For Flash fans of a certain generation, John Wesley Shipp will always be Barry Allen. While the original The Flash TV series only ran for one season on CBS from 1990-1991, it was still a spectacular breakout from what adventure and sci-fi television of the era was. Believe it or not, there was once a time when there weren’t more superhero shows on each week than you could conceivably watch.
The 22 episodes of The Flash were very much “of their time” in that they were taking plenty of cues from Tim Burton’s insanely successful Batman movie from 1989, a film which, for better or worse (mostly worse, through no fault of its own) became the template for all superhero live action adaptations for more than a decade after its release. The Flash had an impressive, retro Central City set (while the show was set in modern times, there were touches of the 1950s throughout its look), a memorable theme tune by Danny Elfman (and a moody score by Shirley Walker), and a colorful, but big and bulky Flash costume, worn by John Wesley Shipp.
Shipp was a brilliant Barry Allen. While more self assured than how Grant Gustin played the role in the early seasons, he brought a sense of authority and wit to the role, and unlike certain Batman actors of the ’90s, never looked like he felt the role was beneath him. Since then, Shipp has returned to the Flash family, first as Henry Allen, and then (perfectly) as original Flash, Jay Garrick.
Jay Garrick exists on Earth-3 in the Arrowverse version of the DC Multiverse, and with the upcoming Elseworlds crossover in December bringing in more elements from DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, I expected Shipp would appear in that role. What I didn’t expect would be that he would appear as the original TV Barry Allen, and wearing a version of his classic suit, no less!
Stephen Amell, who has been making all the big Elseworlds reveals on his social media accounts, was the first to reveal Shipp’s participation…
And no, your eyes do not deceive you, that is Amell in the current Flash suit with Grant Gustin as Green Arrow.
Arrowverse producer Marc Guggenheim gave fans an even better look at Shipp in the classic Flash costume…
Five years ago, before the premiere of the current Flash series, I spoke with John Wesley Shipp and asked (among other things) whether he thought he or Grant Gustin had the more uncomfortable Flash suit.
“I don’t know how it could be more uncomfortable than mine was!” Shipp responded with a laugh. “I understand they have a different kind of glue, so they don’t have to take it off with acetone anymore.”
“We couldn’t clean our suits,” he continued. “It cost $100,000 to build four suits in 1990. They’d just hang ‘em up in the trailer and spray it with Lysol! It was crumbling. I didn’t have a cooling unit for the pilot episode, which we shot in May and June in LA. So I’d be in it for 10 minutes, I’d take off the glove, and it would literally be filled up with sweat. They got me a cooling unit to wear under it by the time the series was up and running.”
Hopefully they’ve found a way to make it more comfortable these days, but that photo sure makes it look like an authentic replica of the 1990 suit.
If you’ve never seen the original The Flash TV series, it’s currently available to watch on the DC Universe streaming service.
Elseworlds kicks off on a special episode of The Flash on December 9, and will continue on Arrow and Supergirl the following nights. We have everything you need to know about the superhero TV event of the year right here.
Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!