Case Study: Justice League/Black Hammer #1 (2019) pg. 14

The page itself is set up to show The Stranger standing before both the cast of Black Hammer and the Justice League. The Black Hammer cast to his left, and the JLA to his right. The page separates into a 4-panel layout, conveying the time it takes for his magic to take effect. As indicated by the light radiating from The Stranger becoming brighter between panels. As the text would be read in the same order despite the panel break down, we can conclude that the choice of panel layout is to solely convey the gradual use of magic.

The final panel border in this layout noticeably appears lighter and less defined. As this is where the Stranger’s magic fully takes effect, and its purpose is to transport both groups away from their respective time and dimensions, the panel border dissolving is highly appropriate. Especially given the full page spread on the next page. The only way this effect would be stronger, is if the bottom left panel border began to show this effect as well.

When dividing the page vertically, the world of Black Hammer appears on the left, while the DC Universe appears on the right. Aside from the obvious difference in characters, the artists and colourists make a very clear distinction between the time periods and dimensions. The DC Universe, including the characters costumes, the building, and sky consist of a brighter, very hopeful pallet. While in contrast, the Black Hammer universe appears darker, using more muted tones and a lot of blues. The most direct comparison is the blue on Superman’s costume, the blue of Abe’s shirt, the red of both Wonder Woman’s costume and Superman’s cape, and the red of Gail’s jumper and Barbalien’s skin. Having these comparisons, hammers in the effect the colouring has.

  • Lemire, J. & Walsh, M. (2019) Justice League/Black Hammer #1. Dark Horse Comics & DC Comics: Burbank.
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Happiness, The Grim Knight and the Batman Who Laughs

Despite its dark tone and ties to the event Dark Nights Metal. The Batman Who Laughs series at its core is about the meaning of happiness. Will Bruce ever be truly happy, and what does it really mean to be happy? As the story begins, the event that created The Batman Who Laughs happens to our Bruce. Being infected by the toxins in the Joker’s heart. As the Batman Who Laughs enacts his plan, which involves killing alternate ‘happy’ incarnations of Bruce Wayne, we see our Batman slowly decay. When they come face to face, the Batman Who Laughs states to Bruce, “Out of every version of us across the universe. You’re the most miserable. The least accomplished. You don’t understand why yet, but you will. See, to me, to us. You’re the Nightmare Batman. The bad joke. Worse than that. You’re an old man’s hand over a child’s heart. Weak, soft. Protecting nothing. Me…. I’m the gun.” [Snyder & Jock.2019:046] Spurred on by his degradation and this conversation, Bruce begins to question his methods and compares himself to the other Bruce’s he meets or learns about. “I was standing right here when I made it… My big plan. To climb out of the dark… To never be afraid. To show people… Someone plunges the city into darkness, I help it climb…. Climb…. Climb… Am I just a rope, Alfred? Is that it? am I the man who throws the rope? Maybe the person climbing with everyone? Whatever I am, I just don’t see it working anymore”. [Snyder & Jock.2019:077]

During the Grim Knights solo issue, we see the main difference between our Bruce, and the Grim’s origin. In many ways, he shares a lot in common with the Dawnbreaker incarnation. A child, in the fit of anger and despair, takes it out on the man who took his parents. While the Dawnbreaker Batman was greeted by a Green Lantern ring, Grim uses the very gun that had moments before fired the bullets that killed his mother and father. “It happened so quickly. Bruce had barely seen the man moving through the dark. Barely understood why his father stepped out in front of them. Until the loudest noise he had ever heard ripped his life away, and time seemed to freeze. To stretch into eternity. He thought he would be trapped in that moment forever. And perhaps, on another world, he would have been”. [Snyder & Jock.2019:083] The comic depicts scenes that evoke Miller’s Year One in showing Bruce’s training and the night after his first attempt at crime fighting. This includes recycling much of the dialogue, though given the visuals new twist, it takes on a sinister tone. While collapsed in his father’s chair, there are an assortment of weapons at his feet. As the fated bat flies in through the window, Grim shoots it dead and sees that as his sign. This deference is further cemented when the book re-creates the “You have eaten well” moment of Year One. Only now, the charges murder the people there, rather than just blowing the wall out. It’s very easy to see how such a small choice, like picking up the gun in a moment of frustration, can change Bruce’s core beliefs so drastically. “The Grim Knight. Even his bullets shoot bullets. The deadliest man alive. He’s us if Joe Chill dropped the gun in the alley and we picked it up. It’s not just the guns, though no. On his world he has Wayne Enterprises Weaponized. Chips in your GPS. Valves in your water infiltration. Your Minivan drives off a bridge, you never know who killed you. He’s us at Total War”. [Snyder & Jock.2019:045]

