For those of us who grew up on comic books, this is truly a Golden Age. We have huge superhero movies coming out every few months that feature our favorite characters in big-budget adventures. At the same time, DC has set up its CW TV shows - aka the Arrowverse - as a separate shared universe wherein the stories of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow are told.
Still, the DC universe has long had something in place to help connected disconnected characters - the Multiverse. Now, with the DC TV universe deep into its sixth year, fans have come to understand just how the Multiverse works - that there are 52 Earths, each one similar but different. Taking that concept down the best possible path, the Arrowverse has given us fans a four-part event, Crisis on Earth-X!
But what is Earth-X? Its origins go back over seventy years, though it has gone through some massive changes over the last forty years. It has seen its heroes die and be reborn. It has ceased to exist, only to return more powerful than ever before. Earth-X, like all things in comics, is a story like no other.
Here, to help you better understand the history of the evilest Earth in existence, are 15 Things You Didn't Know About Earth-X.
15 Earth-X first appeared in 1973
DC Comics had introduced the idea of the Multiverse with Flash issue #123 in the story "Flash of Two Worlds!" In it, Barry Allen (the Silver Age Flash) traveled to a different Earth where Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash) lived. This revelation kicked off DC's use of infinite Earths, including Earth-X.
Earth-X made its debut in Justice League of America #107, when members of the Justice League and the Justice Society, while testing a new device to travel to other Earths, accidentally traveled to the Earth where Nazis won World War II.
Along with being an exciting story in the classic DC tradition, Crisis on Earth-X served as the reintroduction of six long-forgotten Golden Age heroes. As the story progresses, we learn that these six heroes have formed a team -the Freedom Fighters - and continue to battle the Nazis, refusing to give, no matter what the cost.
14 The Freedom Fighters came together to stop the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And failed.
It took a while for DC to reveal the origin of the Freedom Fighters, but when they did it was a real shocker.
Like the Justice Society of America on Earth-2, the Freedom Fighters were formed by an order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. While the JSA was formed as a response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Freedom Fighters were formed to stop the bombing. Sadly, Roosevelt waited a little too long - he brought the heroes together in the early moments of December 7, 1941, giving them just hours to try to stop the attack.
The Freedom Fighters failed to stop the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the attempt, one of their members - the electrically-powered Mango - died. This failure would haunt the Freedom Fighters for ages, especially after the Nazis and the Japanese won the war.
13 On Earth-X, the Japanese invaded California and the Nazis invented nuclear weapons
Defeating the Freedom Fighters and pulling off the attack on Pearl Harbor was a big win for the Axis powers. America was demoralized - their superheroes were ineffective - and Japan quickly used that lack or morale to their advantage by invading California.
It was during the invasion of California that Japan discovered the blueprints for an atomic bomb. Before long, the Nazis used the blueprints to build nukes and began to use the weapons of mass destruction against the Allies. Before long, all of Europe fell to the Nazis. Then Russia fell. Finally, the United States surrendered.
Still, the Freedom Fighters refused to give up the battle. It wasn't until the JLA and JSA accidentally came to Earth-X that the Freedom Fighters had the help the needed to overthrow the Nazis, ending decades of German rule.
12 Earth-X had an Iron Man before Marvel did
In 2008, the movie that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe turned Iron Man into one of the biggest superheroes in the world. Despite having existed since the 1960s, the shell-head was always a B-level character before Robert Downey Jr. put on the armor.
But 24 years before Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby came up with their Iron Man, Quality Comics editor George Brenner had come up with his own version. His version, who went by the full name of Bozo the Iron Man, probably won't be getting his own movie anytime soon.
Bozo the Iron Man was built by a mad scientist to commit crimes that would pay for the scientist's experiments. When action hero Hugh Hazzard killed the mad scientist, Bozo was sent to scrap heap, but Hugh decided to use him for his own work, turning the once evil robot into a hero.
