DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – a look back on Season Two

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow just completed Season Two. And it will have a Season Three – something that was in doubt this time last year.

Season One was savaged by the critics and all but the most trollish of DC trolls. I liked it, I did. But I wasn’t as giddy about its first season as I was about the first season of Arrow or Flash … read my review by clicking on the link above.

This second season was better, per the critics and the trolls. And indeed it was.

I liked Season Two as well, but I still didn’t love it.

Why?

I have a hard time putting my finger on the why. And I figured out why while writing this review – which was partly my goal.

It was a better show than the prior season– they pruned the cast; the remaining members grew and the new ones were allowed more depth (a smaller cast allows that). They had a variety of Big Bads instead of one. The stories were fair despite the Pez-dispenser-like lessons of history.

Maybe it is unfair to compare it to the joy of watching Flash and Supergirl, where the glee (pardon the pun) of the cast and writers warm the viewers like the sun in spring. However, the show is better than the brooding and plodding Season Five of Arrow, which unfortunately followed its brooding and plodding Season Four.

Put it this way: I watch Flash and Supergirl as soon as I can (I tivo all my shows and watch them later) – usually the next day; with LoT I sometimes wait until the weekend; Arrow and some others (Agents of Shield, as another example) are watched in bundles of two or three episodes at a time because of their glacial story progression.

So LoT came in a distant third this year. The other CW shows have about six more episodes this season, so it is possible for them to blow it and make LoT look like the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but that is doubtful.

Let’s look at the hows and whys this season was better – or worse – than the first:

The cast was trimmed this season. Hawkgirl is gone.  Too bad. Perhaps with this “new” setting of Season Two the character would have been able to do more than mourn the death of Carter Hall and be the constant captive of Vandal Savage. The actress Ciara Renée deserved better.

Arthur Darvill had other commitments during the season so Rip Hunter was written out of most of the show. I thought it would be the death knell but it actually helped. Sara Lance grew into the role of the captain of our crew. Rip’s eventual return just showed us how crowded the cast was – we and Rip realized he was … well … not needed anymore. I hope he pops up from time to time.

The loss of Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart/Captain Cold was also a blow, or so I thought. Here was the best character of Season One (Mick Rory, now no longer Snart’s sidekick, steals every scene like the thief he is. The only good thing about Wentworth Miller leaving the show was Dominic Purcell’s ascendancy. He is wonderful – Rory was meant to be two-dimensional and ends up being the most well-rounded character of the show!).

Snart, Hunter and Hawkgirl were replaced by Steel and Vixen – two characters who started off in comics of the 1970s but did not really come into their own popularity until the 1980s. They helped provide some missing muscle and exposition (Steel was an historian and Vixen knew where to find this Season’s MacGuffin). They began a more believable romance than last year’s Atom-Hawkgirl coupling.

The Season starts out promising: the Legends’ job is to find time aberrations and set things straight: zombies in the Civil War, Albert Einstein kidnapped by Nazis. They confront the Justice Society (the handling of their roster caused quite a kerfuffle amongst the DC purists). Then the Big Bads and this season’s major MacGuffin are introduced:

The Legion of Doom consists of past bad guys from the Arrowverse – Eobard Thawn, trying to save his existence from being destroyed; Malcolm Merlyn – John Barrowman sleepwalking through this worn-out character; Damien Darhke, the Big Bad from Arrow Season 4, again played by Neal McDonough who smirked and smarmed as thoroughly as he did in Arrow. After 20 episodes there and 10 here, I think the audience has been sated with Darkhe, thank you. Wentworth Miller was touted as a member of the Legion, but he was only in the last three episodes or so.

legends-of-tomorrow-season-2-episode-8-the-chicago-way

The MacGuffin was the Spear of Destiny – a major prop in the DC comic book universe and a nice addition here – the spear the Roman soldier used to pierce the side of Jesus. In the comics, whosoever held the spear would rule the world. Hitler possessed it and prevented Superman and the other Justice Society members from going to Europe and kicking his ass (hence the reasoning behind why Superman, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern and others didn’t simply … go to Europe and kick his ass).

