For longtime DC fans, the DCEU’s struggles have been a bit confusing. DC already had its own shared universe in the “Timm-verse”, named Batman: The Animated Series co-creator Bruce Timm. From the acclaimed 1992 series, Timm’s verse included Superman: The Animated Series, Static shock, batman beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and many movies. The Timm-verse was so successful that one can’t help but wonder if it helped the kids who watched it come to terms with the Marvel Cinematic Universe when they became adults.
six months later The Avengers hit the theaters, Arrow debuted on the CW network. For its first two seasons, Arrow felt very different from the universe it eventually spawned, taking a (relatively) grounded approach to the story of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), a wealthy young man who becomes a superb archer after getting stranded on A desert island. Strongly influenced by Lost and batman begins, the series has moved away from superhero storytelling. Elements of the comic were present, but often in a very different form. For example, parts of season two found Ollie captured on a ship called the Amazo, a reference to the classic Justice League android antagonist, and Sebastian Blood appeared as a crazed politician instead of the evil cult leader. Brother Blood. Oliver didn’t even take on the Green Arrow name until season four.
But since that slow start, Arrow ushered in a world of shows that fully embraced their superhero roots. With the coming of the flash in 2014, the appropriate superpowers entered the Arrowverse, starting with the super speed of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), but eventually including the ice powers of Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker) and the interdimensional leaps of Vibe (Carlos Valdes). Soon to follow were super girl, Legends of tomorrow, Black Lightning, batmanand Superman and Lois. As these shows filled the airwaves, so did increasingly obscure DC comic book characters. Unloved C-listers such as Vibe, Wild Dog and Commander Steel became fan favorites when performed by Valdes, Rick Gonzalez and Nick Zano.
As its name suggests, the Arrowverse is a cohesive live-action universe, one that brings all of its heroes together. Crossovers happen regularly within the Arrowverse, putting multiple heroes, stars of their own series but not members of a team, in lead roles. In episodes such as “All Star Team Up” (shine season 1) and “World’s Finest” (super girl first season), the heroes of other shows appeared not only in cameos, but as key players in ongoing storylines.
Around the same time, Marvel began launching its own shared universe on television, an expansion of the cinematic universe it did so well on the big screen. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD premiered in 2013, starring Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson. In 2015, Agent Carter created, which followed Hayley Atwell’s character doing super spy stuff before SHIELD was founded.
While neither series got the MCU attention that was hoped for – the premiere got some plot motivation after the revelations of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and an older version of Howard Stark’s Butler Jarvis (James D’Arcy) appeared in Avengers: Endgame – the biggest problem was that they rarely seemed to relate to each other. In fact, aside from a few concepts, the closest sense of a shared universe came when the time-traveling Agents of SHIELD encountered Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) from Agent Carter.