The wait has finally come to an end, now that the one-time Arrow spinoff The Flash has debuted its first episode to fans around the world (read our review of the premiere here). But the series premiere wasn’t just a chance to see star Grant Gustin bring a character to life that fans were eager to see – it was also the first foundation of The CW’s shared TV universe. And boy, the showrunners did not disappoint.
When dealing with the realm of superhero comic book adaptations, a healthy dose of easter eggs and nods to fans are to be expected. But with the premiere of The Flash, the writers swung for the fences. DC chief creative officer and executive producer Geoff Johns claimed that this show will likely be “the most faithful DC adaptation ever,” and now that we’ve seen the wealth of references (big and small) in the first episode, it’s easy to see what he means.
WARNING!!! SPOILERS for The Flash series premiere follow!!!!!!.
Name & Title
Given the wealth of inner monologue usually found in comic books, it’s no surprise that most of DC’s heroes welcome readers into each issue’s plot with a bit of backstory, delivered in the form of text boxes. But where other heroes keep the narration to the case at hand, Barry Allen – ever the gentleman – usually takes every opportunity to begin an adventure by formally introducing himself: “My name is Barry Allen. I’m the Fastest Man Alive.”
The convention caught on quickly, and was eventually adopted as the catchphrase and introduction of his successors Wally West and Bart Allen. TV audiences have been brought into the loop as well, with Grant Gustin’s Barry using the exact same wording for the episode’s opening voice over.
In keeping with DC Comics’ love of all things ’52’ – as seen in their long-running backup feature “Channel 52,” keeping readers up to date with important happenings across the DC Universe – nearly every shot of news coverage in The Flash (like Arrow) before it shows that few citizens get their news anywhere else. Channel 52 News, as can be guessed, is another reference to DC’s New 52 lineup.
While corrupt police officers are a dime-a-dozen in both film and comic books, the police officers appearing in the “The Flash” actually tend to be honest (in most cases). While Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) may have been created specifically for the show, his colleagues are pulled straight from the comics: Detective Fred Chyre (Al Sapienza) is a resident of Keystone City in the comics (home to the third Flash, Wally West), but is dropped into Central City alongside David Singh (Patrick Sabongui) – who apparently gave up his job at the crime lab for a badge of his own.
Big Belly Burger
Although the greasy spoon diner ‘Big Belly Burger’ was first introduced as a meaningful restaurant to Arrow‘s John Diggle, it seems the chain has officially made its way to Central City, as noted by Barry’s lunch. Oddly enough, in the world of DC Comics, the restaurant first originated in Coast City (home of Hal Jordan) as a Lex Luthor-owned fast food chain modeled after Big Boy.
When Barry Allen first arrived in Arrow‘s Starling City, he did so with a copy of “Science Showcase” magazine in hand. The magazine – featuring a cover story asking if S.T.A.R. Labs’ particle accelerator is safe (spoiler alert) – makes a return in the show’s premiere. And it’s the title of the magazine that provides an easter egg going all the way back to the very first appearance of Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash.
The public first got a glimpse of a speedster dressed in a full-body red jumpsuit in DC Comics’ “Showcase” #4, with the comic almost single-handedly launching the Silver Age of Comic Books.
The Twin Cities
Here’s one commitment to the source material that may escape even the most devoted followers of “The Flash,” glimpsed a handful of times through the first episode. Beside the S.T.A.R. Labs building can be seen a bridge currently under construction, flanked by multiple others; a commonplace sight for most cities (including Vancouver, British Columbia where the show is filmed), but more meaningful for those familiar with multiple generations of “Flash” speedsters.
Although DC Comics’ universe is built on fictional cities, the writers haven’t always shied away from actual regions. In this case Central City, Missouri (home of Barry Allen) is located directly across the Missouri river from Keystone City, Kansas (future home of Wally West). The influence of the twin cities can be seen throughout the show, as Keystone broadcasts are featured prominently. But it looks like the showrunners have chosen both locales as their backdrop.
Reporter on the Scene
When Barry returns to his lab for some late night detective work into his mother’s murder, a TV news report reveals that there has been a catastrophic failure during the initial run of S.T.A.R. Labs’ accelerator. That story is brought to viewers by Linda Park, reporting for KSFZ (possibly broadcast from Keystone City) – a woman fans know as the wife of future Flash Wally West.
Unfortunately, since Wally is Iris West’ nephew, Linda’s inclusion seems to be the strongest evidence that the showrunners will take liberties, should Wally West ever join the cast. That was always assumed given the decades of fictions the comics could work with, but including Linda as a news reporter is a nice nod to the larger “Flash” legacy.
Among the newspaper clippings and scraps of Barry’s concealed investigation into his mother’s murder – for which his father was falsely convicted – is a newspaper story showing Henry being arrested. For one, the story is credited to ‘Evan Gibson,’ who is actually a Star City TV reporter introduced in the New 52 reboot of “Green Arrow.” With the fictional city re-imagined as Starling for The CW’s Arrow, one can only assume Gibson will head there sooner or later.
