Since the first season of ‘The Flash’, ‘Arrow’ and most of it’s spin-offs have had an annual crossover, the second of which led to the series ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ and last years ‘Elseworlds’ crossover leads to an upcoming ‘Batwoman’ series. ‘Elseworlds’ also introduced the character of The Monitor and revealed the events of the crossover will lead to ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ (based on a major event in comics of the same name) in 2019, the Arrowverse’s biggest crossover yet.
Here we will see how the annual crossover and introduction of the multiverse parallels the comics and how ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ (CoIE) had a major impact on the DC comics universe. We will also explore what we can expect from this years crossover, especially in light of the news about the next season of ‘Arrow’.
Crossovers and The Multiverse
In July 1961 the Multiverse was introduced into DC comics in ‘The Flash’ issue #123 . With a story titled ‘Flash of Two Worlds!’ Barry Allen is transported to Earth 2, the home of the Golden Age Flash, (first introduced in the 1940s) Jay Garrick. It is also the home of the Justice Society of America, a superhero team that predates the Justice League of America.
In a similar vein, ‘The Flash’ in the second episode of season 2, (also titled ‘Flash of Two Worlds’) introduces the concept of the Multiverse to the Arrowverse. This time Barry Allen meets Jay Garrick (though this one is really Hunter Zolomon aka Zoom) who comes from Earth 2 to warn Barry of a dangerous speedster.
During the first season of ‘Supergirl’ (even though it aired on a rival network CBS), it was made part of the Multiverse. While trying to find an easier way to travel to another universe, Barry Allen arrives on her Earth (establishing it as Earth 38) in the eighteenth episode ‘World’s Finest’.
Two years following the meeting of the two Flashes in the comics, the fairly new Justice League, would meet the Justice Society in ‘Justice League of America’ #21 with a story entitled ‘Crisis on Earth-One’. This would start a series of annual crossovers between the two teams that would last until 1984 (a year before ‘CoIE’).
Beginning in the third season of ‘Arrow’ and first season of ‘The Flash’ the heroes of both series participated in the first of many crossovers. The second of these crossovers (which happened the same season the Multiverse is established and Barry meets Supergirl) leads to the new time travel series ‘Legends of Tomorrow’.
The second season of ‘Supergirl’ saw it move to The CW, which allowed Supergirl to participate in the annual crossover for the first time. Titled ‘Invasion’ characters from all four shows including ‘Legends’, try to thwart the alien invasion by the Dominators. The Hall of Justice (originally made famous in the ‘Superfriends’ cartoon) makes it’s first live action appearance (using the real life former train terminal in Cincinnati that the cartoon version is most likely based upon).
The latest of these crossovers was 2018’s ‘Elseworlds’. It introduces Batwoman (who will get her own series this year), The Monitor, and Psycho-Pirate. The latter two are pivotal characters in the comics ‘CoIE’ and will mostly play a major part in 2019’s crossover as it has been revealed to be the Arrowverse version of ‘CoIE’
Crisis on Infinite Earths
What exactly was the ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’? It was one of first crossovers of it’s kind, that involved different universes and different points in time. It ran for twelve issues, taking a whole year to run it’s course.
Over the years DC required rights to characters and settings from smaller publishers, the biggest of which would be the Billy Batson Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam) and his Marvel family. After being licensed by DC in the 1970’s from Fawcett Comics, they resided on Earth-S. Another Earth (Earth-X, a version of which was shows in Arrowverse’s 2017 crossover ‘Crisis on Earth-X’) included a world where the Freedom Fighters fought the Nazis, who were victorious in World War II. While the team itself was created by DC, it consisted of characters acquired from Quality Comics.
“Worlds will live. Worlds will die. And the Universe will never be the same.” – Psycho-Pirate
DC wanted a way to clean up it’s continuity and bring the aforementioned characters (Justice Society included) into one universe. The massive event included characters from the prehistoric past such as Anthro, Jonah Hex from the wild west, to the All-Star Squadron, Sgt. Rock and the Losers from World War II, to the far future including the Legion of Superheroes from the 30th century, and Kamandi from a post-apocalyptic future Earth.
The evil Anti-Monitor from the Antimatter universe was destroying universes throughout the Multiverse, the first of which to perish was Earth-3, home of the Crime Syndicate of America (an evil version of the Justice League) and a heroic Lex Luthor who sends his son to Earth 1 (in a similar fashion to Jor-El sending Kal-El to Earth when Krypton was dying).
Meanwhile on Earth 1, the Monitor is preparing heroes and villains for the upcoming crisis with the help of Lyla aka the Harbinger (interestingly Diggle’s wife on Arrow is named Lyla and has the code name Harbinger, whether or not she plays a major role in Arrowverse’s ‘CoIE’ remains to be seen).
By the end of the event many characters die among them The Monitor (betrayed by Lyla who was corrupted by the Anti-Monitor), Supergirl (who sacrifices herself to stop the Anti-Monitor), The Flash (Barry Allen) who runs himself to death to stop an antimatter canon, Wonder Woman (who is reborn at the end of the event) and many others.
Five surviving universes are merged and have their histories rewritten. Among the survivors who’s histories are incorporated into Earth 1’s history include the Justice Society and The Marvel family. Earth 2’s Wonder Woman along with her daughter Fury take up residence on Olympus. Alexander Luthor (Lex’s son from Earth 3), Earth 2’s Superman and Lois Lane, and Superboy from Earth Prime (a universe where he is the only hero), are the only ones who remember the universe Pre-Crisis (other than the mentally unstable Psycho Pirate) and isolate themselves in a pocket dimension.
Another major impact of this crossover was shown in the new Superman series ‘Man of Steel’ which changes some parts of his origin, mainly his time as Superboy being erased and becoming the only survivor of Krypton once more.
How will this affect the Arrowverse as a whole? While we don’t know all the details, we do know two things. At the 2019 Television Critics Association winter press tour, this past January, CW boss Mark Pedowitz said it will be the biggest and most complicated crossover to date (Entertainment Weekly). The second is that, earlier this month it was announced season 8 of the Arrow would be the last and only run 10 episodes, heavily implying the events of ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ will have a major impact on the Arrowverse (Variety). Until then, heed Psycho-Pirate’s parting words in ‘Elseworlds’ “Worlds will live. Worlds will die. And the Universe will never be the same.”