To date there have been two live action adaptations of the famous scarlet speedster on the small screen. The short lived 90’s series starring John Wesley Shipp as the Flash and the ongoing (as of the writing of this article) Arrow spin off starring Grant Gustin.
Whilst the modern version has obviously had a longer run (3 seasons and counting). The 90’s series still nevertheless has a strong and devoted cult following and even had something of an influence on the 21st century Flash and other Superhero adaptations.
Both I feel have earned their place among the all time greatest superhero television series, but as to which I find to be better? Well that’s a hard question to answer as both offered up a very different take on the Flash, and thus both succeed and fail in different ways.
Still in this article I am going to run through the ways in which I feel the 90’s show was superior and ways in which I feel the 2010’s series was better before deciding which one is the stronger version overall.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
Ways in which the 90’s version was stronger
The Flash Himself
The main Flash in both series is Barry Allen (though both Jay Garrick and Wally West have appeared as supporting characters in the 2010 series).
In the 90’s show he was played by John Wesley Shipp and was an older, more mature character, whilst in the 2010’s version he is a much younger, more sensitive, vulnerable character played by Grant Gustin.
I think both men have been excellent as the characters they played. In terms of performances they are probably about equal. Also in all fairness, in terms of writing I wouldn’t say there is a definitive best either. Both characters have been successful in what they set out to do, but I personally prefer the 90’s version in a number of ways.
To start with the 90’s Flash to me felt somewhat stronger and less vulnerable.
I must admit I am sick of the way most heroes nowadays have to be sensitive, emotional, and geeky. I’m not saying I dislike heroes like that completely, but it can get a little bit frustrating the way that so many heroes have to be rewritten that way. I think its because a lot of writers feel that they need to make their heroes someone the viewers can relate to.
Its understandable, but it can get a bit frustrating the way that so many heroes even if they weren’t that originally have to be reinterpreted that way. The Doctor from Doctor Who is another example of this. In the original he was a cold, distant, mysterious, alien character, but in the 21st century revival in order to be someone the people could relate to he was made into a more sensitive, emotional, love struck hero.
Sadly whilst its not quite as big a deviation to make the Flash like that, at times I do feel like I am watching Peter Parker rather than Barry Allen when I look at Grant Gustin’s version.
The thing that annoys me the most about the 2010’s version however is the way he is well kind of stupid.
Again I feel this is a trend with modern heroes to make them more fallable. Nobody wants a boring Mr or Mrs Perfect who succeeds at everything, but sadly I think that some modern heroes are made too weak and mess up too often.
Barry it could be argued at times has caused more problems than he has fixed. At the end of series 1 for instance its his decision to travel backwards in time which ultimately creates the rip between universes, nearly destroys Central City and causes the death of Ronnie Raymond. His stupid decision to trust Leonard Snart of all people is also what allows the Metahumans to escape leading to more chaos in season 2.
Worst of all though is when he gives up his speed to Zoom in season 2. I am sorry but this scene really pissed me off.
Why did he give up his power? Zoom at that point is slower than Barry, and Zoom has given up his prisoner Wally West! What possible reason could he have for giving up his speed? He should have just clobbered Zoom there and then which he could as he was faster. He later managed to pummel Zoom when he was slower than him later in the finale remember. Here it should have been no problem.
The Flash really is too stupid to live at times. All the shit that happens afterwards including the Metapocalypse and the death of Henry Allen can be traced to what Barry does here.
Also though this is a more minor complaint I do wish that Barry would stop calling himself the fastest man alive at the start of every episode. He’s not! Every season he meets someone that can literally run rings around him.
The 90’s Flash made mistakes too. He was captured twice by his insane archenemy The Trickster, but he never felt stupid to me. There’s a difference between making honest mistakes, being caught off guard, being tricked by the villain (whose whole thing is tricking people) and actually giving a psychopath godlike powers because?
