Even though CW’s universe is filled to the brim with speedsters, high-flying Kryptonians and nuclear-powered symbiotic duos who pack a fiery punch, the network’s shared Arrowverse is also populated by plenty of heroes that don’t have any super-powers whatsoever. Given its grounded beginnings with “Arrow,” the variety of shows have certainly made way for metahumans, but has also grown plenty of powerless superheroes, too.
While it is sometimes rather easy for these non-powered heroes and vigilantes to get lost in the background of their super cohorts, a lot of these characters have accomplished quite a bit in their own right. We at CBR count down some of the best to defend their helpless cities and right the injustices of many a supervillain, all while proving that they’re not so “powerless” after all.
CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING LIST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR MULTIPLE CW ARROWVERSE SHOWS.
16. OVERWATCH (FELICITY SMOAKE)
Love her or hate her, Felicity has been a member of Team Arrow since the very beginning. At first an unassuming I.T. worker, Ms. Smoake has grown into a vigilante hacker. She donned the codename of Overwatch and provides strategic information to the team both in and out of missions. Felicity has also come face to face with some of the most fearsome villains, including Deathstroke and Captain Boomerang, but always overcomes her fears in order to help put a stop to them.
Smoake might not battle baddies like many of her teammates do (although she has fired a gun once or twice in defense), but she has fought to save just as many lives. She made the tough decision to divert a nuclear missile away from Star City to a less-populated area, worked at her company to sell paralysis-curing technology and always looks out for her fellow vigilantes. Felicity is proof that she may not have powers, but she certainly has the toughness needed to be a true hero.
15. COMMANDER STEEL
“Legends of Tomorrow” might be jam-packed with super-powered heroes at every Waverider pit stop, but there are a good number of regular vigilantes too. Commander Steel is one such character. The grandfather of Nate Heywood, Henry Heywood is a war veteran and member of the Justice Society of America. He saved President Roosevelt from assassination and helped dismantle several enemy operations during World War II.
He carried out multiple missions with his teammates (many of whom have powers), toting nothing more than a gun and a boatload of courage. Commander Steel was humble almost to a fault, as he didn’t enjoy being put on a pedestal for his heroics. He viewed his actions as simply being part of his job as a JSA member, but deep down, he was proud to work alongside his comrades in righting wrongs wherever they could. Commander Steel was hardly concerned about his lack of powers and never let it stop him from running headlong into danger to protect those who needed it.
Yes, she may have changed her alliances as of late, but Artemis started out as a hero doling out justice wherever she could. After the Black Canary was tragically killed, Laurel’s vigilante outfit and Canary Cry was stolen from the hospital. The team track down the thief who had donned the getup, which turned out to be a young girl by the name of Evelyn Sharp. She eventually joined the ranks of Team Arrow as Artemis, with the intent on bettering Star City after Damian Darhk’s destructive run.
Evelyn has been through a lot, as her family was detained by the mystical villain and later killed in a bioweapon testing facility. She idolized the Black Canary as a scion of justice and did her best to emulate the hero. Sharp has clashed with her former teammates, but still wants to see rights wronged just as much as the rest of them. Her apparent betrayal of Oliver was more so fuelled by her belief that, given the collateral damage he’s caused, the Green Arrow is a detriment to the city, not a savior. Regardless, Artemis remains a skilled archer and melee combatant who often puts thugs into the ground for underestimating her.
Starting out as the delinquent younger sister of Oliver Queen, Thea certainly experienced qute a turnaround over the course of the show. Rocked by the revelation that she is Malcom Merlyn’s daughter, she trained with him in an effort to get stronger. Thea took on the red hood after her boyfriend Roy Harper was forced to go on the run. Now using her nickname of “Speedy,” the younger Queen helped Team Arrow put the brakes on Ra’s al Ghul and Damian Darhk’s plans.
Even though her start on the show was less than heroic, Thea has grown into a strong one. She has overcome numerous challenges with personal sacrifice, willing to fight the good fight until it literally cost her her life. Even after being resurrected with a Lazarus pit, Thea attempted to put her own struggles with bloodlust on the back burner in order to focus on the bigger villains affecting Star City. Her skills in archery and combat, along with a surprisingly sensible approach to many of their enemies, makes Thea Queen one of the tougher non-powered heroes around.
Roy Harper wasted little time getting in on the Team Arrow action. He was seen early on as a street thug who took to the vigilante’s ideals and dispatched criminals with his fists. Eventually, Roy was welcomed into the fold as Arsenal, the red hooded comrade to Green Arrow. Harper trained to the best of his ability under Oliver, but struggled with his impulsiveness and often defied orders. After he accidentally killed a police officer in a Mirakuru-induced rage (long story), he dedicated himself to protecting the innocent as long as he could.
From the start, it seems Roy felt compelled to do what was right. Even when rebuked by the Green Arrow himself to help his cause, Harper struck out on his own to stop injustices wherever he could. When staring down Slade Wilson’s army of super-powered soldiers, Roy never faltered and faced them with only a quiver full of arrows. Arsenal may unfortunately be retired for now, but he was always a persistent force of good in the ever murkier Star City.
