This year's Arrowverse crossover, Elseworlds, could significantly alter The CW's shared universe. Taking place in December across The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl, Elseworlds will mark the debut of Batwoman, with Ruby Rose playing the Gotham-based crimefighter. Elseworlds is also set to lead into Batwoman's upcoming solo series on The CW.
But Elseworlds is shaping up to be even bigger and more shocking than Batwoman's arrival. The cast has shared tons of photos from the set, including Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) donning each other's costumes as Green Arrow and the Flash, a switch-up featured on the Elseworlds poster. Speaking of Flashes, John Wesley Shipp wears the same costume he wore as the Flash in 1990, which makes his fondly remembered CBS show part of the Multiverse. Plus, not only does Tyler Hoechlin return as the Man of Steel, he's a villainous version of Superman wearing a black suit who fights the rest of the heroes!
With Elseworlds, the Arrowverse is purposely evoking the full ramifications of the DC Comics Multiverse, which is fitting for the brand: "Elseworlds" is known to DC fans as the imprint of the publisher's stories involving the World's Greatest Superheroes but set outside the regular DC continuity. This allows creators to tell unique stories about alternate versions of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. that challenge fans' usual perception of the heroes without violating the rules of canon.
The first official Elseworlds story was 1989's Gotham By Gaslight, which told of a Victorian-era Batman who battled Jack the Ripper in Gotham City. The most popular Elseworlds stories (not coincidentally, many rank as among the best DC Comics tales ever told) include 1996's Kingdom Come, which depicted the bleak future of the DC Universe and JLA: The Nail about the Justice League forming in a world without Superman. The Arrowverse is already tackling another famous Elseworld story in Supergirl season 4, which is inspired by Superman: Red Son, where baby Kal-El's rocket landed in the Soviet Union instead of Smallville.
When DC Comics introduced the concept of its Multiverse encompassing 52 parallel Earths in the mid-2000s, many Elseworlds stories were deemed to have each taken place on their own individual Earths, along with other major alternate universe stories like Watchmen. The Arrowverse has embraced the 52 Earths concept: Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow take place on Earth-1 while Supergirl (which originated on CBS before moving to The CW to join the Arrowverse in season 2) takes place on Earth-38. 2017's Crisis on Earth-X crossover introduced a 53rd Earth which was controlled by Nazis.
The implications of this year's crossover being titled Elseworlds are fascinating: Does this mean Batwoman will inhabit her own Earth which the other heroes will visit? This would put to rest fan debate that Batwoman's version of Gotham exists either on Earth-1, where Oliver Queen has mentioned Bruce Wayne's existence (but not Batman's) or on Earth-38, where Supergirl has inferred her cousin Superman (Tyler Hoechlin), who is guest starring in Elseworlds along with Lois Lane (Elizabeth Bulloch), is friends with a certain Dark Knight. Batwoman having her own Earth could also be a way for The CW to continue to avoid addressing Batman's existence.
However, since the Multiverse is well-established in the Arrowverse thanks to The Flash, what does calling the crossover "Elseworlds" actually signify? After all, each Earth in the Multiverse already technically counts as an "Elseworld", the way it does in DC Comics' 52 Earths. (What's more, could each alternate reality accidentally made by the time-traveling Legends count as an Elseworlds?) Therefore, is Batwoman's situation somehow different than what fans have seen so far? Could Elseworlds mean Kate Kane and her Gotham somehow exist outside of the already established Multiverse?
Meanwhile, The CW has also announced that joining the cast of Elseworlds is Lamonica Garrett as Mar Novu aka the Monitor, complete with a comics-accurate costume. Longtime DC fans know the Monitor as an ancient cosmic being who holds a vast knowledge of the Multiverse. What's more, the Monitor has an evil twin, the Anti-Monitor, who was the Big Bad that tried to wipe out the entire Multiverse in the classic Crisis On Infinite Earths mega-event.
The addition of the Monitor may mean that the Arrowverse is taking a significant step closer to the Crisis alluded to in the newspaper headline hidden in The Flash's STAR Labs. As for how Batwoman fits into all of this universe-breaking madness, Elseworlds will (hopefully) provide all of the answers in December.
Elseworlds airs across The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl on December 9th, 10th, and 11th on The CW.