11 There is more than one Earth-X
In 1985, DC Comics decided to get rid of the Multiverse. In the now classic maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, all the Earths of the Multiverse were destroyed until just three remained. Those three were formed into one Earth and a new reality was created, rebooting the decades of DC continuity in the hopes that it would make things easier for new readers to get involved.
Since 1985, DC has brought back the Multiverse, and with it Earth-X. After the Multiverse returned, Earth-X (now called Earth-462) was seen as a world where the Nazis rule the world as Wonder Woman and the Teen Titans fight against them. This version was destroyed during the Infinite Crisis series.
Recently, the original Earth-X has shown up again, with the Freedom Fighters battling it out against not just Nazis, but other superpowered beings.
10 Earth-X is the home of JLAxis
The most recent showings of Earth-X revealed that, along with the Freedom Fighters, there is an evil version of the Justice League that includes Overman (Superman) Brunhilde (Wonder Woman), Leatherwing (Batman), Underwaterman (Aquaman), Overgirl (Supergirl), and others. On this version of Earth-X (called Earth-10), instead of landing in Kansas, the Kryptonian ship that carried the baby Kal-El landed in Germany and was found by Adolf Hitler.
When Kal-El learned that his adoptive father wasn't just trying to rule the world, but was also killing millions in concentration camps to "purify the bloodline," he turned on the Nazis. While the world isn't controlled by Nazis, Kal-El does run everything in a pseudo-utopia. The Freedom Fighters, believing that humans should be in charge of their own lives, continue to battle against the Overman and his team.
9 The Flash's secret connection to the Freedom Fighters
To train Wally, Jay called on his old pal Johnny Quick, creator of the Speed Formula: 3X2(9YZ)4A. Johnny suggested they get one more person to help; an old man who worked in the subways. His name was Max.
Max was the first speedster, and his power had sent him bouncing around through time. When he gained his powers in the 1830s, he was called Windrunner. In the 1890s, he was known as Whip Whirlwind. When Jay and Johnny met Max, he went by the name Quicksilver and he was a member of the Freedom Fighters. These days, Max goes by the name Max Mercury and he is the Zen Master of the Speed Force.
8 There is an animated series that connects to Crisis on Earth-X
You may have seen people online complaining about a DC animated series that showed their heroes as Nazis. The series, titled Freedom Fighters: The Ray was announced in August 2016, not long after people found out that Captain America was a secret Nazi in the comics, and seeing animated versions of DC's heroes as Nazis wasn't something anyone was really looking forward to.
What we didn't know at the time was that Freedom Fighters: The Ray grows out of the Crisis on Earth-X event. The series, which will focus on the Ray - an original member of the Freedom Fighters who was introduced into the DC TV universe with the crossover event - will premiere on CW Seed in December. Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, and Melissa Benoist (Green Arrow, Flash, and Supergirl) all lent their voices to the show.
7 The Freedom Fighters were originally Quality Comics characters
While superhero comics are pretty much only published by Marvel and DC these days, during the 1940s and 50s, there were a whole lot of superhero publishers out there, including Quality Comics. Seeing the success other comic companies were having in the 1930s, Everett M. Arnold decided to start his own company.
When Superman made his debut, the world of comics changed, and Arnold followed along, quickly introducing superheroes to Quality Comics. Along with some other characters, Arnold's writers and artists created the six characters who would become the Freedom Fighters - Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, the Ray, Black Condor, and Doll Man.
When Quality Comics shut down in 1956, DC Comics bought their characters. It wasn't until 1973 that the characters who would make up the Freedom Fighters would reemerge. Before their appearance in Justice League of America #107, these characters were never shown together!
6 After Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Freedom Fighters joined the All-Star Squadron
After bringing all the Earths into a single planet with Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC wanted to tell the history of the superheroes who came before the current timeline. With the comic All-Star Squadron (which began four years before Crisis on Infinite Earths), stories were told about the biggest superhero team of all time - a team that was made up of the members of the Justice Society of America, the Freedom Fighters, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and a handful of solo Golden Age characters.
