Pre/Post Crisis? Crisis on Infinite Earths?

To keep it short (and not so) simple, what is pre-crisis? What is post-crisis? What is crisis on infinite earths? What are their implications on the DC universe? What are the implications on the characters?

I’ve tried watching videos and reading articles, but they are all quite confusing to me. I’d love to hear what you all have to say about this!

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Crisis was a way of streamlining all the various alternative Earths into one single universe. It was also a continuity reset for all the books so creators could start fresh, similar to New 52. The Crisis On Infinite Earths series made all of this happen. So when something is referenced as pre or post Crisis, it means the books before or after this series. I started reading in the early 90’s so I began with post Crisis books. That means Wally is my Flash, Kyle is Green Lantern, and Barry Allen is dead. The post Crisis comics are the reason I signed up for DCU. So Post Crisis is the books after Crisis on Infinite Earths until Flashpoint, and pre Crisis is Action #1 to Crisis.

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Crisis on Infinite Earths was an event that DC did to celebrate their 50th Anniversary.

It was built upon the old JLA/JSA annual cross-overs.
When DC first brought out Superman in 1938, that signaled the start of the Golden Age.
Many of DC’s characters first appeared in the Golden Age between 1938 and 1952, including the Justice Society of America (the precursor to JLA).
At the start of the '50s, superhero comics fell out of favor and readers were flocking to horror, westerns, crime-fiction, romance and funny animal comics.
So DC discontinued all the super-hero comics except for the ones featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

But then, not soon after, around 1955, a committee challenged the decency of comics for kids because a few select publishers were putting out some disturbing stuff.
So, the Comics Code was created in an attempt to make comics ‘safe’ for children.
This killed the horror genre for a while (it started coming back in the '70s when the code laxed a little and writers learned how to write such stories creatively), and toned down the crime and westerns.
Superheroes were seen as a ‘safe’ alternative, and so they made a return.

But when DC brought back the heroes (many of which had just been seen less than ten years prior), they chose to revamp all of them except for Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Arrow (the last two were still appearing regularly in Adventure Comics).
So, then came a new Flash, a new Green Lantern, a new Atom, a new Hawkman…

But DC misjudged the readership.
At the time, it was assumed that readers cycled every five years. Kids would start reading around 10 and then stop around 15 or so.
They didn’t expect the readers of 1960 to still remember the Golden Age characters that hadn’t appeared since 1952.
They started writing DC asking what happened to the JSA and the editors at DC were taken by surprise.
Due to overwhelming requests, the JSA made their return in a story in JLA and were explained as being on another Earth.

Since the JLA was now DC’s main heroes, they were given Earth-1 and the JSA were given Earth-2 (even though they came first).
They also explained that there were Earth-2 versions of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to explain their adventures with the JSA.

In the '60s and '70s, everything went along just fine.
But by the '80s when newer readers were no longer aware of the reasons why Earth-2 came into being or why there were two Supermans , Wonder Womans, Hawkmen, etc., it was decided that DC would streamline things.

The JLA/JSA annual crossovers were still going and they had been doing ‘Crisis’ stories that introduced new Earths, usually featuring characters long-forgotten from the Golden Age or characters gained from other publishers, setting them up on their own worlds.

Crisis on Infinite Earths set out to combine all the Earths together into one and remove any duplicates.
When the dust settled, there was one Earth. One Superman. One Batman. And Wonder Woman had been de-created (to prepare for her relaunch).

The time before this is referred to as Pre-Crisis.

However, that was just the start. DC was still in a flux for a while, because during Crisis, they acquired two of Marvel’s biggest creators at the time: John Byrne and Frank Miller.
John Byrne requested a clean slate because he wanted to start from the beginning with Superman. This led to Man of Steel, a six-issue mini-series that changed a lot of Superman’s history beyond what Crisis had already done.
Now, he had never been Superboy, Supergirl (who’s death was a key moment in Crisis that impacted several heroes) had never existed and his adopted Earth parents had never died.

Meanwhile, Frank Miller took a similar approach with Batman and did a four-issue story, called ‘Year One’ that made some changes to his origin and retconned Catwoman into being a prostitute.

These two stories would begin to contradict things just recently seen in comics (such as Superman’s appearance in Booster Gold just a few months before Man of Steel #1), so it was slowly adopted that Man of Steel #1 was the start of Post-Crisis as it coincided with Legends, DC’s event of 1986 that had many of the heroes meet for the first time in the new continuity and gave us the new Justice League.

