With the dizzying amount of superhero films and television series available today, it’s sometimes easy to take for granted the work that goes into transitioning such a thing from page to screen. Sure, novelizations do it all the time to movies, but comic books specifically are usually out of this world or crazy by design. Transitioning such wild villains and superpowered heroes to the screen and making them halfway decent is no small task.
The CW, however, is one of the more recent networks truly doing right by comic books in the television space. With “The Flash” especially, the creative minds behind the show have managed to pull some of the most outlandish baddies in the speedster’s rogues gallery and make them stylish, substantial and above all, fearsome. We at CBR think these are some of the best Flash villains that benefited from a CW makeover.
CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE CW’S “THE FLASH” AND “LEGENDS OF TOMORROW”
In “The Flash” show, Tony Woodward was a childhood bully at the school Barry Allen and Iris West attended. As an adult, he fell into a vat of molten steel (true to his comic origin) when the particle accelerator exploded, giving him the ability to change his body into the metal. Woodward immediately went on a crime spree with his newfound nigh-invulnerability, before being stopped and placed in the Pipeline prison at S.T.A.R. Labs.
Girder in the comics looked like a riveted metallic man with a penchant for violence. The show kept to his ne’er-do-well attitude, but gave his look a much needed upgrade. It did end up seeming a little reminiscent of the first X-Men film’s Colossus, but it made Woodward more formidable as he could turn on the hurt with his powers, then stealthily escape by disengaging his abilities. This character’s transition from the comics was a good one, as it blended just the right amount of his original evil tendencies with a sleeker look.
14. THE RIVAL
Edward Clariss in the books was a scientist set on getting revenge on Jay Garrick for getting speedster powers instead of him. This villain in the show was featured first as a rogue in the new future Barry created by saving his mom, and later “reborn” by Dr. Alchemy as a product of Flashpoint. The Rival boasted a new black spiky costume and a renewed sense of revenge after Alchemy’s involvement. He was eventually defeated by the Flash and later killed by Savitar.
Origin changes aside, Clariss was a speedster villain that was introduced well in the show. His existence as a product of Alchemy’s restorative powers to folks who had them in Flashpoint was a terrific transition in the context of the television series. Rival’s comic book jealousy was also smartly redone to apply to Barry taking away his powers through resetting the timeline. This rogue’s push to “The Flash” was positive and full of substance, instead of merely making him a speedster of the week.
13. GENERAL EILING
When anything involving questionable military operations was happening in DC Comics, General Wade Eiling was never too far behind. Eiling in the show busied himself with capturing metas and using them as weapons. He played roles in detaining Plastique for use of her abilities and conducting a manhunt to find Firestorm, before Grodd manipulated him through mind control and left him thirsting for revenge.
This military man was almost always involved in shady dealings using his rank, and that didn’t change much in his transition to “The Flash.” It was applied rather handily throughout the first season, as the General maintained a very consistent threat status to Barry and his team throughout the first season. That, paired with the fact that he’s portrayed by imposing Clancy Brown (who also famously voiced another DC baddie in the past: Lex Luthor), made Eiling’s iteration in the show a winning one.
12. BLACK FLASH
One of the biggest fears for speedsters in the comics was not a bad knee or tripping on a curb, but rather the terrifying embodiment of death known as Black Flash. This character, however, had a somewhat adjusted debut in the show. During the second season, it was revealed terrifying spectres called Time Wraiths lurked in the Speed Force to pursue folks who are abusing it to travel through time. In a climactic showdown with the Flash, Zoom was defeated and subsequently returned to the Speed Force by the creatures. In the process, he was reduced to a corpse-like appearance with red adornments to his costume, thus changing him into Black Flash.
Granted, Black Flash has since had more screen time in “Legends of Tomorrow,” but his inception was unique. Seeing the long-feared character represented in the show as a once-powerful speedster now fallen from grace was an insightful change. It gave far more weight to Black Flash’s later pursuits of Eobard, since he literally represents what fate awaits the Reverse Flash should he get caught by the spectres.
11. WEATHER WIZARD
The Weather Wizard was created as a rogue who toted around a scientific wand that could control the weather. In his CW iteration, the character has been reborn as a metahuman with powers to manipulate the climate to his will. Mark Mardon has laid waste to Central City in a couple of episodes throughout “The Flash,” including a team-up with the Trickster in a classic Christmas plot that did his Silver Age origins proud.
The slight change might make Mark Mardon come off more as “X-Men’s” Storm than anything, but it worked out in making him a more viable threat. Instead of having a wand that the hero could break and the rogue rebuild over and over like in the comics, Weather Wizard is seen now as a dangerous meta who is learning how to boost his abilities over time. Even though his outfit on the show is a bit of a downgrade, CW’s take on this character was definitely a positive transition from the comics.
