The DC Multiverse: Crisis on Infinite Earths

Happy new book day, everyone! Today, I’d like to continue the trend I started last week and talk a bit more about DC Comics’s somewhat convoluted multiverse structure to help make it more accessible and understandable (and certainly less daunting) to both new and experienced readers. Please remember to keep last week’s post handy as a reference for some of the concepts and jargon I’ll be using as I move through this phase of the column. In order to make this task more manageable for all of you as readers and me as the authority (or something like it), I’ll break down these posts by universe-altering event (usually called a Crisis), and work my way through the most salient of them from over the past few decades.

Cover to The Flash #123 (September, 1961) by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Flash_v1_123.jpg

Cover to The Flash #123 (September, 1961) by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Flash_v1_123.jpg

I’ll begin with what is likely the largest shift in comics continuity in either big company to date—1985-86’s 12-issue maxi-series entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. DC had established near the beginning of the Silver Age that its titles existed in a multiverse—the shift from Golden to Silver Age itself was determined to be a shift from one universe to another, after all. 1961’s “Flash of Two Worlds” story by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino established that the Silver Age characters (characters we’re more familiar with today—Barry Allen as the Flash, Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, etc.) existed in what was then called Earth-1 before several shifts in the numbering scale. DC’s stable of Golden Age characters (a Flash named Jay Garrick, a Green Lantern named Alan Scott, and older yet familiar versions of such characters as Superman and Batman) all existed safely tucked away on Earth-2, which, despite numerous reboots, is still largely true today.

Epic wraparound cover to a recent edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths by Alex Ross. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://images.sequart.org/images/Alex-Ross-cover-to-the-collected-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths.jpg

Epic wraparound cover to a recent edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths by Alex Ross. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://images.sequart.org/images/Alex-Ross-cover-to-the-collected-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths.jpg (Click for larger image)

By the middle of the 1980s, this idea of a multiverse had grown almost out of control. It had become a crutch both to explain away continuity errors and a way to tell unique stories free of continuity’s constraints. Because of this, the DC multiverse was quite literally infinite by 1985. This was the point where the powers that be decided to simplify the playing field, trimming away the excess worlds and creating a much narrower canon.

I’ll say this right now: Crisis on Infinite Earths is a big and confusing story, even to someone who has put some time into studying DC’s many universes that predated it. With that in mind, I’d like to try to break down some of its major points to make it more digestible without outright summarizing and spoiling the entire story. And, to be fair, this story is nearly 30 years old; you’ve likely already been exposed to its effects whether you knew it or not if you’re a DC fan.

The central conflict actually arises between entities called the Monitor and Anti-Monitor. The Monitor was the prototype for the omnipotent beings that watch over the entire multiverse that I referenced last post. The Anti-Monitor is quite literally the Monitor’s opposite number, and is even made from antimatter. It was the Anti-Monitor’s goal to destroy and consume universe after universe until it was the only being left in all existence. The Monitor attempted to discreetly push various superheroes into positions where they could conceivably oppose the Anti-Monitor, but ultimately played a smaller part than one might think when the event really took off a couple of years after his introduction into several DC titles.

Cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 by George Perez. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c5/Antimonitorcoie.png

Cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 by George Perez showing the battle against the Anti-Monitor. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c5/Antimonitorcoie.png

The Crisis itself was a huge, mind-boggling series of splash pages with dozens upon dozens of characters battling across them. Let it suffice to say that there were some surprising upheavals brought about by all of these battles. It became clear as the story went on that not everyone was going to make it out alive, and many characters didn’t. For example, both Supergirl and the Flash (Barry Allen) died during the events of the crisis and stayed that way for years. In fact, Barry stayed dead for over 20 years—something nearly unheard of in comics. Many fans believed he would never return (though he did in Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, which will be explored in a future entry in this column). The fate of reality was decided with a final attack on the Anti-Monitor by the Superman of Earth-2, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3 (the greatest hero in a world of villains), the Superboy of Earth Prime (the only superbeing from our own world who may also get his own post in the future), and the one and only Darkseid.

