Identity Crisis (DC Comics)

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For the Spider-Man story arc, see Identity Crisis (Marvel Comics).
Identity Crisis
Cover to Identity Crisis 10th Anniversary Edition. Art by Rags Morales.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Schedule Monthly
Format Limited series
Publication date June – December 2004
Number of issues 7
Main character(s) Justice League
Green Arrow
Elongated Man
Dr. Light
Jean Loring
Creative team
Writer(s) Brad Meltzer
Penciller(s) Rags Morales
Inker(s) Michael Bair
Letterer(s) Ken Lopez
Colorist(s) Alex Sinclair
Creator(s) Brad Meltzer
Rags Morales
Michael Bair
Editor(s) Mike Carlin
Collected editions
Hardcover ISBN 1-4012-0688-3
Softcover ISBN 1-4012-0458-9
Absolute Identity Crisis ISBN 9781401232580

Identity Crisis is a seven-issue comic book limited series published by DC Comics from June to December in 2004. It was created by writer Brad Meltzer and the artistic team of penciler Rags Morales and inker Michael Bair.

Publication history[edit]

One of DC's top-selling series, the first issue was released in June 2004 and was ranked first in comic book sales for that period with pre-order sales of 163,111.[1] The second issue saw a decline in sales and ranked third in comic book sales in July 2004 period with pre-order sales of 129,852.[2] The story also adheres to the continuity changes introduced by Crisis on Infinite Earths, as heroine 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. Following "Infinite Crisis", however, Wonder Woman is restored as a founding member.

One of the major plot threads — the breakdown of relationships within the Justice League of America — is examined in the storyline "Crisis of Conscience" in JLA #115-119 (August–December 2005). The mini-series is followed by the crossover event "Infinite Crisis".

Writer: Brad Meltzer[edit]

Brad Meltzer, growing up in a family with low income, gained his passion for books/writing through weekly visits to the library with his grandmother.[3] His writing career started after he graduated college, from the University of Michigan, where he soon began to realize that writing was something he wanted to pursue. His writing consists of themes such as non-fiction, fiction, children's books, and comic books (such as Identity Crisis). Some of his top-selling books include: The Inner Circle, The First Counsel, and History Decoded.[4][5] Meltzer was married to an attorney and have one child, a son. As well as attending the University of Michigan in 1993, he also attended Columbia Law school in 1996.[6] Meltzer had a famous quote that said “We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.”[7] Meltzer and his wife both supported multiple charities such as, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, The Arc, City Year, American Cancer Society, The National Neurofibromatosis Foundation, and Sharsheret. Many of these causes work their way into Brad’s novels. Big Brothers/Big Sisters is in Dead Even: The Arc and NF in the Fist counsel.[8]

Plot summary[edit]

Cover art to Identity Crisis #1. Art by Michael Turner.

While Elongated Man is on a stakeout, during which a minor villain called Bolt is shot and wounded by criminals, his wife Sue Dibny is murdered in their apartment, apparently dying of burns. The DC superhero community rallies to find the murderer, with recurring villain Doctor Light being the prime suspect. Green Arrow reveals to the Flash (Wally West) and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) that Light once raped Sue Dibny in the JLA satellite headquarters. To ensure this could not happen again, League members at that time — Atom (Ray Palmer), Black Canary, Hawkman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and a very reluctant Flash (Barry Allen) — voted to allow the sorceress Zatanna to mind-wipe the villain and alter his personality to an ineffectual buffoon.

Further discussion reveals that a mind wipe was also done on at least one other occasion: When the Secret Society of Super Villains (the Wizard, Floronic Man, Star Sapphire, Reverse-Flash, and Blockbuster) captures JLA members Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Zatanna and Black Canary (Wonder Woman in the pre-Crisis continuity) and switched bodies with the heroes, allowing the villains to learn their secret identities by casually removing the heroes' masks. Although the heroes defeated the villains, Zatanna once again erased the villains' memories of the incident and their knowledge of the secret identities.[9] Green Arrow's words also imply that they have done this on other occasions when their secret identities were threatened by magic or other means.