We also did get to see a more vulnerable and human side to the 90’s Flash as well, such as in his relationship with Doctor McGee. Its quite sweet when we see how he doesn’t want her to leave because he would miss her too much, and later when he is given the chance to leave Central City he stays because of her. The 90’s Flash wasn’t just some boring Mr Perfect who succeeded at everything. He was a very human character, capable of making big mistakes just like anyone else, but the point was unlike the modern Flash he never felt genuinely weak or incompetent.
Overall I felt the original 90’s Flash was a much stronger heroic figure all around and though he made mistakes he never outright frustrated me with his stupidity like the 21st century version.
The score to the 90’s theme is probably the best there has ever been for any superhero television series.
Its main theme was supplied by Danny Elfman, whilst the incidental music of the series was supplied by the late Shirley Walker.
Both of them have supplied iconic music to various other superhero films and television series such as Tim Burton’s Batman whilst Shirley Walker supplied the music for Batman the animated series.
The Flash’s theme is somewhat reminiscent of the Burton Batman’s to be fair, but its still a brilliant piece of music nonetheless.
The music for the 2010’s series whilst not bad is generally speaking quite generic and bland, certainly in comparison to the 90’s version.
Fanmade opening for the new series using the 90’s shows theme. A part of me wishes they had just reused the old theme for this series, though I can understand why they didn’t as it is still very 90’s.
More Straight Forward Stories
Now this is not say the writing of the 2010’s series is bad. In some ways its better the way its more ambitious. However I think the fact that the 90’s series was a bit more grounded at times meant its writing was less muddled.
A lot of the time travel and alternate universe stories can sometimes be too overly complicated for the sake of it in the new series. Also I find that whenever a character is killed off in the new Flash because it does deal with time travel and alternate universes its hard to feel as though they won’t be back. Take a look at Henry Allen for instance. He is killed off and its a very dramatic moment, but then he’s back an episode later via Jay Garrick.
Sometimes less is more and whilst the 90’s Flash may not have had as wild stories as say an army of Gorilla’s attacking Central City, at the same time its stories were less tangled up, it didn’t feel like nothing really mattered, as anything could be reset and any character could come back via a doppelganger.
I also feel that the writing of the 2010 series can get a bit repetitive at times. For instance the series 1 and series 2 story arcs both revolve around a speedster villain who wants to steal the Flash’s speed, kills one of his parents, and poses as a friend of the team for months on end (with Caitlin being the one who gets closest to him in both cases)
Ways in which the 2010’s series is better
Any rogues gallery that manages to bring together the leading men from Prison Break, Spartacus, and Star Wars as supervillains has got to be brilliant.
There’s really no contest between the two shows rogues galleries.
The 90’s Flash was limited by its budget and therefore couldn’t bring in characters like Gorilla Grodd. It did have a few of the Flash’s enemies such as Captain Cold and most notably the Trickster played by Mark Hamill, but still overall most of the Flash’s enemies were villains of the week or simple crooks.
Mark Hamill’s version of the Trickster is an excellent villain, easily one of the greatest comic book supervillains on either the big or the small screen. In the comics the Trickster was more of a lovable rogue who made sure his schemes never truly hurt anyone and actually liked the Flash as a person.
In the 90’s series however he was re-imagined as being a sadistic, Joker style psychopathic mass murderer. At the same time however whilst the Hamill Trickster may have owed a lot to the Joker, his love interest Prank may have inspired Harley Quinn, the Joker’s sidekick.
Prank like Harley Quinn is a bubbly, blonde, psychopath who is completely devoted to the Trickster, despite his constant physical and verbal abuse of her.
Mark Hamill doing what he does best. Torturing superheroes and charming sexy, blonde, psycho babes.
Still despite this the 2010’s series has much better villains overall.
To start with Mark Hamill returned as the Trickster for the 2010’s series, so the best villain from the 90’s show is in this one too. The Trickster was not presented as the Flash’s archenemy in the modern Flash like he was in the 90’s series, but he was every bit as insane and twisted and evil as the 90’s version.
