by John Ostrander
The CW has been doing annual crossovers of some or all of its DC shows each season to the point where the characters themselves are commenting on it. They like each other well enough but they know each situation is going to involve a BIG Bad and they’re not always keen on it. Kind of a funny, hip, self-aware thing.
In fact, there was a lot of humor in this year’s Crossover Event which was titled Elseworlds. It involved only the Big Three of the CW/DC shows – Supergirl, Arrow, and the Flash. Legends of Tomorrow (which has been a LOT of fun this year) and Black Lightning didn’t get to play which I can understand – by the time you get not only the main characters but significant amounts of the supporting casts it can get a little crowded and unwieldy, especially since they try to advance some of the subplots running in each series.
One of the conceits of all the series is that the DC universe is actually a multiverse with different versions of Earth (numbered to tell them apart) with sometimes different versions of the same characters. Just like in the comics. For instance, on one Earth the Flash is played by John Wesley Shipp instead of Grant Gustin as he is on the regular series. Shipp starred as the Flash in a previous TV version and this acknowledges that which is seriously cool. Usually, Shipp plays Jay Garrick who was the Flash on Earth 2 and in the Golden Age BUT this time he said HIS name was Barry Allen. I really liked that because you could, if you wanted to, tie it to that older show. He wasn’t around long – just enough to get out some necessary info — but it was a tip of the hat not only to Shipp but the older Flash series.
The title Elseworlds was also a staple of DC comics – sort of a series that wasn’t a series in which alternate takes on the DC characters were created. One was Batman set in Victorian times and another had Batman as a vampire. DC stopped doing them a while ago and I’m sorry they did; I’d like to see more of them. Maybe do one or two myself.
This year’s crossover also brought in some new incarnations including Lois Lane and Batwoman. They already had their own Superman on Supergirl’s world, played by Tyler Hoechlin who I first saw when he was a boy in Road to Perdition. (An aside: I think Hoechlin makes a fine Superman and I prefer him to Henry Cavill. I do have one problem with his Superman which I’ll get back to in a minute.) There is talk of a Batwoman series on the CW and I’m all in favor of it.
The storyline kept faith with the concept of Elseworlds – different takes on established tropes. In this story, the Flash and Green Arrow get switched – the Flash becomes Green Arrow and Arrow becomes Flash. Hilarity ensues. Seriously. They have some real fun with it. So did I.
They also included a lot of elements from the classic DC crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths. There’s a character called the Monitor, there’s omnipresent red skies, and in the comic series both the Flash and Supergirl die in dramatic moments (they eventually get better) and the Elseworlds Crossover touches on that. There’s a moment at the climax where, if you know Crisis, you realize they’re setting it up to happen there.
Hoechlin is not only a really good Superman, he’s also called upon to play a nasty version of Supes and he’s convincing in that as well. My problem with the CW’s depiction of the Man of Steel is that they keep insisting that he isn’t quite as good as Supergirl. Okay, I get it – she has a series and he doesn’t but they’ve been setting up that she’s stronger and probably better in every way. They’ve done a great job with Supergirl but I don’t think the way you sell her is by downgrading her cousin. He doesn’t have to be lesser than her nor her to him; they’re different characters. And c’mon – he’s Superman.
Overall, I give high marks to this year’s CW/DC crossover event. There was a lot of humor and fun bantering in it but there’s also a possibility of lasting effects in all three series when they return (the event was the midseason finale). They’re getting very good at this and I credit that to producer Greg Berlanti who, IMO, is to the DC/CW what Kevin Feige is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One last thing – at the end of this event, CW/DC revealed the name of NEXT year’s event: Crisis on Infinite Earths. That’s going to be interesting considering how much they took from that storyline for THIS year’s events. The last lines of Elseworlds were the advertising slogan for Crisis when it came out: Worlds will live, worlds will die; nothing will ever be the same.
Cue the ominous music.
Still, if the powers that be with the CW/DC shows do want to shake things up, this would be the place. I wouldn’t bet against it. We’ll find out in about a year.
Same Batwoman time, same Batwoman channel.
John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared (before Christmas even, but we’ve been on a break so you get to relive the holiday now). You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE