The Crisis on Infinite Earths comes to DC-TV starting tonight, with Supergirl. We’ll have reviews—and we have an overview.

Lex Pendragon: On the CW, five shows are combining their audiences into one super crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Based (at least loosely) on the DC comics event Crisis on Infinite Earths, the comics story that took the various Earths and different continuities and eventually combined the multiverse down to a single continuity. The Multiverse option was appealing to the showrunners, who embraced it to allow a crossover between Supergirl on CBS and The Flash on the CW. The shows loved to exploit this, giving us Flash hopping between universes regularly, using it for further crossovers, and eventually even referencing past shows such as the 90s Flash and Constantine (from NBC), who eventually joined Legends of Tomorrow.

Now, it seems that it is all coming crashing down. Similar to the comics, a god-like stranger named The Monitor (who monitors the muiltiverse) has shown up and spent all of this season has done his best to convince The Flash and Arrow that if they want to stop all of the various universes from ending, they will need to die. Hoping to avoid this and/or trying to cope with it, both have hopped universes this season only to watch everything disappear as that week’s guest universe ends as a wall of light consumes everything. Harrison Nash Wells, the latest in a long line of ‘verse-hopping iterations of the character, has spent his time trying to kill The Monitor, only to decide to join him at the end of last week’s CW episodes:

This is where the Crisis begins. Reportedly, we will be getting guest appearances from a number of fan favorites, such as Tom Welling (Smallville‘s Superman), the return of Brandon Routh’s Superman, Black Lightning, Batman‘s Burt Ward as somebody, and hopefully even a few surprises. (Personally, I want to see Lucifer chime in.)

JD DeLuzio: Superhero titles began disappearing after World War II, with only some big names surviving. Comics may have been more popular than ever, but, for a time, the spandex-wearing do-gooders starred in only a small percentage of them. DC’s Silver Age began in earnest in 1956 with the introduction of a new Flash, named Barry Allen, who joined a world inhabited by Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, the Green Arrow and Speedy, Aquaman1, and a few others who had never gone out of print, and a new, growing roster of new characters, many of them reinvented versions of Golden Age heroes. The Flash #123 (1961) revealed that the Golden Age characters lived on “Earth 2,” while the Silver Age characters inhabited Earth-1.

From that point on, crossover became increasingly common, and these stories often featured “Crisis” in their titles. DC went on to invent an Earth-3 (where villainous equivalents of the Justice League fought an heroic Lex Luthor), an Earth-Prime, and others. They also bought up other comic-book characters, creating alternate worlds for Fawcett’s Captain Marvel and his happy Shazam! Family, Quality Comics’ Golden Age superheroes, and Charlton Comics’ various costumed characters.

DC, it should be noted, had never cared much for continuity. By the time the Silver Age heroes were established, they had two different sunken worlds of Atlantis and two different pantheons of Classical gods to reconcile on Earth-1 alone. Multiple earths just made it easier to minimize concern over continuity.

Two problems arose in the 1980s. Firstly, the collection of alternate earths and the decades of history had grown confusing. Secondly, DC was running consistently second to Marvel Comics. As part of a strategy to deal with both, they published a twelve-issue series, The Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-86). Nearly every DC character appeared, if only in cameo. The assembled heroes and recently-introduced series characters, the Monitor and Pariah, joined forces to keep the Anti-Monitor from destroying all universes. Eventually they learned that an unplanned, singular disturbance split the universe into the multiverse at its origin point. The multiverse was never supposed to exist. In issue #11, an assortment of characters traveled to the Dawn of Time to prevent this event, only to encounter the Anti-Monitor there. A cataclysm ensued.

In #12, they awoke to find themselves in a single, combined universe whuch some characters recalled as history and others recognized as an altered timeline. Several characters realized they had only survived because they had stood at the Dawn of Time, and weren’t supposed to exist anymore at all. Many characters died over the course of the series, but #12 ended with a single earth in a single universe. The new, streamlined DCU contained the most marketable of their characters in one continuity, and, along with their more literate and experimental graphic novels, helped propel DC back to the top for awhile.

From early on, however, cracks began to appear in continuity. Several other Crises and Event series tweaked and retweaked the DCU, until the twenty-first century, where they ended up back where they’d been. Their characters inhabited a multiverse again, and Marvel was outperforming them. During this time, both companies entered other media in a big way. Marvel has remained the champions of an interconnected, more-or-less coherent universe, while DC has chosen their multiverses. Their shows and movies exist in a variety of universes, some of which crossover, and some of which do not connect. So far as anyone can determine, neither the loosely-connected DC superhero movies nor the prestige shows– Doom Patrol, Titans, and Swamp Thing— will play any part in this story.

So is this Crisis going to reconcile their regular TV ‘verses into one, or is it just an excuse for a ratings-boosting crossover event?

Let’s get watching….

1. Aquaman and the Green Arrow did not have their own title during these years. They survived as back-up story characters, though their origins were altered by the writers, effectively creating distinct Golden and Silver Age versions.