Smallville arrived in 2001, and it captivated audiences thanks to its gripping storylines, likable characters, and humanization of the Superman mythos. The constant stream of overwhelming success eventually allowed the show to expand. Before we knew it, what started out as a simple prequel series centered around Clark Kent’s teenage adventures became a sprawling superhero franchise. As the seasons progressed, Smallville began delving deeper into DC’s vast mythology, and it introduced a variety of the company’s most beloved heroes.
The show came to an end in 2011, but DC’s mythology continued to thrive on the small screen through the Arrowverse, The ambitious TV franchise found great success upon its release, and DC’s live-action universe started to flourish once again. Given its massive expansion, the Arrowverse has often found itself using characters that previously appeared in Smallville. Unsurprisingly, this has led fans to constantly compare the two franchises, tirelessly wondering which one delivered the better versions of the characters they both explored. With the Arrowverse being in a constant state of growth, it doesn’t look like the fan debates will end anytime soon. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at eight Arrowverse characters that looked better in Smallville, and seven that looked worse.
15. BETTER: GREEN ARROW
Years before starring in his critically-acclaimed standalone show, Oliver Queen made his live-action TV debut in Smallville. The show perfectly captured everything that made Green Arrow such a special character, both in terms of his personality and aesthetic. Queen’s vigilante attire was surprisingly comic book-accurate, colorful and bright, yet still had a realistic style that never made it feel out of place in a live-action setting.
Queen’s costume design has held up quite well over the years, and it could even be considered better than the costumes Stephen Amell’s Emerald Archer has sported in Arrow. Don’t get us wrong, Amell’s super suits are amazing in their own right. They’ve worked perfectly for Arrow‘s gritty atmosphere, after all. However, what makes Smallville‘s version of the costume more appealing is its bright comic book style, something that a lot of superhero adaptations have been afraid to embrace over the years.
14. WORSE: DEADSHOT
Around its final seasons, Smallville started to introduce a variety of popular DC characters. One of the most prominent ones was Deadshot, who made his live-action debut in the season 10 episode “Shield,” played by Bradley Stryker. The actor’s performance was remarkable. He perfectly conveyed an intimidating assassin who cared about nothing else but capturing his target. Unfortunately, his appearance wasn’t on par with his looks.
Unlike the comics, Smallville‘s Deadshot felt more like a cowboy from a classic western film as opposed to an experienced assassin. Thankfully, the character’s aesthetic was finally done justice in Arrow. The show’s version of the mercenary sported a high-tech armor, which was much more appropriate for his daily activities. While, admittedly, Floyd Lawton’s appearance in the series wasn’t completely faithful to his comic book counterpart, his look was a definite improvement from his days in Smallville.
13. BETTER: TOYMAN
Winslow Schott, aka Toyman, is one of the toughest DC villains to adapt for live-action. Given his lack of flashy powers or colorful costume, making the baddie visually interesting can be a particularly difficult task. Smallville took on the challenge during its eight season, and to fans’ surprise, it succeeded. The show presented a Toyman that seemed to have come straight out of a comic book page. The character’s tenure in Smallville wasn’t long, but he became one of the show’s most visually-striking villains.
Schott returned to television years later in Supergirl, played by Henry Czerny. The actor delivered a powerful and compelling performance. However, his design didn’t live up to the Toyman introduced in Smallville. Now, there isn’t anything inherently wrong about characters being aesthetically different from their comic book counterparts. However, it’s still quite fun to see classic bad guys like Toyman get faithfully translated to the screen.
12. WORSE: THE FLASH
During its third season, Smallville expanded its on-screen DC Universe with the inclusion of Bart Allen, aka The Flash. As exciting as it was seeing the Scarlet Speedster interact with Superman, the show didn’t have a good grasp on the character. This was most evident in the speedster’s superhero costume — or rather, lack thereof. The show ditched Flash’s signature comic book attire in favor of a strange red-and-yellow hoodie/sunglasses ensemble.
The character’s design was quite underwhelming, and fans were left longing for a faithful recreation of the Scarlet Speedster on screen. Fortunately, fans got their wish with The Flash TV series. Unlike Smallville, the show didn’t hold back when it came to adapting Barry Allen’s comic book design. Flash’s crime-fighting duds were sleek, bright and they embraced the fun nature of classic superhero costumes while at the same time feeling grounded and practical.
