Not Again
October 5, 2008

For some reason, they won’t let me forget.  I hate the story, "Identity Crisis", in so many ways.  But that is not my issue today.  My issue today is that DC won’t just let me forget it and move on.  This once declared "stand alone story", has become almost a cornerstone of the DCU at this point.  It is referenced almost as often as the founding of the JLA.

Identity Crisis, for those who do not know, is a "who done it" murder mystery which also tries to answer "why did this villain go from first rate to laughable".  In its pages, Sue Dibny, wife of Elongated Man, member of the JLA, is murdered.  Then we find out that back during the Satellite era, the era when the team was often referred to as the "Worlds Greatest Super Heroes", was not so great.  In flash backs, we discover 1) Sue Dibny was raped by Dr. Light.  2) The JLA minus the big names finds out.  3) They mind wipe Dr. Lights memory.  4) Zatanna goes beyond normal mind wiping and tries to ‘change’ Dr. Light.  Something goes wrong.  5) Batman arrives and Zatanna has to mind wipe Batman of those 10 minutes.  6) This event causes a rift in the team.  7) The big names of the league are left in the dark about this.  Modern day.  Dr. Light is assumed to be the murderer and the League sets out after him.  Light hires Deathstroke, who smartly takes on the League one at a time and defeats them one at a time.  Atom Ray Palmer’s wife, Jean Loring, is saved from a hanging.  Captain Boomerang is hired to kill Robin Tim Drake’s father, and dies while accomplishing this.  In the end, it turns out it was Jean Loring who killed Sue Dibny.  She did not intend to, only intended to hurt her to get Ray to pay more attention to her.

I tried to tell the story without too much bias.  I freely admit here again, that I do not like this story on many levels.  Again, my issue today is that DC will not let me forget it and move on.

JLA 114 to 119 is clearly a sequel to this, picking up many points from it, especially the conspiracy of mind wiping of villains and not telling the entire team what had transpired.

52.  One of the main threads of this story was Ralph Dibny trying to get his wife back or make sense of her death.

new JLA story number 1.  Issue 5 or 6.  when Kathy Sutton, Red Tornado’s girlfriend is attacked, the narrator mentions this story in reference to why Kathy has a high powered armament.

Today.  I’ve been reading previews of Trinity at on a regular basis.  Seemed like a story I might enjoy.  Decided to take the plunge two weeks ago, if I could get all the parts back to issue 1.  The owner at my local comic shop said we might have difficulty locating the first few.  This week I went for it.  We went diving in his back issue bins and to his amazement we found all 18 issues out so far.  So I bought into the series.  I started reading it on Thursday night.  Issue 1 was OK.  Friday I read issue 2.  It was better.  I read issue 3 as well.  Saturday I read issues 4 thru 8.  I was hooked.  This afternoon I picked up issue 9 and could not stop reading.  I loved it.  The main story.  The back up stories.  The way they tied together.  The way they tied  back to the 8 or ten issues of JLA that Kurt Buziek had written of the old series.  I was having a grand old time.  I should save some I said, but the story kept drawing me farther in.  I thought about how the new characters of Konvict and SunChainedInInk might make cool HeroClix playing pieces.  everything was going great right through issue 17.  I couldn’t help myself, I read issue 18.

And there it was.  The autopsy of Sue Dibny.  Again with Identity Crisis.  What is it?  What is DCs fascination with this story, that they feel it needs to be referenced over and over again?  As I said before, I did not like Identity Crisis.  Being reminded of it brings back strong negative emotions I felt while reading it.  It puts a melancholy pall over the current story, like Trinity, dragging it down.

Please DC, stop referencing Identity Crisis in other stories and let those of us who did not like it move on.

Erik "Superfriend" Skov
"Gathered together from the four corners of the universe." Oh, wait, that's the show, not me. Erik "SuperFriend" Skov never actually got to appear on the show, although he did watch it every week. Erik spent 6 years working for Hasbro in Pawtucket, RI before leaving for a job that paid more (Why else would a collector leave the company that was making Star Wars, Transformers, and while I was there Batman). I used to post all over the net. These days I tend to hang my hat at AFI.
Read other articles by Erik "Superfriend" Skov.





  • DragonsKeep says:

    I have a problem with your saying things like, “…that I wish had never been written.”

    It’s offensive.

    Don’t tell me, it’s the rape that’s got you all undone, isn’t it? Whether you want to admit it or not, I know that it is. We have all been there, imagining Dr. Light becoming physically aroused and actually drilling a superhero’s wife. It is creepy. But it’s meant to be. I mean, that would never happen on an episode of Super Friends, and that’s about as far as your comfort zone goes, right?

    You know, many of us got hooked on the DC Universe when we were kids, when watching Super Friends was the main event of the week. Now we’re in our thirties and forties and we are still under the spell of superheroes. I think that DC has simply changed with the changing times. I think that the DC Universe has grown up with us, and now most of what DC has to offer is really for grown-ups.

