There’s no shortage of live-action and inter-connected universes based on comic books. Between the MCU, the DCEU, and even FOX’s continuity nightmare that is their X-Men Universe, it’s not hard to get a superhero fix. For all the options out there though, the Arrowverse on The CW might be the best.
The universe that started with the very grounded Arrow and now spans various dimensions isn’t perfect. Each of the four shows (and counting) have their ups and downs. There are disappointing seasons and characters for each series. Yet for sheer consistency, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow do provide a lot to fans.
As crowd-pleasing as they can be, the shows aren’t always accurate to the source material. Every show has taken some liberties with the characters or the plots surrounding them. While some of these changes have been… less than ideal, change isn't always bad. Sometimes the Arrowverse has taken its characters in new, but surprisingly excellent, directions.
Whether it be a shift to a hero or villain’s origin, a slight personality twist or something much more radical (like an entirely new character) there are plenty of examples of change being for the better in the Arrowverse.
Here are the 15 Huge Changes From The Comics We're Glad The Shows Made.
15 Deathstroke Becoming the Best / Worst Mentor
Deathstroke started as a Teen Titans villain but he’s since expanded into a baddie for the entire DC Universe. Deathstroke, in the words of Lego Batman, “fights around.” Still it wasn’t until Arrow that anyone put Slade Wilson and Oliver Queen together for any extended period. The results have been extraordinary.
Arrow’s Slade Wilson isn’t radically different from the comic mercenary, although he does have more moments of compassion. Arrow's Slade does, however, play off their version of Oliver Queen in a fantastic way. Slade’s able to challenge Oliver, as both a friend and rival. They both make each other better and more interesting.
The relationship between Slade and Oliver is one of the most compelling hero/villain dynamics in recent memory, simply because it’s never really defined who is in the right or the wrong. This is all thanks to Arrow.
14 The Tragedy of Killer Frost
Killer Frost wasn’t an unknown quantity before The Flash. She wasn’t an A-List villain but was still recognizable to fans. Killer Frost's real name has been Caitlin Snow for quite a long time. It wasn’t really until The Flash that Killer Frost got a defined backstory and the whole tragedy of her existence was made quite clear.
The Flash did an incredibly clever thing with Killer Frost-- they let the audience get to know her as Caitlin for years. It was only slowly introduced that Caitlin could turn evil. Granted, the idea of Caitlin having a Jekyll and Hyde personality shift with her icy alter ego isn’t the most original. It allowed The Flash to have the best of both worlds.
Killer Frost is still allowed to be a campy, fun villain but the pure and lovable Caitlin exists underneath. There’s a tragedy and complexity to Killer Frost that hasn’t been seen before with the character.
13 Supergirl's Turf is an Entire Earth
Superman (and his supporting cast) is an incredibly important part of the DC Universe. It’s still hard to shake the notion that nothing that happens to the Justice League should be a threat with Superman around, especially in their solo adventures. If you have a Kryptonian on speed dial, why sweat?
So, while it might have initially come about because Supergirl was on another network, it’s very smart that Supergirl and her cousin exist on a whole different dimension than Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, or Sara Lance. Kara can crossover for the occasional interaction, but it’s not so easy to crossover that she can conceivably fly over no matter the trouble.
The Arrowverse can use Kara for the big, catastrophic events (or a musical) but her existence isn’t a distraction. It’s not worth wondering why Oliver feels the need to take on Prometheus on his own, because a nearly invincible woman isn’t living the next city over.
12 Damien Darhk's Magical Makeover
Arrow, more than any other show, has twisted the villains from their comic book origins and previous personalities. One of their most dramatic changes was done in season 4 to baddie Damien Darhk.
Darhk is an incredibly minor and baby-faced villain in the comics. The comic Darhk doesn't have much to his name and he’s quite a departure from the charismatic dark wizard that Neal McDonough plays.
Even if the Arrow season in which Darhk debuted wasn’t fantastic, he was always a tremendous amount of fun as a villain. McDonough has as much fun playing Darhk as fans had watching him. It’s really no surprise that, after Arrow season 4, Darhk went on to become a huge part of Legends of Tomorrow.
The character that was created is almost completely due the acting and writing on Arrow. Arrow took Damien Darhk’s name from the comic (and his H.I.V.E. connections) but almost nothing else.
