Earlier this season on Arrow, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) made a cheeky reference to Bruce Wayne. Over on Supergirl, Kara (Melissa Benoist) has also made sly reference to her cousin’s “grumpy” friend. Considering the return of Deathstroke (Manu Bennett) and John Constantine (Matt Ryan) to the Arrowverse, these shout-outs to the Batman could be interpreted as opening the way for the character — and other Justice Leaguers — to finally make their CW debut.
But as Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim told Comicbook.com, the Batman shout-outs are just part of the shows’ collective “mischievousness,” explaining, “Over here on the CW, we’re sort of a mischievous lot, and we enjoy the occasional Easter egg … and our partners at DC are very tolerant of our mischief. But that’s really all it is. Just good nature, good fanboy mischief.”
While the relationship between DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Television allows for the occasional reference to League members and the appearance of Superman in the second season of Supergirl, Batman is a very special case. Long before Warner Bros. bought DC, it made a deal with the television arm of 20th Century Fox to produce the 1960s Batman series starring Adam West. That deal gave Fox the right to use any of the Batman characters on television in perpetuity. This is why it took so long for that series to appear on home video and why Gotham is a Warner TV/Fox co-production on the latter’s broadcast network.
It’s also why it is extremely unlikely anyone from the Batman Family will ever appear on The CW.
Of course, it will be interesting to see what happens when Disney takes control of Fox’s television interests and, presumably, the television rights to Batman. There’s always the (slim) possibility they’ll sell those rights back to Warner Bros. But even then, the use of characters within Warner’s family of companies is a strange and always evolving thing. Deathstroke, for example, is once again unavailable to Arrow as a feature film starring Joe Joe Manganiello enters development.
Arrow returns January 18th on The CW.