Compiled and created by Jonathan Woodward.
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A Quick Note
First off, I apologize that I haven't updated The Annotated Crisis or The Infinite Atlas in a while. I'm changing jobs, changing apartments, and negotiating a contract to write a book, so, as you can imagine, I'm a bit swamped. Rest assured that I haven't forgotten about this site or your comic book trivia needs.
I see from my hit data that The Annotated Crisis is the most popular page on my site. I'm delighted you're here, and hope you find this page informative. I hope you'll take a few minutes to browse the rest of my site, which includes some Lego stuff, roleplaying info, Godzilla gaming, and a list of books I've co-authored. My "central index" is here.
"Nice to know there are some consistent things in this universe, eh, Lois?"
-Jimmy Olsen, Crisis #11
What was the Crisis? - Why did DC need a Crisis? - Infinite Earths - And now, the end of the world... - Where are they now? - Who died in the Crisis? - Why was the Crisis important? - What about the collection? - Conventions and Abbreviations - Bibliography - Acknowledgments
Crisis on Infinite Earths, and all related characters are trademarks of DC Comics. No threat to trademarks or copyrights is intended.
Crisis on Infinite Earths was a 12-issue comic book maxi-series published in 1985 and 1986 in which DC Comics condensed their multiverse into a single universe, thus "simplifying" and "improving" it. Whether they succeeded in that goal is a good question, and one I shan't address. Crisis is, however, incredibly important to understanding DC continuity, as well as being possibly the most significant crossover series of all time. It's also a fine story, in my opinion.
In the late 30s, 40s, and early 50s the company that would become DC Comics published a great many superhero titles, featuring characters such as Superman and the Flash (Jay Garrick). Many of them were members of the Justice Society of America. This era is now called the Golden Age. In the late 40s, superhero popularity declined, and through the mid-50s only Superman and a precious few other heroes remained in publication. In 1956, a new Flash (Barry Allen) was introduced, inaugurating the Silver Age of comics. Barry Allen was in part inspired to become "Flash II" by the comics he had read as a child; comics about Jay Garrick, "Flash I". Flash II later joined the Justice League of America, alongside Superman, who was, of course, still around.
See the problem? Superman had fought beside Flash I; Superman was now fighting beside Flash II. But, to Flash II, Flash I was a fictional character. The "fictional" aspect was addressed a few years later, in the pivotal story "Flash Of Two Worlds" (Flash #123). In it, Flash II accidentally "tore a gap in the vibratory shields separating [two] worlds", and traveled to an alternate Earth, one where the retired Jay Garrick lived. When asked how Barry could possibly have read about Jay's adventures, Barry replied, "A writer named Gardner Fox wrote about your adventures -- which he claimed came to him in dreams! Obviously when Fox was asleep, his mind was "tuned in" on your vibratory Earth!"
Only a couple years later, Mr. Fox decided to pull out all the stops. In Justice League of America #21-22, he presented us with the stories "Crisis On Earth-One!" and "Crisis On Earth-Two!", in which the Justice Society and Justice League teamed up to foil a cross-Earth group of villains who had found a way to bridge the gap through music and magic. The issue of the "identical duplicates" was ignored - Superman did not appear to remember having been a member of the Justice Society, for instance. The Silver Age Earth of Barry Allen was dubbed "Earth-1", and the world of Jay Garrick, "Earth-2". This is important and counter-intuitive: The older Flash I was from Earth-2, and Flash II was from Earth-1.
At the very end of the adventure, as the heroes are closing in on the villains, their thoughts turn to escape, and the Fiddler cries out, "There is an Earth-One and an Earth-Two! Somewhere there must be an Earth-Three! If we can find the doorway into it -- before the justice champions find us -- we can escape them forever!" They did not find it in time, but the seed of a multiverse was planted.
Over the following decades on the order of two dozen Earths, out of a presumed infinity, were discovered or described. Furthermore, the "identical duplicate" problem was explained - there were two Supermen, one on Earth-2, member of the Justice Society, one on Earth-1, member of the Justice League. Several other characters also had identical duplicates, while some merely had "similar" equivalents, like the two Flashes. I've created an atlas of the Infinite Earths on a separate page. Here's a pocket guide to the ones immediately relevant:
By 1985, the Powers That Be had decided the abundance of Earths had become unwieldy. They also wanted to discard the "baggage" of continuity that some of their characters had acquired. So, Crisis on Infinite Earths. The title, of course, is in reference to the above-mentioned issues of Justice League. It was written by Marv Wolfman, and penciled by George Pérez.
Who died in the Crisis?
Morbid question, but it seems to come up a lot. In rough chronological order:
It as as yet unclear what the relationship is between the Crime Syndicate and alternate Luthor who will appear in the forthcoming JLA: Earth 2 Graphic novel, and the characters who died in Crisis #1. Further bulletins as events warrant.
The following people appeared to die in the Crisis, but have since returned in one form or another:
Sunburst's first post-Crisis appearance was, I believe, in Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, and may have been an intentional snub at the Crisis death-toll.