11 J'onn J'onzz is Space Dad ... and Martian Manhunter
Kara Danvers might have her own Earth but she’s not alone. Supergirl isn't just joined by her cousin, she also has Martian Manhunter to fall back on for support. Though Supergirl could use J’onn J’onzz far more than they do, they have completely nailed the character’s personality and compassion.
The element that Supergirl has added to Martian Manhunter, though, is maybe the most important. Rather than just being a colleague of Kara, Supergirl has turned J’onn into a surrogate father figure.
J’onn has been very open about the fact that he views Kara and Alex as his daughters. They fill a void in him that was created when his own family died. It's as lovely as it is important.
The relationship that J’onn shares with Kara and Alex is among the most heartwarming and humorous in any of the series.
10 Malcom Merlyn's Promotion to the Ultimate Evil Mastermind
Merlyn is an important character in the Green Arrow comics. He is, even if by default, Oliver’s arch-nemesis. Merlyn does have some skill with a bow but he’s mainly a crazy guy, with even crazier hair-- or at least he was before Arrow.
Arrow not only made Merlyn much closer to Ollie than ever before, having him become the father of Ollie's best friend and little sister, but his personality is also completely revamped. Malcolm became the ultimate evil mastermind in Arrow and John Barrowman delighted in every second playing the role.
Like all the best changes in Arrow, this new and improved Merlyn eventually made its way to the comics. In the current continuity Merlyn has much more in common with the Barrowman character, than the original iteration whose hair looked like he had stuck one of his arrows into an electrical socket.
9 The Danvers Family
While her doppelgänger, Power Girl, has a much more complicated continuity, there’s still plenty of complexity to Supergirl’s origins. Supergirl has had several backstories, secret identities, and adoptive families in the comics. It wasn’t until the TV series, though, that she was adopted by Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers and, most importantly, raised alongside their daughter Alex.
While it is odd that Supergirl has made no mention of the Kent’s or explained why Clark didn’t take Kara to his own parents, it hardly matters thinking about the bond between Alex and Kara. If Supergirl is defined by any one relationship, it is the sisterly affection between Kara and Alex. They're the heart of the show and it’s a relationship that has no basis in the comics.
Alex is, certainly, the best thing about the Danvers family, but giving Kara her own home on Earth has really improved her character. It makes Kara more independent and separate from the Superman mythos.
8 Oliver Queen and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Five Years
Arrow has been criticized by some fans for making Oliver Queen not into the Green Arrow, but instead into a Batman-lite. This argument is not entirely off base. Oliver does act an awful lot like Batman. However, the basis for the darker Ollie is in the source material. As much as Oliver sounds and acts like Batman, he also sounds and acts like a broodier Green Arrow.
Green Arrow has his fans, but he can also be off-putting character. The comic version of Oliver Queen is brash, preachy and occasionally very pompous. Arrow led with more the tragedy of Oliver Queen’s life and thereby created a much more sympathetic, or at least empathetic, character.
Some fans might want the cheery and cheeky Oliver Queen, which Arrow is slowly working their way towards, yet the more tragic Oliver does make for a more compelling TV character.
7 Feeling a Different Vibe
Caitlin Snow isn’t the only character on Team Flash that the show has offered a personality makeover. Cisco Ramon isn’t an original character of The Flash but he might as well be for how much he has been altered.
In the comics, Vibe is a very strange and very funky character. He’s cheesy as all hell and more aggravating than amusing. Vibe is no one’s favorite superhero but everyone does (or should) love Cisco.
Cisco does fill a familiar role on The Flash as the comic relief techie character, but it works so very well. By making Cisco a superhero geek who became a superhero, they have made him the surrogate for much of the audience.
The Flash might be the leader but Cisco is the heart of the team and the show.
6 Reverse Flash Creates The Flash
There are several problems with The Flash having a speedster villain for the first three seasons. The biggest is that they got it so right in season 1 that it seems ridiculous that they would try to recreate the same success. Reverse Flash is one of, if not the best, villains in the entire universe. The Flash can’t really be praised for most of this, as they pretty much stuck to the source material when it came to Reverse Flash.
The one thing that can be pointed out, however, is how Reverse Flash was involved in the origins of The Flash. The TV show didn’t just have Reverse Flash kill Barry’s mother, driving him to do good for the rest of his life, they also had the villain literally gift Barry his speed.
