This week, the Arrowverse confirmed yet another nostalgia cameo for their CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS event special. Tom Welling, the former lead of SMALLVILLE, announced that he would be reprising his role as Clark Kent/Superman for what might be DC’s biggest crossover yet. It’ll likely be the TV version of AVENGERS: ENDGAME. But that shouldn’t be a surprise. To adapt CRISIS in any form might as well come with the requirement “go big or go home.”

I’ll do my best to summarize CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Released in between 1985-86, the narrative acted as one massive retcon for DC, whose excuse for various versions of its characters across the Golden and Silver Ages was “multiverse.” All these universes are threatened by a being known as the Anti-Monitor, who seeks to destroy the entire multiverse. With the stakes greater than ever, DC heroes across multiple parallel Earths team up to defeat this threat. What followed were the deaths of significant superheroes (most notably Supergirl and Barry Allen) and every world merging into a single Earth. All other characters and timelines vanish from existence, save for a select few. For more info, click here.

This team gets bigger with every crossover, Courtesy of the CW

Unlike other franchises (cough DCEU cough), the Arrowverse took its time hyping up this event. Appearances from the Monitor and Psycho-Pirate in last year’s ELSEWORLDS foreshadowed something massive in the background. The multiverse concept has existed in this world for years, as evident by SUPERGIRL’s network change and FLASH Season 2. But the arrival of John Wesley Shipp’s Flash from Earth-90 suggested something unique: this multiverse extended to past DC shows. And if the 90’s Flash TV show existed, who else could show up to fight alongside our heroes?

Here’s who the CW have confirmed so far:

Generations of Supermen

We must see more uniform than this, Courtesy of the WB/CW

The Arrowverse wouldn’t be where it is today without SMALLVILLE. Even with its “no tights, no flights” rule, the show thrived for a whopping 10 seasons. And, while Welling has often been ambivalent on reprising his role, it’s still a treat to see him back for CRISIS. This time we actually get to see what he looks like with the suit on.

But this won’t be the only Man of Steel to fight in CRISIS. Naturally Arrowverse Superman- played by Tyler Hoechlin– will return alongside his Lois Lane, played by Elizabeth Tulloch. While Henry Cavill’s Superman never quite gelled with audiences despite a perfect Supes physique, Hochelin nailed his good-natured charisma. This Superman is a golden boy who believes in his cousin’s ability to protect the world, which is great. And yes I’m definitely excited to see Hochelin confront Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor, easily one of the best Luthor depictions to date.

The Atom’s older super-suit, Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The most unique cameo comes  from a cast member familiar to most Arrowverse fans. Brandon Routh– who plays this universe’s Ray Palmer- will be reprising his role as Superman from 2006’s Superman Returns. There have been some sly jabs poked at his crossover relationship with Kara, but this cameo is truly ballsy. I’m speculating he’s CRISIS’ stand-in for Earth II Superman, a continuation of the Golden Age Christopher Reeve Superman. Ground zero for two “original” heroes.

Alongside Welling, SMALLVILLE actress Erica Durance will also be reprising her role as Lois Lane. Durance, like most veteran DC actors cameoing in the Arrowverse, has an established role in SUPERGIRL as Kara’s mother Alura. No word yet on whether Dean Cain or Helen Slater will return as her foster parents.

Old Man Bruce

Batman has always been the character Arrowverse stories seem to dodge around. ARROW clearly took some Nolan film inspiration, even using established characters like Ra’s al Ghoul. But it took until the upcoming BATWOMAN show for them to actually use Gotham City as a setting. Possibly due to GOTHAM ending its run on a different network.

And by god are bat-fans getting the best cameo of them all: Kevin “I am the Night” Conroy. The definitive Batman voice for twenty-seven years, it’s great to see Conroy actually perform a live-action version of this character. Given his age, however, it’s unlikely we’ll see some Batfleck Arkham warehouse-style action.

Don’t Mess with Old Bruce Wayne, Courtesy of Warner Bros. Animation

My theory: they’re going for the “Old Bruce” characterization from BATMAN BEYOND. That Bruce Wayne might have retired the cowl, but he was still gruff and no-nonsense. Not to mention disturbingly effective with a cane. I’m definitely interested in how the writers will establish Wayne’s dynamic with Kate Kane. Being cousins, there’s a history between these two and it’ll be something to see Bruce confront a parallel Earth relative.

Now whether they actually go through “Mark Hamill as Joker,” if you believe the rumors, will also be something. He’s already played the Trickster- a callback to his 90’s TV role- so we’ll get even more doppelganger encounters.

Holy Baby Boomer Cameos!

Some of these cameos are tough to determine, given their cultural significance. Two big ones, however, are Burt Ward and Lynda Carter. Best known for playing Robin on the 1966 BATMAN show and Wonder Woman on the 1977 show, these are some serious legacy figures. Whether they actually play their original characters is still a mystery.

Carter is no newbie to the Arrowverse. She had a reoccurring role in SUPERGIRL as U.S. President Olivia Marsden, who resigned in Season 4 due to the reveal of her alien identity. While the franchise established that Princess Diana’s island home Themysceria exists, that happened on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, i.e. a different Earth. So no one knows whether Carter will twirl into her iconic outfit.

