Over the course of the last handful of years, The CW has, in many ways, become the home of the DC Universe on the small screen. What started off as a single show has turned into a full-fledged shared universe (one that's come to be known as the Arrowverse) that consists of four different live-action series as well as an animated web series to boot.
As is the case with any adaptation, changes have been made to some of the stories and characters that appear on these shows in order to better fit the television universe the producers have created. While some alterations may rub some fans the wrong way, being able to see these characters come to life on a weekly basis is a treat for any comic book reader. Regardless of how you feel about the interpretations of the characters on these programs, with so many shows currently running, it’s a great time to be a fan of the DC Comics universe.
Here’s a complete rundown of the major heroes within the Arrowverse and how they compare to the source material found in their comic books.
18 Green Arrow - Oliver Queen
It’s crazy to think about now, but this entire shared DC Universe on The CW all started out with a guy in a green hood. The CW’s Oliver Queen appears to be based on Mike Grell’s interpretation of the character, first seen in 1987’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, but also borrows heavily from the 2007 limited series, Green Arrow: Year One over the course of the show’s inaugural season.
When compared to these interpretations of the character specifically, the similarities are clear. Grell stripped away Oliver’s trick arrows, including his trademark boxing glove arrow, and turned the character into a more grounded and serious vigilante. His drive to reconnect with those he loves and his inner struggle with his own morals are clearly plucked straight out of Grell’s Oliver Queen.
The biggest factor that separates the Oliver on Arrow from his comic book counterpart is the way he relates to the characters around him, most noticeably, his family. Oliver’s family is barely mentioned in the comic books and do not often play a major role in his story. On the contrary, the television version of Oliver Queen depicts a Queen family that drives Oliver’s mission.
All in all, the bottom line is that like any live action adaptation, Arrow strays from the source material, but it keeps Oliver’s heart true to his character.
17 Black Canary - Laurel Lance
The Black Canary we see on Arrow is quite different to the version comic book readers may be more accustomed to. While there are a few similarities and nods to the comic book version of Black Canary, the Laurel Lance we meet on the show starts off in a very different place.
When we first meet Laurel in the show’s first season, she’s simply a lawyer working for a legal group named the CNRI (get it, canary?). She retains her romantic connection to Oliver Queen, but that really is the only way comic fans would recognize the character. In fact, while we do get a peek at a Black Canary in season one, Laurel won’t take up the mantle herself until Arrow’s third season.
The most noticeable difference between the version of Black Canary we see on TV and the one from the comic books is in her signature canary cry. In the comics, Canary is actually a metahuman and her canary cry is her superpower. On TV, Laurel, like Oliver, is a normal person without any superhuman ability. Instead, she inherits a mechanical device from her sister, the show’s original Black Canary, that replicates her signature scream.
16 Arsenal - Roy Harper
Roy Harper’s journey from purse-snatcher to hero has had its ups and downs, but Arsenal became a crucial part of Team Arrow and a fan favorite. In the comics, Roy Harper originally serves as Green Arrow’s sidekick under the name Speedy before eventually changing his name to Arsenal, but this difference in the chronology of crime-fighting codenames is just the tip of the iceberg.
Originally, Roy Harper’s backstory has him raised by a Navajo chief after his biological father dies in a forest fire. It was here that he first honed his archery skills that he would later use to fight crime alongside Oliver Queen. On the show, Roy is a young man from the low-income neighborhood of Starling City known as The Glades. While he does learn to fight from growing up on the streets, his fondness for archery and kali stick fighting doesn’t arise until after he begins training with Oliver.
Still, with all the differences we see between the show and the comics, allusions to his past, such as characters referring to him as Speedy, would be a nice touch. An interesting side of Roy’s history in the comics that could prove interesting if explored on the show is his relation to Vandal Savage, an ancestor of his and the Big Bad from the first season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
15 Speedy - Thea Queen
As far as differences go between the comic book version of a character to the TV show version, Thea’s is one of the most drastic, as Oliver does not have a half-sister named Thea in the comics. With that said, Thea’s character on the show does appear to be an amalgamation of sorts of a few different characters from the Green Arrow mythology -- as well as one from Batman’s.
Thea’s full name is Thea Dearden Queen, which should sound familiar to those of you aware of the second Speedy, Mia Dearden. Thea’s similarities to Mia are just the first of a slew of references to DC comic book characters. Her often alluded to drug problem resembles Roy’s heroin addiction first seen in the famous two-part story, Snowbirds Don’t Fly from the popular Green Lantern/Green Arrow crossover comic series.