The series was confusing for a number of reasons - not the least of which was that the various origins and stories of the teams didn't mix well together and that important characters like Superman and Wonder Woman couldn't be used. The book was canceled with issue #67.
5 Not all the Earth-X characters have shown up since Crisis on Infinite Earths
While most of the major members of the Freedom Fighters have appeared in DC Comics since 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, not all of them have. Along with Bozo the Iron Man, characters like Mouthpiece - who once threw a harpoon into the spine of a criminal who was going to get away - haven't been seen in a comic since the 1950s.
Spider Widow is the character that seems least likely to ever come back. Dianne Grayton was a wealthy athlete who, bored at home one day, discovered that she could control black widow spiders with her mind. Dianne put together a costume and started fighting crime. Spider Widow took part in one of the earliest comic book crossovers when she and her superhero boyfriend the Raven teamed up with Phantom Lady in a four-part story that ran through Feature Comics #69-71 and Police Comics #20-22.
4 Plastic Man is the most famous Quality Comics character
Created by Jack Cole in 1941, Plastic Man made his debut in Quality Comics first issue of Police Comics. The character was an instant hit - kids loved his slapstick antics and wacky sense of humor. When Quality shut down in 1956, DC purchased Plastic Man along with all the other characters.
Plastic Man had a short-lived comic in the early 1960s, but after its failure to find an audience, DC decided to shelve the character. In 1979, Plastic Man got his own animated series, and the show was a massive hit. The success of the cartoon turned Plastic Man into one of DC's best-known characters, reviving him from comic book limbo. Since then, Plastic Man (Plas to his friends) has regularly appeared in the DC universe, even joining the Justice League for a time.
3 Comics icon Will Eisner helped create the characters of Earth-X
Will Eisner is best known for his masked crime fighter the Spirit and for his invention of the graphic novel with his amazing book, A Contract with God, but he created plenty of other iconic characters over the years.
While working for Quality Comics, Eisner helped create - alongside his partner Jerry Iger - Uncle Sam, Doll Man, and the Human Bomb. Eisner also created fellow Earth-X heroes the Blackhawks - a team of fighter pilots who battled against the Nazis.
When DC bought up the Quality characters, the superheroes sat on the shelf for 20 years, but the Blackhawks were put into use almost immediately. The Blackhawks continue to be a major part of the DC Comics universe - they are part of the current massive DC comic event called Metal.
2 Marvel's current Editor-in-Chief got his big break working on a comic about The Ray
Before Joe Quesada became the big cheese over at Marvel Comics, he was an artist whose style stood out as something new and different. DC Comics saw that Quesada had some serious skills and quickly hired him, They put the young artist on a miniseries that would hopefully breath new life into a Golden Age character - the Ray.
In the miniseries, Quesada and writer Jack C. Harris introduced the son of the original Ray. This new Ray was born with his powers and was forced to live a life indoors - direct sunlight could kill him. After the death of his father, Ray learns to control his power and becomes a superhero.
Quesada designed the costume of the new Ray, which is a great updated version of what the original Ray fought Nazis in.
1 The Freedom Fighters appeared on Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Freedom Fighters: The Ray won't be the first time we'll see the Golden Age super team appear in animated form. They appeared in the second season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold in an episode titled "Cry Freedom Fighters!"
In the episode, Batman, the Blue Beetle, Plastic Man, and the Freedom Fighters travel to the planet Qward looking to overthrow its oppressive government before the Supreme Chairman of Qward launches his planned invasion of Earth. Most of the heroes end up getting captured, leaving it to Plastic Man and Uncle Sam to save the day. There's just one problem: Uncle Sam gets his power from the will of the people, and the people of Qward have been so beaten down by their government that they no longer have any will of their own.
Plastic Man must get the people of Qward to stand up for themselves in order to save Uncle Sam.
Do you have any Earth-X trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!