11. RIP HUNTER
When it comes to traveling throughout the timestream, and looking damn good while doing it, look no further than Rip Hunter. The “Legends” member is the captain of the Waverider and initially recruits his ragtag team of heroes to stop Vandal Savage from ruling the world with an iron fist. The captain was a highly trained Time Master before being compelled to do what was right and defy his fellow Masters in going after Savage.
Rip couldn’t help but try to be the hero in the face of incredible odds. He only had a patchwork team of misfits and some of the most terrifying assassins were on his trail, but that didn’t stop him from trying to do what’s right. Of course, he did have a personal stake in the whole affair, as he was also incidentally attempting to thwart his wife and son’s deaths by Savage’s hands. Rip Hunter however, embraced the loss of his family as a necessary step for him and his team to topple the tyrant (as well as the evil Time Masters). He manages to do all of this, with only his wits and laser pistol at his side.
10. MR. TERRIFIC
A newer addition to Team Arrow, Curtis Holt worked at Palmer Tech as an engineer before learning of Felicity’s involvement with the Green Arrow. After a time of intermittently assisting the team while they fended off Damian Darhk, Curtis decided to join the group full-time as the “fair play” persona of Mr. Terrific. He is still new to the whole hero game, but has so far managed to get into a number of fights in attempts to fend off Tobias Church and Prometheus’ violent attacks on the people of Star City.
Curtis is actually regularly outpaced by his peers on Team Arrow, but this strengthens his resolve to soldier on in his path for justice. Despite being a trained bronze-medal Olympian, he is an amateur fighter at best thus far. The vigilante game has not only gained Mr. Terrific a score of new scars, but also cost him his husband Paul, who separated from him after Holt refused to give up his new occupation. Even though he still struggles to fully come to terms with his role as a vigilante, his heart has always been that of a hero.
9. JONAH HEX
There’s nary a more infamous cowboy known in the timestream than Jonah Hex. Presented in “Legends” as a tough-talking, no-nonsense ranger, Hex has accrued a reputation for correcting wrongs with the quickest of draws. Once the team met up with him to put the brakes on the nefarious Stillwater gang’s activities. Hex has many qualms about working with others, as it heightens the risk of loss, but nevertheless looks out for folks. He actually worked in tandem with Rip Hunter for a stretch before tragedy struck the very town they had tasked themselves with defending.
Jonah’s only real abilities are his expert marksmanship, skill in melee combat and signature sneer, but it’s more than enough most days. When he finally went toe-to-toe with the outlaw Quentin Turnbull, Hex nearly kills him before acquiescing to his good conscience and arresting the rogue instead. Hex may not have any powers, but his sheer toughness has earned him quite a bit of respect as a hero.
Even though this particular character started out as a villain in the “The Flash,” Heatwave was warmed up to audiences as a hero in “Legends of Tomorrow.” Mick Rory was a typical meathead rogue at the side of Captain Cold during his early run-ins with the Flash. Both arms badly disfigured from a fire when he was a child, Rory wields a heat gun that essentially functions like a miniature flamethrower. Mick joined the Legends simply to follow his friend Leonard Snart (Captain Cold), who in turn joined for the opportunity to steal priceless artifacts from across time whenever their teammates weren’t looking But when Snart is killed, he finds himself walking the path of a true hero as a valuable member of the team.
Mick is a complete jerk on the outside, but surprisingly holds a lot of personal morals. He overcame brainwashing by the Time Masters in order to protect his friends and was ready to sacrifice his own life to set off a bomb, only to be replaced by Snart instead. Heatwave has grown a lot from his beginnings as a rogue and has blossomed into his own unique, fiery brand of hero.
7. THE ATOM
Ray Palmer got his start as a quirky philanthropist billionaire on “Arrow.” It is revealed that his fiancé was killed by super soldiers unleashed on Star City by Deathstroke, and he was powerless to stop it. From that point on, Ray vowed to never be that helpless again, and created his A.T.O.M. suit to make this promise come to fruition. Palmer has since left the ranks of Team Arrow to join the Legends, but has worked across both series to repel evil in its many forms.
From fighting off the League of Assassins to battling the giant Leviathan, Ray has seen his fair share of combat. His suit has done a lot of the work for him, but even outside of it, he has found the courage to fight on without powers. Case in point, he lost his suit to an evil warlord in feudal Japan during a mission. Palmer donned samurai armor, wielded a katana and courageously fought against the technologically superior villain. Ray is certainly a hero through and through, and has never let the fact that he doesn’t have powers stop him from doing what’s right.
Jimmy Olsen in “Supergirl” is certainly not the same hapless Daily Planet photographer we’re used to seeing in the comics and cartoons. No, James Olsen in the show is much more mature and far more selfless. He is regularly inspired by the heroic deeds of his friend (and sort-of romantic interest) Kara. Fed up with simply being on the sidelines while Supergirl jumps into action to help the helpless, James decides he wants to dole out his own unique form of justice. With the help of Winn, he takes on the vigilante persona of The Guardian.