He has also so far been in more episodes too. Sadly however no mention has been made of Prank in the 21st century Flash, but hopefully she will be in a later episode.
The Flash’s actual archenemy in the series meanwhile Eobard Thawne is a brilliant character. Both of the actors who have brought him to life, Tom Cavannagh and Matt Letscher have managed to create a villain along with the writers who is at times, charming, likable, even seemingly a good person (such as when he helps to save Firestorm.) Yet at other points is a cold, pitiless, arrogant, vicious, petty character.
Eobard’s story arc is truly fascinating from start to finish. Its obvious from the beginning that he is up to something dodgy, but there is still a possibility until we find out he is the man in yellow that he could be working towards a greater good. I remember the first time I watched the series really hoping that he would turn out to be a good guy because I liked him so much I didn’t want him to leave the series.
Of course when he was revealed as the villain I wasn’t angry as he was such an effective nemesis for the Flash. He was so powerful it took the combined might of the Arrow, Firestorm and the Flash (and to some extent the Atom who created a new weapon for the Arrow to use) to bring him down.
Despite this however incredibly enough what actually made him so scary was how manipulative he was. As Barry himself later says, he isn’t just one step ahead of our heroes, he’s a thousand! This is a man who is able to change all of time itself for his own ends. Even when held prisoner and Barry knows that he had killed his mother, Cisco knows that Thawne had murdered him in an alternate timeline, and Caitlin knows that he sacrificed her fiance for his own ends. Thawne still managed to manipulate all 3 of them into doing everything he wanted and almost let him go home!
That’s a truly magnificent bastard. There was also at the same time a certain tragic element to Thawne. Thawne was a scientific genius, someone who was able to replicate the scientific experiment that created the Flash, and master time travel! He had hoped to use his great gifts to help mankind and be remembered as a hero, but when he found out after travelling in time that he was destined to become an evil villain. Ironically it drove him mad.
A part of me wonders if Thawne wanted to erase the Flash from existence more because he felt that by doing so he could be something great, rather than simply because he hated the Flash. It was after all knowledge of being the Flash’s archenemy in the future that pushed him down a dark path. Thus with no Flash maybe he could actually be a hero.
His relationship with Barry is also complicated. In the future the two are archenemies, but when Thawne meets Barry as a young man and mentors him, he does genuinely come to care about him. He later even tells Barry much to his disgust that he loves him like a son.
Whilst Thawne offers Barry a chance to change time and save his mother for his own ends, at the same time I also feel that a part of Thawne wanted to genuinely undo the pain he had inflicted on Barry.
Zoom, Barry’s other archenemy was a more straight forward villain. He didn’t have the complex personality of Thawne. He was really just a psychopath. Still at the same time he was far more terrifying than Thawne.
With Thawne as pitiless as he was, everything he did had a purpose. Even the murder of Noira was to not only punish the Flash, but also to try and erase the hero too by traumatising him at a young age. Zoom however kills and tortures people because he enjoys it!
Zoom’s costume alone was more intimidating and his voice, which was supplied by legendary villain actor Tony Todd made him sound like a Demon.
Teddy Sears who plays the character in his civilian identity, Hunter Solomon was also brilliant. When Solomon disguised himself as Jay Garrick he genuinely was the last person you would have ever thought was evil. Unlike Harrison Wells the previous year who it was obvious was at least equivocal and ruthless from the start. Sears version of Jay couldn’t seem like a more honest, decent, likable guy which just make it all the more horrifying when his true identity is discovered. Sears was later every bit as convincing at making Solomon seem like a cold, vicious sociopath.
This series version of Captain Cold meanwhile played by Wentworth Miller is far superior to the 90’s version. The 90’s version was in all fairness more genuinely sinister, but Miller’s Cold is a far more engaging character.
Miller really makes the role his own as much as Cavannagh did with Thawne or Hamill did with the Trickster.
He brings a real arrogance to Captain Cold or Leonard Snart that just makes you want to watch the Flash take him down a peg or two. At the same time however both Miller and the writers never go to far and are able to add a lot of redeeming qualities to Captain Cold too.
