‘Arrow,’ ‘Flash’ and world-building

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I’ve noted here before that the geeks have inherited the earth. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, we prized Famous Monsters and Marvel Comics but were looked down upon by adults for our reading materials; were happy with those lame Marvel superheroes TV cartoons that were very limited animation versions of classic comic books; and thrilled at the random superhero who made his way to TV or movies, even though most of the time the live-action versions weren’t very good.

Now, in any given week, I can watch “Agent Carter” – really good limited series that finished its run a few weeks ago; hope it comes back – “Agents of SHIELD,” a show that’s found its way, and most particularly “Arrow” and “The Flash,” two CW series from the same producers who have taken two characters who might have peaked in the Silver Age and made them intriguing and fun.

Through “Arrow’s” three seasons and “Flash’s” half-completed first season, they’ve introduced so many great comic-book characters – Ray Palmer/Atom, Black Canary – two of them! – and so many bad guys, including Ra’s al Ghul and Gorilla Grodd. Grodd, for Grodd’s sake!

“Arrow” has always done well when its made its Green Arrow character a substitute for Batman –  in the comics, the character originally was a Batman copy. Arrow in “Arrow” has just been asked to succeed Ra’s as the leader of the League of Assassins. It’s an offer that Ra’s made to Batman and it only heightened their conflict over the decades.

Meanwhile, “Flash” has just introduced Grodd. Yes, a telepathic, hyper-intelligent gorilla from a race of telepathic, hyper-intelligent gorillas. “Flash” is much more fanciful than “Arrow” anyway, but the introduction of Grodd takes the series even more into the realm of comic-book sci-fi than it already was.

And, in the process of all this, “Arrow” and “Flash” began building the world in which these shows live.

There’s a lot that’s been said about universe-building in Marvel’s movie and TV universes, but Warner Bros/DC is doing this on TV about as well as it can be done, not just with “Flash” and “Arrow” but with their next plans.

CBS – CW’s sister network – will air a “Supergirl” series this fall and we’ve been told it will share a universe with “Arrow” and “The Flash.” I guess we’ll see if that means cross-network cross-overs. It’s rare but it’s happened before.

Potentially more exciting are CW’s apparent plans to spin off some characters introduced on “The Flash” and “Arrow” into their own series. Plans to have Atom and Firestorm and at least some version of Canary and other characters sharing a weekly series not only sounds like a small-screen “Justice League” or “Brave and the Bold,” but is so damn fun.

We’ll see how all this plays out, of course. The CW shows are doing well but “Supergirl” could tank. Will Superman be the 800-pound gorilla (sorry Grodd) absent from the room, like Iron Man was when “Agents of SHIELD” debuted?

Can too many heroes – or superhero shows – spoil the soup?

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One thought on “‘Arrow,’ ‘Flash’ and world-building

  1. elmediat

    The DC television Arrow-verse is quite remarkable. It comes close enough in the spirit of the comics, especially the expansion into The Flash’s world that I feel as if my childhood heroes have returned. I really hope Constantine survives in some form for another season – really want to see Dr. Fate, The Spectre, Dr. Thirteen ( & The Phantom Stranger) and possibly even Deadman . 😀

    In terms of different television genres, it is curious that we can have so many forensic television shows, lawyers, scandals and live entertainment contests before the bubble burst, yet fantasy, science fiction, horror and comic book superhero shows appear to be maxed out by 3 or 4 shows over all the networks combined.
    Is it a reality of the market or a perception of the market ?
    Has the target audience for such genre shows achieved some sort of critical mass that it can now survive an expansion similar to other so called “mainstream” genres ?

    Reply

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