What Won’t Be in Crisis on Infinite Earths by Jerry Whitworth
With the Arrowverse’s upcoming “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the most ambitious crossover in television history continues to grow by leaps and bounds every day. The Arrowverse, which already touts Arrow, Flash (including the 1990 series), Constantine, Vixen, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Freedom Fighters: The Ray, Black Lightning, Batwoman (which has hinted at being part of the Dark Knight film series), and Deathstroke as series making up its multiverse, will allegedly be adding Batman (which includes Legends of the Superheroes and the Batman ’66 series of comics), Wonder Woman (which has been connected to Batman in the comics), DC Animated Universe, Smallville, Birds of Prey (which has hinted at being part of Tim Burton’s Batman films), Superman Returns (which is considered a spiritual successor to the Richard Donner Superman films), Lucifer, and Titans (which has its own spin-off in Doom Patrol) to the mix. As an aside, if this seems difficult to keep up with, search “Tommy Westphall Universe” or “St. Elsewhere Universe,” which many of these shows are already linked up into, to really make your brain spin. That’s over five decades worth of DC Comics’ adaptations rolled into five hours of television aired across a span of two months. At this point, there may only be a handful of adaptations that won’t be mixed up into the event. Before we take a look at what likely won’t be included and why, it should be noted while the crossover appears to in some manner be incorporating the DC Animated Universe, we won’t include animated series (though, as noted, several animated shows are part of the Arrowverse already). If you wanted to learn more about DC’s animated products prior to the DCAU, check this out. Now, onto what won’t be part of Crisis on Infinite Earths!
Following the popularity of the Superman serials in theaters, a television series was created with a new cast (although, Lois Lane actress Noel Neill from the serials took over the series role with the second season and on). Actor George Reeves replaced Kirk Alyn as the Man of Steel from the serials in Adventures of Superman becoming a cultural phenomenon (interestingly, Alyn went on to play the hero Blackhawk and Lois Lane’s father General Sam Lane in later roles). Arguably, the series did too well as Reeves wanted to take on film roles but was typecast as his superheroic persona and portrayed Superman until his apparent suicide. The title Adventures of Superman took its name from the popular radio series that ended to make way for the television series and when Superman transitioned to television as an animated series, Filmation chose to call its cartoon The New Adventures of Superman where it reunited much of the cast from the aforementioned radio series while playing on the popularity of the canceled live action series. Between the radio series running from 1940 to 1951, the serials in 1948 and 1950, television series from 1952 to 1958, and animated series from 1966 to 1970, the Adventures brand formed its own some three decade span featuring the world’s most famous superhero. Undoubtedly, if Crisis on Infinite Earths could incorporate this entity into its event, it would. However, short of using CGI to somehow make it work, its unlikely to emerge because much of those involved have passed away. This idea is certainly reinforced by the fact Noel Neill went from starring in the serials to the TV series and emerged in the 1978 Superman film, 1990s Superboy live action series, and Superman Returns (2006) before her passing. Likewise, Jimmy Olsen actor Jack Larson appeared in Superboy, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Superman Returns before his passing. In case you were wondering, however, Adventures of Superman is part of the Tommy Westphall multiverse theory.
After Filmation lost the rights to DC Comics’ myriad of properties to Hanna-Barbera for its failed Super Friends animated series, the company decided to up its game by tackling a live action television series in Captain Marvel when Hanna-Barbera lost the license. A franchise derailed by DC Comics over its similarities to Superman, the company nonetheless licensed the Marvel Family property in the ’70s which opened the door for Filmation to adapt it for its series Shazam! With no budget to speak of, the property’s format changed to that of Billy Batson traveling the country in an RV and aiding those in need. The show was fairly successful as a Saturday morning offering and arguably jump started the move to bring live action superheroes to TV as it was quickly followed by Wonder Woman, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Spider-Man, Man from Atlantis, Incredible Hulk, Legends of the Superheroes, and the Greatest American Hero and even produced its own spin-off in the Secrets of Isis. Owned by Filmation, Isis lived on in live action and animation as decades later, DC Comics produced their own Isis who is currently adapted in Legends of Tomorrow. Despite its offering to history, Shazam! is not well remembered and the character of Captain Marvel is often compared to Superman and Crisis on Infinite Earths already has at least three Supermen. Shazam! ran for three seasons where Jackson Bostwick portrayed Captain Marvel for the first season and was replaced in the role by John Davey in its second season (while Michael Gray played Billy Batson throughout the series). Filmation later produced an animated Captain Marvel series and the character appeared in Hanna-Barbera’s Legends of the Superheroes portrayed by Garrett Craig as Superman was unavailable due to the film franchise.