The heroes locate Light, who has hired the mercenary Deathstroke to protect him. During the ensuing battle, Light regains his memory and, enraged by the violation, uses his formerly lost powers to escape. Although questioned by Superman, Wally West continues to protect the heroes and their secret. Atom finds his estranged ex-wife, Jean Loring, hanging from a door, blindfolded and gagged, and revives her just in time, however she is unable to describe her attacker. A death threat is then sent to Superman's wife, Lois Lane. Flash Rogues gallery villain Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness) is hired by third-rate villain the Calculator (on behalf of the real killer) to assassinate Jack Drake, father of Robin, Tim Drake. Jack finds a gun and a note warning him of the impending attempt on his life, and fatally shoots Boomerang who also kills him. Tim Drake comes upon the aftermath of this and is comforted by partner Batman, who confiscates the note before the authorities or the media can learn of its existence.

During questioning of several villains by the heroes, former League member Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond) is stabbed through the chest with the sword of the Shining Knight by the villain the Shadow Thief. Firestorm's nuclear powers reach critical mass and he detonates in the atmosphere.

Wally West questions Green Arrow again after accidentally seeing a snapshot of the battle on the Satellite in Light's mind, which reveals that Batman was also present. Green Arrow confesses that Batman had left immediately after the battle, but unexpectedly returned just as the mind wipe was taking place. He disapproved of this and nearly attacked the other heroes; he was magically restrained and his memory of the incident was removed. Batman uses his detective skills to find the hideout of the Calculator, but discovers the villain anticipated this and abandoned it. The autopsy of Sue Dibny's body by Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific, members of the Justice Society, reveals Dibny was killed by an infarction in her brain. A microscopic scan of Dibny's brain reveals tiny footprints as a clue to the infarction's cause.

Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific realize, as does Batman in the course of his own investigation, that Dibny was murdered by an assassin with access to the technology of the Atom, which allows the ability to shrink to subatomic size. Almost simultaneously, Palmer learns that Jean is aware of the note sent to Jack Drake (which had been kept secret) and deduces she is the killer. Loring claims she did not mean to kill Sue, and it was not her intention for Jack Drake to be killed, arguing that she sent the note and gun so he could protect himself. Loring states that she undertook the plan (including faking the attempt on her own life) in order to bring Ray back into her life. Palmer says that she is insane, and Loring is committed to Arkham Asylum and kept under heavy medication. In the final scene with the Justice League, Wally West is awkward in the presence of Batman, who is suspicious of his behavior.


The ramifications of this story are depicted in the title Flash, as his Rogues gallery villains band together at the funeral of Boomerang,[10] a one-shot "Countdown to Infinite Crisis", as well as one of its tie-ins, The OMAC Project, and the title JLA, which reveals that Batman remembered the events in question at some point after. Batman's suspicions of his fellow heroes' conduct lead him to create the Brother MK I satellite to monitor superhumans, which is an important factor in the subsequent crossover storyline "Infinite Crisis".[11]

What is an "Identity Crisis"[edit]

