The Arrowverse crossover event Crisis On Infinite Earths includes two Superman actors, which means big things for The CW. One of the Superman actors is Brandon Routh, who previously played the DC superhero in 2006's Superman Returns. And, of course, the other actor is Tyler Hoechlin, who's starred as Superman in the Supergirl series for the past few years.
Crisis On Infinite Earths will bring together multiple shows, characters, and timelines from across the Arrowverse. Characters from The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow are scheduled to make appearances, with other superhero actors joining the fold as well. While The CW hosts a DC crossover event each year, Crisis On Infinite Earths has been teased ever since The Flash season 1, thus making it their largest and most ambitious event yet.
Getting one Superman to join the Arrowverse must have been challenging, and now there will be two in Crisis on Infinite Earths. However, that doesn't mean they will be from the same Earth or timeline, or that they will have the same story. So here's what all of this actually means for the two Superman actors.
Tyler Hoechlin Is The Superman Of Earth-38
Tyler Hoechlin is currently the only Superman to make an appearance in the Arrowverse, after first debuting on Supergirl in season 2. For all intents and purposes, Hoechlin's Superman is the one that represents The CW. But while he's the primary Superman for the Arrowverse, he's not the Superman of Earth-1 - the Earth that Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow operate in. Instead, Hoechlin's Superman exists on Earth-38, the world of Supergirl. (Supergirl originally aired on CBS, not The CW, which is partly why it takes place on a different Earth.)
But despite the fact that Hoechlin's Superman isn't the Superman of Earth-1, he still fought alongside that Earth's superheroes in the 2018 crossover event Elseworlds. Furthermore, Hoechlin's Superman has had numerous moments in the spotlight on Earth-38, fighting with his cousin on a few occasions. In Supergirl season 4, however, Superman and his pregnant wife, Lois Lane, left the planet and moved to Argo City. They will have to leave Argo, though, in order to return to Earth and take part in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover.
Brandon Routh Is Likely The Superman Of A New Earth
Brandon Routh played Superman only once in Superman Returns, due to the film being a box office flop, despite receiving generally positive reviews. The pseudo-Superman II sequel wasn't successful enough to warrant a follow-up, and so, the character was ultimately rebooted for Zack Snyder’s realistic and grounded approach in Man of Steel. Routh never got a fair shake at being Superman, which makes his return to the role that much more exciting. Routh isn't playing the standard Superman that Hoechlin portrays on Supergirl, though. Instead, he will don the iconic role of Kingdom Come's Superman.
Kingdom Come, the 1996 Elseworlds miniseries by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, portrays a Superman that is older, less hopeful, and more cynical than any live-action Superman thus far. The character is also far stronger than the standard Superman. His grey-haired and alternate costumed has long been demanded for a live-action or animated treatment, and the CW is finally delivering. The Kingdom Come Superman has been through more trials and tribulations than the average Superman as well. He had been retired for many years after the death of Lois Lane and only returned to being a superhero when things got dire. It's unknown whether Routh's Superman story takes place at the conclusion of Kingdom Come or if he's ripped through space and time from the middle of it, but viewers should expect Routh to give a much darker performance than he did in Superman Returns.
Story-wise, Routh’s return as Superman brings a host of new questions; the first is his existing role as Ray Palmer, the Atom on Legends of Tomorrow. Routh has played the role of Palmer since Arrow season 3. Knowing that the Legends will be making an appearance in Crisis On Infinite Earths, there's a good chance that Ray Palmer will meet Routh's Superman. Given the nature of an event like Crisis On Infinite Earths, which is based on the comic event of the same name, "infinite Earths" means infinite possibilities for the same actors to play multiple, different characters.
Since Routh played Superman in 2006's Superman Returns, the question of continuity becomes more interesting, too. The film took place in the same continuity of Richard Donner's two Superman films starring Christopher Reeve, but it erased Superman III and IV, simply taking place after the events of Superman II. Is it possible that Routh is playing the Kingdom Come Superman and the Donner Superman at the same time? Given the real-time years that have passed since the film, it's not out of the question that a variation of the Kingdom Come storyline could have taken place in that timeline. Given the clues, it is much more likely that Routh is instead playing a new Superman of a new Earth.
