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Crisis on Infinite Earths

Crisis on Infinite Earths was a 12 issue comic book mini-series produced by DC Comics in 1985 in order to clean up their 50 year old convoluted and confusing continuity. Written by Marv Wolfman[?] and illustrated by George Perez[?], the series did away with the concept of "multiple earths" in the fictional "DC Universe," while presenting the readers with the deaths of such beloved characters as Supergirl and The Flash.

The series, known simply as Crisis to comic book fans, was one of three major comic book stories published by DC in the same year that had a profound effect on the comic book industry as a whole. While Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns were widely praised and credited with giving mainstream acceptance to comic books as a form of serious literature (rather than "children's entertainment"), Crisis was a success from a marketing point of view. It was rooted firmly in the cliche-ridden stereotype of "superheroes battle to save the world;" nevertheless, it was an exceptionally well-written and drawn example of the costumed superhero genre, and an entertaining story in its own right. It successfully returned DC to its position as a major publisher of superhero comic books (the field had largely been dominated by Marvel Comics in the late 1970s and early 1980s).

Crisis also created the formula of the "cross-over" comic book series. Since the series was published, both DC and Marvel have had annual "summer crossover" series designed to tie many of their comic book titles together under a single storyline (and thus sell more comic books). These crossover series, sporting such titles as Millennium, Invasion!, Final Night, and Zero Hour have boosted comic book sales, though from a storytelling point of view they have generally been inferior to Crisis. Marvel initiated its own series of annual crossovers at the same time, beginning with Secret Wars and continuing with its own "epic storylines" including Fall of the Mutants, Acts of Vengeance, and The Infinity War.

The story tells of the efforts of DC Comics' superheroes to stop the Anti-Monitor's plan to destroy and conquer the various dimensional versions of the universe. Under the initial guidance of the villain's counterpart, the Monitor, a select group of heroes were assigned to protect massive tuning forks designed to hold off a wave of antimatter that had already annihilated untold numbers of alternate Earths. Eventually, the conflict grew as nearly every DC hero got involved into the battle even as the Monitor was murdered by his servant, Harbinger, who was mind controlled by the Anti-Monitor.

That death allowed a release of energy which allowed the last five Earths, to survive long enough for the heroes to lead an assault on the Anti-Monitor. The attack was successful to make the villain retreat, but at the cost of the death of Supergirl. Immediately after that, the various DC supervillians joined forces under Brainiac and Lex Luthor to attempt the conquest of Earth, while the second Flash died stopping the Anti-Monitor's back-up scheme of destruction. The Spectre called a halt to the battles on the Earths with a warning that the Anti-Monitor was planning to travel to the beginning of time to prevent the Multiverse's creation. The DC Heroes and villains joined forces in response with the heroes traveling to stop the Anti-Monitor and the villians traveling to the planet Oa in antiquity to prevent the renegade scientist, Krona, from performing his experiment that would allowed Anti-Monitor to succeed in his efforts.

In the battles, the villains failed their objective and Krona proceeded with his experiment, while the heroes supported the Spectre who grappled with the Anti-Monitor which created a energy overload that literally shattered space and time. With that, a single DC Comics universe was created and all the superheroes found themselves in one reality where the various elements of the five Earths were fused into one. The Anti-Monitor attacked one last time, but fell to a carefully planned counter-attack devised by the DC heroes with some quiet help from the New God, Darkseid.

Unlike the later crossover series, Crisis was used by DC as an excuse to wipe much of its slate clean and make major "changes" to many of their major revenue-generating comic book series. While some titles such as the Batman series were largely unaffected by Crisis (though The Dark Knight Returns had a considerable effect of its own on the Caped Crusader), others titles such as Green Lantern were profoundly affected. Several major DC titles were literally started over from scratch in the months following Crisis, including Wonder Woman, The Flash, Legion of Super Heroes, and DC's flagship title Superman. While some of these "re-vamps" of classic superheroes were less successful than others, their new beginnings can generally be attributed to the success of Crisis on Infinite Earths. None of the crossover series since Crisis have had such an earth-shattering effect on the histories of so well-known comic book characters in such a short period of time.

External link: The Annotated Crisis on Infinite Earths (http://www.io.com/~woodward/chroma/crisis)

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