How Introducing The Flash on ‘Arrow’ Mucks Up the Shared DC Universe

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

I know, The CW didn’t introduce us to “The Flash” on last night’s episode of Arrow titled The Scientist, but it did introduce us to Barry Allen, the man that will become the Scarlet Speedster. I’m actually not here to criticize anything about the episode or about Allen’s introduction- I thought Grant Gustin played the part very well, and I’m looking forward to next week’s mid-season finale and the conclusion of his Starling City story arc. Based on this small sample, I think there’s potential for The CW’s stand alone Flash series to be very good, but I’m strictly thinking big picture here.

With yesterday’s news that Wonder Woman had been cast and is now confirmed to appear in Zack Snyder’s ‘Batman vs. Superman’ film, the Man of Steel sequel has hit a critical mass in two ways: 1.) If any more DC superheroes appear in the 2015 film, it should realistically just be packaged as a Justice League picture, and 2.) Snyder has now cast as many Justice Leaguers as he can without tinkering with the albeit tattered fabric of the shared DC live-action universe. The second point is what I want to discuss.

Since the Adrianne Palicki Wonder Woman pilot never made it to air, and since Christopher Nolan made it very clear that he had taken his Batman and gone home after The Dark Knight Rises, Zack Snyder was free to craft a new Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince in his DC universe, with no movie or television continuity landmines to traverse. For example: if Snyder had cast someone to play Green Lantern in the Man of Steel sequel, that move would essentially signal DC’s abandonment of the universe that Green Lantern already appeared in in 2011. As disappointing as that film was, I’m not 100% sure they’re fully committed to doing that yet. Batman and Wonder Woman, on the other hand, were both currently “available”, but introducing The Flash on Arrow changes Barry Allen’s Snyder-verse relationship status to ‘It’s complicated’.


Casting the entirety of DC Comics’ “big three” is no small task, when you think about the fact that even Joss Whedon didn’t get to cast his Avengers team. That had already been done for him, and granted, he did fantastic work with the amazing pieces he inherited, but a very strong infrastructure was built before he began steering the ship. Snyder is not only steering DC’s ship, he’s building it as well. Up until now he’s been free to build with whatever tools and parts he desires, but from this point forward DC will have to show their hand with regard to the relationship between Snyder’s universe and their CW universe. Are they the same? Do they run concurrently without intersecting? Or will they directly conflict each other?

Until last night, this wasn’t (and still isn’t) that big of an issue with Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow character, because despite the presence of an archer on The Avengers super-team, most incarnations of the CORE Justice League do not include Oliver Queen. Snyder’s Justice League could co-exist beside The CW’s Arrow, but it cannot avoid such entanglements with The CW’s version of The Flash.

If the Man of Steel sequel is building to the inevitable Justice League team-up film (which it is), The Flash will have to be cast. By that time, The CW’s version of The Flash will be up and running (sorry) and will have created a fan base for a character that has not been portrayed in live action since John Wesley Shipp hung up his boots in 1991. I’d assume the goal is for that show to succeed, but what happens when Snyder casts someone else to play Barry Allen in his DC universe? Doesn’t that cut The CW’s Flash’s legs out from under him?

*UPDATE: Flash Reportedly a Lock for Batman vs. Superman (ugh.)

The same issue arose in 2006 when Brandon Routh was cast as Superman, a character than Tom Welling had been playing for 5 years, and would play for 5 more after that. The difference was, Welling was playing a younger version of the character, one that clearly existed in a different universe, and fans were able to reconcile this coupled with the clear indication that Routh’s Superman was based on Christopher Reeve’s portrayal and continuity.

Grant Gustin is a perfect Barry Allen for The CW, but he’s not a Snyder-verse Barry Allen. The Snyder-verse Barry Allen will have to interact with a 41 year-old Batman, a Batman who at one critical point in Batman-Flash comic book history said that “Barry [Allen] is the kind of man that I would’ve hoped to become if my parents hadn’t been murdered.” Would a grizzled, 40 year-old Batman say that about a 23 year old kid? I’m not implying that this exact quote has to reflect their movie character’s relationship, but I’d prefer the eventual Justice League movie’s version of Batman and The Flash not have a Live Free or Die Hard thing going on. The “mentor and the newbie” thing can definitely work, but they’d have to meet in the middle somewhere.

I’d love to see the movie version of The Flash handled in a manner similar to the way Hawkeye was introduced in Marvel’s movie universe. He just sort of showed up, everyone knew who he was, and no one needed 120 minutes of backstory to accept him as a viable supporting character and member of the team. The Flash is a cool character, but is the casual superhero movie fan really ready for things like a Cosmic Treadmill and villains like Captain Cold, Mirror Master and Captain Boomerang? The answer is no, but luckily, to be an entertaining facet of a Justice League film, The Flash doesn’t need all of that. He just needs to be fast and witty (and have a good comedic chemistry with whoever ends up playing Green Lantern).

Previous post:

Next post: