CW's 'Crisis on Earth-X' borrows liberally from comics history

Copyright The CW

A poster for CW’s “Crisis on Earth-X!” mimics cover designs for Justice League of America from DC Comics in the 1970s and 1980s.

Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

This year’s Arrowverse crossover on The CW this year looks like a lot of fun. And for comics fans, it looks pretty familiar.

First, let’s review what we know about “Crisis on Earth-X!”, which combines Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, and airs Nov. 27-28.  Here’s the official synopsis:

“Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris’s (Candice Patton) wedding brings the gang together, but things go awry when villains from Earth-X attack the ceremony. All of the superheroes band together with help from their super friends like Citizen Cold (Wentworth Miller), The Ray (Russell Tovey), Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), Iris West and Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) to take on their most formidable villains yet. Earth’s mightiest heroes – Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), The Flash (Grant Gustin) and White Canary (Caity Lotz) – lead their teams into battle to save the world.

That must seem pretty mysterious, especially if you don’t know what “Earth-X” is. Here are some quick plot points:

* “Earth-X” is a parallel world where the Nazis won World War II. It was mentioned on Supergirl once, in the “Words Finest” episode in 2016, but we haven’t seen it yet.

* The villains of Earth-X are Nazi versions of Flash (played by Tom Cavanagh), Green Arrow (Amell) and Supergirl (Benoist), plus the Earth-X Prometheus (who is not Adrian Chase, as he was on “Arrow”).

* Raymond “The Ray” Terrill is a resistance fighter on Earth-X, and has light-based powers.

* Citizen Cold is the heroic version of Leonard “Captain Cold” Snart, last seen when Flash changed history last season. Since the Scarlet Speedster changed history back (mostly) Snart is a villain again – or was, since he died on “Legends.” Citizen Cold may be the Len Snart of Earth-X, or something more exotic.

“Wow,” you say, “that’s a lot of plot to pack into four episodes.” It is, but The CW has confidence in you. Also, if you’re a comics fan, it’s not very much – because most of it has happened before.


First, let’s take the wedding of Iris and Barry – which has happened, and un-happened, in the comics already.

In 1966, DC published “One Bridegroom Too Many!” a Flash story in which Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, impersonates Barry to marry Iris. Don’t worry, the Scarlet Speedster outwitted his Flash-y foe and took his proper place at the altar, but it was touch and go. (Literally!)

In 2011 DC rebooted its superhero line, including Flash, and now Barry and Iris are younger  and single. But they are dating, so maybe they’ll get married … again.


Copyright DC Entertainment Inc.

Barry “Flash” Allen and Iris West got married once in the comics, in 1966. The “Barry Allen” at the altar is the Reverse Flash in disguise.


Don’t feel too bad for the TV Barry and Iris, because villainous interruptions of marriages are practically a tradition in the superhero community. Check out these wedding albums:

* Sue Storm and Reed Richards (1966): Virtually every supervillain in the Marvel Universe attacked when two of the Fantastic Four got hitched. (The villains were thrown out.) Also, writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby tried to crash the reception. (They were thrown out also.)

* May Parker and Otto Octavius (1976): It was lucky  for Peter “Spider-Man” Parker that the mobster Hammerhead ended the ceremony before the I do’s, or he’d have Dr. Octopus for an uncle.

* Alicia Masters and Johnny Storm (1987): The Wizard and the Mad Thinker showed up with a grudge against the groom, the Human Torch. Worse, the bride turned out to be a shapeshifter.

* Betty Ross and Bruce Banner (1986): The father of the bride shot the best man, Rick Jones, in the stomach. They don’t call him “Thunderbolt” Ross for nothing!

* Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (2006): A super-powered android assassin attempted to kill everyone in the wedding party, as they do.

* Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen (2007): After a 40-year courtship, Black Canary and Green Arrow finally said their vows. Too bad the groom was … yep, another shapeshifter.


Say the word “crisis” to a longtime DC Comics fan, and watch for goosebumps.

In 1963, DC teamed the Justice League of America with another superhero team from the 1940s, the Justice Society of America, that it had conveniently placed on a parallel world, in the two-part story “Crisis on Earth-One!” (where the JLA live) and “Crisis on Earth-Two!” (the JSA’s home). For 22 years after that, the same two super-teams combined annually for one adventure or another in stories with “crisis” in the title

This was such a beloved event that even after 1986, when circumstances ended the tradition, DC still managed a “Crisis in Time” (1994), a “Crisis Times Five” (1999), an “Infinite Crisis” (2006) and a “Final Crisis” (2008), a title no one really believes.

Some of this has already been hinted at on The Flash. You know that future newspaper everyone worries about, the one that mentions “red skies” and The Flash disappearing? Well, in the 1985-86 Crisis on Infinite Worlds, every parallel world suffered from red skies – and The Flash was killed!

Of course, he got better. But it suggests that the gang on “The Flash” have reason to worry.


Of the many crises in DC history, one was actually named “Crisis on Earth-X.” In 1973, the Justice League and the Justice Society accidentally landed on an unknown parallel world. This “Earth-X” was one where, just like the TV show, the Nazis won World War II.

The resistance on this planet was led by the few remaining superheroes, which happened to be characters DC had purchased from a defunct publisher named Quality Comics: The Ray (of course), plus Black Condor, Doll Man, the Human Bomb, Phantom Lady and Uncle Sam. They were called, collectively, the Freedom Fighters, and various iterations of them (and Earth-X) have appeared sporadically ever since.

Writer Grant Morrison updated Earth-X (now also called “Earth-10”) twice. In his versions, the Freedom Fighters must contend with a Nazi version of Superman and the Justice League called Overman and JLAxis (2007), and later the New Reichsmen (2015).

Copyright DC Entertainment Inc.

Earth-X was introduced in 1973, when the Justice League and friends (top) met the Freedom Fighters, who were (from left, across bottom) Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, Doll Man, Uncle Sam, The Ray and Black Condor.

And that, my friends, is where we got most of the elements for The CW’s “Crisis on Earth-X!” The network has cemented the connection to its comics inspiration by releasing a poster in the style of old Justice League covers.

But, as they say on TV, that’s not all! The story will continue, after a fashion, into Freedom Fighters: The Ray, a new animated series on CW Seed. The promos for that show promise appearances by Black Condor, Doll Man, Human Bomb, Red Tornado and Vibe. Given the title, it’s likely they or other Freedom Fighters will get a series or two.

And if all this succeeds, will TV get its own version of the Crisis tradition in comics? It’s arguable that it already has – this is the fourth annual crossover among the CW’s superhero shows.

Which is why comics fans will feel right at home on Nov. 27-28.

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With all of the dangling plot threads on Supergirl, and with her being on a different Earth, I'm concerned that the first installment will only be the last five minutes of her show like it was last year.

I do like that they tightened it up to two days instead of four this year.

I don't know for sure, of course, but I don't think you have to worry about that. The trailers show the story beginning at Barry's wedding, where Kara Danvers is a guest. So she's already on the right Earth when the story begins -- presumably on Monday's episode of Supergirl.

The first two episodes were great! Last year's crossover, with the growling aliens, left me cold but this is terrific.

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