The CW’s Smallville aired its final episode in 2010, inadvertently setting the stage for DC-centric television for years to come. It had a good run, lasting ten seasons, many of which were well regarded and highly acclaimed. With the end of an era came the notion that live-action superhero television could potentially take the next step in innovating small screen storytelling. But no one was prepared for what would come next -- the meteoric rise and construction of the network’s impending superhero venture, the Arrowverse.
Launched in 2012 as a show about Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, with a darker spin, Arrow kickstarted a universe encompassing nearly every aspect of the DC canon. The Flash’s debut in the fall of 2014 paved the way for Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. With four shows, a whole host of comic characters were brought to life for the first time in live-action. However, there are a number of heroes and villains that had already made the cross media jump thanks to Smallville. In the following list, we’ll reflect on 15 characters that have appeared on both Smallville and in the Arrowverse. To give lesser knowns the opportunity to shine, obvious entries like Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Supergirl will be excluded.
15 SLADE WILSON
Smallville’s Slade Wilson never adopts the role of mercenary; therefore, his journey as Deathstroke does not come to fruition until Arrow’s second season. The earlier of The CW shows depicts Slade as a general in the US Army, one who makes it his primary objective to rid the world of superheroes and meta-humans alike. His arc ends tragically, as he’s sentenced to the Phantom Zone and a return to Earth renders him comatose.
Slade in the Arrowverse is the cream of the crop and not just as a villain, he’s inarguably one of the franchise’s better characters. His story on Arrow bears some resemblance to his comic origins, and he gets an emotional depth that reasonably rivals his comic book counterpart. Courtesy of a recurring role and a frenemy relationship with Oliver, it’s fair to argue the Arrowverse wouldn’t be as well-developed without him.
14 SOLOMON GRUNDY
Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy is interesting when it comes to his live-action appearances. In Smallville, the rogue only appears in season ten, sitting around a table alongside Toyman’s villainous team, the Marionette Ventures. During the episode, “Prophecy,” Toyman tasks the white-haired foe with eliminating The Blur (Clark Kent); the order is later revoked, and Cyrus instead receives instructions to hunt down Black Canary.
He’s used in a slightly greater capacity during Arrow’s second season, acting as a henchman for Brother Blood. After surviving an experimental dose of Mirakuru, the nearly unstoppable Cyrus, referred to as the Acolyte, is sent to rob a Queen Consolidated lab of a centrifuge. With superhuman strength, the Acolyte survives attacks from the police and the Arrow. Ultimately, though, the vigilante unloads a cocktail of chemicals into the villain’s bloodstream. Thus, the would be Solomon Grundy is once again rendered an insignificant side-character.
13 MARTIAN MANHUNTER
John Jones’ backstory in Smallville is familiar to anyone who’s even remotely aware of the character’s comic origin. However, there’s an interesting twist in that he knew Kal-El’s father, Jor-El, before Krypton’s destruction. As Martian Manhunter and a Kryptonian ally, J’onn J’onzz promised Jor-El he’d closely watch over Kal on Earth. The back half of the series gives the Martian plenty to do as a Justice League member, even after his powers are relinquished to save Kal, resulting in John’s becoming a homicide detective.
Supergirl puts J’onn in a leading role, wherein he’s introduced as DEO director Hank Henshaw, before his true identity is revealed in what can only be described as a series defining scene. Over two seasons and some change, Martian Manhunter’s been established as an incredible character; his history on Mars and on Earth is as compelling as anything the Arrowverse has on offer.
Shayera never suits up as Hawkgirl in Smallville; in fact, she’s not alive in the series. The character is killed decades prior, during her tenure as a JSA member, but her influence is apparent whenever Hawkman shares a part in one of the show’s narratives. Shayera’s sole appearance in Smallville is as a vision Hawkman has while reminiscing on their past lives.
Hawkgirl’s presence in the Arrowverse is incredibly significant, since her introduction on The Flash acts as a catalyst for the launch of the spin-off series, Legends of Tomorrow. Cursed by Vandal Savage thousands of years ago, Shayera and her lover, Khufu (Hawkman), are trapped in a perpetual cycle of life and death with the villainous immortal. Following Vandal’s defeat, the two lovers depart the team of Legends, desiring to pursue happiness together. They haven’t been seen since, but it’s possible they’ll one day return in some capacity.
