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Charting DC’s Live-Action TV & Film Multiverse

by  in Comic News, TV News Comment
Charting DC’s Live-Action TV & Film Multiverse

Until relatively recently, there wasn’t much in the way of live-action DC Comics adaptations. Aside from some old serials, the handful of DC TV series and films were few and far between. The 1950s had the George Reeves “Adventures of Superman,” the ’60s had “Batman,” and the ’70s saw Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman and Christopher Reeve’s Superman. The ’80s brought a “Supergirl” movie, two “Swamp Things,” a “Superboy” TV series, and Tim Burton’s “Batman,” while the ’90s had three more “Batman” films, one season of a “Flash” TV series, and “Lois & Clark.” Apart from “Smallville” (which started in 2001 and ran for 10 seasons), things really began to pick up in 2005 with “Batman Begins.” Now there are four (soon to be five) different TV series on three different networks, each bringing main-line DC characters to a mass audience, an hour at a time.

What’s more, “The Flash” didn’t just introduce viewers to Earth-2 this season; it set out a full-fledged 52-plane Multiverse. While the CW show’s second season is still young, as of now there are fifty universes left officially uncatalogued.

Well, we can’t have that, now can we? A quick trip to Wikipedia reveals a whole host of DC (and Vertigo) features adapted for screens big and small, from eight different Kal-Els to two “Human Targets.” Earlier this year, one enterprising fan created an impressive “Crisis” mockup of all the different realities.

Accordingly, I’ve populated three dozen parallel Earths with live-action adaptations of various DC characters — and moreover, because you don’t have a Multiverse without implying they could all meet, here are some suggested crossovers.

EARTH-1, EARTH-2 and EARTH-3: “CRISIS IN 2016-17”

“The Flash” established that the Arrowverse is on Earth-1, and it’s currently trying to deal with hired guns from Earth-2. However, given that “Flash” producer (and DC Chief Creative Officer) Geoff Johns just brought back Earth-3 a couple of years ago in the pages of “Forever Evil,” it’s possible Barry Allen and Jay Garrick may meet Ultraman, Superwoman and company fairly soon — say, next season? We haven’t seen Earth-3 on screen yet, but you’ve gotta think it’s out there.

EARTH-4 and EARTH-22: “CRISIS WITHOUT BATMAN”

The worlds of Fox’s “Gotham” (which I’ve assigned to Earth-4) and “Birds Of Prey” (Earth-22) seem fairly divergent. One is set over a decade before Bruce Wayne dons cape and cowl to strike fear into the superstitious and cowardly; the other focuses on the former Batgirl shepherding the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. However, they both have one thing in common: not a lot of Batman. The great “To Kill A Legend” from 1981’s “Detective Comics” #500 featured the Phantom Stranger sending Batman and Robin to a parallel world where the Wayne murders were still a few days in the future — so the Dynamic Duo had to choose between saving an innocent couple, or depriving that Earth of its only superhero (there was no Krypton in that universe). I wouldn’t mind seeing Helena “Huntress” Kyle interacting with Lil’ Wayne, or Oracle meeting a way-alternate version of her parents, under similar circumstances.

EARTH-11 and EARTH-19 (and maybe Earth-33 and Earth-35): “CRISIS LEAVING SMALLVILLE”

There have also been two series spotlighting the youngish Clark Kent: the 1988-92 syndicated “Superboy” (Earth-19) and the 2001-11 “Smallville” (Earth-11). After a rough first season, the former settled into a decent sort of Silver-Agey groove. Conversely, the latter started out as a relationship drama mixed with freak-of-the-week standalone stories, and ended up introducing a good bit of super-people for the future Superman to inspire. In fact, sometimes “Smallville’s” Clark got closest to maxing out his power set when he was high on Red Kryptonite, or under some similar malevolent influence. Thus, a meeting between the two Clarks could produce a pretty good “first they fight” encounter. Heck, if memory serves, both “Smallville” and “Superboy” had mirror universes, so a crossover between the two could get super-complex.

