Commence Ouroboros: DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Part 1

Crisis is indirectly responsible for pulling me into the DCU.  It’s indirectly responsible because my first exposure to DC Comics was the original Who’s Who in the DC Universe, and many of those entries included things like “First Appearance: (pre-Crisis), (post-Crisis).”  Each character was given two first appearances, which automatically piqued my interest.  Then there was the fact that a lot of characters were listed as having died in some crazy “Crisis” event.  Clearly, Crisis was a big deal.

Truth be told, when I eventually read Crisis a few years after it had been released, I only read half of it.  I tracked down issue 1, 4, 7, 8, 10, and 12, but never bothered to complete the run.  Back then, we didn’t need every story spoon fed to us — we could fill in the blanks on our own.  A lot of times that was actually more fun.  Now get off my lawn. 

And when was the last time you read a comic that not only used the word “infinitude,” but used it multiple times?  I think people sometimes forget that Wolfman hung out at the Marvel offices in the ’70s, if you know what I’m saying.

A story this size that was going to touch upon every corner of an extensive universe needed a core group of characters to give it substance. The cast that Wolfman decided to focus on was fantastic; I’d love to know how they were chosen.  I’m sure if we delved into it we could find a pattern of some sort.  At the very least, Wolfman was pushing for some diversity here, something he’d already been doing in Teen Titans.  I mean, sure, this was only 30 years ago, but comics haven’t evolved much.

That crazy cast was what sucked me in.  I had no idea who most of these characters were, but I loved that.  I loved that I could get to know them.  And I loved that they all these extensive histories, which, of course, was probably a bad thing for me to fall in love with, given the entire purpose of this series.

In just a few pages, we meet Pariah, we meet Lyla/Harbinger, and we meet the shadow creatures who will play a big role as cannon fodder and convenient punching bags as the series progresses.  We also see the Crime Syndicate act heroically, underscoring how the coming crisis changes everything.  But most importantly, we meet Alexander and Lois Luthor of Earth-3, who cast their infant child out into the multiverse, the last survivor of a doomed universe.

This is a nice angle from Wolfman and Perez. Giving a Luthor the same origin as Superman yet on a grander scale is a wonderful nod to how the DCU started and yet how completely different it would become.

And Crisis was definitely different, particularly when compared to the modern day comic book event.

Try to imagine the first issue of Avengers vs. X-Men or Blackest Night being released without a single other comic book from either Big Two being related to it.  They actually publish books specifically FOR the events, now, like Blackest Night:Captain Carrot and that kind of thing.  Financially speaking, the tie-ins are probably just as important as the event itself.  It’s also a go to way to get people to buy books that aren’t selling.

But Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 was released in a vacuum.

Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it was released without any other books trying to latch onto it.  While the series would eventually send banners across the tops of comics throughout the DC line-up, in the first month there was nary a banner to be found.  It did, however, have a companion series, but in sticking with DC’s process at the time, it was a companion series that was never labeled as such.  In fact, you’d have been hard pressed to realize it was a companion series.

That series was Who’s Who in the DC Universe.

The first issue of Who’s Who actually came out a month before Crisis#1 and, to DC’s credit, didn’t feature any references to the event.  Given the extent to which a number of the characters in Who’s Who #1 would change, this was an impressive bit of secrecy on DC’s part.  Someone out there at the time had to wonder, though, why DC was releasing this series now.  Why was a cataloging of every DC character necessary?

The Tie-ins for April, 1985

Who’s Who #2

There are two big scoops in the second issue of Who’s Who.  The first comes in the form of the profile pages for Batman I and Batman II.  This is the first time, to my knowledge, that DC laid out a clear distinction between the two. Batman I first appeared in Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of any Batman of any kind.  But Batman II is listed as first appearing in Detective Comics #327, the first “new look” Batman issue. Everything up until #327 had happened to Batman I, the Batman of Earth-2.

It’s such a clear cut distinction that it’s surprising DC made it, particularly given their plan to update the DCU — Detective Comics #327 was published 21 years before Crisis, so not exactly modern.

Two years later,DC would update Who’s Who and the new entry for Batman listed his first appearance as Detective #27, because now there was only one Batman.

The other scoop for inquiring fans came on the inside back cover of Who’s Who #2 and every issue in the series.  This page was devoted to listing the current whereabouts of the characters profiled in the comic.  The majority of the characters in this issue are listed as appearing in Crisis on Infinite Earths, a series that had just started.  This was setting the bar awfully high for Wolfman and Perez, who would have to fit all of these characters into the series.

World’s Finest #314

“Gotham Bridge is Falling Down!” and the Executrix is to blame!  Yes, I said Executrix.  It’s hard to believe that the character find of 1985 would only appear two more times in the whole history of DC (and yet she seemed perfect for the New 52). All three appearances were written by Joey Cavalieri.  This one was drawn by Stan Woch and Alfredo Alcala and, at the very least, it looks really good.

This is the last tie-in issue, so it’s the final time we see the Monitor pretending to be a bad guy.  We also see him refer to Superman as the weak link in the Superman-Batman team, which is an odd thing for him to say given that it’s completely irrelevant.  We do see Lyla, which is not something that happened in every tie-in.

Two comics, two comics compromised the total tie-ins for the first month of DC’s universe changing event, and neither of them is labeled in any way.  These days even a single panel featuring the Monitor would get a giant banner across the top.

They don’t make events like Crisis anymore…although that doesn’t stop DC from trying.

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