    You are always going to have problems like this with DC. I would suggest you stick with the kids titles. I mean that with all sincerity. Because that’s the kind of storytelling that you seem to enjoy. Why torture yourself with PG-13 stuff?

  • OddJob says:

    I gotta say I haven’t read a DC comic in years… And your synopsis of the story had me MORE interested in reading an actual DC comic arc than I have been in years.

    Sounded much more interesting than Hush or something of that nature.

    Thanks for the reccomendation! ;)

  • jzachery says:

    I think I see both sides of the fence on this one… I often agree with Superfriend that there is way too much death in comics. Not so much because of the violence, but more because it takes a character off the table, a character that alot of people like! Making it so no one can write or read about that character ever again. Until they come back, and then that just weakens stories all the way around.
    BUT, the story of ‘Identity Crisis’ was huge. Even if they intended it to be a self contained story, there is NO Way that could happen. The events in that story were too important and evolved the characters a geat deal, and gave more depth to stories of old and new. They HAD to build on it.
    Comics as a whole have evolved, and while I do think a portion of the medium is for kids, people need to realize that it’s the adult market and commitment that keeps them going. I respect Superfriend for his G rated point of view or rather, that he would like the medium to stay in that realm. I disagree with him often though. BUT I do agree that there are times when it’s just gone too far. But that line is different for everyone.

    I have to say, in real life, there is alot of garabage that happens to people, death, rape, disease, etc, a few of these things have even made it into MY life… Having some of these experiences in comics, have kind of helped me out now and again. It’s inspiring to me to see Speedy out there shooting arrows while she’s HIV+, it’s great to see Bruce Wayne become Batman after the death of his parents, or Catwoman become who she is after being on the streets… for some people this kills the cookie cutter image of comics, but for some of us who have the unfortunate luck to have to live in the real world, it can give us someone who understands, inspires, or just plain entertains….

  • Veil1 says:

    I think Superfriend’s issue stems from the fact that the big comic publishers feel the need to up the up the ultraviolence and really dark material to sell books. I’m definitely not opposed to mature material making it into comics. But the way that marvel and DC are doing it now a days is merely for sensationalistic reasons. Not to tell a good story. Case in point, Ultimates Hulk. Bendis must have been thinking: what can we do to Hulk to make him more interesting. Hey, I gotta idea, let’s make him a mass murdering, sexual deviant, cannibal! Now that is great storytelling:(

  • Thatman says:

    I think the rape in IC crossed a line; there’s a point when the real world becomes a little too real world for the comics page, at least in the case of JLA. I also think the bloodshed, mutilation, death and destruction has become so sensationalized and so gratuitous that it’s a turn-off, at least for me. I’ve pretty much stopped reading comics, partly because I’m just not enjoying them, and partly because it just feels so over-the-top.

    What can I say? I’m a Silver/Bronze age fan, more than anything else. I’m ecstatic that DCUC is making a Killer Moth figure. I like my superheroes to be fun, without being too cheesy, although I appreciate the humor.

    Everyone’s got a different cup of tea, I suppose.

    All that said, I do agree with what jzachery said…there was no way IC could have stayed self-contained. It was too impactful a story not to have further resonance beyond the 7-issue series itself. I do think DC has overplayed it since, but it definitely had ramifications that needed to be explored.

  • ShinD says:

    After reading this article, I don’t think the increase of violence in the books is what annoys SuperFriend. I think it is the fact that the story, is referenced too many times, to the point of beating a dead horse. I personally liked the story, but I don’t like the fact that DC is relying on it to propel current storylines. This is more of a case of leaving a good thing alone.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Thank you for your responses one and all.

    I did not expect that one line to spark all this. Dragonskeep, upon reflection, I do agree some might find that offensive. In keeping with that, I will be updatign the article slightly. However, you are wrong in your assumptions. If you read my whole article, it should come across that I have many issues with the story, not just one. And in my opinion, the story should have been stopped before it was published.

    This is not the only story I wish had ‘not been written’. There were issues at the end of the JLI run that were worthless in terms of story content which introduced such characters as the Yazz and Civet. There was the JLoA Annual #2 where the JLA I grew up with was disbanded in favor of a bunch of 2nd tier and brand new characters.

    ShinD got it mostly right. The excessive viloence in todays comics does bother me. But the point of this article was that I’m tired of this story in particular. It brings out strong emotions. And those interfere with the enjoyment of the story at hand.

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    My biggest problem with Identity Crisis was that I don’t believe it should have ever been an “in continuity” story.

    It should have been an Elseworlds story.

    I don’t generally like the ultra dark “gritty” stories, but had Identity Crisis been an Elseworlds story it could have truly explored that dark, ugly genre with no restraint.

    You know, really up the ante. Replace Sue Dibny as the victim with Lois Lane.

