Actors John Wesley Shipp and Stephen Amell stunned both new and old fans of The Fastest Man Alive by posting photos online of Shipp not only as a Flash…but THE Flash of the 1990s.
The existence of the DC Multiverse on The CW’s The Flash is taken to the extreme as photos have revealed actors Grant Gustin (Barry Allen) and Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen) wearing each other’s costumes. Elseworlds is based on the line of DC Comics one-shots that depicted different variants of classic DC heroes, sometimes in different identities. For example, there was a Clark Kent who became Batman, and a Bruce Wayne that was chosen by the Green Lantern Corps.
The existence of this line of books allowed for the writers and artists to take advantage of the concept of the 52 different Earths that make up the Multiverse. CW producers are taking inspiration from both that line of books and the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths with photos revealing the Anti-Monitor. However, the appearance of Shipp as Barry Allen of the 1990s justifies the cameo appearance of his Flash in the episode “Welcome to Earth-2” from Season Two of the CW Flash series as one of the Earths Barry and company pass by on the way to Harry Wells’s Earth. It also introduces to the 2014 Barry to the head trip that there exists a Barry Allen that is not only older but the spitting image of his father.
For another generation of fans like myself, this brilliant move is a trip back into yesterday, while a simultaneous reminder for the fans of the modern series that Grant Gustin was not the first live-action Flash.
Before he took on the role of Henry Allen and later doppelganger Jay Garrick, the then-36-year-old Shipp starred in the short-lived CBS-produced first iteration of The Flash as police scientist Barry Allen. With fellow Flash alum Amanda Pays as S.T.A.R. Labs head scientist Tina McGee, and memorable villains like Mark Hamill as The Trickster – a role he resumed 33 years later – this take on the Flash was a Central City that was in the modern day but populated by circa 1930s cars and gangsters. Think of the setting as a live-action version of Batman: The Animated Series, right down to the composer Shirley Kirkland for the main score who was later tapped by Bruce Timm for the cartoon’s moody music. Bereft of now-well-known elements like a particle accelerator explosion and metahumans, the show focused on a Barry Allen who was written without the tragic backstory Geoff Johns retconned for him in 2005’s Flash: Rebirth. Like today’s series, the show displayed state-of-the-art speed effects for that time and that version of Barry sported a suit that, on the show, molded and expanded his physique based upon his altered biology. Although successful in the ratings, the series was canceled after one season due to CBS consistently moving the show all over its prime-time schedule.
However, the producers of the current series on the CW has acknowledged the first effort involving the Scarlet Speedster by bringing in cameo appearances from its cast. Besides Shipp and Pays, Alex Desert (Julio Mendez) and Vito D’Ambrosio (Tony Bellows) have appeared in different versions of their original characters in different capacities. Julio Mendez, for example, was Shipp’s Barry Allen’s lab partner at the CCPD but resurrected as the Flashpoint CCPD Captain. And, of course, there was Officer Bellows from the 90s obsessed with proving the Flash was real to capitalize on his popularity. He was brought back as Mayor Tony Bellows who first bestowed Grant Gustin’s Flash with the key to the city in the second season premiere, and turned heel in the first half of the fourth season.
While exact plot points are still unrevealed about this year’s crossover event, the inclusion of old-school Flash shows a respect for the past and an expansion of the DCTV Multiverse. The ten-year-old kid in me, personally, cannot wait to see Grant’s Flash and Shipp’s Flash racing together.
Elseworlds begins with the first part on Arrow on Monday, December 5th at 8/7 Central on the CW.