Home Comics Big Two Comics Comics, Crisis and You: A Disrespectful Guide to Comics Events

Comics, Crisis and You: A Disrespectful Guide to Comics Events

Insert obvious what-if here.

Flashpoint is going to end in new #1 issues across the board and new origin issues for everyone, that much is clear. Will it be the earth shattering annihilation of Crisis on Infinite Earths, or the long-forgotten supposed reboot of Zero Hour?

There have been a lot of Crisis and Crisis-esque event comics since Crisis on Infinite Earths, but in DC fandom there’s Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis and everyone knows which crisis you mean. This isn’t the first time DC has promised to change everything. Will they deliver this time? What does change everything even mean?

The World Is Changed Forever! Again.

There are three general types of comics event and/or crisis that get billed as changing everything – Stuff Happens, Retcons (retroactive continuity), and Reboots.

In a Stuff Happens event, at the end of the story, the past remains the same, even if a favorite hero has died, the planet has exploded, there’s a new character who appeared from another dimension or everyone remembers an alternate universe where they were mutants. All the comics that you’ve already read still happened. Arguably, Stuff Happens events are just as popular with fans and far easier to plan and write – successes include Blackest Night, The Death of Superman and No Man’s Land. Unfortunately, they don’t allow creators to remake the entire past and future of a comics universe in their own image. Bummer.

In a retcon, the past changes. Sometimes due to something monkeying with reality, sometimes due to the writers revealing a “secret history”, sometimes just because. The present remains largely the same, the characters remain mostly the same and so does the rest of the past, meaning most of the comics you’ve already read still happened. It’s just that now, everyone always knew a hero named Jessica Jones or Batman never caught his parents’ killer. Most of the time, you won’t even notice that a retcon has happened in a comic written after such an event.

A reboot changes – or attempts to change – everything. Think the 2009 Star Trek movie. Think Batman Begins vs. Batman and Robin. These aren’t the characters you knew. These are very similar characters with the same name. A lot – or possibly even all – of the stories you remember never happened, at least, not to the characters you’re reading about now. Starbuck is a girl. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

With renumbering and new origin issues for everybody, Stuff Happens is probably ruled out in the case of Flashpoint. The DCU is either in for some retcons or a reboot. But renumbering and new origin issues alone don’t necessarily require a full hard reboot – both have happened to individual comics numerous times in the last twenty six years, generally without much lasting impact.

Personally, and perhaps this is cowardly of me, I’m hoping to avoid a Crisis on Infinite Earths-level reboot. Even as some part of me wants an event series to live up to the hype, I love the characters as they are, and seeing them entirely wiped out for new versions, no matter how wonderful, would sadden me.

So what will happen? Here’s a short, somewhat disrespectful guide to some selected events that were labeled as crisis or played with reality, from which you may draw your own conclusions.

Comics, Crisis and You

An asterisk is has been added to every world-shattering death that “got better” later.

Crisis on Infinite Earths

Gee, do you think this will be a happy story?

The Anti-Monitor decides to fix confusing DC continuity. Did I say that? I meant, the Anti-Monitor decides to destroy everything ever.

Previous to this, DC was made up of a bunch of different universes (Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-3 etc), each with a different history, confusing new readers everywhere.

Reality is saved but hugely changed by merging all the universe into one. The Flash (Barry Allen)* and Supergirl die.

What changes about reality?

  • EVERYTHING. No, seriously, everything. Complete hard reboot.
  • No Multiverse

PR line:
“Worlds lived. Worlds died. And the DC Universe was never the same!”

Crisis Level:***** They don’t get any bigger.

Zero Hour: Crisis in Time

I'm melting!

Hal Jordan goes bonkers, tries to rewrite the universe, then dies*

Billed as a “warm reboot” of the DC Universe, most DC comics got a flashback issue restating their origin story, but in practice were totally unchanged. Today remembered for Hal Jordan’s meltdown and not much else.

What actually changes about reality?

  • The future, including the Legion of Superheroes era
  • Catwoman was never a prostitute

PR line:
“This book is currently out of print.”

Crisis level: ***

JLA / Avengers

Too many cooks? Impossible!

O hey look! A crossover!

What actually changes about reality?

  • Nothing, in the end. Reality only temporarily bends so that characters from DC and Marvel can meet.

PR line:

“It’s an event that will never be forgotten.  …the once-in-a-lifetime crossover event that brought these two historic super-teams together and rocked the comics world!”

Crisis level: *

Identity Crisis

Serious business! Comics are serious business, people!

A bunch of JLA superheroes get Zatanna to mindwipe some supervillains, forcing amnesia on them.Tim Drake’s inconvenient father gets killed. Ladies get raped and/or murdered and/or revealed to be evil and crazy. FUN.

What actually changes about reality?

  • Nothing. Reality remains the same, except in the minds of the people who got mindwiped.

PR line:
“…The story that has created ripple effects throughout the DC Universe for many years to come.”

Crisis level: 1/2 *

Infinite Crisis

This is the song that ne-ver ennnds....

Some villains from Crisis on Infinite Earths escape and decide to rewrite reality their way.