A few decaeased characters have made cameos thanks to time-traveling, alternate timelines, zombie-like resurrection, or trips to the afterlife. This list includes, but is not limited to, Flash II, Aquagirl, and Dove.
Some people occasionally ask about the new characters created in the Crisis.
See also DC Comics Presents #94, which appeared at the very end of the Crisis, and featured Harbinger, Pariah, and Lady Quark.
It's hard to believe nowadays, but there was a time when comics companies didn't have all-company crossovers every year. There was a time when they didn't have them at all. Sure, the JSA and the JLA got together every year, and they usually invited the Freedom Fighters or the Legion, but that's as big as it got. Crisis was the first series to have a huge cast, with tie-ins to dozens of titles, and long-lasting repercussions.
Not only did Crisis involve more characters than most crossovers (I count 200 in one two-page spread alone - and they're just from Earths 1 and 2!), not only did it span the Dawn of Time to the 30th Century, but it included Old West characters, war characters, sf characters, historical characters, anthropological characters, and a half-dozen other genres that are absent from modern comics. Further, it was twelve issues long. The modern mega-crossover clocks in at four, six if you're lucky.
I'm far from a unilateral supporter of character death as a way to boost the perceived importance of a series, but the immense swath the Grim Reaper cut through DC's ranks gives Crisis relevance no matter how you look at it. Nearly two score named (and uncountable unnamed) characters were lost forever.
To this day, a serious discussion of DC Comics is going to be peppered with "pre-Crisis" and "post-Crisis". You can't get away from it, you can't ignore it, and you can't pretend it didn't happen. It will matter forever.
Sure, the Anti-Monitor was defeated, but the collapse of the infinite Earths into one cannot be regarded as anything but a failure. Dozens of heroes were grief-stricken when their realities, their loved ones, were lost in the merger. An infinite number of people died. The current DC Universe is built on a foundation of corpses.
In December of 1998 DC released a deluxe slipcased hardcover collection of Crisis on Infinite Earths - and promptly recalled it. A single panel had been mistakenly deleted, resulting in a nasty financial and public relations fiasco for DC, the distributors, and the retailers. DC reshipped the collection in February of 1999.
Fortunately for this site, I managed to get a copy of the imperfect collection. It includes a full-color poster of the cover to issue #7 (the characters in the background are colored individually, instead of being all purple), and a fully-painted cover by Pérez and Alex Ross. It's gorgeous. The cover is amazing, and the re-colored interior art is stunning. It's also noteworthy that the interior reproductions of the covers have the extra design elements removed, such as the barcode, the CCA logo, and captions. Scattered throughout the book are stand-alone pictures of Lady Quark, Pariah, et al. They're Pérez's drawings for those characters' entries in Who's Who.
I've assembled a list of all the characters who appear on the cover. The list, along with big scans of the cover, has been divided into three pages: PANEL 1 - PANEL 2 - PANEL 3
If you own a copy of the imperfect collection, here's a scan of the missing panel. (Special thanks to Carlos Rodriguez for providing this scan.)
All characters will be referred to (where possible) by the name and number given to them in Who's Who, the 1985 edition, with the following exceptions:
The Anti-Monitor, when he first appears, introduces himself as "the Monitor", and he appears as "Monitor II" in Who's Who. He's usually referred to as the "Anti-Monitor" and I will do so throughout.
Johnny Quick of the All-Star Squadron will be "Johnny Quick I", and Johnny Quick of the Crime Syndicate will be "Johnny Quick II". (Who's Who does not number them.)
Note that adhereing to WW85's standard means that I will not be referring to the original Azrael, Steel, etc. as "Azrael I", "Steel I", etc., even though here have been new post-Crisis characters with those names.
Unless noted, characters in a panel will be named left to right, top to bottom, like reading a book.
The Issue.Page.Panel numbering system will be used throughout. Some pages have extremely complicated paneling (like, 1.2 and 1.3... This ain't Watchmen.) in which case I'll try to do it logically, and may ignore tiny panels. Two-panel spreads will be numbered (for example) 1.2-3.1.
The small images of the covers link to much larger JPG images that range in size from 200KB to 600KB.
The scans are taken from the comic book, not the collection. If you think I'm breaking the spine of my collection to get it on the scanner, yer nuts.
...there was issue one.
An awful lot of people have contributed bits and pieces to this undertaking, and I simply can't always keep track of them anymore. If I've left you out, and it particularly bugs you, email me and I'll fix things.
So, thanks to Dr. David Stepp and his JSA Fact File for some multiple Earth info. Enormous gratitude to Jim Van Dore for copying all of Amazing Heroes #91 and sending it to me. Thanks also to Michael R. Grabois, Christopher Aruffo, Virgilio 'Dean' B. Velasco Jr., Mr. Purple, RA Kownacki, Michel Bélanger, The Captain, and many others for help and advice.
Many thanks to dino for the most excellent logo!
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