Thursday, April 9, 2015

Crisis on Infinite Earths 30th anniversary!

The Quintessential Copper Age book!

Alex Ross painted this incredible picture based on Perez pencils for a new edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths
There may be better 80's comics than Crisis on Infinite Earths but if you had to choose one comic that summed up the whole of the 80's comics, you couldn't do better than this. Crisis on Infinite Earths is the quintessential 80's book with it's exhaustive and comprehensive depiction of the whole of the DC Universe.
The stunning original cover of Crisis On Infinite Earths #1, Apr 1985 that so beautifully sums up the whole of the series with it's multitude of characters and the "infinite Earths".
The 80's was a time of reassessment for the 2 major comic publishers. The fans that grew up on these heroes had taken over the creative reigns and were expressing what they loved so much about them. With Crisis on Infinite Earths, Marv Wolfman assigned himself the task of including every single character ever published in the DC Universe. This is no small task but Marv proved that he was up for the task taking it's hundreds of characters and weaving a moving narrative around it. And George Perez really manned up to the task of depicting all the myriad of characters of DC's 40 year history, from their campy 40's characters to the strange and diverse creations of their Silver Age, to the comic universes that they bought up like the Big Red Cheese's Earth S, to Quality Comics' Earth X to the evil doppelgangers of Earth-Three.

Earth S contains the characters from the Marvel Family, Earth 4 contains the Charlon heroes, Earth X contains the Quality heroes and Earth 3 contains the Justice League's evil conterparts, the Crime Syndicate. 

I love the concept that Wolfman works of the multiverse. For me to discover all the diverse characters on each Earth and all of the variations of the DC superheroes is just amazing. We get at least 4 Supermans (I love to use the proper noun of Superman in plural), at least 3 Wonder Womans, but we only get 2 Batmans, Earth-One and Earth-Three's since Earth-Two's Batman died a few years earlier. Crisis on Infinite Earths allows me the opportunity to really geek out at all the amazing history, diversity and wealth of characters that encompass their whole history which is one of the main things that attracted me to comics in the first place.

The cover of Crisis #5, Aug 1985, has a wonderful depiction of all of the varied DC superheroes including Earth 1 and Earth 2's versions of the Justice League/Society (in the center)
Marv Wolfman does an amazing job creating compelling stories within this complex framework of the multitude of characters and histories of DC Comics. The requirements of a series like this are so monumental that to be able to get any kind of coherent narrative out of it is nothing short of a miracle, but Marv not only manages to create some compelling narratives, he creates some of the most compelling narratives in all of comics history with the death of Barry Allen, the Flash. It is one of the most dramatic and well written pieces of comic book lit in the whole history of comics.

The dramatic death of Barry Allen from Crisis on Infinite Earths #8, Nov 1985 sets the benchmark for the death of a major character even to this day.
Marv does an amazing job setting up his death from the second issue when he appears before the Batman as a withered, mummy like apparition. We don't learn the ultimate fate of Barry until issue 8 where, like the hero that he is, he makes the ultimate sacrifice for our world. What greater story can one write within the superhero genre? And Marv and George pull out all of the dramatic stops.

The death of Super Girl from Crisis #7, Oct 1985.
And yet this is just a small part of a huge tome of stories Marv crafted for Crisis, from the death of Super Girl to traveling to the antimatter universe to fight the Anti-MonitorMarv condensed so many stellar stories into this tome that if one wanted to they could make dozens of mini series from it. The fact that it includes so many characters means that at first glance this work can be extremely busy and confusing, but Marv did an admirable job of telling each tale with clarity while George did an amazing job filling the stories with such intricate detail. This is a work worthy of revisiting multiple times to catch all that has been put in here.

George does an astonishing job depicting the myriad of DC Universe's heroes appearing confused by the Monitor's satellite. 
Reading it once is definitely not enough. I have poured over Perez drawings for hours, checking out all of the little details, trying to capture all of the cameos that he worked in. Some issues are especially detail heavy like issue 9 where all of the DC villains gather and strike at the heroes. It is a massive orgy of a fight fest. The grandest super hero book you will ever see, summing up all that came before and setting a precedent that is still significant even to this day. 

The super power slug fest presented in Crisis still sets a standard for super powered action fests.
As well written and moving as the story is, I think this book is really a tribute to George Perez who really does the heavy lifting depicting all of the numerous little details in this work. I think it's probably his magnum opus being created at the height of his powers. I honestly can't see anyone else doing what he has done here.

Having read it when it first came out, I can't say how well it's aged but for anyone interested DC history or in 80's comics this is a must-read work. Besides Moore and Miller's work, it's the most significant work to come out of the 80's artistically as well as in terms of DC Universe history and one that I think beautifully represents what the 80's were all about, summing up the past histories of the Golden and Silver Age and creating a precedence for the future which they did par excellence!

1 comment:

  1. Having not joined the comics world until late 1987, one of my big childhood frustrations was that I missed out on Crisis when it was new.

    I did, however, get to experience the Infinity Gauntlet first-hand...and loved it!

    How do you think it would've stacked up to Crisis: were they of similar quality?