Ever since Arrow first debuted on our screens back in 2012, The CW managed to bring us a whole host of villains to plague our heroes in various cities, time-zones and occasionally different dimensions. They’ve brought us some of the most notorious villains to the small screen in a realistic way. Some of them had dire consequences for the Arrowverse and caused an endless list of problems for the heroes to solve. Whilst others were just a nuisance and only caused trouble for an episode or two. Sometimes, these villains had an excellent look that translated brilliantly from the comics -- they fit in on-screen, and they kept fans happy.
But there are also those across the Arrowverse that barely even registered as comic adaptations because they’re dressed so plainly. There are some that have a pseudo-costume that is reminiscent of their comic book counterpart, but not all of them were so lucky. The more iconic the villain, the better treatment they’re given by The CW. Occasionally, the budget allows for some incredible feats of CGI, but not to give a normal character a costume. It’s disappointing. Here are 8 Arrowverse villains that look better on-screen (and 7 that look nothing like they should).
15 BETTER: KING SHARK
With a television budget, the Arrowverse really do make every dollar count when it comes to creating a semi-realistic world for their heroes to populate. Because when King Shark made his debut in “The Fury of Firestorm” he looked formidable. And continued to do so as the Flash went on. His hulking appearance is closer to his original look rather than the Hammerhead version from The New 52.
As a standalone episode, "A.W.O.L" had some of the best fight scenes, purely because of King Shark.
And although he was clearly made using CGI, he still looked quite impressive on the TV budget from The CW. Don’t get us wrong, he doesn’t have the compelling backstory like other villains, but he’s still a truly unique villain to the show.
14 WORSE: METALLO
We’ve seen several versions of Metallo in live action, and none of them have looked particularly impressive. Smallville had their take on him with various pipes sticking out of John Corben’s human chest. But the version on Supergirl looked atrocious. He had a glowing green plate strapped to his chest, a few metal prosthetics and that was it. John Corben’s character was more interesting before he became Metallo, if we’re honest.
Yes, we got a full cyborg Metallo during the "Crisis on Earth-X" crossover, but he wasn’t involved for very long and he was a Nazi. Unless there’s going to be another cyborg Metallo coming from another universe, we’re not particularly bothered about seeing the villain in live action again. Stop trying to make Metallo work, CW, it’s just not going to happen.
13 BETTER: MALCOLM MERLYN
At the beginning of the Arrowverse, before spin-off series were even known about in the public eye, it was Oliver Queen v Malcolm Merlyn, aka The Dark Archer. And because it was a grounded take on the DC hero we were given equally grounded takes on their costumes. No brightly colored outfits with flair here. But The Dark Archer looked genuinely intimidating with his face covered and menacing hood.
But what was even more interesting to see was how formidable John Barrowman’s portrayal of Merlyn could be when he was out of the costume. He was as much of a threat in a boardroom wearing a three-piece suit as he was carrying a bow. The two halves of Merlyn’s character blended perfectly to create a genuinely compelling antagonist. We’re glad he left the goofy goatee out of the look though.
12 WORSE: DEADSHOT
Whilst Will Smith is currently the best known adaptation of Deadshot thanks to the Suicide Squad film, Michael Rowe actually beat him to it in the first season of Arrow back in 2012. And although the character was well written and equally developed, he looks nothing like his comics counterpart.
For starters, the costume he wears barely resembles the red and metallic outfit we’re familiar with.
He does at least have the wrist guns, and a cybernetic eye piece. Instead he usually dresses in a brown leather jacket topped with a bullet proof vest and a bandolier of bullets. Sure, it’s a slick outfit -- but it’s not the Floyd Lawton we all know and love to hate. But since he’s now in the DCEU, we’ll probably never see him come back to the small screen.
11 BETTER: BROTHER BLOOD
In the comics, Brother Blood was focused on worshipping Trigon (Raven’s Father), Sebastian Blood isn’t as focused on bringing a supernatural demon into the world but served Deathstroke instead. In the comics, he wears armor made up of various bright colors and a large flowing cape. Not exactly the grounded tone that Arrow was going for back in season two.
Instead, Sebastian Blood wears a creepy leather mask that only reveals his eyes. It also has two tusks on the mouth piece. The mask has a Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe to it, that brings a different level of creepiness than a colorful armor would. It also fits the cult leader role that he takes on to begin with. We’re not saying a City Official wearing a leather face mask is still grounded, but it fits the tone of Arrow’s early days.
10 WORSE: PROMETHEUS
One of the things that many superhero TV shows and movies struggle with is pitting their hero against a villain with the exact same skillset as them. So when Arrow announced they were introducing Prometheus, fans got excited. Only to be disappointed when it wasn’t the technologically advanced version of Prometheus that we knew. Instead, it was a Green Arrow/Dark Archer combination that was hugely disappointing.
Sure, Adrian Chase’s character arc was interesting and his need for revenge was compelling in a way. But the outfit was terrible. It looked like the first Arrow costume combined with the face covering from Merlyn’s outfit. It wasn’t visually fascinating, his costume was made up of things we’d seen before. Another archer/sword wielding villain. Boring. Imagine if we’d seen the real Prometheus helmet and armor in live action? It could have been incredible.
9 BETTER: RA’S AL GHUL
During the third season of Arrow, the show introduced us to a legendary Batman villain, Ra’s Al Ghul. Not only did this firmly establish Green Arrow’s Batman-type role in the Arrowverse, but it gave us a chance to see a faithful take on the villain. Whilst Liam Neeson brought a fantastic version of him to life for Batman Begins, it wasn’t exactly comic accurate.
Matt Nable, however, really looked the part, complete with green flowing robes and a terrifying sword that Oliver got to know quite well.