He does genuinely love his sister, and has risked his own life to save her time and time again. He also has his limits in how far he is willing to go. Even flat out refusing to work with a psychopathic mass murderer like the Trickster. Also though he has stabbed Barry Allen in the back at certain points; he has also genuinely helped him out a few times too such as when he warned him of the Trickster and the Weather Wizard’s plan, and he even kept Barry’s secret identity to the end too. Hell he did a better job of keeping his secret identity than Felicity who blabbed it to Merlyn!
Leonard’s a character that you can go from thinking “he’s not so bad” to hating in the blink of an eye, such as when he tells Cisco how much he respects him before torturing his brother right in front of him!
His complex personality also allowed the writers to develop a more interesting relationship between Snart and Barry that wasn’t just the usual villain/hero dynamic. Above all else Snart never truly hated Barry and whilst they never truly become friends, its obvious that Snart does consider Barry the closest thing he could have to a friend on the right side of the law. He even hesitates to shoot Barry when his father threatens his sisters life.
Snarts Rogues, Rory (Heatwave) and his sister Lisa meanwhile were also great villains. Rory had a more simple characterisation. A thick headed arsonist who just loves to fight, but Dominic Purcell (Miller’s co-star from Prison Break) brought a lot of humour to the character that not only made him more enjoyable to watch, but also more endearing at times too.
Lisa meanwhile much like her brother has a more complex personality and walks a fine line. I particularly liked her relationship with Cisco. At first she ruthlessly uses Cisco for her own ends and betrays him, but as time goes on she does actually develop feelings for him. I think she had better chemistry with Cisco than any of his other love interests and I hope they return to their relationship at a later point.
Even many of the lesser villains of the series such as Peek A Boo, General Eiling and Weather Wizard I feel are more interesting than many of the villains of the week in the 90’s show. Peek A Boo is a genuinely tragic character who is stabbed in the back by the person she loves more than anything else, whilst the Weather Wizard is given a strong personal link to the Flash’s love interest Patty Spivot, having murdered her father, which leads to a brilliant showdown between the two.
Eiling meanwhile is an utterly ruthless villain, not above using cold blooded torture to get what he wants, yet at the same time he does believe his evil is for a greater good. So much so he doesn’t expose the identity of the Flash or even make any real attempts on his life as he actually thinks they are on the same side. The fact that Eiling is played by another legendary villain actor, Clancy Brown, also doesn’t hurt in making him a brilliant villain either.
Any show that has Mark Hamill, Tony Todd, and Clancy Brown as the villains has got to be worth a look. All 3 actors are in their elements too. Todd plays a villain who might as well be a horror movie character. An almost Demonic killer that slaughters people without remorse like the Candyman. Hamill meanwhile plays a cackling, devilishly clever, yet funny in a twisted way psycho looney. And finally Brown’s character is almost a combination of Lex Luthor (corrupt, ruthless, amoral mastermind who often manipulates metahumans for his own ends) and Byron Hadley (thuggish, sadistic figure of authority).
Finally due to its bigger budget this show was also able to incorporate some of the larger than life villains from the comics, such as Grodd and King Shark.
The series hasn’t held back in any respect to Grodd’s character. Not only is he a talking Gorilla, but he also desires world domination, and even takes over Gorilla City too.
Overall I’d say the modern Flash series has the 4th best rogues gallery of any Superhero tv show, live action or animated.
The top three would probably be Batman TAS, the Adam West series and Spider-Man TAS, but the Flash 2010’s is definitely the next after them.
The 90’s show had a relatively small cast. Just Barry himself, Doctor McGee played by Amanda Hays and Alex Desert as Julio Mendez.
Doctor McGee was a brilliant foil for Barry and Amanda Hays who played her was not only great, but also had a fantastic chemistry with John Wesley Shipp too. Its a shame we never got to see their relationship properly develop. Throughout the series they only ever remain good friends, but there are obviously strong hints that they have romantic feelings for one another too.
