The "Elseworlds" crossover kicks off on Sunday, and as we've seen in promos and photos for the three-night Arrowverse crossover, there is a lot for fans of The CW DC Comics inspired shows to look forward to -- including John Wesley Shipp's return as Earth-90's Flash.
The reveal that Shipp would be reprising his role from the short-lived, but much-loved TV show that debuted on CBS in 1990 -- complete with the iconic red suit -- was one that thrilled fans familiar with the actor's long history with the character as well as the current Flash series. However, for those perhaps newer to the world of the Scarlet Speedster, the appearance may have prompted a few questions. And those questions probably multiplied a bit with the shocking "post credits" scene revealing the existence of Earth-90 (a nod to the 1990s series) and Shipp's take on the Flash has he fled the Monitor (LaMonica Garrett).
So, for those a little less familiar, we thought we'd put together a brief guide to the 1990 version of The Flash, breaking down some of the differences and some of the things that have remained the same when it comes to Central City 28 years ago.
Family is a cornerstone of The Flash, both in the 1990s and in The CW series, but when it comes to what the Allen family looked like in the previous series well, it was quite different. Shipp's Barry Allen is older -- think 35 as opposed to 25 -- when the series begins and instead of a deceased mother and incarcerated father, Nora and Henry Allen are living the happy retired life while Barry also has an older brother, Jay. in this series, Henry Allen is a retired police officer who is very proud of Jay for becoming a cop while a little more dismissive of Barry for simply working in the crime lab.
The basics of how Barry Allen becomes the Flash aren't too different in the 1990s series: Barry is struck by lightning while in his crime lab. However, there's no dark matter or particle accelerator here. Instead, Shipp's Barry is simply working when a random lightning bolt strikes him and knocks him into some of the lab chemicals. It's enough to impart Barry with his speed. However, getting that speed is something that Shipp's Barry isn't exactly happy about at first. Initially, he wants to be cured of his powers, though that changes when his brother is murdered.
With the differences in approach to powers is part of the larger differences in personality when it comes to Shipp's Barry. On the series, Barry Allen is a friendly, with those close to him in his civilian identity but once he puts on the suit, this take on the Flash is far more serious and a bit grimmer. Shipp's Flash is much more a feared vigilante than a friendly neighborhood speedster here, something that makes sense when you consider the tone of the series...
...which is a lot darker than The CW's series. The 1990 live-action Flash is very much a product of the popularity of 1989's Batman and, as a result, this version of Central City takes a page out of Gotham City's book. The whole setting has the same vintage, out of contemporary time feeling that Tim Burton's take on Gotham City had, just brighter and more colorful in places. The cars on the street during an opening scene in the pilot in particular have a very mid-1960s feel. There's also the grimness of the violence that Central City in the series, all of it working together to make the show feel quite a bit more like a Batman story than anything else. Theme music by Denny Elfman helps in that regard (oh, and here's an Easter Egg for you: listen carefully to that "post credits" teaser scene leading into "Elseworlds" and you can hear an adaptation of that very theme.)
Despite being a darker, grimmer version of things Barry isn't alone in the 1990s series. He has friends and support from STAR Labs just like in The CW series, but we aren't talking Cisco and Caitlin. Instead, Shipp's Barry gets help from Dr. Tina McGee (played by Amanda Pays who, by the way, actually plays Dr. Tina McGee in The CW series as well) --the lone STAR Labs employee.
Barry also finds support and friendship in another employee of the crime lab, Julio Mendez, though Barry doesn't let Julio know about his secret identity. Instead, Julio regularly encourages Barry to work on the romance in his life. Speaking of, sorry Team WestAllen, but Shipp's Barry doesn't end up with Iris West. Iris moves to Paris and largely disappears after the series pilot. Instead, Barry and Dr. McGee begin to develop feelings for one another, though aren't sure pursuing a relationship is the best of ideas.
While 1990s Flash didn't end up with Iris West, he at least got to deal with some wild villains to make up for it, played by some great guest stars. Mirror Master, played by David Cassidy the father of Katie Cassidy who appears on Arrow today, and Captain Cold were both entertaining baddies on the series. There was also an evil clone version of Barry called Pollux who wore a blue Flash costume (sorry, Eobard Thawne, no Reverse Flash here!).
The best and possibly most notable villain on the series, though, was Trickster played by none other than Mark Hammill. Hammill also reprised the role for The CW series, still as epic as ever.
While Shipp's Flash only got one, 22-episode season in 1990 and 1991, it continues to live on. It's that longevity with fans who still adore the series that Shipp recently told ComicBook.com astounds him.
"It still astounds me that one season of a show that we did 28 years ago still has this much resonance with the genre fans," Shipp said. "I'm glad nobody told me 28 years ago. I might not have been able to go on. But from this side of having done it, watching everybody's reaction, it makes my heart very full."
The Flash, 1990 version, is available on DC Universe.0comments
The Flash (The CW version) airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
The three-night "Elseworlds" event will begin with Supergirl on Sunday, December 9th, before carrying over to December 10th's Arrow and December 11's The Flash.