As another nod, the story also claims that the murder was investigated by detectives out of the CCPD’s 52nd Division – another nod to DC’s New 52.
As proof that no easter egg will be too small for The Flash‘s producers, even Iris’ workplace is pulled from the comic book source material. In this case, it’s “The Flash” #1 (part of the New 52 relaunch) that featured the coffee chain dubbed ‘Jitters’ as a staple for Central City’s caffeinated crowd, with even the chain’s logo adapted for the TV series.
The first sign of Barry’s newfound powers is glimpsed after meeting Iris at work, where audiences (and Barry) get their first experience with “Flash Time.” Seeing a tray filled with drinks and food go tumbling may seem like a fairly obvious way of showing off Barry’s accelerated senses, but it’s also a nice nod to the original 1956 comic, since tumbling food was how the speedster first realized his heightened reaction time the same way.
As further evidence of just how much fun The Flash‘s showrunners are having bringing a superhero to life, the name seen on the side of the laundry van Barry uncontrollably runs into is also a nod to the original comics. In Central City, Paul Gambi – the tailor, not the dry cleaner – is the man largely responsible for the appearances of The Rogues – having crafted most of their costumes himself.
When in need of a military branch focused on experimental aircraft, the world of The CW’s DC heroes consistently turns to Ferris Air. Both comic fans and those who caught Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern will remember that the company began as the employer of test pilot Hal Jordan, before he accepted his new titles as a member of the Green Lantern Corps.
When in Doubt, Run Really Fast
When Clyde Mardon manages to conjure a raging tornado on the outskirts of Central City, Barry’s plan of “running really fast in the opposite direction” may not be the kind of macho or aggressive attack plan superhero fans are used to. Nevertheless, the plan works, just as those who read “The Flash #190 (1969) knew it would; in the issue, Barry learns that the only way to diffuse a tornado is to get air moving just as fast in the opposite direction.
During the show’s closing montage, Cisco Ramon can be sporting a t-shirt with the catchphrase ‘Bazinga!’ The catchphrase is that of The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), just one of the show’s characters possessing a special affinity for The Flash.
Passing the Torch
The diehard comic book fans will be quick to point out that The CW’s newest series isn’t the first time that “The Flash” has been adapted to television, with John Wesley Shipp playing the titular speedster in a single season of CBS’ The Flash (1990-1991). Squeezing himself into the red suit before superheroes on TV were cool clearly earned Shipp plenty of pull with fans, with the show’s producers bringing him back to play Barry’s father, Henry Allen.
The TV series made some slight changes to the traditional Flash origin story – making the lightning which hits Barry a result of the particle accelerator accident – but the actual scene of the strike is replicated in detail. A bolt of lightning enters Barry’s lab, striking him, and throwing him into a rack full of unknown chemicals. Keeping the scene intact was clearly a means of honoring the source material, but one major hint may have been dropped as well.
When Barry slams into the rack of chemicals, a telltale red blur can be glimpsed circling the scene. it’s hard to spot in the storm of light and broken glass, but it bears a striking similarity to the streak seen surrounding Barry’s mother earlier on. Comic fans know exactly what’s being hinted at, but the gravity-defying liquid may not just signal a speeder in the vicinity – perhaps it marks someone altering the course of history?
Proving that it’s hard to keep plot twists a secret when adapting comic book properties, the casting of Rick Cosnett as ‘Detective Eddie Thawne’ sent a clear message to every DC reader. The name is quite clearly a play on ‘Eobard Thawne,’ a super-fan of Barry Allen from the 25th century – better known by the name ‘Reverse-Flash.’
It’s unclear if the show’s writers are looking to bring Thawne’s path to supervillainy into the present day, or simply trying to send viewers on a wild goose chase (after all, Thawne seems to be a pretty reliable cop). But Thawne isn’t the only man to bear the title of ‘Reverse-Flash’ – and he may not even be the only one hinted at in the show’s first episode…
When Barry Allen awakes from his months-long coma, he finds himself in the bowels of S.T.A.R. Labs (or what’s left of it). One of the first staff members he meets is Francisco ‘Cisco’ Ramon (Carlos Valdes), a figure known to comic book fans as the superhero ‘Vibe.’ In the New 52, Ramon attained his extradimensional powers of vibration and shockwaves from a close encounter with an Apokoliptian Boom Tube.
It’s hard to tell if the show’s writers intend to have Ramon adopt the same identity (perhaps his powers are still developing?) but it’s a nice nod to one of the comics’ newest Justice Leaguers. And with powers capable of disrupting Barry’s link to the ‘Speed Force,’ he’s one of the few metahumans capable of stopping The Flash in his tracks.
Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost
Cisco Ramon may be a hero in the making, but things are a bit more complicated for Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker). Snow is the latest in a line of characters bearing the title of ‘Killer Frost,’ where the comics depicted her as the victim of an industrial accident. Leaving her in need of heat to gain strength, Snow had no choice but to seek it out through any means necessary – even murder.