Sadly however whilst McGee was a good character, Julio was a bit dull. I didn’t hate him, but he was just a kind of straight forward jokey, ladies man who brought nothing to the show but comic relief.
The only other major supporting character that I really cared about was private detective Megan Lockheart played by Joyce Hyser. Megan was the only other person who figured out the Flash’s secret identity. She was a strong, capable woman, and also a brief love interest of the Flash too.
I enjoyed her character very much. Particularly in the episodes with the Trickster (who fell hopelessly in love with her much to her horror.) Had the show gone to a second season I would have loved to have seen her become a regular. Sadly however she wasn’t in the show that much to make a major impression.
The 2010’s series meanwhile has I feel one of the strongest casts of any tv show. There’s really not a single character I dislike, which is quite rare for a show with such a large cast.
I’d say my favourite character is Harrison Wells, though I vastly prefer his season 2 incarnation to the season 3 one. Still Tom Cavannagh was excellent as the character, and has demonstrated an extremely wide range across the different incarnations of Wells. He’s been everything from an insufferable genius, to a scheming nemesis, to a sarcastic, dry, cynical outsider to the group, to a tormented, conflicted, loving father, to the useless, jokey member of the gang.
Cisco meanwhile is at times a much lighter character. He can help to alleviate some of the darker moments of the show, such as when he gets into an argument over who would win in a fight, The Flash or Arrow, whilst the two are fighting to the death!
However unlike Julio, I feel that he isn’t just the comic relief. He has more of a direct role in the stories. He actually helps Barry out by supplying him with weapons and tech when his speed doesn’t always work.
Caitlin similarly is a useful member of the team, and she has her own story arcs, such as the tragic death of her fiance (who she loses three times) and then her second love interest, “Jay Garrick” turns out to be a serial killer. Caitlin really brings a tragic element to the series, outside of Barry himself. Also the knowledge that she one day may become Killer Frost helps to keep the viewers on edge, as at first glance Caitlin is so sweet and caring it seems impossible that she could ever hurt anyone. However with all of the tragedies and betrayals she has endured, you start to wonder if one day she might just get pushed over the edge.
Iris meanwhile though more of a standard love interest is still an all around likable character. I also love her chemistry and relationship with Barry too. What’s great though is that it hasn’t taken over the show the way that other superhero romances do. Indeed Barry has even had other love interests such as Patty in the meantime. Thus it hasn’t been as intrusive, but it still has formed the basis for many stories.
Even Barry and Iris’s decoy love interests Patty and Eddie have been very likable too. Normally the decoy love interests is a character nobody can stand as they are meant to just get in the way of the couple we want to get together.
Here however it kind of backfired for me at least as Eddie and Patty were so likable I wouldn’t have minded them being in the show for good.
Eddie was a pretty cool guy all around. He was an extremely loyal friend to Barry, helping him out whenever he could, protecting his secret even when it threatened to end his relationship with Iris (who he genuinely loved) and he later sacrificed his life to save Barry and everyone else in the end too.
Patty meanwhile I felt brought a similar dynamic that Megan Lockheart did to the original show. She was a bit harder, more gun ho than the other women in Barry’s life and even perhaps a bit more ruthless than Barry himself. Its a shame we didn’t get a chance to see their relationship pan out more.
I must admit I am unsure who I actually want Barry to end up with. His chemistry with Caitlin and Iris and Patty is so perfect I would be happy to see any of those three relationships play out, which again is quite rare. Normally I like everyone else have one character I want the hero to end up with, but in Iris, Patty and Caitlin’s case I’d be just as happy if Barry ended up with any of them.
Don’t you just love the Tricksters “Aww that was beautiful”
Finally Joe also is a great character too. He has an important role in the series as the insider on the law who helps to cover up some of team Flash’s more dodgy and illegal dealings. He’s the more normal character in a team filled with metahumans, genius scientists, and people from alternate universes which can help to ground the show in reality more.
