This year, the CW’s four DC Comics shows (DCTV) had a four-part “Invasion” crossover, involving heroes from across time and space teaming up together. Three of the shows involved – Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow – take place in a shared universe, while Supergirl takes place in a parallel world that can be accessed by folks who have the means. For its mid-season finale this year, The Flash explored yet another parallel universe with its own version of the scarlet speedster superhero. So what are these different universes and how did they start? Here’s a quick guide!
In 2012, the CW premiered Arrow, a live-action adaptation of DC Comics superhero Oliver Queen AKA Green Arrow. In season 2, Ollie fights people whose bodies are enhanced by special chemical agents, and meets Barry Allen, a CSI who then goes home to Central City just in time to for when an experimental particle accelerator explodes and releases “exotic” elements and energies across the city. This event wound up giving a lot of people, including Barry AKA the Flash, super powers.
As Arrow aired its third season, the now super-powered Barry starred in the spin-off series The Flash, creating a shared continuity between the shows. This shared continuity has been called the “Arrowverse,” the DCW universe, or the DCTV universe. The CW Seed cartoon Vixen and the third series Legends of Tomorrow further expanded this shared continuity. Then last year, while CW aired season 2 of The Flash, CBS premiered Supergirl based on the DC Comics character and decided that she would not exist in the same world as Oliver and Barry. But season 2 of The Flash involves Barry discovering and visiting parallel Earths, allowing a crossover to occur. For its second season, Supergirl moved from CBS to CW, but the adventures still take place in a reality separate from the other DCTV shows.
To keep track of everything, Barry Allen and his friends tend to name the other realities they encounter. So here are the different worlds we know about that exist in the DCTV multiverse.
The main setting of the DCTV shows. “Arrow,” “Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow” are centered in this reality. Magic exists on this Earth but is not generally known about by the public. Until the recent particle accelerator explosion in Central City, there were very few metahumans on this Earth. In the 1940s, the Justice Society of America was a secret team of super-heroes who protected US interests.
A major government agency on this Earth that deals in black ops and counter-terrorism is A.R.G.U.S. (Advanced Research Group United Support). On this Earth, Dr. Harrison Wells founded Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Labs (or S.T.A.R. Labs).
Earth-1’s history has occasionally been altered due to time travelers.
A world repeatedly explored in “The Flash.” It is inhabited by various direct doubles or “doppelgangers” of Earth-1, but its architecture and fashion are more in line with the 1930s style of Earth-1. Likewise, though its technology is equivalent to Earth-1 in many ways, the designs of the tech resemble 1930s or 1930s futurism. Some people who are heroes on Earth-1 are villains on Earth-2. This world is home to a version of Dr. Harrison Wells who is called “Harry” and his daughter Jesse (nicknamed Jesse Quick).
Home to Jay Garrick, a middle aged hero who, like Barry, has super-speed and calls himself the Flash. Jay Garrick is also a parallel world double of Henry Allen, Barry’s father on Earth-1.
This Earth is mentioned but never explored. We only know that it, like many Earths, has its own version of scientist Dr. Harrison Wells.
Home of a Harrison Wells who calls himself HR and now lives on Earth-1. This Earth has superheroes and super-villains, at least some of whom got powers due to this universe’s S.T.A.R. Labs having an experimental particle accelerator that exploded.
Home of Kara Danvers AKA Kara Zor-El AKA Supergirl. On this Earth, the only other superheroes depicted so far are Superman (who has been publicly operating for over thirteen years) and the new vigilante called Guardian. Superman and Supergirl are natives of the planet Krypton, which does not (at this time) appear to exist in the universe of Earth-1. Several alien refugees live on this Earth, which led to the creation of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO).
This Earth does not have A.R.G.U.S. or S.T.A.R. Labs. However, it and the universe of Earth-1 both have alien races known as Thanagarians and Dominators.
An alternate timeline of Earth-1 created when Barry Allen altered a major event of his childhood, creating a ripple effect across history. In this world, he never became the Flash and certain people had powers who did not have powers in the previous Earth-1 timeline. Though this timeline was later eliminated, Earth-1’s history remained altered in some ways.
And that’s what we got so far! Now go forth and enjoy the DCTV Multiverse!