While her name – and her ability to freeze people solid, or fire ice projectiles – may imply a villainous nature, Snow has been shown to possess a good side. The fact that she is traditionally a villain of Firestorm – set to appear in future episodes – the only person capable of providing her with enough warmth to effectively ‘cure’ her is also telling. Especially given the connection they shared prior to the disaster.
In what is clearly one of the more blatant teases packed into the first episode, Dr. Wells’ tour of the S.T.A.R. Labs features a prominent look at a broken cage identifying who – or what – lived inside of it as simply ‘Grodd.’ The reference here is to Gorilla Grodd, longtime enemy of The Flash. It’s unclear why Grodd wouldn’t take revenge on his captors when he escaped, but his presence in other marketing implies fans will find out soon enough.
In the comic books, Grodd was one of several inhabitants of Gorilla City, the home of an entire community of super-intelligent apes. We assume Grodd’s psionic and telepathic abilities will be granted by the particle accelerator this time around (as opposed to a crashed asteroid).
The first villain in Barry’s career as Central City’s guardian angel is introduced as Clyde Mardon, with mastery over the weather (or wind and fog, specifically). The name alone confirms that the show’s writers are revealing their take on the Rogue known as Weather Wizard. But in the comics, it’s the other Mardon brother – Mark – who takes on the role, with Clyde being his first victim. Perhaps Mark survived the plane crash after all?
When Caitlin Snow explains why her mood tends to be on the grimmer side than her scientific accomplice, it isn’t just an explanation that viewers are given – but also a strong hint at what’s to come. As it turns out, the fiancé that Caitlin lost in the particle accelerator explosion wasn’t so much lost as… transformed. She was apparently engaged to Ronnie Raymond, set to return in the near future in his alter ego as ‘Firestorm the Nuclear Man.’
The Man in The Lightning
The tragedy which sets Barry Allen upon his path to heroism is a mystery even to him, seeing his mother killed by what appeared to be “a ball of lightning.” Comic fans will recognize the scene as a direct adaptation of the backstory concocted by writer Geoff Johns – and the man inside the lightning as none other than Barry Allen’s arch-nemesis, the ‘Reverse-Flash.’
We’ll provide some more information on the Reverse-Flash as the series goes on, but his yellow variant of the Flash uniform is impossible to miss. It’s worth pointing out that the scene actually shows both yellow and red streaks surrounding Nora Allen, hinting that Reverse-Flash may not have been the only one at the scene moving too fast to be seen (and comic readers can connect the dots on just what that might hint for the future).
When Iris West (Candice Patton) arrives at Barry’s lab and informs him that she is ready to escort him to the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator debut – or, in her words, that she’s ready to “see this atom-smasher…smashing” – DC fans likely jumped out of their seats. While not explicitly a reference to Albert Rothstein a.k.a. Atom Smasher (since accelerators are often referred to as ‘atom smashers’), the line is a nice nod for those fans who will catch it.
While Ramon and Snow may be potential friends and allies to Barry Allen, the first episode shows Barry’s hero, Dr. Harrison Wells taking a mentor role almost immediately. While Wells begins his arc as something of a victim, viewing Barry as less than a hero, it is the good doctor’s push that helps Barry overcome his very first obstacle. But that act – and his use of a wheelchair – will throw up several red flags for comic fans.
Given the sudden twist delivered at the end of the premiere, we wouldn’t blame fans for being suspicious. The exact reason why Wells is faking his injury, or how he acquired knowledge of the future is unknown. For now, let’s say that the comics also included a wheelchair-bound friend of The Flash who made it his mission to ‘help’ the speedster (in this case, Wally West) become a better hero through loss. He went by the name of Hunter Zolomon, the second ‘Reverse-Flash.’
A Future Crisis
The showrunners decided to drop a veritable bomb on their audience in the show’s final moments, revealing that not only could Harrison Wells walk, but he possessed a futuristic copy of the Central City Citizen showing he’s all too aware of what lies ahead for Barry Allen. The newspaper (its name taken from the comics as well) dated April 25, 2024 sports a memorable headline, claiming that The Flash has vanished in ‘a crisis.’
In comics terms, it’s the 1985 “Crisis on Infinite Earths” comic event being referenced here, where (spoilers) Barry Allen sacrifices himself to save the entire universe. Besides confirming that the same story is set to play out ten years in the future, the image also shows that Barry will, one day, acquire the superhero costume fans know and love.
Executive Greg Berlanti has hinted that “Crisis” is on the showrunners’ minds, but this confirmation that it’s where the story is headed is a bombshell all on its own.
Since Barry’s ability to time travel has seemingly been confirmed for the TV series, nothing is set in stone just yet. Which means that there’s a chance the world won’t be exposed to the ‘red skies’ caused by the Crisis, and there may still be hope to avoid the ‘Wayne Tech/Queen Inc. Merger’ also reported in the newspaper.
Those are all the easter eggs, bits of comic book trivia, and subtle references fans can look out for on repeat viewings, but if you spotted any that we may have been missed, please share them in the comments.
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.