There is an ongoing theme of seeing the world through the eyes of children. During Issue #4, it’s explained that an old saying in Gotham is that “Happiness is seeing the world through the eyes of children”. Our Bruce tries to see the world through the eyes of the Robins, specifically Dick Grayson. Bruce thinks to himself “I’ve never told anyone this, but whenever I have a bad night… whenever I doubt myself, or my mission as Batman (like now….) I try to see things through my children’s eyes. Dick was the first Robin. He had the happiest eyes. Circus eyes. Weightless. Leaping, never falling. But it’s true of all of them”. [Snyder & Jock.2019:111] When Bruce and the Batman who Laughs meet face to face at the end of the issue, the Batman Who Laughs flips this notion on its head. “You’re trying to see things through the eyes of your Robins, aren’t you? Through the eyes of your so-called children. But they knew, Batman. The hope you saw in people, it was a lie, that’s why Dick, why all of them stayed high above. But I’m here to tell you the truth. […] Yes. The hard truth is, you’re finally seeing things clearly. Because for the first time ever, you’re looking at Gotham through the eyes of you real child. Your truest child. He Batman Who Laughs. In other words, me”. [Snyder & Jock.2019:132-133]

“But maybe it’s simple! Maybe happiness is just laughter?” [Snyder & Jock.2019:165]

While the book is about defeating The Batman Who Laughs, restoring Bruce to normal, and setting up the ongoing Batman/Superman series. It feels like the book could have been, or perhaps was originally meant to be an exploration of happiness and Bruce’s mission. When we see the ‘happy’ alternatives of Bruce, we see men who have gone on to have families, save Gotham with new methods that don’t involve the Batsuit. In the end, our Bruce will always be Batman. But weather or not he will ever be truly happy is a question with no answer.

  • Miller, F. & Mazzucchelli, D. (1986) Batman: Year One. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Snyder, S & Capullo, G. (2018) Dark Nights Metal. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Snyder, S. & Jock. (2019) The Batman Who Laughs. DC Comics: Burbank.

Elseworlds and the conclusion of myth

In his pitch for the unproduced comics Twilight of the Superheroes, Alan Moore discusses the idea of comics not attaining true modern myth or legend status due to having to be open ended. That because the stories are continued every month, there really isn’t room for closure so the myth never has a conclusion. He compares it to the myths and legends of Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Davy Crockett. “You cannot apply it to most comic book characters because, in order to meet the commercial demands of a continuing series, they can never have a resolution. Indeed, they find it difficult to embrace any of the changes in life that the passage of time brings about for these very same reasons, making them finally less than fully human as well as falling far short of true myth”.

An example Moore uses of a comic doing this right is Frank Miller’s the Dark Knight Returns (1986). Given Moore wrote his pitch in 1987 and before the Elseworld imprint was invented or Miller created the Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001)or Dark Knight III the Master Race (2017), using Dark Knight Returns is more than ideal. It is set in a possible future where Batman had retired for years, before coming back and eventually “dying” in a fight with Superman. Bringing a satisfying conclusion to the Batman mythos. Had Dark Knight Returns been published post Gotham by Gaslight (1989) then perhaps we would refer to it as an Elseworld story for how much it has in common with alternate reality stories.