In LoT the Spear of Destiny can alter reality – Thawne wants it to create a universe in which his ancestor lived and thus he continued to exist. The Justice Society took the Spear and hid it throughout history. Thus creating the plot thread throughout the rest of the show, leading to a final big battle at the season’s end.

The season finale seemed almost tacked on. They go back to a previous adventure in World War One to change their eventual defeat that allows the Legion to take the spear – thus breaking the #1 temporal law – don’t go back and meet yourself (which some of the members had already done in Season One, but I assume, like Star Trek 5, we are to pretend that never happened).

Odd that Season Two only lasted 17 episodes instead of the usual 22 or 23, which may explain why the season finale seemed so “tacked on” – now that I bring it up, this plot thread could have been completed two or three shows before even that … heaven forfend they do some done-in-one episodes as filler. Subtract the obvious filler – the Jonah Hex redo and the cross-over with the other Arrowverse shows and we have only 15 episodes. Couldn’t the other 7 shows simply be well-done stand-alone episodes to finish out the season and prepare us for any changes in Season Three?

They COULD have done some fun single-episode time-travel shows. In my primer (the link is above) I mentioned they were entering into Doctor Who territory: going to different times and meeting the famous and infamous. They did that (George Washington, etc.), but it didn’t quite click.

The budget is tight on the show, I know. Which is why Firestorm rarely appears (and why wasn’t Victor Garber given more to do? After he revealed his daughter as a time aberration and turned over command to Sara Lance, he practically disappeared. Fortunately, he was excellent in the Flash’s musical episode!).

Brandon Routh was demoted from the eccentric he played in Flash down to the flightiness of last season to now being an idiotic man-child. Brandon Routh and Ray Palmer deserve better. He and Stein should be the geniuses of the series; like Cisco and Winn, creating the weekly MacGuffins to help defeat the bad guy.

On the other hand, Franz Drameh’s Jefferson Jackson was promoted from last season’s wise-ass kid to the engineer. He should be helping the geniuses Palmer and Stein with the mechanical side of the MacGuffin-making.

***

OK, so what was it about Season Two that I did not like? While I still haven’t quite put my finger on it, I do have some ideas to heal the show’s ills:

The Berlanti method is growing thin. After five seasons of Arrow, three in Flash, and one in LoT, the Season-long Big Bad story arc is an idea whose time is over. Do what is being done in Supergirl and make the Big Bad only a major recurring (not constant) villain – as they did with Lillian Luthor/Argus and Rhea (Mon-El’s mother). Weren’t you tired of Thawne snatching victory away from the Legends at the end of every episode?

Go back to fixing time aberrations. Not just on earth but through the universe. If you are going to emulate a TV show, you can do worse than Doctor Who. Introduce Kanjar Ro as an intergalactic tyrant. Introduce Krona as a time-meddler (he would make a good Big Bad AND be a nice way to FINALLY introduce the Green Lantern Corps into the Arrowverse)

Make “small” story arcs. The only good thing Agents of Shield has done in three years is having two separate story arcs this season – Ghost Rider for the fall and LMD for the spring.

And although the budget is not huge, PLEASE hire an historian. A real one. Nothing ruins a good story when you know the very premise is wrong. I realize this isn’t PBS, but stop using a paragraph or two from Wikipedia to get the gist of your background material.

For example: In one episode they had to find JRR Tolkien in the trenches of World War One. Tolkien knew a possible location to the tomb of Sir Gawain that could lead the Legends to a vial of the Jesus’ blood which could be used to destroy the Spear of Destiny … that lived in the house that Jack built. The Legends knew this because of a book Tolkien wrote about Sir Gawain. No such book exists – he wrote a translation of a lay of Sir Gawain, but not a treatise. And not during/before WWII…

While searching for him, they overheard a sergeant yelled “Fool of a Tolkien” to a sick soldier. Aha! This must be JRR! And sure enough …

The line was an homage to the line “Fool of a Took!” from Fellowship of the Ring. I bristled when I heard the line. It took away from Tolkien’s ability as a writer. It implied that he did not create the line – he just used what other people did. He did not. That is wrong.

“Lighten up,” you might say, “it was just a fun line.”

