In 2008, the top selling comic book title from DC was Final Crisis
. Telling the tale of “The Day Evil Won” and credited by writer Grant Morrison as “the biggest crossover there’s ever been.” Final Crisis is the newest installation in the Crisis series by DC, which included Crisis on Infinite Earths
and was continued in Infinite Crisis. And while Final Crisis
may indeed be the biggest crossover ever, it began initially with much simpler roots.
The story of Final Crisis can be traced back as far as Sept. 1961, and Flash 123
, titled “Flash of Two Worlds!”, the first comic to introduce “Earth-Two”. In the story, Barry Allen (the Silver Age Flash) ends up transporting himself to Earth-Two while performing a disappearing act in a charity magic show. While the Golden Age heroes are considered fictional comic book characters in Barry Allen’s world, on Earth-Two Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash
and Barry Allen’s inspiration to become the Flash in his world) is real, and has been retired for several years. During the course of the story, Barry Allen and Jay Garrick work together to stop three of the Golden Age Flash’s Rogues Gallery; the Fiddler, the Shade and the Thinker, who had teamed up together to bring Jay Garrick out of retirement. “Flash of Two Worlds” was so successful that not only did DC reintroduce many of its Golden Age characters, crossovers between Earth-One and Earth-Two eventually became an annual event.
The first of these annual crossovers occurred in 1963 in Justice League of America 21
: "Crisis on Earth-One” and “Crisis on Earth-Two”. In this story, the Justice League of Earth-One (including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Ray Palmer Atom, the Barry Allen Flash, Green Arrow, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter) are trapped in their headquarters by the Crime Champions (Felix Faust, Dr Alchemy, Chronos, The Wizard and The Fiddler), a team of villains from both Earth-One and Earth-Two who have managed to bridge the gap between the two worlds. In order to defeat the villains, the Justice League must team-up with the Justice Society of Earth-Two (including the Jay Garrick Flash, the Alan Scott Green Lantern, the Al Pratt Atom, Black Canary, Dr. Fate, Hawkman and Hourman). While the heroes did manage to eventually defeat the villains, the Fiddler’s assumption that “somewhere there must be an Earth-Three” would further expand the idea of the multiverse.
Earth-Three (a backwards version of Earth where the roles of superheroes and supervillains are reversed) would make its first appearance the next year, when the JLA and JSA joined forces in Justice League of America 29
; "Crisis on Earth-Three" and "The Most Dangerous Earth of All" respectively. The Crime Syndicate of America, a collaboration of super-villains from Earth-Three which included Ultraman (an evil Superman), Superwoman (an evil Wonder Woman), Owlman (an evil Batman), Power Ring (an evil Green Lantern) and Johnny Quick (an evil Flash) decide to go to Earth-One in search of excitement, having grown bored with their world. The Justice League of Earth-One are transported to Earth-Three where the Crime Syndicate of America have the advantage. The Crime Syndicate also decide to travel to Earth-Two to destroy the Justice Society. The Justice Society are transported to Earth-Three while the Justice League confront the Crime Syndicate on Earth-Two. Eventually the Crime Syndicate are trapped between dimensions, and the various super-heroes are returned to their own worlds.
Another evil version of the Justice League would appear in Justice League of America 37
. In "Earth - Without a Justice League" and "Crisis on Earth-A", the evil Earth-One version of Johnny Thunder takes control of the Thunderbolt of the Earth-Two Johnny to travel through time and create the Lawless League, an alternate, evil version of Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. The JSA eventually defeat Johnny Thunder, and Earth-One is returned to normal. But the multiverse didn’t end there. It was eventually revealed that there was an infinite number of Earths, and somewhere there was a planet where each character in the DC verse was real. While the two Earths most often seen were Earth-One (Silver Age DC characters) and Earth-Two (Golden Age DC characters), readers were introduced to a number of other worlds, including Earth-X (in Justice League of America 107
), a world where Quality Comics characters such as Uncle Sam
and the Ray live in a world where World War II was still being fought in the 1970's and Earth-S (in Justice League of America 135
) the home of Fawcett Comics characters such as the Marvel Family
, Spy Smasher
This infinite combination of Earths and infinite combination of characters would eventually lead to a great deal of confusion not only for DC readers but also the writers responsible for remembering and containing the never-ending history of DC. The DC universe had become unwieldy, and the characters too convoluted to encourage new readers. And so in 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths
would ultimately collapse all of the infinite universes down into one. And while the destruction of the multi-verse is the foundation for Final Crisis, it all can trace back to Flash 123, and one overzealous magic trick.
-Sherri Napier, Shipping & Inventory Manager, Metropolis Collectibles, Inc.