Crisis on Infinite Earths not only upended DC’s continuity, it upended the Earth-One and Earth Two comic-book industries. In the aftermath of the multiverse merging, comics changed radically and ended up much less like our own world’s.
On Earth-Two, the Golden Age kicked off when DC Comics began publishing the based-on-truth adventures of Superman, followed by other real-life heroes. In the Golden Age of Earth-One, comic-book writers psychically tuned in Earth-Two for story ideas. Both Earth’s comics, as I imagine it, looked a lot like our Golden Age; their Silver Ages diverged more but not too far.
The post-Crisis “New Earth,” though? Much bigger differences, starting in the Golden Age.
Unlike Earth-Two, there was no real-life Superman or Batman to write about until decades later. There were no other Earths to vibe on for character ideas. So either Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster of New Earth dreamed up a fictional Superman years before the real one came along or they didn’t dream him up at all. Ditto Bob Kane and Bill Finger with the Caped Crusader. I think option B is more plausible, which means DC Comics went through the Golden Age without its two biggest guns (they would have had Wonder Woman, thanks to Hippolyta traveling back in time to assume the role).
With so many other real-life superheroes to write about DC could still have been successful, though the lack of Superman merchandising would have hurt their bottom line something fierce. Comics would differ in other ways too: the Young All-Stars as part of the All-Star Squadron, Superman adventures such as “The Funny Paper Crimes” being handled by different heroes. Just as there’s no comic-book Superman and Batman, there’s no Captain Marvel.
And Siegel and Shuster? It’s possible they just worked steadily in comics without ever striking gold as they did with Superman in our world. They might even have worked more, as they wouldn’t have left DC in a dispute over merchandising deals. Then again, maybe they hit the jackpot with some character who never even existed in our world. I’d like to think so — I hate them (or Bill Finger, or Jerry Robinson or C.C. Beck …) losing their piece of immortality.
As the 1950s began, the disappearance of the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the JSA blacklisting would have killed true-life superhero comics as they did on Earth-Two. Captain Comet might have sparked some renewed interest, but unlike Earth-One, New Earth didn’t have a wave of added heroes showing up in Adam Blake’s wake. If we go by DC’s sliding scale, New Earth’s second age of heroes started 10 to 15 years before “now.” Assuming Crisis on Infinite Earths is the initial “now,” Superman, Batman, Barry Allen etc. debuted around 1971.
As with Siegel and Shuster, I hate the idea that Julius Schwartz, John Broome, Gil Kane and the other creators of my childhood missed out on the Silver Age. So my New Earth head canon is that we got a new, fictional superhero in Showcase #4; he was a hit, so more fictional heroes followed, then Marvel joined in … If I’m wrong, perhaps the biggest heroes of the Silver Age were the Fat Fury, Magnus, Robot Fighter and the Captain Marvel who yelled “Split!”
As the blacklist’s effect dimmed in the 1960s and the JSA began popping up again, DC might have revived those heroes’ comics. The appearance of the Justice Experience in the late 1960s might also have led to a comic book deal (the JE seem like they’d have found that a kick). Then came the 1970s and the second heroic age.
Just like Earth-One, the new heroes would have wound up in comics, but with different writers and artists — Cary Bates writing Flash, Frank Robbins and Denny O’Neil as the first Bat-writers, etc. Some comic books would be noticeably absent: Hawkman, Supergirl, Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman didn’t come along until much later than the other heroes.
And then in 2005, as many of the superheroes are aging toward retirement, reality rebooted again with Infinite Crisis, and then again with the New 52. Which despite having a 52-world multiverse to draw on, did not develop superhero comics at all; we’ve been told a couple of times that until the real heroes appeared, the world didn’t even know what superheroes were.
Just another reason to dislike the reboot.
Next, I wrap up this series with the Marvel Comics of Earth-616
#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by George Perez, Arvell M. Jones, Carmine Infantino and Perez again. Featured image by Jones, showing the full Earth-Two All-Star Squadron roster.