I believe a reason why Elseworld stories can be so satisfying is because, much like how Moore describes Dark Knight Returns, they provide a conclusion to a story for the most part. In Superman: Red Son (2003), Superman’s rocket lands in the Ukraine rather than Kansas. He grows up to be Russia’s hero rather than Americas, he eventually becomes a dictator and controls Russia, before ‘dying’ protecting the Earth from Brainiac. In the Batman & Dracula trilogy, Dracula invades Gotham, Batman becomes a vampire to stop him and the other vampires, he eventually dies when he’s no longer needed. JLA Act of God, the Justice League suddenly lose their powers and have to adapt to an ordinary life. Some eventually accept their new role, with Clark and Diana having a son at the end.

Regardless of their quality, Elseworld stories do provide something that main continuity can’t give you. Closure and a complete myth. Perhaps the best example would be the fantastic Kingdom Come (1996), which takes a lot of ques from Moore’s Twilight of the Superheroes. In universe, the heroes we know have already disappeared into myth and legend, before coming back for an epic battle. At the end, they are once again seen as myths and legends, with Clark and Diana about to have a child, with Bruce as godfather, giving rise to another generation of heroes. Despite the fact that it does take influence from Moore’s work, it’s possible that he would have seen Kingdom Come as the ultimate example of a complete mythology with DC Superheroes.

Bibliography:

  • Miller, F. (1986) The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics: Burbank
  • Moore, A. (1987) Twilight of the Superheroes: The Interminable Ramble. [Online] Archive. Available from: https://archive.org/stream/TwilightOfTheSuperheroes/TwilightOfTheSuperheroes_djvu.txt [Last accessed: 31.08.2019]
  • Augustyn, B. & Mignola, M. (1989) Gotham by Gaslight. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Moench, D. & Jones, K. (1991) Batman & Dracula: Red Rain. DC Comics: Burbank
  • Moench, D. & Jones, K. (1994) Batman: Bloodstorm. DC Comics: Burbank
  • Waid, M. & Ross, A. (1996) Kingdom Come. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Moench, D. & Jones, K. (1998) Batman: Crimson Mist. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Miller, F. (2001) Dark Knight Strikes Again. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Moench, D. & Ross, D. (2001) JLA: Act of God. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Millar, M. & Johnson, D. (2003) Superman: Red Son. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Miller, F. & Azzarello, B. (2017) Dark Knight III: The Master Race. DC Comics: Burbank.

Overthinking the DC Multiverse, String Theory, and Dimensional Perspective

I’ve been giving some thought to how Grant Morrison tells his stories. How he thinks about meta-narratives, the nature of time, and the fourth wall. Granted, some of it comes in to my own research, but there is something specifically interesting about Morrison even outside my research. I’ve found myself looking at his map of the multiverse and considering it as though it were real. That sounds kind of stupid, of course it’s real. You can Google it and print it off, or just pick up a copy of Multiversity and take a look at it there. But I started to consider it in the way that I imagine Morrison does.

The first thing to notice about the map is the presence of 52 Earths in the centre. The number 52 comes up often in DC lore and does frequently refer to there being 52 different realities. Earth 0 is New Earth, where the New 52, and now Rebirth universe takes place, Earth 1 is where the stories of Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski, Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns, and Wonder Woman: Earth One by Grant Morrison take place, as well as the other Earth One titles. Earth 5 is the home of Captain Marvel, the original name for the hero now known as Shazam and a send up to the Pre-Crisis Earth S. Earth 11 is gender-bent. Earth 22 is the world seen in Kingdom Come, Earth 43 is the world seen in Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, so on and so forth. But what is important to remember here is that while they are represented as planets within this space, they are actually the universes those stories take place in. Within each of those “worlds” on the map, there are other planets and galaxies. So, while they are represented as singular entities, they are actually far more grant and complex than you would imagine. Almost symbolic of the map as a whole.

