The year seems to hold some sort of special significance, at least in the minds of Bowling For Soup, comic book writer Mark Millar, and in the mind of a certain blogger.
I became a teenager in 1985, and, to a very real extent, 1985 was when my identity and sense of self – for good or ill – really started to firm up, and I became something that could recognizably be called Jon As We Know Him.
I can’t really say why 1985 was significant to those others, but I know that, for me, for a lot of reasons, most of which I won’t get into, even at the time, 1985 seemed important.
For one thing, my sister Kim graduated from high school and moved out, and with my brother Stuart heading off to Northern to get his auto body certificate, that meant that for the first time in 13 years, I was the only one of my siblings still living at home.
With no disrespect intended towards my brothers and sisters, I have to say that life at home became a lot quieter and more peaceful. I mean, how could it not?
My school life improved, thanks to the presence of a new Principal who served as something of a mentor, and proved to be someone I could actually talk to about the things I was interested in (science fiction, art), and while my interpersonal relationships with my fellow students weren’t exactly ideal, they were, at least, no longer calling me names and willing to just leave me alone most of the time.
Beyond any of that, however, for me, there were two things that made 1985 so significant: Who’s Who and Crisis on Infinite Earths.Contrary to what the people in charge at DC thought, I really enjoyed the fact that DC had a 50-year history of stories and continuity. Rather than finding the challenge of sifting through 5 decades’ worth of information a daunting, forbidding task, I relished the challenge of learning as much as I could. In that regard, both comics – Who’s Who in particular – proved invaluable.
I loved being able to look through an issue of Crisis and see some obscure character lurking in the background and know who he or she was, thanks to his or her entry in Who’s Who.
Of course, as things wore on, and Crisis began having a major impact on the DCU – the deaths of Supergirl and Barry Allen chief among them – I began to develop a sense of just how significant this story was going to prove to be for the fictional universe I loved so well.
After all, at the time, I had no idea about the idea that Wolfman and Perez had pitched, so I went into it thinking that, sure, some exciting stuff would happen, but it wouldn’t mean anything. When it was all over, a couple minor characters would be gone, some new characters would be introduced, their comics would get cancelled eventually, and then everything would go back to being the way it was.
By the time I’d gotten through the back-to-back deaths of those major characters, however, I lost a lot of that certainty. Worlds will live, worlds will die, and nothing will ever be the same…
Being an “event” comic, Crisis, in addition to having its own monthly issues, crossed over with every title that DC published. To a greater and lesser extent with each and every issue that came out from the spring through the fall of 1985, every comic featured stories that intersected with the events depicted in the main Crisis storyline.
It was, if you read DC Comics, unavoidable.
One such crossover occurred in the Superman titles, where we found the Man of Steel transported to another world, a world that was familiar not only to the Last Son of Krypton, but to the readers as well: Earth Prime.
The Crisis, it seemed, did not discriminate, and when they said all Earths were in danger, they meant it. But if the combined might of heroes and villains alike couldn’t save those other worlds, what chance did our Earth, lacking as it did anyone with even a hint of super powers – the best we’ve got is a guy who can possibly (though definitely not) bend spoons with his mind – have against this multiversal wave of destruction?
As it turned out, we weren’t quite so lacking as we’d always assumed, as there was a teenager living in a small town on Earth Prime who had, cruelly, been given an all-too familiar name: Clark Kent.
Clark had been a foundling, and though they knew it was cruel, his adoptive parents, the Kents, decided to give him that fateful name. While he had spent his life living like any normal kid on Earth Prime, the passing of Halley’s Comet somehow activated his latent Kryptonian abilities – conveniently, on a night on which young Clark, embracing the joke that was his name, was attending a costume party dressed as his super hero namesake – and Earth Prime got its first super hero: Superboy!
|Look! Up in the sky! It's...actually, it really is just a bird. Darn.|
Unfortunately, even the combined efforts of Man and Boy were not super enough to save us, and Earth Prime – where we keep all of our stuff – was consumed by the unstoppable and insatiable wall of antimatter. At the end of that story, Superboy disappeared into a vortex, only to reappear sometime later in the pages of Crisis, lending his power to its ultimate resolution.
