Comic book fans are reveling in the fact that we’re currently living in the golden age of superhero media. Comic books, feature films, and television shows all based around our favorite crime fighters are everywhere and it’s great to see our favorite characters brought to life like never before. One of the most exciting parts about seeing our beloved heroes brought to the live-action realm is seeing how creators will handle their costumes.
The appearance of superheroes are inherently unrealistic. This very fact makes reproducing their costumes in live-action form a challenge that must be overcome. A good costume makes for a believable hero, but a bad costume becomes a distraction that many comic book fans in the audience simply can’t overlook.
The team at DC Comics currently runs a quartet of television programs on the CW that are all interconnected into a single universe. With this many shows, it’s not surprising that there are a ton of superheroes jumping back and forth between the shows, doing so in their own, unique costumes.
We take a look at the very best and worst with our look at 20 Arrowverse Costumes, Ranked Worst to Best.
21 Honorable Mention: John Constantine as Hellblazer
We’re kicking things off with an honorable mention this time around, and the honor goes to the Matt Ryan version of John Constantine seen in the NBC show that was named after him. The Hellblazer gets the honorable treatment today due to his guest appearance on Arrow, even though his own show was never confirmed to be connected to the rest of the Arrowverse.
In regards to Ryan’s costume, Constantine isn’t known to have an overly complex outfit and the team at Constantine was able to pull it off magically. With the character’s trademark trench coat and chainsmoking habit well represented, fans of the character could clearly see the Hellblazer in Matt Ryan’s interpretation.
With a single appearance in the Arrowverse already in the books, fans can only hope to see the trenchcoat-wearing, supernatural detective back in action at some point. As long as he keeps that easily recognizable costume, we’ll take Constantine back in a heartbeat.
20 John Diggle as Spartan
Who doesn’t love John Diggle? As far as original characters created strictly for the Arrowverse go, Digg may be the very best. He’s cool, powerful, and heroic all without the need for any superpowers. Fans clamored for years to get Diggle a costume; one that could not only hide his identity, but show people that he’s a symbol for justice, just like Ollie. When he finally donned the mask and became Spartan, we immediately regretted any thought we ever had about putting Diggle in costume.
To say Diggle’s costume is laughable is an understatement. First of all, it isn’t so much a costume as it is a bad Magneto mask and a leather jacket. If all they wanted to do was find a way for John to hide his identity, surely there was a better way to do so.
On the positive side, if you take that mask out of the equation, it’s not a bad look for Diggle and David Ramsey is certainly capable of pulling it off. Keep the dark clothes and custom handgun, ditch the mask, and we may be onto something here.
19 Ray Palmer as Atom
So let’s just get this straight; first, the team at Arrow hired Brandon Routh, formerly Superman, to play Ted Kord. After DC Comics took the Blue Beetle character off the table, they suggested Routh play scientist Ray Palmer instead. Once the execs at Arrow decided to go ahead with Palmer, they then went ahead and made the classic Atom costume look like an Iron Man suit.
To be honest, the costume itself doesn’t look half-bad. It’s detailed, uses a cool red and blue color scheme, and makes for a believable suit that could turn a determined scientist into a crime fighter. The problem with Routh’s costume is that it isn’t recognizable as anything fans have ever seen in the comics.
The Atom’s most notable superpower is his ability to shrink down to microscopic size and this ability wasn’t seen in the Atom suit until significantly later on. Perhaps the worst part about Palmer’s Atom suit is that it’s hard to see a scenario where Palmer creates something different for himself. Our only hope is that he finds something in his time traveling adventures that could give him the much needed wardrobe change fans are clamoring for.
18 Laurel Lance as Black Canary
Oh Laurel, you just never could catch a break. As if the less-than-stellar writing of the character wasn’t bad enough, Laurel had to take on a hand-me-down superhero mantle from her younger fan-favorite sister. She was practically set up for failure from the get-go, but the cherry on top of the sundae was that black leather costume with all those buckles.
