Ten years after becoming the Man of Steel in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, Brandon Routh is playing another DC superhero, the Atom, on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. In this week’s blockbuster crossover “Invasion!” that includes Supergirl starring Melissa Benoist, Routh’s history as a Kryptonian was brought up — but it was purely for laughs.
After the Dominators were pushed back into a retreat, the team celebrates with a private party in their makeshift HQ. Ray Palmer (Routh), Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), and Kara Zor-El (Benoist) have an off-screen conversation before Kara walks away. Felicity jokes that Kara is “like looking into a mirror” (Long blonde hair? Thick black glasses? Nerd-chic wardrobe? Sure, it checks out.) while Ray has a more interesting revelation.
“Yeah, you know what’s funny? She really kinda looks like my cousin.” Ray blinks. Felicity stares. Marc Guggenheim snorts. And fans everywhere love it. (The joke depends on audiences knowing Supergirl is Superman’s cousin, which is probably a no-brainer to anyone tuned in to a crossover event.)
This isn’t the first time the Arrowverse joked about Routh’s past. In Season 1 of The Flash, in “All Star Team Up,” when Ray is flying to the team, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco (Calros Valdez) comment: “Is that a bird?” “It’s a plane.”
Seriously, this universe indulges in references: When ex-Wonder Woman Lynda Carter played the U.S. President on Supergirl, she referenced the Invisible Jet. John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry Allen in The Flash on CBS back in 1990, is practically reprising his role as a recurring Jay Garrick, the Flash from the Golden Age of comics.
And Grant Gustin, who played a total D-bag on Glee? His Barry Allen is “not much of a singer,” until he’s at karaoke.
While fans can toy with the idea of Kara’s Earth-1 doppelgänger being Ray Palmer’s cousin, the truth that it’s really just a throwaway joke is way more fun.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays on the CW.