During the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and obviously Pre-Crisis, there were more than just 52 earths. As previously stated, Earth 5 previously existed as Earth S Pre-Crisis, before being rolled into the then New Earth. The point of Crisis on Infinite Earths was to roll all of their separate universes into one cohesive continuity. Though this was later broken again years later, see Infinite Crisis. What is interesting to note though is that this Map of the Multiverse could have existed even then. In the Tenth Issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the narrative at the bottom of the page states;

“On the planet Adon, five youths known as The Forever People used their powers to protect their adopted world from destruction. Across the dimensions, their pursuer, Darkseid the destroyer, cloaked only Apokolips from harm.”

On Morrison’s Multiverse Map, Apokolips and New Genesis both exist outside of the centre point. Separate from the “worlds”, which we will address shortly.

This collection of “worlds” is addressed here as the “Orrery of Worlds”.  This is due to how the Monitors see the worlds, and given their collective status here, it is the most appropriate term.

Between each of these “worlds” is space known as “The Bleed”. If we were to think visualise each of the “worlds” as marbles in a bowl of jelly. Then the jelly would be The Bleed. The space in-between each of the “worlds” in order to keep them separate. But this Bleed doesn’t seem to be solid, comparing it to something like jelly might actually be appropriate. As there have been times when “worlds” have collided or partly phased into each other. Take Convergence. The main plot of the event is that different cities from across the multiverse were bottled, then made to battle each other to see who would survive. Clearly movement between these “worlds” is possible. Morrison even lists the different types of ships the Monitors use to cross the Multiverse. A more direct example of bleed travel would come from the abilities of The Flash.

The Flash’s ability to move between universes possibly comes from the fact that the very thing containing the worlds and the Bleed is the Speed Force Wall. The very force that the Flash taps into. The Flash’s abilities stem largely from vibration. Using his speed to change the molecular vibrations within him, he can perform some interesting moves such as Quantum Tunnelling, the ability to move through solid objects, as well as travel through time and other universes. The idea of molecular vibrations has a strong connection to the real-world principle of String Theory. To grossly oversimplify, String Theory states that the smallest molecules that make up matter are themselves made up of string. This string vibrates at different frequencies in order to determine what they are making up. Morrison makes note of this fact in the final act of Final Crisis. As Superman states before defeating Darkseid;

“The Worlds of the Multiverse vibrate together Darkseid and make this…. Sound, like an orchestra. Everything’s just frequencies, vibrations. And counter-vibrations that cancel them out.”.

How the Flash travels through The Bleed and to other Universes by manipulating his own vibrational frequencies to slip right through. A more advanced version of his quantum tunnelling. The speed force entrapping these “worlds” also explains how the Barry Allen Flash became trapped after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Speaking of Crisis, it works to explain why Tuning Forks were needed to try to stabilise the worlds.

Beyond the Speed Force Wall lies the Sphere of the Gods layer. This as aptly named, as it sees eight more “worlds” above the previous 52. These are labelled as:

  • Nightmare
  • Skyland
  • New Genesis
  • Heaven
  • Dream
  • Underworld
  • Apokolips
  • Hell

Each of these “worlds” are inhabited by Gods, New Gods, Demons and Angels alike. Fittingly, given how these beings would be seen as being above regular man, it’s appropriate that their plane of existence would be higher than the Orrery. Apokolips and New Genesis we did address earlier, as during Crisis on Infinite Earths they were both protected. The world “Dream” is home to beings such as the Endless, Dream, Destiny, Death etc. “Skyworld” is home to the mythical gods, Asgard, Olympus, etc. “Hell” housing beings such as Etrigan and Trigon, and the “Underworld” can lead to the Kryptonian Phantom Zone. The North side of the sphere known as Order, while the lower as Chaos. As I’ve said, it makes sense that these worlds would be above the Orrery. These beings are Gods when compared to man. Beyond these, we find the Monitor Sphere. Those that watch over the Multiverse and are used within Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Final Crisis.