From a practical standpoint, Laurel’s Black Canary costume makes some sense. It was a suit that was battle-ready and could protect an inexperienced vigilante like Laurel. Sadly, the costume Laurel wore made her unrecognizable to anyone who was ever a Black Canary fan.
It would have been hard to pull off the classic Black Canary costume on television, but the fact that nothing about the Laurel we saw on Arrow resembled how we knew her in the comic books made it that much worse. With her dying wish for Oliver to ensure another Black Canary takes up the fight, we can only hope the next Black Canary Costume we see is one worthy of such a great character. Who knows, maybe a certain Earth-2 metahuman played by actress Katie Cassidy could be the one to done the Canary costume.
17 Mick Rory as Heatwave
Mick Rory brings the heat to the hot and cold duo of himself and Captain Cold, AKA Leonard Snart. While neither man is seen wearing an overly complex costume on the show, Rory’s Heatwave costume borders somewhere between plain and flat-out boring.
In his defense, Heatwave’s comic book costume isn’t the most elaborate outfit in comic book history. While actor Dominic Purcell does wear a pair of goggles that resemble Rory's comic book costume, he is also lacking many other aspects of the character’s ensemble. Most notably, Heatwave is often seen in the comic books to be wearing a hood under his goggles that cover nearly his entire face, save for his mouth. While we admit that a hooded Heatwave teamed with a parka-wearing Captain Cold in a live-action format may be a stretch, something more than wrap-around goggles and a burnt, brown suit would have been nice.
Still, even with a less-than-spectacular get-up, Heatwave still somehow managed to be one of the most interesting character on Legends of Tomorrow.
16 Rip Hunter
Rip Hunter burst into the Arrowverse with Legends of Tomorrow, where the time-traveling hero recruited a ragtag group of heroes to help him in his crusade against Vandal Savage. While he may not be a household name, comic book fans will recognize the time master from his adventures with his father, Booster Gold. While his motivations, seeking to maintain the time stream, remain intact from his comic book origins, the costume he wears on the show is quite different.
While comic book fans may be more used to Rip’s red and green costume, the creative department over at the CW opted for a simpler costume consisting of a long, brown trench coat. Though it's vastly different from his comic book costume, there’s something elegant about the simplicity of actor Arthur Darvill’s outfit. It maintains an air of mystery that keeps viewers intrigued at what the time-traveling hero has in store for us next.
Rip Hunter’s costume is intriguing and uncomplicated, and most importantly, Rip’s costume just seems to work for the Time Master’s swashbuckling persona.
15 Mari McCabe as Vixen
Fans may have only caught a glimpse of Vixen if they don’t watch her animated web series on CW Seed, since she's only appeared in live-action form a single time. In her lone live-action outing, she sported a yellow and black suit that appeared to be similar to the ones worn by the rest of Team Arrow, all the while managing to pay homage to her comic book roots.
In the comic books, Vixen can often be found wearing some sort of sexy yellow or orange body suit. While the yellow and black costume that actress Megalyn Echikunwoke wears isn’t exactly what comic book readers may be used to, the creative team from the Arrowverse wisely redesigned the character for their animated web series. When compared to the web series, the costume looks spot on, retaining the warm colors the character is known for.
What truly keeps Vixen’s costume from being a generic yellow and black are the small details. The necklace she wears and the yellow stripes that look like claw marks; all these are subtle reminders of the character’s connections to nature and the animal kingdom.
Fans of Vixen can look forward to another season of her web series and, who knows, maybe more appearances in the live-action Arrowverse.
14 Caitlin Snow as Killer Frost
When fans first saw Dr. Caitlin Snow on the CW’s Arrowverse, rumors began running rampant about when we would see her superpowered alter ego, Killer Frost. What made things even more interesting with Caitlin is that her alter ego is a supervillain, not a superhero. When Barry and Cisco took a trip to Earth-2 last season, fans finally caught a glimpse at Caitlin as the cold-hearted villainess.
Killer Frost’s comic book costume, like many other characters, has changed over the years. Still, the costume we see on The Flash was a little underwhelming. Her outfit wasn’t bad, per se, it wasn’t very good either, just a little plain and very blue. The hair and makeup helped make things look a little bit better, but the fact of the matter is it was Danielle Panabaker wearing a blue jacket and blue pants with platinum blonde hair.
