I'd rather jack than Fleetwood Mac. As previously mentioned on this blog and elsewhere, the world of superhero comics is a confusing one. Especially since every summer, MILLIONS WILL DIE. It's a little like hurricane season but with giant robots and holes in the space-time continuum (and no, Polyfilla doesn't work, sadly). This year? Well, EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT THE MARVEL UNIVERSE IS WRONG! Again. But this time they mean it, as after Marvel is finished with their imaginary world dreamt up by The Scarlet Witch Which Is A Bit Different From The Alternate World Where Professor X Died Or The One That Franklin Richards Made When All The Heroes Were Killed By Professor X Who'd Gone A Bit Bonkers' story, they're coming back with Decimation, a title that conjures up all sorts of fun images. The rumour is that in the 'new' Marvel Universe, there won't be quite so many mutants around. So lotsa people gonna die. It's all DC's fault, of course. Twenty years ago, they released a series, which really did change everything, and everybody has been copying it since. You see, Superman, Batman, and a few other DC heroes debuted in the 1930s, but by the end of the 1940s, superhero comics weren't selling in big numbers anymore. Most of the titles faded as both Marvel and DC (or Timely and National, as they were known then) moved into romance, horror, and true crime genres. In 1955, though, that all changed, as the Flash was reintroduced and heralded a new age of superhero stories. But the new Flash wasn't the same as the old one. This Flash was Barry Allen, a police scientist who gained speed powers after being involved in a chemical accident (and some lightning). He took up the name of Flash, because he remembered reading about the adventures of the original Flash (Jay Garrick) during the 1940s. So far, so good. New versions of other characters followed, eventually leading to the comic Justice League of America, which comprised all of DC's big heroes; Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and many others. Then came the slight wrinkle - after all, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman had been going since the 1940s - how come they hadn't aged? The correct answer, I suppose, is 'who cares?', but that's not how DC decided to answer the question. Instead, in Flash #123, Barry Allen travelled to an alternate Earth, the one that contained the 'real' Jay Garrick. In Justice League #21-22, this was explored further, revealing that in this other Earth, known as Earth-2, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and others fought in WWII, whereas in the proper Earth (Earth-1), they had started their adventures after the war. Simple, eh? And then it got very complicated. There was an Earth-3, filled with evil duplicates of the Justice League and a good Lex Luthor, Earth-X, where the Germans won WWII, Earth-S, the home of Captain Marvel, and Earth-Prime, which was supposed to be the real world (although given that it was ravaged by nuclear war, let's hope not). The fun thing for writers was that you could use the older age of Earth-2 characters to write stories that you couldn't do with the Earth-1 ones (who were always set in the here and now); for example, the Huntress was originally an Earth-2 character, and her name was then Helena Wayne, being the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. By 1985, it was a mess. People kept jumping between universes, and it was a major headache for both the writers and readers to keep everything straight. So, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of DC Comics, Marv Wolfman came up with a proposal to streamline the DC Universe in a 12-part mini-series called Crisis On Infinite Earths. It's one of the goofy things that I love about superhero comics; sure it'd be much easier just to restart everybody at issue #1, and not even mention what's gone before, but no, we have to have a huge event to explain a new editorial mandate. The plot of Crisis was simple: a big bad guy (the Anti-Monitor) is wiping out universes. In the first ten pages, an unnamed Earth and Earth-3 are completely destroyed - this series has the highest body count of, well, pretty much anything ever (Infinite Earths, remember?). The heroes from the remaining universes band together to save what's left. They succeed, but at a high price: Barry Allen is killed when he destroys one of the Anti-Monitor's machines, and Supergirl is completely erased from history (both Flash and Supergirl weren't selling well). The series ends with just one Earth, which has elements of all the old ones, but has a new history. Simple! Except...well, it would have worked, if the comics had truly started again from scratch. But most of them didn't, leaving some readers clueless about which stories 'happened' and which didn't (again, it mostly doesn't matter, but some people like to know these things). Then there was the Legion of Superheroes, who screwed everything up. You see, the Legion was a group of teenagers from the far future, who came back in time to visit Superboy and Supergirl, taking them back to their time to have lots of fabulous adventures. But in the new timeline, Supergirl didn't exist, and Clark Kent didn't get his powers until much later - there never was a Superboy. This completely wrecked the Legion's origin, and was fixed by a pocket universe, the Time Trapper, another alternate world ruled by the sorcery of Mordru, and finally replacing the lost pair with the Daxmaites Mon-El and Laurel Gand. If you understood even half of the previous paragraph, then I feel for you. And I hope you feel for me. Ten years later, and some of the continuity wrinkles were just too big to ignore, so there was another big story, this time called Zero Hour. Hal Jordan, Green Lantern, went a bit loony after his home city was destroyed as a result of an alien invasion, and decided he was going to fix things. By recreating the multiverse (it's possible that the aging Jordan was chosen to represent the older fans who were rather upset about Crisis), and giving everybody a lovely little paradise to live in. His plan failed, but he did reboot the universe, allowing editors to decree that certain stories never happened, and fixing the Legion Problem by starting it over from scratch (like they probably should have done back in 1985. And now, ten years on, we're here again; DC's big event for this year is Infinite Crisis, another story that promises to change everything. The run-up to the story involves rape, mindwipes, TINY FOOTPRINTS ON THE BRAIN, the Batbooks continuing to suck, Superman having his throat ripped open by Wonder Woman's tiara, and the General Death of Fun (and all of Giffen/DeMatteisâ€™s JLI characters). I think that they're trying to get us to welcome the reboot by making the current universe such a miserable place. And, as mentioned at the top of the post, Marvel is also having its first reboot this year as well (Marvel didn't reuse too many 1940s superheroes during its 1960s boom, so its managed to hold off a reboot for longer, but these days, the origins of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, and many others are tied a little too tightly to the Cold War) There you go, a handy guide to the Crisis and why superhero comics are rather complicated, but one mystery remains - why is Power Girl's costume like that?