    Have Batman not only get PO’ed at the League but declare all out war and fight and/or ultimately kill as many members as he can.

    Literally make it the ugliest, darkest, end of the Justice League Story it was trying to be.

    Instead, we got a ugly dark story that was limited by being shoehorned into mainstream continuity. Which means you had to sacrifice a beloved supporting character in a halfhearted attempt at being shocking and ultimately have the League ALMOST fall apart but then just sort of shrug and move on.

    And worst of all, you have to be reminded constantly of this story to prove that DC is now “mature” and “realistic” and “dark.”

    Once upon a time DC had a great concept called Elseworlds, where writers could indulge their darker, quirkier, or just plain wilder motivations and stories.
    Where they could tell specific niche stories unhindered by continuity, and really explore.

    You know, play with the toys, make a mess but not have to worry about cleaning it up for the next guy

    And fans were not forced to live with story points that ultimately amount to nothing more than shock value marketing gimmicks.

    Thanks to Dan Didio the majority of current DCU continuity is a disorganized mess where continuity, consistency and good storytelling are lost in desperate marketing ploys.

    An I believe it all truly started with Identity Crisis.


  • DanMan says:

    Identity Crisis is in continuity and as such, I think you NEED to have the characters involved in that react to the events that happened there. Having everything contained there and never mentioned again wouldn’t make any sense! Of course, I thought Identity Crisis was a pretty good read, so it doesn’t bother me like it might others.

  • Hourman says:

    “Thanks to Dan Didio the majority of current DCU continuity is a disorganized mess where continuity, consistency and good storytelling are lost in desperate marketing ploys.”

    Spot on there, sir.

  • Bryan Long says:

    Spoilers ahead, but honestly, if you’re thinking of reading Identity Crisis, spoilers would be a favor. You’ve been warned.

    The real problem with Identity Crisis is that it’s an incredibly poor story. The “murder mystery” is laughably amateurish, and the murderer comes completely out of left field. People may decry Agatha Christie for being formulaic, but she’s Shakespeare compared to Meltzer.

    Plot is thrown completely out the window. For example, the World’s Greatest Heroes resort to the clever strategy of “dogpiling” on Deathstroke to stop him. Yes, the wielder of the greatest weapon in the universe, Green Lantern, dives on top of a villain like a rugby player leaping into a scrum. Let’s not, I don’t know, USE THE DAMN RING. ‘Cause that would be silly.

    The rape functions as a distraction from the utterly abysmal storyline. Light chooses to assault Sue in the satellite, directly in front of the transporter, where heroes might pop in at any moment. And guess what? THEY DO. Criminal mastermind, indeed.

    The absolute best part is the flamethrower. Of all the unbelievably stupid elements in this story, the flamethrower emerges as the absolute pinnacle. The newly murderous Jean Loring decides to take one along on her explorations in case she runs into trouble. Yep, it makes perfect sense for her to strap on 50 pounds of accelerant and 30 pounds of hardware and go for a microscopic jaunt. Might need to roast some germs while she’s roaming around.

    The problem with IC is not the rape, it’s the fact that the story is really, really bad. Rape has been part of comics before — Black Canary was raped as part of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow run, beginning with The Longbow Hunters. And that’s been what, 20 years ago? So much for the “new maturity” of DC.

    Really, I’ve only touched on the high (or low, really) points of the overall narrative. As you go into more detail, it gets even worse. I’m not even going to start on mischaracterization, because that would take a book. And honestly, I went into it with high hopes. Meltzer’s novels aren’t superb, but they’re decent reads. His Green Arrow run was pretty good. But Identity Crisis was just awful, and Meltzer’s run on JLA was almost as bad. I won’t touch anything the man writes now.

    So take heart, Superfriend. You’re not the only one who thought IC sucked. But it’s not the subject matter that offended me, it’s bad, bad, bad storytelling.

  • Arrakhat says:

    You can argue the merits of the story, and you can argue that it never should have seen publication, but we’re past those points.

    Since the event has happened, it would be sloppy writing if DC never referenced it again. I’m sorry that it affects some folks’ enjoyment of certain comics when the Identity Crisis is referenced. I hope for your sakes that the amount of referencing decreases over time.

  • ShinD says:

    Acknowledging the story is fine, it can be used as a point of reference but at this point it is too much. It is used more than just reference. To me, I can see why it annoys SuperFriend just as much as the constant references to the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne annoys the hell out of me in the Batman books. It isn’t the violence, it is the fact that the events are relied upon as a catalyst to push forward current storylines. Not only is it not leaving a good thing alone, it shows that there is a lack of ingenuity. It’s like in the Batman books where a new writer has come on board, numerous times, only to use the Wayne murders as a catalyst for some new storyline that adds even more pieces to a puzzle that did not need completion.

    That’s just my opinion though, those catalysts and references may not annoy you, but it annoys me.

  • Bunger says:

    Why don’t we let him tell us what he didn’t like about it?

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