Hopefully we catch a glimpse of a superpowered Dr. Snow again and maybe this time, she can do it in a costume worthy of her character.
13 Leonard Snart as Captain Cold
When it comes to superhero rogue’s galleries, few are as loved and adored as the Flash’s group of villains. Perhaps the most popular of the Flash’s Rogues is that icy crook with a morale code, Captain Cold. The design team over at The Flash did a fantastic job in translating this parka-suited villain from the pages to the small screen.
With a suit as admittedly ridiculous looking as Captain Cold’s in the comic books, it would be easy to screw this up and make the character on the TV show impossible to take seriously. After all, the comic book version of Captain Cold takes the icy theme to an extreme. Somehow, against all odds, actor Wentworth Miller was able to make viewers emotionally invested in Captain Cold, blue parka and all. It’s a true testament to the actor that no matter what he was given, he was able to pull it off in believable fashion.
It looks simple upon first glance, but the blue parka over the black shirt and black gloves made Snart simultaneously ridiculously comic book-y and realistically criminal.
12 Roy Harper as Arsenal
At first glance, Roy’s Arsenal costume looks simply like a red version of Oliver’s Green Arrow costume. While in the comics, Roy’s costume was nearly identical to Oliver’s, save for the color, Arrow’s version of his suit appears to be more customized for Roy and his personality.
Roy’s may have been referred to as nothing more than a part of Oliver’s “Arsenal,” but he quickly proved to be much more than a sidekick. While he became an expert archer under the tutelage of Oliver, Roy carries an eclectic arsenal of weapons that he uses depending on the situation. The most notable are the eskrima sticks often found strapped to the lower part of his legs. He also carries a combat knife strapped to the back of his belt, as well as throwing knives and flechettes along the side of both thighs.
With so many different weapons adorning Roy’s suit, his vigilante alter-ego is definitely worthy of the title Arsenal. A fan-favorite who left the show a couple of years back, fans have been clamoring for more Roy and we can only hope that we see Arsenal back in Star City sooner rather than later.
11 Eobard Thawne as Reverse-Flash
When Eobard Thawne streaks by as the Reverse-Flash, some fans may say it’s simply a yellow version of Barry’s suit. While this is true, to an extent, the subtle differences manage to convince the audience immediately that this speedster is no Flash.
A great costume, be it heroic or villainous, should immediately tell the audience who they are without needing to say a single word. While the majority of Thawne’s costume takes on a striking yellow color in place of the heroic red that Barry wears, it’s the subtle shading of dark colors the truly show off the Reverse-Flash’s personality. Where Barry wears brilliant golds to accent his costume, Thawne wears dark black, grey, and red.
Gone is the hope from Barry’s costume and in its place is an aggressive assortment of pure evil. It’s a true testament to the design team at The Flash that they were able to accomplish so much with a few subtle changes. With Thawne looking to continue his role as a recurring adversary for Barry and Team Flash, it looks like fans have more Reverse-Flash to look forward to for seasons to come.
10 Carter Hall & Kendra Saunders as Hawkman & Hawkgirl
The reincarnated lovers Hawkman and Hawkgirl took a central role in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, sharing a deep connection with the show’s first season villain, Vandal Savage. While their costumes don’t quite match up with their comic book versions, they do retain the same essence of the winged heroes fans know and love.
Shedding the green and yellow for a matching ensemble of bronzed-brow just seems to work for the show. The costumes look rugged and aged, appropriate for a pair of warriors from ancient Egypt. Perhaps most importantly, the wings that Hawkman and Hawkgirl sprout from their backs look amazing. When these two take flight, it’s a spectacle worth watching and one that draws viewers deeper into the world built by the team at Legends of Tomorrow.
Take the wardrobe, the wings, and top it all off with those great hawk helmets that the two wear, and you have yourself a recipe for a couple of terrific superhero costumes.
