It started off as such a simple idea: Comics Bulletin should write a few pieces about Crisis on Infinite Earths to mark the 30th anniversary of the groundbreaking series. People who had never read it could tell us what they thought through the lens of modern comics. Those who read it years ago could revisit it, bask in some nostalgia, maybe walk away with new thoughts. Hell, we even have a comics historian as editor in chief around these parts, so he could drop some actual knowledge on us.
It will be great.
And then I got the idea that I could write about the tie-in books, since this was an event comic, after all. Even better, I could start with the comics that laid the groundwork, that introduced us to the important elements of Crisis before the first issue ever hit the stands.
All 40+ issues of them.
One of the things that has struck me about Crisis is how well planned it was. It’s beyond anything we see today, probably because it was something of an aberration. That’s not to say that there hadn’t been crossovers or events, but Crisis was resetting an entire universe. The scope was enormous and DC had put the leg work, leg work that involved laying the seeds for Crisis nearly three years before it would begin.
That’s three years worth of DC Comics to sort through for hints at the coming Crisis.
There are a lot of conflicting lists out there with regards to what comics actually tie-in to Crisis before the series was launched. Here’s the best one I could find:
- Action Comics #560 & #564
- All-Star Squadron #40
- Amethyst (vol. 2) #2
- Batman #384
- Batman and the Outsiders (vol. 1) #14-15
- Blue Devil #5
- DC Comics Presents #76 & #78
- Detective Comics #551
- The Flash #338-339
- The Fury of Firestorm #28
- GI Combat #274 and #275
- Green Lantern (vol. 2) #173, #176 & #178
- Infinity, Inc. #8
- Jonah Hex #90
- Justice League of America #232 & #234
- The New Teen Titans #21 & Annual #2
- Swamp Thing #30-31
- Superman #402-403
- Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #317, #319-320
- Tales of the Teen Titans #47 & #58
- Vigilante #14
- Warlord #91
- Wonder Woman #321 & #323
- World’s Finest Comics #311
(Note: While World’s Finest #314 technically takes place before Crisis #1, it was released the same month, and will appear in the tie-in column for Crisis #1)
The July, 1982 issue of The New Teen Titans (#21) is the first appearance of the Monitor, the pivotal figure in Crisis, although he appears in the shadows in the Titans. Rather oddly, the first full appearance of the Monitor is in GI Combat #274. That’s an odd choice for the main character in a superhero story.
Aside from all being Crisis lead-ins, these issues also have something else in command: they’re all Crisis tie-ins in the exact same way. That is to say, they all feature guest appearances by the Monitor and sometimes his gal Friday, Lyla. Now imagine being the guy who has decided to read all of these comics only to find that they have dedicated, at most, four panels to the coming Crisis.
In DC’s defense, they don’t label any of these comics as being tie-ins, because that point they hadn’t announced the coming event. So these appearances were just to lay the groundwork and make the DCU feel interconnected. In that sense, they succeeded. Had their been an internet in the early 80s, it would have been abuzz with speculation regarding the Monitor.
What interesting is that all of this is the Monitor is pretty clearly portrayed as a bad guy. He’s an information and power broker for other bad guys. His reasons for doing this are ultimately revealed in Crisis later on, but none of it’s really necessary. In fact, here are the 3 things to take away from all these tie-in issues:
1) None of them are necessary to understand Crisis
2) Not reading them may even help by not confusing the issue
3) Swamp Thing
The first two revolve around the issue of trust between our heroes (and some villains) and the Monitor at the start of Crisis, an issue that is both ultimately cleared up and ultimately a waste of space. But I have to assume it was done to make the Monitor more interesting a full two and a half years before Crisis was published.
That last point is simply a matter of noting how bizarre it is that the Monitor makes an appearance in not one, but two Alan Moore penned issues of The Swamp Thing. His appearances are actually much more in keeping with the reality of the character, as he is simply monitoring the events in Louisiana involving the Swamp Thing. He’s not facilitating any villains.
It’s also just strange to think that at one point Alan Moore was actively participating in giant, superhero event stories. I realize he proposed one (Twilight of the Gods), but here he was giving up precious panels for the type of story he would later detest. And as Swamp Thing had moved in the “sophisticated suspense” territory labeled on the cover, the Monitor scenes are a bit jarring.
If these issues are important in any way, it’s less as a precursor to the Crisis story and more as a snapshot of the DCU in the last days of its decades long mess of continuity. Every corner of the DCU is represented here, indicating the scope of the event. These are the last days of the original superhero universe and we should take a moment to appreciate them…
…because when the Crisis starts, nothing will be the same.