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The Flash 1.17 – Captain Cold

Well, speaking of Dick Miller, as I was in the previous entry, back in 1990-91, he had a small recurring part as Fosnight, an informer who occasionally dropped helpful hints about Central City’s criminal underworld in CBS’s quirky version of The Flash. It was a show that owed a whole lot to the success of Tim Burton’s first Batman movie, and gave John Wesley Shipp his first starring role as the Scarlet Speedster. Well, since I’m paying for DC Universe, I might as well take advantage of it and show the kid another thing or two, right? (We also watched one of my favorite episodes of the 1990s Batman cartoon, Paul Dini’s “Almost Got ‘im,” this afternoon.)

Maybe the more obvious pick for a look at The Flash would have been its pilot, or the two with Mark Hamill as the Trickster, or the two with Jason Bernard as Nightshade, the retired hero from the 1950s, but I’ve always enjoyed Gail Morgan Hickman’s “Captain Cold” more than all the other episodes. It guest starred Michael Champion, who was always playing toughs and cops on television in the 1980s and 1990s, as the supervillain, and I correctly guessed that the mix of dopey puns about snow and ice and the sense of “how will the Flash win” menace would keep our favorite eight year-old critic amused. Naturally, he enjoyed the climax the most. There’s nothing like seeing the villain hoist on his own petard when you’re a kid, is there?

On the other hand, this took such a long time to get moving. The Flash – and Lois & Clark, to a large degree – came from that time when television executives seemed terrified to throw too many wild ideas at the screen for fear of whether the audience could swallow them. At one point, they spend nearly a minute discussing how the hitman might have come into possession of a gun that does what it does. Were there really any viewers in their fifties and sixties watching this who needed to have “he has a freeze ray” spoonfed to them like this? And yet I remember reading a critique of the series once that wondered whether casual viewers could have understood a character as outre as Nightshade, as though “he was a superhero, he got old, he retired” was some kind of radical concept.

Anyway, our son certainly squirmed as the character development was limited exclusively to another guest star, wondering why he’s supposed to be caring about the journalistic ethics of somebody he’ll never see again when there’s perfectly good super speed and freeze ray stuff to be seen. But the problem with The Flash, both then and now, is that they have an hour of TV to fill and this guy’s scraps tend to be finished in seconds. I liked the show’s supporting cast, and its crazy timelost design, with art deco buildings and Tamara de Lempicka prints in everybody’s apartment, but I honestly prefer the modern TV incarnation, where there is so much more going on every week, and where members of the huge regular cast develop instead of one-off characters.

On the other hand, Grant Gustin’s Flash is known for making catastrophically bad, universe-threateningly poor decisions several times a season. John Wesley Shipp’s Flash may have run out of steam getting from one side of town to the other and back in sixty seconds, but he was no dummy. It’s nice to see a superhero with as much common sense as this Barry Allen.

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Supergirl 4.9 – Elseworlds (part three)

Just as part two of the crossover showed us the Batwoman show that we might get, part three showed us the Superman show that we never will. I enjoyed Tyler Hoechlin as Superman the couple of times I’ve seen him. Here, he gets to play two Men of Steel, as Dr. Destiny rewrites reality once again to give himself Superman’s powers, and a spiffy black costume.

Hoechlin has a fabulous and believable chemistry with Elizabeth Tulloch’s Lois Lane, and I was absolutely loving their too-short time together. It won’t be continued onscreen in Supergirl any time soon, because Lois and Clark are actually leaving Earth to get married and live in the alien world of Argo City! Here’s to the show we didn’t get, because there was a decade of adventures behind them that must have been fun to see. There’ll never be a Lois as terrific as Teri Hatcher, I say, but Tulloch was wonderful, and I hope she gets the chance to play Lois again one day.

As for the rest of the story, my son and I both feel that they really led with their strongest hand. Part one of the story was by far the wildest and weirdest. By the end, the alternate reality business had lost almost all of its charm for me, though our kid certainly liked the scrap between the two Supermen, and he marveled aloud that Superman and Lois are getting married.

I’m most disappointed that John Wesley Shipp’s Flash from his old CBS show had such a minimal part in the adventure. They tossed him out of the narrative in part two and never resolved it. The Monitor wrecked his world, for some reason, and left behind the corpses of a lot of costumed heroes, for some reason, but did that mean an entire reality was wiped out, or just that planet’s Justice League? If we’re honest, the Monitor didn’t make any sense at all anyway… not that he ever did in the funnybooks in the first place. “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was a dopey and unnecessary story in 1986. I can’t swear that I’m looking forward to the TV version next year all that much.

