DC characters have been portrayed on the big screen for several decades. While it started out with Adam West's Batman, it has gradually grown into a series of shows and connected universes for fans to enjoy. Shows like Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow all pull from popular and obscure comics to breathe life into many characters. Other properties like Preacher and Constantine focus on a different corner of DC's world, with plenty of unique characters to use as well.
However, bringing a comic book character to the big screen is something that brings a lot of excitement at first. Unfortunately, the execution can go either way, leading to satisfied fans or greatly disappointed ones. With the DC TV shows over the years, it's clear that there has been a mix of both reactions. It's worth mentioning that many TV shows don't have the budgets of live-action films, so they can't properly adapt certain costumes. What ends up happening is the shows make great use of their limitations to recreate iconic looks or fall on their faces by creating something a cosplayer could do better. Shows from the Arrowverse, Smallville, and beyond have had their fair share of superhero and villain costumes of varying quality. Looking back, it's easy to see where those shows succeeded with their character designs and where they noticeably failed. Now, let's look at 10 DC characters that looked great on the small screen and 10 that looked nothing like they should have based on the source material.
20 GREAT- GREEN ARROW
Green Arrow has been lucky on the small screen. Both of his costumes in Smallville and Arrow were excellent, capturing an iconic design while still mixing it up enough to fit in with their respective universes. For this list, we'll be focusing on the one from Arrow.
While it was given some changes over the years, the look still remains solid. Combining Robin Hood with dark leather and a black mask, the costume left little to be desired. Even when the show changed the look in a way that fans didn't like, it remained one of the best costumes in the entire Arrowverse.
19 BAD - PROMETHEUS
It's hard to deny that Prometheus' portrayal in Arrow was anything short of phenomenal. If there is one area where he wasn't so memorable, it was with his costume. From the initial trailers for season 5, it was clear that Prometheus was going to be changed from the comics to be another knock-off of the Green Arrow.
The color on the suit was slightly different, and he was given a mask over his hood. The comic design was much more unique, with plenty of different colors and a helmet inspired by knights of the Middle Age. It's understandable why the show would've changed the look, but what was left was just a variation of the Green Arrow's costume.
18 GREAT- THE FLASH
With a superhero show, it's important that the title character has a great costume, as they're the ones that audiences will stare at most of the time. Thankfully for The Flash, the Scarlet Speedster's design has been good from the start, with each season improving on the look gradually.
The suit pulls together everything fans loved about the suit in the comics, complete with a white border around the Flash logo. As time went on, the suit was made more noticeably red so he would be more like his comic version. Unlike most of the CW's costumes, it's easy to ignore that it's just a leather suit.
17 BAD - CASSIDY
For the most part, Cassidy in the Preacher series is nearly identical to his version in the comics. Everything from his origin to his personality have little to no changes. The only part of him that got changed for the show is his design. The version in the comics had spiky red hair gave him a wild look that made him seem dangerous at first glance.
The version in the show has a unique look, but it's not quite like his comic design. Instead, he is depicted as a tatted, black-haired alcoholic. While he might behave the same, he doesn't quite resemble the source material in design.
16 GREAT - DOCTOR FATE
Smallville wasted no time in bringing many popular DC characters to the small screen. Going as far as even using Doomsday, it was clear that the showrunners weren't afraid of any character. This led to some standout appearances like with Doctor Fate. Doctor Fate looked like he was ripped straight out of the comics, with his helmet and colors unchanged by the show.
Complete with a golden cape and gloves, there seemed to be no better way to have the character portrayed in live-action. He even had a glow over the eye holes in his helmet, similar to how he is drawn in the comics.
15 BAD - MR. MXYZPTLK
Mr. Mxyzptlk is often known as an imp from beyond the known dimensions. He briefly comes to Earth just to mess with people, particularly Superman. As such, it makes sense that the people behind Smallville would try to bring this chaotic character to the small screen.
