“Worlds will live, worlds will die, and the DC Universe will never be the same…”
That was the tagline for the 1985 maxi-series event that forever changed the DC universe and the comics industry itself. In hindsight, thirty-three years later, it can be said that Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s apocalyptic tale Crisis on Infinite Earths mostly lived up to the hype. The Crisis event was so influential that many years later stories in the DCU still revisit this event. Next year the CW plans to introduce the Crisis plot as a major cross-over event for its own live action series.
It seems like now is as good a time as any to pick up these books. But if you’ve never read or heard of Crisis, what is the big deal about these comics?
To start, we have to back to the 1980s where, by 1984 (coincidentally, the name of the next ‘Wonder Woman’ film), the DC Universe was getting tangled up in its own history and mythology.
Unlike Marvel, DC had established characters with a continuity of stories going back to the late 1930s.
During the end of the Golden Age, however, many of the major super-heroes (like Flash and Green Lantern) had seen their books cancelled during the sharp decline of interest in super-hero comics after World War Two.
It was during the Silver Age therefore that the idea of ‘multiple Earths’ became established as DC canon. The concept originated in the Silver-Age second Flash series. In The Flash #123, mainly as a gimmick to have Barry Allen (the Silver-Age Flash) team up with Jay Garrick (the Golden Age), we are told about Earth Two.
But this lone story was soon expanded and old villains, like Vandal Savage (originally a Golden Age Green Lantern foe), as well as entire Golden Age teams, like the Justice Society of America, began to interact with their Silver Age counterparts and even more Earths were revealed.
This led to a complicated historical chronology one that, by the early 1980s, made it difficult for new fans (and there were many new comic readers in those days) to simply jump into a DC title and recognize and understand the relationship between the characters: Why are there two Supermans? Two Hawkmen? Two different Green Lanterns?
DC wanted to wipe the slate clean and in the mid-eighties they had the perfect team for the job. Marv Wolfman and George Perez were fresh off of their celebrated run on the New Teen Titans and were the natural choice to execute this maxi-series.
The duo had both left Marvel to work for DC and now the company that gave us Batman and Superman were going to get their money’s worth.
While Marvel’s Secret Wars was actually published a year before Crisis, many still consider this work the first ever industry-wide mega event. That assessment actually makes sense, since Secret Wars was a story that barely affected regular Marvel continuity. The War with the Beyonder took place in a safe zone, a virtual sandbox. Not so the Crisis. The Crisis event affected everyone and the stakes were very real. Beloved characters would perish and every single extant title published by DC was changed drastically. The way this happened was through the introduction of the Anti-Monitor: a character with the power to destroy the Multi-verse. Although we don’t meet him until issue #5, this is a villain even more powerful than Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet in tow. Crisis #1 has been gradually gaining in value and currently a certified 9.8 graded copy sells for $65.00 and returns are mixed but more positive than negative with 9.8’s up +15% after 225 sales since 2007.
Before issue #7 there had been a few deaths: the Monitor and a few other obscure characters, but in issue #7 Wolfman and Perez took the series into overdrive and showed they were serious by killing a longstanding A-lister: Supergirl. The brilliant Perez cover is a highlight in a series with many standout covers (the cover to issue #5, see above, is my favorite). Superman’s anguished face as he holds his dead cousin seems to also be a fan favorite as well because this issue is worth more than the premiere. Currently a certified 9.8 can fetch $100.00 but with more mixed returns but again a positive (+16.4%) roi on 9.8s after 207 sales since 2003.
As if killing Supergirl wasn’t enough…it wasn’t. Multiple universes would be destroyed before the story was over and in issue #8 fans were hit with an even more poignant death when Barry Allen valiantly sacrifices himself. Barry actually wouldn’t come back until DC’s Rebirth event (another story line that would not have been possible without Crisis). With a FMV of $90.00 in certified 9.8 grade, this is the second most valuable issue in the original run. Returns have been slightly stronger on this than on other issues. Currently numbers are also mixed but 9.8 certified copies have a positive +36.5% roi after 167 sales since 2003.
The Crisis books have their fans and detractors, but say what you want about this epic tale, it really was a milestone in comic story telling.