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The Crisis on Infinite Earths was a 12-issue series published by DC in 1985-6. The "Crisis" effectively revamped the entire DC Universe by merging several universes (containing the various DC characters) into a single universe (whose history is still somewhat unclear in parts). The Crisis was used as an opportunity to change DC history retroactively (see "retcon" in the list of definitions in part 2), including the remaking of several main DC characters. Thus people refer to the "post-Crisis" Superman, Wonder Woman, etc., as distinct from the "pre-Crisis" versions who existed on "Earth-1" (Silver Age) or "Earth-2" (Golden Age).
The confusion *really* begins because the revamping and "retconning" didn't all take place in the Crisis limited series itself, nor in the comics immediately after then. If DC had simply started all their series over from scratch, things would have been pretty straightforward. Instead, they declared the Pre-Crisis history to be implicitly intact, until and unless they could explicitly create the new, post-Crisis versions of characters and histories.
Thus, new changes were still being made in titles up to eight years after the end of Crisis. So, for example, the "old" Hawkman appeared in the "new" Justice League. But then Timothy Truman began writing "Hawkworld", which retconned Hawkman's character; among other changes, Hawkman "now" arrived on Earth much later. So, the Hawkman who appeared in the new Justice League comic (call him the Silver Age Hawkman, or the pre-Crisis Hawkman) "now" (in real world time) "no longer exists, and never has" (within current DC continuity).
But then the creators realized the problem, so they said that most of the Silver Age Hawkman appearances in JLA were actually by the Golden Age Hawkman, and a new Hawkman was created whose purpose was to satisfy those few JLA appearances made after the GA Hawkman was known to have been MIA.
Confused yet? Suffice it to say, the way DC handled the Crisis and its aftermath confuses *lots* of readers and provides a perennial topic of discussion on r.a.c.misc. Zero Hour was said to be an attempt to "fix" problems caused by Crisis and part of the McGuffin for Zero Hour was that Crisis actually didn't end, and all continuity problems until ZH were symptoms of this. (see next question).
Zero Hour was intended to fix problems resulting from inconsistant post-Crisis DC continuity. It was a five issue mini-series in summer 1994 which will cause price guides fits since the order of the issues was #4, #3, #2, #1, #0. The month after Zero Hour, all mainstream DC Universe books were #0 issues, making it even more fun for indexers.
The #0 issue had a timeline of the DC Universe which is considered definitive. The end result of Zero Hour was the killing off and aging to their proper age several Justice Society members, and a resetting of the DC Universe such that it's much the same as the post-Crisis but with "subtle differences". So far, the only specific differences stated are:
In the late 1960s, Larry Niven wrote a hysterically funny essay in which he speculated about possible problems that the pre-Crisis Superman would have in attempting to reproduce or just have sex with a Terran. The essay appears in Niven's collections "All the Myriad Ways" and "N-Space", and in the anthology "Alien Sex". And yes, we know that Niven didn't take the bottle city of Kandor into account. The story was also reprinted in Penthouse Comix #5, with some illustrations by Curt Swan (with all trademarked Superman indicators like costume colors and S-shield obscured). The essay can be found online at the rawbw.com website.
Post-Crisis (current comics) the main form of Kryptonite, usually refered to just as "Kryptonite", is green and has similar effects on Kryptonians as pre-Crisis Green K. While it has no immediate effect on Terrans or other races, prolonged exposure has resulted in cancer due to radiation.
Though the radiation from Kryptonite is harmful to all life, it is especially harmful to Kryptonians (notably Superman). Green Kryptonite radiation rapidly fills Superman's cells and drives out the solar energy stored therein. Prolonged exposure to green Kryptonite would be fatal to Superman.