Holding the entire thing together is the Source Wall. This has recently been played with by the writer Scott Snyder in both his Justice League run, Justice League: No Justice, and Dark Nights Metal. Granted, Snyder has also been playing with a dark version of this map through Dark Nights Metal, and the Dark Multiverse. The source wall is said to be too high to scale, too wide to go around, and too low to crawl under. Essentially, it’s impenetrable from the inside. Beyond the wall is nothingness. Empty white space known as “The Source”. Given how Morrison thinks, I believe that “The Source” is the inspirations from the creators, readers and writers that made this multiverse. You can trace the inspiration of characters like Superman to circus strongmen and real-world mythology, Batman can be traced to Sherlock Holmes and possibly Dracula imagery. Just as the Gods of their multiverse are in a plain higher than the heroes and worlds, I believe we are in a level beyond “The Source”. It could stretch beyond that. Maybe “The Source” also includes other fictional multiverses. What if the Marvel universe had a similar map? One that could be placed alongside this map. Morrison’s map, while possibly not intentional, does show elements of “The Source” bleeding in towards the maps centre. Elements of outside fiction slowly influencing their worlds due to pop culture and writers’ tastes.

If you think of this model in a real-world aspect, who’s to say this isn’t how our world works? That we are a single world in a massive Orrery? Morrison has often played with the idea of perception. In Multiversity, where this map is also published, Captain Atom flips through a comic book and makes this comment;

“This story’s linear, but I can flip through the pages in any order. Any direction. Forward in time to the conclusion. Back to the opening scene. The characters remain unaware of my scrutiny, but their thoughts are transparent. Weightless in little clouds. This is how a 2-Dimensional continuum looks to you. Imagine how your 3-D world appears to me.”

In a 2-dimensional universe, one in this case that almost purely exists on paper, we do see it this way. We have full control of time, pacing and what we chose to acknowledge. What if something in the 4th or even 5th dimension views our reality this way as well? Are we secretly being spied on by Mr. Mxyzptlk or Bat-Mite? God, I hope not. But it’s an interesting proposition to make. Going the other way, could the fiction of the DC universe also be broken down this way? Does their fiction get as much attention in universe as theirs does in ours? Perhaps in some higher plain of existence, we are all just entries in a fan Wikipedia page. I bet you mine is a single paragraph or a redirect entry.

Bibliography:

  • Wolfman, M. & Perez, G. (1986) Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Gaiman, N. et. Al. (1989 – present) The Sandman. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Moench, D. & Jones, K. (1991) Batman & Dracula: Red Rain. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Waid, M. & Ross, A. (1996) Kingdom Come. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Johns, G. & Jimenez, P. (2006) Infinite Crisis. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Morrison, G & Jones, J.G. (2009) Final Crisis. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Straczynski, J. M. & Davis, S. (2010) Superman: Earth One. DC Comics: Burbank
  • Johns, G. & Frank, G. (2012) Batman: Earth One. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • King, J. & Van Sciver, E. (2015) Convergence. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Morrison, G. et al. (2015) Multiversity. DC Comics: Burbank
  • Morrison, G. & Paquette, Y. (2016) Wonder Woman: Earth One. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Snyder, S. & Capullo, G. (2017 – 2018) Dark Nights Metal. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Snyder, S. & Manapul, F. (2018) Justice League: No Justice. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Snyder, S. & Jirmenez, J. (2018 – Present) Justice League. DC Comics: Burbank.

Millennium (1987) by Englehart, Staton and Gibson

Post Crisis on Infinite Earths is a strange time for DC Comics. While continuity is reset, it’s also remembered by some of the characters involved. Millennium takes place shortly after Crisis, even involving Harbinger, a key figure in that story.

