“Post-Crisis doesn’t count.” So the saying goes. But I maintain Flashpoint was more destructive to previously-established continuity than Crisis on Infinite Earths. Yes, the Adventures of the Justice Society of America and Infinity, Inc. were said to have taken place on “New Earth” rather than “Earth-2” post-Crisis, but their overall continuity wasn’t affected all that much. Let’s look at the titles whose continuities were.
CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS:
SUPERMAN: The way it was originally spun, John Byrne’s Man of Steel limited series didn’t rewrite Superman’s history, just his origin. That’s not true, of course. You can’t rewrite “just” his origin without affecting his history as well. But there was a gap written into the new continuity between Man of Steel #6 and Superman #1 in which Superman’s pre-Crisis adventures were to have happened. As pre-Crisis villains were reintroduced one by one, that “gap” became smaller and smaller as pre-Crisis stories faded away until only Superman’s “history” with the JLA was left. But even that was different as we shall see.
BATMAN: As with Byrne’s Man of Steel, Miller’s Batman: Year One was not to have changed Batman’s history, only his origin. But, also like Superman, Batman’s backstory was changed. For example, whereas his current partner was still Jason Todd, post-Crisis Robin was a street urchin rather than a circus performer. And so on.
WONDER WOMAN: Wonder Woman was, arguably, the hero changed most by Crisis. She was not only given a different origin, but her first appearance in “Man’s World” was moved forward to post-Crisis. (Superman’s Golden Age roots were eliminated, too, but at least his Silver Age backstory was still set pre-Crisis.) That was problematic, especially as it relates to the…
JLA: Pre-Crisis, Wonder Woman was a charter member of the Justice League of America; post-Crisis, that role was relegated to the Black Canary. It has since flip-flopped back and forth so many times I have lost track.
LSH: With there no longer being a “Superboy” in Clark Kent’s past, his place was taken by a Superboy from a “pocket universe” created by the Time Trapper. I, personally, liked this concept (still do); others may (and certainly will) disagree.
The post-Flashpoint DCU was centered around the formation of the JLA meeting Darkseid for the first time. Right off the bat, all of Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” continuity: gone. Every story that ever used those characters: gone. Because the origin of the JLA was set a mere five years in the past (and because the role of the Martian Manhunter was relegated to Cyborg), all of Teen Titans continuity: gone. And on and on and on. Whereas (I maintain) much if not most of pre-Crisis continuity was still valid post-Crisis>, Flashpoint wiped the entire slate clean and started, in effect, an entirely new universe with an entirely new continuity.
It is my understanding that DC has kind of backed away from that but, I stopped buying DCU (or “DCnU”) titles pretty much cold turkey eight years ago, I wouldn’t know. Maybe the conclusion of the current Watchmen series will clear that up. We’ll see. In the meantime, I leave you with the following question: Which series, Crisis on Infinite Earths or Flashpoint, did more harm to the DC Universe?
I totally agree. After Crisis, DC approached continuity as if it all were true until someone said it wasn’t, and left it to fans and pros to pull the strings that unraveled pre-Crisis continuity with the new origins. After Flashpoint, DC basically took the opposite approach: None of it happened until the comics said (or implied) it did. It makes for a more exciting reboot -- everything is NEW! and the DCU might grow around new central concepts, like the Demon Knights or Argus or S.H.A.D.E -- but in practice, it felt hollow in comparison with decades of established storytelling, and began to rely on the (implied) past more and more, with Rebirth being the culmination of that trend.
"After Crisis, DC approached continuity as if it all were true until someone said it wasn’t, and left it to fans and pros to pull the strings that unraveled pre-Crisis continuity with the new origins. After Flashpoint, DC basically took the opposite approach: None of it happened until the comics said (or implied) it did."
Yes! Well put.
"Pre-Crisis, Wonder Woman was a charter member of the Justice League of America; post-Crisis, that role was relegated to the Black Canary. It has since flip-flopped back and forth so many times I have lost track." This. So much this.
The Pocket Universe was a great idea. And the death of Superboy in the related story gave the Earth-One Kal (even if he wasn't really Earth-One's Superboy) a dramatic goodbye instead of just being forgotten. But of course, it then got erased and the mangling of Legion history began.
Which is generally true: a lot of the post-Crisis mess was that having decided rewriting continuity was fine, they kept doing it (Hawkman, for instance).
Flashpoint, that was a bigger mess. And showed the same problems in that they again only partly rebooted continuity (Geoff Johns obviously wasn't going to erase all his Green Lantern work).
The New 52 has generally been awful with the New Gods. Wonder Woman has Orion as some kind of sexist frat boy and Highfather's a jerk. Darkseid could be any evil tyrant.
Minor annoyance: the comics have stated a couple of times that nobody had even heard of superheroes before they appeared five years earlier. That means unlike the pre-Flashpoint universe superhero comics never existed. That's ... depressing.