'Crisis on Infinite Earths': What Happened in the Comic Book Version?

The Arrowverse on The CW is about to embark on its biggest ever crossover, with Green Arrow (played by Stephen Amell), The Flash (Grant Gustin) (plus Earth-90 Flash as played by John Wesley Shipp), Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and Batwoman (Ruby Rose) joined by three different Supermans (Tom Welling, Brandon Routh and Tyler Hoechlin), at least one Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and a whole series of characters from DC properties past and future.

However, this has nothing on the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic books, which brought together every single DC Comics character for its story of the battle between the matter and anti-matter universes.

To understand why the crossover came into being, it is necessary to look at the history of DC. Crisis on Infinite Earths was first released in 1985, marking the 50th anniversary of DC, but planning on the series started in 1981, when writer and editor Marv Wolfman set out on a mission to simplify the comic books, which across four and a half decades had become confusing thanks to multiple properties happening on different worlds and multiple versions of classic characters existing.

Add to that a whole host of other heroes that DC had bought over the years from other comic book houses, each of which had their own continuity, and what fans had was a confusing mass of competing timelines, canons and continuities.

crisis on infinite earths comic book
DC Comics released the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" comic book in 1985 DC Comics

To fix this, he started devising Crisis on Infinite Earths, a series that would whittle down dozens of world into five: home of the Justice League Earth-1 (where CW's The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman take place ), Earth-2, Earth-S, Earth-4 and Earth-X, all of which were merged into one New Earth and bringing all the continuities of the DC Comics together.

This is likely to be one difference between the comics and the Arrowverse crossover⁠—as the CW shows take place in different worlds (Supergirl, for example, lives on Earth-38), so which of these survive is up to the showrunners.

In the comic books, Crisis on Infinite Earths introduced the Anti-Monitor, the equal and opposite power to the matter universes' protector the Monitor. The Anti-Monitor is the protector of the anti-matter universe who discovers he can become more powerful by destroying the matter universes, leading the Monitor to seek the help of DC's entire pantheon of superheroes.

crisis on infinite earths anti monitor
LaMonica Garrett as the Anti-Monitor in "Crisis on Infinite Earths" The CW

This series also introduced a number of crucial other characters in Pariah, a scientist who opens a portal to an anti-matter universe, accidentally destroying his earth in the process, and Harbinger, aka Lyla Michaels, who the Monitor raised as his own daughter before giving her the power to spread her consciousness across worlds in order to bring all the superheroes together.

Pariah, meanwhile, found himself connected to the Anti-Monitor, so that every time the latter was about to destroy a world, Pariah would find himself teleported to it.

Eventually in the comics, the collected superheroes are able to defeat the Anti-Monitor, but not before some casualties are inflicted. Among those who died in the Crisis comics were the Earth-1 versions of The Flash and Supergirl, which might give us a hint of who will not survive the Arrowverse crossover⁠—though with TVGuide reporting that Green Arrow is the one who will die, the CW version could be very different from the comic books.

Crisis on Infinite Earths stars Sunday, December 8 on The CW