No it wasn’t. It was disrespectful. Same as when the Legends met George Lucas and the characters ended up in a pre-replica of the trash compactor scene. As with the Tolkien quotes, it diminished the genius and the originality of Lucas’ idea – a young lad and some friends are whisked away from their home by a quirky wizard to go fight a dark lord and his minions who are bent on ruling the … oh…

Never mind …

But it insults our intelligence as it insults the creativity of the historical guests (this is the same problem I have with Forest Gump or the “Marvin Berry” scene in Back to the Future).

Knock it off. It turns idols into thieves and it’s a short-cut by piss-pour writers for a cheap laugh.

***legends-of-tomorrow-season-2-aruba-slice-600x200

As I hoped, writing this little opinion piece has revealed what nags me about the show: if Legends of Tomorrow weren’t connected to the comic book characters I read and loved as a kid, I would not be interested in watching this show.

Compare that to, say, the superb first season of Arrow. I’d have loved that season even without the superhero lineage.

(Whereas Flash and Supergirl are too inextractibly linked to their comic books to say that. Were anyone to make those two shows renaming their leads they would face a copyright lawsuit faster than you can say “Shazam”. That’s a great line if you know the history of comic book litigation…)

But I repeat – I would likely not watch LoT if not for the DC roster. The stories and characters may not be great – but it’s the Atom! And the Justice Society! It may insult my intelligence – but there’s Jonah Hex!

***

So I still like the show. Perhaps the reason it gets under my skin so is that with some really simple (and inexpensive) tweaks it could be so much better. Instead of being fun in a frat-boy-“that-was-cool-wasn’t-it” way it could be fun AND thrilling. Season Two was an improvement over Season One. Season Three could be better still!

I cheer for the show – I really am rooting for it to do well; to be better! Stop emulating the storytelling-style of Arrow and Flash. You don’t need to. Do shorter story arcs! Do solo stories focusing on only one or two characters! When they meet real life legends – let them remain legends, not accidents.

Don’t emulate others. Be different.

Most legends are…

 

Original Material Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

 

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

 

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What Might Have Been: the CW’s Constantine

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

? … Maybe someday … Constantine

 

From Wikipedia (as I said before, if they are going to do the work FOR me …):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON the ONLY (so far)

John Constantine, a demon hunter and dabbling master of the occult, must struggle with his past sins while protecting the innocent from the converging supernatural threats that constantly break through to our world due to the “Rising Darkness”. Balancing his actions upon the line of good and evil, Constantine uses his skills and a supernatural scry map to journey across the nation to send these terrors back to their own world, all for the hope of redeeming his soul from eternal torment.

***

            Rumors of Constantine becoming the fifth DC-CW show were just that – and became wishful thinking among fans of the show.

Like me.

Only the most zombie-like of Marvel zombies will refuse to admit that DC’s horror comics were better than Marvel’s horror comics; even well into the 1990s when Constantine the comic book was in full vigor. (“What about DC’s Wasteland?” “Shut up.”)

Even in their super-hero line, horror would rear its misshapen head with characters like the Phantom Stranger, the Spectre and Dr. Fate – two of those three had fun Easter egg references in Constantine’s run. The show even had the Justice League’s baddie Felix Faust in an episode!

Constantine would have been a repository of all things supernatural in CW’s superhero universe.

Too bad the show was doomed from the start.

 

It had the usual Berlanti Production touches: the main character had a team of followers behind him helping with that episode’s problems. Oh sure after the pilot episode they dumped his first female companion for another without a word, but that happens with pilots. I guess.

Chas was to John Constantine what Diggle is to Arrow – muscle when needed. Like Diggle, he is knowledgeable about the goings-on of the show. He has helped Constantine in the time before the show and does not need an explanation about what kind of baddie he is fighting. He has his own arcane powers that are revealed slowly during the show. Charles Halford plays him wonderfully.

The audience conduit is played by Angelica Celaya as Zed. John and Chas explain that week’s Big Bad to us through her. Her arcane powers of divination help with necessary shortcuts in the show (otherwise how would Constantine know about evil doings in New Orleans?). She is also a great actress playing a great character.