While her similarities to the two comic book versions of Speedy are the most obvious, she also shares a number of traits with Damian Wayne, the current Robin and son of Batman himself. Thea and Damian are both sidekicks who have shown skill with a sword, a burning temper, and they both happen to share a familial connection to Ra’s Al Ghul, making Thea and Damian heirs to the Demon.
14 Huntress - Helena Bertinelli
The Helena Bertinelli version of the Huntress makes numerous appearances over the first couple of seasons of Arrow, but she doesn’t really resemble the Helena Bertinelli that comic book readers know.
The Huntress is most well known to comic book fans as the maverick of the Bat Family. While initially wild and unpredictable, Huntress eventually gains membership to the Justice League and becomes a vital member of the Birds of Prey alongside Black Canary. Her heroic endeavors may come as a shock to those who have only seen Huntress on Arrow, where she’s definitely more of a villain than hero.
The main similarity between the comics and TV show are that both versions of the character share a connection to the Mob. As fans of the show are aware, Helena becomes hell-bent on killing her Mob boss father after she discovers that he is the one responsible for the death of her fiance. Helena’s motivations for action in the comics are still related to the Mob, but this time it’s because she witnesses them murder her entire family inside their own home.
13 Wildcat - Ted Grant
Ted Grant appeared in a handful of episodes of Arrow’s third season as a former boxer-turned-vigilante who now runs the “Wildcat Boxing Gym” for troubled kids in The Glades. He retains his Wildcat nickname and boxing background from the comic books, but The CW version of Grant is far younger when compared to his Golden Age counterpart.
Wildcat’s past life as a masked vigilante that predates Oliver’s mirrors his origins in the comic books. As a member of the Justice Society of America, Wildcat fought crime alongside other famous Golden Age heroes such as Jay Garrick and Alan Scott. As a veteran superhero, Wildcat acts as a mentor to the Modern Age heroes that followed in his footsteps. This is the biggest aspect of Wildcat’s character that remains in tact on Arrow, as he trains Laurel on her journey to becoming Black Canary after Sara’s death.
Wildcat abruptly left the show after the showdown with Brick and his gang due to actor J.R. Ramirez having other obligations, but fans of the character should rest assured that he'll make his way back eventually, as showrunner Marc Guggenheim confirmed the character is indeed alive. Here’s hoping we get another glimpse at our favorite boxer-turned-hero.
12 The Atom - Ray Palmer
The Atom is a name used by several characters in the DC comics universe, but it’s the Silver Age version that concerns us here. The portrayal of Ray Palmer that we first see on Arrow shares a name and eventually does gain the character’s signature shrinking ability, but Ray’s personality is vastly different than it is in the comics -- and there’s quite an interesting reason why.
Arrow producers Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim have confirmed at various events that they had originally intended for the character that purchases Queen Consolidated in season three to be Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle. Kord is a successful, sometimes arrogant, but only in a fun way, businessman who fights crime using his scientific mind and technology. Sound familiar?
The version of Ray Palmer that Brandon Routh portrays on Arrow appears to be a unique combination of Palmer and Kord and while it may not be very comic book accurate, it seems to work. Ray Palmer’s comic book personality is far more subdued; still extremely intelligent, but not nearly arrogant. Routh’s portrayal retains Palmer’s likeability and compassion, and although he started out a little too Tony Stark for some, he’s carved out a nice place for the character in the CW’s DC Universe.
11 Katana - Tatsu Yamashiro
The introduction of Katana during the third season of Arrow was a slow burn that went on nearly the entire length of the season before paying off, but it was worth it to see this skilled hero finally don her mask. Introduced as a mentor to Oliver Queen in many of the show’s season three flashbacks, Tatsu ends up playing a major part in Oliver’s fight against Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins.
While never addressed as Katana on the show, the character we see on Arrow should seem familiar to fans of her comic book appearances. As a member of the Justice League, Birds of Prey, and the Outsiders, Katana has used her martial arts skills as well as her magic sword to fight crime alongside heroes like Batman and Black Canary.
She may utilize what appears to be a traditional Japanese sword on Arrow, but she is known in the comic books for her signature katana, Soultaker. A powerful sword infused with mystical powers, the Soultaker is able to store the souls of the people that Tatsu kills with it.
Katana may not be exactly like she is in the source material, but the heart of the character is definitely in tact.
10 Hellblazer - John Constantine
John Constantine represents one of the more interesting character crossovers in the Arrowverse. Though well received by fans and critics alike, low ratings lead NBC to cancel his solo series Constantine after just 13 episodes. While a second season may appear to be a long shot right now, actor Matt Ryan got to throw on the character’s signature trench coat one last time on a season four episode of Arrow.