In short, Pre-Crisis refers to anything and everything up to Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 and Post-Crisis refers to everything from Man of Steel #1 forward. Up to a point.
What that point is, is debatable.

The common ending point for Post-Crisis has been the launch of New52.
But some see that as too long of a period, as the DCU in the years after Legends was much different from the DCU in the last years prior to New52.

I personally put the end of Post-Crisis around 1992-1994, with the Death of Superman, Knightfall (Batman gets crippled), Breakdowns (the Justice League disbands and the creators that had been on the book since Legends left), and Wonder Woman briefly going on hiatus (as Perez, who had been on her title since Legends also, left her book).
While all these changes did lead to a massive face-lift for DC Comics, the real change came in 1994 with Zero Hour.
Some characters, such as Legion and Hawkman, had major changes done to them and Batman had some details of his origin changed, as Hal Jordan (the Green Lantern of Pre-Crisis) went crazy and destroyed and recreated the DC Universe.
At the end of each DC title in the last months prior to the event, there was a blank panel that signified that the universe suddenly ceased to exist.
That’s where I end my Post-Crisis history.

But that one’s mine. The ending point for Post-Crisis is subject to personal preference, but never extending beyond the launch of New52 in 2011.

Sorry if this was too long.


LeonardoMyst is pretty much right, but here’s the tl;dr:

Earth-2 = 1935-55

A bunch of characters like the Flash stopped being published around 1950 and got rebooted in the late '50s with new gimmicks and secret identities. The Flash #123 established that the new characters were on Earth-1 and the old ones were on Earth-2. There were various other earths introduced.

Earth-1 = 1955-85

Crisis on Infinite Earths was a miniseries released for DC’s 50th anniversary. When someone says “pre-crisis” or “post-crisis,” there are a ton of stories with “crisis” in their titles, but CoIE is the Crisis. It merged a bunch of the universes including Earth-1 and Earth-2, and set up a soft reboot where characters could get modernized origins.

Zero Hour in 1994 and Infinite Crisis in 2006 made a few minor continuity changes but weren’t really reboots.

Some people use “Post-Crisis” to literally mean the series launched immediately after Crisis on Infinite Earths, while others use it to mean the whole continuity up to 2011. Similarly, some people say “Pre-Crisis” and mean Earth-1, while others mean everything before '85. That doesn’t matter quite as much because everything was technically canon, just in different parts of the multiverse.

Flashpoint in 2011 launched the New 52, which threw out all the prior history and characterization except for Green Lantern’s and most of Batman’s.

DC: Rebirth in 2016 walked back some of Flashpoint’s more poorly received changes, though most of the things Rebirth purported to fix have since been un-fixed, leaving us back in the same boat we were in after Flashpoint broke everything.


Very well done.

Thanks for the follow-up and condensing @BatJamags.

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Thank you all, that makes a lot of sense!

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To add to Bat Jamags breakdown:

The break between Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman’s Earth Two and Earth One careers is a little messier since they remained in publication straight through. Generally speaking Wonder Woman shifts to Earth One with issue 97 or 98 of her book which retells the origin replacing nazis with a soviet sub. Superman really goes back to the early fifties with the first appearance of Superboy though his adult incarnation shifts over in around 56-57. Batman is the hardest to pin down because you have things like the Earth one clayface appearing in one issue and the earth two Batwoman and Batgirl in the next. Also golden age continuity was being referenced in canon stories right through the seventies.

To expound on BatJamags comments about Batman remaining mostly unchanged, that’s kind of true and kind of not depending how much you want to get in the weeds. It’s true he didn’t have a complete reimagining as did many other characters, but as a longtime fan, there’s a ton of smaller stuff that bugs me. It’s as if they wanted to continue telling the same types of stories without missing a beat, but they gave everything apart from that which appeared in every single issue a giant shake, and the examples of this are endless. He no longer adopted Dick Grayson and they have more of a distant relationship in the New 52. Batgirl no longer became Oracle after getting paralyzed (though they eventually reversed this I think). Red Robin’s entire backstory was changed to the point he was a different character. Spoiler no longer existed though was eventually reintroduced. All the previous histories of villains and encounters with the Dark Knight were kind of…up for grabs I guess. Nobody really knew what counted or what didn’t including the writers themselves.

All of Batman’s history was supposed to have fit in five years and it just really didn’t seem to fit.

I think Bat Jamags’ is right in that changes were comparatively small, but I think perhaps this made them even more frustrating. A fresh take is a fresh take, but a fresh take that feels like an old take with a lot of stuff you liked about it removed just doesn’t sit quite right.