I liked the underused Harold Perrineau as Manny – an angel ally of Constantine but still a pain in the main character’s backside. Although he seemed to be on Constantine’s side, he also seemed to have a different agenda. Constantine didn’t trust him. I didn’t either… He would have played a larger role in the series had it continued (as the final aired episode clearly showed).

 

There was a Big Bad who was (presumably) going to duke it out with our hero in the season finale. Unlike the other Berlanti shows, we never knew who the Big Bad was until late into the season. In fact, the main villain was revealed in the last broadcast show – ending in a bit of a cliff-hanger. It is likely we will never see it resolved.

And mcguffins abounded in the show – there was always a talisman or other thingumabob that Constantine and his crew discovered that would defeat the bad guy (be it human or demon) after the initial failed confrontation. But here it worked. Using a magical devise to defeat the Big Bad makes sense in this supernatural setting…

Perhaps the horror element made us forget this by-now over-used CW super-hero plot device.

 

The original character was based on the musician Sting, but actor Matt Ryan made the character his own. He played Constantine with an exhausted charm. You want to have a drink with him – then run away as fast as you can!

He seemed tired and confused (that is, drunk) most of the time. With his trench coat, he was something of a horror-themed Columbo with a northern British accent. But like Columbo, he always knew what he was facing and (sometimes) knew what he was doing. True, at times it didn’t work …

And intended or not, the thought of Kolchak always bubbled below the surface…

 

One highlight episode was “The Devil’s Vinyl” featuring a satanic LP. The show introduces sometimes ally/sometimes villain Papa Midnite.

 

Perhaps the character will pop up again in the other DC-CW shows as he did in his wonderful appearance in a fourth-season Arrow episode, when Flash, Supergirl or Arrow (again) needs some supernatural help.

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I would hate to see them waste an excellent character played by an excellent actor.

All of the episodes are available on CW-Seed. Find them and watch them.

And Happy Halloween!

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Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

A review of the CW’s Arrow (part two)

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Wednesday: Arrow

Part Two

Read Part One here

Arrow the television show and Arrow the character are the Batman of their CW Universe: the flagship, the one the other shows and characters look to for inspiration, guidance and training (willingly and unwillingly for both parties).

Hell of a thing to say for a big Superman fan like me, eh? Like it or not, up until 25 or so years ago I would have said that Superman was the iconic flagship, and would have been correct; but the apparent dislike of the Man of Steel by the editors and writers at DC since have lowered his esteem – at one point making him as laughable as Captain Marvel and the Martian Manhunter were. But that is a whole other blog rant.

When Flash faced his Big Bad Season-Ending supervillain on his own show, the Big Bad taunted him for coming alone. “Who said I was alone?” Flash said. Arrow jumped from the background to stand beside his friend and protégé.

Chills. This is going to be a cool fight! (It didn’t disappoint!)

 

Arrow/Green Arrow was the perfect DC hero for a television drama: a little-known character (but popular in the comic book world) with a simple origin and not a lot of background to burden a program developer.

Millionaire playboy trapped on an island where he learned to shoot arrows. In the early 1970s the character loses his fortune and becomes a social, as well as a crime, crusader.

Quite likely because of the movie franchise, the Batman character was unavailable. In retrospect, it was a good move to go with Green Arrow. Giving Batman the Berlanti treatment would have been fun to watch, but it would not have worked as well.

Let’s face it; Batman’s origins and character are too firmly entrenched. The show would be too burdened by its past (although Gotham – now in its third season – does a great job in re-imagining that past; and is very good in its way, that take on the Caped Crusader would NOT fit in with the DC-CW stable).

 

Being in its fifth season, Arrow shows cracks that are not yet visible in Flash, let alone the sophomore Supergirl or Legends. The cracks are particularly apparent while binge-watching.

The formula (which can quickly become formulaic) for the DC-CW shows started in Arrow:

  1. The uber-baddie that lurks throughout the season culminating in a season-finale final battle. Granted the show does it well: it’s not one long storyline with zero progression {kaff-last-season’s-Agents-of-Shield-kaff}. Other villains show up during the season – some you think MIGHT be the season-finale uber-villain. A viewer can go several weeks without hearing the Big Bad mentioned. This is good.