Unfortunately, Mr. Mxyzptlk in the show doesn't resemble his version from the comics. As a matter of fact, it would be impossible to tell who he was at first glance without it being explained. He looks like some angsty teen that has no business trying to mess with Superman. The long hair and scrawny build made it difficult to see him as the imp we know.
14 GREAT - KING SHARK
CGI is a difficult technology to use with TV shows. Without a massive budget, it's easy to have effects that look stale, causing viewers to be taken out of the moment. Several times, this happened on the Arrowverse, with plenty of effects looking fake and ridiculous. However, one use of CGI that was nearly perfect was with King Shark.
King Shark is a massive cross between a person and a great white shark, and his look was translated perfectly into The Flash. He looked utterly scary and had great screen presence, excellent details on his body, and plenty of rows of teeth for Flash to fear.
13 BAD - STARFIRE
There was a lot of controversy over the costumes in the Titans show. Now that episodes have begun circulating, it's easy to say that, even with the effects added in, there's something that looks off about Starfire's costume. It comes down to having a purple dress and a set of red hair that looks like a wig purchased from a party store.
To be fair, it wouldn't have been a smart idea to adapt Starfire's more revealing look from the comics, but going off of something that appeared in the Teen Titans animated show might've been a much better place to start. Either way, it's difficult to look at the costume and see it as Starfire.
12 GREAT - JOHN CONSTANTINE
Constantine is a character unique in both personality and design. However, due to having such a simple look, it was crucial that the people behind the Constantine show got it right. Thankfully, the character translated well from the comics to the small screen, having subtly spiky hair, a long trench coat, and a cigarette in his mouth.
Constantine is a character that is all about the attitude, and Matt Ryan does an excellent job of bringing that to his performance. With the character appearing in Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, it's just a reminder about how well-executed Ryan's version is from every angle.
11 BAD - BEAST BOY
One controversial costume from the Titans series was Beast Boy's. While fans knew him as the lovable green kid who could transform into any animal, Ryan Potter's portrayal didn't seem to have green skin, just green hair. While it was a nice nod to the comics to give him a white and red jacket, that's where the similarities begin and end.
Beast Boy's design seems a bit lazy. Ignoring the green skin, which is a fundamental part of his character, was arguably a bad choice. One look at his jacket and his hair, and there's reason to believe that someone with enough dedication could make a cosplay that was more accurate.
10 GREAT - DEATHSTROKE
Deathstroke is a fan-favorite character, and fans were even more pleased when he made his debut in Arrow. Where the show was focused on more practical and cheaper costumes, Deathstroke's design seemed to thrive. Decked out in gear from head to toe with his iconic orange and black mask, Deathstroke looked exactly like fans wanted him to while still fitting in with the rest of the Arrowverse.
He didn't have the skin-tight suit from his earlier comic book days, but a Deathstroke armed to the teeth is a nearly perfect alternative. It also helped that Manu Bennett's portrayal of the character was both tragic and nerve-wracking.
9 BAD - AQUAMAN
Smallville took the opportunity to not only introduce a young version of Superman, but young versions of the entire Justice League as a whole and among them was Aquaman. Unfortunately, it was clear that the budget wasn't there to create accurate or striking costumes for these characters, as most of them were given colored hoodies.
Aquaman had a bit of an awkward design, just having what looked to be an exercise hoodie with the orange and green design of his comic version. Couple that with the fact that he had no other standout details or even muscles coming through his costume, and it was hard to take this version seriously.
8 GREAT - ROBIN
For all the hate that the Titans series got with its trailers and costumes, it's hard to deny that the show actually did well with some of its characters. For starters, when Robin's costume was first revealed, it was a striking look. Taking a page from more modern versions of the character, it marked the first time in several years that Robin had been seen in live-action.
Not only where the colors on point, but the suit kept the newer "R" logo from the comics. Sure, he might've been criticized for being an edgy version of the Boy Wonder, but his costume was just about as good as it could've been.
