It sounds like Arrow star Stephen Amell wasn't speaking in hypotheticals when he said that The CW was in the process of creating a Justice League on TV, as the actor is set to star alongside Arsenal, Black Canary, and even Ray Palmer a.k.a. The Atom (Brandon Routh) in the show's next season. To this point Palmer's role has been restricted to his civilian identity; but Routh has confirmed that the showrunners are working on a costume for his superhero alter ego. And he's already seen it.
The revelation that Ray Palmer will eventually become The Atom may seem a bit obvious to comic book fans, but the Arrow showrunners have been careful to maintain that it's Palmer's corporate side which will shake things up for Oliver Queen. With the trailers for Season 3 introducing Palmer as a new head of Queen Consolidated - and existing head of Palmer Technologies - and potential romantic interest for Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), it seemed possible that a rise to costumed crime-fighting could be a long way off.
It may not be as long a wait as some had thought, as Routh revealed on The DJ Tanner Show (hat tip to ComicBook.com). According to the Superman Returns star, his second turn in costume as a DC Comics hero will be a different experience. But exactly when fans can look forward to seeing him suit up is something even he doesn't know - yet:
"It's a totally different suit and I haven't been in it yet, I've only seen some drawings. It's a very different character and I really can't say too much about what the suit's going to look like. Just that it's very different and I don't believe there's a cape, which doesn't really surprise anybody if you've seen The Atom in the comics."
"They're kind of waiting. Making it dramatic, I suppose. I'm not sure of the end date... we've filmed six episode so far, six of twenty-two, so there's a long way to go yet."
Now fans can rejoice, as speculation over just what kind of costume lies in store can begin. In the comics, Palmer (and his many successors) have worn a number of specialized suits, ranging from classic skintight red and blue bodysuits, to full suits of armor. Since it's hard to know exactly what technology is required when using a fragment of white dwarf star to shrink to the subatomic level... anything is possible.
As painful as it is to wait (especially as Marvel ramps up promotion of their own shrinking hero, Ant-Man), fans can take solace in the implication that Routh will sport the super-suit in Season 3. It's worth warning that there's a chance the suit could be held off until even farther down the road, possibly even on The Flash, since Palmer's company has been teased in that series as well.
The show's producers have also teased that Palmer would one day take his interference with Oliver Queen's life from his office to the streets of Starling City, but hinted that his role would largely be used to lighten the mood. And, quite possibly, inject some romantic competition where Felicity Smoak is concerned (as if Ollie and Barry Allen weren't enough of a distraction):
"It's a cool opportunity; it's a cool show with a huge following. They do a great job grounding the show. Having my character on there... he has a lot of different elements. I get to come on there and [do some] comedy in a pretty dark world. My character interacts with Felicity mostly in the episodes I've shot so far and it's just a lot of fun.
"I have a great time working with Emily. I think it's going to add a whole new element to the show that I think audiences will like, whether they dislike Ray getting into the middle of the Oliver/Felicity relationship or not."
It's nice to see that the minds behind Arrow are still intent on making Ray Palmer a worthwhile character alongside the established cast - not simply relying on his superhero credentials. If The CW really is looking to bring DC's biggest heroes into a single TV universe (even outlandish ones like The Atom, or even Supergirl), then planning to spotlight their personalities first is a great sign. If a few love triangles crop up along the way, then all the better.
We'll keep you up to date as more information arrives, or The CW offers an official response to Routh's tease. For now, it sounds like Ray Palmer's graduation to full-fledged Justice League member will be several months away at the earliest.
Will you be counting the days until he takes his share of the spotlight, or are you concerned that too many heroes might throw off The CW's balance. Could a two-hero act work for both Arrow and The Flash? We'll find that out soon enough.
Arrow Season 3 premieres October 8th, 2014 @8pm on The CW.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on Arrow as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.