and I cried when he died. Hell, I hadn't even HEARD of half the characters in Crisis and I was sad to see them all go. I want them BACK, DAMMIT! Whoever they were...

David Campbell said...

Excellent comments - clearly there is a lot of love floating around for Crisis and Perez in general. I would totally do Perez's Cheetah as well.

Zoot Koomie said...

Dave wrote:
that same encyclopedic quality makes it impenetrable to new readers. This is not entry-level stuff. The density of the art and sheer number of characters and locations in Crisis robs the story of a narrative momentum, and the reader ends up bogged down in a superheroic “Where’s Waldo?” full of neat details instead of getting pulled into a gripping yarn.

I've seen this said a lot, but it's not really true. I was a Marvel Zombie as a kid, but I picked up Crisis because it looked like an important, epochal world-shattering event and maybe a good intro to DC. I didn't get bogged down in the neat details because I had no idea who any of those people were, what Earth they were from, or what their relationships or poweres were. I found each issue a pretty quick read because I could only access the surface level. I was also missing a lot in the crossovers so the story barely held together.

Still beat Secret Wars, though.

G. Bob said...

It's a work that has to be viewed in the context of how well it told a story in relation to other big cross-over events. As history has shown, most cross overs are painfull afairs. Witht he exception of "Invasion", Crisis was the only one that ever worked. As a kid, I may not have been that up on DC (with the exception of Batman and the JLA) but god damn did I buy alot of DC books that year.

What's fun is to go to the google usenet arvhive and look up commentary saved from net.comics during that year (yes kids, the internet did exist before the world wide web.) Speculation on what DC was doing is pretty neat. It reminded me how much the series kept me guessing back then.

Chris Arndt said...

That's not the Earth-S Superman. Putting it concisely and with as little tact as posssible... the Earth-S Superman is Captain Marvel.

The very first Superman ended up with grey hair at his temples and living on the place called Earth-2.

The Golden Age Super-Hero characters would all have been living on Earth-1 and their Silver Age counterparts on Earth-2 except that Barry Allen is such a domineering bastard and bullied Jay Garrick into naming his own planet Earth-2.

That's right, he pushed on an old man.

The time-traveleing Garrick likely became afraid that Allen would do him like he did Professor Zoom.....

kelvingreen said...

Yeah, that JLA/Avengers #3 cover must have been a bitch to draw. Similar to the cover you've got here, but on a much larger scale. In fact, much of what you say about the triviafest of Crisis applies there too.

Actually, I'd like to see you tackle that series. And Kingdom Come, mostly because I can't decide if they're any good or not, particularly the latter.

As for line-wide crossovers, I'm not sure I'd agree that Crisis is the only good one. There aren't many admittedly, but I'd include Avengers Galactic Storm as one that worked, even if it's a bit fat and needs trimming in the middle. And Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers is turning out nicely too.

Katar Hol said...

I dig all things multiverse. Dave has it absolutely right that this was slaughter by editorial decree. The whole DC universe suffered because of the long shadow cast by the Crisis. The immediate years after Crisis went along well but then it all spiralled out of control and you ended up with crap like Armageddon 2001, Emerald Twilight, and others of their stripe. It wasn't till the multiverse began creeping back in things like Kingdom Come and The Kingdom that DC (as a whole universe) began to return.

Verity Kindle said...

Velvet Marauder, where are you? Yiff is probably wandering around Evergreen City Park THIS VERY MINUTE making inappropriate overtures to little old ladies!

gorjus said...

Yes!! There is a CRISIS in EVERGREEN!! Where is our hero??

N said...

Shuddup! The Creeper rules! You shut up! SHUT UP! Bla bla bla bla bla

Cove West said...

My favorite company-wide crossover, bar none, is Grant Morrison's DC One Million. Most of the individual issues are of course pointless, but the core books are magnificent. The sense of wonder throughout reminds me of why I read superhero comics in the first place. And since it's Morrison, his ideas are full of imagination, though not as "wacky for wackiness's sake" as he can tend to be. J'onn as Mars? Resurrection Man fighting a 830+ century war against Vandal Savage? The Justice Legion's Superman punching his way through time? The wink? Awesome stuff. And it's a shame no one has thought to use Solaris again.

SW mentioned how Marvel tends to lack in the great alternative universe/timeline arena, which I agree with in general, but the X-books in particular have been pretty good in that regard. Sure, most tend to be Days of Future Past rehashes, but I gotta throw some love to the Age of Apocalypse. Yeah, a textbook case of mid-90's X-over madness, but there were some solid, intriguing ideas there. Imagine giving Grant Morrison the keys to the AoA.

On a related note, I tend to think Marvel does better with the smaller, team-specific crossovers. kelvingreen mentioned Operation Galactic Storm, the great Avengers crossover. I kinda liked the Mindight Sons crossover (Return? Revenge? Refrigerate?) in concept, though the execution was pretty messy. And say what you will about Maximum Carnage, but there were some great team-up moments between Spidey and Cap, Cloak & Dagger, and Deathlok. Of course, the later we get into the 90's, the crappier the crossovers get, until we're left with brain-melting stuff like The Crossing, Maximum Clonage, and The Twelve, but generally, Marvel's company-wide events are even worse, including the Big Dog of Bad Ideas: Onslaught and Heroes Reborn.

DC, OTOH, is much better at the company-wide stuff. Crisis, DC1M, Invasion, even Zero Month (not HOUR, sadly) were pretty solid. Which, when you compare the two companies, is very strange. The DCU is structured so that each big hero (Superman, Batman, Flash, Captain Marvel, etc.) lives in an almost self-contained world, where the team-ups tend to tinker with characterization (most notably, Captain Marvel) and stretch suspension of disbelief (most notably, Batman fighting JLA villains). Marvel, meanwhile, is designed so that heroes SHOULD and even MUST encounter one another on a regular basis, being that everyone's mostly in New York. Yet when it comes to crossovers, the companies tend to work best when going against their strengths.

Scott Harris said...

It's Earth-2 Superman, but Captain Nazi who he's fighting is from Earth-S along with the Marvel Family.

Actually, I forgot how willing they were to mess with some of the characters, given that they knew they were going to hit the cosmic reset button except for a select few (namely Barry Allen and Supergirl). Just in those panels you snipped, there's Hawkman getting burned by Dr. Phosphorus and Mercury of the Metal Men being disintegrated by Mano.

J'onn J'onzz said...

That cover always annoyed me because Star Saphire and the Preditore were the same person at the time.

The who's who is what makes JLU so cool.

Sinister said...

The one who can name everyone in the Where's Waldo of Crime will receive a special prize from the Awesome Duke (me)!

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