Fans of the chain smoking demon hunter only get a glimpse of the Hellblazer on Arrow, but they can always get a better look at him in his very own series on NBC. (Though, the interpretation of Constantine we see on TV is far more compassionate than what readers may have grown accustomed to). The comic book version of John Constantine is actually a pretty terrible person. While we stand behind him the whole way, he isn’t someone who always acts with the best intentions of other people in mind. This is toned down significantly on TV, as under his sarcastic exterior, lies a compassionate, well-meaning human being.
The real tragedy about Matt Ryan’s time as Constantine is that we didn’t get to spend more time with him. While we hope to see more of him in the Arrowverse as time goes on, we can look forward to the Justice League Dark animated film, where Matt Ryan will lend his voice to the character once again. He's also presumably in the running for the role on the big screen, but that's a major longshot.
9 The Flash - Barry Allen
The CW version of Barry Allen stays fairly close to the comic book version in terms of who Barry is as a person, but many of the characters around Barry are quite different. Even with those differences in place, Barry still manages to be the hopeful, nerdy hero we all recognize from the comic books.
Aside from the particle accelerator, Barry’s superhero origins on the show are quite similar to the traditional origins of Barry in the comic books. A mix of chemicals and a bolt of lightning and all of a sudden, Barry’s got super speed. The main difference you’ll notice between the comic book and television versions of Barry Allen is that the Barry we watch on The CW is still learning to use his new powers. That said, his personality, the way he carries himself, and the way he’s somehow always late for things are all traits taken right out of the comic books.
8 Firestorm - Martin Stein & Ronnie Raymond/Jefferson Jackson
As if the Flash’s metahuman abilities weren’t enough to separate The Flash from Arrow, the introduction of Firestorm cemented the fact that the way things work in Central City is far different than how they do in Star City. Much like the rest of the heroes that The CW has adapted to for television, the characters that make up Firestorm are similar in ways to the comic book characters that inspired them -- and different in others.
The hallmark of the Firestorm character in the comic books is the dichotomy between the two people that combine together to form him and the banter between the pairing that arises because of it. The relationship that Martin Stein shares with Ronnie and Jefferson reflects this aspect of Firestorm to a tee. While Stein retains his position as the brains of the Firestorm pairing, the characters of Ronnie and Jefferson aren’t exactly as they are in the comics.
While Ronnie and remains the muscle of the pairing on the show, he is also an intelligent engineer working at S.T.A.R. Labs. Ronnie’s comic book background as a decorated high school athlete is more in line with the origin of Jefferson Jackson (his replacement as one half of the Firestorm team) on the show.
7 Vibe - Cisco Ramon
The character of Cisco Ramon is one of The Flash’s most popular, but he is also one that is drastically different from the comic book character that bears the same name. While fans of the show may be used to the stream of pop culture references from the licorice-loving Cisco we’ve come to know and love, this is a far cry from his comic books origins.
Before starting his journey as a superhero, Cisco was the leader of a street gang in Detroit, a very different upbringing than what we’re introduced to on the show. In his original appearances, Vibe’s powers consist of the ability to emit vibrational blasts and control seismic activity. These powers were expanded upon a few years ago to include the ability to control inter-dimensional physics, much like what we’ve seen on the small screen. Ironically, this updated comic book version of Vibe now also possesses the ability to disrupt the Speed Force and take down the Flash. Who knows, in the event Flash ever goes rogue again, maybe it will be Cisco who’s tasked with taking him down.
6 Vixen - Mari Jiwe McCabe
The character of Vixen, as seen in the Arrowverse, first appeared in the form of a short, animated web series airing on CW Seed. It’s here we learn of Mari and her magical totem that grants her the ability to channel the attributes of any animal that has ever lived.
Vixen hasn’t had the same amount of screen time as most of her costumed counterparts in the Arrowverse, but from what we’ve seen so far, The CW has done a great job adapting this powerful, totem-wielding hero. Her origin, as seen on the CW Seed webseries, stays close to her comic book origins, with her parents being murdered and Mari inheriting her totem sometime after.
Some of the details of Vixen’s character have been changed slightly, such as exactly who killed her parents and when she came across her totem, but the important parts about who the character is stay true. While she was introduced via CW’s digital arm, the character of Vixen does make a live-action when she teams up with Team Arrow to help take down Damien Darhk.
5 Rip Hunter - Michael
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow features an ensemble cast of heroes assembled together by the former time master, Rip Hunter. Now, we may know him as Rip Hunter, but his real name is Michael (his last name is still unknown) to keep in line with the character’s convoluted comic book history.
