Back in 2001, when the WB network debuted the Superboy series Smallville, the producers promised “no tights, no flights”… as though they thought it was bad business to put superhero stuff into a superhero show. That seems like a 100 years ago now. The WB has since evolved into the CW, and like the rest of movies and television, they’ve has become decidedly more cape-friendly. Between Arrow and The Flash, the network is a haven for longtime DC Comics fans — the kind who still have a hard time believing that characters like Deathstroke and Professor Zoom are popping up on their sets every week.
The change didn’t happen overnight. Arrow‘s producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Marc Guggenheim started out with just one moody masked vigilante and a secret lair. Then gradually, episode by episode and season by season, they built an entire team of guys and gals in colorful costumes. The Flash got up to full geeky power even faster; by the end of Season One, the show was routinely filling the screen with psychic gorillas and evil speedsters.
Now the Berlanti/Kreisberg/Guggenheim crew is attempting its most ambitious superhero series yet: Legends of Tomorrow, a time-hopping adventure featuring no less than seven classic DC characters. These aren’t the household names, like Batman or Wonder Woman. This is a show about a handful of heroes that fans know well, but who don’t exactly turn up a lot on bedsheets and lunchboxes.
So, for those of you who didn’t spend hours of your childhood memorizing the schematics of Justice League headquarters, here’s what you need to know about Legends of Tomorrow before it starts airing on Thursday, January 21st:
Who are “the legends?”
Over the course of Arrow‘s four seasons and The Flash‘s two, the shows’ writers have delighted DC aficionados by weaving old favorites into the stories. The new team-up series continues that tradition right from the opening scenes, which feature Doctor Who‘s Arthur Darvill playing Rip Hunter, a mysterious “Time Master” first introduced in the comics back in 1959. It’s Hunter who journeys to 2016 to recruit heroes (and crooks) for a crucial mission.
That group includes:
The Atom (Brandon Routh): An agreeable genius who built an armored suit that allows him to fly through the air and to shrink to the size of an insect. (To put it in Marvel Cinematic Universe terms: Imagine Ant-Man crossed with Iron Man.) In DC history, the Atom has had multiple incarnations, but the most popular premiered in 1961. On the CW, the character has been helping Green Arrow off-and-on since Season Three.
White Canary (Caity Lotz): A former trained assassin who was murdered and resurrected on Arrow, and has been dealing with the dark ramifications of losing and regaining her soul. An original to the TV series, she’s the sister of — and inspiration for — Black Canary, a heroine whose comic book origins date back to 1947.
Firestorm (Franz Drameh and Victor Garber): A nuclear-powered flame-thrower who springs into action whenever a hearty young man and an aged physicist merge their minds and bodies. DC debuted Firestorm in 1978; The Flash added him in the middle of Season One, and then killed off half of the hero in the finale. In the current version, the professor and his new partner are still warily adjusting to each other.
Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée) and Hawkman (Falk Hentshcel): A frequently reincarnated couple who started out as ancient Egyptian warriors, with the power to sprout wings. A Flash/Arrow crossover late last year properly introduced the TV Hawks, who draw on elements from DC comics of the 1940s, 1960s, and 2000s.
Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell): Two Flash villains who make use of, respectively, a freeze-gun and a fire-gun that they stole from the good guys’ lab. The former has been part of the comic book Flash‘s “Rogues Gallery” since 1957; the latter since 1963. On TV, the pair have forged an uneasy truce with the hero, which may explain why Hunter trusts them. (Or it may just be that he needs someone to do the team’s dirty work.)