The Flash comics carried somewhat of a confusing run of villains in Reverse Flash and Zoom, both being incredibly difficult to differentiate. “The Flash” took a much more forward approach, introducing Zoom as a speedster baddie with a completely redefined look. The villain was featured in the show as Hunter Zolomon, an Earth-2 rogue that posed as Jay Garrick in order to instill false hope to his city.
This speedster’s introduction to the CW space certainly came with its own confounding story plot, but he was much easier to distinguish from Reverse Flash just from an appearance standpoint. Instead of the yellow and red motif, he was given an entirely black ensemble that made him look like a demon of sorts. Zoloman himself had a distinct role to simply dominate worlds beyond his own, fully dedicating himself to being a mad speedster. His focus on Barry during his appearance was more incidental, as it would attribute to his own speed, instead of being a core ideal for the villain like in the comics. These changes were fairly minimal, but made Zoom’s transition to the small screen a definitive and substantially terrifying one.
9. CAPTAIN BOOMERANG
Digger Harkness was a longtime Flash rogue who was known for two things: his mean attitude and his ridiculously lethal boomerangs. Captain Boomerang is a potentially difficult character to pull from the page without issue, but the CW managed it with a few tweaks. Harkness in “The Flash” got a more refined, combat-ready look and was introduced as a former member of the Suicide Squad. Boomerang spent much of his debut killing off A.R.G.U.S. agents for revenge, culminating in a plot to set off bombs in Star City to cover his escape.
Harkness in his CW debut might have been missing his signature white scarf and blue overcoat, but he retained his incredibly mean attitude. Boomerang was smartly applied in the show, incorporating him via his Task Force X history in the comics. His weapon choice was well done in its live-action transition, as his deadly boomerangs could sail past heavy weapon fire and nearly killed Lyla Michaels. For a character that is easily one of the kookier Flash rogues at first glance, Captain Boomerang was done right by “The Flash.”
8. MIRROR MASTER
One of the Flash’s oldest rogues, Mirror Master was a run-of-the-mill criminal named Sam Scudder, who trained himself to learn how to pass into his reflection at will. In the show, the character received a much needed style upgrade and got a metahuman touch. Master in “The Flash” was a partner-in-crime with Leonard Snart (along with his girlfriend the Top), when Snart tried to kill Scudder. He was hit with the particle accelerator energy when he was pushed onto a standing mirror during the fracas, temporarily trapped in the reflective surface for a time until he learned how to free himself.
Scudder’s changes were fairly minimal in his pull to the CW, but done well. Adjusting his character to be a former partner of Leonard Snart’s and being betrayed by the rogue incorporated Mirror Master nicely. This allowed his persona to emerge as a deadly villain happy to replace Snart as Central City’s finest menace in his absence. His run might have been a short one in the show, but Scudder is well placed for a repeat dive into future episodes.
7. GORILLA GRODD
Originally just a random gorilla that got telepathic abilities after a spaceship (or meteor, depending on continuity) crashed into his village, Grodd was changed slightly when he made the jump to “The Flash.” Early on in the first season, Caitlin Snow reveals that the primate was an experiment of Harrison Wells’ (and to some extent, General Eiling’s) before escaping after the particle accelerator explosion. Grodd used Eiling as a puppet with his psychic powers and attempted to make more meta-gorillas like himself. The rogue was sent to Earth-2 by Team Flash, where he met other creatures like himself, but it wasn’t everything he had hoped for.
It’s fair to think making a telepathic gorilla as a viable rogue for TV would be troublesome. The CW show, however, managed to do it with relatively few bumps. Placing him as an experiment in S.T.A.R. Labs gave an easy excuse as to why this giant ape would even be in the city, as well as his motivation for hating humans. The way he’s animated in the show, too, gives credence to his power and displays perfectly the multi-layered threat Grodd poses to those who oppose him.
This character in the comics first came to fruition as a pyromaniac-turned-rogue that harbored a rivalry with Captain Cold. The CW iteration modified Mick Rory slightly, as he was seen as a longtime partner-in-crime to Leonard Snart, even before receiving his signature flame-throwing weapon. Heatwave continued to pull off heists with Cold for a while before reluctantly joining other heroes in “Legends of Tomorrow.” He has since become an anti-hero of sorts in his adventures on the Waverider.
Mick Rory, as a character, would be a relatively easy transition to the show as a one-off, but some of the minor changes made to him in “The Flash” gave him a very positive addition to the overall Arrowverse. Instead of simply being a crazy pyromaniac written off after a single episode, he has struggled with his friendship and loss of Captain Cold. Rory has blossomed into a hero, despite his very stark view of the world, and remains one of the better rogues to be transitioned from the comics to the show.
