DC’s shared film universe may still be struggling to find its footing five films in, but over on the CW, its shared television universe is seeing across the board success that Marvel television seems to be too widespread to compete with. Though Marvel’s Netflix shows have seen a varied amount of critical acclaim, the general consensus seems to be that Marvel is trying to balance too many balls on too many different networks to really give the sense of an honest to goodness interconnected world.
The Arrowverse, which began with Arrow almost 6 years ago and has grown with The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and most recently Supergirl, has already seen a number of very successful crossovers and though its cast of characters is immense, it actually follows through on the promise of individual programs’ events having consequences throughout the universe.
Having said that, some of the villains they’ve attempted to adapt from the comics have been less than stellar. While it’s understandable that over multiple series some villainous interpretations are bound to fall short, there have been surprise successes as well.
Here are 8 Villains The Arrowverse Failed At Adapting (And 7 They Nailed).
15. Failed: Savitar
The final reveal of someone close to Barry turning out to be a speedster villain with the ultimate end goal of hurting him became a bit of a formula. Savitar being presented as a bitter, time displaced Barry Allen was a big enough deviation from that formula.
It was doubly insulting because it was an after-effect of the season premiere’s heavily advertised adaptation of Flashpoint, in which Barry travels back in time to save his mother from dying at the hands of the Reverse Flash, thus irreparably altering the rest of the timeline. Of course, since the show didn’t have access to many key players, the show’s version of the story didn’t quite hit the spot people looking for a faithful adaptation.
Most casual viewers probably didn’t even realize that Savitar was a villain lifted from the comic books, but he was. He may be obscure, but at least his mid-90s origin didn’t involve him being something resembling Topher Grace’s performance in Spider-Man 3.
14. Nailed: Captain Cold
The Reverse Flash may have been the main antagonist during the first season of The Flash, but Captain Cold was the one that got away. Not only did the show introduce us to a version of the character who, despite lacking superpowers, easily dominates the criminal underworld, but Wentworth Miller’s version of the character remained relatable that his eventual transition to reluctant hero on Legends of Tomorrow was both believable and welcome.
A highlight of this version was Miller’s reunion with fellow Prison Break star Dominic Purcell as the show’s version of Mick Rory, AKA Heat Wave. The two initially team up to take down the Flash, marking the beginnings of what becomes the live-action iteration of the Rogues; a loose assembly of villains from the pages of The Flash’s comics.
13. Failed: Cyborg Superman
Supergirl is charming, optimistic, and fun, but it’s not without its flaws. One the more glaring ones is the amount of time it spent building up to the introduction of the original Hank Henshaw as the Cyborg Superman with very little payoff.
Basically what the show did was take classic Justice League member J’on J’onzz – AKA the Martian Manhunter – and, instead of leaving him with his classic and perfectly believable alias of John Jones, give him a backstory that involved the supposed death of the real, alien-hating Hank Henshaw and J’onzz’s appropriation of that identity.
It then reintroduced us to a Henshaw who had since been saved and re-purposed by Cadmus into a stronger version of himself to serve their nefarious purposes. That’s all well and dandy, but considering they gave the character no “S” on his chest, no red and blue, no real costume at all except for a metal eye-piece that led him to more closely resemble Cyborg than anything else, his constant proclamations of being the “Cyborg Superman” just seem goofy.
12. Nailed: Ra’s Al Ghul
Due to his status as one of Batman’s most menacing and most enduring enemies, Ra’s al Ghul has enjoyed regular appearances not only in DC comics, but in many film and television adaptations, including Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
Unlike the wacky version who may or may not still be running around behind the scenes on Fox’s Batman prequel Gotham, the Arrowverse version of the character was given two seasons of shadowy buildup before his final reveal, and he did not disappoint. Despite the obvious error of casting a white man as the Arabic Ra’s was a much more grounded version of the Demon’s head, and he went as far as to “kill” Oliver.
11. Failed: Mr. Mxyzptlk
Mr. Mxyzptlk has been giving Superman a headache for decades in the pages of the comic books. And to be fair, much of his power set is very accurately portrayed on Supergirl, as well as his sense of humor and his generally more lighthearted set of villainous antics.
