The CW considering ATOM spin-off and confirms animated VIXEN series

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During this past weekends Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour event The CW network announced a host of show renewals, including their DC Comics-based favourites Arrow and The Flash. No surprise there really – Arrow (currently in its third season) has been very consistent and The Flash (in the middle of its first season) has found its footing after an admittedly less impressive opening few episodes.

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One surprise bit of information (via Coming Soon) is that the network is considering an Arrow spin-off series based on Brandon Routh’s character Ray Palmer aka The Atom. He was introduced in the current season of the show when he bought out Queen Consolidated. Everyone warned you Ollie, but you didn’t listen. “I’m too busy fighting crime and brooding!” Now look. While he hasn’t really had that much screen time per episode as yet, it seems to be ramping up as we slowly find out more about his plans and back story. Especially with the mention of O.M.A.C. blueprints from Queen Consolidated Research Division and the reveal that he’s designing a certain suit.

The CW President Mark Pedowitz confirmed they’re approaching the idea cautiously saying:

You’d have to be judicious. Could there be another hour in that universe? Possibly. That’s why we’re in preliminary discussion. [The show] has to stand on its own legs.

This sentiment was echoed later by Arrow show runner Greg Berlanti during a panel discussion:

We’re in very early talks in a very general idea that we haven’t gone deeper on yet.

There’s an Inception pun in there. Brandon Routh was asked about the idea and responded:

With any character you bring on this show that’s a possibility, depending on how the fans react and the character is received and developed. You know they’ve shown with The Flash that just being a part of Arrow that it can work. It’s exciting. The sky’s the limit. DC and The CW have done a great job with the two shows and the platforms in terms being their own entities. What the future holds, who knows? But anything is a possibility.

I like the fact they’re approaching it cautiously and realise that the spin-off needs to be earned. Personally I think this might work better as a short event series, similar to Marvel’s Agent Carter or as TV movie. Three full, linked super hero shows on a single network does have the potential to be overkill. Especially if the rumours that the in-development Supergirl series on CBS could also potentially cross over/share a universe with these shows.

Regarding that rumour, CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler said over the weekend, “that’s a different network (but owned by the same parent company) so I think we’re going to keep Supergirl to ourself right now.” Right now – that’s not an outright denial. So I’ll baselessly speculate that means yes because it’ll make me happy.

A significant piece of news coming from the event (via Comic Book Resources) is that an animated Vixen series is in the works by The CW and set to stream via their online platform CW Seed; and it will exist in the shared Arrow and The Flash universe. Lacking the encyclopedic comic book knowledge of Darryn or Kervyn (NERDS!) I turned to the DC Comics wiki for more detail on the character:

Vixen [Mari Jiwe McCabe] is a female super-hero from Zambesi who adopts the abilities of animals. Using her Tantu Totem, she can channel the powers of the animal kingdom by tapping into the morphogenetic field. She has been a member of the Birds of Prey,Checkmate, the Justice League, the Justice League International, Suicide Squad and the Ultramarine Corps. Vixen was created by Gerry Conway and Bob Oksner, first appearing in Action Comics #521. (1981)

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Arrow’s other show runner, Marc Guggenheim, had quite a bit to say about the show:

It’s a great deal of fun, I have to say. I always love working in different mediums. We’re going to do basically an animated spin-off. It’s going to center on Vixen who, for me, I came to know as a former member of the Justice League. (Me too, literally all I remembered.) It’s a six-part origin story, but characters from The Flash and Arrow are prominently involved. It’s in the continuity and the world. There’s actually a question I’ve been getting on Twitter a lot, “Is Oliver going to find out that Felicity kissed Barry?” That’s actually going to happen in the Vixen cartoon. Part of the fun is that close cohesion.

And Vixen’s such a great character. First of all, she represents magic, which is an area that we haven’t explored on either of the two shows just yet. One thing we’re always saying is, “Flash is very different from Arrow, Arrow is very different from Flash.” If Arrow is crime and The Flash is science, Vixen has a big magic component. The other thing is, it’s a strong African-American hero who’s, like I said, a former Justice Leaguer. It’s set in Detroit, as a nod towards those Justice League [Detroit] stories. It’s done with the same love of the source material that we bring to everything.

Two of the writers on the project, Keto Shimizu and Brian Ford Sullivan, are every bit as geeky as I am, so look for all the things hopefully you’ve come to know and love from Flash and Arrow in Vixen: the Easter eggs, winks, the nods and the cool action. One of the things we can do in animation is really push the envelope in a way that we can’t on either of the two shows. So there’s a much larger production value. We’re taking advantage of the animated form. That’s the other reason to do it.

When asked if Vixen could appear in live action further down the line:

We always say “never say never,” and if the character resonates with people, that would be wonderful. I would love to be in a position where CW said to us, “Hey, we want a Vixen live-action show.” That’d be wonderful. We’ll have to sort of see how things play out. But our goal really is to produce the highest-quality animated series. We want people to come to this who don’t normally watch an animated show. We really want fans of The Flash and fans of Arrow to go to CW Seed. We really tried to approach it the same way we approach a pilot.

And finally he confirmed he’s reasonably confident that the live-action actors would voice their own character on the animated show if called upon:

It’s funny — a lot of the actors are just finding out. But the response has been very favorable and very cooperative. I can’t speak for them, but all signs are good.

Out of the two I’d be more keen to see the animated Vixen series than The Atom live action spin-off, especially seeing as Guggenheim is hinting to a more adult bent in the series. If it’s anything close to the quality of the tragically cancelled Young Justice consider me over the moon.

Last Updated: January 13, 2015

Trevor Davies

I like pie, I think.

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