Here's my review of the recent ELSEWORLDS event. Anyone else have thoughts on it?

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It's far beyond the scope of this blog to address the many successes and failures of the so-called "Arrowverse," overseen by producer Greg Berlanti. My most basic overviews is that the most positive aspect of the "Berlanti-verse" is that it gets so much of the look and spirit of DC Comics right, while the greatest flaw is Berlanti's constant virtue signaling, trumpeting diversity as if it were going out of style.

There were four "crossover events" before this, but the first two focused only on bringing together the casts of ARROW and of THE FLASH. By the time the third one came about, SUPERGIRL had left CBS and was incorporated into the CW verse, even though her "universe" remained on a separate Earth from that of the other two CW heroes. The second crossover also set up the fourth CW-DC synthesis, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, and so this motley crew joined the other three heroes (and all of their ensembles) in the next two crossovers, INVASION and CRISIS ON EARTH-X. Both of these I found mildly entertaining but as badly bloated as most comic-book smorgasbords.

ELSEWORLDS changes things up in that the LEGENDS are excluded from the plot proper (although their episode, aired in between parts two and three of ELSEWORLDS), though the time-traveling protagonists comment about giving the annual crossover "a hard pass." This helped Crossover Number Five maintain a little more consistency, like the comic books on which they're modeled.

Those comics, though, are not those published under the ELSEWORLDS rubric, which were all in the nature of "alternate reality" stories. Instead, this crossover is closer to the model of the annual Justice League-Justice Society crossovers of the 1960s, particularly with respect to the trope of "heroes (or other people) switching powers." This was a trope that was astoundingly popular at DC Comics, meaning that the editors of the time must've thought that the buyers really grooved on figuring out, say, why an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE showed a bunch of scruffy crooks in the costumes of the League:

The TV ELSEWORLDS starts off with a similar, reality-rewriting situation. One day both Barry Allen (Flash) and Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) wake up, and find themselves occupying one another's domiciles. Moreover, everyone in the world looks at Barry and sees Oliver, and vice versa. Further, Oliver has the powers of the Flash, while Barry has archer-abilities, and both have to figure out how the other masters these proclivities. After much comic confusion, the two heroes decide that they may get some help in another universe, and cross over (heh) into the domain of Supergirl and her cousin Superman.

The immediate culprit proves to be mad scientist John Deegan, who in the comics goes by the supervillain name "Doctor Destiny," but he's only the catspaw of an alien plotter known as the Monitor, best known in comics for his role in the world-reshuffling event known as CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. In fact, when ELSEWORLDS wraps up, Berlanti stokes fannish expectations by announcing next year's big event, which is none other than-- CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS: THE TV VERSION.

LIke the comics that seem to have inspired this narrative, ELSEWORLDS is thinly plotted, so there's not much point in cogitating each and every plot-twist. Like the regular episodes of the Berlanti shows, the main emphasis is always upon soap-operatic concerns, whether it's the current state of Green Arrow and his girlfriend or the ways in which gloomy Oliver is uncomfortable with Barry's sunny disposition. The big attraction is the way Berlanti's scripters play with the tropes of comics and the TV shows's mutations of them.  DEN OF GEEK outdoes me by listing all of the Easter Eggs, thus making it possible for me to concentrate only on those I deem the best:

*The fact that the Monitor gives Doctor Destiny a "Book of Destiny." The Monitor of the comics did not operate this way, but while he's holding the book, he looks like a character called Destiny-- who was the literal incarnation of fate-- who started out as a horror-comic story-host but graduated to a major player in Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN universe.

*The brief use of the theme from SMALLVILLE, also one of Berlanti's early superhero-adaptation successes.

*The attempt of the three main heroes-- Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl-- to make contact with Batman in Gotham, and their diverse reactions to his legendary status, with Green Arrow proving rather prickly about the idea of another hardcore non-powered vigilante. In comics, of course, the Golden Age Green Arrow was a tacit knockoff of Batman, and the version of Green Arrow that appeared in SMALLVILLE was allegedly second-choice when Berlanti couldn't get the rights to Batman.

