Ask Collected Editions #6: Who remembered Crisis on Infinite Earths?

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's time for another in our "Ask Collected Editions" series! On the Collected Editions Facebook page, DC Comics continuity's got Robin Armour all tied in knots. Let's see if we can help.

As always, if you have a question for "Ask Collected Editions," send an email to the Yahoo account or post it on the Collected Editions Facebook wall, and your question could be used in a future segment.

From Robin:
I was wondering if you could answer a long-standing question of mine that's been bugging me on and off for the past couple of years.

In Flash: Secret of Barry Allen and indeed Identity Crisis it is proposed, unless I am very much mistaken, that Barry Allen is the Flash that voted to wipe the memory of Doctor Light and effectively lobotomize him.

I find this a little hard to swallow given that for this to have been in continuity it would had to have happened before Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the DC Universe didn't start getting majorly gritty until after 1986. Up until recently I wasn't even certain if characters were aware of the Crisis or if they had just rebooted the whole continuity, starting the characters all over again -- I thought that was the whole point of Crisis?

I guess the Crisis must have done a bit of retconning because since the event there's been very little coverage of Dick Grayson's years as Robin and that's meant to be pretty early on in the game ...

I think my basic question was did the events in the flashback sequence in Identity Crisis take place before or after Crisis and if after, then how was Barry around to decide to wipe Doctor Light's mind?
I actually think I can answer this.

First, let me confirm that in the flashbacks in Identity Crisis, Barry Allen is indeed the Flash, and Wally West is the Flash in the present. Barry is shown having made the deciding vote to lobotomize Dr. Light at least in part due to the recent death of his wife Iris Allen (later revealed alive).

The Identity Crisis flashbacks are supposed to take place around the same time as Justice League of America #166-168, from the late 1970s. Certainly, DC's titles at that time weren't as "gritty" as Identity Crisis; the book engages in "retroactive continuity," changing elements of a previous story after the fact. Also, one theme of Identity Crisis was to suggest those old, "simpler" stories weren't actually as simple as we might have believed.

Second, part of your confusion can be alleviated by explaining that Crisis on Infinite Earths was a "soft reboot" and not a "hard reboot." The origins of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were all revised, but plenty other characters continued with their histories intact -- Wally West, the Teen Titans, the original Hawk and Dove, and the Green Lantern Corps, to name a few. (In this way, the Crisis and Flashpoint reboots are actually somewhat similar.)

All the characters, therefore, remember Barry Allen and know that he died in a "crisis" of sorts, though not necessarily one that involved multiple Earths. Awareness of Crisis would vary from character to character for quite a while until Infinite Crisis, when it was generally accepted that an event had taken place involving the Multiverse, if not that continuity was itself rebooted.

Much of the history of the Justice League remained intact after Crisis, except that where Wonder Woman was a founding member originally, in the post-Crisis continuity Black Canary took her place (as depicted, among other places, in Mark Waid's excellent JLA: Year One, which was essentially accurate until Infinite Crisis restored Wonder Woman's place in the League).

DC would shoe-horn all of this modified League history, Barry Allen's career, Dick Grayson's time as Robin, Don Hall's career as Dove, as so on, into what could be called "the ten-year gap." This is the period after the end of John Byrne's Man of Steel miniseries and prior to Byrne's Superman #1 -- you can essentially shove any pre-Crisis event that's still in continuity in there. Identity Crisis therefore flashes back to issues that were published in the 1970s, but that take place post-Crisis between Man of Steel and Superman #1 continuity-wise. (I believe DC's 1995 "Year One" annual series were also meant to take place in the ten-year gap.)

Again, in this way I think the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Flashpoint reboots are not so different as we might think. Both Crisis and Flashpoint were "soft reboots" that relaunched some but not all of the DC characters, changing some continuities and leaving others somewhat intact. Crisis and Flashpoint also have built-in gaps to encompass material from previous continuities; for Crisis it was the ten-year gap, and for Flashpoint it's the five-year gap between the first arc of Justice League and the second.

Hope that helps! Remember, if you have a question, don't hesitate to drop me a line, and your question could be featured next time in "Ask Collected Editions." Thanks!
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17 comments:

  1. I think Psycho Pirate was the only one who remembered Crisis as it actually happened (as per the ending of COIE and Grant Morrison's "Animal Man"), although Harbinger and Pariah might have, as well.

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  2. Absolutely; I thought about mentioning all of them but thought it might complicate things too much. See War of the Gods for more of Harbinger and Pariah, too.

    I struggled with what to title this post; I think Robin was wondering more how we the fans were supposed to regard the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths (and pre-Crisis continuity) within the confines of post-Crisis continuity, rather than what characters remembered Crisis. That is, should one expect the characters to know who Barry Allen was, since he existed pre-Crisis and then died during Crisis, if supposedly the characters don't remember the Crisis?

    The answer is "yes" -- both that all characters have a vague notion of Crisis at least in terms of certain characters who died (Barry Allen, Dove Don Hall), and that many pre-Crisis events (like the original Justice League sans Wonder Woman) still took place, just during the ten-year Man of Steel/Superman gap.

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  3. A somewhat related question:

    At the end of Flashpoint the book suggests that Barry remembers the events of Flashpoint (or at least partly). Does the new Flash ongoing references the events of Flashpoint? Or Barry forgets everything?