11. BETTER: GENERAL ZOD
General Zod made his live-action TV debut in Smallville’s ninth season, played by Callum Blue. Aside from his gripping personality, one of the character’s most resonant aspects in the show was his appearance. Visually, Zod was a big departure from his comic book counterpart. However, the show offset the baddie’s lack of a proper costume by giving him a peculiarly nuanced wardrobe that perfectly reflected who he was as a person.
Years after his role in Smallville, Zod returned to TV with Supergirl in the season two episode “Nevertheless, She Persisted.” While seeing the villain back on the small screen was great, his design left a lot to be desired. Even though he only appeared as a hallucination, Zod’s generic design made it difficult for fans to buy him as Superman’s most dangerous adversary. Hopefully, the character will be given a more interesting aesthetic for any future Arrowverse appearances.
10. WORSE: MARTIAN MANHUNTER
Early on in season six, Smallville introduced one of DC’s most popular superheroes: J’onn J’onzz, aka the Martian Manhunter. Over time, the character became a pivotal part of the show, and audiences got to know him well, both as a superhero, and as a person. Unfortunately, one thing Smallville never got quite right about the hero was his appearance. The series only showed Jones’s martian form once, but the design didn’t live up to expectations.
Some time after Smallville went off the air, the Martian flew back into television with Supergirl. Fortunately, the show embraced Jones’ outlandish aesthetic and delivered a visually-stunning representation of the character. The hero’s martian form felt real, and his costume looked remarkably realistic (well, as realistic as alien armor can look), while still retaining the colorful nature of its comic book roots.
9. BETTER: CAPTAIN COLD
Captain Cold’s costume is one of the trickiest comic book suits to adapt for live-action. Given its colorful nature, the outfit runs a big risk of coming off as goofy. The Flash avoided this risk by giving Leonard Snart a much more simplistic ensemble, which consisted of a winter coat and a pair of goggles. The design was a great live-action interpretation of Cold’s classic attire, so it may be hard to imagine another medium doing it better.
Surprisingly, however, Smallville actually delivered a much more visually-pleasing interpretation of the character. Near the end of season 10, Toyman put together a group of supervillains to hunt down the Justice League. The scene featured a variety of baddies, one of which was Leonard Snart, who sported a perfectly-recreated version of his comic book attire. His appearance was brief, but it was still great to see the villain sporting his classic costume.
8. WORSE: SUPERGIRL
Supergirl made her CW TV debut in Smallville, played by Laura Vandervoort. The character received critical acclaim, and she became one of the best parts of the show. Still, for all of its successes, one major complaint fans had about the hero was her lack of a proper comic book costume. Kara’s wardrobe made several allusions to her superhero attire, but she was never seen in anything other than civilian clothing. Thankfully, that changed when Supergirl flew into her own TV series in 2015.
The show embraced the hero’s comic book aesthetic, and gave Kara (played by Melissa Benoist) an incredible costume that felt like it had been ripped straight from the comics. Admittedly, regardless of their wardrobe choices, Vandervoort and Benoist have both delivered great performances as their respective versions of Supergirl. However, there’s something special about seeing the character saving the world in her superhero duds.
7. BETTER: SOLOMON GRUNDY
It may be easy to forget, but Solomon Grundy had a cameo in Smallville. During the season 10 episode “Prophecy,” Toyman gathered a council of villains to take on the Justice League. One of those baddies was Grundy. To fans’ delight, the character was a faithful adaptation of his comic book counterpart, down to the bleached skin and black suit. Grundy’s role was minimal, but it was delightful to see his comic book aesthetic brought to life.
Grundy returned to television a few years later with Arrow. Unfortunately, his appearance left a lot to be desired. In an effort to ground the character, Arrow ditched Grundy’s mystical roots and focused on his human identity, Cyrus Gold. This resulted in Grundy looking like a human as opposed to a terrifying monster. The baddie was killed by Oliver Queen, so we probably shouldn’t expect to see Grundy in the Arrowverse in the future.
6. WORSE: DEATHSTROKE
Not many fans may be aware of this, but Slade Wilson made his live-action TV debut during Smallville‘s tenth and final season. Instead of presenting Deathstroke as a highly-trained mercenary, Smallville established the character as an aging army general on a relentless crusade to rid the world of super-humans. Given his uninspired design, Wilson ended up feeling like a generic villain instead of the powerful adversary fans have known for decades in the comics.