Identity Crisis is a personal psychosocial conflict especially in adolescence that involves confusion about one's social role and often a sense of loss of continuity to one's personality[12] The concept originates in the work of developmental psychologist Erik Erikson who believed that the formation of identity was one of the most important parts of a person's life. Creating a sense of identity is a vital part of the teenage years. Erikson did not believe that the formation and growth of identity was just confined to adolescence. Instead, identity is something that shifts and expands throughout life as people face new challenges and experience different things.[13] Not knowing your role in life or not knowing the real you can mean that you may be experiencing an identity crisis. Theorist Erik Erikson claims it is one of the most important conflicts people face in development. According to Erikson, and identity crisis is a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself.[14] An example of an identity crisis can be one of a child being raised In a Hispanic household living in Nebraska, that child may feel as if he is an outsider to those people because not much people are of Hispanic descent in Nebraska.There are a couple of different identity statuses such as, identity achievement which happens when an individual has gone through an exploration of different identities and made a commitment to one of them. Moratorium is the status of a person who is actively involved in exploring different identities, but has not made a commitment. Foreclosure status is when a person has made a commitment without attempting identity exploration. The last one is Identity diffusion which occurs when there is neither an identity crisis or commitment. Research states that those who have made a commitment to an identity tend to be healthier and happier than those who have not.[15] When an individual has gone through a search of identities and has chosen to stay with who he has reached identity achievement. When you are in search of an identity and have not yet chosen one you are in what they call Moratorium. When a person has made a commitment without looking for an identity then you are in the stage called Foreclosure. When there is neither an identity crisis or commitment has been made is called identity diffusion.[16] These terms are what make up identity statuses in a person’s life depending on which part of that process they have complied with. These identity crises are not only seen as teenagers but can be seen at all ages of life. Points of great change such as a new job, new relationship, the birth of a child, and the end of a marriage. Exploring and learning about different areas of your life such as friends, family, and work can help your personal identity.[17]

In 1945-1989 the importance of identity crisis in the Catholic Church where plaguing. Poland became a state in 966 after its new leader, Mieszko I, promised to deliver Christianity to his entire people through baptism. The same day Poland gained a political entity they also gained the beginning of their religious entity. When 1989 saw the collapse of Communist rule in Poland, Poles looked back beyond 1945 to try to recapture their Polish heritage. They ended up finding a overlap between national identity and religious entity.

[18] Poland is suffering this identity crisis and Poles believe they are seen as second class to the EU are now unsure if they want to join. Poland is in danger of failing to make the first enlargement wave because they have poor economic growth, high unemployment, rising poverty and controversial agricultural reforms. This is causing Poland to have an identity crisis because they are being left out because of all the problems that they are facing.[19]

A population secure of its identity would likely say “Crisis, What identity crisis?”[20]

Identity Crisis Within the Text and Characters[edit]

The Justice League faces an identity crisis when having to solve a crime that affects them personally while simultaneously maintaining their secret identities. The decisions faced by the members of the league make the line between acting as unbiased heroes and grief-stricken individuals quite blurred when it comes to determining how to eliminate the crime of Sue Dibny's death. As they play a double role in society, the heroes endure an identity crisis, seeing as how they have to chose between acting upon the death of Sue as a "human" or a superhero. Although the conflict of Sue's death begins the crisis of identity within the Justice League, the theme of the crisis forms into the league falling apart and points focus to the distrust between the members. Identity crisis can then be seen not only in each member (in terms they way they approach the controversial crime of Sue's death) but in the Justice League as a whole. The characters in the Justice League show doubtfulness in their relationships and a lack trust, leading to a crisis in identity of what their true intentions are as a whole and in the current situation they are enduring. The Justice League's intentions are perceived differently from the point of view each member as well as people outside of the league. There is conflict in terms of identity crisis due to different views from the heroes and outside perspectives, seeing as how their intentions can be perceived as justified or vengeful.

Justice Vs. Revenge[edit]

