"Crisis on Infinite Earths" made a classic Superman part of its universe

It's not just 'Superman Returns.' It's the classic, Christopher Reeve Superman that is also now part of the Arrowverse.

Superman Brandon Routh Crisis on Infinite Earths

Here’s the thing with “Crisis on Infinite Earths” before this week: It all could have just been Easter eggs upon Easter eggs. But as “Part 2” of the five-part special on The CW proves, it’s not just Easter eggs. It’s all about bringing together the real, actual stories together.

In this case, “Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 2” confirms that Brandon Routh’s role as Superman, dressed like Superman from the 1996 miniseries series Kingdom Come, isn’t just a nod to Routh’s film role in 2006’s Superman Returns. It’s that Routh’s Superman is actually his Superman Returns character. What’s more, this also means that the classic, profoundly influential 1978 movie Superman starring Christopher Reeve is officially canon to the Arrowverse.

Is your mind blown yet? Because I’m picking my brain off the floor.

Warning: Minor spoilers for “Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 2” ahead.

In the second part of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” airing as an episode of Batwoman, the heroes take over a dormant Waverider — belonging to the Legends of Earth-74 — where they learn from the Monitor a special group needed to accomplish their endgame: the Paragons. Seven heroes who best represent different pillars of humanity, including hope, courage, and love, the heroes must work to gather the Paragons in order to defeat the Anti-Monitor.

Luckily, there’s already Paragons aboard: Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and Sarah Lance (Caity Lotz) are a few of the Paragons, while the episode later reveals Batowman (Ruby Rose) to be another. But one Paragon they actually need to recruit is another Kryptonian. Thus begins a search for a Kryptonian needle in a multiverse haystack, where Clark (Tyler Hoechlin), Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch), and Iris (Candice Patton) hop different Earths to look for this Paragon Kryptonian.

Unfortunately, Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) has made off with the Book of Destiny and has begun using it to kill different Supermen of different Earths, including the Superman of Earth-75 (a reference to Superman #75, the historic issue where Superman falls to Doomsday in the storyline Death of Superman). So it’s a race against Lex Luthor to find the Paragon Superman.

Superman Clark Kent Brandon Routh Crisis on Infinite Earths
Despite losing everything, Superman of Earth-96 (Brandon Routh) still knows how to charm the pants off anyone who meets him.

After making a brief stop to Earth-167 — the home of Tom Welling’s Clark Kent and Erica Durance’s Lois Lane of the Smallville TV series — Iris, Lois, and Clark make their way to Earth-96, where they meet The Daily Planet’s Editor-in-Chief, Clark Kent, played by Brandon Routh. While this Earth’s Clark Kent hasn’t lost his wholesomeness nor his decency, he has suffered a tremendous loss. As Clark explains, the Planet was terrorized by “a reject from Gotham” who hated that he wasn’t getting any press from, so he gassed the newsroom as one final “practical joke.” (Chilling.) While virtually everyone died, Clark Kent survived.

We learn from three clues that Routh’s Superman of Earth-96 isn’t just another in the multiverse, but actually the same Superman from 2006’s Superman Returns. First: Following a battle between Supermen (because Lex Luthor knows how to keep the plot going), Routh’s Clark apologizes afterward to Hoechlin’s, telling him, “This isn’t the first time I had to fight myself.”

Second, when Lois carries baby Jon in the Waverider, Routh’s Clark Kent calls him “handsome” and notes that he looks just like his son, Jason.

Third, not a clue per se, but the music whenever Brandon Routh appeared onscreen in costume as Superman had so many cues from John Ottman, who himself took cues from the master of music, John Williams.

Clones and Jason Kent

First, here’s what Earth-96 Clark meant by fighting himself. It’s important to note that Routh’s Superman and Superman Returns was a direct continuation of the original Superman films, directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher Reeve.

Superman Returns was the “third” movie after Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), ignoring the two other movies, Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). It was in Superman III where Superman memorably battled an “evil” version of himself in the middle of a junkyard.

While Routh’s film did not acknowledge the very movie where Superman fights his clone as canonical, it’s still a neat Easter egg to have it mentioned.

As for “Jason,” well: In Superman Returns, the film’s key dramatic question is the identity of the father of Lois Lane’s child, Jason (played in the film by Tristan Lake Leabu, currently starring in The Young and the Restless). While seemingly the child of Lois Lane’s very human fiancé, the child demonstrates amazing powers, proving that he is actually the son of Clark.

Jason later played a more influential role as the basis for Jon Kent, Superman’s son in the comics who debuted in 2015. Jon Kent was just introduced to the Arrowverse in the first episode of “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”

I just can’t get over it. The Arrowverse has taken a huge, important chunk of not just Superman history, but all of superhero art history, and made it part of its canon. 1978’s Superman is not only the archetype for all of today’s superhero movies and TV, it’s still the benchmark few superhero movies ever surpass. And Superman Returns itself is a great, flawed, movie that understood how to make Superman feel classic, but not outdated, in the 21st century.

While Routh’s reprisal of Superman will probably be a one-time thing, the rest of his time in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” is bound to be unforgettable.

“Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 3” airs tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern on The CW.