Eobard Thawne being forced to make Barry into The Flash to get what he wants was a fascinating set-up. It forever tied The Flash and Reverse Flash together in a way that felt totally obvious but still completely natural.
5 Filling Out the Queen Family Tree
While they’re not always dead, Oliver’s family used to consist of just two parents. With Arrow, the decision was made to give Ollie a sister: Thea. While it took Arrow awhile for Thea to grow into a compelling character, her very existence humanized and softened Oliver from the very start.
As many necks as Oliver snapped in season 1, there was always something very endearing about the way he doted on Thea. The Arrowverse hasn’t always been great with character relationships but they’ve consistently knocked it out of the park when it comes to portraying sibling dynamics.
Of course, it does help Thea’s case that she eventually turned into an incredible kick-butt vigilante in her own right. Thea was so successful that the comics took the best elements of her character and created their own kid sister for Oliver, Emiko Queen.
4 The Original Team Arrow
It does seem strange that Arrow didn’t start with the obvious members of Oliver Queen’s vigilante team. Roy Harper and (a) Canary didn’t join the gang until season 2. Instead Arrow went with Felicity and Diggle being Oliver’s first partners in (fighting) crime. Felicity Smoak might take her name from a comic book character and John Diggle’s moniker might be inspired by a famous Green Arrow scribe, but they’re essentially brand-new creations.
No matter how weird it might seem, it still works. For the get-go, the chemistry was there with Oliver, Diggle and Felicity. It’s a dynamic that has been imitated in different forms of each of the series because the trio plays off each other so well. They balance each other out to perfection.
Like Thea, Malcolm and many other changes, Felicity and Dig eventually made the transition to the comics. Although Dig has been far more successful (and prolific) than the comic Felicity.
3 Sara Lance's Very Existence
Arrow did not do a great job making Laurel Lance into the Black Canary. Laurel does have plenty of fans but the execution of her arc from damsel to hero was sloppy, to say the very least. With their first Canary though, Arrow got into completely right. Sara Lance is a triumph.
Sara Lance is a character with no basis in the comics. No matter what name Black Canary is going by in the comics (Dinah Lance, Dinah Drake, etc) she’s never had a little sister. Sara is completely new and a tremendous character with the perfect marriage of performance and compelling backstory. She feels fresh and interesting while still having the classic elements of every great comic hero.
Sara’s so fantastic that she survived being killed off (twice) and, despite being on a team with much more established comic book characters, became the leader of the Legends of Tomorrow crew. Sara has no comic book roots but she still manages to carry Legends of Tomorrow almost single-handedly.
2 Captain Cold's Heroic Sacrifice
Sara might be the star of the show in Legends of Tomorrow now, but in season 1 she did have some help. The first year of Legends of Tomorrow was rocky but its saving grace was the extraordinary character arc that was pulled off with Captain Cold.
Cold hasn’t always been a straight villain in the comics. He’s worked with The Flash on several occasions and even joined the Justice League (along with Lex Luthor). It wasn't until Legends of Tomorrow season 1 as Leonard Snart had such a redemptive, heroic and full arc.
Wentworth Miller stole the show in season 1 with Cold’s story of realizing his heroic potential and going out in a (literal) blaze of glory making the ultimate sacrifice. Cold has been missed since his sacrificial death (even if other versions have popped up) but it was still a helluva a way to go out.
1 Joe West is the Best Dad in the Multiverse
In the comics, Iris West (obviously) has a father. Iris’ dad has never been named Joe, but depending on the continuity, has had several dads. None of Iris’ fathers have been as amazing as Jesse L. Martin’s Joe West. Joe is, arguably, the best dad in the history of TV. Joe’s caring, supportive, and is always a steady hand on the rudder of his children’s lives.
While it can be argued that Joe himself is a change from the source material (the most recent Papa West was an abusive alcoholic), the smartest thing The Flash did was have Joe adopt Barry Allen.
Barry being (legally) orphaned at a young age is relatively new aspect of his character but the comics still haven’t delved that deep into his early life. By giving Barry Joe West as a father figure, they immediately grounded his circumstances. Joe is Barry’s guiding light and their relationship immeaditely gave The Flash a heartwarming and infectiously lovable family-friendly aspect.
What is your favorite change from the comics in the Arrowverse? Sound off in the comment section!
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