The show sometimes even makes fun of this: at one point at the Season Three finale, Quentin Lance said (I paraphrase), “a super-villain is threatening to destroy all of Star City? It must be May!” In my opinion that line should proudly stand alongside “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” and “I saw it in the window and I couldn’t resist it” in TV history.

  1. The mcguffin syndrome that occasionally plagues Flash began with Arrow: bad guy shows himself. Arrow fights bad guy and gets whipped. Arrow’s team finds a flaw and creates a special Arrow to beat bad guy. In between we have scenes advancing the various sub-plots.
  2. The sub-plots: Characters die. They come back. Characters hate Arrow for various reasons (most often of the “I can never trust you again” type) but also come back into “Team Arrow”. (I cringe when I hear or read that term). Quentin Lance seems to hate Arrow in odd-numbered seasons and be his ally in even-numbered seasons.

 

That being said, I LOVE the show! It’s full of comic book Easter eggs (although not as much as Flash) to keep this old viewer happy.

Although even that is not without its faults. Introducing characters like Roy Harper and calling Arrow’s sister by her nickname Speedy pretty much give away their inevitable roles in the show. Their introduction and use of Black Canary was a nice surprise twist, though.

 

By not being tied to a popular back story ala Superman, Batman or Spider-Man, the creators of Arrow can introduce “new” characters: we meet his mother, his father, his sister (I love Willa Holland as Thea Queen – the character grows from self-centered rich girl to a very three-dimensional woman!), Diggle and of course Felicity.

Dave Ramsey as Diggle provides the muscle and back-up when needed and is a great character.

And of course how could I not love she-geek Felicity Smoak played by Emily Bett Rickards?

 

The villains are a mixed breed of one or two-shot baddies to the Big Bad that is finally fought in the season finale. The Big Bads are drawn from DC comics. When John Barrowman was introduced as Malcolm Merlin, we old-time readers knew he was up to no good. Same with Slade Wilson, Brother Blood and Damien Darhk (played by Neal McDonough, who also played Dum Dum in Captain America: The First Avenger movie).

The most surprising Big Bad was Batman villain Ra’s Al Ghul, confirming Arrow’s status as this world’s Batman. Excellently played by Matt Nable; he steals every scene.

For the new season the Big Bad is modern-era villain Prometheus. In the comics he fought the Justice League to a standstill and mutilated Red Arrow/Arsenal.

Uh-oh … once again being a comic book reader may have spoiled part of a future storyline…

 

I’m saving Stephen Arnell for last. The actor who plays Arrow excels at the role even five seasons in – he is serious, but not too Batman-like (read sociopathic) level. Sometimes he even smiles.

 

Oh and by the way, Arrow had Amanda Waller & the Suicide Squad before it was cool. Find those episodes.

 

We likely only have another two or three seasons of Arrow left. Enjoy them.

 

 

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

 

 

Arrow: a primer for the CW TV show! (part one)

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Wednesday: Arrow

Part One

From Wikipedia (as I said before, if they are going to do the work FOR me …):

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASONS ONE through FOUR

The series follows Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), billionaire playboy of Starling City, who spends five years shipwrecked on the mysterious island of Lian Yu.

SEASON ONE: Upon his return to Starling City, he is reunited with his mother, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), his sister, Thea Queen (Willa Holland), and his friend, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell). The first season focuses on Oliver rekindling his relationships and spending his nights hunting down and sometimes killing wealthy criminals as a hooded vigilante, following a list of names he discovered in a notebook belonging to his father. He uncovers Malcolm Merlyn’s (John Barrowman) conspiracy to destroy “The Glades”, a poorer section of the city that has become overridden with crime. John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) assist Oliver in his crusade. Oliver also reconnects with ex-girlfriend, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), who is still angry over his role in her sister’s presumed death. The first season features flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island, and how it changed him; flashbacks in subsequent seasons continue to show how Oliver spent his time and gains the skill-set that shapes him into the vigilante he is.

