Saturday, December 22, 2007

Universe: Crisis-Earth (1985)

Beginning in April of 1985, everything changed.

Clearing up the confusion surrounding these parallel universes was the mythical reasoning behind the Crisis On Infinite Earths mini-series. In truth, DC had been losing more and more of its market share every year to Marvel Comics since the 1960's. Marvel became the industry leader in the 70's, and many of DC's mainstay titles were on the verge of cancellation. Even Superman, following waves of popularity after two hit movies, found his sales in a dangerous downward spiral. The Crisis was an event to catch the attention of fans lost to Marvel, and presented a supposedly "streamlined," yet ultimately more complicated new continuity to parallel Marvel's. John Byrne was hired away from Fantastic Four to launch a new Superman series, in which he powered down and modernized the character. Frank Miller was wooed from Daredevil to eventually set the tone for the new Batman creative teams. The stodgy old Flash was replaced by an uncertain young Wally West, a "hero with hang-ups," as Stan Lee used to write them. This was accomplished with rising indie talent Mike Baron writing for former Marvel artist Jackson Guice, finally shedding his Michael Golden influence for a style all his own (lightbox issues aside.) Peter Davis, Jim Owsley, and Roger Stern, all late of Spider-Man titles, were recruited to write Green Lantern and the Atom. Even George Pérez was only a few years removed from Marvel before reworking Wonder Woman from the ground up. Tim Truman was recruited from the minors for "Hawkworld." Of the major DC Silver Age reworkings, only the successful Green Arrow by Mike Grell and multiple failed Aquaman attempts were delivered by talent mostly associated with DC.

It was a gamble, but Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Jerry Ordway and Dick Giordano delivered the goods in their twelve issue maxi-series. However, elements of their work was nearly impenetrable for new readers, more so a quarter century removed, though the sense of magnitude remains. The relaunched titles sold well. In most respects, the series was a raging success, until some poor historian had to explain the difference between the Pre- and Post-Crisis continuity to newer fans.

All of this occurred over a span of years, and surprisingly, J'Onn J'Onzz received his own revisionary mini-series in Crisis' wake well before many better known characters. During the Crisis itself, the Martian Manhunter played a relatively small role, but he certainly had his fair share of spotlight moments. Zook, not so much. The poor little guy somehow missed the slightest mention in the series, was passed over for inclusion in any edition of "Who's Who," and in fact didn't make a true appearance Post-Crisis until a year or so ago.

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