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How ‘Crisis On Infinite Earths’ Hit Me When I Least Expected It

Crisis on Infinite Earths is over.

They did that. They really did that!

Despite my calling for a Crisis event back in May 2016, did I really think they’d actually make it happen?

Nope!

How did it go? It was fun overall! The giddiest of joy, of course, came in the they-got-everyone nature of all the cameos and Easter eggs across the multiverse. They may as well put out a DVD of the thing with Pop-Up Video-style tidbits.

However, as much as I could go on and on about Crisis, two scenes of magic stick with me the most. Both of them were bits that hit me when I didn’t think they would.

John Diggle and Black Lightning trading nods and a “by whatever means necessary” in part 3, is one. What a delicious serve-and-volley of black manhood right there!

I fell out of my chair laughing in that moment of recognition. Lots of jokes about Iris needing a cold shower after that.

The other moment?

Well, involves The Flash and a bit of personal time travel.

Crisis mined a lot of magic in the fan service that did hit true emotionally. These shows, under Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim’s watch, do come by it honestly, as they’ve cast legacy actors across different DC television and film projects, and actors with strong geek cred. They resurrected Matt Ryan’s John Constantine post-NBC cancellation; cast Neal McDonough and John Barrowman as Arrow villains; brought in Helen Slater and Dean Cain on Supergirl; and rendered a now-adult Rachel Skarsten from Birds of Prey upon us in Batwoman. They mean this shit.

Near the top of “they mean this shit” was bringing John Wesley Shipp, the original Barry Allen of the 1990-91 Flash series, onto the CW series. And they kept doing it until he was, yes, that Flash from the old show, back in the old costume with his Danny Elfman theme music.

All of that was fun, really fun. But then we got to see Shipp, as The Flash/Barry Allen of Earth-90, sacrifice himself for the fate of the multiverse in part 3, saving Grant Gustin’s Barry. It was noble and grand, and then, as he raced himself into nothingness on the Cosmic Treadmill, the screen flashed to a scene between Amanda Pays and Shipp from the old show.

I suddenly felt an unexpected tear down my cheek.

Why? They didn’t have to go this far. They already suckered us old fans for whom the old show still resonated by bringing Shipp on in the first place.

Those of us who were alive to remember how that CBS show came on the blockbuster heels of Tim Burton’s Batman, but there wasn’t enough respect of the genre to keep that series afloat. How rare it was, in 1990, to get something that respected the wacky, ridiculous source material, but still was halfway decent.

They didn’t have to pull back to Tina McGee and Barry Allen – how young, how handsome Shipp was those 30 years ago – yet here we were.

I’m turning 40 this year. When I first laid eyes on Shipp and Pays that first time on September 20, 1990, I was 9 years old.

My family had just moved from the Haddington neighborhood of West Philadelphia, which was deep in the crack epidemic of the time. Now I was lying in my parents’ bed in this other house in Overbrook Park, still West Philly, but very different because here, we were the only black family on the block. I was in a new school, trying to make new friends, missing my old Catholic school where I was made to feel good about being smart.

I didn’t know anything about The Flash before then.

Like any great superhero concept, the appeal to children was apparent: superspeed powers, lightning bolts, mad science. I’ve liked Flash ever since. I got his action figure, read the comics off and on, and kept on trucking.

That action figure is an old one where you wind him up and his arms pump up and down, like he’s running!

I got Mark Waid to sign it for me. I still have it.

I’ve done all my growing up since then. Yet, in that moment, Crisis on Infinite Earths unexpectedly took me back to that 9-year-old’s life.

The show extended a hand from the screen and said a simple thank-you.

Thanks for being a fan all this time.

Thanks for hanging around all these years, through good shows and bad shows.

Thanks for watching long enough to keep us in business enough to reach this one moment we never could have imagined then, for a dumb show none of us probably should remember, but we do.

Thanks for letting us revisit something we never thought would come along again. Not in all the infinite earths.

 

 

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