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Identity Crisis is a seven-issue comic book limited series published by DC Comics in 2004, written by Brad Meltzer and penciled by Rags Morales. It was one of DC's top-selling series throughout its run, but attracted controversy for retconning aspects of DC's history and its graphic depiction of crimes committed. The title was taken directly from the title of an episode of the George Reeves Adventures of Superman television show, which Dan DiDio had in his office.
Meaning of title
The title of the series plays on several ideas:
- The importance of and consequences of exposure of superhero secret identities
- The unknown identity of the murderer
- The struggle of the protagonists to determine their own identities and deal with the consequences of past actions as well as recent tragedies; see identity crisis (psychology)
- Crisis on Infinite Earths and its sequel Infinite Crisis
Early suspicion rests on Doctor Light, as it is revealed that he had raped Sue Dibny years earlier in the JLA satellite headquarters. It is also revealed that the Atom, Black Canary, Hawkman, Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and Green Arrow allowed the sorceress Zatanna to mind-wipe the captured Doctor Light. Not only was his memory of the rape of Dibny removed, but his personality was also altered to make him less of a threat. Thinking that Light may now have murdered Sue, the superheroes attempt to capture him. However, Light has hired Deathstroke to protect him, and in the ensuing fight between Deathstroke and the JLA, Doctor Light regains his memory, is enraged at the violation, and escapes.
The murderer next tries to hang Jean Loring, the ex-wife of the Atom. The attempt fails, as the Atom arrives in the nick of time and snaps the rope from the inside. The murderer then sends a death threat to Lois Lane (Superman's wife). Finally, a hit is arranged by Captain Boomerang on Jack Drake, Robin's (Tim Drake's) father. However, Jack Drake receives a note warning him of the impending attempt on his life, as well as a gun, both sent by an unknown party. As Jack Drake fatally shoots Captain Boomerang, the latter manages to throw a razor boomerang at Drake's chest, injuring him fatally. Batman confiscates the note before the authorities or the media can learn of its existence.
As the investigation continues, Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond) is stabbed by the Shadow Thief, who wields the Shining Knight's enchanted sword, breaching his skin. Approaching critical mass, Firestorm flies into the sky and explodes.
Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) reveals to the Flash (Wally West) that Batman had walked in on the heroes while Zatanna was performing the mind-wipe of Doctor Light. When Batman tried to prevent them from doing so, he was mind-wiped as well, although in his case Zatanna only removed his memory of the past few minutes.
Eventually, the autopsy of Sue Dibny's body by Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific reveals that Sue Dibny had been killed by an infarction in her brain. A microscopic scan of Dibny's brain shockingly reveals two tiny footprints as a clue to the cause of the infarction.
Mid-Nite and Terrific, along with Batman, separately realize that Sue was murdered by someone with access to the technology of the Atom, Ray Palmer (Palmer's technology grants him the ability to shrink himself to subatomic size). Before they can discover whether it was Palmer or someone using his technology, Palmer learns that his estranged wife, Jean Loring, is aware of the note sent to Jack Drake (knowledge of which had been kept secret). He deduces that she was the killer.
Loring asserts that she did not mean to kill Sue, nor was it her intention for Jack Drake to be killed. She argues that she sent the note and gun in order for him to protect himself and survive the attack. She tells Palmer that she undertook the plan, which included faking the attempt on her own life, in order to bring Ray back into her life. Palmer realizes that she is insane, and Loring is committed to Arkham Asylum.
- In Justice League of America issues #166-#168, the Secret Society of Super Villains, including The Wizard, Floronic Man, Star Sapphire, Reverse-Flash, and Blockbuster, captures JLA members Superman, Batman, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Zatanna, and Wonder Woman and switches bodies with the heroes, which causes them to learn the JLA members' secret identities. At the conclusion of the arc, Zatanna erases the villains' memories of the incident and the secret identities. As part of the continuity changes introduced by Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wonder Woman was retconned out of the pre-Crisis JLA. In all further references to the JLA's pre-Crisis adventures, including its origin story and the Secret Society incident, Wonder Woman is replaced by Black Canary). However, following Infinite Crisis, Wonder Woman has been restored as a founding member, so the Black Canary retcon has been retconned. This means that all appearances of Wonder Woman in the early league, including the Secret Society story, are back in continuity. Also, the Hawkman in the flashback is Carter Hall, who retroactively replaced Katar Hol following the Hawkworld reboot.
- When Elongated Man was admitted to the JLA, his wife, Sue Dibny appeared regularly in their comics stories and is revealed to have spent a lot of time alone on the Justice League Satellite.
- A former DC staffer who worked on Identity Crisis — later identified as DC assistant editor Valerie D'Orazio"Lying in the Gutters" Vol. 2, Column 79; comicbookresources.com; November 20, 2007 alleged that the mini-series' main plot points, especially the rape of the character Sue Dibny, were dictated by DC editors in order to draw increased sales and direct attention away from Marvel Comics.