All of the characters in the series have an important reason to be in the show, and they all play off of the main character and each other brilliantly. I think the cast always help to elevate even the poorest episodes, and keep my interest in the show.
Whilst Tina McGee was a good character, she ultimately can’t compete with the 2010’s cast. Also she is a supporting character played by the same actress in the 2010’s show anyway.
Crossovers with other superhero television series
Now obviously this isn’t that fair a comparison as the 90’s show didn’t have any other superhero series to cross over with.
The 2010’s Flash however is part of the Arrowverse, a shared continuity of series based on DC comics characters.
Still it is one thing that I love about the 2010’s series that ultimately was not present in the original 90’s show.
I love the relationship between Oliver Queen (the Arrow) and Barry Allen. Its a classic Batman/Superman dynamic. In fact I think it captures the relationship between the two heroes better than the actual Batman vs Superman film did.
Batman and Superman have always been a great two heroes to put together as you have one who is an ordinary man, who fights evil and corrupt human beings, who lives in a miserable, gritty, crime ridden city, and who has to rely on gadgets to take down his enemies. The other is a superhuman, who lives in a brighter, happier, more advanced city that actually, supervillains aside; looks like a nice place to live. His enemies also naturally tend to be superhumans too, and he deals with more outlandish problems like alien invasions, trips to alternate universes etc.
Now you might think, well why bother trying to replicate the Batman/Superman relationship for Barry and Oliver since they are two different characters? Ultimately however I don’t really see any other type of dynamic they could have had?
Oliver has always been inspired closely by Batman. Both vigilante’s with no powers who are motivated to fight crime by tragic events in their pasts. The Flash meanwhile would obviously fill the role of Superman in this universe as he is the super powered hero who is beloved by the people of the city he works in and faces larger than life enemies, like talking, telepathic Gorilla’s, time travellers, evil superhumans from alternate universes, giant Sharks etc.
So really there was no other way the two heroes could have worked together, and the show takes advantage of what always made those Batman/Superman team ups so fascinating to watch.
On the one hand Oliver is more experienced. His lack of super powers also mean that he never gets caught off guard because he can’t afford to. Added to that the fact that Oliver is more ruthless also means that ironically his enemies are more genuinely scared of him than they are of Barry who they know would never cross the line unless he absolutely had to.
At the same time however, Barry’s super powers obviously make him more useful in certain situations than Oliver. If a building was about to collapse, Oliver would be completely and utterly useless.
Thus its interesting watching these two men interact. On the one hand, Oliver can view the Flash as a rookie and a bit reckless, whilst the Flash at the same time can view Oliver as being out of his league in his city. What’s great is that there is a bit of truth in both instances.
All kinds of tensions can arise when the two work together. Is Barry able to cope with Oliver’s more extreme methods? Does Oliver perhaps feel a bit uncomfortable, being vulnerable for the first time against the metahumans that Barry deals with every day?
Its a fascinating combo and the writers take advantage of the heroes differences on both Arrow and the Flash, but above all else they create a genuine and enduring friendship between Oliver and Barry. At the end of the day they are two men who are devoted to protecting their cities and that unites them in spite of their differences.
There are a lot of little moments between the two that are rather touching, such as Oliver telling a brainwashed and out of control Barry that he still believes in him, or even just Oliver telling Barry that he will always be there for him.
The show gets the balance right of developing a deep friendship between the two heroes, but having there be conflict when necessary. And we also get a cool Flash/Arrow fight in the first season which incredibly enough doesn’t undermine either of them. As Cisco says “its a draw”.
Aside from Arrow there have also been crossovers with Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. None of these characters have developed quite the rapport with Barry that Oliver has, but still its always enjoyable to watch heroes team up, and in Supergirls case what’s interesting is that she actually comes from another universe to Barry.
Ultimately the 90’s show due to the time it was made, was sadly unable to have its Flash work with other heroes.