SEASON TWO: Oliver has vowed to stop crime without killing criminals. His family and allies come under attack from Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), a man from Oliver’s time on the island who returns to destroy everything important to Oliver. Oliver accepts aspiring vigilante Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) as his protégé, and begins to receive assistance from Laurel’s father, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Oliver also gains another ally; a mysterious woman in black, who is eventually revealed to be Laurel’s sister, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), who survived her ordeal at sea after the yacht sank. In flashbacks, Oliver continues his time on the island with Slade, Sara, and Shado Fei, and depicts how Oliver’s animosity with Slade started.

SEASON THREE: Arrow has become a public hero in Starling City following Slade Wilson’s defeat. Queen Consolidated is sold to wealthy businessman, scientist and aspiring hero Ray Palmer (Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh – watching him on this show makes me wish his Superman movie was more successful and we would have seen more of him). Oliver struggles to bring his family back together, an old enemy returns, and Oliver becomes embroiled in a conflict with Ra’s al Ghul (excellently played by Matthew Nable). After a tragic event and a rocky start, Laurel sets out to follow in Sara’s footsteps as the Black Canary. John Diggle struggles with his new role as a family man, as Oliver no longer wants John in the field after the birth of his daughter, while Felicity Smoak begins a new career as Vice President of Palmer Technologies (formerly Queen Consolidated). In flashbacks, Oliver is forced to work for Amanda Waller in Hong Kong alongside Maseo and Tatsu Yamashiro, and to stop corrupt general Matthew Shrieve from unleashing the Alpha-Omega, which Ra’s al Ghul eventually acquires in the present.

SEASON FOUR: the Arrow becomes “Green Arrow”. He and his allies fight against the terrorist organization H.I.V.E., headed by Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), who is attacking Star City (formerly Starling City). John Diggle is concerned with finding H.I.V.E. and learning the reason for the murder of his brother, Andy (Eugene Byrd), who is later discovered to be alive and a H.I.V.E. soldier. Thea joins the team under the alias “Speedy”, but must learn to control herself while fighting, as she now has a blood-lust that may never be fully quenched as a side effect of the Lazarus Pit. Laurel struggles to bring Sara back after learning of Thea’s resurrection from the Pit. Oliver decides to run for mayor. Despite having found happiness with Felicity (now CEO of Palmer Technologies) and planning to propose to her, Oliver discovers that he is the biological father to a boy he unknowingly conceived nine years previously with a former lover, Samantha Clayton (Anna Hopkins). This discovery destabilizes his relationship with Felicity, his life as the Green Arrow, and his mayoral campaign. Oliver ultimately discovers that Damien plans on detonating nuclear weapons and ruling a new world over the Earth’s ashes. In flashbacks, Oliver is forced by Amanda Waller to infiltrate the organization known as Shadowspire, befriends a prisoner Taiana, and has his first encounter with the mystical idol that is eventually acquired by Darhk.

***

            A review and critique of the characters, the actors who portray them and the plots will come next time…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

The CW Network’s Superhero line-up!

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup,

Introduction

Note: I have never been sure of the proper way to stylize the names of books, movies and television shows. Some say to italicize the titles of books and put the titles of TV shows and movies in quotes. Some say it is the other way around. I do not care, frankly, I never have. As long as it is consistent throughout the piece I am reading. If the next blog or article or book then does something different – it doesn’t bother me as long as it is consistent within that same text. I italicize both comic book titles and movie and TV program names in this exercise. It may be wrong, but at least it is consistent.

 

When I think of the CW Network’s lineup of DC Comics superheroes my mind goes back to the fall of 1976.

At that time DC created what we would now call an imprint line of four comic books. An “imprint” is a series of comic books that are not necessarily part of the line’s mainstream comic. The imprint books share a similar theme. There have been imprints aimed solely at children, for example. The Image imprint featured comics with mature themes and art – not for the kids – with creator-owned characters. The Milestone imprint from DC comics was set in a comic book universe outside that of Superman and Batman and featured African American characters and creators.