A Guardian from OA, and his Zamaron companion come to earth as the Millennium has come. Just as immortality and evolution came to their species, it is now time for Earth to undergo the same process. Ten humans have been chosen from different walks of life to ascend to a higher plain and attain immortality. However, the enemy of the Guardians, the Manhunters, have come to Earth and infiltrated many of Earth’s heroes’ friends and colleagues. While the Guardian and Zamaron travel the world collecting the chosen, it’s up to Earths heroes to defeat the Manhunters and protect the chosen. However, when their friends have been taken over by these androids, can they really trust each other?

Spanning across Eight issues, the story feels lacking in places. Heavily relying on tie-ins to fill in major details meaning that it feels like you are jumping from issue 1 to 3 even when going in order. it is relatively easy to fill in the gaps, but it feels like you’re only getting half the story. With a lack of trades, it means trying to track down the necessary issues.

Happily, the story does have a good amount of focus on none conventional heroes. Such as Captain Atom, Booster Gold, even the Floronic Man gets some focus as one of the chosen. It’s refreshing to see, and even provides some more incite into the Green Lantern Corps. Granted, it’s not as overwhelming as Crisis, it’s interesting to see this mix especially as a modern-day reader.

The concept is interesting and could have major potential. But for the stakes and gains, it feels like the pay off is very weak. It feels as though this should have had major ramifications, but it just seems to end. Perhaps reading it with the tie-ins would improve this but the core issues just feel lacking. Perhaps a modern revisit to this idea would have greater ramifications, but for it’s time, it’s an interesting cosmic tale.

Gotham by Gaslight (1989) by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola

Considered the first Elseworld story, Gotham by Gaslight is a what if story, setting Bruce Wayne and his antics as Batman to 19th Century Gotham, and pitting him against Jack the Ripper. Having travelled from London to continue killing.

Beginning as Bruce is finishing his travels and study in Europe, he travels back to Gotham City on a ship. He arrives back, and before long discovers that young woman is being murdered in the streets. He begins to don his Batman costume and tries to assist the police in the investigation, while also looking for his parent’s killer. However, the police suspect that Batman is in fact the killer, given that they showed up at the same time. It’s when evidence points to Bruce Wayne as the Ripper, he is imprisoned and must find a way to clear his name and take back to the streets as the Batman once again.

Mignola’s style fits the story like no other. His use of shadows is striking to truly sell that Victorian theme, and the grim associated with the Jack the Ripper killings. His costume is iconic. A steampunk interpretation of the classic Cape and Cowl. A striking new coat with a folded collar. The costume is both easily recognisable as Batman, while still feeling like a natural part of the period.

It’s incredibly refreshing to have a Batman story, especially an Elseworld take, without the Joker as a main figure. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t appear. Early on in the story, when Bruce visits Inspector Gordon where Gordon talks about the increase in crime. He uses an example that he has the flyer for on his desk. “Take this one. A real merry Widower. Wed old ladies then poisoned them. With Strychnine. Ten of them. Ten. Tried to kill himself when we caught him. The loon took some of his own poison. Not enough. Didn’t kill him, just paralyzed his face. Happy looking Jasper, eh?”. The image on the poster is heavily reminiscent of Conrad Veidt in 1928s The Man who Laughs. A silent romantic drama directed by German filmmaker, Paul Leni. The film has been cited as one of the key inspirations in the design of The Joker. The nod is small, but greatly appreciated and adds some greater detail to the world Gotham by Gaslight takes place in.