Even though he knows how to hold himself in a fight, James is still only human. Just like Ray Palmer, Olsen relies on his suit for offensive and defensive capabilities when going up against baddies. It’s paid off so far during the Guardian’s early forays, as he was able to fend off the Parasite on his own before Kara got back into the fight. James may be a budding vigilante now, but we can’t wait to see what kind of hero he will blossom into as the show goes on.
5. BLACK CANARY (LAUREL LANCE)
Laurel has been committed to stopping crime in one way or another throughout her run on “Arrow.” Starting out as an assistant in the district attorney’s office, Ms. Lance changed professions to a full-time vigilante in order to fill her departed sister’s shoes as the Black Canary. Taking on her training from former Star City vigilante and pro-boxer Wildcat, Laurel dedicated herself to being the toughest warrior she could be. Whether it was a hoard of super-strong soldiers or a prison break, Black Canary was unwavering in her conviction to do what was right.
When she’s not knocking heads together with her bare hands, she’s making bad guys’ ears bleed with her amplified sonic screams. She originally wielded only a police baton and her fists in battles, but eventually got an upgrade of her sister’s Canary Cry tech from Cisco Ramon. Despite being the second to don the mantle, Laurel made her sister proud in the role and inspired many others to seek justice, even against impossible enemies. Her courage was recognized by the city upon her tragic passing, and she remains one of the best heroes in the Arrowverse to date.
4. WILD DOG
One of the newest inductees into Team Arrow, Rene Ramirez was a brutal, gun-toting vigilante who would recklessly chase down criminals in the dead of night. True to his Wild Dog moniker, Rene is foolhardy and vicious when backed into a corner or defending those he cares about. He’s trained in physical combat from his time as a Navy Seal, and touts expert marksmanship with many firearms.
Wild Dog isn’t quite at the same level of fighting prowess as the Green Arrow, but his willpower makes him one to contend with. Rene fought the indomitable Tobias Church hand-to-hand and gave him a run for his money before getting beaten unconscious. Wild Dog is also fiercely loyal to his friends, willing to jump in front of gunfire in order to protect his comrades. Although he seems uneasy around metahumans a lot of the time, Rene Ramirez is certainly resilient enough of a hero to stand beside them in battle.
3. WHITE CANARY
Originally putting down bad guys in Star City, Sara Lance started off on “Arrow” as the Black Canary. Her badassery knew no bounds, as she assisted Oliver and crew in stopping Slade Wilson’s encroaching war. Not even death could stop her, as she was killed off and summarily resurrected in a Lazarus pit, before being recruited into the Legends as the White Canary. Aboard the Waverider, Sara has progressed from merely taking orders to commanding the crew as the captain.
Perhaps most amazing about Sara’s journey is that she has done it all without any powers to speak of. She received combat training while in the League of Assassins and has years of fighting and strategy experience behind her. This combination has made her a formidable hero for all her respective rogues to go up against, including Damian Darhk, who killed her sister. All of her fellow Arrowverse comrades carry a deep respect for her. White Canary isn’t about the frills or glamorous abilities, just doling out justice the good old-fashioned way.
The first to join Oliver’s crusade, John Diggle took on the role of Spartan after years of fighting by Green Arrow’s side. Trained by the Army and having completed multiple combat tours in Afghanistan, Diggle is more than capable in a fight, whether it be with firearms or fists. John has never shied away from a challenge, but knows the importance of assessing a situation before diving headfirst into a battle. He often appreciates tactics over brute force, and can accomplish missions with expert stealth if needed.
Even though he has a good sense of right and wrong, John understands there is a middle ground for a lot of things. He is often the voice of reason for Oliver, as the former billionaire frequently reaches out to him for advice. Diggle tries to believe in the goodness of people, something he blamed himself for when his brother Andy betrayed him sometime later. Despite his many hurdles, John has faced down the toughest of enemies (including aliens) with an unshakable resolve.
1. GREEN ARROW
The definitive Arrow in the Arrowverse, Oliver Queen is a force to be reckoned with. Forged by his “five years in hell” on the island Lian Yu (as well as several other overseas locales), Green Arrow debuted as a brutal vigilante who harbored no mercy. For folks who wished to commit any form of injustice upon the fine inhabitants of Star City, Oliver had several arrows to match. He killed powerful villains like Damian Darhk and Ra’s al Ghul, all while putting away a number of others throughout the years.
Oliver has since eased up considerably in regards to his violent methods of acquiring justice, but he is one of the few heroes that understands that killing is sometimes the only way to truly stop a force of evil. It’s a line that many of his comrades do not wish to cross, so Oliver bears the burden so the people of Star City can remain free of criminals overtaking the town. Green Arrow, at his core, only wants to protect his home from those who would do it harm, and he will ensure its safety with a quiver full and an arrow nocked.
Who’s your favorite superhero from the Arrowverse? Does he or she have powers? Let us know in the comments!
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