In 1976 four comics were published by DC with a television theme. DC-TV they called it, and the company even changed its logo for these comic books. The four comics featured television shows that aired at the time (or were about to debut): Superfriends, Welcome Back Kotter and Isis (no, not that Isis) debuted. The fourth was Shazam (the adventures of the original Captain Marvel – but DC dare not use his name on any comic book covers lest Marvel Comics finally get their sweet litigious revenge on National Comics … but that is a whole other story), a comic that had been around for a few years but was on hiatus until the Saturday morning live-action show aired. Kotter and Isis lasted ten and eight issues respectively, Shazam started their TV run with #25 and lasted through #33; after that it changed its style for the next two issues before cancellation (although the character and title continue to be revived these forty years later). Superfriends lasted for several more years – until 1981 over 47 issues – boosted not only by the successful cartoon but also by the familiarity of the characters – Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin.

Reviews and commentary of those four comics would make a fun blog series … maybe given time I will do it!

Forward to 2016. Forty years on I am tickled to see history repeat itself with another DC-TV connection.

This fall season the CW network will air a superhero program based on DC characters each weeknight Monday through Thursday (the rumor of Constantine being added on Fridays are unfortunately untrue).

DC has published comic books based on the shows – or has added some of the television regulars to their existing continuity (in the Flash comic book for example).

This blog series will be a primer for those who (like me) are finally jumping into the new DC-TV pool of programs. I hope to discuss and review all four (maybe five) shows that are soon to begin their new seasons on the CW.

Starting your viewing at this point (particularly Arrow, which begins its fifth season) will only make you … Lost, if you get my meaning.

I promise that I will use spoiler alerts. But you will generally learn nothing that you won’t be able to find out on IMDB and on the “Previously on …” front tags of each show.

***

My only child turns seven in October, right around the time the CW will begin its new season. She loves to read and play games – whether board games or on the computer.

This means that my days of staring at a parade of purple dinosaurs, child explorers and a prime-colored Australian singing quartet are done. Oh, I still have to sit through Frozen every few days, or some other Disneyanic Princess derivation, but shows aimed at children … no more.

So of course I fill my time watching TV shows about super-heroes!!

Hey, you can’t watch the Sopranos all the time …

***

I heard good things about the CW line-up from Facebook and “real” (haha) friends and I was finally able to see what all their posts and comments were about.

Netflix has the first three seasons of Arrow and the first season of Flash available for binge-watching. The entire run of Constantine is available on the CW’s website, and the network is rerunning Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow until their new seasons start. CW is only running a few episodes from seasons four and two of Arrow and Flash respectively. I hope the entire season will soon be on Netflix or elsewhere before or during the new seasons. I don’t mind keeping the shows on Tivo for a few weeks while I catch up.

The only trouble is these shows are linked.

Don’t stop reading! By that I mean that the shows cross over, but they are not one long continued story. You won’t have to jump from one program to another! So don’t panic. In comic book terms, they share the same universe.

(They WILL do have a continued storyline during November sweeps – Supergirl will be chasing a villain through all four shows during one week.)

It’s been done. Remember when Murder She Wrote and Magnum PI had a continued story? There were two (I think) great Law & Order/Homicide shared storylines too. NBC was notorious for this in the 1980s and 1990s: one example is a hurricane hitting Florida affecting the plots of the Golden Girls, Nurses and Empty Nest all in one evening’s programming.

And who can forget the universal nexus of Sam’s General Store in the Beverly Hillbillies/Petticoat Junction/Green Acres?  (Try as I might … )

Here’s what I mean:

The explosion that opened the Flash series is mentioned in Arrow. When the character Arrow (note that the TV show is italicized, the character is not) changes his costume slightly, Flash mentions it. Flash and Arrow regular Felicity Smoak had a brief romance. Heroes, side-characters and villains would pop up in each other’s programs.

I watched Flash first. By the time of Flash season one, Arrow was in season three. It did not make for confused viewing, but it gave away some of the plot points when I later watched early Arrow episodes (we meet Felicity and Diggle in Season One of Arrow – will they be allies or enemies? It was fun to watch the development, but I already knew the outcome). And there WERE some spoilers, “I’m sorry to hear about so-and-so’s death.” Arrgh!

***

I will do my reviews in the order in which the episodes will air: Supergirl first, then Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and finally Constantine (as of the writing of this blog series, Constantine has not yet been officially added to the line-up. I’ll discuss it anyway; I am a big fan of the show having finally seen it and would LOVE to have it added).

 

DC-TV.

 

Again.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).