9 Sara Lance as Black Canary
Comic book fans may have had to wait until Arrow’s third season before seeing Laurel take on her iconic Black Canary mantle, but Sara’s appearance in the second season premiere was more than enough to whet their appetite. Sleek and sexy, Sara’s Canary costume stayed true to the essence of the Black Canary character while still making for a believable crime-fighting get-up.
Aside from the black domino mask, Sara’s costume managed to honor Black Canary’s comic book origins, right down to the black pants with a threaded pattern design resembling the Canary’s trademark fishnets. Sara’s portrayal of Black Canary was always more well-received by fans than her sister’s and the fact that she got to wear a better costume a full year ahead didn’t help her big sis out too much.
Sara’s death was a blow to fans, and even though she wasn’t the last one to carry the Black Canary name, from what we’ve seen so far, she’s still the best. Thankfully, like all great superheroes, death was but a formality for Sara.
8 Sara Lance as White Canary
Sara’s resurrection made things a little awkward for Team Arrow. With Laurel now a full-fledged vigilante and the new Black Canary, what was the original Canary to do? Sara did what any sane person would do when they come back to life and find their sister has taken on her role as crime-fighting vigilante. She traded in her black duds for white ones and jumped in a time machine and chased after an immortal dictator hell-bent on world domination.
With the Black Canary title now firmly held by Laurel, Sara would go on to become the White Canary, complete with a brand new costume. Sara’s run as White Canary has been fantastic so far and her shift from a black to white costume is the perfect representation of her death and resurrection. Best of all, it looks great and actress Caity Lotz has a way with pulling off the form-fitting vigilante suits.
This sleeveless ensemble isn’t the flashiest get-up the Arrowverse has ever seen, but it’s still one of the best.
7 J’onn Jonzz as Martian Manhunter
Seeing J’onn Jonzz, AKA the Martian Manhunter, in the first season of Supergirl was a pleasant surprise for an entire generation of fans who grew up on the Justice League animated series on Cartoon Network in the early 2000s. It was a season one surprise that comic book fans ate up and it was handled far better than anyone could have imagined on a television show.
Supergirl’s bigger budget no doubt helped Martian Manhunter out here, but it really is a marvel that creative department was able to pull it off. David Harewood’s look as the Manhunter from Mars is by far the best looking live-action adaptation of the character we have ever seen.
The most impressive part about the newest version of Martian Manhunter is how easy it would have been to mess this one up. Too much CGI, too much green paint, anything out of place and this would have been a disaster.
Thankfully, things turned out so good for our little green friend that we may even see his niece, Miss Martian, some time in the future. Hopefully the Supergirl team can find a way to make do with the budget constraints on the CW and keep our Martian heroes looking great.
6 Wally West as Kid Flash
We haven’t seen a lot of Wally as Kid Flash as of right now, but we’ve seen enough to notice how awesome he looks in the yellow and red. Wally’s costume looks like it was pulled straight from the pages of the comic books and thrown onto Keiynan Lonsdale.
Just as in the comics, the Kid Flash costume is similar to the Flash’s, with the most notable difference being the use of yellow as a primary color in the design. The striking yellow runs from the mask, to his torso, with a Barry Allen-esque red adorning his pants and gauntlets. This combination of yellow and red distinguishes Wally’s costume from Thawne’s Reverse-Flash.
The creative department over at The Flash did a fantastic job taking everything that made Barry’s costume great and replicated it with Wally’s. Best of all, they didn’t just take Barry’s costume and turn the top half yellow, they found a way to give Wally’s suit its own personality.
5 Jefferson Jackson as Firestorm
As cool as the Firestorm character is, the very essence of him represents an inherent challenge for the design team tasked with bringing the character to life. Firestorm essentially is a man who’s constantly on fire, a CGI nightmare that requires a lot of special effects work for every moment the character appears on screen. As with any character who relies heavily on CGI, this was either going to look laughable or amazing and thankfully, it was the latter.
While the most noticeable feature of the Firestorm costume is no doubt the character’s burning head, the rest of the Burning Man’s look isn’t too shabby either. He retains the yellow and red design from the comic books, but does so in a way that makes sense for the world created on the CW. The stylish suit is highlighted by the Firestorm Matrix that adorns the character’s chest.