EARTH-6 and EARTH-12: “CRISIS PLAYED STRAIGHT”

The world of “Batman ’66” (which I put on Earth-6, naturally) depicted a Caped Crusader whose unflinching dedication to the fundamentals of law and justice — plus good grammar, proper etiquette, etc. — was the source of the series’ unique humor. While the tone of “Batman ’66” might stand out more clearly against those of some other adaptations, I’ve paired it with an equally-businesslike predecessor: “The Adventures Of Superman,” starring George Reeves. As a bonus, the crimefighters could team up with the Green Hornet and Kato (who had their own series and guest-starred on a couple of “Batman” episodes) — and even meet Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, since Reeves showed up in character on one “I Love Lucy.”

EARTH-5 and EARTH-14: “CRISIS ON A BUDGET”

I’ve assigned the Saturday-morning “Shazam!” show to Earth-5 (originally Earth-S), because it’s the comics’ home of the traditional Marvel Family. However, the 1974-76 series couldn’t afford to do much in the way of supervillains: no Sivana, Black Adam or Mr. Mind, to say nothing of a Monster Society of Evil. (It did cross over with a sister series, “Isis.”) Accordingly, although “Lois & Clark” (here on Earth-14) also couldn’t go big very often, it did have a two-part Kryptonian invasion and featured a nominal amount of other super-action. Thus, the combination of “L&C” and “Shazam” could probably involve a decent Sivana/Luthor team-up, which would give Captain Marvel more to do than beat up small-town baddies.

EARTH-7 and EARTH-8: “A GROOVY KIND OF CRISIS”

Another natural pairing is Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman (Earth-7) and Christopher Reeve’s Superman (Earth-8). If the “Batman” movie scripted by “Superman’s” Tom Mankiewicz had gotten off the ground, we might well be talking about an early-’80s version of the Trinity. However, I’ll settle for Carter’s Diana and Reeve’s Clark teaming up with Helen Slater’s Supergirl to stop Mongul from invading Mount Olympus.

EARTH-9 and EARTH-34: “CRISIS IN RUBBER MUSCLES”

I’m putting the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman movies on Earth-9 and Burton’s abortive “Superman Lives” on Earth-34, though one draft of the “Lives” script did have Michael Keaton in a brief Bat-suited cameo. While I suspect most of us are glad “Superman Lives” never got past pre-production — Google “Nicolas Cage Superman” for things you can’t un-see — I can’t help but think this particular World’s Finest duo would be a memorable assault on our senses. That goes double if we’re talking about the Schumacher Batman. Neon, giant spiders and polar bears galore!

EARTH-10 and EARTH-22 (with a stop on EARTH-18): “THE CRISIS MYSTIQUE”

You probably remember that David E. Kelley’s attempt at a “Wonder Woman” series would have starred Adrianne Palicki. (I’ve put it on Earth-22.) It portrayed Diana as equal parts superhero, celebrity and businessperson, and drew comparisons to one of Kelley’s previous shows, “Ally McBeal.” Of course, these days Ally herself — or at least actress Calista Flockhart — is mentoring Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl over on CBS (and Earth-10).

Now, I’m hardly suggesting that Palicki’s Diana and Benoist’s Kara get together and just dish about relationships. Instead, given how Palicki’s shown her no-nonsense, butt-kicking side on both “Friday Night Lights” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” I’d like to see her teamed up with Benoist’s Maid of Might — maybe fighting Doctor Psycho and the Worldkillers? First, though, they should pick up the put-upon star of “Who’s Afraid Of Diana Prince,” a 1967 sob-sister take on Wonder Woman from the producers of “Batman ’66.”

That version of Diana — whose hypercritical non-Amazon mother fuels her other neuroses — really needs a proper adventure, or at least a couple of real friends. I think Palicki’s Wonder Woman and Benoist’s Supergirl could be a big help.