Why the writers felt they had to turn him into a pretty boy douche bag is the real head-scratcher. The episode, which revolved around Valentine’s Day, used Mxy as a plot device to test the newly budding relationship between Kara and fellow alien refugee Mon-El.
10. Nailed: Deathstroke
Just the mention of Deathstroke gets most comic book fans chomping at the bits. Since the character’s introduction as the arch enemy of the Teen Titans, he has served as a formidable adversary for not just that team but also for the Dark Knight as well as the Justice League.
What makes Slade Wilson so intriguing as a character is that, like Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen, he’s a mere mortal man who has managed to compete with gods and monsters through sheer strength, cunning, and power of will. The iteration that appears on Arrow was re-purposed to tie his backstory intrinsically to Oliver’s time on the island, making their rivalry all the more personal.
Much like in the comics, the show’s version of Deathstroke’s motivations are much more complicated than simply wanting money or power. He continues to make regular appearances now into the sixth season.
9. Failed: Firefly
Poor Firefly was unceremoniously dispatched from the Arrowverse before he ever got a chance to do anything major. The show chose to adapt the Garfield Lynns version of the character, but he essentially serves as a plot device for both Laurel Lance and her father to get closer to discovering Oliver Queen’s true identity as the Arrow.
In an episode with very little action, Oliver Queen must find the courage to put the hood back on and continue his one-man mission after suffering doubt. The tension builds as Lynns continues to murder members of his old firefighting squad out of revenge.
Before the two get a chance to spar, Lynns walks into a conflagration, effectively ending any chance for that version of the character’s re-emergence. Firefly is a name that has been used by several comic book characters, but since the show also adapted that by having Lynn’s old fire fighting squad refer to themselves as such, there are very slim chances Firefly will get a second chance to burn bright.
8. Nailed: Reverse Flash
They say it’s the slow knife that hurts the most. Throughout the first season of The Flash, Harrison Wells acted as a mentor to Barry Allen, so it came as a devastating shock to team Flash when it turned out that Wells was actually none other than Eobard Thawne. The time-travelling Reverse Flash had killed Barry’s mom, doomed his father to a life spent in prison, and in an ironic twist of fate, had been trapped in the past and forced to help Barry become the Flash in order to get home.
It was the perfect way to introduce audiences to the very personal nature of the classic comic book foes’ relationship, and the final fight between the two speedsters is one of the coolest we’ve seen on super hero TV thus far. Sure, it ends with another big hole in the sky, but it’s on TV so it’s different.
7. Failed: Mirror Master
Mirror Master is another sad example of the Arrowverse taking villains with tons of potential and really underutilizing them. They went with the classic Sam Scudder version, and they do give him the ability to travel through glass, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Though the comic book version had to do all of his work and discover his vast array of mirror related powers on his own, this version was basically an idiot con man who managed to tick off his boss because, well, he loved buying mirrors so much, apparently.
It all goes wrong when the particle accelerator explodes and gives him incredible new powers…which he uses with the one goal of tracking down a Captain Cold who, unfortunately, is long gone from that timeline. He wasn’t killed off, so hopefully we’ll get more from this classic Flash rogue.
6. Nailed: Bizarro-Girl
There are a couple of differences between the DC comic book version of Bizarro-Girl and the live-action depiction in season one of Supergirl. They dropped the “girl” portion of the moniker and just went with Bizarro. That leads us to the obvious second change: the fact that here she wasn’t created by the male Bizarro, but instead by Maxwell Lord.
The rest of the character’s portrayal is pretty spot on. They even nail Bizarro’s strange way of speaking, and the makeup work is perfect. The episode also does a great job of really showcasing Melissa Benoist’s strength as an actor, she captures this version of Bizarro as more confused than evil, which really makes her sympathetic.
At the end of the episode, the real Supergirl promises to help Bizarro, and she is put into a medically induced coma and kept at the D.E.O. headquarters, so there is a possibility of return for the character.
