"Crisis on Infinite Earths" has been ruddy with cameos. But none of them were quite as satisfying or momentous as that of scribe Marv Wolfman, who penned the original Crisis on Infinite Earths comics as well as dozens of other foundational comics to the DC universe.
In the same way, Wolfman's cameo was instrumental in resetting the universe and the tone of this brave, new world our heroes find themselves in. For those who didn't watch, [spoilers!] our heroes' defeat of the Anti-Monitor led to the multiverse being restored. However, when Kara (Melissa Benoist) shows up on the docks of National City to face off against Weather Witch and Barry (Grant Gustin) shows up, they recognize something is wrong.
A helpful fan named Marv asks them if they could sign something for him, as he loves when they team up. However, he notes, usually they do it with "Green Arrow, a Legend or two, and last year Batwoman!" Marv Wolfman is all of us here, wearing his fan heart on his sleeve, but also delivering a key piece of exposition: their worlds are now merged into one. It's one of the best moments in a crossover full of great moments, and fully sets the tone for the rest of the episode: wacky and light, but also with a touch of menace.
Great job, Marv. You nailed it.
In two Facebook posts, Wolfman recounted what it was like being on set, his anxieties about remembering his lines, and how much fun he had. "This has been the most wonderful thrill ever. I truly wish George Pérez, my Crisis partner, had been able to join me on screen, but he was in England during the filming. Thank you Marc Guggenheim for everything, and thank you to everyone at Berlanti Productions."
What a sweetheart.
Wolfman explains in detail exactly what happened:
"So, several months ago, Marc Guggenheim, showrunner/Exec Producer for Arrow, Crisis and a lot more, asked if I'd like to appear in a Crisis cameo. I assumed he meant I'd stand in the background or something like that. You know. Just shut up and look pretty.
Hey! I could do one of those things.
I'd known Marc for awhile. From Arrow day one he would occasionally send me jpegs of costumes (of characters I created) that would soon show up in Arrow as well as other cool stuff he thought I'd like to see, which I always did. Marc even arranged to have a Deathstroke mask from the show sent to me. It sits proudly on my bookshelf. You will NEVER find it on eBay.
Anyway, so Marc asked me to do a cameo. I may be unique here but I never once had any great desire to be singled out on camera or act or pretend I could act. My acting skills are roughly on the same level as Kermet The Frog [sic]… before anyone sticks a hand up his butt. Anyway, assuming I'd just be in a crowd, I said yes. That'd be fun."
So we'll forgive Marv Wolfman for misspelling Kermit the Frog's name. Plus, I love that metaphor. It's simultaneously cute and disturbing. Classic Wolfman. But even more, I love the relationship he's had with the Arrowverse creative team. It doesn't surprise me at all that they leaned on him, but it's nice to hear these stories. Anyway, back to Wolfman's anxieties about acting:
"For various reasons I won't go into here, I've got the short term memory of flash paper. "Hello. The name you told me just five seconds ago, what was it again?"
So, three weeks out I start practicing my lines. I had to get them right since they led into an important act break. But, remember what I said about not having any short term memory? uummm. What was I talking about again?
Oh, right. So I practiced all day long. Three lines that a baby who can't even speak could remember. And for three weeks I never got it right. Not even once. What have I let myelf [sic] in for?
I mentioned to anyone who would listen that I was worried. I'm not an actor and I don't play one on TV. But everyone was really great. Encouraging. Wonderful. They put me at ease. I watched them film other stuff first so I had time to talk to a ton of folk including the writer of the episode and more specifically, the lines I was about to screw up royally. But then she said I shouldn't worry. If I wanted to say it in my own words, I was free to do so.
I could put everything into my own words? Cool beans. I wasn't worried any more.
Gregory Smith, the director gave me the signal and I said my lines – the lines that had originally been written for me.
Every word of that script…exactly as written.
With the cameras on me, and for the very first time in the history of mankind, I said all the words, as written, without a single mistake."
Wow. You can say a lot of things about Marv Wolfman, but the guy knows how to deliver story– build tension and then cut it and resolve it. Over him remembering a few lines –one of which was to say his own name– but I still felt that anxiety there. This whole story just makes me happy. Kind of like the episode. Speaking of:
"We had to do the scene a number of times for multiple cameras, different angles, etc. And I'd estimate I said my lines right 95% of the time but then I'd do a quick retake and got them right. I received only one acting note from the director: I'm playing a fan who totally loves these characters. Act like meeting them in person is the best thing that ever happened to me.
Yeah. That was gonna be hard.
And that's the take you saw last night."
And that's 100% what we saw on camera. Wolfman is obviously not a trained actor, and his performance sticks out in that episode, but in a good way. Because he's just so goddamn earnest. It works so beautifully, and it really made the episode.
And lest you think they left George Pérez out, they didn't: the final showdown against the Anti-Monitor in this episode takes place in. . . Perez Landing. While George couldn't make the shoot because of ongoing health issues, this was a great tip of the hate to him, similar to how Arrowverse scribes have previously named other important streets, buildings, and places after the artists who created these characters.
Bravo, Marv Wolfman. We hope to see you again around the new CW (now unified) multiverse.