EARTH-2 and EARTH-12: “CRISIS EVERY WEEK”

Earth-12 contains the ten DC-inspired movie serials produced from 1941-52: “The Adventures of Captain Marvel” (1941), “Spy Smasher” (1942), “Batman” (1943) and “Batman and Robin” (1949), “Hop Harrigan” (1946), “The Vigilante” (1947), “Congo Bill” (1948), and the two Kirk Alyn Superman serials, “Superman” (1948) and “Atom Man vs. Superman” (1950). Alyn also starred in the 1952 “Blackhawk” serial. Although Earth-2’s Jay Garrick didn’t start his Flash career in 1940, given the character’s history, it’s tempting to send him (and any other Earth-2 heroes) into the world of short chapters, constant cliffhangers and budget-conscious superheroics. Given the Flash’s powers, though, the team-ups might be brief.

EARTH-16 and EARTH-31: “SOUNDS LIKE CRISIS”

This crossover may be just for me, but I like Josh Brolin (who played Jonah Hex in a movie I’m setting on Earth-31) and Christian Bale (whose Bat-adventures are on Earth-16) pretty well, and as goofy as it might be for the Batman of the Nolanverse to travel back to Hex’s Old West, I think it could work. I can already hear the growl-versus-drawl dialogue.

EARTH-15 and EARTH-27: “A CRISIS OF MISCASTING”

The Cathy Lee Crosby “Wonder Woman” TV-movie (from a writer and director who’d worked on the original “Star Trek”) is probably the DC equivalent of those “Captain America” TV-movies where his shield doubled as his motorcycle’s windscreen. Blonde with a red-and-blue track suit, she looked more like a lost jogger than an Amazon princess. At least she got to fight Ricardo Montalban, which is more than I can say for Shaquille O’Neal’s “Steel” nemesis, Judd Nelson. There’s probably a decent crossover plot to be wrung out of these versions of the characters — maybe someone’s making super-weapons out of Diana Prince’s stolen gadgets? — but a credible team-up might be a tall order (no Shaq pun intended).

EARTH-1 and EARTH-32: “THE SINESTRO CORPS WAR”

I’ve argued before that the producers of “Arrow” and “Flash” might well love to get back in the Green Lantern business, but I suppose an Earth-1/CW GL would necessarily be different from the Ryan Reynolds version (which I placed on Earth-32). The Blackest Night plot actually did involve the Flash and Atom in key roles, but the way “Arrow” is going, there aren’t many more people to bring back to life. Thus, since the 2011 “Green Lantern” movie ended with Sinestro embracing his fear-colored destiny, why not have the Sinestro Corps invade the Arrowverse?

EARTH-17 and EARTH-24: “CRISIS IN BLUE AND GREEN”

In 2006, the “Smallville” producers made an “Aquaman” pilot starring one-time Green Arrow Justin Hartley as a dive-shop manager and putative Sea King, with Lou Diamond Phillips as dad Tom Curry, Ving Rhames as an Atlantean mentor, and Adrianne Palicki (again!) as the villainous siren Nadia. Had it gone to series, the show — which I’ve placed on Earth-17 — would have focused on environmental issues as well as a “classic” version of the Aquaman legend. That makes it sound like a decent match for the 1982 and 1989 “Swamp Thing” movies (here of Earth-24), even though the latter were more horror-oriented.

EARTH-25 and EARTH-26: “WHOA … CRISIS”

In putting together these crossovers, I couldn’t resist having the world of Earth-25’s “Swamp Thing” series meet Earth-26’s Yankee John Constantine (played by Keanu Reeves, who sadly didn’t seem to fit the “Crisis In Miscasting” scenario). The 1990-93 USA Network show went through some creative upheavals over its three seasons, and I figure Keanustantine is as good a character as any to help ’em sort things out.

EARTH-21 and EARTH-28: “VENGEANCE OF THE IMMORTAL VILLAIN”

After Barry Allen brought Jay Garrick out of retirement in “Flash Of Two Worlds,” their next team-up (in June 1963’s “Flash” #137) ended up freeing the Justice Society of America from imprisonment by Vandal Savage. The CW’s viewers have already been introduced to Jay, and they’re about to meet Vandal, but I think a similar setup could bring together the stars of 1990’s “Flash” series (Earth-21) and the unaired 1997 “Justice League of America” pilot (Earth-28).