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  4. I don't believe we've had any indication that Barry remembers the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe. I believe you're referring to where Barry looks directly at the camera and says "As far as I know"; in my Flashpoint review, I took this to be irony on Geoff Johns's part, not Barry's -- though it's probably meant to be open for interpretation.

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  5. I don't have the copy of my Flashpoint with me, so I'll quote Wikipedia. I'm referring to this scene:

    "Barry then wakes up in a similar manner to the beginning of Flashpoint. Believing that everything is over, Barry remembers Thomas' letter and gives it to Bruce, who is still the Batman in this timeline. Bruce is deeply touched by his father's sacrifice to ensure his own life, and is grateful to Barry for informing him of the events that transpired before the timeline was reset."

    So Barry remembers the letter and what to do with it. So even if he forgets everything (because that's how time alteration works in the DCU I guess) shouldn't Batman ask the question: "So Barry, where did this letter came from again?"

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  6. Sorry -- read too quick and thought you were asking whether Barry remembers the pre-Flashpoint DCU, which he does not. He does, however, remember the Flashpoint universe, as far as I know.

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  7. There's a lot of cherry-picking going on with who remembers what from before Flashpoint, due largely to how much the stories changed. Batman and Hal Jordan especially "remember" the pre-Flashpoint DCU because their stories just picked up as though there weren't a #1 on the cover, but I don't think DC is as interested in clarifying what's changed and what's constant as we the fans are. Which, I suppose, is part of why we're still coming back month after month.

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  8. that makes a lot of sense,

    ta muchly for the comprehensive answer!

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  9. I read all of the #1 issues of the New 52 and there was not one mention of Flashpoint. That's not to say there won't be something later on (like with that "Pandora" lady who was in the background of all the #1's). Kind of like how DC revisited the original Crisis during Infinite Crisis.

    I find it interesting how Superman, Wonder Woman, and to a lesser extent Batman have all received reboots (Flash too!), yet Green Lantern's continuity has remained pretty much exactly the same. There are various smaller revisions that have happened to Hal (like his brother supposedly dying during the Coast City disaster - even appearing as a ghost during Hal's "Spectre" series - then showing up alive with his family in the post-Rebirth GL series), and heck I guess his original origin vs Emerald Dawn vs GL: Secret Origin, but even so, it seems pretty minor compared to Superman and Flash no longer being married!

    Also, in the article you say "Dawn Hall" when you meant "Don Hall". Important of course because "Dawn" isn't just a typo, it's an entirely different character. :-)

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  10. Actually, Mark, the first issue of "Legion of Super-Heroes" has Dream Girl saying, “Flashpoint effect has definitely closed off time travel.” I'm not actually reading LOSH so I don't know how much that plays into the title (I'll leave that to CEB when the trades come out), but it seems that Flashpoint might have "happened" more than COIE.

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  11. Shoot, Zach, I do remember that scene now! My bad! I think that also has somwthing to do with part of the Legion being stuck in the past in the Legion Lost book? Time travel is now much more difficult?

    I've also since remembered that I haven't read the Flash or Green Lantern #1's yet, as I'm still around Brightest Day in my trade reading. So, really, I guess I was full of hot air on my earlier post. :-)

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  12. Hey, no worries, Mark. Like I said, I'm not reading either Legion title, but the line stuck out from DC's big "tagline" marketing push right before the new #1s. GL & Flash don't mention Flashpoint, but GL picks up basically from "War of the Green Lanterns," while Flash has changed a lot (although Barry seems to remember the Rogues as being "different" from previous times he's met them, which is accurate).

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  13. I'm curious to read the DC New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes for a number of reasons, but one is for more information about that Flashpoint line, which I'd also seen in a preview. But, Levitz is referencing Flashpoint in Legion comics as early as Legion: The Choice -- my outside guess is that these are references to whatever Flashpoint was supposed to be, not what it became, and that these vague references won't ever amount to more than just that, vague references. Would be pleased if it was more.

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  14. The 10-year gap still left plenty of time for most stories to take place, unlike the current 5-year gab (with no prior super-heroic activity whatsoever!)

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  15. It's probably along the same lines of past DC time-travel stories where they'll be shown travelling through that "time dimension" or whatever and make an offhand comment about the "Crisis" or even "Zero Hour". I remember seeing that a few times over the years.

    That being said, that Pandora lady from the end of Flashpoint is certainly going to be involved in some story in the near future, so I can see some potential Flashpoint references coming out of that.

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  16. @Eyz, if I understand correctly, the current five-year gap does leave room for some "untold stories," whatever they may be -- the Justice League formed five years ago, but in those five years Batman has had a couple of Robins, Superman changed his costume, Hal Jordan discovered the multi-colored rings, Batgirl was out of commission recovering from being shot, and some iteration of the Teen Titans formed (Starfire, Arsenal, and Dick Grayson were on some team), Green Arrow rejected Arsenal as his sidekick, etc. In this universe there's no superheroic activity before the five-year gap, true, but plenty in-between.

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  17. I read an interview where someone like Didio or Johns said that Batman had been operating for several years in the nDCU before that five-year gap -- it just wasn't known to public. Makes sense, as that would allow him to have so many Robins. I'm not sure what other characters fall into this pre-five-year category, though.

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