It’s easy for us to look at all the comic book movies and shows hitting our screens these days and say “I could do better,” but any adaptation is going to have challenges. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Arrowverse creator Greg Berlanti talks about his approach to adapting an idea that seems incredibly hard to imagine on screen: Crisis on Infinite Earths. And it all boils down to the word “responsibility.”
Uniting 25 seasons of television and bringing them to a head with a mid-season crossover is nothing to sneeze at, but Berlanti sees it as an entry point rather than something that requires foreknowledge to get into.
“It was a great way to get into all the characters at once because it was like a labyrinth of storytelling,” Berlanti said of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths series, which ran from 1985-86. The series, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez, was meant to solve DC’s growing problem of having too many separate universes to manage. Heroes from multiple universes came together to try to stop the Anti-Monitor and, in the process, Barry Allen and Kara Danvers died. Barry stayed dead for over 20 real-world years. In other words, it was a big deal.
Berlanti came in as a Flash fan and left as a DC fan – the connections between the characters left a deep impression on him, and it got him to start reading other heroes’ stories. One thing that Berlanti cites that was an advantage at the time feels like it’ll be a challenge for him and his team of showrunners – the internet. Back in 1985, there was no ‘online’ for online communities to gather on to discuss stories in detail, and so he had to figure it out for himself. These days, fans hyper-analyze every frame of shows and movies to laud them or throw tomatoes at them.
Berlanti told EW that for him, this is a matter of responsibility.
“I never feel anything other than a sense of responsibility,” he said of adapting Crisis. “Whenever we do an iconic storyline or we do something that reminds us really vividly of one of those books… we have a sense of pressure and obligation. So that fear overrides any other kind of emotion.”
Correcting past mistakes
Fans (like me) will point out immediately that Flash boned up the Flashpoint story hard back in the show’s third season, but the Arrowverse has grown significantly since them, and most of the shows have been on the upswing quality-wise. The last couple crossovers, Crisis on Earth-X and Elseworlds, were both well-received by fans, and the announcement of Crisis on Infinite Earths was eagerly received, too.
One thing that’s changed since the Flashpoint days is how far the Arrowverse is allowed to go with depicting DC’s biggest heroes. Back then, we saw things like the disintegration of the Suicide Squad happen because Warner Bros. decided to make a movie of it. These days, we have a TV Superman making headlines while people still have a clear image of a big-screen Superman in their heads. And now actor Brandon Routh, who plays the Atom on Legends of Tomorrow, will don the cape 13 years after his first attempt in the poorly-reviewed Superman Returns.
In other words, Arrowverse can do just about anything it wants because Berlanti has proven that his shows work and that those of us who tune in every week can make sense of confusing concepts like multi-verses and timelines.
Check out the full interview over on Entertainment Weekly. Batwoman premieres and Supergirl returns to The CW on October 6 at 8 and 9pm EST, The Flash returns on October 8 at 8pm, and Arrow on October 15th at 9pm. The Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover begins mid-season, starting before the holiday break and finishing out in 2020 for a total of 5 hours of serious TV.
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