*Shout-outs to the 1966 BATMAN teleseries.

*The main heroes don't meet Batman, but they do meet Batwoman, who's scheduled to join the Legends in future. At one point, Supergirl and Batwoman have a satisfactory teamup, after which the latter remarks that it was the "World's Finest" teamup.

*The visit to Arkham and a hallucinatory sequence brought on by Scarecrow's fear gas.

*The use of the name "Trigger Twins," one of DC's old western concepts.

*Good Superman meets Evil Superman (Deegan). Former's only comment: "Nice suit."

Though it's not as good as the best of the comics-crossovers, the fact that almost everything comes off well bodes well for next year's CRISIS.

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I had to apologize to Action Lad for the number of times I made him pause and/or back up the DVR so I could point out and explain an Easter Egg during Ep. 2. He suggested I save it for the commercials during Ep. 3. HA!

OK, here's my list of references and Easter eggs:

1. On Earth-90, we see multiple recognizable corpses, including Stargirl, Firestorm, Captain (or Citizen) Cold, Vixen, a Ray helmet, a Hawk helmet and what looks like the Green Arrow from Smallville.

2. Earth-90 is named for the year that The Flash with John Wesley Shipp debuted. And Shipp reprises the role here. But because he plays two other roles on the current Flash (Henry Allen of Earth-1 and Jay Garrick of Earth-3), he had to introduce himself to Flash of Earth-1 (also Barry Allen).

3. Red skies and lightning storms, like in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

4. The Monitor (Mar Novu) saying a "Crisis" is coming

5. Flash has to run so fast that he begins to turn into energy, as in CoIE when he turns into the lightning bolt that turns Barry Allen into The Flash.

6. Flash of Earth-90 tries to warn the Arrowverse characters with a garbled message in a flare of energy -- not only as in Crisis, but as in Batman v Superman.

7. Supergirl also threatens to turn into energy, which didn't happen in Crisis. But both she and Barry were killed in that series, and this scene threatens to do the same.

8. Monitor gives renegade psychiatrist John Deegan the "Book of Destiny." This looks exactly like the Book of Souls that Destiny of the Endless carries around. Destiny began (with the book) as a horror host in 1972, but was upgraded to his present status by Neil Gaiman in Sandman. He inhabits the Garden of Souls.

9. John Deegan is one of the two names associated with Dr. Destiny, the Justice League villain who goes all the way back to Justice League of America #5. He's also been identified as John Dee, the name of a 16th century mystic. It's like the show has taken Destiny and Dr. Destiny and put them in a blender.

10. When asked who he is, Superman replies "a friend," just as he did when Lois Lane asked that in Superman: The Movie.

11. Lois Lane wears the same dress on the show that Margot Kidder did in her dinner date in Superman: The Movie.

12. Superman catches a helicopter and sets it down gently, just as he does in Superman: The Movie.

13. Superman turns a lump of coal into a diamond, just as he did in Superman III.

14. "Good" Superman fights "bad" Superman, just as occurs in Superman II (and about a million Silver Age stories).

15. The racing-around-the-earth-to-change-time trick is lifted from Superman: The Movie.

16. The Kent farm set from Smallville is used.

17. The theme from Smallville is used.

18. "Bad" Superman threatens to break Flash's neck, mirroring when Superman broke Zod's neck in Man of Steel.

19. Lois references the Jewel Mountains.

20. Lois references the Science Council.

21. Lois is pregnant, and in the comics that has already resulted in Jonathan Kent.

22. The discussion of her pregnancy is an oblique reference to "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex."