- Green Arrow - Much of the story is told from Oliver Queen's point of view. When Sue Dibny was raped on the Justice League Satellite, he voted against the alteration of Dr. Light's personality.
- Elongated Man - In issue #1, Ralph Dibny is sent on a mystery by his wife, Sue, as part of a gift. He is the first hero to suspect Dr. Light in the murder of his wife. Ralph struggles to maintain a solid form while grieving Sue's death, and is shown in the final scene of the series "speaking" to his deceased wife.
- Batman - The Justice League of America's most accomplished detective, Batman plays a major role in solving the mystery of Sue Dibny's murder and Jean Loring's "attempted murder." It is revealed in issue #6 that after he teleported off the satellite to deal with an emergency, Sue was raped by Dr. Light, and that he returned as Zatanna was in the process of altering Dr. Light's personality. He attempted to stop her, but she used a spell to render him motionless. She subsequently removed his memories of the attack. When the JLA battled Dr. Light in Identity Crisis #3, he projected a memory of the JLA, including Batman, restraining him on the satellite following the rape. This led Wally West to deduce that Batman had been present for the incident, and that he had been mindwiped. Batman's eventual remembrance of the mindwipe led him to disassociate himself from the JLA and become increasingly suspicious of metahuman heroes (see Brother Eye).
- Green Lantern - Hal Jordan responded to Sue Dibny's rape and voted against the alteration of Dr. Light's personality. Hal later became the supernatural Spectre, Spirit of Vengeance. Green Arrow consulted him in issue #4 and attempted to get him to exact revenge on Sue's killer in this role. Hal refused, ascribing his acts to a higher purpose.
- Zatanna - Zatanna responded to Sue Dibny's rape and performed the personality alteration of Dr. Light, as well as the restraint and mindwipe of Batman.
- Black Canary - Dinah Lance responded to Sue Dibny's rape and voted against the alteration of Dr. Light's personality.
- Hawkman - Hawkman responded to Sue Dibny's rape and voted for the alteration of Dr. Light's personality.
- The Flash - Barry Allen responded to Sue Dibny's rape and was forced into the unenviable role of the deciding vote in the decision to alter Dr. Light's personality. He voted for the mindwipe. In the present day, Wally West figured out that Batman had also been mindwiped and confronted Green Arrow about it. According to Green Arrow, Barry's decision to vote for the mindwipe took place six months after his wife, Iris, was thought to have been killed by Professor Zoom.
- The Atom - Ray Palmer responded to Sue Dibny's rape and voted for the alteration of Dr. Light's personality. It was eventually discovered that his ex-wife, Jean Loring, had been responsible for the murder of Sue Dibny and her own "attempted murder". She claimed to have done so in order that Ray would feel compelled to get back together with her. He had Jean committed to Arkham Asylum. Immediately following, he discarded his Justice League communicator and shrank himself to a microscopic size. He later appeared talking to his old friend Carter Hall, although he asked for the meeting to remain secret.
- Robin - When the mystery killer (later revealed to be Jean Loring) began attacking the loved ones of Justice League members, Tim became especially concerned about his father, who always regretted his son leaving behind a normal life to be a crimefighter. Tim was devastated when Captain Boomerang, hired by The Calculator, who was following the directions to put a cheap hit out by Jean Loring, killed his father. In his final act, Jack killed Boomerang with a gun supplied by Loring.
- Dr. Light - An archfoe of the Justice League during the Silver Age, Dr. Light teleported aboard the Justice League Satellite and raped Sue Dibny while the rest of the Justice League was away. A group of JLAers, including Green Arrow, the Atom, Black Canary, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Zatanna, and Batman responded to the incident and subdued him. In a controversial and debilitating decision, the JLAers voted 4-3 to alter his personality, which turned him into a comical and largely ineffective foe of the Teen Titans for many years. When Sue was killed, Elongated Man identified him as the prime suspect, and he regained his memory of the rape of Sue Dibny, and all of his lost fighting skills while battling the JLA alongside Deathstroke the Terminator, thus becoming a much deadlier villain. He has since joined the Secret Society of Super Villains.
- Deathstroke the Terminator - A hired assassin capable of using 90% of his brain capacity for strategy and reaction during battle, Deathstroke fought the JLA with Dr. Light in issue #3. He defeated most of the JLA before Green Arrrow stabs him in his eye.
- Captain Boomerang - A member of The Flash's Rogues gallery, Digger Harkness discovers during the series that he has an illegitimate son originally, but mistakenly, believed to be by Golden Glider who possesses both his own prowess with a boomerang and limited super speed. He is hired by Jean Loring to kill Jack Drake, and succeeds in doing so, but not before he is shot and killed by Drake. His son takes up his namesake and has since joined the Secret Society of Super Villains. After DC's timeline jumped ahead One Year Later, the new Captain Boomerang has joined the Super Hero group The Outsiders.