Interestingly, after Batman begins to act in Gotham City, during a party, policemen and officials are discussing how this “Bat-Man” could be the killer of late. In conversation, he is referred to as “Nosferatu”. The instant connection to make here, would be the 1922 film Nosferatu, it in itself a loose adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, Gotham by Gaslight takes place in 1889. Predating both Nosferatu and even the novel Dracula, which saw publication in 1897. The term ‘Nosferatu’ reportedly dates back as far as 1865, but primarily in German magazine publications. The use of the word in Gotham by Gaslight might draw on this, but it’s more likely that it’s referencing the film, despite the mismatching years. Never the less, the use of the reference here is more likely meant to evoke vampiric imagery in the readers mind, rather than outright talking about the film.

If the book has one downside, it’s that the villain is remarkably easy to guess from the first few pages. Making himself known and delivering his name with everything but a wink and a nod. However, it’s Batman we are here for, and watching Bruce figure it out and clear his name. Discover the mystery behind both the murdered woman, and the death of his parents. Gotham by Gaslight is worthy of its praise, and a fantastic kickstart to the Elseworld line.

In 2018, Gotham by Gaslight was adapted into an animated film. Taking its story from both Gotham by Gaslight and its sequel Master of the Future. It changes the killer’s identity, and thus the later half in itself is changed. Meaning that watching the film won’t spoil the book, and vice versa. But even with it’s small page count, the book is more entertaining and compelling. Though the film is also well done, with many small nods to mainstream continuity.

Crisis on Infinite Earths

I’ve said before that it can feel deeply daunting to pick up and read Crisis on Infinite Earths. The sheer amount of information and mythology on display can be intimidating. Especially in retrospect as the stories impact can still be felt over 30 years later. The focus on multiversal stories and characters, the idea of the Monitors and stories on an epic scale. Crisis on Infinite Earths is a monumental moment in both superhero and comics history. It is difficult to get into, but the knowledge gained is completely worth the long journey.

The biggest hurdle to get past is the first two issues. That is where the main intimidation comes from. The issues start by visiting different Earths across the multiverse, with characters the reader might not be aware of, and the sudden impending threat that these Earths are being destroyed. The characters we do follow during these issues are completely new, taking the forms of Harbinger and Pariah. However, once you get past the first issue and a half, the plot becomes a lot easier to manage, as characters start to really stand out and add real weight to the events. Even newcomers like Harbinger and Pariah become deeply sympathetic.

At the beginning of time, the multiverse was created by accident. Thousands of alternate universes with different outcomes and characters. At this moment, both anti matter and matter universes were created. In the matter universe, a being came into existence that we come to know as the Monitor. A being that watches over the universes from his station. In the Anti-Matter universe, a companion being is born as well, a creature we know as the Anti-Monitor. The two beings warred for their own Matter to gain dominance, until they both became dormant. Thousands of years pass, when in one universe, a scientist known as Pariah wants to prove that the beginning of the universe can be observed. During his experiments, he accidentally awakens the Anti-Monitor, who uses this gateway to begin to destroy the matter universes. Tipping the balance of matter in his direction. This act awakens the Monitor who begins to observe the remaining universes, looking for champions to restore the balance and defeat the Anti-Monitor. For the crime of awakening the Anti-Monitor and setting this whole chain of events into motion, Pariah is forced to watch each universe fade away, and hear the screams of each world’s inhabitants. All of this is revealed over the course of the series 12 issues. With the first issue beginning as Pariah watches Earth-3 fall, that universes Lex Luther sending his only son through the multiverse to safety, and Harbinger (a girl rescued and raised by the Monitor) gathering the heroes selected by the Monitor.