But what was great to see, was the show embraced his circumstances as a man from Nanda Parbat. He wasn’t just wearing a green suit like he does in the comics, but his outfit was more traditional. It seemed to fit in more with the culture of Ra’s Al Ghul’s world.
8 WORSE: HEATWAVE
Just like the new X-Men movies, The CW seem to have forgotten which of their characters are villains and which are heroes -- Mick Rory has become a hero, and he really shouldn’t be. Heatwave is a dangerous pyromaniac with some serious issues. But for a longstanding character, he’s one of the few that doesn’t have a costume. He just has civilian clothing and his heat gun.
But Heatwave in the comics has a tactical suit that protects him from the fiery outbursts that he unleashes from his weapon. It’s an orange and white suit, and although that might not fit Dominic Purcell’s rough exterior, surely there would be a way of creating the suit in a grounded translation? He sticks out like a sore thumb not wearing a costume like everyone else.
7 BETTER: KILLER FROST
When The Flash first started, it didn’t seem like we’d ever see Caitlin and Cisco wind up with the powers they have in the comics. Fast-forward a few years and here we are. But Caitlin’s updated costume and overall look as Killer Frost fits in better with the tone of The Flash, and probably it’s budget too. Because in the comics her body is made completely of ice, aside from the sleek black catsuit of course.
The TV show knows its limitations. It gives her a leather blue outfit that still uses the same symbol we’ve seen in the comics before, and gives Caitlin white hair alongside flowing white hair. It’s a chilling look. But it works in the context of the show better than if she was a walking icicle. Although seeing Cisco react to that would be fantastic.
6 WORSE: COUNT VERTIGO
When Count Vertigo first made his appearance on Arrow, he wore a simple woolen coat. And the Peter Stormare version of the villain wore a typical business suit. It’s a poor effort from The CW in bringing one of Green Arrow’s villains to life that’s for sure. He’s had two specific looks during the comics, one including green flowing capes over the top of regal attire (he was the last of a royal family in Europe).
The other look was a spiral shaped design covering his body, emulating the effect that his powers have. It’s an example of Arrow’s beginnings of not choosing to put every single villain into a costume to begin with. But it seems like a wasted opportunity not to bring some of the lesser known villains to the screen in a faithful way.
5 BETTER: SAVITAR
The villainous speedster of the third season is a controversial figure for fans of The Flash. Because of his identity underneath the metallic suit some fans weren’t keen on the direction the show took one of their favorite characters. But to be fair, it’s a huge improvement on Savitar as he is in the comics. Although the speed cult is present in the comics and Savitar is still the ‘God of Speed’, he runs around completely shirtless with a strange face mask and gauntlets -- it was the ‘90s after all.
Thankfully, the show gave their Savitar a huge metal suit that flowed with blue energy.
He was intimidating, and the retractable blades were brutal. Although the reveal was predictable and slightly confusing, we can’t deny he looked cool.
4 WORSE: ZOOM
When The Flash debuted a brand new villain in the second season, every fan seemingly rolled their eyes because of their choice, Zoom. The producers clearly saw that a villainous speedster similar to Barry was popular so went to the next iteration of the Reverse-Flash, Zoom, aka Hunter Zolomon. But the outfit was terrible.
Obviously, they wanted to not use a similar costume to the previous villain, so Zoom had an all-black costume with the mouth covered with creepy slits. Fine. But if they were going to do Zoom in the first place, they should have left him for another few seasons and introduced him properly later on. The black outfit just felt like they couldn’t think of a way to make it interesting without the yellow suit. Hunter Zolomon deserved better.
3 BETTER: DEATHSTROKE
Before Joe Manganiello gave us our first look at a cinematic Deathstroke, we had Manu Bennett, and boy, his final armor is fantastic. We’d seen Billy Wintergreen wearing a similar half mask with a yellow finish instead of orange. But once the second season brought Deathstroke to Star City, Slade Wilson donned his iconic armor to fight Oliver.
To say this is all done on a TV budget during the second season, it’s quite impressive. It’s built up of various straps, plating and ammo packs. He looks like a formidable threat. Let’s not forget the rooftop fight between Ollie and Slade in Season two. Or most recently, the incredible John Wick-style fight scene that Deathstroke has taking out various mercenaries during Season six. Whilst we wait for Manganiello’s version to come to our screens, we’re quite content with Manu Bennett.
2 WORSE: BUG-EYED BANDIT
The Bug-Eyed Bandit was given a major overhaul when it came to the live action adaptation. Emily Kinney (of The Walking Dead fame) took on the role of Brie Larvan. She’s a female version of Bertram Larvan, the original Bug-Eyed Bandit. She has a gold and black costume that has a honeycomb pattern to it.
We’re not saying that the cheesy purple and green domed helmet would have translated well on-screen. But there’s definitely a way that The CW could have incorporated it into some sort of VR helmet in the design that would allow Brie to control the bees she’s assaulting the team with. Instead she’s another hacker villain that Felicity faced by both using their computer skills against each other. It’s another scenario where the hero and villain have a similar skillset. Maybe one day we’ll see that green domed helmet. One day.
1 BETTER: REVERSE-FLASH
Remember the glorious first few months of The Flash, when they slowly teased the audience with the Reverse-Flash and time travel? He was just out of grasp, but we all knew he was coming. And when he finally made his debut, he was genuinely chilling. But his outfit was brilliant.
It wasn’t just a complete carbon copy of The Flash’s outfit -- the Reverse-Flash had his own flair.
The yellow and red color scheme worked well, but it worked better as it faded into black around the edges of the suit. It was almost like scorch marks as he ran through the Speed Force. The glowing red eyes and distorted voice only made the villain look scarier. Sure the all in one suit from the comics looks great, but to finally see a live-action Reverse-Flash look this good sure is a treat.