23. The Deegan Superman's black suit is from "Death of Superman."

24. Barry and Oliver Queen become the Trigger Twins, lifting the name of two sets of identical twins from DC Comics. Wayne and Walter were a heroic pair of gunslingers in the Old West, introduced in “All-Star Western” in 1951. Tom and Tad premiered in “Detective Comics” in 1993, a pair of twins separated at birth who team up when they bump into each other robbing the same bank at the same time.

25. Ivo Labs is a reference to Prof. Anthony Ivo, another longtime JLA foe.Ivo has appeared previously, in a flashback in Arrow Season 2. (Where he died.)

26. AMAZO is lifted almost completely from the comics. He's from Ivo labs, but the name had been used previously as Ivo's boat on Arrow.

27. Oliver argues that he is the "original vigilante," when it's common knowledge that Green Arrow was a Batman rip-off. Although he was the first vigilante in the continuity following Zero Hour until whenever that was replaced. This could also be a reference to how Green Arrow is essentially the Batman of Earth-1, even though there apparently was a real one.

28. Oliver mentions sleeping with/dating radio personality Vesper Fairchild. She existed in the comics, a radio personality who slept with/dated Bruce Wayne. (And is dead.)

29. Kate Kane is Bruce's first cousin and Batwoman in the comics.

30. The WiFi password is "Alfred," as in Pennyworth.

31. The Shakespeare bust is the one used to open access to the Bat-Poles in the 1966 Batman TV show.

32. Kate Kane says “one of Bruce’s R&D guys still works in the building,” a likely reference to Lucius Fox.

33. Kate says she and Kara would be a "World's Finest" team, referencing the "World's Finest Team" of Superman and Batman from World's Finest Comics.

34. Holy Bat-Villains: Arkham Asylum cell names include Nygma, E. (Riddler); Cobblepot, O. (Penguin); Isley, P. (Poison Ivy); Karlo, B. (Clayface); and Guggenheim, M. (executive producer Marc Guggenheim).

35. Psycho-Pirate appears at Arkham, who was a major player in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

36. The storage room yields Riddler’s cane, Bane’s mask, Scarecrow’s fear gas, Mr. Freeze’s freeze gun, the Penguin’s umbrella and Hugo Strange’s sunglasses.

37. A riddle on The Riddler’s door reads “what’s blue and gray and red all over,” which may indicate why Batman has been missing for three years.

33. The team battles cops played by the same actors who embody Arrow villains Malcolm Merlyn, Ricardo Diaz and Slade Wilson’s son.

34. Slade Wilson's son is named Kane Wolfman instead of Joe Wilson, although it's played by the same actor. (It's an Elseworlds.) I assume that's in honor of Gil Kane and Marv Wolfman.

35. The team fight the cops at the corner of Nolan and Burton, in reference to Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton.

36. When learning of the crisis on the Sunday episode, Ralph Dibny remarks “and it isn’t even Tuesday” – which is when “Flash” normally airs.

37. Dibny thinks AMAZO “just Klaatu Barada Kickto’ed our asses,” a reference to Gort the robot from the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

38. Barry Allen, Cisco Ramone and Michael Holt all reference Freaky Friday and Quantum Leap.

39. A woman shouts "Bizarro" during the good Superman/bad SUperman fight.

40. The sketch that Oliver draws super-fast was actually drawn by Jim Lee.

OK, what'd I miss?

28. Oliver mentions sleeping with/dating radio personality. She existed in the comics, a radio personality who slept with/dated Bruce Wayne. (And is dead.)

Is there an omission in this sentence?

The Baron said:

28. Oliver mentions sleeping with/dating radio personality. She existed in the comics, a radio personality who slept with/dated Bruce Wayne. (And is dead.)

Is there an omission in this sentence?

Whoops! Yeah, I fixed it. Here's how it should read:

28. Oliver mentions sleeping with/dating radio personality Vesper Fairchild. She existed in the comics, a radio personality who slept with/dated Bruce Wayne. (And is dead.)

