Originally published from 1985 to 1986, Crisis is one of the most iconic and game-changing comic book stories ever told. Written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by George Pérez, the 12-issue epic followed DC heroes on a mad dash to save the multiverse from imminent destruction at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. In doing so, it forever changed the DC Universe (“Worlds will live. Worlds will die. And the universe will never be the same”).
When it launched, Crisis was mainly an attempt by DC to clean up its very complicated continuity. For Berlanti, though, it was something more: It was his introduction to the wider DC pantheon, beyond just the Flash, his favorite superhero, because in those pages readers saw the younger Superman of Earth-1 interact with a graying Superman from Earth-2, the Green Lanterns’ home base on Oa, and so much more.
“It was a great way to get into all the characters at once because it was like a labyrinth of storytelling,” Berlanti, an executive producer on all the CW’s superhero shows, tells EW. “So you were starting to see how all of these characters were interconnected, and then that made you want to go and read the different issues that were happening and get into the different things.”
The scale of Crisis’ story drew a young Berlanti in too. “The thing that Dungeons & Dragons and Lord of the Rings and the DC space had at the time [in the stories they were doing] was how you got a sense of ‘Oh my God, this story is bigger than all of these other little stories, [and] I can figure it out,’” he says. “There was was no online community to connect with. You felt a part of it by like, ‘Oh, I can get that piece of information, or I can go get that comic book, or that issue, and I can fill in the blanks of being part of this bigger thing.’”
Now the time has come for Berlanti and the Arrowverse creative team to put their own spin on Crisis. This winter, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and newcomer Batwoman will join forces for “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” a five-hour crossover event spanning two months that’s been a long time in the making. The Arrowverse first teased the massive event way back in The Flash’s 2014 pilot, which ended with a shot of a newspaper revealing that the Flash (Grant Gustin) would vanish in a crisis in 2024. (Due to some timey-wimey shenanigans in The Flash’s season 5 finale, that year eventually changed to 2019.) Berlanti admits that he and the other producers had no idea if they’d ever actually be able to pay that off.
“We weren’t sure we’d ever be allowed to [do our version of Crisis], or where we’d get to that place,” he says, adding that he believes Warner Bros. and DC are allowing them to take a stab at the epic because it will be very specific to the Arrowverse. “It’s our iteration of it. It’s not necessarily what they’d end up doing in the film space, so we could advocate for it that way, in terms of permission.”
Nevertheless, this is still one of the biggest stories in comic book history, and that is not lost on Berlanti and company. “I never feel anything other than a sense of responsibility,” he says of adapting Crisis and more. “Whenever we do an iconic story line or we do something that reminds us really vividly of one of those books that meant a lot to us, we have a sense of pressure and obligation of ‘Oh wow, we really don’t want to mess this up’ even more so than we usually do. So that fear overrides any kind of other emotion.”
He adds, “It’s the closest I ever feel to being a kid again, without a doubt. You just get the same sensation, and you didn’t even realize that you locked it up and put it away.”
Batwoman and Supergirl premiere Sunday, Oct. 6, at 8 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET; The Flash returns Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 8 p.m. ET; and Arrow’s final season premieres Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 9 p.m. ET; all on the CW.
For more on how the Arrowverse saved the TV superhero, pick up the August issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands July 25-26. You can buy all five covers, or purchase your individual favorites featuring Arrow,the Flash, Supergirl, White Canary, and Batwoman. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.