A confusing, sometimes contradictory character biography isn’t something new to the medium of comic books, but it becomes increasingly more apparent in Rip’s case, since so much of his story centers around time travel. With that in mind, the version of Rip Hunter portrayed by Arthur Darvill on The CW keeps the important parts of his character in tact, while altering some of the details, specifically the reasons he has for going after Vandal Savage.
As fans of Hunter’s comic book appearances are aware, one of Rip’s defining characteristics relates to his family, specifically his father, Booster Gold. With the character of Blue Beetle pulled from appearing on Arrow by DC executives, it looks more likely that we’ll see a feature length film in the DC Extended Universe centered around the team of Blue and Gold (or at least the latter). That doesn’t cement the fact that we won’t see Booster Gold team up with his son on Legends, but if DC wasn’t willing to give the Arrowverse Blue Beetle, it's doubtful they’d be willing to give them Booster Gold, even if it was to team up with his own son.
4 White Canary - Sara Lance
The character of Sara Lance is an original character created specifically for Arrow. Still, much like the other characters that appear on these types of comic book-inspired TV shows, while she has no direct equivalent within the source material, she does share some similarities to a few others.
Sara may be running around as the White Canary these days, but she first appeared on the show as the original Black Canary. Once trained by the League of Assassins, Sara returned to Starling City to protect her family. She fought alongside Team Arrow until her death, at which point the Black Canary mantle was taken up by her older sister Laurel. This passing on of the Black Canary identity to a family member mirrors the origin of the Black Canary from the comics, as she was given the mantle from her mother.
In her current role as the White Canary, she aids Rip Hunter in his journey through time to take down Vandal Savage. This varies greatly from the White Canary that first graced the pages of Birds of Prey back in 2010. While Sara’s White Canary portrays her as a hero and sister to Black Canary, they are bitter rivals in the comic books.
She may not be the most comic book accurate character on the show, but Sara has proven to be a popular character amongst fans of the show regardless.
3 Hawkman & Hawkgirl - Carter Hall & Kendra Saunders
This Golden Age superhero pairing has been locked in a state of reincarnation since their origins in ancient Egypt. Living, dying, and being born again is a central part of Carter and Kendra’s story, and it holds true in the version of the characters we see on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
The origin story that we’re given for the pair of winged heroes stays close to their Golden Age origins in Ancient Egypt, but with one key difference. The big bad for the first season of Legends is the immortal dictator, Vandal Savage, a man who also traces his history back to the land of the pharaohs. In this version, it was Savage who killed both of our heroes for the first time, and in turn, they must be the ones to deliver the final blow to him.
Their connection to Savage aside, the rest of Carter and Kendra’s story stays mostly true to their comic book origins. Each time they are reincarnated, it takes them time to remember who they are and find each other. Still, the link to an immortal villain they are destined to do battle with for all eternity makes sense and really works on the show.
2 Martian Manhunter - J’onn J’onzz
J’onn J’onzz, better known as the Martian Manhunter is one of DC’s most powerful superheroes, even rivaling Superman in terms of raw power. His appearances on Supergirl, the newest show to make it’s way to the Arrowverse, generally stayed true to his comic book origins.
The Supergirl series has stayed close to J’onn’s origin story as the last survivor of Mars (until season 2 when we get Miss Martian) and pulled it off masterfully. Everything from his wide array of superpowers, his aversion to fire, and even his love of Oreos is introduced on the TV version of the character.
As you'd expect, while his origin on the show stays extremely close to his comic book origin, it isn’t exactly the same. His human identity of Hank Henshaw was originally the name used by Cyborg Superman, and his connection to Kara and her sister is original to the series. Still, these changes are but minor details in a story that any fan of the Big Green Martian can overlook and enjoy.
With the series moving to The CW this upcoming season, the Supergirl show brings not one, but two fan favorite characters to the rest of the Arrowverse.
1 Supergirl - Kara Danvers
The newest superhero in The CW family is Supergirl, who's making the flight over from CBS starting this upcoming season. This is a big move that changes things across the Arrowverse, as the introduction of not one, but two Kryptonians will no doubt affect the rest of our favorite heroes.
The version of Kara Danvers that we’ve seen on the first season of Supergirl sticks close to the source material. Her iconic powers are in place and she maintains her endearing personality thanks in large part to her portrayal by Melissa Benoist. While the actress portrays the kind and caring Supergirl exquisitely, she’s also shown the immature rage that also dwells within Supergirl. In fact, it was this inner rage that drove Supergirl to the Red Lantern Corps towards the end of the New 52 era in the comic books.
We’ve already had a single crossover involving the Flash on her show and we’re looking forward to more crossovers between the Girl of Steel and the rest of the Arrowverse for this upcoming year.
Which CW hero would you like to see aligned more with their comic book counterparts? Let us know in the comments.