CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS: How a Comic Book Epic Was a Master Class in Storytelling
Crisis on Infinite Earths.
When I look back at the stories that a lasting effect during my formative years — the ones that shaped me, and inspired me, and frankly blew the roof off my poor little mind — I’d have to say that one of the defining tales was this 12-issue DC comics epic. For a hick kid with a second-rate movie theatre, a laughably small local library, and six channels on cable? My storytelling could pretty much be summed up as BC and AC: Before Crisis on Infinite Earths…and after it.
Yup. It was that big of a deal for me. And now it’s being turned into a 5-night television event.
We live in strange and wondrous times.
I’ve always been a DC fan. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate Marvel, but if I had to try and explain the appeal of the Distinguished Competition over the House that Lee and Kirby built? It really comes down to a sense of mythology. It’s long been argued that the major heroes and villains of the DC universe feel more akin to GODS than mere mortals in tights. Even Batman feels downright archetypal compared to your everyday caped badass, even if his only powers are truckloads of money, 126 martial arts, and super autistic levels of obsession and game-planning.
So yeah, DC spent decades pumping out updated, retooled, and reimagined versions of the whole spectrum of ancient worship. Greek and Roman and Norse and Sumerian and Egyptian and even Biblical pantheons of characters, brought to you monthly on those 4-colour pages. All the incarnations of the Justice League. The Nazi-fighting Golden Agers of the JSA. The Legion of Superheroes with its Great Darkness Saga. The goddamn Green Lantern Corps. C’mon! And since I was deep in the divine thrall of the ‘astral’ side of roleplaying IE: Dungeons & Dragons (which, if you haven’t heard already on my show, was another storytelling teacher), it stood to reason that there had to be a childhood gateway drug to all this myth-y madness.
Sure, Tolkien had been good to me. I devoured The Hobbit and the holy trilogy as an early teen, but it was the adventure in them that I craved. And Narnia? Somewhat less, but talking Lion Jesus…that sticks with a kid. Now, Doctor Who was also cool, but looking back it was more about scratching my science-nerd itch and making me ache for girlfriends named Romana. And Star Wars was Star Wars; I was there less for the ‘mythology’, and more for the cool ships and the fishmen who admiral’ed them.
And then came Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Reading the monthly issues back then starting in 1985, I can remember uttering ‘holy shit’ more than once. Out loud. In front of girls and everything. In a hockey town, no less. And I didn’t care. To me, it was that good. It was that important. It was that defining.
And now, just a week away from what is guaranteed to be a pared down and budget-hobbled TV version of the original story, I wanted to do a quick rundown of the 10 key points that I feel gave Crisis on Infinite Earths the biggest impact on my own epic storytelling style. Because clearly I’m not alone in feeling this way about Crisis. Hell, somewhere in the multi-universe Marc Guggenheim is doing this essay and I’M the damn show-runner shooting three Supermen on a set in Vancouver…
F*$%. Where’s the Monitor when you really NEED him??
(click the YT embed at the top of the page or the podcast player below to hear me expand/freestyle on these ten facets of Crisis on Infinite Earths)
1. HISTORY MATTERS! — The Power of World-Building
2. ENTER THE MULTIVERSE! — A School for Many Worlds
3. UNSTOPPABLE EVIL! — Creating the Highest of Stakes
4. DEATH! — Lots and LOTS of Death. And it All Mattered
5. BETRAYAL! — ‘Shakespearian’ means a Knife in Your Back
6. VILLAINS UNITE! — Sometimes it’s Good to Be Bad
7. BACK TO THE BEGINNING! — Time Travel done right
8. RE-WRITING REALITY! — Smash All Your Toys Together
9. LOSING ON PURPOSE! — Buffy Learned How from Crisis
10. THE POWER OF SYMBOLS — How the Big ‘S’ Represents DC