A New Crisis?
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in a regular series about comic series that never were. Today it’s the turn of DC Comics’ Crisis On Captive Earth/ Crisis Of The Soul…
DC Comics’ Crisis On Captive Earth/ Crisis Of The Soul
As a respected editor at DC Comics, Robert Greenberger was privy to a wealth of comic book blockbusters and castoffs like few others. In 1985, he stood witness to what might have been the ultimate sequel to the best-selling Crisis on Infinite Earths with the coming of Crisis on Captive Earth – the project later renamed Crisis of the Soul.
“As Crisis on Infinite Earths was proving to be a wild sales success,” Greenberger said, “in the summer of 1985, Paul Levitz addressed the weekly editorial meeting and challenged every editor to submit an idea for the 1986 crossover. Something like this had never been done before so most editors were uncertain how to proceed and others were uncomfortable but did as requested. A few weeks later, everyone was given a stack of proposals including one without a name on it. Once everyone read through them, the unnamed pitch was clearly the strongest story. That is when Levitz, who was the only one actually writing comics at the time, revealed it was his pitch.
“Given the level of coordination required, the series was handed to me to edit since I was already coordinating Crisis on Infinite Earths. Jerry Ordway, who was doing stellar work inking George Pérez on the maxiseries, earned pencilling privileges and Karl Kesel, then a rising talent from New Talent Showcase, rounded out the team. If I recall right, a race known as the Corruptors were to be the main villains, isolating Earth from the rest of the cosmos and making a very internal, character-driven story. A new main antagonist, the Corruptor, was created to test the heroes. So, yes, Captive Earth was the initial title before it was retitled Crisis of the Soul. And no, nothing from Levitz’s pitch was salvaged for [what would become] Legends.”
As Greenberger recalled, getting the various editors onboard this project was, shall we say, difficult.
“Editors were very protective of their books,” remembered Greenberger, “and had already interrupted their stories with the cameo appearances of the Monitor in 1984 and then directly crossing over or just having red skies in 1985, so there was initial resistance to repeating the performance. It was seen as a cash-grab, not a story that needed to be told as Crisis on Infinite Earths was, and several were very vocal about it. “
Greenberger said that while Ordway and Levitz were working out the major story beats, he was trying to lineup titles to tie-in – including many of the new post-Crisis releases, such as Blue Beetle. It was all for naught.
“By early fall,” Greenberger later said, “it was clear resistance was growing, nor softening and Levitz grew frustrated because as the writer, he saw the series’ potential, and as a publishing executive he expected more cooperation from the staff. Finally, it was put on hold by Dick Giordano.
“Unbeknownst to me, DC was courting Mike Gold to come over from First Comics and they felt his newness, and senior editor rank, might break down barriers to a second crossover. He wanted to bring John Ostrander with him and together they conceived of what became Legends. Since John was new to DC, it was decided Len Wein would dialogue to make sure everyone sounded right. Unlike Soul, Legends would spin out new books including a revitalized Justice League and Flash.
“Ordway was never informed about any of it until after the planning was well underway. He was expected to draw it, but refused since his investment was being ignored. He wound up accepting Mike Carlin’s offer to come work on Fantastic Four, though both wound up at DC in less than a year. Gold recruited John Byrne, already committed to revitalizing Superman by that point in late 1985, to pencil with Kesel to ink.”
“I got on a conference call with Gold and Ostrander at one point,” Greenberger said, “and Dick asked me to act as in-house coordinating editor until Gold relocated east and settled in to his office. I knew Gold for several years by then, so was fine with that, and had gotten to know Ostrander, whose work I liked, on the con trail.”
So, although Crisis of the Soul was originally envisioned as a 12-issue maxi-series – as first reported within the pages of Amazing Heroes #62 when it was still called Captive Earth – Legends, the project that took its place, was instead released as a six-issue mini-series. In either case, DC Comics history was born.
Today, Greenberger continues to teach English at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Maryland – as well as produce works celebrating the four-color medium.
“Through Crazy 8 Press,” said Greenberger, “my tribute to the pulps – Thrilling Adventure Yarns – with an unpublished Lester Dent story, is due out in early July. We have some 20 writers and eight artists including Ordway and Kesel. And, DC Comics Super-Villains: 100 Greatest Moments came out in May, with Batman: 100 Greatest Moments coming in October.”
Lost Tales©2019 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved