On DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, three of the greatest super villains of the Arrowverse have banded together to threaten time itself. Eobard Thawne, Reverse-Flash and arch enemy of Barry Allen recruited Malcolm Merlyn and Damien Darhk, two of Green Arrow’s greatest foes, to help him acquire the fabled Spear of Destiny. Together, they plan to rewrite history to serve their particular nefarious ends. The Legends call them the Legion of Doom. They’re the worst of the worst, the biggest of the Arrowverse’s Big Bads. They also have one more thing in common: they’re all men.
It’s no surprise that when the producers of Legends of Tomorrow chose the Big Bads to comprise the Legion of Doom, all of the names in the hat were male. After five years and four superhero television series and counting (a fifth series, Black Lightning, is on the way), the ever-expanding and heroically inclusive Arrowverse continues to have a Female Big Bad Problem. The problem is this: There aren’t any.
This isn’t to say the Arrowverse lacks female super villains. Since China White and the Huntress first crossed paths with Oliver Queen when he was still called the Hood in Arrow season 1, the Arrowverse has done a fine job showcasing DC Comics’ female super villains. Over the years, Nyssa al-Ghul, Isabel Rochev, Cupid, Bug-Eyed Bandit, Artemis, Black Siren from Earth-2, and even Amanda Waller have all taken villainous turns on Arrow. In Central City, Golden Glider, Magenta, Trajectory, and Killer Frost from Earth-2 have threatened The Flash. The Legends of Tomorrow have tangled with the fewest female villains, but a memorable one was Valentina Vostok, the Soviet Firestorm. There have certainly been a fair share of dangerous women across the Arrowverse.
In terms of Big Bads, however — and by ‘Big Bad’ we mean the main villain for a particular season, at the level of Reverse-Flash, Deathstroke, or Vandal Savage — there is nary a woman on the list.
Arrow has featured Isabel Rochev as Deathstroke’s second in command. Ruvé Adams, Damien Darhk’s wife, was part of H.I.V.E. and was just as great a menace as he was. Yet neither were plucked from death’s door to be a part of the Legion of Doom as Darhk was. The Flash has been even more negligent in terms of female Big Bads. Each season has featured an ever more powerful speedster to challenge Barry Allen: Eobard Thawne, Zoom, now Savitar, plus there was The Rival in the Flashpoint timeline, and the Black Flash is now chasing Thawne across time in Legends. Trajectory was the lone female speedster to battle the Flash and she lasted all of an episode. Even with all of time at their disposal, it’s even harder to find female super villains who have taken on the Legends of Tomorrow.
This dearth of female Big Bads isn’t entirely exclusive to Earth-1. Supergirl boasts the greatest roster of female villains in the Arrowverse, including Kara’s Kryptonian aunt Astra, Livewire, Silver Banshee, Roulette, Lillian Luthor, and Indigo. Yet even Supergirl has fallen prey to this strange formula of not having a female villain be the Big Bad for the season.
Astra was set up as the main villain for Supergirl season 1, but she was killed midway through, only to have her husband Non be the one to attempt to mind control everyone on Earth with Myriad. Indigo, the female Brainiac played by Smallville‘s Supergirl Laura Vandervoort, was at best a partner to Non, not the Big Bad herself, though she is certainly bristling with Big Bad potential. Supergirl briefly introduced Maxima in a pre-credits fight scene with Supergirl in season 1, but she hasn’t been seen since. The former queen of the planet Almerac boasted a host of super powers, meaning Maxima could easily be dusted off and set up as a Big Bad for both Supergirl and even Superman. Season 2 saw Lillian Luthor try to kill all aliens living on Earth but was captured by Supergirl in the midseason finale. The Luthors are imminently set to return to Supergirl in an episode appropriately titled ‘Luthors.‘
There is good news on the Supergirl Female Big Bad front with the recent announcement of Teri Hatcher cast in an as-yet unnamed role who is reportedly to be the season’s main antagonist. In addition, Lena Luthor is waiting in the wings to eventually turn evil and follow in the footsteps of her brother Lex. It’s hard to believe a Lena Luthor turn isn’t inevitable. As far as a Luthor truly being the arch enemy of Supergirl goes, the mother is merely a placeholder for the daughter. Lena is the Luthor we want to see battle Supergirl, not Lillian.
Other genre franchises have made notable progress with female Big Bads. Perhaps most significant was Glory, who threatened Sunnydale for all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 5. Angel had Jasmine end up being the Big Bad of season 4 — though it was a slow build that saw Jasmine only really be the Big Bad for season’s final few episodes. Star Trek broke ground by introducing its first female Big Bad, the Borg Queen, in Star Trek: First Contact. The Borg Queen would go on to menace Captain Janeway and Star Trek: Voyager for most of its seven seasons, including its series finale. Even James Bond finally battled a female Big Bad, the evil oil heiress Elektra King played by Sophie Marceau, in The World is Not Enough. As for other DCTV properties, it can be argued that Fish Mooney shared Big Bad duties with her fellow arch villains like Oswald Cobblepot, Theo Galavan, and Jerome Valeska on Gotham.
The lack of female Big Bads isn’t just an Arrowverse problem, however. It’s a larger DC Universe problem. DC Comics has proudly boasted it has the greatest roster of super villains: The Joker, Darkseid, Lex Luthor, Sinestro, Catwoman, et al. Yet how many of their female super villains are actually at a Big Bad level, the kind that can threaten one of their cities like Metropolis or Gotham, much less the DC Universe as a whole? Wonder Woman has Circe, the sorceress who was the villain in the 199o’s crossover War of the Gods. Green Lantern has Star Sapphire and the Zamarons. Unfortunately, as Justice League characters tied to DC Films, neither are properties accessible to the Arrowverse.
One major female DC Comics villain who surprisingly hasn’t appeared in the Arrowverse yet is the Queen Bee, though Bialya, the nation she rules in the comics, has. As much as the Arrowverse alters and adapts what’s found in DC Comics, however, the lack of female Big Bads seems to stem from deficiencies within the comic book source material itself.
Why is the Arrowverse so caught up in adapting existing DC Comics characters? Some of their greatest characters are not strictly from the comics. Moira Queen, John Diggle, Thea Queen, Quentin Lance, Sara Lance, Alex Danvers, and Harrison Wells were not torn from the pages of the comics but created for television and then in some cases inherited super identities tied to the comics. John Diggle is such a beloved breakout character, he was soon made part of the DC Comics universe. There is certainly nothing stopping the producers of the Arrowverse from creating female Big Bad characters for television that can, if successful, be transplanted into the comics to join the DC Comics pantheon.
Many of Batman’s supporting cast of villains have been subsumed into the Arrowverse, but thus far, Talia al Ghul, who has the most female Big Bad potential, has been relegated to Arrow season 5 flashbacks. Talia, Lena Luthor, Maxima, and Indigo are all right there, waiting to be the Big Bad. Though most of them are Supergirl’s villains, the Heroes vs. Aliens crossover has blown the Multiverse wide open, as has Legends of Tomorrow‘s time travel antics with the Legion of Doom. Characters now can leap forward and back across multiple Earths and multiple timelines as stories require.
It’s well past time the Arrowverse stepped up and gave one or more of its incredible female characters the role of Big Bad for one of their shows, especially on Earth-1. A female Big Bad who can out-fight Oliver Queen, out-race Barry Allen, out-think Felicity Smoak, and/or out-maneuver the Legends of Tomorrow is well overdue and could be groundbreaking (for the Arrowverse) television. Deathstroke, Damien Dahrk, and Zoom all rocked our heroes to their cores, but there’s no reason Talia, Indigo, or Lena Luthor couldn’t be just as cunning, ambitious, and nefarious, if not more so, causing as much emotional damage to the heroes as physical.
Supergirl already proves that a female superhero can be a beacon of hope and a source of fantastic television. Alternatively, the ever-progressive Arrowverse must break this female Big Bad barrier and show fans just how bad a super villainess can truly be. If the Legion of Doom ever acquires a Hall of Doom, there shouldn’t be a “Men Only” sign on the door.