Crisis on Infinite Earths / Flashpoint / Doomsday Clock Comparison

“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.

FLASHPOINT:

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?

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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.

Flash: Rebirth led directly into the “Brightest Day” Flash series in 2010, which in turn led to Flashpoint in 2011. Flashpoint ends with a letter from the “Flashpoint” universe’s Thomas wayne to his “son” Bruce in “our” universe. It also led directly into the “New 52” Universe (or “DCnU” or whatever you want to call it).

Skip ahead to 2016 and the entire DCU experiences (yet another) “rebirth.” Rebirth begins with Thomas Wayne’s letter and ends with the discovery of the Comedian’s button. It was another year before “The Button” ran in four issues of Batman and Flash, and another year still Doomsday Clock began. Now, almost two years later, that series is supposed to come to an end next week. (Whether it will or not is anyone’s guess.)

I guess my point is, because Flashpoint (2011) ends with Thomas Wayne’s letter and Rebirth (2016) begins with it, it is safe to skip the “New 52” in its entirety (which is more or less what I did). Now it’s up to Doomsday Clock 312 to pull me back.

Now that I think about it, a reboot that keeps Geoff Johns' Green Lantern in continuity and axes Kirby ... wow.

Let’s throw Doomsday Clock into the mix. I have said that Doomsday Clock “legitimizes” the post-Flashpoint “New 52” universe, but it doesn’t, really. Whereas Doomsday Clock does explain reboots such as John Byrne’s Man of Steel and Geoff Jonhs and Gary Frank’s Secret Origin, the “New 52” is a wholly separate reality by virtue of the fact that both pre- and post-Flashpoint versions of Superman exist (or did exist). As discussed above, pre-Flashpoint continuity has slowly crept back into the post-Flashpoint universe. As I see it, Dr. Manhattan’s tinkering with Superman’s timeline cannot account for that. But you know what can? I hate to say it, but: “the pounding of Superboy’s fists.” Yes, as the reverberations fades, reality gradually reasserts itself. As I see it.

This is the point where I would normally step in and say, "My head hurts," but I've washed my hands of keeping track of all that stuff long ago. 

It's so freeing!

ClarkKent_DC said:

This is the point where I would normally step in and say, "My head hurts," but I've washed my hands of keeping track of all that stuff long ago. 

Well, you see, the Punisher and the Russian....

ClarkKent_DC said:

This is the point where I would normally step in and say, "My head hurts," but I've washed my hands of keeping track of all that stuff long ago. 

“I've washed my hands of keeping track of all that stuff long ago.”

I can’t help myself.

Yesterday I re-read Infinite Crisis – Secret Files & Origins 2006, one of my favorite DC comics of the 21st century, just to get a better handle on how “the pounding of Superboy’s fists” thing works (“worked,” whatever). From limbo, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3 created a crystal which allowed the Superboy of Earth Prime to observe events on post I-Crisis New earth, but he didn’t like what he saw and began pounding the crystal wall. According to Luthor…

“I don’t know how, but he’s altering reality out there. Creating conflicting truths. People are changing without explanation. New events are superseding what had always been. Each strike he takes is rupturing the continuity of life without reason or purpose. In this place we can alter our own reality, but now we’re changing theirs, too.”

I really like the Superboy of Earth Prime, but apparently not everyone feels the same. Superboy himself explains in Adventure Comics #4(507), Jan 2010): “People already hate me enough as it is. I’m more than a joke. I was more. I will be more.” Later in the story, the resurrected Alexander Luthor describes a computer as: “This box. It’s a conduit for the rage of the people on this Earth.”* He goes on to say, “And you continue to evoke quite a bit of rage from them, Prime. They really do hate you.” Speaking for myself, I really liked the arc of Superboy-Prime, but I’m glad it has run its course.

*(This one, too.)

One of the throughlines of Geoff Johns's work is that he keeps on introducing characters that mirror the experience of creating and reading comics. With Superboy Prime, he created an audience member -- the fan as supervillain, wanting to restore things to the way they used to be.

A few years before, in hi Flash run, he created Zoom -- a supervillain version of a comics writer. Hunter Zolomon's motivation to fight Wally was to put hardships in his life to make him a better superhero. 

And with Doomsday Clock, he used Doctor Manhattan as a editor-in-chief or a publisher -- the one who decides the changes to continuity for the line going forward, but knows he has all those previous realities in his back pocket.  

Interesting. I never looked at it that way before.

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