The History of Multiple Supermen In The Comics
While Crisis On Infinite Earths marks the first time two versions of Superman will exist simultaneously in live-action, it's happened before in the comics. Ever since the comic Crisis On Infinite Earths, the multiverse opened up for DC. Characters were split apart and broken into their specific eras and timelines. For example, the Golden Age Superman and post-Crisis Superman are not the same. Because of this, it opened up the potential of characters meeting other versions of themselves. The Crisis comic heavily featured both the Superman of Earth-1 and Earth-2. Even recently, Superman Rebirth's event, Multiplicity, featured dozens of Supermen from across timelines and Elseworlds standing together.
This trend continued in animation. Superman: The Animated Series, season 2, episode 12, "Brave New Metropolis" featured two Supermen with different histories. Justice League: The Animated Series also featured an episode with alternate versions of the titular team battling each other in "A New World". And the film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths had two versions of Superman that existed at the same time. Even the Injustice video games saw two Supermen from different timelines battle each other as a key plot point. Interestingly, for the Kingdom Come Superman, this version met the Earth-1 Superman in 2009's Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1. The precedence for different Supermen meeting each other is quite common across many mediums and Arrowverse's Crisis on Infinite Earths will only add on the list.
The Two Supermen In Crisis On Infinite Earths
With two Supermen appearing in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Routh and Hoechlin's versions will each have a huge impact on the Arrowverse going forward. Because there are multiple Supermen, Hoechlin's character will likely be presented as the main version. His Superman is the one that all the major heroes in the Arrowverse recognize and see as their version of the Man of Steel. With Lois Lane appearing in the crossover as well, and given where the Arrowverse last left her in Elseworlds, the chances of Superman's son making an appearance is also high. While there is no indication of which episode Routh's Superman will appear in, it's expected that Hoechlin's Superman will already be present in the story.
For Routh, his return as Superman could very well be held for one of the climactic events in the crossover, rather than him starring in every episode. When the Kingdom Come Superman does show up, though, audiences should expect Routh to shine and bring his best performance. Not many actors get a second chance to play the same character, especially one like Superman. Plus, given the reactions to Superman Returns, Routh should definitely be bringing his A-game. When the final battle inevitably occurs in Crisis on Infinite Earths, both Routh and Hoechlin's Supermen will likely stand side-by-side and ultimately help save the universe together.
Will Routh's Superman Die, Not Hoechlin's?
An event like Crisis on Infinite Earths can practically guarantee someone's death, especially considering how much of an impact the universe-altering story had on the comics over 30 years ago. The comic book event of the same name became the catalyst for a multiverse level reboot. It also killed off several heroes, including both Supergirl and the Flash. Ironically, both have their own shows on The CW and neither are projected to die. Instead, the Green Arrow is believed to die during the event, since his death was already confirmed in Arrow season 7.
Superman is one of the characters on the list of potential victims. But in an event that features two Supermen, which one would the showrunners opt for? The death of Hoechlin’s Superman makes the most sense, emotionally, considering his attachment to Supergirl. What's more, readers of the comic know the classic image of Superman lifting Supergirl's body, so a reverse of that would still pay homage to that scene in the crossover's finale. However, having Routh’s Superman in Crisis on Infinite Earths could still allow the producers to kill off a superhero like Superman while still retaining the core cast of characters going forward.
Whether one of the two Supermen dies or somehow both end up surviving the impending Crisis, there's no doubt that Routh reprising his role as Superman is the true highlight of the story. The actor who didn’t get a fair chance after Superman Returns now has another opportunity to wear the iconic costume and build a new legacy through Kingdom Come’s Superman in Arrowverse's Crisis on Infinite Earths.