With so much left to explore with the Firestorm character, fans can only hope there are plenty of adventures ahead for the fiery hero.
4 Slade Wilson as Deathstroke
Manu Bennett’s appearances as Deathstroke during Arrow’s season two represented a high point for the show that it has yet to replicate. Much of that success can be credited to Bennett’s role as big bad, terrorizing Oliver and his family, all while dressed in the best supervillain costume we’ve seen so far.
Slade Wilson’s Deathstroke suit is fantastic in a number of ways. It looks menacing and believable, all the while never losing its comic book origins with that unmistakeable orange and black mask. The suit’s kevlar design prevented both gunshots as well as arrows, a strategic move that shows how prepared Slade was for his battle with Oliver.
Aside from the protection Slade’s suit offered, it was also lined up and down with various equipment pockets for various firearms and explosives as well as a sheath for his sword along the back. To put it bluntly, the Deathstroke suit worn by Slade Wilson was everything a good supervillain costume needs to be; it looked cool and served a purpose.
3 Oliver Queen as Green Arrow (Season 5)
It’s seems only fitting that the man who kicked off CW’s lineup of DC comics television shows has one of the best costumes. Ollie’s Arrow suit has changed and evolved more than anyone else’s over the course of the CW Arrowverse and thankfully, each upgrade he gets seems to look better.
Oliver’s latest Arrow suit seems to take the best aspects of his previous costumes and puts it all together. While the suit worn in season four of Arrow drew praise from fans and critics alike for its authenticity to the most recent iteration of the character in the comic books, it’s his latest get-up that gets our attention here.
For season five, Oliver retains the armored shoulder pads and even the basic design on the front of the top, but noticeably, the Green Arrow has sleeves again. Yes, the sleeveless look coincided with the character’s current costume seen in the Green Arrow comic book series and anyone with eyes can see that actor Stephen Amell has the arms to pull it off, but as far as practicality goes, the sleeves are a welcome sight.
Hopefully this new costume marks a new beginning for Ollie and the rest of Team Arrow as they move forward with season five.
2 Barry Allen as The Flash (Season 2)
The Flash costume we’ve seen on the CW’s television show has been generally well-received by fans since the show’s pilot episode. In its sophomore season, however, the costume got a slight upgrade that comic book fans seemed to unanimously approve of.
The character’s iconic yellow lightning bolt symbol originally laid on Flash’s chest atop a dark, red background that matched the rest of the costume. For the show’s second season, a subtle change placed the same yellow lightning bolt on a white background that more closely resembles the character’s appearance in the comic books.
Aside from the change of logo, the Flash’s costume in season two closely resembles his costume from the first season, and why wouldn’t it? The show’s design team did a fantastic job of recreating the character’s iconic look and adapting it for television. There really wasn’t any use in tampering with a good thing.
The Flash’s costume on TV is sleek, honors the source material, and is even functional within the show. Now all we’re waiting for is for Cisco to get the technology to cram that costume into a ring that Barry can wear and we’ll be all set.
1 Kara Danvers as Supergirl
Here it is, the crème de la crème of television superhero costumes. The Supergirl costume seen in the eponymous television show may be the very best TV superhero costume ever seen. If there has ever been a television superhero costume that has been translated from the page to the screen better, we haven’t seen it. This costume is the perfect storm of greatness coming together; an iconic costume, powerful colors, and an actress that can sure rock a cape and red boots.
As with any other live-action superhero interpretation, one of the first questions asked when fans heard about the upcoming Supergirl TV show is what will her costume look like. The character has gone through more than her fair share of wardrobe changes over the years and finding a way to honor the source material without over-sexualizing her was a challenge. This challenge was addressed in the show’s pilot episode, serving as a fun nod to fans of the comic and a logical reason that Supergirl wears a cape all at the same time.
The show’s inaugural season may have had its ups and downs, but this adaptation of Supergirl’s costume was a major up from start to finish.