- Merlyn - A former member of The League of Assassins, Merlyn is the leading voice of the villains, telling the events of the story in counterpoint to Green Arrow, of whom he is an enemy. He is allied with Deadshot and Monocle.
- Jean Loring - Once married to the Atom, the accomplished attorney attempted to force a reconciliation with her husband by killing Sue Dibny and targeting the loved ones of JLA members, including Lois Lane and Jack Drake. She murdered Dibny by using one of the Atom's old costumes to shrink down to a microscopic size, break into the Dibnys' apartment, and kill Sue. To attempt to hide the evidence, she badly burned Sue's body. Dr. Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific eventually discover microscopic footprints on Sue's brain tissue and mistakenly suspect the Atom in her murder, but Ray Palmer discovers Jean's true story and has her committed to Arkham Asylum. Later, while still committed, she would be possessed by Eclipso.
- The Calculator - Noah Kuttler is a former third-tier villain who has set himself up as an anti-Oracle. He is friends with Captain Boomerang and hires him to kill Jack Drake on behalf of Jean Loring. He has since become a core member of Lex Luthor's Society.
Notable changes and consequences
- The Calculator, formerly a technology-using supervillain with a rather silly costume, becomes a formidable information broker. He is now essentially the villain counterpart to Oracle.
- Deathstroke went from being an adversary of the Teen Titans to a threat that now spans the entire DC world.
- Dr. Light, having learned of his mindwipe at the hands of the JLA, returned to his once threatening self and joined the Secret Society of Super-Villains. After the Society disbanded, he eventually became a member of the new Injustice League.
- The Atom quits the JLA, superheroics in general and life, retreating to some unknown region.
- Firehawk retires from superheroics as well (but one year later is merged with Jason Rusch as Firestorm).
- Owen Mercer, Captain Boomerang's son, takes his father's mantle after his death. However, he later joins up with the Outsiders.
- Tim Drake becomes an orphan, but is later adopted by Batman.
- Batman eventually learned of the mindwipe and the Justice League broke up under the strain. Batman's increased paranoia as a result of this would be the reason he created Brother Eye.
- Ronnie Raymond is killed and Jason Rusch eventually becomes Firestorm.
- Wally West discovers that, after the mindwipe of Dr. Light, his uncle, Barry Allen, convinced Zatanna to alter the personality of The Top, one of his most dangerous enemies. The Top had discovered Allen's secret identity as the Flash. Zatanna made the Top into a heroic figure, and he secretly used his own formidable psychic powers to alter the minds of several of Flash's Rogues Gallery (notably Heat Wave, Pied Piper and the Trickster) to cause them to abandon crime and reform. During the Rogues War storyline, the Top undid his mental tampering with the three villans, causing Heat Wave and Trickster to resume their criminal ways and rejoin the Rogues in the Secret Society of Super-Villans (but not Piper, who still regarded Flash as a good friend.)
The following are the notable retcons which took place in Identity Crisis:
- Superman (the Justice League's official leader) and Batman were previously portrayed as the most commanding members of the team. Identity Crisis postulates that the two were always so busy battling their own adversaries that a league within the League, consisting of Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkman, The Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Elongated Man, and Zatanna, made most of the difficult decisions (including that to mindwipe villains) and that Superman and Batman, in Green Arrow’s words, "saw what they wanted to see" regarding their activities.
- Villains like Dr. Destiny and Brainwave who could easily discover the League's identities failed to do so, not because they didn't think of it, but because the League erased their memories when they did discover it.
- Doctor Light's previous ineffectualness was not due to his own foolishness, but rather, because of the effects of the JLA's attempt to alter his personality.
- Green Arrow and Hawkman's mutual antagonism, which was originally rooted solely in their differing political philosophies, is revealed to have come about from their opposing opinions of what should have been done to Dr. Light and the minor altercation they had because of it.
In many ways that story acknowledged the stories of the 60s and 70s (even if with retroactive rationalizations) rather than ignoring them as was the trend post-Crisis.
Collection and related stories
DC Comics reprinted the entire Identity Crisis mini-series in April 2005 with re-colored covers.  A hardcover collection was printed in September 2005. Bonus features for the hardcover edition include a commentary by Meltzer and Morales, the rest of the creative team talking about their favorite moments, and a look at Morales' sketchbook.
The Crisis of Conscience storyline from JLA #115-119 shows the breakdown of relationships within the Justice League of America over events that occurred in Identity Crisis, and leads directly into Infinite Crisis.
In 2005, DC published several mini-series under the umbrella title Countdown to Infinite Crisis which lead up to the Infinite Crisis limited series. These stories, to an extent, constituted a continuation of Identity Crisis (with further reference to 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths) and are expected to continue in the same vein of controversial storytelling that marked the earlier series.
A paperback collection was released on August 16th, 2006.