It’s that time of year again. Time for another Arrowverse crossover. What began as a couple quick and fun episodes to bring characters from Arrow and The Flash into the other worlds has morphed over the years into the show’s most-watched episodes of any season. Each crossover brings lots of questions – and this year’s more than most.
After 2017’s mega four-part “Crisis on Earth-X” story, it was hard to imagine where the crossovers could go. The answer was to flip everything on its head. This year’s story – titled “Elseworlds” – finds Ollie and Barry in their own Freaky Friday-type situation, where the two switch roles, with Oliver having always been The Flash and Barry the Green Arrow. There are a few characters in DC’s library that could play with reality like this, but many fans were genuinely shocked when it was announced that one of the central antagonists would be The Monitor. The character has a powerful presence in the comics, but what is he all about and what will it mean for the show?
It’s fitting that The Monitor is debuting in the annual Arrowverse crossover because, in a way, he’s a product of crossovers. He first appeared in 1982’s The New Teen Titans #21 – albeit as shadowy presence – but didn’t reveal himself fully until G.I. Combat #274 in 1985. The Monitor is billions of years old – essentially being born alongside the multiverse, from which he also draws most of his sizable power. He has godlike powers and a comprehensive knowledge of the multiverse. As his name would suggest, The Monitor watches and learns from all the people in the different dimensions.
Creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez seeded information about The Monitor years before finally revealing him, months ahead of one of DC’s biggest comic book events – “Crisis on Infinite Earths“. Though The Monitor initially seemed evil, turned out he was simply trying to prepare Earth’s heroes for a bigger evil.
The Monitor and The Anti-Monitor
When you create a character with as much power as The Monitor, there has to be something to threaten it. DC went very literal by creating an actual yang to The Monitor’s yin in The Anti-Monitor. Where The Monitor generates his powers from positive-matter universes, the Anti-Monitor gets his from – you guessed it – anti-matter universes. Over time, The Anti-Monitor decided to just focus on destroying all the positive-matter universes to weaken his eternal foe.
The two fought a million-year war, and actually ended up knocking each other out for billions more years. In that time, a lot of what fans knew about the DC Universe happened. Then they woke up and The Monitor took notice of Earth’s heroes – hoping that Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the rest would be able to help him stop The Anti-Monitor.
Both The Monitor and The Anti-Monitor also have a history with a pre-established Arrowverse character – kinda. In the comics, Lyla Michaels – aka Harbinger – is an orphan raised by The Monitor and assists in recruiting heroes from the multiverse in helping fight The Anti-Monitor. In Arrow, Lyla is the head of ARGUS and married to John Diggle.
After the results of 2005’s Infinite Crisis, the DC multiverse was divided into 52 distinct worlds. With each world needing to be watched, The Monitor split himself so every world could have a Monitor protecting it.
The teasers for the Elseworlds crossover has made it seem like The Monitor is the villain of the story. He’s revealed to be helping Arkham Asylum scientist Dr. John Deegan on something to help him rewrite reality. But if the history of The Monitor – and his appearance before Crisis on Infinite Earths – is anything to go by, he could be doing this to test the Arrowverse heroes for a larger battle to come.
Two of the Arrowverse’s trinity – Green Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl – played pivotal roles in the original Crisis story. Both Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El gave their lives in the fight against The Anti-Monitor. With this season of The Flash also leaning back into the Season 1 reveal — that Barry disappears in “a crisis” at some point in the future — only adds fuel to the fire.
Perhaps The Monitor is just a fun nod to DC history in a stand-alone three-parter. Or maybe this version of The Monitor is the beginning of a much larger story.