Its closer to the comics
Overall I feel that the 2010’s show tries to be as close to the source material as much as it possibly can.
It hasn’t really tried to hold anything back from the comic books, from time travel, to alternate universes, to Ape cities.
Its also managed to include all 3 incarnations of the Flash, Jay Garrick, Barry Allen and Wally West.
Obviously Barry is the main protagonist, and like the previous series it would have been easy for them just to make Barry the only Flash that appeared. To be fair the original series did name Barry’s brother Jay, but again that isn’t really the same thing.
This series however not only included Garrick but actually had him be from another universe just like his comic book counterpart too. Wally West meanwhile joins much later than Barry Allen and will most likely in the Arrowverse take over in 10 years time.
In the first series it is established that there is a crisis involving red skies in the year 2024 which will see the Flash vanish.
This is a reference to the massive crossover event, “Crisis on Infinite Earth’s” where the evil Anti Monitor tried and very nearly succeeded in destroying every universe. The red skies were the first sign of the Anti Monitor coming. Barry Allen meanwhile was killed off during this adventure which led to Wally West taking over as the new Flash.
Now obviously at some point in the Arrowverse’s future there will be a similar battle. Fortunately Barry won’t die in the battle. Instead he will simply be thrown backwards in time along with Thawne, but still in his absence which could be several years for all we know, then Wally most likely will emerge as the Flash in his place. Eventually however Barry will return and become the Flash, which again happened in the comics too.
Wally already has super speed powers and has gone under the name of Kid Flash (just as he did in the comics). However by 2024 he will be old enough to take on the mantle of the adult Flash.
Thus it all flows together quite nicely like in the comic books. Again most other adaptations will often just feature one of the three Flash’s and ignore the other two. The 90’s series just had Barry Allen, whilst the DCAU series had only Wally West. This series meanwhile has had all 3 in just 2 years.
Its not always easy to incorporate the storylines from the comics for various reasons. Obviously for budgetary reasons its hard to do stories about things like Gorilla City, but it can also be difficult to do stories with a large cast of iconic characters as chances are unless its a big massive film franchise then they won’t have the rights to all of the characters involved.
The Flash series ran into this problem when trying to adapt the stories around Earth 3. In the comics Earth 3 was a backwards universe where the Justice League where evil villains, the Crime Syndicate, and villains such as Lex Luthor and the Joker were heroes, Alexander Luthor JR and the Jester respectively.
Now in this series obviously the makers couldn’t gain access to characters like Lex Luthor or the Joker, but they managed to get round that little problem quite well.
In season 1 the main villain, Eobard Thawne disguised himself as Harrison Wells ( a scientist he killed) whilst in season 2 we are introduced to Well’s heroic counterpart from Earth 2 who ends up becoming a close ally and friend of the Flash.
Now its not quite the same as technically the Harrison Wells the Flash knew in season 1, wasn’t the real Wells, it was just Eobard in disguise. Still ultimately we do have Tom Cavannagh play the evil arch villain in season 1, and then play a character who is virtually identical, but is now one of the main heroes of season 2. Thus Harrison Wells is quite a nice stand in for Alexander Luthor JR in the show. Also though he does not make an appearance we find out that Leonard Snart is a good guy on Earth 2 as he is the Mayor of Central City.
At the same time on Earth 2 in the Flash virtually all of the heroic characters on the show apart from Barry, Iris and Joe are all villains. Caitlin is Killer Frost, Cisco is the evil villain Reverb (his brother is also a villain on Earth 2), Firestorm is evil too, whilst Black Canary is Black Siren, a sadistic psychopath that loves using her powers to bring down buildings full of innocent people!
Finally Zoom, though not a counterpart to Barry himself is still that universe’s version of the Flash and is an utter monster that all of Central City lives in fear of. Thus whilst they can’t use Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor they are still able to capture the essence of these stories by showing our heroes as villains, and villains as heroes.