The concept of justice is a major theme throughout this text. However, the actions of the Justice League in their quest to justify Sue Dibny's death are challenged by the seemingly reoccurring theme of revenge. It can be considered a conflicting matter when determining what is considered justice and what is considered revenge. Justice is more commonly viewed as resolving a matter politically and/or ethically while revenge is seen as imposing suffering on an individual who has made another suffer.[21][22] The Justice League has the desire for retribution for Sue Dibny's death, however the question lies in the matter of where this desire comes from: personal revenge or unbiased justice. Many factors go into determining what motive the Justice League had in their investigation of Sue's death in terms of revenge and justice. In regards to the characters in the Justice League, the connotation of their title as "Justice League" plays a major role in how their actions can be perceived as justifiable. It can be a preconceived misconception to give the Justice League assured justification in any of their actions, seeing as how their title can lead one to believe their actions are based off their "police" force resemblance. Therefore their actions in the finding of Sue Dibny's killer can be easily observed as acts of justice and of ethical value. Contrarily, these actions can be viewed as an act of revenge carried out by vigilantes. An aspect of the League's situation that makes it susceptible to be viewed as revenge is that it is a personal matter, seeing as how a member in the league (Ralph Dibny) is personally effected from crime. It can be argued that Ralph Dibny, having gone through the suffering of losing his wife, is seeking revenge and the imposition of suffering for the one(s) who is found guilty for the death of his wife. Both themes hold value to the text and can pertain to the given situation, however it is a matter of an individual's perception of the meaning of both themes in association with the comic's context.


The miniseries was selected by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)'s 2007 recommended list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens.[23]

Collected editions[edit]

DC Comics reprinted the Identity Crisis mini-series in April 2005 with recolored covers.[24] A hardcover collection (ISBN 1-4012-0688-3) was printed in September 2005, with bonus features including a commentary by Meltzer and Morales; the creative team citing favorite moments, and a look at Morales' sketchbook.[25]

A paperback collection (ISBN 1-4012-0458-9) was released on August 16, 2006. The paperback collection ranked third in the top 100 graphic novels for the August 2006 period with pre-order sales of 7746.[26]

An Absolute Edition of Identity Crisis was released on October 12, 2011.[27]


  1. ^ "Top 300 Comics Actual – June 2004". July 22, 2004. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  2. ^ "Top 300 Comics Actual – July 2004". August 17, 2004. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  3. ^ "Our Authors, Our Advocates". American Libraries. 41 (10): 43–45. 2010-01-01. JSTOR 25734695. 
  4. ^ "New York Times Best Seller Author Brad Meltzer". Brad Meltzer. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  5. ^ "Questions and Answers by author Brad Meltzer". Brad Meltzer. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  6. ^ "Brad Meltzer Biography - life, family, children, name, story, wife, school, mother, young - Newsmakers Cumulation". Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  7. ^ "New York Times Best Seller Author Brad Meltzer". Brad Meltzer. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  8. ^ "Charities supported by New York Times Bestselling Author Brad Meltzer". Brad Meltzer. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  9. ^ Justice League of America #166-168 (May–July 1979)
  10. ^ Flash vol. 2, #217 (February 2005)
  11. ^ Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick (w), various (a). {{{title}}} 1 (May 2005), DC Comics
  12. ^ "Definition of IDENTITY CRISIS". Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  13. ^ "Could You Be Experiencing an Identity Crisis?". Verywell. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  14. ^ "Could You Be Experiencing an Identity Crisis?". Verywell. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  15. ^ "Could You Be Experiencing an Identity Crisis?". Verywell. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  16. ^ "Could You Be Experiencing an Identity Crisis?". Verywell. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  17. ^ "Could You Be Experiencing an Identity Crisis?". Verywell. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  18. ^ Kosicki, Piotr H. (January–February 2004). "Poland's Identity Crisis". 
  19. ^ Connolly, Kate (2001-11-01). "Poland suffers European identity crisis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  20. ^ Dallat, C. L. (2006-01-01). "What Identity Crisis?". Fortnight (442): 15–17. 
  21. ^ Lucas, J. R. (1972-01-01). "Justice". Philosophy. 47 (181): 229–248. 
  22. ^ "Norms of Revenge on JSTOR" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  23. ^ "YALSA 2007 Great Graphic Novels". Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  24. ^ Retrieved August 21, 2005.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  25. ^ "Identity Crisis hardcover details". DC 
  26. ^ "Top 100 Graphic Novels Actual – August 2006". September 20, 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  27. ^ DC Comics: Absolute Identity Crisis. Retrieved on 5 August 2011.

External links[edit]