There will be X-Men and Avengers constituents galore on the movie screens this summer, but there's only one Flash (well, actually there are at least four Flashes if you want to get technical about it). Production starts next week on the upcoming CW drama, but the model for the character's debut is remarkably similar to Marvel's big-screen success with the Kevin Feige-orchestrated "cinematic universe" movies, which are all semi-sequels to each other.
Like Marvel's Iron Man, the CW's Arrow was a character expected to achieve modest success for a company busily trying to monetize what were perceived as more valuable assets (DC's Superman and Marvel's Incredible Hulk, respectively). But, like Iron Man, Arrow has seriously overperformed, and now the CW is looking more and more like a vital pipeline into the treasure chest of DC Comics assets that have mostly lain fallow as Marvel's movies have dominated summer after summer.
The network, after all, had years of success with its soapy Superman drama, Smallville, and Arrow is now the CW's most-watched show, ahead of both The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural. The program also does markedly well with men on a network that attracts mainly young women—the demo split is roughly 50/50 and the composition of the series reflects this, with power plays between female characters and costumed superheroics in equal measure.
So, just as Nick Fury sauntered in at the end of Iron Man, The Flash has already made two appearances as a guest star on Arrow, with a third to come and a pilot all-but-greenlit for a second go-round on broadcast TV. (Yes, second: the first Flash series landed on CBS in 1990 at 8 p.m., a slot that pitted it against a midseason show that had debuted the previous December: The Simpsons.) And as Arrow succeeds, there's a bull market in the unconventional, the creepy, and the just-plain-disturbing from DC's back catalog—which, by the way, is much, much darker than Marvel's.
But one of the problems plaguing the Marvel movies is that several of the big kahunas are at Fox, rather than Marvel/Disney—Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Punisher and the X-Men all keep popping up with the 21st Century Fox logo in the trailer. For DC, most of the big-league heroes are in-house, but not all. Here's what's in the works at the moment:
At the CW:
Hourman, in development, presumably to follow The Flash if that show breaks big. Rex Tyler is a guy who takes a vitamin called Miraclo that gives him superpowers… but only for an hour. Is this the perfect setup for a procedural? Yes. Yes, it is.
iZombie, also in development and arguably even weirder than Hourman—the show stars a young woman who died recently but is still walking and talking. She's a perfectly reasonable person in most respects, except that she needs to eat a brain once a month to keep from losing her thoughts and memories. And, yes, some form of psychic indigestion also gives her the thoughts and memories of the person she's just consumed for a little while. Call it The Thinking Dead. This one differs from Hourman because its creators own and control the rights.
Preacher, long-discussed (first at HBO, much like The Sandman, which is now a film project), and finally at home at AMC, with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg writing. The incredibly violent, over-the-top story of a preacher with the power to make anyone do what he says is one of comics' best-loved contemporary stories. It involves a cult called The Grail, several vampires, and a showdown at the Alamo. Like iZombie, it's creator-owned.
Gotham, a policier set in Gotham City, will air on Fox during the 2014-15 TV season. If you're asking yourself, "Why wasn't this a comic book first?", don't worry: it was, sort of. The creators haven't acknowledged it but crime writers Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker teamed up on a series called Gotham Central that similarly tracked the wacky crimes solved by the GCPD before Batman was called in to clean up.
Constantine, a detective show ordered to pilot on NBC, will likely show up in that network's 14-15 season, too. Strange as it may seem, this supernatural detective (his book is called Hellblazer) who tracks down demons and cultists and has actually visited Hell itself more than once lives in the same universe as Superman and Wonder Woman.