Fans of any medium know the sting of betrayal associated with finding out an adaptation made changes from their favorite source material. Granted, something said fans often don’t want to admit is that sometimes the material is flawed, or that alterations allow for even greater possibilities. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to the superhero genre. As the source material in question is over 80-years old and has been handled by many different creators, it’s hard to argue that the adventures of our favorite heroes are so untouchable that they needn’t be altered, even when rendered in live-action.
Yet the superhero genre isn’t so devoid of meaning and intrigue that there are no positive elements within it. One of the greatest strengths of DC Comics, for instance, is the depth of their villains. These characters are often more intriguing than typical bad guys, and are so because of a unique medium with its strange elements. So, while change can be good, there are times when it can hurt the entire point of a character or just takes away something unique about them. So here are the 15 changes the CW made to DC villain that were ultimately poor choices.
15. CAPTAIN COLD
Heroes often share thematic elements with their villains. In the case of the Flash, the motif often at work is how easy it is to forget that everyone is human if you don’t take the time to know them. Captain Cold and his Rogues exemplify this as a group of blue-collar villains. Leonard Snart has no plans for world domination, he’s just a working-class genius that wants his crew to get rich without hurting anyone.
The CW did pretty much every Rogue wrong, but it’s their leader’s portrayal that’s especially disappointing. In the Flash, Snart stole the Cold Gun and had no qualms about using it to take lives, only taking up his comics book kill-code because the Flash threatened him. Although this character still got quite a lot right, taking away his brilliance and morals ultimately reduced him to just another generic villain.
14. PIED PIPER
Although Hartley Rathaway is a relatively small figure in the overall Flash mythos, he’s a pretty cool character conceptually. Initially starting out as a villain known as the Pied Piper, Harley soon reformed and became an ally of the Flash. Although he’d occasionally fall back into villainy, his ethics and strange gimmick made him a pretty unique antihero, even by the standards of Flash’s many morally gray Rogues.
The CW’s Pied Piper became a bad guy in order to murder a man he felt had wronged him, and his redemption happened off-screen after a reality-warp. Not only is his villainous origin unoriginal, the method of which his reformation happened removes a lot of his agency as a character. Viewers don’t even get to enjoy seeing the Piper on the side of the angels, as he hasn’t appeared on the show since the episode where he turned over a new leaf.
13. MASTER JAILER
When it comes to Superman, a lot of writers assume the only way to make compelling action is to pit him against someone of equal strength. However, the reason Lex Luthor is one of comics’ greatest villains is that he poses a credible threat to a being that clearly outclasses him. This is often true of Superman’s other less-powerful foes, including the Master Jailer. Carl Draper doesn’t have any desire to kill the Man of Steel, he just seeks the challenge of finding a way to contain him.
Instead of something as unique as that, the Arrowverse gave us a psychotic alien jailer. Although not the most boring character, as his extraterrestrial nature did allow for plenty of cool visuals, the version in the comics definitely would’ve been the more interesting story to adapt to live-action.
12. GORILLA GRODD
How a telepathic gorilla ended up not only being Flash’s deadliest foe, but also one of the most powerful villains in the DC Universe is a mystery. As seen both in the comics and in his portrayal in the DC Animated Universe, it’s hard not to understand why this ape was able to climb to the top. Cunning, manipulative, and exceptionally brutal; Gorilla Grodd’s massive intellect demonstrates that you can make a fantastic character even out of a ridiculous concept.
Yet, since his origins are a little tough to swallow, it’s not difficult to understand why the CW felt the need to change him. However, the character they gave us instead, an uncharismatic ape who can barely speak and actually care for some humans, isn’t nearly as compelling as what we’ve seen in other portrayals.
11. SOLOMON GRUNDY
As a hulking zombified creature, the man formerly known as Cyrus Gold has run the range of terrifying to weirdly likable in a multitude of different media. It’s been proven that Grundy is a very versatile figure to work with, which should’ve allowed the CW plenty of room to play around with him however they wanted to while staying true to his nature. So it’s baffling that viewers instead ended up with a super soldier in the world’s most generic mask.
The character had one appearance in Arrow, where only his name and a literature reference showed his comic book roots, before he was killed by Oliver Queen. Although returning from the dead is part of this character’s whole shtick, the amount of time since we’ve seen him makes it unlikely we’ll witness any of the Arrowverse heroes tangle with the Grundy we know and love.
The many problems with the CW’s Deadshot aren’t entirely their fault. In the comics, he was originally a boring villain who unsurprisingly took on a new dimension while on the Suicide Squad. Wishing for death, yet unwilling to off himself and too proud to lose a fight, Floyd Lawton was caught in a never-ending cycle of violence and intrigue.
That is until DC decided Lawton needed to have a daughter to humanize him, and that element stuck despite detracting from his overall character. The CW didn’t have to bring in this element for their interpretation, but it’s understandable why they did. What’s actually difficult to comprehend is why their version tattoos the names of his victims on his body. Along with making this Deadshot more like a PG Victor Zsasz, they somehow found a way to make an already ruined character stupider.
For a major hero’s archenemy, the comic book villain Merlyn honestly isn’t the most impressive threat. Formerly a member of the League of Assassins, Merlyn only keeps running into Oliver Queen by chance during his hired hits. Although the character isn’t without his values, there’s no denying that there was plenty of room for improvement.
Played by the terrific John Barrowman, the CW was almost successful in that department. Mysterious and unpredictable, the Dark Archer was only undone by his uncreative motivations. Merlyn became a supervillain because his wife was murdered. That’s it. Not only is this profoundly uninspired, but it actually undercuts the one good element of the comic book version. As an assassin for hire, Merlyn represented the greed that Oliver had abandoned after becoming a superhero. The one on Arrow is already rich, so what’s the point?
