I feel some historical perspective is needed to understand the actions of seven members of the Justice League of America during the flashback sequence in DC Comics’ Identity Crisis #2. It requires our turning back the clock twenty-five years.
1979, as established in pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths continuity, was not a good year for many of DC’s supporting and obscure characters. The DC Universe was still reeling from the death of the Golden Age Batman in late 1978. During 1979, Barry (The Flash) Allen’s wife Iris was murdered, as was Justice Society of America member Mr. Terrific in Justice League of America and Kathy (Batwoman) Kane in Detective Comics.
In relation to Identity Crisis, these deaths would have occurred before Dr. Light’s rape of Sue Dibny, which I gathered, after reading IC #2, took place in late 1979. Given this perspective, it is understandable that the members of the Justice League had a lot on their minds at this time concerning the violent actions of super-villains. It may not justify their actions, but it explains why they were acting differently.
Iris Allen was murdered in The Flash #275, July, 1979. Since comics were released on the stands two months prior to their cover date, for historical purposes I will place Iris’s death in the Spring of 1979.
As stated by The Elongated Man in Identity Crisis #2, the rape of Sue Dibny occurred six months after Iris died. This would place the incident in the early Fall of 1979, between the annual JLA/JSA team-up in Justice League of America #171-72 (in which Mr. Terrific was murdered by The Spirit King) and the JLA/Black Lightning team-up in JLA #173-174. The League lineup is correct: Zatanna had joined the JLA a few months before, although she wore a different costume than the one depicted in IC #2. Green Arrow mentions that they had just battled Hector Hammond, which isn’t technically correct. The JLA had just battled the Spirit King alongside the Justice Society in #171-172, and were on the verge of taking on The Regulator. The JLA had battled Hammond, sort of, back in late 1972 when Hammond unleashed the Shaggy Man on the JLA. But Hammond was not directly involved in that battle; in fact, the JLA never learned that Hammond was behind the Shaggy Man’s release and attack. The encounter with Hammond mentioned in IC #2 therefore stands as an undocumented case (unless we jump ahead to the JLA’s actual encounter with Hammond in 1982, but that throws off the timeline).
At the time of Dr. Light’s rape of Sue, six months after the death of Iris, the Flash was in battle with Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. During this battle Barry would learn that it was Zoom who killed his wife. Whether this battle occurred before or after the Dr. Light incident isn’t specified, but if Flash did know who killed his wife at the time of the vote, that may explain why he chose to go along with the magical lobotomy on a super-villain. Had the Light incident occurred prior to his wife’s murder, Barry probably, given his character, would have swung the other way.
Despite wholesale timeline shifts and restructuring resulting from Crisis On Infinite Earths (1985) and Zero Hour (1994), the events of 1979 remain part of post-Crisis and post-Zero Hour continuity (but not the death of the Golden Age Batman, whose existence in the DC Universe was wiped out due to events in Crisis).
There are two particular questions that are frequently being asked in various reviews of Identity Crisis: “Why no editorial historical perspective in the comic itself?” and “Why another violent death, plus the rape, of a female character in the DC Universe?” The first question I took on myself, providing my own answers above that I gladly share through this column. The second question, involving the continual degradation of women on DC’s part, is far more difficult. I don’t know what DC was thinking. If they were insistent on going this dark route, and truly wanted to be groundbreaking while still “shaking the DC Universe to its core,” they should have had The Cheetah rape JLA mascot Snapper Carr, and then kill him off.