Does anyone know the history of the crisis storyline in DC comics. I heard it goes all the way back to the 1960s.
There have been many, many storylines that have used the “Crisis” name over the last 50 years. Usually the common theme is that one threat endangers multiple versions of reality.
Wonder Comics has stated there are 7 crisises. But I don’t remember what they all are.
The first Crisis was a two part story in Justice League of America 22 and 23 that saw the complete Justice League and Justice Society teaming up for the first time (individual Leaguers had already been pairing up with their Society counterparts since “Flash of Two Worlds”). From there the Crisis became an annual event and the chief vehicle for DC to expand their multiverse.
That legacy made it an easy choice to snag the name for Wolfman and Perez’ legendary event series. Where the previous Crises has been singular (Crisis on Earth One, Crisis on Earth X etc) Wolfman went big with Crisis on Infinite Earths. The series destroyed the multiverse reinvisioning everything as a singular universe and shuffling away continuity speed bumps like the golden age Superman and Wonder Woman to comic book limbo.
In the mid 90s you had Zero Hour (subtitled Crisis in Time). This was supposed to streamline the many alternate timelines as well as fix a few lingering issues from CoIE. Fun fact: it also borrows a name from a regular silver age series and in doing so provides a hint to the identity of the main villain. During the sixties Hal Jordan had several zero hour stories in which he had to stop crimes while his ring was out of power.
Identity Crisis wasn’t really a Crisis as all though it did play with continuity by establishing that there were darker undertones beneath the League’s earlier adventures. It also set the the stage for Infinite Crisis, a direct sequel to CoIE that turned killed off the golden age Superman, turned Superboy Prime into a villain and reintroduced the multiverse though it did reduce it from infinite earths to 52 ( a fact we would discover in the excellent weekly series that followed).
After 52 ended DC’s next weekly series was Countdown which led (somewhat imperfectly) into Final Crisis which serves as both a Crisis in its own right and the conclusion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.
You also have several events that while not called Crises have all the trademarks: epic threats and continuity altering effects.
Flashpoint provided the impetus to wipe the slate clean for the New 52 and Convergence re-established an infinite multiverse (though it seems that DC has walked back that choice). Metal introduced the Dark Multiverse and broke the Source Wall leading to the slow death of the current limited multiverse and Doomsday Clock started with the revelation that Doctor Manhattan had a hand in the post-Flashpoint re-ordering of the DC Universe. It may be that one of the reasons its taking that series so long to finish is that they’re purposefully waiting so they can tie it in with whatever Scott Snyder is building up to in Justice League.
This crisis page from DC Database should help you out: https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Crisis
TheDemonEtrigan pretty much covered it, but here are the “eras” of continuity, if that’s why you’re curious:
Earth-Two (~1937-~1955) (there are some scattered characters older than Detective Comics who filtered into continuity, the exact dividing line is unclear, and some stories as far back as the '40s like the Riddler’s first appearance are treated as very early Earth-One stories): All the old-school characters like the Jay Garrick Flash, the Alan Scott Green Lantern, and the Justice Society of America.
Earth-One (~1955-1987): Had begun sometime before the Barry Allen Flash’s introduction in 1956. The multiverse was established by The Flash Vol 1 123 (The Flash of Two Worlds) in 1961. The first Crises were a two-part storyline from 1963 that crossed the new Justice League of America with the old Justice Society of America: Justice League of America Vol 1 21 (Crisis on Earth-One!) and Justice League of America Vol 1 22 (Crisis on Earth-Two!). The multiverse gradually expanded to include things like worlds inhabited by characters from companies DC had bought (e.g. Earth-Four had Charlton characters like Blue Beetle and the Question while Earth-Five had Fawcett characters like Captain Marvel).
New Earth V1 (1987-1994): Kicked off by Crisis on Infinite Earths. Had new origins for various characters. Kept Earth-One stories as broad-strokes canon unless specified otherwise. Dealt away with the Multiverse and merged Earths One, Two, Four, and Five, among a couple others.
New Earth V2 (1994-2006): Minor alterations as of Zero Hour. Everything from New Earth V1 still counts.
New Earth V3 (2006-2011): Heavier changes from Infinite Crisis and 52, but mostly to background details. The vast majority of material from previous New Earth stories still counts. The Multiverse was brought back.
Prime Earth V1 (2011-2016): Flashpoint. Total reboot. Ignores everything previous.
Prime Earth V2 (2016-): DC Rebirth. Fixed some of the worse changes from Flashpoint (but not all of them) and reintroduced pieces of New Earth V3 into a sort of murky merged-ish timeline. Full extent of the changes or whether they’re even done is extremely unclear at this point.
Batjamags is mostly right but Flashpoint doesn’t quite ignore everything that came before it. The Bat Family’s continuity remains largely unchanged except where it intersects with other characters. Johns’ run on Green Lantern continues without a hitch ignoring the fact that most of the earlier stories no longer make any sense outside of the context of events that no longer happened. It’s also safe to assume that most of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing is still canon even if Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s is not.
One of the things that makes the New 52 (and most DC reboots) a bit of a mess is that they’re rarely consistent with character changes. They tend to keep what is working intact while changing lower selling titles.