Undoubtedly not the first superhero brand you think of against the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel/Shazam, and so on, Swamp Thing has nonetheless had an impressive presence in the world outside of the comics. Starring in two feature films (the first directed by Wes Craven of Nightmare on Elm Street fame), two live action television series (the most recent this year), and an animated television series with accompanying toyline, the character has certainly been in the limelight with the public more often than arguably more famous properties. The actor most closely associated with these adaptations is Dick Durock who portrayed Swamp Thing in both films and all 72 episodes of the TV show across three seasons. Sadly, Durock passed away in 2009 which is why it’s unlikely Swamp Thing will end up being a part of the event. Still, Derek Mears took up Durock’s mantle for the most recent television series and Mears also portrayed the supervillain Dwarfstar on the Flash so it’s within the realm of possibility his Swamp Thing could put in an appearance. It should be noted, Swamp Thing was alluded to in two different instances in Legends of Tomorrow. First, as part of a low budget horror film series called Swamp Thang in an aberrant time line (each sequel adding another ‘a’ to ‘Thang’) and second by John Constantine as an associate.
Running for 100 episodes across four seasons (its final two as The Adventures of Superboy), Superboy was produced for television by Ilya and Alexander Salkind who produced the Superman films and Supergirl film of the 1980s. Coinciding with Superman’s 50th anniversary, the series introduced such characters as Lex Luthor, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Metallo, Bizarro, Toyman-inspired Nick Knack, and Kryptonite Kid as its first season featured John Haymes Newton as Superboy and Scott James Wells as Luthor but were recast in season two and on with Gerard Christopher and Sherman Howard, respectively. Simply put, Superboy is very much the forgotten Superman series and with Crisis already having at least three Supermen, it’s unlikely it will call upon characters from this show.
Following the success of the television series Friends, there was an effort to try and capitalize on its quirky humor but offer a twist that could, conceivably, attract an even larger audience. Likely, it was this desire that resulted in 1997’s Justice League of America. Inspired by the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Justice League that saw the group without many of its big guns (Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern Hal Jordan or John Stewart, Aquaman, etc) and steered more toward humor, a pilot was produced for a TV series where superheroes Flash, Green Lantern (Guy Gardner), and the Atom live together as a trio of bachelors that team with heroines Fire and Ice against the forces of evil under the guidance of Martian Manhunter as the Justice League of America. Sadly, the humor didn’t hit with its audience and its special effects were decidedly too expensive for anything less than a hit so the show wasn’t picked up and only aired overseas as a TV movie. This film’s lack of inclusion for the Arrowverse’s Crisis is twofold: it’s relatively unknown since it never aired on television in the United States and the film’s biggest star, David Ogden Stiers who portrayed Martian Manhunter, sadly passed away last year. That’s not to say its inclusion maybe impossible: Michelle Hurd, who starred as Fire, has had a remarkable career across many genre series including as the featured antagonist of Blindspot, a series executive produced by Greg Berlanti who is one of the primary architects of the Arrowverse. Interestingly, for the television series Powerless, Fire (as Green Fury) was that show’s primary superheroine guest star.
Produced at a time where Lois Lane and Clark Kent were engaged to be married in the comics, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman featured the developing romantic relationship of the two reporters at the Daily Planet against the backdrop of various malicious entities threatening Metropolis. DC Comics went so far as to coordinate with the show seeing the couple of Lois and Clark marry on the television series and in the comic books within months of each other. Early on in Supergirl‘s run, efforts were made to offer prominent parts for Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher who portrayed Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane in Lois & Clark, respectively. Cain played Jeremiah Danvers, adopted father of Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, in the show’s first two seasons as Hatcher was Rhea, mother to Mon-El, in its second season where she played that season’s primary antagonist. Where Rhea died at the end of the second season, the character of Jeremiah was clearly meant to return but as the show enters its fifth season, there’s no sign of a continuation of his story as he was only mentioned once in the show’s previous season.
As announcements came out about Tyler Hoechlin returning as Superman for Crisis on Infinite Earths and Brandon Routh again donning the Man of Steel’s costume in a Kingdom Come-inspired version of Superman, it seemed as though Dean Cain’s return would undoubtedly follow and yet, while Tom Welling agreed to return to the role he played in Smallville, there’s been no mention of Cain. In fact, last month Cain was asked if he would return to the character for Crisis and he responded he was not yet asked. In all likelihood, Jeremiah’s story will not continue and Cain will not be a fourth Superman due to the actor’s politics. Simply put, Cain is viewed as an outspoken conservative where many of his views run in opposition of stories being told in the various Arrowverse shows. Cain’s role in Supergirl seemingly only gave a larger spotlight to the actor to express his views in the media which could have caused harm to the brand or, at the very least, soured his relationship with the voices behind the series. Even today, Cain and outspoken conservative actress Kristy Swanson have used their celebrity to bring attention to their live performance called “FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers” about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and their involvement in the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.