Zoom’s masterplan to destroy every universe by detonating a weapon on the original Earth which is at the centre of every Universe is similar to Owlman, an evil counterpart of Batman’s plan to destroy every universe by detonating a weapon on Earth Prime the original Earth from the animated movie Crisis on Two Earth’s.
There are two things that the Flash and Batman have in common. One, they both have fought an evil cackling version of Mark Hamill for over 20 years. Two, they both saved every single universe from an evil version of themselves from another universe.
There are many homages not only to comic books, but to other adaptations of the Flash and DC comics superheroes in general.
For instance there are many homages to the 90’s Flash series. Mark Hamill and Amanda Hays both reprise their roles as the Trickster and Doctor McGee, whilst John Wesley Shipp plays both Henry Allen, father of Barry Allen and the real Jay Garrick.
Both the 90’s show and the 2010’s show are actually linked in universe too. In the second season it is shown that the 90’s Flash takes place in an alternate universe to the 2010’s version.
Thus Henry Allen in the 2010’s series is an alternate universe version of the 90’s Flash.
It goes like this.
Earth 90: (universe where the 90’s series takes place)
Henry Allen SR names his sons Barry Allen and Jay Allen. Both go into the police force and Barry in the early 90’s is later struck by lightening and becomes the Flash. In the early 90’s he works with Tina McGee and fights his archenemy the Trickster, stopping him in the middle of a massive rampage.
Earth 1 (universe where the 2010’s series takes place)
Henry Allen SR names his son Henry Allen JR instead of Barry. Henry later drops the JR bit. Henry JR for some reason does not go into the police force and becomes a doctor. Thus he never becomes the Flash in the 90’s, and nobody is around to stop the Tricksters 90’s rampage which claims more lives before the Trickster is imprisoned. The Trickster has a son Axel (presumably with Prank) that he may not have had in the 90’s universe.
Henry JR later marries a woman named Noira. They have a son that Henry calls Barry.He calls him Barry as he knows that was one of the names he was going to be called (which he was in Earth 90). Henry’s son Barry later is mutated in a totally different accident in the year 2014 and becomes the Flash of this universe.
A different Barry Allen, the son of the Earth 90’s counterpart (whose called Henry) is the Flash of Earth 1.
Earth 3 (In the original comic books, Jay Garrick’s earth was earth 2 and earth 3 was the universe of the evil Flash. However as we were introduced to the universe of the evil Flash first in this series, it was christened Earth 2 and Earth 3 became Jay’s earth instead.)
In this universe Henry SR and his wife split up before his only son was born. Thus not only does he take her maiden name, but she names him Jay. Jay Allen from Earth 90 was never born in this universe, but obviously his mother liked that name. Thus Henry Allen JR is called Jay Garrick instead.
Jay in the 90’s is later through an accident mutated into becoming the Flash of that universe who would go on to battle various super villains including his archenemy, that universe’s version of the Trickster. Presumably like his counterpart, Barry Allen on Earth 90, he went into the police force and was struck by lightening. Jay is later captured by Zoom from Earth 2 who steals his identity before he is rescued by Barry from Earth 1 (ironically just after Zoom murdered Henry Allen of Earth 1)
Thus the 2010’s show not only paid tribute to the 90’s show it linked them together in a brilliant way with the 2010’s version really being a what if version of the original 90’s show.
Once again its not an entirely fair comparison as the 90’s show didn’t have the budget or the run to really adapt as many stories from the comics, but still ultimately I do think the 90’s show captures the spirit of the comic books more and I love the homages to previous versions of the Flash and the comic books filtered throughout the 2010’s show.
As you can see I obviously prefer the 2010’s show. It was close, and there were things the 90’s show did better (such as the main hero himself!) Still I think that the 2010’s show is better because it has a stronger supporting cast and rogues gallery, and the fact that it is part of a shared universe, the Arrowverse, as well its more advanced special effects mean that it is able to incorporate more of the comics mythology.
Still both shows are classics and are definitely worth checking out. Its also worth mentioning that without the 90’s show the modern one wouldn’t exist either.
Thanks for reading.