The Arrowverse: DC’s Real Justice League
The line of DC shows on The CW network, or better known as the Arrowverse, is something that no other television franchise has ever accomplished. While multiple production companies, DC included, are trying to captivate on the ‘Cinematic Universe’ fade on the big screen, very few companies are even attempting what CW have accomplished with their programs. The TV shows Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow were created by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Ali Adler, Phil Klemmer, and comic book legend Geoff Johns. They operate with their own complex stories and different characters, while getting to borrow from each of the other shows whenever desired. This concept climaxes with the massive annual ‘Crossover Event’ which has stories that trump most team up movies (sorry, not sorry, Age of Ultron.) Sure the production value isn’t amazing and the writing gets a little too soap opera-y from time to time, but there are many reasons these shows have a huge fan following. The creative teams on each of individual level and a strong production team at the CW have made the real Justice League experience, it’s just something you watch at home.
For the past seven years, audiences have seen the Arrowverse grow as they discovered a wide array of characters and lore. It began in 2012 with Arrow, title character played by Stephen Amell. It was a fairly popular show that had some twists and a lot of DC comic references. The Arrow show captures the part of the DC universe that has the brooding vigilante which has to cross the line of the law to be the hero, but never at the cost of ones soul. In their second season of Arrow, another known DC hero appeared for a cameo. It was Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin, and his story of becoming The Flash. The following season of Arrow was joined by a spinoff show The Flash. This show represented more with DC’s science nerd fanbase. People in the DC universe that answer complex problems with techno-babble and formulas that make no sense to fix dark matter mysteries and timeline paradoxes. The next year DC attempted to create a new superhero show on a different network and it didn’t work out as planned.
Supergirl, played by Melissa Benoist, had a rocky start on CBS. Eventually to boost ratings they had a cameo from The Flash. It was the highest rated episode so they eventually brought her over to the CW and had the show officially join the Arrowverse. Eventually the show found its place to represent justice in all forms and show the political side of DC’s universe. Characters who just want to do what is right and highlights how difficult that is sometimes. Finally the greatest spinoff of them all, in my opinion, was formed. By 2016, Arrow and Flash had introduced so many beloved side characters that they simply couldn’t keep them contained to single appearances. Legends of Tomorrow is a show that can combine all the side characters (some heroes, others villains) that people wanted to keep watching, as well as introduce any other DC properties that didn’t exactly fit into the other shows. This show doesn’t have any rules and gets to represent the crazy side of the DC universe. They can fight zombies in the civil war with Jonah Hex or send demons to hell with John Constantine. It is the most comicbook-y show of them all. Now with four shows, The Arrowverse is massive so their cross over events have to match that level.
I will be honest, 60% of the reason I watch these shows are for the crossover events. I love the shows all for their own reasons but the annual crossover events are basically 3 hour long movies that rival anything DC or Marvel is doing on the big screen. Because there are so many shows on one channel, spanning from Monday to Thursday, the CW has been given a very unique opportunity. On Monday they can have a story start with The Flash, move onto Arrow the following day, continue to Supergirl, and finish Thursday in Legends of Tomorrow. During these events, none of the characters are restricted to their shows and everyone can appear in every episode.
Imagine an actual Justice League movie with Green Arrow, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Superman and Supergirl, The Black Canary, The Atom, Killer Frost, Captain Cold and Heatwave, Reverse Flash, and dozens more all in a complex story fighting cosmic beings or alternate dimension versions of themselves. The DC cinematic universe just isn’t ready for something at that scale. Even Marvel took 12 years to introduce the concept of time travel, while these shows had it in year 3. These crossover events allow DC to actually flex a real comic book Justice League story. Such as Elseworlds, Earth-X, and Crisis on Infinite Earths (thats next year’s but I’m really excited.) They can get away with the more elaborate story lines because of this universe and the themes they had set up. That being said, it would be nice to see some of these events with a Triple-AAA budget.
The CW channel is not “the superhero network.” They have plenty of other shows like Supernatural, Charmed, Rosewell, and many more that don’t require any CG at all. My person favorite is Jane The Virgin. The network does well with what they have but are not equip to compete with the production value of HBO or Netflix original shows. The Arrowverse suffers heavily because of this. The fight scenes come off cheap most of the time. The costumes look like something a cosplayer made. The visual effects are always noticeable. But money also effects the actors and writers as well. There are times the writing will really make your eyes roll and you sit there as an audience member thinking “why wouldn’t you just say this one thing and then there wouldn’t be conflict.” For the most part, we as fans kind of ignore these issues. But there are times it is incredibly apparent that the Justice League I am watching doesn’t have Bruce Wayne’s trust fund.
I really enjoy watching through these shows. They give me moments from the comics that put a big smile on my dumb nerd face. Sure the CG for a fight between Gorilla Grodd and King Shark doesn’t look amazing, but the fact they had the balls to put that in an episode is amazing. Even the slightest references to Bizzaro or the Green Lanterns from the creative teams shows they care about the source material. I am excited to see what the future of these shows can do. In the fall of 2019 they are starting a Batwoman show that will join the Arrowverse roster. There is also a Black Lightening show that hasn’t been folded in just yet, but I’m sure the plans are in the works.
Marvel has tried to duplicate this feeling with their Netflix series but it didn’t really work. DC has always had a grounded presence in television. They had produced decades of quality animated shows and the other properties on the DC Unlimited app are promising (as long as they don’t cancel them after one episode, sorry I’m still hurt about Swamp Thing..) The CW Arrowverse is a complex web of heroes and stories that can make DC fans out of any viewer. It also makes existing ones proud to see their fan favorites included. If you haven’t gotten around to watching yet, start wherever the hell you want and see if it is for you. Hopefully you catch up before the next big Crisis.
Shows watched and article written by: Troy Smith