Monday, January 25, 2021

CRISIS COUNSELING: raw notes for week 1


The first episode of our look at Crisis on Infinite Earths is now live on youtube, with an audiocast to follow. With that, I thought I would share my raw notes for the discussion, here. Hopefully you'll find it interesting. Thanks.

Notes for week 1 

Opening Argument:  thought --- balloons & Gerry Conway’s recent-ish dissection of these vs. first-person caption boxes  see thread here.


I began collecting comics in 1984, with GI Joe #23.
Crisis was published later, but I didn’t read it until probably middle to late ‘86.
I remember going through the Mile High Comics catalog and next to Crisis #8, it stated the Flash died. Flash is my favorite character. I had to have it, and I bought the rest of the 12 issues.
From the start, I loved this series. Probably read it a couple dozen times, at least, and it still stands up. 

Crisis Cover Impact: Love it. Wraparound cover, with the heroes & villains tumbling through space as red lightning destroys a centipede of multiple Earths, while Pariah gnashes his teeth and Harbinger stands above it all, with the Monitor a shadow in the background. It’s engaging. And it’s PEREZ.


Chapter 1:  “The Summoning!”

We open with the birth of the multiverse. What should have been a single universe with a single Earth became many, and now that debt is being paid as a wall of anti-matter sweeps across dimensions, as one Earth dies, followed by Earth-3, home to the Crime Syndicate—including Ultraman, Super-Woman, and Power Ring—evil doppelgangers of heroes familiar to us, and the lone hero who stands against them, Alexander Luthor.

As the wall of Anti-Matter destroys Earth-3, Luthor and his wife, Lois Lane Luthor, secure their child in a vibrational rocket and send it across parallel dimensions to Earth-1, so that he might at least be saved, not unlike the way a baby Kal-El was launched from Krypton to become Earth’s Superman, the first superhero.

With every universal death, a mysterious, green-cloaked figure named Pariah is forced to bear witness, unable to intervene. We will learn more of him later.

Back on Earth-1, in the satellite of the Monitor, his assistant, Lyla, energizes to become Harbinger. Dividing into identical clones, she journeys to multiple Earths at multiple points in time to retrieve the heroes and villains the Monitor needs to defend the multiverse, including Dawnstar of the Legion of Super Heroes from the 30th Century and Arion of Atlantis, 45,000 years in the past.

Once her task is complete, Harbinger returns to the Monitor’s satellite and powers down. The collection of super-beings stand in awe of the structure, unsure of who it is that summoned them, and uncertain even of who many of the other heroes might be. There’s a Superman, but older and from Earth-2. And a Green Lantern, but he is new to the ring and African-American. Before they find any answers, the shadows attack, a horde of shadow demons, which seem impervious to physical contact, even at the strength levels of Superman. It is an impossible task, and the collective of super-beings appears on the brink of defeat, when a blinding light fills the satellite, and the shadows flee.

At which point, the Monitor reveals himself, telling the heroes and villains that he is the one who summoned them, “because their universes are about to die!”

QUESTIONS about this issue: 

1 -- Why are these heroes chosen? 

In-story -- the Monitor needs heroes and villains to work together AND these are the ones whose distinct powers are needed by Monitor to be successful.

Editorially -- Marv Wolfman wanted the focus on the story, wanted it known this affected the whole DC Universe and not just the Big Guns.

2 -- Why do these heroes trust Harbinger? 

3 -- On page 25, the Monitor mentions another Earth perished, taking 5 heroes he needed, do we know what Earth that might be and who the heroes are?

Matter/Anti-matter (what we liked "Matter" and didn't "Anti-Matter")

MATTER: Perez artwork, especially the introductory scene with Blue Beetle and that hero’s body language. Specifically, the modified somersault Beetle uses to kick one of the crooks in the face. Beetle is a doppelganger of Batman, but this move feels like something Batman wouldn’t necessarily use, and it allows him to stand out as a distinct character.
ALSO: Solovar’s quick back and forth with Dawnstar on page 29 -- “You’re an ape, but you can talk!” “And you’re a human with wings! Reality holds surprises for everyone!”

ANTI-MATTER: The overly melodramatic Pariah, both in body language and his utterances.

