What Exactly Is CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS?

As the annual CW network DC superhero show crossover event, Elseworlds wrapped up its story, it dropped a bombshell on viewers in its closing moments – that next year’s crossover will be titled Crisis On Infinite Earths. Well, it is a bombshell for those who are familiar with the groundbreaking and iconic 1985 comic book event series that redefined the DC universe. However, if you are not one of those people, here is what all the hubbub is about and how it may involve the characters of the Arrowverse TV series – Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow.

Secret Origins

Crisis On Infinite Earths is the brainchild of DC Comics writer Marv Wolfman. The DC Comics writer had concerns that the multiple Earths the comics company used to place various stories, older versions of some characters like Superman and Batman and characters acquired from other companies was just too daunting and confusing for potential new readers. And with Marvel Comics, and their just-one-world approach to their comics interconnected continuity, having a much larger market share than DC Comics did, there may have been something to his concerns. In order to streamline DC’s continuity, Wolfman proposed a giant 12-part saga that would spotlight nearly every heroic character from the publishers fifty year history in a story that would rearrange the continuity of the DC Comics universe right down to its bones.

In Crisis On Infinite Earths, a mysterious being called the Monitor brings together a collection of superheroes to stop his evil doppelganger, the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor originated in the Anti-Matter Universe and wants to destroy every positive matter universe there is, and has already made good headway towards that goal as the story starts. The heroes try to fight for their worlds, but soon the Anti-Monitor has whittled down the multiverse to just five remaining Earths. To make matters worse, a number of supervillains team together to try and take over the worlds for themselves. By the end of the story, many heroes have made the ultimate sacrifice and the remaining worlds have all been merged into one Earth.

Setting The Stage

The Arrowverse shows first started hinting at Crisis On Infinite Earths all the way back in the first episode of The Flash. On a holographic newspaper displayed in Harrison Welles’ hidden “Time Vault” there is the headline “Flash Missing Vanishes In Crisis,” with a story written by Iris West-Allan. A sidebar story carries the headline “Red Skies Vanish.” When taken together, it is a clear that the show was referencing Crisis was in Barry’s future, specifically April 2024. (One of the big indicators of something bad on the horizon in the original Crisis On Infinite Earths comic series was skies turning red.) The newspaper was a way to indicate when history might have been tampered with, changing headline or byline in response to some time travel shenanigans. Restoring the paper to its original state would show that the current problem had been solved – such as when the speedster villain Savitar was planning on killing Iris – but it also indicated that Barry was still fated to go Missing In Action in the future. Barry’s disappearance has also become a motivating factor in the current season of The Flash, with his and Iris’s future daughter Nora coming back in time to get to know the father she never had while growing up.

Fittingly, The Flash was also the series that introduced the idea of multiple Earths into the Arrowverse canon, as it was The Flash comic that did the same in 1961 with the classic story “The Flash Of Two Worlds.” For the TV series, it has become a way to introduce numerous characters as well as link up with Supergirl, whose first season over on rival network CBS posed some hurdles to having some of the more casual crossover that The Flash and Arrow enjoyed.

The comic book Crisis not only spanned across multiple Earths, but through time as well, from prehistory to the 30th century. It was a way to include characters whose adventures didn’t normally take place in the present such as DC’s stable of Old West heroes, World War Two characters like Sgt Rock and the Losers and those from the future like Kamandi and the Legion of Super Heroes. Supergirl has already given us the Legion, and the time traveling team on Legends Of Tomorrow have introduced us to a few DC heroes of other times, such as Jonah Hex.

Elseworlds

This year’s just concluded Arrowverse crossover event laid down some major groundwork for next year’s Crisis event, but did it in such a way that at the time they felt more like fun shout outs to the original comics event rather than indicators of the surprise that was about to sprung on fans. It is only in hindsight that these things look like the building blocks towards next year’s event rather than just Easter Eggs.

First off is the appearance of the ominous red skies, but here it was just a side-effect of John Wesley Shipp’s Barry Allen/The Flash of Earth-90 trying to come to Earth-1 to warn our heroes about the Monitor and the reality altering powers of the Book of Destiny. And that warning itself was its own Crisis callback to something similar the Flash did in the Crisis comic book event. (Zack Snyder also tried to do something similar in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice as a lead in to his Justice League movie, but he totally botched the execution.)

Barry and Kara’s plan to slow down time in Part Three feels like a two-for-one Easter Egg. Since it involved them using their powers to repeatedly circle the Earth at high speed, it recalls the climax of 1978 Superman: The Movie, in which Superman (Christopher Reeve) turned back time to save Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) from being buried alive during the earthquake set off by Lex Luthor’s ridiculous real estate plot involving nuclear warheads. (And that’s not the only Superman: The Movie reference that the Elseworlds crossover event threw out, but that’s a discussion for another time.) The danger to the plan is that Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) glimpsed Barry and Kara’s death in the Book of Destiny if they attempt to go through with this plan. In the Crisis comic, the deaths of Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El are two landmark story points in a series that featured a multitude of casualties in the superhero and supervillain community.