Superman’s villains can never seem to catch a break. They’re rich with potential, yet its so rarely capitalized on. Metallo is a good example of this. The comic book character is awesome in theory, but often disappointing in execution. The only really interesting version of the villain was in Superman: The Animated Series, where it was his robotic form’s sensory deprivation that drove him insane, which thematically contrasted with Superman’s enhanced senses amplifying his humanity.
The version in Supergirl is ultimately just another waste of a possibly great foe. A flunky for Cadmus, the only thing separating John Corben from a generic thug is the hunk of Kryptonite in his still-human chest. While it’s understandable the limited budget would make it hard to realize this character in a fully robotic form, they still failed to find anything interesting to do with one of Kal-El’s greatest foes.
Speaking of Superman’s most iconic villains, the Parasite is a practically perfect foil for the Man of Steel. He was transformed into a beast due to his greed, which pitted him against a being that uses his amazing gifts for completely selfless reasons. The fact that Parasite robs the most powerful superhero of his powers, while also gaining them for his own nefarious purposes, makes him a monster that we definitely should’ve seen realized in live-action a lot sooner.
Why Supergirl felt the need to alter Rudy Jones’ backstory so much is a total mystery. Possessed by an alien parasite, the Arrowverse’s version is also a radical environmentalist for some reason, which adds nothing to the overall character. Other than the monster design looking fairly impressive, the CW’s Parasite is so different they needn’t have bothered bringing him to life.
Danny Brickwell is an odd foe for Green Arrow, to say the least. Created fairly recently, the metahuman gangster quickly proved himself to be a brilliant criminal mastermind. Uniting a ton of territory under his control, Brick showed time and time again that he wasn’t a typical gangster. His immediate presence was unmistakable, so it’s no surprise he quickly became one of Ollie’s major villains.
Along with whitewashing the character, the CW’s version changed pretty much everything else about Brickwell asides from the name. Neither invulnerable nor menacing, instead Arrow’s Brick is a deranged psychopath who hands over his gun and challenges others to kill him with it. Him surviving getting shot would probably be more impressive if viewers had some understanding of how, instead all it suggests is that Brick has a thick skull, which isn’t usually a positive trait.
5. COUNT VERTIGO
Although Count Vertigo was fairly generic (by comic book standards) at one point, he became far more interesting after his appearance in John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad. Readers learned about his struggle with bipolar disorder and the complicated political situation he faced in his home country. It did somewhat come out of left field, but it immediately transformed him into one of DC’s more unique antagonists.
Arrow ended up having two Count Vertigos, neither of which lived up to the comic book version. The first at least had an actor with an interesting presence, though he clearly would’ve been a better fit as a young Joker. The latter was just an older man with no real distinct character, though he did have the correct first name. Substituting Vertigo’s powers for a disorienting narcotic is the ultimate edgy cop-out, and the icing on this disappointing cake.
4. MISTER MXYZPTLK
The fact that one of Superman’s greatest threats is also primarily a joke character, and that this duality works, is astonishing. The only reason the DC Universe isn’t under Mxyzptlk’s reality-warping heel is that the imp believes it’s more fun to just challenge Superman. It’s sort of a dark twist on how Superman never uses his own full strength, as that would make him a danger to others.
Regardless of his methods, Mxyzptlk has proven time and time again that you can craft a story with an eldritch horror twist, while still having fun. Which is why his appearance in Supergirl is so disappointing. He doesn’t feel like a threat, he has no interest in testing Kara, and the fact that the only conflict is a romantic one feels somewhat regressive. Mxy never tried to woo Clark, so why did the writers want him to do so while facing Kara?
3. VANDAL SAVAGE
The immortal caveman, Vandal Savage, is another one of those weird DC villains that somehow rose to the top. On the same level as Luthor and Grodd, Savage’s survival of the fittest philosophy makes him an interesting opposite to pretty much any superhero. Whoever he’s pitted against, there’s more than enough meat to this character to make his conflicts fascinating.
His introduction in the Flash and Arrow crossover showed that the writers would disagree with this sentiment. Vandal’s origins were needlessly combined with the major Hawkman villain Hath-Set, just to set up a conflict between Vandal and the newly discovered Hawkgirl. Not only does this deprive the Arrowverse of two potentially cool villains, the antagonist we got instead definitely was the lesser for the pointless amalgamation.
2. BRONZE TIGER
Although somewhat obscure, Ben Turner seemed like he was going to have a huge role in the DC Universe at one point. Brainwashed by the League of Assassins and rescued by Batman, the Bronze Tiger ended up a major player in Ostrander’s Suicide Squad. Caught in an interesting moral quandary, Turner definitely wasn’t the same kind of antihero that would end up oversaturating the genre.
So, when adapting the character for TV, the CW chose to forgo all these cooler elements and just make him the muscle for another villain. Wielding ridiculous knuckle-blades that don’t go with his otherwise plain-clothes “costume,” this Bronze Tiger had practically no personality before he was ultimately killed off. It’s sad that, whenever more obscure characters are adapted, that’s always seen as a reason to do less with them instead of more.
Deathstroke is definitely one of the better villains in the Arrowverse. He’s got a pretty cool suit, the actor is a good fit, and the Terminator has a more than intimidating presence. Like Deadshot, however, Slade Wilson has already been lessened as a character due to DC apparently forgetting how to highlight his role as a failed father figure, which contrasted nicely with his enemies being primarily teenagers.
Along with pointlessly pitting him against an adult, the CW Deathstroke’s whole motivation is that a woman he loved died. This Slade’s driven by the same thing that drove the antagonist from the first season, so it’s especially lazy writing in this instance. Given how cool this character could’ve been, maybe if he’d been an antagonist to one of the younger archers, the end result only stings all the more so.
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