Leslie Willis/Livewire’s run on Smallville is incredibly short-lived. She appears in one episode during the eighth season, “Injustice,” to join Tess Mercer’s team of meta-humans. While around, Livewire gets minimal character development, and is killed upon questioning her boss’ intentions. In addition, she doesn’t necessarily look the part either; her stark white hair from the comics is notably absent.
On Supergirl, however, Livewire receives an impressive character arc and is fairly comic-accurate. As a former pupil of Cat Grant, Leslie is running a radio show in National City when an accident gives her electric powers and an irrational hatred for Supergirl. As far as the hero is concerned, Livewire is her arch-nemesis, a notion which is cemented in season two, when Supergirl lets the villain go in hopes Leslie will one day return seeking help.
10 CAPTAIN COLD
Considering how integral Leonard Snart/Captain Cold has been to the development of several characters in the Arrowverse, one wonders what could’ve been if he had a recurring role on Smallville. His sole appearance in the earlier series is almost non-existent, as he’s seen and never heard. During season ten’s “Prophecy,” the Flash rogue attends a meeting with Toyman’s Marionette Ventures crew. He’s promptly assigned Bart Allen/Impulse as a target to kill, yet fails to feature in any capacity afterwards.
Contrarily, Snart’s role on The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow is irreplaceable; he’s easily one of the Arrowverse’s greatest successes, thanks largely to the impeccable casting of Wentworth Miller. In the span of a few seasons, he’s been villainous, dabbled in anti-heroics, sacrificed himself heroically, and returned from the past as a villain, again. To put it succinctly, the Arrowverse wouldn’t be the same without him.
Floyd Lawton’s story in both Smallville and Arrow culminates in a sad tale of underutilization. Of course, there likely wasn’t much for the gun-toting villain to do on a show about a superpowered alien. However, fans have had to accept Deadshot’s end on Arrow having been contingent on the Suicide Squad’s theatrical debut. At least in the latter show, he’s given ample to do whenever he does appear.
The marksman features in a couple of Smallville episodes -- once to kill Cat Grant and once more as a Suicide Squad member. On Arrow, Deadshot’s nuanced as his backstory, thanks to his connection to John Diggle, is ventured into. He additionally receives character development that does him justice. Unfortunately, Deadshot is killed off prematurely, but in the Arrowverse there’s always hope a character’s doppelgänger from another Earth will grace our screens.
Bizarro is hardly ever portrayed the same way twice, giving each iteration intrigue. Both Smallville and the Arrowverse continued the trend. The Smallville character isn’t introduced until season six, where it’s revealed he was created through experimentation on Krypton, mistreated, and subsequently imprisoned in the Phantom Zone for his hatred of Kryptonians. His inadvertent arrival on Earth leads to a mess of trouble, which eventually results in his having to be deceptively killed.
The Arrowverse’s version debuts during Supergirl’s first run. Using a Jane Doe and Kara’s DNA, Maxwell Lord conducts experiments to create a Bizarro Supergirl to act as the hero he believes National City actually deserves. Bizarro meets her end in a manner akin to Smallville’s villain. Blue Kryptonite knocks her out, but the DEO elects to put her to sleep as opposed to killing her outright. This apparently leaves room for her return.
Thus far, Supergirl’s John Corben/Metallo has received the short end of the stick in comparison to his Smallville counterpart. The earlier depiction of Metallo begins as a relatively nice guy, working at the Daily Planet. An accident nearly kills him and he’s soon experimented on by Zod’s Kandorians, who give him a Kryptonite infused heart and cybernetics. A struggle between maintaining his humanity and exploring criminality make for a fascinating character arc. Supergirl’s Corben is granted no such variation.
Supergirl introduces the villain as a hitman hired to kill Lena Luthor in season two’s premiere. A well-placed shot from the non-evil Luthor endangers Corben’s life, which incites Lillian Luthor’s implanting a Kryptonite heart in his chest and sending him after Superman and Supergirl. Metallo reappears later, but is presumably slain in an explosion. A body’s never recovered, so he’s bound to reemerge in one form or another.
Only taking part in two episodes of Smallville, Mia Dearden/Speedy is inconsequential overall. The audience is introduced to her at the same time as Oliver Queen, when she’s seen throwing punches in an underground fight club. As her tragic story of forced prostitution unfolds, Oliver takes Mia under his wing, turning her into a protege of sorts.