5. Failed: The Dominators
The first time that Supergirl crossed over the the rest of the CW’s Arrowverse lineup in the massive television event “Invasion,” a crossover which featured three episodes spread comic book style across first The Flash, then Arrow, and finally Legends of Tomorrow, the network hyped it up a lot.
For the most part, the event delivered. Each episode gave us awesome interactions between the impressively huge cast of characters. It also served to push the plot of each individual series’ current season, and even helped to tie up some major issues between the characters, not the least of which the conflict between Cisco and Barry.
The one thing that didn’t work was the vague threat of the main antagonists and their foggy at best motivations. They wanted to kill all the meta-humans because one of them changed time, but also they were grateful for having been saved by meta-humans sixty years prior… but also that changed the timeline so they needed to be punished. Convoluted doesn’t even begin to describe it.
4. Nailed: Trickster(s)
Mark Hamill gracing the screen of any sci-fi show or movie is always a welcome event. The news that he would return to the latest iteration of The Flash and reprise his ridiculous role as the Jesse James from the ’90s version of the show delighted fans.
Hamill didn’t disappoint. He gave a Hannibal Lector style performance that saw him helping a young protege (who turned out to be his son) break him out of prison and into a very Joker-like suit. The plan involved bombs wrapped in fancy present boxes floating down with parachutes.
The best part of the first Tricksters’ episode is when Mark Hamill’s older Trickster holds his son’s head, looks him straight in the eye, and reveals over a thumping soundtrack that he is his father. Hamill made callbacks to his earlier role as the Trickster, his infamous animated portrayal of the Joker, and his role as the most famous Jedi of all time in a single episode of TV. What a legend.
3. Failed: Livewire
Like the version introduced in the ’90s Superman: The Animated Series this Leslie Willis started off as a radio shock jock whose main goal was to, well, shock people. Also like the original, this one had a beef with the show’s titular character because of how she got her powers.
This version of the accident could have been totally avoided with just a little bit of common sense, though. Willis refused to stop her verbal attacks on Supergirl even though Cat Grant urged her to, and so she was demoted to traffic copter duty. She decided to stay out in a thunderstorm for very unclear reasons, and gets struck by lightning.
What’s worse, was that in this version the initial broadcast that saw her demoted didn’t even make sense as something to be so staunchly defended. She insulted Supergirl’s fashion sense and implied that she was asexual. Not exactly the stuff to be getting all high and mighty about freedom of speech over.
2. Nailed: Malcolm Merlyn
As the main antagonist of the first season of the show that kicked this entire shared universe off, there was some pretty heavy pressure on Malcolm Merlyn to deliver as a truly formidable villain. Thankfully, the comic book archenemy of the Green Arrow proved to be just as awesome in live action as he was in colored panels.
A lot was changed about this version of the character. For starters, he’s revealed to be the biological father of Thea Queen, Oliver’s younger sister and the show’s version of the super hero Speedy.
Like any good TV villain, Merlyn walks to the line between hero and villain so well that he succeeds in duping almost all of the show’s main cast on multiple occasions. He’s been another fan favorite to sacrifice himself to protect a loved one, but we still may not have seen the last of him because time travel and other dimensions.
1. Failed: Brick
The Danny Brickwell of Arrow resembles his comic book counterpart in so few ways that it’s a wonder they opted to use the name at all instead of just going with a fully original character. It comes as a sad coincidence that Vinnie Jones, the actor who portrayed him, also helped ruin another classic comic book villain when he took on the role of Juggernaut in X-Men: The Last Stand.
Aside from the fact that the character barely even has one dimension (he likes hurting people and carries his favorite gun around), his abilities are way past borderline nonsensical. In the comics, he’s a meta-human with brick like skin – hence the name. On the show, even though he has no apparent super human abilities to speak of, he seems to be able to withstand extreme injuries up to and including a bullet shot to the head.
Unfortunately, as of this writing his character is still alive, meaning we’ll probably be stuck with him again someday.
Crisis on Earth-X begins Monday, @8pm with Supergirl and Arrow. It continues on Tuesday @8pm with The Flash and Legends of Tommorrow.
Are there any villains we missed from the Arrowverse that you thought they failed at (or nailed) better than the ones we listed? Let us know in the comments!
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