In 1985, DC Comics published the maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. The purpose of the 12-part story was to streamline DC’s continuity, which stretched back to 1938 and involved multiple versions of characters from a near-infinite number of parallel universes. At the time, DC’s head honchos feared their history was an impediment to new readers and sought to eliminate multiple versions of characters and [what they thought were] confusing-and at times, contradictory-histories, by eliminating one of DC’s central concepts, the multiverse. In DC’s fictional universe, the multiverse consisted of an infinite number of parallel realities occupying the same space, but vibrating at different dimensional frequencies. The maxi-series saw the introduction of the Anti-Monitor, a being of immeasurable power who sought to annihilate every universe in the multiverse, leaving his home realm-the anti-matter universe-the only reality in existence. His efforts were opposed by his positive matter analog, the Monitor, as well as scores of heroes (and villains) from across multiple universes and timelines. In the end, the Anti-Monitor was destroyed (though he got better when the multiverse was later recreated), but his goals were largely achieved. Not only did he destroy all but 5 universes of the multiverse, but he had a significant role to play in the events that caused the DC Universe to be rebooted. In the wake of this reboot, only one universe existed and in fact, the multiverse was retroactively eliminated from the official history of DC’s fictional universe. Thus, in the history of this new universe, there never was a multiverse (making CoIE one of the few comic book stories I’ve ever read that retconned itself). Despite its flaws (and there are several), Crisis on Infinite Earths is near and dear to me-for two reasons.
Reason #1- My introduction to DC Comics happened in the midst of the Crisis. If I recall correctly (I was a wee child at the time, so my memory may be off a little), the first DC comic I ever owned was Crisis on Infinite Earths #3.
I was sucked in. Who were these characters? What were they doing? What mysterious force were they battling? For all that these questions enticed me-contrary to the beliefs of DC management, this new reader wasn’t turned off or confused by multiple versions of characters or parallel Earths-the answers to my questions eluded me for years because I wasn’t able to make regular trips to the convenience store (back then, comic books were available at local 7-11’s or Circle K’s). I was able to make it back to a convenience store to buy Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. Which leads me to the second reason CoIE is dear to me.
Reason #2- In issue seven of CoIE, the heroes from multiple Earths (and one or two from the future of one Earth) learn the history of the multiverse as well as the existence of the Anti-Monitor and decide to launch an assault on his base in the anti-matter universe. Despite the presence of Captain Atom, Captain Marvel, the Ray, Firestorm, the Earth-1 Wonder Woman, the Earth-2 Green Lantern, the second Dr. Light, Jade, Lady Quark, Martian Manhunter, Pariah, Wildfire and Mon-El (of the 30th century super teen team, the Legion of Super-Heroes), Supergirl, and the Supermen of Earth-1 and 2, the heroes quickly come to realize their foe possesses power on a scale they were not prepared for. The Anti-Monitor possessed sufficient power to not only engage in hand-to-hand combat with the Superman of Earth-1 (who was able to move planets), but to actually hurt him. Indeed, he even rendered Superman unconscious at one point and likely would have killed him, were it not for the timely arrival of Superman’s Kryptonian cousin, Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl.
Supergirl gave her life to save not only her cousin, but the lives of untold numbers of sentient beings in those universes that still existed. This was not a case of a female comic book character being fridged. Supergirl’s death wasn’t used to further the story of her cousin or any other male character. Her actions in this issue were character-driven and served to further the story’s plot. This was her story. Moreover, she died heroically, saving not just one, two, or three universes, but 5. When I read this story back in 1985, I was 9 years old. Be it Marvel or DC, 9-year-old me was unfamiliar with comic books. My understanding of the characters in CoIE #7 was limited to what I read in that comic. And yet that comic affected me so much that I cried.
I was in tears because Supergirl-a character I knew very little about-heroically sacrificed her life so that countless others could live.
I’ll be 40 at the end of this year. Even though I’ve read thousands of comics in the years since 1985…even though I’ve read comics that were written far better than any issue of CoIE (including #7)…even though Superman’s cousin from Krypton has been reintroduced to DC’s fictional universe…this issue still brings tears to my eyes. Composing this post and re-reading the above pages brought tears to my eyes.
So yeah, there’s a spot in my heart for Crisis on Infinite Earths. Especially issue #7.
And that’s all due to Supergirl.
It is because of this love for Supergirl that I am excited at the upcoming series from CBS. I’m even more excited about the series after watching the recently released trailer and if you’re as big a fan of Supergirl as I am, you will be too.
Things I like:
- First and foremost, I love, Love, LOVE the way ‘Kara’ is pronounced (car-uh). It’s how I’ve always pronounced her name and I disliked the pronunciation of ‘Kara’ in the CW’s Smallville (care-uh).
- Despite reminding me of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, I enjoyed the portrayal of Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). She provides a nice contrast to Kara.
- I like that the show’s creators chose to cast a black man in the role of James ‘Jimmy’ Olsen, because Hollywood has a poor history of representation of African-Americans.
- I like the chemistry between Kara and her sister. Despite the fact that Kara is literally from another planet, it’s clear that she and Alex have a strong-and friendly-bond.
- The humor. At least in the trailer it feels like its, I dunno, earned. I don’t really know how to put it, but I’m turned off by traditional sitcoms and big-screen comedies. So often, they try too hard to be funny (or use way too many grade-school level jokes)
- I’m going all caps here bc this is a biggie-KARA’S FIRST DISPLAY OF HER POWERS IN PUBLIC WAS AN ACT OF HEROISM! This is important bc in the atrocious Supergirl movie, she publicly used her powers for the first time to fend off sexual harassment (and most likely an attempt at sexual assault). Male heroes almost always get to debut heroically, and I’m glad to see that Melissa Benoists’ Supergirl gets to do the same.
- I wondered how the writers were going to handle giving the moniker ‘Supergirl’ to a grown woman. I’m still not completely comfortable with it, given the infantalizing nature of referring to a grown woman as a girl, but I did like Cat Grant’s rationalization. And it’s not like Kara named herself. Perhaps in time, she’ll come to formulate an argument as to why she shouldn’t be called SuperGIRL (feel free to use mine)
- I like that she doesn’t keep her identity a complete secret and I’m curious to see if the writers will address her attempts to keep her identity under wraps.
- I like the idea that the ‘S’ is the El family’s coat of arms (for those who prefer it to mean ‘super’, there’s no reason it can’t have both meanings).
- The special effects look amazing.
One minor gripe is the indiscriminate use of her powers against normal humans. Kicking a gunman through a concrete wall would likely leave them with serious back problems, if not outright breaking their back. Does she understand the extent of her powers and the potential harm she could bring to the humans she seeks to protect? Here’s hoping this is a plot point the writers plan on addressing.
But really, that’s a minor gripe in an otherwise excellent trailer. If the show can live up to the promise of the trailer, Supergirl will be on my must-watch list.
Supergirl will air Mondays at 8pm (EST) beginning in November.
In honor of the show, here’s a fantastic piece of artwork by Mike Maihack: