When Prometheus was announced as the Big Bad of Arrow season 5, the very name caused a jolt of excitement among DC Comics fans, since one of the strengths of The CW’s hit series about the Emerald Archer is their cavalcade of Big Bad villains. Arrow has pitted some truly memorable arch enemies against Oliver Queen: season 1’s Malcolm Merlyn, season 2’s Deathstroke, season 3’s Ra’s al-Ghul, and season 4’s Damien Dahrk. Merlyn and Darhk in particular have been so popular that they’ve crossed over from Arrow and are now threatening time and reality as members of the Legion of Doom in Legends of Tomorrow.
The comic book history of Prometheus seemed to signal a threat different and greater than any Green Arrow had faced on the show before. Prometheus is a powerful villain who was created by legendary comic book writer Grant Morrison to challenge the Justice League of America itself in the pages of JLA back in 1998.
In typical Arrow fashion, Prometheus’ look, methodology and motivations were altered to suit the creative needs of the series. Arrow‘s Prometheus bears the familiar moniker but differs greatly from the armored mastermind found in the comics. Let’s take a closer look at how the comic book Prometheus compares to Arrow‘s current Big Bad.
Prometheus in the Comics
Perhaps best described as the “Anti-Batman,” Prometheus debuted in New Year’s Evil: Prometheus #1 (1998) before appearing in JLA #16-17. His plan was to impersonate the winner of a contest to become a member of the Justice League for a day, and then attack the JLA in their lunar Watchtower headquarters. Prometheus wears technologically advanced armor and a distinctive helmet modeled after the helm of a medieval knight. The helmet, which contains artificial intelligence connected to his brain and central nervous system, allows him to download the fighting styles of thirty of the world’s greatest martial artists, including Batman. With a gallery of advanced weapons and tactics designed to take out each member of the JLA, Prometheus nearly defeated the League before he was foiled by Catwoman.
Prometheus’ origins echo many aspects of the Dark Knight’s beginnings. The son of two criminals who were gunned down by police, the boy who would grow up to become Prometheus made a vow to “annihilate the forces of justice.” With the fortune his parents had stolen in their criminal careers, Prometheus traveled the world like Bruce Wayne did, although Prometheus used these years to serve in mercenary groups and terrorist organizations. His quest led him to the legendary Himalayan city of Shamballa, where he met a sect of monks who worship evil itself. In Shamballa, Prometheus was shown an alien spacecraft upon which Shamballa was built. When he killed the leader of the monks, who was revealed to be one of the aliens, Prometheus obtained the key to the Ghost Zone, an extra-dimensional white expanse where Prometheus built his headquarters.
Prometheus became a member of Lex Luthor’s Injustice Gang and attacked the JLA Watchtower again, this time using a White Martian space craft abandoned in the Ghost Zone. Prometheus nearly killed Barbara Gordon, who was then the wheelchair-bound Oracle, before battling Batman. The Dark Knight sabotaged Prometheus’ helmet, uploading data that replaced Prometheus’ combat skills with the motor neuron disease of Professor Stephen Hawking. Batman and the Martian Manhunter then reduced Prometheus’ brain into a mentally disabled state, placing him in a psychic loop, trapped in his own memories.
For a time, there was an imposter Prometheus named Chad Graham, who was Prometheus’ protégé and was murdered by Prometheus upon his regaining his mental faculties. In the Cry for Justice miniseries, Prometheus launches a wide-sweeping attack on the world’s superheroes, killing several members of the Global Guardians, maiming Roy Harper by cutting off his arm, murdering Roy’s young daughter Lian, and destroying Star City using a teleportation device. He’s finally captured by the Justice League and justice is delivered by Green Arrow, who executes Prometheus with an arrow through his head.
Prometheus in Arrow
Arrow primarily retained Prometheus’ name and the concept of being a dark mirror to Green Arrow, in the same way that the comic book version was a dark mirror of Batman. On Arrow, Prometheus (voiced by an uncredited Michael Dorn from Star Trek: The Next Generation) wears a costume similar to the one Oliver Queen wore as the Hood in season one, but with a full face mask. His arsenal includes throwing stars forged from discarded arrows left behind by Star City’s hero. Prometheus is otherwise known in Star City as the “Throwing Star Killer.”
Just as DC Comics has never revealed Prometheus’ real name, the identity of Arrow‘s Prometheus is the over-arching mystery of season 5. The name of the person behind the mask is a closely guarded secret, one that Arrow‘s executive producer Marc Guggenheim, speaking to Entertainment Weekly, says they knew from the very beginning and hasn’t been changed since the initial decision was made. Arrow‘s creative team also plans to reveal the villain’s true name “later [in the season] than we typically do.”
What we do know thus far about Prometheus is that he’s suspected to be the illegitimate son of Justin Claybourne, one of the people on Oliver Queen’s original List who “failed the city.” Justin Claybourne was killed by Oliver Queen as the Hood in season 1, and the unnamed younger Claybourne is seeking revenge. Prometheus has spent the last four years learning everything about Oliver Queen, including Oliver’s fighting styles. It’s possible that Talia al-Ghul, one of Oliver’s mentors, also trained Prometheus. He also had access to the Star City Police Department as Prometheus stole the Arrow’s weapons from their evidence in order to forge his throwing stars.
The threat of Prometheus reaches far beyond Star City. Formerly in league with crime lord Tobias Church before he murdered Church, Prometheus also somehow became aware of the Multiverse and time travel. Prometheus broke Black Siren, the Laurel Lance doppelganger from Earth-2, out of the The Flash‘s prison beneath STAR Labs in Central City and told her details of the Legends of Tomorrow and their time traveling exploits as a cover story to fool Oliver. Prometheus has also stuck at heart of the Green Arrow’s current team; he manipulated Evelyn Sharpe/Artemis into betraying Team Arrow, and engineered events so that Green Arrow murdered Star City Police detective and Felicity’s boyfriend Billy Malone after mistaking him for Prometheus.
While some fans might lament how cool it would have been to see the armored, caped, high-tech version of Prometheus, that iteration of the character would have fit better on The Flash or Supergirl. Arrow‘s more grounded approach to superheroics calls for more “realism.” However, yet another hooded archer aesthetically similar to Green Arrow, Speedy, Arsenal, Malcolm Merlyn and so many others does feel like rather unimaginative creative repetition.
Though the similarities between television’s Prometheus and his comic book counterpart are few, one trait shared by both is a capacity for cruelty and evil that threatens everything near and dear to our heroes. Whether Oliver Queen’s final response to the mystery of Prometheus will be an arrow to the head like the comic book Green Arrow’s was remains to be seen.
Arrow season 5 continues Wednesdays @ 8pm on The CW.