7 BAD - SAVITAR
If the CW was going to bring Savitar to The Flash, it makes sense that it would need to change his design. The character leaned into his name as the "god of speed" well, having a tribal look that differentiated himself from any other speedster in time. Instead of keeping the tribal look intact, the CW made Savitar look like some sort of metallic monster that emanated white lightning.
While it was cool in theory, seeing Savitar be such an edgy monster was more ridiculous than it was believable. Less is more when talking about Flash villains, and Savitar was over-designed, making him look weird and inaccurate as a result.
6 GREAT - HAWK AND DOVE
Hawk and Dove are iconic members of the Teen Titans, but their costumes were so wacky, combining primarily white suits with red accents, that some believed they would get severe changes for the Titans series. However, those people were wrong, as Hawk and Dove have some of the most accurate costumes in the entire show.
Despite the series being grittier than the comics, Hawk and Dove maintain their looks, complete with their masks and goggles. Their designs were taken straight from the pages, seemingly with no changes in translation. It's a shame that some of the other characters weren't given the same treatment.
5 BAD - CYBORG
Characters like Aquaman and Green Arrow were brought into Smallville to establish its own version of the Justice League. Among those new characters, Cyborg was also given his time on the small screen. However, Cyborg probably got hit the worst with all of the hoodie-based superhero costumes.
He wore a metallic hoodie to try and replicate his mechanical parts. Take one look, and it's easy to see why he made it on the list. Cyborg doesn't have any metal parts on his body, which practically breaks the illusion. Cyborg is a character that needs special effects. If one tries to replicate the metal parts with clothing, it's bound to look bad.
4 GREAT - JESSE CUSTER
There's something alluring about a man who has a supernatural power to make anyone do anything he wants. That's the premise behind Jesse Custer, who also happens to be some sort of preacher. When translating him to the Preacher series, AMC made sure to keep his sleek look intact, complete with his black jacket and unsettling face.
The big difference between the TV show and the comic is Custer's hair, which is much more erratic in the comics. In the show, Custer looks a bit more refined, but everything is still held intact, leading to an intriguing character who has to deal with supernatural forces.
3 BAD - CYBORG SUPERMAN
Hank Henshaw was a recurring character in Supergirl. Comic book fans knew him as Cyborg Superman, so when Henshaw was turned into Martian Manhunter, it left some fans wondering. However, the real Henshaw eventually surfaced, being part machine and calling himself Cyborg Superman.
Unfortunately, his design was a far cry from the look in the comics. Where Cyborg Superman was the Man of Steel with some metal parts in the comics, Supergirl just poorly rendered a metal eye on Henshaw's face. The look was nothing like the Cyborg Superman from the comics, and it left many people wanting more. He didn't even have a reason for calling himself Superman.
2 GREAT - SUPERMAN
It's not difficult to adapt Superman's costume to any live-action medium. After all, he just has a lot of red and blue with an 'S' on his chest. Thankfully, his debut in Supergirl understood that Superman was about hope and inspiring others to do the right thing. As such, his costume was simple, bright, and similar to Supergirl's look in a few ways.
This version of Superman was charming and lived in a world that felt like his adventures back in much older comics, but he still managed to keep the red underwear at home. The design is a key part of the character, and it was done so effortlessly in the Arrowverse.
1 BAD - BANSHEE
Supergirl played around with a lot of powered characters and metahumans from the DC Universe, so it makes sense that the CW and CBS wouldn't have the right budget to make them all look great. Unfortunately, a lot of villains were portrayed poorly, with Banshee being one of the worst offenders.
Where Banshee had a harrowing, white, black, and skeleton-inspired design in the comics, it was replaced with amateur facepaint in the show. She looked like little more than someone wearing a Halloween costume. It's also worth mentioning that scream-based powers in live-action shows look ridiculous, and Banshee is no exception.