Superboy (Kon-El / Connor Kent) dies*, Kid Flash gets speed-aged to adulthood*. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman go on vacation for a year. (No it didn’t make any sense to us either)

What actually changes about reality?

  • Guess what, there’s a multiverse again!
  • Not much else, really.

PR line:
“… Dictating the direction of the universe for the next generation! Years in the making, the greatest event to hit the DCU in over two decades is about to explode!”

Crisis level: ***

Final Crisis

Gosh, I wonder what happened to Batman?

Clearly not very final. Darkseid tries to destroy reality, fails. Darkseid dies, Batman is presumed dead*.

What actually changes about reality?

  • Nothing worth mentioning.

PR line:
“…this event defined the DCU and the New Gods for the 21st century and beyond!”

Crisis level: *

Honorable Mention :

52 / One Year Later

How will we survive with only the several hundred superheroes that are left?

Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman go on vacation! An actual year of Comics Time passes.

No, really, that’s it. That’s the event.

PR line:
“It’s One Year Later…and Aquaman has totally changed!”


  1. I guess Mark Coale didn’t even allow comments on his op/ed so thanks for affording us that courtesy.

    Good recaps! Can’t believe i’ve been around for so many variations on the same thing.

  2. But… what about Millennium?
    Oh, right, nothing happened. Except they reused Harbinger’s memory sphere for Brother Eye, and the Manhunters for OMACs in Infinite Crisis. And the “new chosen” still exist in case Geoff Johns gets bored. Or maybe they’ll cross-over with the White Lanterns.

    Here’s a scorecard. How many have you forgotten?

    (And one good thing from Zero Hour: Starman.)

  3. I know you said it would be disrespectful, but why just do DC?

    Marvel pulls this horse shit not only at a line-wide level but a basic title level, Spider-man and the X-men go thorugh this crap every couple months.

    Shit maybe the Avengers do too but they are so hard to follow that I can’t even confirm it. Which actually maybe does confirm it.

  4. JLA/Avengers did have an effect on the DCU- a whole arc of JLA by Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney dealt with some of the fallout

  5. DC gets it because they’re the one in the news at the moment; Marvel will get it too when their time comes, I’m sure.

    Zero Hour felt like even more of a “fanboy wants to fix continuity” event than Crisis. Seriously, that whole explanation about “Hypertime” in the book just made my tummy knot up.

  6. Killjoy, you’re totally right. Marvel does pull this stuff more often, but I felt like Marvel’s track record lacked predictive ability for DC.

    Adam, you’re right. I’ll just go fix that. I mixed up my self-indulgent crossover fantasies. That one wasn’t Wolverine vs. Batman, it was GI Joe and Ninja Turtles become ZOMG Bestest Team Ever!

    Justin H. Effects, yes, but lasting? Was it generally remembered? Not really.

  7. GI Joe and Ninja Turtles? I think you meant Ninja Turtles and The Real Ghostbusters.

    Regarding this latest DC event, I’m surprised at the number of fans who really seem to think it’s going to stick and will result in SERIOUS CHANGES TO CHARACTERS YOU’VE GROWN TO KNOW AND LOVE! NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME!

    Right. They’re gonna change Superman’s 70+ year old costume into something with a turtleneck and no trunks. Just like when Electric Blue Superman was here to stay…and long hair Superman… and Black Suit Superman… Crisis after crisis.

    I don’t mind these stories if they’re good stories – but they are almost never good stories. But I guess somebody is buying ’em.

  8. Aaron, exactly! Or My Little Ponies and Fairy Secret Barbie. “All my cool toys should play together!”

    Theoretically, this really could be a big deal. They’re pulling out all the stops with the renumbering and claims of a reboot, but there’s just no way to know until they do it. DC has cried wolf really, really often.

  9. I agree with most of the comments but the real shame is that most of these stories came so close to being great. If only they would go back and fix the mistakes. A lack of lasting change doesn’t affect my opinion of these stories.

    Marvel went back and rewrote the Clone Saga!

    The Original Crisis was great.

    Zero Hour was a very cool story even if a lot of GL fans got upset.

    JLA / Avengers is one of only 2 company crossovers worth reading. (Superman / FF is the other)

    Identity Crisis – a great story except for a few things…tiny footprints, really? Followed by a rushed ending with the badgirl ending up in “Arkham”.
    The end of this story could use a rewrite.

    Infinite Crisis – worth reading, some really cool story fowled by a couple of realy crappy spots that should be edited out or rewritten. Kid Flash getting older & getting smarter by reading a library in half a minute and the punch heard round the world – Superboy punches the wall and not only breaks into another dimension but brings Jason Todd back to life. This rates #2 on my list of things I would erase from DC history. The #1 thing on my list is also in this story – DC’s version of Galactus is a worm with a voicebox. I love DC but this is pathetic.

    Final Crisis – Some really good spots, some really confusing spots, it got rid of the New Gods. The tie in mini series – Rogues Revenge, Revelations, & Legion of 3 Worlds – were very good as stand alone stories.

    52 – no major changes but a really well done story.

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