There are always signs of an impending crisis. The animals go silent. The tide rolls out. The air gets stale. When the DC Universe is about to experience a Crisis event, you just have to look for the Monitor.
The Monitor, created by comic-book legend Marv Wolfman, is the omnipresent, omniscient being that protects DC’s multiverse, and he plays a big role in the upcoming Arrowverse crossover, Elseworlds. While we can only make some guesses about how he’ll factor into the show, we can take a look back at where he came from and what he can do.
If you don’t know Marv Wolfman, let’s put him in context first. Along with the Monitor, he created a whole list of fan-favorite comic book characters. On the Marvel side of things, we can thank him for Blade and Bullseye, who finally got his due in the final season of Daredevil over on Netflix. More importantly, though, Wolfman created some of our favorite DC characters – the Teen Titans. Cyborg, Tim Drake, Raven, Starfire, and even their frequent enemy Deathstroke are all part of Wolfman’s world. He created dozens of others, but these sit at the top of the list as those that have gotten the most life outside the pages of comics.
But he also created the Monitor, or as he was originally named, the Librarian. Talking to Comics Journal back in 1983, Wolfman said that he’d created the Librarian when he was in his 20s with the idea of having one villain that the whole company could use. Marvel had a unified universe at the time, but when he moved over to DC he was able to implement the idea, and the Monitor was unveiled across three years in what feels like a very modern “peak TV” kind of way. The character debuted in 1982, but wasn’t fully shown until 1985. Wolfman indicated to his team how far they can take the character for the first three months, then after six months, then at the end of a year, slowly bringing him out of the shadows – quite literally.
When the Monitor was first introduced, he looked like a villain. The character was spotted selling weapons to villains like Maxie Zeus. But in truth, he was preparing for the incoming Crisis, testing heroes and villains to see who might be strong enough to fight.
It’s time to go back. Way back.
The Monitor’s history goes way back to the beginning of the universe and the multiverse. He exists to watch over the multiverse (or, more lately, one universe within the multiverse, with other Monitors watching others) and to await the coming of his opposite, the Anti-Monitor, a powerful being that devours universes. While Monitor and Anti-Monitor might sound a bit like Flash and Reverse Flash, though, the Monitor is no match for the Anti-Monitor, so when the Anti-Monitor approaches, he has to assemble a team of superbeings. Where the Anti-Monitor can eat universes, the Monitor is merely (merely!) omniscient and omnipresent. His main ability seems to be the power to sense the Anti-Monitor, though he can also create matter from thought to some degree. But he needs help to protect the multiverse.
The first time this happened was DC’s huge Crisis on Infinite Earths event, a year-long event that saw the death of countless heroes – most notably of Supergirl and the Flash – and the collapse of DC’s multiverse into a single universe. The Barry Allen Flash would stay dead for almost a quarter century following that event. And just as he was there for the Crisis on Infinite Earths, he was also there for the Infinite Crisis in 2005 and the Final Crisis in 2009, though additional Monitors have been involved in some of these events. The original Monitor was most recently seen in Dark Nights: Metal, which finished its run earlier this year.
Whenever there’s a Crisis, the Monitor appears to test and warn heroes of the event.
So how does he figure into the Elseworlds crossover?
In the previews we’ve seen so far, the Monitor seems to be antagonistic, but it seems more likely that he’s acting as he did during his first appearances in the early 1980s, giving dangerous people access to powerful weapons to test Earth’s mightiest heroes in time for the upcoming crisis.
A weird side note that Greg Berlanti & Co. couldn’t possibly have seen coming when they were starting the Arrowverse: One of the Monitor’s closest allies is the Harbinger, formerly a human named Lyla Michaels. Yes, Arrowverse fans, it’s that Lyla. There’s no word yet on whether she might appear in the crossover as her original character, and no groundwork has been laid to connect the two aside from the name.
If that’s the case, it sounds like actor LaMonica Garrett, who plays Monitor Mar Novu, might have a job for a few years. The Flash show has hinted at an approaching Crisis event in 2024 since its very first episodes. That’s still a good 5 years out, in theory, but Arrowverse has shown repeatedly that it’s not afraid to screw up the timeline. We’re guessing that this Elseworlds crossover is laying the groundwork for the eventual Crisis event that could very well be the series finale for the Flash.
Right now, the Arrowverse has at least three universes with active shows set in them. Barry and Oliver have their feet firmly set on Earth One, while Kara Zor-El is on Earth-38. The Legends of Tomorrow crew hails from Earth One as well, but it’s tougher to nail down a crew that eats and sleeps on a timeship. Jefferson Pierce of Black Lightning isn’t explicitly set in the Arrowverse, but it would be just as easy to say that he’s on an as-yet unidentified Earth in the Multiverse. Batwoman – we don’t know which earth she’s from yet, though Earth-38 seems like a fair bet.
In short, the Arrowverse is ripe for a Crisis.
The Monitor is a weird character in that he doesn’t do a whole lot so much as he portends things. Bringing him into the Arrowverse certainly portends things scary for its characters and exciting for us sitting in front of our TVs. The name Elseworlds almost seems like a distraction for what could really be a test for our heroes.
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