Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Amazing Heroes #78: Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 Review

I said it just last week ...
Every time I think I am done with covering Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, I get pulled back in.

Blog friend Greg Araujo (@garaujo1on Twitter) recently got a mess of old Amazing Heroes magazines and in that block was Amazing Heroes #78 from September 1985. No big surprise, based on the cover date, the book reviews the issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths which were still on the spinner racks at the time.

My how time flies.

Reviewer R.A. Jones takes a look at Crisis on Infinite Earths #7-9, discussing the major events. And these were the issues where people started to really sit up and take notice. It is one thing for Kid Psycho and the Crime Syndicate to die. It is another thing all together for Supergirl and The Flash to die. The stakes were suddenly real. World would live and die. And some characters would stay dead ... at least for a while.

Part of my research on the topic of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 has always been the fallout. There was no social media then. The decision that Supergirl was unnecessary and unloved seemed absolute back then. *All* the DC higher ups thought so, right?

So reading reactions and reviews from around the time help me get a wider pulse of what it meant to the comic world for Kara to be killed. Here, Jones does a wonderful job of putting the event into context. And Jones is much more sympathetic than his staff mate Dwight Decker, who wrote a 'damning with faint praise' hatchet job four months earlier.

Jones covers three issues so the climactic seventh issue only gets some of the coverage. But even then the question 'do we even need a Crisis?' was being raised by fans. The review opens up with a jab at continuity being a tempest in a teapot that maybe comics hold up to too high a standard. He even takes a shot at Stan Lee as being the root cause of the continuity bugaboo.

I do wonder what the Marvel Saga was going to be.

And then Jones kind of puts Marv Wolfman's feet to the fire. Sounds like Jones didn't think Supergirl needed to be killed. He wonders if Wolfman decided to kill Kara or was told too. (As we now know, it seems that Dick Giordano was the one driving that ship.) At least in the immediate aftermath, it seems Wolfman was using sales of the Supergirl book as a yardstick towards viability. And, while I love the Paul Kupperberg book, it was a pretty generic title during a time when New Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, and X-Men were all flourishing creatively.

And yes, I have to agree with Jones that Kara's death scene is extremely powerful, memorable to this day and still riffed on in comics some 30+ years later. If she 'nearly' died, would a new Supergirl book with a hot creative team released post-Crisis sell? We'll never know.

At the very least, Jones was a fan of Supergirl saying she'll be sorely missed. In a time when there seemed to be a preponderance of evidence that no one liked Supergirl, I would have appreciated this review. There were other mourners out there.

Here is the rest of the review, definitely worth reading.

What I find interesting is that all of his arguments for keeping Supergirl alive could have easily been applied to Barry Allen's Flash. And yet Jones calls Barry's death a mercy killing after the ponderous 'Trial of the Flash' sucked the life out of the title. Surely, this is just another case where a hot new direction from a dazzling new team could have revived the character from his doldrums.

But this is what comic book fans are.

Fan of Supergirl? How could you kill her? Who cares if she had a lousy book? Bring in the right people!
Not a fan of the Flash? How could you not kill him? His book was lousy? No one could bring him back.

It still intrigues me that in reviewing the Crisis book from afar, there has been a lot written about Supergirl's death. I haven't run across that much written about the Flash's death. Was there as much consternation about it? Did having another Flash still around soften the blow? Was the major re-write of the Superman mythos a harder thing to swallow? Are there Flash fans out there who can point me anywhere?

Anyways, I am happy that the power of Crisis #7 and the pain of losing Kara wasn't lost on this reviewer. And, as always, I am thankful for generous friends like Greg who I have met via social media and the community that comes here.


Martin Gray said...

I did enjoy Amazing Heroes, and RA Jones was a fine reviewer (remember his Granny scale, i lieu of stars?). And he certainly has all the right opinions here! That's an interesting point, using this book to launch a Kara series rather than kill the character... if only!

I still loved Daring Adventures! That series was the epitome of MY Kara - the confident young Superwoman who had earned her super-stripes time and again. She'd long since outgrown the junior partner bit; I still miss her.

Anonymous said...

Since social media back then was barely existent, message boards were primitive and available to few people, the only way to "know" what other fans thought was mainly letter columns, which of course were biased. Hence, if DC's higher-ups claimed no one liked or cared for Kara Zor-El, they only printed letters agreeing with them and magazines printed "articles" like that one of Dwight Decker... well, then it HAD to be true, right? DC's decision was right or understandable, right? Everybody says it so it MUST be true.

I've been a Marvel fan since my childhood, but even so I can't say I quite disagree with the dig at Stan Lee. Stan Lee -plus Kirby, Ditko, Thomas, Kane, Buscema, Romita...- created an universe where past stories counted. Fans wanted to know what would happen in the next issue, and how it'd affect future ones. Instead of outgrowing super-hero comics or embracing their inherent silliness, they kept reading. They grew up and demanded their comics "grow up" with them and stop being all-ages or children entertainment. They came to expect and demand "realism", "coherence", "continuity" and "progression". And they praised Marvel for giving it at the same time that derided DC for remaining "kiddie", "outdated" and "stuck in the past". Since they were older, they usually had a bigger income, which convinced Marvel and DC to abandon the newsstands and focus their efforts on the Direct Market.

Thus, the Crisis. The destruction of the allegedly befuddling continuity. The pruning of the so-called kiddie elements like the Super-Family and the pulp-influenced Krypton. The obsession to distance themselves from the Silver Age and its characters (even though they had already done in the 70's). The darkening of Batman.