Arrow, of course, offers her character, Thea Dearden Queen, the chance to be exponentially more fully realized. Being one of the show’s leads, her arc frequently resides at the fore; however, an argument can be made that despite this, Thea’s development still breeds disappointment. Her journey to heroism, in which she appropriates Ollie’s nickname for her, Speedy, is impromptu and rushed to a point of unrealism. Seasons four and five explore Speedy’s desire to step away from vigilantism, but even that often feels somewhat incomplete.
A lot has changed for The CW’s take on Mxyzptlk since the Smallville days, but a few things have remained relatively stagnant, as well. For starters, the character appears on the Superman show as a teenage meta-human and not a fifth-dimensional being. Throughout the series’ ten seasons, he only appears once, commits some less than moral deeds and is quickly scooped up by Lex Luthor for reasons that are never explored in any depth.
Supergirl allows the character to guest star in a Valentine’s Day episode, fully equipped with his fifth-dimensional abilities and an odd obsession centered on Kara Zor-El. Thus far, the Imp has only interfered in Kara’s life once, but the expectation is that he’ll return a few more times before series end.
4 MAGGIE SAWYER
Smallville’s iteration of Maggie Sawyer is pretty straightforward. She’s the same no-nonsense detective that she appears to be in the comics, but little else about her receives any depth. Throughout the series, she features in only four episodes and is minimally involved in the season 11 tie-in comic series.
Supergirl explores Maggie Sawyer in more depth, though the extent of such depth, or lack thereof, is often debated amongst fans and critics alike. Again, her no-nonsense attitude is on full display, as she’s a detective in the NCPD’s Science Division. Maggie’s especially integral to the coming out storyline of Supergirl’s sister, Alex Danvers, which is where the bulk of criticism concerning her character development derives. Rarely is she seen exclusively in the role of a cop; when she’s afforded such opportunities, though, not even the Girl of Steel can get in her way.
The Zod who appears throughout Smallville is a clone of the former Kryptonian General, who was created to ensure the race would persevere beyond Krypton’s destruction. Zod’s clone (Major Zod), along with Kandorian clones, aim to exert their power on Earth, a feat impossible to overcome without receiving powers from the yellow sun similar to Clark’s. Eventually, blood from the hero bestows Zod with superpowers, affording him the chance to give abilities to his Kandorian followers as well. Their attempted reign is short-lived, though. Following defeat at the hands of Clark, the clones are vanquished to another world, New Krypton; subsequently, the Major is sentenced to the Phantom Zone.
General Zod on Supergirl is relatively unknown. He appears in the show’s second season finale as a vision Superman sees while under the influence of Silver Kryptonite. For now, it’s only evident that he and Clark have previously fought.
With a mere three appearances in Smallville, Bette Sans Souci/Plastique is cemented as an interesting villain-of-the-week kind of foe, gaining her explosive abilities after exposure to Kryptonite. Teaming with Tess Mercer’s band of meta-humans (Injustice League) for a time, Plastique later joins the Suicide Squad.
While Smallville’s version of the character is, in many respects, a standard villain, the Arrowverse’s iteration of the character during The Flash’s first season offers her more nuance. A bomb specialist undergoing a procedure to surgically remove shrapnel from her body during the particle accelerator explosion, Bette garners the power to combust an object upon physical contact. Attempting to kill the meta-human obsessed General Eiling, Bette, a hero at heart, is fatally shot. Her death’s unfortunate; for the episode in which she features, her prospects as a potential Team Flash member seemed promising.
Throughout Smallville’s ninth and tenth seasons, Carter Hall/Hawkman makes a handful of appearances. Though his leading the Justice Society of America dates back to the 1970s, Hawkman is said to have been cursed thousands of years prior. The curse entailed that he and his wife, Shayera, would live long enough to repeatedly watch one another die in perpetuity. Hawkman’s biggest story arc is in returning to fight the second Icicle, the offspring of the individual responsible for killing several JSA members.
In the Arrowverse, Hawkman’s personal narrative is slightly more fleshed out, albeit not as satisfying overall. He and Shayera were cursed by Vandal Savage in ancient Egypt, tying their existence intrinsically to his. Despite Legends of Tomorrow’s first season being focused primarily on their struggle with the immortal villain, Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s character development feels relatively paper thin in comparison to other Arrowverse heroes.
What other characters appearing in Smallville do you hope to see in the Arrowverse? Let us know in the comments!