Monday, January 25, 2021

CRISIS COUNSELING: backmatter research for week 1

These are the research notes that line up with the Backmatter section of my week 1 notes for our discussion of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Check out that earlier post here, and you can check out the entire discussion of Crisis on Infinite Earths issue 1, plus crossovers, at youtube, here

And thanks.

CRISIS Research week 1


1.  --- The first that fans and the public knew DC was planning CRISIS (not yet named as such) was a blurb in Dick Giordano’s initial “Meanwhile…” column in the Feb. 1983 cover-dated comics, released at the end of 1982. See Scanned images. 

2.  --- In a January 3, 1983 memo from Dick Giordano (executive editor for DC), Marv Wolfman, and Len Wein, all writers and editors were asked to cooperate by using The Monitor two times within their books over the coming year. As described: 

“The Monitor will be the pivotal villain of the series and we wish to have all our readers know who the character is—and to involve him completely throughout the DC Universe before the maxi-series appears.”  

The guidelines for these two appearances of The Monitor stated that, “for his first appearance…we will only hear the Monitor—not see him…His assistant, Lyla, will be the only on-panel character.” Drawings of the Monitor would be supplied within weeks of this memo so that for his second appearance, they could show him on panel. 

It is also noted that the two appearances are only a minimum. The Monitor could be used more than that, if creative teams wished, but it was important that he only observe and that they “refrain from ever having him appear IN action…He NEVER commits the crimes himself.” 

3.  --- In a memo a year later, on January 9, 1984, Giordano made it clear that “The need to include The Monitor in your plans is not optional but absolutely required for all designated titles.” Designated titles included most of the superhero titles. Examples of those exempt were war titles like Sgt. Rock, space titles like Omega Men, those that fell outside the DCU like Arak and Jemm and Thriller, and special books such as Super Powers, which was a toy tie-in, and DC Challenge. 

4.  --- In a memo to Giordano, Wolfman, and Wein, Roy Thomas pointed out that, judging by mail for the titles he edited, such as All-Star Squadron, the Monitor appearances in that first year were not exciting readers. Thomas stated he didn’t feel the concept of the Monitor was a bad one, but that “it’s bound to be wearying, all these cameos which have to get a bit repetitious.”

5.  --- In a memo from November 9, 1984, Marv Wolfman noted that “The entire CRISIS storyline takes place in about three weeks’ time.” But since they wanted the main line of books to crossover with CRISIS, the “participation time [was] actually from July to the first week in November [of 1985].”

6.  --- In an interview for Comics Interview #26, conducted by Patrick Daniel O’Neill, Marv Wolfman stated that the reason they decided to do CRISIS was the idea that the DC Universe was cluttered, that it made no sense. The ideas of “the multiple earths, the multiple Supermen, and the multiple everything” would drive new readers crazy. They wanted to “streamline the universe, get rid of the deadwood, get rid of the multiple universes.” It was believed this would make DC new-reader friendly and help avoid the confusion and contradictions in continuity that had cropped up through almost fifty years of publication of these characters. 

And the spark for this idea came from a letter printed in Green Lantern #143, noting a continuity mix-up from a two-part story in GL #136-37, wherein Marv Wolfman, who was writing GL at the time and answering letters during a changeover in editorship, stated that one day DC editorial would “probably straighten out what is in the DC universe, excluding that which isn’t in direct reference with Earth One, and what is outside.” And from there, Wolfman ruminated on this issue of confusing and contradictory continuity, with that idea germinating into what would become CRISIS. 

7.  --- In an interview for Pacesetter: the George Perez Magazine #7, Marv Wolfman stated that George Perez was his first choice to draw CRISIS, but he didn’t think he would want to do it. But when Perez heard Wolfman talking about it, he volunteered.  

Issue 1:

8.  --- Roy Thomas was the custodian of the golden age characters for DC, at the time CRISIS was conceived, and he was one of the most cooperative, as far as tying into the event through storylines for the titles he wrote—Infinity Inc. and All-Star Squadron—as well as general ideas outside of these titles. This was out of necessity, since he realized the story was going to be published, regardless, and if he assisted, maybe it would gain these titles a bit of a reprieve. He sent a number of lengthy, and thoughtful, memos to Wolfman, Wein, and Giordano, with this in mind. 

Because, ironically, Thomas would also be the one most impacted by CRISIS. One of the stated goals of the series was to streamline the DC Universe, to get rid of duplicate heroes, which would entail the demise, in some fashion, of many of the characters he edited, such as the original Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, etc. 

9.  --- It’s noteworthy that some of the most recognizable and, at the time, best-selling characters, such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the New Teen Titans, are not front and center early in CRISIS. This was a conscious decision by Marv Wolfman and editorial so that the focus would be on the story and showcase the idea that this impending cataclysm affected the entirety of the DC Universe. Wolfman “wanted it to be obvious that the story was more important than any individual character.” 

10.  --- George Perez inked the figure of Alexander Luthor from Earth-3, the first few times, because he found it challenging to get across what he wanted for a look through just his pencils. 

He also inked Arion’s mystic symbol throughout, to avoid confusion with all the crossing lines, and to keep it consistent throughout the whole story. 


11.  ---An explanation of why some crossovers don’t have the CRISIS banner and others do --- In an interview with Comics Interview (#26, conducted by Patrick Daniel O’Neill), Marv Wolfman stated that they asked that “CRISIS crossovers be in all the comics,” and that “if it’s a minor crossover . . . ‘Do not blurb it as a CRISIS crossover.’ But “if it’s a major crossover, if it’s the root of [their] plot, ‘Blurb it.’” 

I’m not sure if these All-Star Squadron books should have had the banner.

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