A few more for your list, Cap - 

The giant hammer that Lois is wielding is the "Solar Hammer" from Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman run.  It's been a while since I've re-read that series, but some quick Googling reveals that it has its origins on New Olympus, and that Superman used it in conjunction with the "Cosmic Anvil" to forge miniature suns for the baby Sun-Eater that he keeps in his zoo in the Fortress of Solitude.

The Flash of Earth 90 comments to Diggle that "you're not wearing your ring."  The implication being that Diggle is the Green Lantern of that Earth.  For several years now, fans have been circulating the idea that Diggle could be the "Arrowverse" version of John Stewart  -- an idea that actor David Ramsay has been encouraging at various convention appearances.

The woman who fights Caitlin and blasts her with Mr. Freeze's gun is Nora Fries.  I don't believe she's ever referred to by name in the episode, but advanced casting announcements confirmed that it's supposed to be her.

At the end of the episode the Psycho-Pirate uses the line "Worlds will live.  Worlds will die and nothing will ever be the same" which is of course the tag line that DC used to advertise the original Crisis on Infinite Earths series back in the eighties.

Good ones, KS! quick responses:

1) My wife asked me about the hammer and I was dumbfounded. She said, "Isn't that Thor's hammer?" and I had no answer -- I mean, Thor is Marvel, and using Mjolnir would invite a lawsuit, and it didn't really look like Mjolnir, so I had no idea what to say. I read something somewhere that suggested it was Steel's hammer, but it had a Kirby design, so that didn't seem right. Thanks for providing the answer -- I'll sleep better tonight!

2) I thought I'd put the John Diggle/Green Lantern thing in my list. but I see on second look that I somehow left it out. But yeah, I knew that one. It actually took me a second to understand what "John, you're not wearing your ring!" meant, since I didn't know until this show aired that there was some sort of fan theory that Diggle is really Stewart. (John Stewart Diggle?)

3) I knew that was Nora Fries from the IMDB list of characters. I don't know why they did that -- I don't think we've ever seen Nora in any other fashion than frozen in a test tube. Why not use Victor?  *shrug* Whatever. It was obviously Mr. Freeze's weapon.

4) I use that in my column this week. It posts Thursday. I hope y'all read it!

KSwolf said:

The Flash of Earth 90 comments to Diggle that "you're not wearing your ring." The implication being that Diggle is the Green Lantern of that Earth. For several years now, fans have been circulating the idea that Diggle could be the "Arrowverse" version of John Stewart -- an idea that actor David Ramsay has been encouraging at various convention appearances.

I hadn’t heard that theory, so the ring reference sailed by me. I haven’t said this before, but John Diggle’s late, unlamented brother had the name Andy Diggle, which is also the name of a real comic book writer. Seems odd to me.

At the end of the episode the Psycho-Pirate uses the line "Worlds will live. Worlds will die and nothing will ever be the same" which is of course the tag line that DC used to advertise the original Crisis on Infinite Earths series back in the eighties.

It just occurred to me that they might merge Supergirl’s Earth with the Arrow/Flash Earth in the Crisis.

Captain Comics said:

My wife asked me about the hammer and I was dumbfounded. She said, "Isn't that Thor's hammer?" and I had no answer -- I mean, Thor is Marvel, and using Mjolnir would invite a lawsuit, and it didn't really look like Mjolnir, so I had no idea what to say. I read something somewhere that suggested it was Steel's hammer, but it had a Kirby design, so that didn't seem right. Thanks for providing the answer -- I'll sleep better tonight!

Fortunately, my wife didn’t ask me about that hammer, as I had no clue.

I knew that was Nora Fries from the IMDB list of characters. I don't know why they did that -- I don't think we've ever seen Nora in any other fashion than frozen in a test tube. Why not use Victor? *shrug* Whatever. It was obviously Mr. Freeze's weapon.

I suspect they didn’t use Victor (or the other baddies in their rubber rooms) because he/they are still being used for the last season of Gotham.