Obviously it wasn't everything bad, and DC made large profits in the short term, but... the long-term consequences were disastrous. Inextricable continuity, low sales...

Oh, well.

"But this is what comic book fans are.

Fan of Supergirl? How could you kill her? Who cares if she had a lousy book? Bring in the right people!
Not a fan of the Flash? How could you not kill him? His book was lousy? No one could bring him back."

Hahahah. True.

"I have derivative characters because they all are rip-offs with zero personality... unless it's a derivative character which I happen to like, of course. Of course."

"Did having another Flash still around soften the blow? Was the major re-write of the Superman mythos a harder thing to swallow?"

Good guess. Batman was also rebooted, but it was a soft reboot. Batman's mythos were changed and the sillier elements done away with, but they weren't retconned out and banned forever. Writers usually disregarded them but they were free to use them if they wanted. They didn't need to go to extreme lengths to reintroduce them or unusually convoluted versions. Thus, no mess and no fan complaints.

"Are there Flash fans out there who can point me anywhere?"

I don't know about Flash fans, but I've met long-time Barry Allen fans who were NOT happy. Some of them said they'd be okay with Wally remaining the primary Flash as long as Barry was back and an important character.

Anonymous said...

One of the few benefits I derived from COIE#7 was the firm belief that "everyone has a favorite", that favorite may not merit a continuing book, but that doesn't mean that they are deserving a death designed to enlarge the profitability & creative prospects of some other character. The great ongoing existential dread that infected us all from COIE#7 onward is the suspicion that your favorite character is only a few thousands books sold a month and one pitch from a twitchy hot S**t creative away from being killed and expunged from continuity.
Back in the day I don't recall a lot of hue and cry from fans about Supergirl although Helen Slater was on some talk show a year or so later and expressed disappointment the character had been killed off. I myself recalled seeing two wretched teenagers laughing at the cover to COIE#7 in a local...It took the afiinity-group power of the internet to bring Supergirl back lets hope it can keep her alive.


Anonymous said...

From my memories of the time we fans talked about Barry’s death after CoIE partly because it was still in continuity. From a story standpoint it happened, and Wally was there to take on the legacy. But the talk eventually faded to background noise because the story was complete.

Supergirl’s death was different. Not only did it not happen, but she never existed, so a lot of loose ends were left hanging out there to the point that it was hard to keep the fabric of continuity together. The Legion was hugely affected, writers had to dole out the Supergirl role to multiple substitutes to keep things going. Brainiac 5 is much less interesting without that other half to play against, so we got Laurel Kent, and Andromeda, and even Dream Girl was a stand in at one point. I don’t think the Legion ever entirely recovered from the loss of Superboy and Supergirl.

And the 20th century stories had to bring in a new Supergirl in Matrix, then Linda Danvers, then Cir-El, because the role in the Superman mythos was just too interesting and useful to leave empty.

As a reader you kept being reminded she used to exist because DC couldn’t help picking and poking at it, trying to fill the gap with something or someone. After awhile the notion that she was unnecessary, that Superman worked better as the sole survivor, started looking pretty hollow. And unlike Barry Allen, there wasn’t already a built-in Flash to hand things off to like Wallly. Barry’s story was complete, he had a legacy, and he could be remembered.

Kara couldn’t be remembered, or even talked about, so naturally we fans remembered and talked about her. So the edict to writers that she never existed did the opposite, it make absolutely sure that she would be remembered. Like a missing tooth, you constantly notice it by its absence.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

Agree that Kara being forgotten added some insult to injury.

Agree that we all have a little PTSD from her death, waiting for the shoe to drop. Unlikely given her popularity these days.

Agree that launching a book from her death (or maybe near death) is brilliant.

Thanks for letting me keep picking away at Crisis, 32 years later!

Professor Feetlebaum said...

Marvel Saga was a 25 issue maxi-series that combined new and old art to tell (as the subtitle said) "The Official History of the Marvel Universe". It was written by Peter Sanderson.

"(Jones) even takes a shot at Stan Lee as being the root cause of the continuity bugaboo."

The Marvel Universe worked so well back in the day largely because it all came about naturally. Since Stan was writing and/or editing the entire line, it gave the Marvel books a single editorial "voice" that DC did not have. Instead we had the "Mort Weisinger Universe" and the "Julius Schwartz Universe", and the "Murray Boltinoff Universe" and so on...

"If she nearly died, would a new Supergirl book with a hot creative team released post-crisis sell? We'll never know."

It's too bad DC didn't consider that at the time. It worked for X-Men and Teen Titans. And for Daredevil with Frank Miller.

And if DC was determined that Superman be the only Kryptonian, they COULD have gone the Power Girl route with Supergirl-having her survive the Crisis and then discover that she wasn't from Krypton after all. Like Power Girl, her Kryptonian origins could have been restored later, and in the meantime, they could have avoided all that Pocket Universe Matrix stuff.

According to Cary Bates (interviewed by Jack Scott for "The Flash Companion" published by Twomorrows), "...word came down from the powers-that-be way in advance that Flash and Supergirl would not survive the Crisis. I'm not sure of the exact time frame, but I think I had at least a year's notice..." Bates goes on to say that with the Flash's days numbered he didn't want to start a new storyline
that "would be ended prematurely", he continued with the trial story and used it to bring Iris back and reunite her with Barry.

Anj said...

Great stuff about the Flash, Professor! Thanks!