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Crisis on Infinite Earths: Brandon Routh Superman Returns!

Superman Returns
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

San Diego Comic Con 2019 has only just begun, but we've already learned something exciting about the world's most popular superhero. Two versions of Superman will appear in this year's Arrowverse crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. That, by itself, will probably not shock anyone. But the casting might: Brandon Routh will reprise his role as the Man of Steel for the first time since Superman Returns (2006), according to an exclusive article in Deadline.

Fans of the Arrowverse — which includes the Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman shows on the CW network — know full well that those shows already have a Superman. Tyler Hoechlin plays the part in the Arrowverse, having shown up on Supergirl, Arrow and The Flash in past episodes. These same fans are also familiar with Brandon Routh, who plays Ray Palmer, aka The Atom, on Legends of Tomorrow.

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While DC has not yet divulged any details about how Crisis on Infinite Earths could support two Supermen, old-school comic book fans can probably take an educated guess. Back in 1985, DC's internal continuity had gotten so tangled and snarled, the company decided to launch a whole miniseries, Crisis on Infinite Earths, to reset the universe. The crossover event explained that the DC Universe was actually a multiverse, supporting many different versions of its familiar characters across a plethora of different realities.

As such, it seems reasonable to guess that Hoechlin will continue to play the Arrowverse's Superman for the TV crossover, while Routh will play the Man of Tomorrow from Superman Returns. If that's the case, it opens up a tantalizing array of possibilities for continuing the Superman movie mythos. Remember: Superman Returns was itself supposed to be a sequel to Christopher Reeve's Superman II, pretending that Superman III and IV never happened. Perhaps with the Arrowverse crossover, DC is looking to sort out this contentious continuity once and for all.

Of course, Routh's Superman could also be a totally unrelated character, with Routh's casting as a simple nod to longtime fans.

Either way, the Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse crossover will run for five episodes, starting in December 2019 and finishing in January 2020. Fans will have to tune into all five shows to learn the full story. We'll probably learn some more details as SDCC progresses, so stay tuned to see whether any other superheroes from questionable mid-2000s movies get a second chance.

In the meantime, if you simply can't wait to find out what happens, pick up a copy of the Crisis on Infinite Earths graphic novel. The TV crossover won't cover exactly the same ground, but if nothing else, it's an amazing relic of the era when comic book publishers first realized that they would have to create — and maintain — meticulously consistent shared settings.