Who’s Who

  • Crime Syndicate, Earth-3, Alexander Luthor, Lois Lane Luthor, and the idea of multiple Earths
  • King Solovar and Gorilla City -- the apes’ mental powers, including telepathy, come from using 100% of their brains
  • Pariah (his origin is actually a big chunk of a later issue, maybe wait)
  • Monitor & Lyla (Harbinger)
  • Firebrand of Earth-2
  • Dawnstar, of the Legion of Super Heroes from the 30th Century
  • Blue Beetle (and the Charlton hero acquisition; Earth-4)
  • Psycho Pirate (Roger Hayden) 
  • Arion  trivia bit: Perez always inked Arion’s mystic symbol because it was complex and he wanted to keep it consistent throughout the series
  • Firestorm & Killer Frost
  • Psimon --- part of the Fearsome Five; powers came from Trigon
  • Dr. Polaris --- old-school Green Lantern villain, first appearance GL#12
  • Superman of Earth-2 
  • Green Lantern (John Stewart)
  • Geo-Force -- gained power through scientific experiment; retains power due to family lineage (Prince of Markovia)
  • Cyborg
  • Obsidian of Infinity Inc.

Backmatter (see this post for more detail on these bits of backmatter)


  1. First announcement of CRISIS in Meanwhile… column
  2. Memo from Jan. 1983 asking creative teams to use Monitor 2 times in their titles
  3. Memo from Jan. 1984 stating use of Monitor is not optional; it is required
  4. Roy Thomas memo pointing out mail is not positive re: the Monitor appearances
  5. Memo stating CRISIS storyline takes place over 3 weeks; crossovers from July-Nov.
  6. Comics Interview #26: reasoning for CRISIS, to streamline DC universe
  7. Pacesetter #7 interview: Wolfman stated Perez was first choice to draw & he volunteered

Issue 1

      8. Roy Thomas was most cooperative, as far as crossovers, sent many memos with ideas
      9. Most popular characters don’t show up early in CRISIS; this is why
     10. George Perez inked Alex Luthor & Arion’s mystical symbol, early on, for consistency

Re: Crossovers:

     11. how they decided what issues to have CRISIS banners and which should not
             a. All Star Squadron?????

The Fix (any band-aids in this issue that serve the overall goal of CRISIS):  

the destruction of Earth-3??  It did do away with a set of doppelgangers for DC’s big-name heroes.

The Death List: 

  • An unnamed Earth
  • Earth-3, the Crime Syndicate: Ultraman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick, Owlman, Super-Woman, and the lone hero: Alexander Luthor, and his wife Lois Lane Luthor

Crisis Rating [quarter bin, pull list, bag & board, slab]:  

Bag & Board. Perez art elevates any comic, for me. The stakes are set out right up front, and done economically, we get some nice interactions with the heroes being retrieved by Harbinger (I particularly enjoyed the Solovar and Beetle scenes), there’s action and mystery, Wolfman does a good job of introducing all these characters without the exposition dragging down the story -- it’s quite impressive -- and we end with a quick battle, a revelation, and a helluva cliffhanger: “Your universes are about to die!”

Ratings for crossovers: 

  • All-Star Squadron 50 --- quarter bin. It added nothing to what we saw in Crisis #1
  • All-Star Squadron 51 --- quarter bin. Again, added nothing, just a panel with Harbinger & Firebrand
  • All-Star Squadron 52 --- quarter bin. adds nothing, and seems to contradict Crisis #1, with the All Stars & Captain Marvel able to battle the Shadow Demons. But is it due to magic? Maybe we discover this later in the series.

**To be fair to Roy Thomas, these crossovers take place very early in the CRISIS. Add to that, All Star Squadron is set in 1942, while the bulk of CRISIS is in the present of 1985, and it would be challenging for him to tie into the overall event. That said, he got the banners, and he didn’t do too much with them.

  • Fury of Firestorm 41 --- pull list. It tied in strongly with CRISIS and added to the story, while also providing a good introduction to Firestorm and Psycho Pirate, along with a new status quo for Firestorm that could be a good jumping on point for new readers. But the story wasn’t captivating for me. 
  • Infinity Inc. 18 --- quarter bin. A page and a half showing Harbinger getting Obsidian. Added nothing and I didn’t care for the story. McFarlane is either trying to be inventive with his layouts or just too new, either way, it does not work.
  • Detective Comics 555 --- pull list. It was entertaining with solid Gene Colan art. A Red Skies issue that didn’t tie in but I liked the story. would pick up the next issue.
  • New Teen Titans v.2 #13 (pp.1-17)--- quarter bin. Added little and felt plodding, as a story, to me. 
  • Green Lantern v.2 #194 --- bag & board. It actually added some background with the Guardians, and set up Guy Gardner joining the heroes, gave readers a thorough background of the title, and was entertaining. would definitely pick up the next issue

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