5. JAMES JESSE
One of Flash’s most notable adversaries, Trickster was a comic book rogue who was known for battling the hero using the silliest of means. His adaptation in “The Flash” was a bit more refined, showing him as a long-incarcerated villain with an even longer history of terrorizing Central City. Trickster in the show remains silly but within reason, as with his plots to poison the city’s wealthier residents for ransom or posing as a mall Santa, giving bombs disguised as presents to unsuspecting children.
James Jesse is a bit of a cheat given that he’s had a television appearance already, but the CW’s iteration of “The Flash” has reintroduced him in a much better light. Portrayed once again by the talented Mark Hamill, the villain is seen as still crazy, but wildly aware of his choices in villainy. In the show, Trickster knows his schemes are goofier than most, but chalks it up to his love for panache and style when it comes to terrorizing. For a character that could have been easily written off among the crazy metahuman brawls happening in “The Flash,” Trickster remains a viable threat while staying true to his name.
4. KILLER FROST
Although not an outright “Flash” villain in the comics, Killer Frost was an enemy of Firestorm (briefly a Team Flash member) and occasionally worked alongside rogues such as Mirror Master in the books. The show debuted the villainess as a rogue from Earth-2 working for Zoom, and doppelganger of Earth-1’s Caitlin Snow. After the events with the speedster rogue, Snow began to experience her latent powers coming to the surface. This led to her briefly going on a rampage in efforts to reverse the change, but the scientist has discovered that her abilities make her suffer from a type of dissociative identity disorder.
Killer Frost’s changeover from the books is perhaps one of the looser ones, given that the show’s iteration boasts a lot of different pieces from the rogue’s history. Snow is one of the more recent versions of Frost in the comics, but her older ties to Firestorm were incorporated as well. Having the villain come into play first as an Earth-2 doppelganger was a fast-track way of showing her deadliness first, but then smartly slowed things down with Earth-1 Caitlin’s struggles with her transformation.
3. PIED PIPER
Debuting a the deaf son in a wealthy family, Hartley Rathaway became obsessed with the capabilities of sound. The rogue eventually grew bored after years of learning about the subject and instead poured his knowledge into becoming a supervillain. Hartley in “The Flash” was slightly different, incorporated as S.T.A.R. Labs researcher fired by Harrison Wells, who lost his hearing after the particle accelerator explosion. Pied Piper used powered sonic gloves in his quest to get back at Wells for spurning him and to destroy his new “pet” the Flash.
The adaptation of Rathaway in the context of the show was a well done one. Changing Hartley into a somewhat egotistical former prodigy of Harrison Wells smartly fit him into the overarching scheme laid by the S.T.A.R. Labs founder (who was really Eobard in disguise). Piper’s lethality was portrayed well with his sonic gloves instead of his signature flute, and his schemes were great reflections of his intelligence in his bid to expose Wells. As far as pulls from the page, Hathaway had a great villainous debut that fed into a change of fate for the rogue into one of the good guys.
2. CAPTAIN COLD
The always bitter enemy of the Flash, Captain Cold has populated many of the hero’s comics as a stalwart foe hell-bent on killing the speedster. Leonard Snart in the show was introduced as a scheming thief that immediately found his leg-up on Central City’s protector in acquiring the cold gun. Ever since, the two characters have had more of a frenemy-type relationship than being outright foes. Snart operated in Central City as a thief for a time, striking up a gentleman’s agreement with Barry to avoid killing innocents. He was recruited into the Legends by Rip Hunter and sacrificed himself to destroy the Oculus.
Of all the characters to be featured in the show so far, Captain Cold has been one of the best pulls from the origin material. Both “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow” went far beyond the villain’s face-value and delved into his history, incorporating his troubled childhood into present-day problems for the heroes. His portrayal by Wentworth Miller dove into his equally cheesy and scheming demeanor, while remaining one of the strongest Flash rogues to transition to the show.
1. REVERSE FLASH
The antithesis to the speedster hero, Reverse Flash is a villain well-known to comic book fans. The character of Eobard Thawne in early issues was forever hating the Flash for stealing a mantle he felt belonged to him. In the series, the rogue was similar to his comic origins. Thawne orchestrated a 15 year-long scheme in order to give Barry Allen his powers and make him faster, all in efforts to use those abilities so the rogue could return to his own time. While he has since pursued activities with the Legion of Doom on “Legends of Tomorrow,” his hatred for Barry has always burned without clear reason.
Arguably Eobard Thawne’s transition from page-to-screen could have been very difficult, given his predisposition for running around the timeline, but the CW show incorporated it with relative ease. Establishing early on that something was amiss with Nora Allen’s death, then later revealing that Harrison Wells was running around in the Reverse Flash costume were great anchors to flesh out Eobard’s eventual reveal as a time-traveling rogue. Thawne was a terrifying villain in the first season of “The Flash” and has remained a truly threatening rogue in the Arrowverse ever since.
Which comic book Rogue do you think made the most seamless transition to The Flash show? Let us know in the comments!