With the threat eliminated, events the Monitor had already set in motion came to fruition; out of the remaining broken worlds, one solitary earth was created—the Post-Crisis DC Universe of the late 1980s and 1990s. This world was an amalgamation of Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-4, Earth-S (the home universe of such characters as Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and other characters powered by the wizard Shazam), and some of the more favorable pieces of Earth-X (a world where the Axis had won World War II and superheroes carrying on the fight for truth and justice were rare but beloved). As you can imagine, this created an entirely new set of contradictions within continuity. For example, which aspects of the Golden Age and Silver Age versions of Batman and Superman were kept and which were thrown out? You begin to see how truly complex this issue becomes.

And this was the structure of the DC Universe until the reintroduction of the multiverse later on in its history. But that is a story for another post. What did you all think of this rundown? Was it easy enough to follow? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t forget to follow my personal blog at quaintjeremy’s thoughts, and feel free to tweet me @quaintjeremy.

My comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #18

Earth 2 #26

Grayson #2

New Avengers #22

Moon Knight #6

She-Hulk #7

Thomas Wayne, the Grittier Batman

Flashpoint Batman symbol found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxHOklbcpas. Image courtesy of DC Comics.

Flashpoint Batman symbol found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxHOklbcpas. Image courtesy of DC Comics.

Happy new book day, everyone! First off, a spoiler warning: in continuing my series of thoughts on Batman as a character more at home in the Marvel Universe than at DC, I am looking at Thomas Wayne this week. This furthers and clarifies one of my earliest posts in this column on the Earth 2 Batman. All of that said, if you have not yet read/watched Flashpoint, Batman: Knight of VengeanceJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, or the New 52 Earth 2 but intend to, you should turn back now unless you don’t care about spoilers.

Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, has resurfaced in several forms in recent years as a grittier alternative to his son. Notably, he was showcased as Batman in Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. In this alternate universe, young Bruce is killed in the mugging that originally claims his parents’ lives while Thomas and Martha Wayne emerge unharmed. Wracked with rage and survivor’s guilt, Thomas uses his knowledge and wealth to become his world’s Batman. This iteration of the character, at the time of the Flashpoint story, is far grittier and more violent than most popular depictions of Batman in recent years. In fact, there’s quite a bit of the old, grizzled Frank Miller Batman at play in Thomas Wayne’s conception.

Unlettered cover to Batman: Knight of Vengeance #3 found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wayne. Image courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Dave Johnson.

Unlettered cover to Batman: Knight of Vengeance #3 found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wayne. Image courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Dave Johnson.

A gun-toting alternative to this character is also featured in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the recent animated film largely based on the Flashpoint comic. The transition from comic page to screen remains largely faithful to the original version of this character, but he somehow comes across as even darker. Both iterations of this same version of Thomas Wayne are merciless killers who keep a much tighter grip on Gotham City than Bruce ever has. This has not been the only story to use Thomas Wayne in this manner, however.

Though planned during James Robinson’s tenure as writer on the title, the new Batman of the New 52 Earth 2 title has been revealed during Tom Taylor’s run (paired with original artist Nicola Scott) to be the still-living Thomas Wayne of that world. On the night that Joe Chill guns down Thomas and Martha Wayne, Thomas is apparently too stubborn to die. He uses his connections as a doctor at the hospital to which he is rushed to check himself out and go into hiding due to a somewhat convoluted, shady past in which he’s had dealings with the criminals who sent Chill after him.