Fortunately, Wilson got the chance to wear his classic comic book suit in Arrow. The mercenary’s ensemble wasn’t a regular costume, though. It was a practical battle armor perfectly-suited for Deathstroke’s villainous activities. What made the ensemble all the more special was the fact that, aside from being aesthetically-pleasing, it made Wilson feel like a truly intimidating adversary, which is quite an achievement given all the enemies Green Arrow has faced over the years.
5. BETTER: HAWKMAN
Back in 2010, Smallville took on the task of bringing Hawkman to life. Up until that point, the show hadn’t had the best track record when it came to adapting superhero costumes. Surprisingly, however, its poor streak ended with the winged hero. Hawkman’s comic book attire was faithfully recreated for the show, and what could have been an incredibly risky move paid off in spades, because the costume proved to be a perfect fit for live-action.
Years after Smallville‘s finale, Hawkman returned to television with Legends of Tomorrow. Unfortunately, the character’s new costume failed to live up to what had come before it. Don’t get us wrong, Hawkman’s superhero ensemble in the Arrowverse wasn’t bad. It simply didn’t compare to the version presented by Smallville. Here’s hoping that, if the feathered hero ever finds his way into the Arrowverse again, he’ll sport a costume visually closer to the comics.
4. WORSE: BLACK CANARY
For all of its successes, Smallville was no stranger to dropping the ball when it came to bringing to life some of DC’s most beloved superheroes. One of the biggest examples of this was Black Canary. Her characterization was promising, but the same couldn’t be said about her superhero attire. Black Canary’s costume was technically comic book-accurate, but there was something off about the design that made her entire ensemble feel like a Halloween costume.
To fans’ delight, the people behind the Arrowverse avoided Smallville‘s mistakes when it came to designing the costume for the first Black Canary, Sara Lance. Arrow‘s version of the suit was realistic, functional, yet still felt like a fun superhero ensemble. Admittedly, the costume wasn’t particularly faithful to the one in the comics, but it was still a clever and much-needed reinvention of Black Canary’s classic fashion style.
3. BETTER: A BRAINIAC
Brainiac 5 made his live-action debut in Smallville‘s tenth season (played by James Marsters). Continuing its efforts to ground its characters, the show opted to hide Brainiac’s other-worldly aesthetic beneath a normal human appearance. Grounding a visually-stunning superhero like Brainiac was risky, but it paid off. Even without the use of makeup, the character looked imposing, and portraying him as a human ended up elevating his robotic mannerisms and personality.
Supergirl took a more comic book-accurate approach with the character (this time played by Jesse Rath). Unfortunately, while Rath delivered a great performance, Brainiac’s new design didn’t quite live up to the version presented by Smallville. A major reason for that was the character’s makeup, which didn’t look particularly realistic. Hopefully, the character’s design will be improved for any potential appearances in the Arrowverse down the line.
2. WORSE: SUPERMAN
To this day, Smallville is considered one of the best interpretations of Superman out there. Still, in spite of all of its successes, there was one thing the prequel series never got right about the Big Blue Boy Scout: his wardrobe. Throughout the show, Clark donned a variety of different “costumes,” including a dark coat and a red leather jacket with the House of El symbol printed on the chest. Unsurprisingly, those designs didn’t quite stick the landing.
Thankfully, the Man of Steel’s wardrobe was finally done justice in Supergirl. Clark Kent made a guest appearance during the show’s second season, and surprisingly, his superhero suit looked like it had been taken straight out of a comic book panel. Superman’s costume was regal and much like Supergirls’ suit, its design had an attractive modern touch that perfectly translated the hero’s classic comic book aesthetic into live-action.
1. BETTER: METALLO
Smallville‘s ninth season introduced one of Supeman’s most dangerous villains: John Corben, aka Metallo. While the character’s backstory was quite different from the comics, his design was a strikingly faithful recreation of his comic book aesthetic. He looked powerful and menacing, and it was easy to believe he could go toe-to-toe with Superman. The character played a small role in the show, but his striking design made a big impact on audiences.
Unfortunately, Metallo’s next foray into live-action TV wasn’t as successful as his first. John Corben appeared in the second season of Supergirl. The character proved to be powerful enough to take on both Supergirl and Superman, but his design left a lot to be desired. His look was technically comic book-accurate, but unlike the version seen in Smallville, Metallo lacked a menacing touch, which ultimately made him feel more like an average henchman.
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