This week sees the release of Marc Andreyko and Aaron Lopresti’s new DC Comics miniseries, Death of Hawkman, which seemingly promises to kill off the confusing cluster of continuity masquerading as a character for good. But how did Hawkman get this way? What single decision led to decades of confusion, and how can it be fixed? There may be a solution, but if we’re going to address the Hawkman problem, first we need to understand it.
crisis on infinite earths
Superhero comics were big business during wartime, with circulation numbers reaching six figures for popular titles like Captain Marvel, but in the following years their popularity began to wane until only a few were left standing. However, on this day in 1956 a new hero with a familiar name seemed to burst straight off the cover and reinvigorated the entire genre for a new generation.
Created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, Barry Allen was a police scientist with a reputation for being slow and late, until one day a lightning strike doused him with chemicals and he gained the power of super-speed. Donning a red and gold costume with the iconic lightning bolt, Barry Allen took his name from the comic book hero he’d read as a child, and became The Flash.
George Pérez, born June 9, 1954, is one of superhero comics’ most enduring and iconic artists, with a bold, energetic style that helped define both the Marvel and DC visual universes, and an influence on the genre that has stood the test of time.
Pérez first made his name at Marvel Comics in the mid-'70s, quickly graduating to high-profile titles such as Fantastic Four and The Avengers. His work on the Avengers story "The Korvac Saga" established one of his hallmarks; he was one of the best artists around if you needed a crowd shot packed with as many superheroes as the page would allow!
Everyone loves comic book trivia, but with 75 years of superhero comics behind us right now, there’s always some new obscure fact to learn. That’s why ComicsAlliance is going deep into the minutiae of your favorite names in comics in our continuing video series. You think you know comics? Well, here’s a few things you might not know!
With DC shaking up its continuity again this month, this week we're taking a look at the first and still the biggest continuity shake-up: Crisis on Infinite Earths! This video takes a look at the history of DC's multiverse and shows how a crisis on two Earths became a crisis on multiple Earths, which then went on to become the story in which worlds lived, worlds died, and nothing was ever the same again, except for the things which would be retconned to be kind of the same again later.
Comics writer and editor Marv Wolfman's name will forever be associated with one pivotal work: 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths. And that makes sense. It's the series that changed the face of the DC Universe for a quarter century, and remains the template for how that company carries out big events to this day.
But there's a lot more to Wolfman's career. Not only did Wolfman, born on this day in 1946, launch New Teen Titans; write a defining run on Tomb of Dracula; co-create characters including Bullseye, Tim Drake and Nova; and guide numerous comics-related projects in other media, Wolfman also played a major role in several creators' rights battles over the past 40 years.
Superhero comics as we know them have been telling singular ongoing narratives for over seventy-five years, and they can be incredibly intimidating to new readers. Comics companies have been seeking fixes to the problems caused by continuity for almost as long as they’ve been releasing them, and the it seems like publishers are getting far more comfortable reaching for the big red button marked “reboot.”
Continuity isn’t necessarily a four letter word, but satisfying an existing fan-base while trying to appeal to new readers can be a tricky tightrope to walk. With Marvel’s not-a-reboot Secret Wars recently behind us, and DC’s not-a-reboot Rebirth event on the horizon, what can a company do to try and solve the problems caused by long-term continuity?
As the genre of superhero comics has become increasingly event-driven over the last thirty years, the need to push each event as more important than the last has increased with it. Every new event promises, somehow with a straight face, that “nothing will ever be the same again.”
There are, in fact, comics that actually affect everything that comes after them one way or another — Action Comics #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, Uncanny X-Men #132 — but they rarely come with much fanfare, or with empty and overreaching promises. One such comic debuted on this day in 1961: Flash vol 1 #123, “The Flash of Two Worlds.”
Q: I was reading your column about New Teen Titans where you said Crisis on Infinite Earths was a mess, but a topic for another time. Care to explain now? -- @jeremyliveshere
A: The one thing you can't say about Crisis on Infinite Earths is that it didn't deliver on its promise. In a time when "event" comics were still in their infancy, Crisis came out of the gate promising to be the biggest thing that had ever or would ever hit comics, and looking back on it from almost thirty years later, it's hard not to admit that even with a comic rolling out every six months like clockwork that promises to change everything forever, it's still the one that actually did it. Worlds did live, worlds did die, and nothing actually was the same again.
It just also happens to be a story that's a complete friggin' mess.
Teased for years and finally launched this week, The Multiversity is a universe-jumping series of DC Comics one-shots tracking the cosmic monitor Nix Uotan and an assemblage of star-crossed heroes as they attempt to save 52 universes and beyond from a trippy cosmic existential threat that, like much of Morrison’s best work, represents something far more mundane and relatable. Tying back into the very first Multiverse story in DC’s history, the heroes of these universes become aware of this threat by reading about it in comic books… comic books that, it turns out, take place in neighboring universes. Indeed, writer Grant Morrison continues his streak of highly metatextual DC cosmic epics with this eight-issue mega-series (plus one Tolkienesque guidebook).
Described by Morrison as "the ultimate statement of what DC is", The Multiversity naturally offers the reader much beyond the surface level adventure, and that means annotations. Rather than merely filling out checklists of references, my hope with this feature is to slowly unearth and extrapolate a narrative model for Morrison and his collaborators' work on The Multiversity; an interconnecting web of themes and cause and effect that works both on literal and symbolic levels.
Three pages into the preview for The Multiversity #1, I knew I was going to have a lot to work with.
With no further ado, go get your erasers and your textbooks, close your laptops, sharpen your pencils, and get ready for some course notes. Let's go to school.
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