The latter also featured a Barry Allen Flash, along with Green Lantern Guy Gardner, the Atom (Ray Palmer), Fire, Ice and a portly Martian Manhunter. Although this “Justice League” was inspired by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ bwah-ha-ha approach, it apparently failed to deliver. Still, the presence of a more successful Flash — who lasted a whole season up against the one-two punch of “The Cosby Show” and “The Simpsons” — could give the ’97 League a boost. Maybe John Wesley Shipp’s Flash could free them from Manga Khan…?

EARTH-29 and EARTH-30: “THE TARGET OF TWO WORLDS CONTRACT”

“Human Target” is a somewhat obscure DC feature launched by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino in 1972 for a backup series in Action Comics. Wein and Infantino created Christopher Chance, a freelance bodyguard who, as part of his contracts, assumed the identities of his clients. Although the feature eventually moved to Vertigo, it was grounded firmly in the DC superhero line, with Chance even impersonating Bruce Wayne in a couple of issues of Batman and Detective Comics. You may remember Fox’s “Human Target” adaptation, which ran for two seasons in 2010-11 and was generally well-received.

However, I had forgotten there was an earlier, much shorter-lived ABC adaptation of the Human Target, starring Rick Springfield. It was more faithful to the comics — the Fox series ditched the “impersonation” elements — and it came from Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, who would later produce the 1990-91 “Flash” series. In fact, their “Target” aired in the summer of 1992, after “Flash” had been cancelled.

Now, a lot of this is just marveling that there were two “Human Target” TV series; but in terms of parallel-world crossovers, seems like a fella could make a pretty good story about a couple of cosmic counterparts impersonating each other to find out who’s trying to kill each of them.

And, finally…

EARTH-20 and EARTH-51: “A JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY”

You’ll notice that I haven’t talked about the DC Cinematic Universe yet. First seen in “Man of Steel,” and about to get a whole lot bigger in next year’s “Batman v. Superman,” I’m putting it on Earth-20. I get the feeling there will be plenty of team-ups just on that one Earth, so the one I’d like to see comes from the realm of pure fantasy: the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which I’ve assigned to Earth-51. I mean, come on — somebody’s going to want to do JLA/Avengers eventually!


THE ORRERY OF WORLDS

  • Earth-01 Arrow, Flash, Legends, Constantine
  • Earth-02 Arrowverse Alternate (Jay Garrick et al.)
  • Earth-03 Arrowverse Mirror (Crime Syndicate)
  • Earth-04 Gotham
  • Earth-05 Shazam! (including Isis)
  • Earth-06 Batman ’66
  • Earth-07 Wonder Woman ’75
  • Earth-08 Superman ’78 (including Supergirl ’84)
  • Earth-09 Batman ’89-’97 (Burton and Schumacher)
  • Earth-10 Supergirl ’15
  • Earth-11 Smallville
  • Earth-12 Movie serials
  • Earth-13 Adventures of Superman (George Reeves)
  • Earth-14 Lois & Clark
  • Earth-15 Wonder Woman ’74
  • Earth-16 Batman ’05
  • Earth-17 Aquaman ’06
  • Earth-18 Wonder Woman ’67
  • Earth-19 Superboy ’88
  • Earth-20 Man of Steel/DC Cinematic U
  • Earth-21 Flash ’90
  • Earth-22 Wonder Woman ’11
  • Earth-23 Birds Of Prey
  • Earth-24 Swamp Thing ’82 (movies)
  • Earth-25 Swamp Thing ’90 (TV)
  • Earth-26 Constantine ’05
  • Earth-27 Steel
  • Earth-28 JLA ’97
  • Earth-29 Human Target ’92
  • Earth-30 Human Target ’10
  • Earth-31 Jonah Hex
  • Earth-32 Green Lantern ’11
  • Earth-33 Superboy ’88 mirror universe
  • Earth-34 Superman Lives
  • Earth-35 Smallville mirror universe
  • Earth-51 Marvel Cinematic Universe

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