But the big, obvious one came in the crossover’s middle act, when Green Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and the Flash of Earth-90 confront the Monitor, the powerful being explains that “a Crisis is coming,” and that him giving Dr. Deegan the Book Of Destiny to begin with was to test the heroes of this Earth to see if they were strong enough to fight an unnamed, powerful foe that would be coming.

(If anything, this is a rather dumb plan on the part of the Monitor. We saw that it wasn’t just the heroes of one world that proved their mettle to him, but the heroes of multiple worlds working together. Imagine how much stronger the resistance to this coming Crisis would be if the heroes killed on other worlds by the Monitor’s own testing were still around to help out?)

That unnamed foe is undoubtedly, the Anti-Monitor, the powerful, evil counterpart to the Monitor, who hails from the Anti-Matter Universe.

So What Now?

BatwomanEvery show will be scrutinized going forward for clues. Will we see the Monitor return before next Fall? What new heroes will be introduced with the possibility that they may be part of this version of the Crisis storyline? The Arrowverse pretty much already has most of the major players from Crisis in place, if you count Batwoman as a replacement for Batman.

But they are still missing some who play key roles in the original story specifically interstellar cop Green Lantern and his alien superiors the Guardians of the Galaxy, who play a key role in the creation of the Anti-Monitor. Earth-90 Flash seemed to indicate that John Diggle may be his world’s Green Lantern. Could Earth-1 Diggle have an emerald-colored power ring in his near future? And if so, would that also mean we would see the wider, interstellar Green Lantern Corps and their Guardians superiors? That seems like a long shot though, as Arrow has always shied away from the more fantastical comic book elements that the other Arrowsverse shows embrace wholeheartedly.

One key location in the early part of the Crisis story is ancient Atlantis before the legendary city sunk under the sea. It is conceivable that the Legends team could time travel back to Atlantic and in the process introduce a character that could play a role in next year’s crossover such as the heroic sorcerer Arion. With sardonic magic user John Constantine part of the Legends team this season and the group hunting down magical anomalies, a trip to ancient Atlantis would fit right in.

Worlds Will Live, Worlds Will Die?

So what form will this crossover event take shape as when it hits next year?

Obviously, the Crisis crossover will span Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl, and more than likely Legends Of Tomorrow. If Batwoman’s hoped for spinoff show goes forward, that would undoubtedly participate as well. But could other shows will be involved?

The most obvious case for inclusion of another series in the event is the CW Black Lightning series. It, too, is based on a DC Comics character, but up until now, the producers on the show have kept it separate from the goings on of the Arrowverse. Could Crisis finally bring Jefferson Pierce and his family into a bigger universe of heroics? That might be an answer that comes down to whether the show’s producers want to or not.

And there are a number of series that exist outside of the CW’s Arrowverse that fans would probably love to see included in this event as well.

Over on the DC Universe streaming service there is currently the Titans series, which focuses on a core group of the Teen Titans – Robin, Changeling, Raven and Starfire. That show is getting its own spinoff in the form of The Doom Patrol, while filming is already underway on a third series that will feature Swamp Thing. Will any of these shows be involved? If so, probably only on the very periphery of things and only by having their cast appear on the CW shows. I don’t see the producers wanting to risk alienating viewers by telling them they have to subscribe to streaming service in order to watch one middle part of a multi-part story. The same logic could apply to a lesser extent to any connection to SyFy’s Superman prequel series Krypton. Perhaps someone from one of the CW shows may travel to the alternate universe where Krypton takes place, but I doubt we would see that journey on the show proper itself.

But how about past shows? Shipp’s appearance as Earth-90’s Flash seemed to suggest that he may be reprising his role from the 1990 Flash television series. If that is indeed so, than that opens up the door for a number of other possibilities. Crisis on Infinite Earths showcased multiple Supermen, so why not the TV version of the story as well? Could we see the return of Dean Cain’s Lois & Clark Superman? Or perhaps Tom Welling will finally shed his inhibition about wearing a cape and show us how Smallville‘s Clark Kent has adjusted to his full-on role as a superhero. Here’s a longshot, but how about the Huntress and Black Canary from 2002’s short-lived Birds Of Prey series joining in?

Crisis On Infinite Earths gives the Arrowverse writers and producers a lot of material, themes and concepts to play with. As we’ve seen in previous stories and events on these shows, comics storylines are sometimes cherry-picked and rearranged for live action retelling. The demands of television storytelling are much different than the demands of comic book storytelling, so next year’s Crisis event will undoubtedly be different in certain regards. And that’s before we even start to consider such things as budgetary restrictions and production issues that will impact what we see on the screen. But until such time, fans will speculate. And maybe take an evening to go back and read the original 12-part story that inspired the upcoming event.

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About Rich Drees 6197 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty years experience writing about film and pop culture.

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