If you have a passing interest in the surprisingly fun DC TV Universe, you may have heard of a little minor casting that was announced last month.
A little-known character by the name of Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El (who?) was confirmed a while back to be making his DC TV debut in the CW's Supergirl, and now we have a face to put to the name in the form of Teen Wolf alumni Tyler Hoechlin.
Hoechlin will appear as the successor to Tom Welling — the last actor to portray Superman on the small screen — and he'll make his debut in blue and red spandex at the beginning of Supergirl's second season, expected to premiere Monday, October 10, 2016.
The DC Multiverse
Superman is, of course, portrayed currently on the big screen by Henry Cavill as part of the DC Extended Universe, which we can assume exists somewhere out there in the vast reaches of the DC Multiverse. For here in our TV Universe Supergirl does not stand alone.
There's already been a crossover between Supergirl and The Flash, which in turn has crossed over multiple times with Arrow — and both Arrow and The Flash planted the seeds that would spin off into Legends of Tomorrow. From the seeds planted by Arrow back in 2012, the shared DC TV Multiverse was created, currently spanning out over at least five earths (that we know of).
And we've waited with bated breath to see the appearance of Superman in the DC TV Universe ever since the third episode of Legends of Tomorrow, "Blood Ties," suggested that the big blue schoolboy had already left his mark somewhere on the timelines of Earth-One.
The Big Superman Reference
How do we know this? Because "Blood Ties" featured Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) ominously monologuing:
"The benefit of being a Time Master is that the length and breadth of history gives one... perspective. I've seen darker days. I've seen men of steel die and dark knights fall, and even then I accomplished my mission no matter what."
Even if you just have a casual acquaintance with the DC superhero world, you'll probably recognize the references to both Superman and Batman here.
While Superman is commonly referred to as "The Man of Steel," one of Batman's famous monikers is "The Dark Knight" — and both nicknames have been used as titles in contemporary cinematic adaptations of the two characters.
This also appears to be a reference to the comic book storyarcs "Death of Superman" (which we saw a version of in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and "Batman: Knightfall" (which we saw a version of in The Dark Knight Returns).
As you can probably guess, these storylines chronicle the death of Superman, and the fall of Batman — not good news for the heroes of the DC TV Multiverse.
How Does This Fit Into Legends Of Tomorrow?
Rip's remark here is — of course — in reference to the future the Legends set out to prevent, the take-over and destruction of the world by Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), 'cause that's pretty much all Rip talks about. Get a hobby, dude.
So, does this mean both Superman and Batman exist in the future of Earth-One? Well, yes and no. Clearly the two haven't popped up in the "Flarrowverse" yet — Supergirl was set up on another Earth due to the fact that there was no precedent for the existence of a Kryptonian on Earth-One, and the possibility of seeing Batman seems very slim right now.
But with the recent casting of Hoechlin as the Man of Steel in Supergirl and the numerous references to Superman sprinkled through Kara Zor-El's (Melissa Benoist) series, we know that he at least is canonically part of the CW Multiverse.
The real kicker is the time travelling, dimension-hopping aspect of the shows. The question is not so much if Superman exists in the history of Earth-One, but if he exists in a potential future of Earth-One.
Time Travel And Alternate Dimensions
Time travel is a nightmare scenario to try and unravel narratively (ask any Doctor Who fan), and though Legends of Tomorrow has demonstrated butterfly effects, in general it seems pretty unbeholden to worrying too much about the finer details of continuity.
Furthermore, it's unclear which version of Superman Rip's comments about the Man of Steel pertain to. Thanks to the multiverse, we don't know if he's referring to the Kal-El of Supergirl, or another version of the character from another Earth (let's just hope it's not the Injustice version of Superman, we don't need any of that).
And look at Rip's word usage. He speaks in the plural, "men of steel" and "dark knights." Legends of Tomorrow has already set up the possibly for traveling not just in time but between dimensions, and of course there's the notion that every possible future exists in an alternate dimension.
This was touched upon in "Star City 2046," when the Legends end up in a dystopian 2046 version of Star City, ruled by Grant Wilson (Jamie Andrew Cutler) — the son of Green Arrow's arch-nemesis Slade Wilson/Deathstroke.
Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) questions what happens when they leave Star City 2046 — does this future then cease to exist? Rip suggests so, referring to it as a "just a potential future" — but a "potential future" of Earth-One. Depending on what version of time-travel you ascribe to, this future Star City could splinter off as part of a new Earth continuity when the Legends return to change the past.
It's also interesting to note that the Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) the Legends encounter in "Star City 2046" is missing his left arm. Though it's later revealed that his arm was taken by Grant Wilson, it did seem to be a nod to The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, which reveals that Green Arrow had his left arm ripped off by Superman himself. An Easter Egg, or foreshadowing?
So, does this mean that Rip Hunter has witnessed multiple version of Superman and Batman falling, in multiple futures and different worlds? Should we be worried about the fate of Kara Zor-El's cousin when he rocks up in Supergirl? Has Rip seen Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? What did he think of the infamous Martha reveal? So many questions.
The Red Capes Are Coming...
With The CW promising a major crossover between Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl when the shows return for their next seasons, it's looking like the possibly of Superman encountering the Legends has just risen.
And Brandon Routh — who portrays Ray Palmer/Atom in Legends of Tomorrow and also put on the blue pants as the Man of Steel in Superman Returns — recently professed his personal desire via a Reddit AMA to crossover and meet up with the man now carrying the Superman mantle in DC TV shows.
But of course, thanks to Barry Allen's (Grant Gustin) actions in The Flash Season 2 finale, the whole CW Multiverse has just been turned on its head (dangit Barry). We learned recently that The Flash Season 3 would adapt its own version of famous DC comic book crossover arc "Flashpoint." Flashpoint will likely affect the rest of the shows in that universe too, so anything is fair game from here on out.
How the events of Flashpoint will impact our time traveling legends is still to be seen, but we're holding out hope that we'll get the answer to those questions about the fallen men of steel. Even if only so we can see what we assume will be an adorable exchange between Routh and Hoechlin.