Mr. Mxyzptlk created a chunk of red Kryptonite, which effectively removed Superman's powers for a time. Batman also created a red Kryptonite variety that makes Kryptonian's skin transparent, while not effecting humans. This caused Superman's powers to increase to the point where he couldn't control them due to the unfiltered rays of our yellow sun going straight into him. Ra's Al Ghul duplicated this in the "Tower of Babel" story line in the JLA comic book.
In the Pocket Universe storyline, Superman encountered what amounted to a rainbow of types of pre-Crisis Kryptonite. He was not affected by any of it, although PU Kryptonians were.
A whole spectrum of Kryptonite varieties were briefly seen at the beginning of the "Supergirl from Krypton" story line in the Superman/Batman comics when a Kryptonite meteor crashed to earth, most were collected and stored by the JLA and JSA, but were later stolen (most likely by Lex Luthor).
Lex Luthor incorporated a variety of these new colors into the gloves of his battle armor, in "Superman #2" (November 2005) Lex explains the affects and properties of these various types of Kryptonite:
Metropolis and Gotham City have been equated to *many* different real-world cities over the years; there is no one correct answer. (Even if there were, the current writers are under no duress to use it.) Hub City, from "The Question", is a bit different; it is based on a combination of two cities in Illinois, one of which is definitely East St. Louis. Writer Denny O'Neil admitted this at one point, but no longer does so in order not to offend residents of the cities.
Metropolis, as originally developed by Siegel and Shuster, was probably Cleveland, the "big city" with which they were most familiar. There are also possible early references to Toronto. Later, Superman's home was moved to somewhere in the BosWash corridor on the U.S. East Coast. "Who's Who in the Legion of Superheroes" showed a 30th century Metropolis, which stretched slightly beyond New York and Boston in either direction, and used those names explicitly in the description of Metropolis. John Byrne seemed to think it was back in the midwest.
Gotham is a traditional nickname for New York City, but there is a separate NYC in the DC universe. It is definitely a port city, probably on the east coast; too much plot has depended on that fact. Again, various sources have placed Gotham City all along the east coast, often near Metropolis. The distance to Metropolis has also varied; from hundreds of miles to linked by a bridge.
In DC Comics Presents #87 (Maggin written, Schwartz edited), Superman is transported to Earth-Prime, which, pre-Crisis, was supposedly our Earth. His thoughts are:
"The Earth's there all right...but everything's out of place! New York is sprawled out all over where Gotham is supposed to be...Boston suburbs cover Star City...and Metropolis is...Metropolis is nowhere to be seen!"
Also, in Adventures of Superman #425, Clark and Lois board a train travelling from Atlanta to Metropolis. Cities mentioned as in-between stops are Charlotte, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Gotham City, in that order. This would seem to imply that both Gotham and Metropolis are in New Jersey as the train is heading in a northern direction and New York City is not mentioned.
Frank Miller once claimed that, metaphorically, "Metropolis is New York in the daytime, while Gotham is New York at night." Works for me.
Mayfair Games published an Atlas of the DC Universe, written by DC staffer Paul Kupperberg. While not completely official, it does jibe with locations that DC used when its house fanzine of the mid-70s discussed this same question. The locations given for the main DC fictional cities are:
John Byrne moved Wonder Woman to Gateway City, a fictional city not listed in the Mayfair Atlas. However, it was previously used at least twice. Once as the home of Jim (Spectre) Corrigan in the 1960s Spectre series, and it was mentioned as the final home of Terry (Mr. Terrific) Sloane in the JLA/JSA team-up where he was killed. At the time, Gateway City was on Earth-2, and given the Gateway Arch lookalike shown in Spectre, was clearly meant to be a St. Louis analog. However, Byrne has said that his Gateway City will be similar to San Francisco. Blame it on Crisis I guess.
One final note: There's an actual small town in southern Illinois named Metropolis, located about twenty miles north of where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet. Their "Welcome to Metropolis" sign has "Home of Superman" on it, they have a Superman statue on display, and every year they have a Superman festival. The local paper, a weekly, is called the Metropolis Planet.
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