Richard Willis said:

I suspect they didn’t use Victor (or the other baddies in their rubber rooms) because he/they are still being used for the last season of Gotham.

I suspect you're right, because it's obvious that those characters' TV rights are currently tied up at Fox. I mean "it's obvious" once you pointed it out!

It also wouldn't surprise me if they wanted to tee up a new-ish female opponent for Batwoman down the road. Next up, Blockbusterette!

They do tend to match opponents by gender.

I'm a few days behind in my TV watching, so I just got to see "Elseworlds." I may watch it again looking for the Easter eggs; I just let it wash over me and enjoyed the story itself. Some thoughts:

  • I regularly watch The Flash and Supergirl, and only watch Arrow during the crossovers. (I tried, but I just didn't take to it.) So seeing Oliver Queen wake up in Barry Allen's life was disorienting for me, too.
  • Is Oliver this much of a jerk on his own show all the time?
  • Of course, Oliver looked even more like a jerk because they overdid Barry the Happy-Go-Lucky Guy.
  • I thought Team Flash's refusal to believe that Barry and Oliver were in a Freaky Friday situation out of character for them. All of them have experienced weirder stuff than that.
  • And locking Barry and Oliver in the Pipeline? Harsh!
  • So there ARE toilets in the Pipeline cells!
  • I got a charge out of seeing how much The Monitor looked like his comics counterpart. The braids worked on screen better than I would have thought.
  • Nice touch bringing in The Flash from the 1990 TV series.
  • I suppose it was nice to have Barry and Oliver find Kara on the Kent farm from Smallville. I suppose it would mean more to me if I ever watched that show, but I never did. 
  • When Barry and Oliver and Kara went to Gotham, I thought they missed a bet by not having the cops and cop cars in the same uniforms and livery as on Gotham the TV series. I know that Gotham the TV series can't be mixed in with the Arrowverse, but still ...
  • So Bruce Wayne just up and bugged out? Funny, that was the premise of the Birds of Prey TV series ... maybe that show is one of the wayward worlds in the upcoming Crisis?
  • Nice that all the geeky characters -- Cisco, Mr. Terrific, Barry -- understood the difference between a Freaky Friday situation and a Quantum Leap situation.
  • Ah, Felicity Smoak ... the reason I tried to watch Arrow. I just picked the wrong time
  • What's this about not telling Felicity about the Freaky Friday situation? That's just stupid.
  • "John, you're not wearing your ring." Does this mean we'll see Green Lanterns? 
  • Man alive, I wish they portrayed Superman this way in the movies ... !
  • Just when I was about to complain that they left the Martian Manhunter out of the crossover again, he shows up. He was in it for, like, 15 seconds, but at least he was there.
  • Nice surprise having doofus Gary from Legends of Tomorrow show up.
  • Not so nice surprise having useless Ron Troupe -- I mean, James (not Jimmy) Olsen -- from Supergirl show up. 
  • "You're the Green Arrow. But don't become Oliver Queen." Thanks, Iris. At least the TV shows understand that broody and angsty and mean works for some heroes, but not all of them. The movies need to learn that.
  • Okay, Superman's been to Argo City -- shades of Superman Returns -- which serves to explain why he hasn't been bopping in to help Supergirl every episode. So is the notion that he'll take a sabbatical there, with Lois Lane ... who's expecting!
  • This Lois Lane is okay, although I didn't like her calling Clark "Smallville" and "Kansas," a bad trait carried over from Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. I still don't. I know it's meant to be perceived as endearing, but I find it condescending. And irritating.
  • And I'm old school enough that it doesn't sit right that Superman is having a child out of wedlock. 
  • Anyway, rumor was that this crossover was to be a backdoor pilot for a Superman series. It definitely was for Batwoman. Did they pass the test?

Overall, I enjoyed it, although I admit I liked "Crisis on Earth-X" a little more.

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