There may not be a bigger superhero/comic book fan in the public eye than Kevin Smith, which makes him the perfect choice to moderate PALEYFEST’s “Heroes and Aliens” panel featuring the creative team and stars of ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERGIRL, and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW. The panel included Andrew Kreisberg (Flash and Supergirl EP), Marc Guggenheim (Arrow EP), Wendy Mericle (Arrow EP), Todd Helbing (Flash EP), Aaron Helbing (Flash EP), Phil Klemmer (Legends EP), and stars Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, David Ramsey, Candice Patton, and David Harewood. Universe executive producer Greg Berlanti could not attend.
Normally, these panels open with a viewing of either an upcoming episode or the most recently aired but as this was a combined panel highlighting four shows, it instead opened with a fun montage of all the series with many moments from the epic crossover event earlier this year. Before bringing out the stars and executive producers, Smith gave a standup routine of walk comic books have meant to him and his entrance into working with the many CW actioners. He stated that as a child his “morality began on Saturday” with superhero cartoons, not his regular attendance of Catholic Church on Sundays, and though he grew into a comic book superfan, it took some time for him to catch on to the CW-DC universe.
Frequent collaborator, Jason Mewes, Smith claimed is the “biggest CW fan” and finally convinced Smith to pay attention to watch the shows with the introduction of King Shark on The Flash. Smith said that “you pull out King Shark, that’s like pulling out a 12-inch dick.” Now this and much of Smith’s speech could be deemed too mature for many of the CW fans in the audience whose ages are still in single digits, but there were just as many fans in high-school, college, fully mature adults. Sitting near a family with two young children, it was interesting to watch their reactions. Often the parents would simply laugh while the kids were confused, but every once in a while Smith would say something that the parents would lean over and quietly explain to their child. No one in the audience freaked out (not even at a September 11th joke) and in a world where the internet has a panic attack at even the smallest joke, it was encouraging to see exactly what CW tries to do in person: start a mature conversation. It’s also validating for so many CW fans. After years of people rolling their eyes at the network as being nothing more than “teen soaps”, the wide-sweeping demographic of the audience, and the way Smith spoke to them, showed the four series ability to reach people of all ages and walks of life.
Once the panel arrived on stage the bulk of the conversation revolved around Arrow‘s hundredth episode, which landed smack in the middle of the three-way (almost four) series crossover event. Smith noted that the episodes felt like the “milestone of a comic book instead of a television show” which was exactly what Greg Berlanti had intended. When Stephen Amell was asked how it feels to have made it to a hundred episodes, the Green Arrow said “I feel like the path to 200 will be easier,” an interesting statement as much online chatter about Arrow focuses on how it feels as the show is winding down as the CW-DC-verse has evolved into lighter one-hours with Supergirl and The Flash. Excitingly, Kreisberg stated that the crossovers would be a regular event (though they may be incredibly hard to pull off) and that next year they would try to “do a true four-way crossover.” Not to waste an opportunity, the audience immediately called for Kara and Iris West to finally meet on-screen in the crossover.
As the conversation turned to The Flash, female lead Candice Patton seemed to be all anyone wanted to discuss. Fans in the audience came dressed as her with their own signs, and Smith admitted to being a huge Allen-West shipper. Iris West has been a much-discussed character since the show’s beginning, usually with complaints. Once West discovered Barry Allen’s powers things began to change as West took a more active role in storylines. Smith declared Iris the heart of the show, and Patton said appreciated that she played someone without powers who could bring a more human perspective to the show. As much as West has evolved in the writing, it would be a better if someone let the real-life Patton influence the character some more! Much of the theme that was discussed is often held back on, but Patton’s passion for the role was a highlight of the panel.
The current season of The Flash has received a lot of criticism from fans and the creative team admitted they were “victims of their own success.” They landed on the current villain, Savitar, in trying to top previous villains Reverse Flash and Zoom, but next year they will have a villain who is “not a speedster.” When asked about upcoming episodes, Kreisberg admitted that episode eighteen would include Abra Kadabra, who has information on Savitar, and that episode nineteen is titled “The Once and Future Flash” which finds Barry learning he needs to find answers on how to defeat Savitar in the future.
Finally, the panel turned to Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, with Smith praising Benoist’s performance as the titular hero. Benoist noted that the hero’s motto, “help, hope, and compassion,” guided all the choices she makes for the role. The audience asked if the production would ever return to Los Angeles but the entire panel pointed to Vancouver being a real guiding element on the show and that putting Supergirl in Los Angeles actually held back the writing since they had to work the stories into a smaller production budget.
As Smith turned to Routh, whom he’d worked with on Zach and Miri Make a Porno, he could not help but ask a classic fan-question: “Is there a dick door in the suit?” Routh was clearly uncomfortable, but admitted to a kind of “snap door,” that he couldn’t quite describe though he tried. Caity Lotz also discussed the evolution of Sarah Lance into the White Canary and leader of the Waverider, but stated that usually the large cast of Legends feels like a group of “misfits” amongst the other shows.
As the Berlanti-verse has expanded over the past few years on the CW, it sometimes feels as though the universe may have outgrown Arrow and Oliver Queen. Living in Star City with its dark color-scape, lack of magical elements, and overall gritty tone, the show has a disconnect from the other three shows, but you would never know this with all the various series stars present. While Supergirl and The Flash may be the bigger, current fan-hits, the stars of all four shows appeared to treat Amell as defacto leader as he was often the quickest to respond to the fans’ and Smith’s questions. He was also affable and the most comfortable of anyone on the panel. When watching the series, it often feels like Arrow may be winding down and phased out to make room for new series (like Black Lightning perhaps?) but to watch the panel, I was reminded of how this entire universe all began with Oliver Queen and to hear Amell talk it seems impossible to remove that element. Maybe another hundred episodes of Arrow is more likely than fans could’ve hoped?
Emily is a writer and television obsessor. If desired, Emily will talk to you at potentially-annoying-length about topics such as why soap operas are underrated, the current amazing state of underground comedy, and how she avoids TV/films about zombies because most of them do not chew with their mouths closed.
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Emily J | Staff Writer