Our core cast consists of characters across the different dimensions, this allows for two different versions of Superman to join the team (later joined by a third), as well as characters DC Comics had come to obtain through rights negotiations and wanted to fold into their main line universe. This led to characters like Blue Beetle, The Question, and the Marvel family (now better known as the Shazam family) being seen as true DC characters on the level of Batman or Wonder Woman. The story also allowed to clear up the continuity of comics. A reason two Supermen appear in the story, particularly at the beginning, is to make a clear definition between the Golden Age Superman from the 1930s (the one that also acted as Superboy in Smallville as a teenager) and the more modern take on the character. The way the characters were distinguished was in clearly showing the Earth-2, Golden Age, incarnation as being much older. Complete with grey temples. The stories focus on universes being destroyed, allowed Marv Wolfman, and DC as a whole, to decide what truly was in continuity. However, it also affected characters you wouldn’t expect, especially when viewing it in the modern day. Killing off the Barry Allen incarnation of The Flash, and Supergirl one issue after another. It’s not a sudden shock death for the sake of having a shock moment to pull in readers. Their deaths carried weight and meaning. Both of which dying heroic deaths for the sake of saving others. For the Flash, he used his speed to try to contain the power of the Anti-Monitor’s universe destroying machine. Running fast enough to travel through time and briefly appear to other characters before he finally disintegrates. The consequences of this cause Wally West to become the new Flash. A role he kept until the 2000s. Essentially becoming the Flash for an entire generation.

The story does introduce several characters that become wholly iconic with this event. That simply mentioning these characters summons the grand scale and ideas of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The most obvious being Pariah and Harbinger, but also the character of Alexander Luthor. At the beginning of the first issue, a good guy version of Lex Luthor manages to save his son from his Earths destruction in a very Superman-esc way. Sending the new-born through the void in a small rocket. He ends up in the care of Harbinger and the Monitor, where he begins to rapidly age to that of a teenager/young adult. The consequences of being sent through the universes mean that his body is somehow composed of both matter and anti-matter in perfect harmony. He becomes a valuable asset to the team, as he is able to transport the other heroes to the Anti-Monitor’s world. He also manages to use these powers to give the Earth-2 Superman a happy ending to his story, transporting him to a paradise void where he can live with his Lois Lane.

Even with the grand scale of the plot, there are a lot of little side details, like the Psycho Pirate being used to manipulate an entire Earth into feeling deep fear, as well as torturing The Flash for the Anti-Monitor.

The stories reach can be felt heavily in later years. Most noticeably in other ‘Crisis’ stories, such as Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis. But it also stretches to other big event stories using the Multiverse in Flashpoint, Convergence and even the somewhat recent Multiversity and Dark Nights Metal. Zero Hour acts as a pseudo-sequel to Crisis as it involves alternate realities suddenly invading the main Earth, with a wave of nothingness, similar to the Anti-Matter wave, erasing entire historical ages through time. Infinite Earths is more of a direct sequel, with those in the paradise dimension, the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane, Alexander Luthor and Superboy-Prime, becoming angry with what the other survivors have done to the Earth. Given the state of the DC universe at the time of Infinite Crisis this is understandable. The recent murder of Maxwell Lord by Wonder Woman, Batman’s paranoia becoming so overwhelming to the point of creating contingency plans for all of his teammates and setting up the Brother Eye Satellite to watch everyone. As well as Superman just becoming less of an inspiration to people. Infinite Crisis shows the members of the Paradise dimension breaking free in order to confront the survivors, with Alex and Prime deciding that they want to create a perfect Earth, even if it means destroying existing worlds.

Final Crisis ties in much less then the others, but instead, Grant Morrison uses the elements set up by Crisis on Infinite Earths to tell his own story about the nature of linear storytelling. Using the Monitors and the multiverse to tie the plot together, though using Darkseid and his forces as the story’s villain. With Convergence, Multiversity and Dark Nights Metal, it’s all about exploring alternate worlds in different situations. In Convergence it’s them being collected and pitted against each other, Multiversity tells stories within those universes, and even them coming together in a similar fashion to Crisis. And Dark Nights Metal shows the dark side of the multiverse. Something DC plans to explore in their upcoming series Tales from the Dark Multiverse.

Crisis on Infinite Earths is an epic on a grand scale. One I don’t think has been matched by any story DC story since. The stories legacy is well earned, and its impact is still being felt. It can be intimidating to get into and does drag in the second half before the finale, but the experience is well worth the journey.