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Arrow 7.9 – Elseworlds (part two)

Had some maddening issues getting to watch part two of this story. The Flash played just fine in Google Chrome, but Arrow insisted that I had an ad blocker active when I didn’t, so I had to play it in Internet Explorer, which wouldn’t let me skip ahead afterward to get a screencap or two… maybe I can just get an old-fashioned VHS screener or something. Those never gave me problems…

Anyway, the second part of this story principally serves as an introduction to Kate Kane, who’s not-so-secretly Batwoman, and who is played by Ruby Rose. I wish Rose and the producers the best of luck in launching this show, but I am a little disappointed by the visual choices they’ve made for Gotham City. Our heroes learn that Gotham’s basically a complete hole of a town, and that there used to be an urban legend called Batman keeping the streets safe-ish, but the Batman vanished three years ago, around the same time that billionaire super-industrialist Bruce Wayne went missing.

Kate’s got an explanation, or as much as one as she’s willing to give to the infamous vigilante Green Arrow before telling him to get lost: after Batman left, the city fell further and further apart, and Bruce lost his will to keep fighting to make the city better. Interestingly, Kara lets slip that there’s a Bruce Wayne on her Earth as well, sort of best frenemies with her cousin.

But things sadly move to Arkham Asylum, and it’s so unoriginal and uninventive. Granted, the front atrium of the building becomes the center stage for Diggle (David Ramsey) to have a simply amazing brawl with about a dozen Arkham inmates. But the asylum is the same, dreary, dilapidated, moldy, bare-mattress building that comics and video games have been crapping into existence for three decades and just once I’d like somebody to depict it as a state-of-the-art facility based on an actual 21st Century psychiatric institution. Maybe Bruce Wayne could have spent some of his trillions fixing the Arkham plumbing and its decades-old flickering fluorescent bulbs instead of on more Bat-toys if he really wanted to do something to help the city.

There’s a nice wink at the ’60s Batman in the form of a Shakespeare bust in Kate Kane’s office. I wish the Batwoman show well, and I hope it doesn’t suffer too long from the Dark Knight-shaped hole in its floor.

Photo credit: The Hollywood Reporter

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The Flash 5.9 – Elseworlds (part one)

We watched Avengers: Age of Ultron on Sunday, but as much as our son and I enjoyed the movie, I found myself uninspired to say anything about it. I’ve got something now: our kid thought that Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s brief turn as the speedster Quicksilver was fun, but the character was overshadowed by all the other mayhem in the movie.

But the Flash is a whole ‘nuther story. Earlier this evening, we watched part one of the annual Arrowverse crossover and this blasted kid has burned off a good four thousand calories crashing around the house trying to run as fast as the Flash. At one point, we heard the unmistakable sound of decorative wooden shoes clattering across hardwood floors and into bookshelves as he super-speed slid past the Christmas tree and tripped. The kid now has to sit still and console himself by moving his hands so fast that he can phase through solid objects, just like Barry Allen, and, tonight, Oliver Queen.

This year’s crossover is called “Elseworlds” and the two principal heroes of Earth-1, Flash and Green Arrow, wake up in each other’s bodies. The body-swap seems to be the first strike against reality by a classic DC Comics villain, Dr. Destiny, abetted by another figure called the Monitor, who seems to have a beef against all these parallel universes. While a couple of their superpowered allies try fighting a new menace, the star players figure their friend Supergirl, over on Earth-38, might be able to help.

So the Arrowverse really kind of left me behind – I genuinely enjoyed the first season of Supergirl, but all the changes they made when they moved production to Vancouver were a drag, and I never forgave The Flash for all the cast acting so unbelievably gullible and stupid in season two’s Zoom story – but I saw news blurbs and this sounded fun. As the story goes on over three nights, we’re apparently going to have a pile of Easter eggs and winks to the audience who knows older superhero shows. This story actually opens on Earth-90, where John Wesley Shipp has apparently been playing the Flash ever since his old show on CBS got cancelled twenty-seven years ago, and we learn that the Kent family farm on Earth-38 is in fact the same Kent family farm of Smallville, theme song and everything.

I really enjoyed the farm scenes. Kara is visiting Clark, who is played by occasional guest star Tyler Hoechlin and who is terrific as Superman, and this episode introduces Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane, who’s certainly been mentioned on Supergirl a time or ten, but never seen before. There’s a great callback to a memorable moment in season one of The Flash involving remotely-triggered crossbows, but it’s the fight that blew our kid’s adrenaline through the roof. It is kind of joyous watching Superman, Supergirl, Flash, and Green Arrow take down the robot Amazo, looking nowhere as goofy as it did in the funnybooks.

So yes, our son was in heaven, and the episode ended with a clue that Dr. Destiny and the Monitor are hanging out in Gotham City. This is the home of the red-haired Batwoman, who also has a show in development on the CW. I’ve never read any comics with the character before, and nor am I certain whether The Flash and Arrow have ever acknowledged Gotham City before, so I’m really curious what will happen next. More tomorrow night!

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