President Not-Wonder Woman, Courtesy of the CW

Ward’s character identity is also unconfirmed, but I’d like to believe he’s an older Robin from the 60’s show. Maybe even a version of Nightwing who left Batman to do his own hero schtick. If nothing else, it would be fun to watch the Adam West camp world mesh against Arrow’s grittier tone. Everyone else leans into their goofiness so they’d feel more at him.

Plus I really just want to see Ward make “Holy…..” references every other sentence. Hell, it would even be cool to see him bond with Kevin Conroy’s Bruce.

90’s CRISIS Flashback

Admittedly John Wesley Shipp’s Flash cameo in ELSEWORLDS, despite being awesome as hell, was mostly setup. The guy shows up for like a few minutes to warn everyone about the Monitor. Then he’s immediately sent back to his original world. In between those moment, we get a subtle confirmation that John Diggle might be Green Lantern John Stewart. It felt anticlimactic but hopefully this crossover gives him more meant to chew on.

A Nostalgic Blast from the Past, Courtesy of the CW

Shipp is no stranger to the Arrowverse. With the exception of Tom Cavannah, no FLASH actor has played more emotional roles than him. First playing Barry Allen’s incarcerated father Henry, he then took on the role of Jay Garrick from Earth II. And, as cool as Shipp wearing that winged helmet was, seeing him in the foam muscle 90’s suit is even cooler.

Like most of CRISIS, it’s unclear what Earth-90 Flash’s role will be. His world was clearly ravaged by the Monitor’s test, leaving behind plenty of DC TV bodies in the apocalyptic wreckage. Some bodies even stem from different shows, like 90’s FLASH Captain Cold, Arrowverse Guardian and Hawkgirl and SMALLVILLE Green Arrow. Given how this is a Barry Allen, perhaps he’ll be the one who sacrifices himself to destroy the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter canon. It’s one of the event comic’s most iconic moments for a reason.

Black Lighting is Back

Unlike the other Arrowverse shows, BLACK LIGHTNING’s narrative is mostly stand-alone. Despite an ongoing plot involving government metahuman programs, little mention is made of ARROW or FLASH’s settings or characters. This is likely due to the show originally being made for a different network before the CW picked it up. Whether this means the show takes place in a separate universe is somewhat iffy.

Team Lightning on Patrol, Courtesy of the CW

However, Black Lighting is unique for not only its racial themes, but depiction of an older superhero. Jefferson Pierce mastered his powers years ago and must deal with crime and corruption following an extended hero retirement. Incorporate the family dynamic of daughters just getting their powers, and you have a hero with more personal stakes.

How Pierce and his family will get involved with the heroes is unclear. Either they’re sought after by Flash/Supergirl or the government forces Black Lightning to deal with this situation. It’ll definitely be something to see these characters out of their element. After all, Freeland and its socio-political community dynamics are integral to BLACK LIGHTING’s narrative strength. Plot-wise, it’s the closest the Arrowverse has come to matching Marvel Netflix grittiness.

How these characters interact with the Arrowverse characters remains to be seen. I’d like to see Oliver Queen and Jefferson reflect on being veteran heroes fighting city/gang corruption. And maybe Sara Lance could flirt with Anissa.

Arrowverse Team vs. CRISIS

Of course the core shows would be involved in this crossover. ARROW, FLASH, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, SUPERGIRL and the upcoming BATWOMAN show will be teaming up according to the Monitor’s design. After all, that was the point of his arrival in ELSEWORLD and multiple season finales. It was to analyze the heroes’ potential against various threats to prepare them for the Anti-Monitor’s arrival.

Next-Gen Superfriends, Courtesy of the CW

Of course, one can’t discuss the ELSEWORLD-CRISIS connection without acknowledging the elephant in the room. In the comics, Supergirl and the Flash die. On the CW, they’re the leads of two shows. Yet the threat of CRISIS existed since FLASH Season 1 via the holographic newspaper in Eobard Thawn’s Star Labs lair. “Flash Vanishes in Crisis:” a Damocles sword hanging over Barry Allen’s head for over five seasons. His recent season finale just happened to create a time anomaly that sped up the date.

The big twist of ELSEWORLD- that Oliver Queen made a deal with the Monitor- likely changes this. Odds are he’s taking Barry and Kara’s place as the heroic sacrificial lamb. We’ve already seen Oliver’s grave date in ARROW, so CRISIS is likely setting up a DEATH OF SUPERMAN moment.

Prepare for CRISIS

With all these iconic names attached, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS is shaping up to be massive. There’s no telling how the story will play out or the extent of its visual budget. One can only speculate how they’ll create the Anti-Monitor’s robot suit with CW money. But it’s a testament to this franchise’s long-term planning that they can pull a crossover of this caliber off.

More importantly, one could almost look at CRISIS as a love letter to decades of DC television. From the humble days of Adam West’s Batman to our oversaturated TV environment, this crossover essentially confirms all these “worlds” exist. Getting canceled hasn’t diminished these character’s legacies, and seeing them return will likely reconfirm that.

What is the Monitor’s game?, Courtesy of the CW

Whatever the case, this event is sure to be emotional for everyone who stuck by the Arroverse since its original debut. We’ve definitely come a long way since Oliver Queen’s one-man “super-serious” mission. Who knows: maybe we’ll even see some DCEU stock footage of the Justice League joining Green Arrow and his superfriends for the final fight.

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