It’s important to mention that while the first issue of Crisis was released at the start of 1985, the events depicted therein were actually said to be taking place in July of that year.
So Earth Prime – along with all of us – was fated to be destroyed.
This is where the anecdote that inspired these lengthy posts finally comes in.
One of the harbingers of every Earth’s ultimate destruction in Crisis is strange weather, exemplified by an oddly copper-colored sky. Limitations of the color reproduction process of the time meant that on the printed page the skies simply appeared to be red, but the word “copper” was frequently used to describe the color.
It’s 1985. While I’ve just recently made the transition from child to teen, and the basic components of what we would later know as Jon were all properly assembled, I was prone to flights of fancy that frequently turned into a kind of existential dread as I followed them through to their terrifying conclusion….well…I guess I still do that.
In any case, it’s 1985 and I’ve seen how the stakes have been rising in Crisis, and while I know that we aren’t really Earth Prime, and there is no multiverse – at least, no multiverse as described in the comics; we won’t get into M-theory here – there is that nagging question of “What if it’s true?”
July 4th, 1985. For some reason, even though it’s unlike me to do so, I wake up early in the morning, not long after sunrise. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I feel like something is amiss, something beyond the fact that it’s way too damned early to be getting up on a summer day. Something just doesn’t seem right. It’s the light coming in through the windows. It’s…off, somehow.
Uneasily, I get out of bed, approach the window, and look outside and up at the sky.
It’s a color that I’d never seen before, one that can only be described as copper.
It’s July, 1985, I live on Earth Prime, and the sky is copper.
It’s a momentary thought – honestly, I don’t believe that we’re really about to be destroyed by a wave of antimatter – but, all things considered, how could I not have that thought?
Still, knowing that there’s nothing that I can do but await the end, and, given that it’s way too damned early to be up on a summer day, I shrug my shoulders and climb back into bed.
I wake up some hours later to a bright, sunny day, though I’m vaguely aware that we’d had some severe storms while I slept.
Even so, it seems that we weren’t destroyed by a wave of antimatter, and while I’m pleased that is the case, I can’t help but be a little disappointed to have it confirmed that the answer to “What if it’s true?” is that there’s no point in wondering, because it very clearly isn’t.
Twenty years later, Infinite Crisis comes along. Written by Geoff Johns, who is roughly my age, and would have been reading the same comics I was reading, IC follows the story of some of the refugees of CoIE.
Events in CoIE unfolded in such a way that history was retroactively changed at the beginning of time, preventing the creation of the multiverse, and leading to one unified universe that was, at its core, the universe of Earth 1, with certain elements of the other Earths added into its history. Not only was Earth Prime destroyed, it was now the case that it never existed in the first place.
So not only did we not have a place to keep all of our stuff, we no longer had any stuff and we never had. In fact, we didn’t even have a we.
In this new, unified history, there were several anomalous beings, people from the previous history who had managed to stick around in the new one, such as Kal-L of Earth 2, and young Clark Kent from Earth Prime. They had no home and no history, and as the rewritten history of the new universe wove itself into the memories of those who had survived the Crisis, they would eventually be completely forgotten, and would remember worlds that never existed.
So, in the end, they went off to greener pastures, another reality completely disconnected from the reality that no longer had a place for them, and they would live in this paradise dimension forever.
Or until Geoff Johns came along.
I won’t get into the details of IC here (mercifully), but the end result was that history was changed once more, and while it was no longer infinite, the multiverse was reborn in a massive undelete that restored much of its previous history.
Included in that undelete command? Earth Prime.
So to go back to that question from July 4, 1985, “What if it’s true?
What if, while I slept that morning, we all really were consumed by a wall of antimatter, retroactively erased from existence, and then, in a manner that was seamless from our perspective, retroactively added back into existence? What if there really had been Crises on Earth Prime?