Leaving young Bruce in Alfred’s hands, Thomas goes underground for years in his quest for vengeance. As he grows older, he develops a dependence on a drug that augments his physical abilities, making him stronger, faster, and more agile than even Bruce with all his advanced training. Though he and Bruce later have a run-in, confirming that Thomas is indeed still alive, Bruce never accepts him back into his life once he sees what Thomas has become. Later, following the deaths of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman at the beginning of Earth 2, Thomas Wayne, now in his 70s, emerges from the shadows to take up his fallen son’s old mantle and protect the world as a Batman far more willing, even preferring, to use lethal violence in his war on crime. Check out Taylor and Scott’s run on Earth 2 to see what happens next.

Image of Earth 2 Batman from http://media.dcentertainment.com/sites/default/files/EARTH2ANN_2_38.jpg. Art from Earth 2 Annual #2 by Robson Rocha.

Image of Earth 2 Batman from http://media.dcentertainment.com/sites/default/files/EARTH2ANN_2_38.jpg. Image courtesy of DC Comics. Art from Earth 2 Annual #2 by Robson Rocha.

That’s it for this week. Let me know your thoughts on Thomas Wayne or anything else related to Batman in the comments below. Confused about the multiple timelines and alternate universes at play in the DC Universe and how they relate to Batman? If so, I may have an idea for the next shift in this column. Come back next week to see what I’ve put together.

My (numerous) comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #14

Grayson #1 (possible review forthcoming)

Injustice: Year Two #7

Justice League United #3

Infinity Man and the Forever People #2

Daredevil #5

Avengers #32

Spider-Man 2099 #1 (possible review forthcoming)

Don’t forget to check out my personal blog, quaintjeremy’s thoughts, and feel free to tweet me @quaintjeremy.

Who exactly is Earth-2 Batman?

Injustice #6 - cover art by Mico Suayan

Injustice #6 – cover art by Mico Suayan

by Jeremy DeFatta

Today’s exploration of Batman will be somewhat short, given that this version is (officially) unknown. Today I want to briefly mention the Earth 2 Batman. Once we know more of him, we will return and discuss him in detail.

POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING: The internet seems convinced that the new Batman of Earth 2 is Thomas Wayne, and likely the version from Flashpoint (somehow). Given his behavior in Earth 2 #18, however, I’m going to just throw out there that I think he might be that world’s curmudgeonly Jason Todd. What do you guys who are reading this title think? END SPOILERS.

The real point of today’s posting is to draw attention to Tom Taylor, the current writer of Earth 2 and the Injustice: Gods Among Us tie-in comic, which is seriously one of the best things DC is putting out right now. An Australian powerhouse, Taylor is probably DC’s most under-appreciated asset, which is a shame. Few will contest that DC is losing horribly to Marvel and Image when it comes to the quality of their writers—in fact, if DC were to somehow lose Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Brian Azerello, and (sometimes) Jeff Lemire, they would be in trouble. That might not be entirely fair, but I want to illustrate the position DC has placed itself in by green-lighting poorly executed projects and alienating legitimate talent—they’ve all but lost Grant Morrison and J. H. Williams III at this point.

Taylor, on the other hand, may be DC’s salvation. They need only trust in him. His treatment of non-primary continuity realities has been fantastic and eye-opening, and I can’t wait to see not only future issues of the series he is currently writing, but also any other project he might take up. He is definitely worth a look, either through the weekly digital first versions of Injustice, or the monthly print copies of it and Earth 2, available at your local comic shop.

What do you, my faithful readers, think of Tom Taylor’s writing so far? Here is a link to his (sadly underpopulated) Facebook page.

My recommendations for this week:

Go digging for something by Tom Taylor. The entire the first year of Injustice is available on comiXology for 99 cents a pop.

Forever Evil #5
Hawkeye #16
East of West #9
Pretty Deadly #4

This last one is especially important, because Kelly Sue Deconnick is seriously one of the greatest comics writers currently working, no qualifiers like “best female” necessary. Check out her work, too, and expect future returns to her body of work!

As always, support your local comic shops! Discuss this week’s topics below, and feel free to shoot a tweet at me @quaintjeremy.

image: Injustice #6 cover by Mico Suayan via Comic Vine