DC have been bringing their legendary characters into live action for decades, since the '40s. And since they’ve done Batman and Superman many times, they shine the light on other characters during many of the live action shows, to try and raise the popularity on lesser known properties at that time. Sometimes this works, like it did with Green Arrow. Arrow kicked off a whole television universe that pushes the boundaries of what a comic book television show should be like.
But other times, they get it completely wrong and up cancelling the entire series. The most recent example would be NBC’S comedy show, Powerless. It was cancelled before the show even finished its first season, that’s how poorly received it was. But we’ve seen some awful DC characters across several live action shows over the past decade. Some characters that maybe should just stick to the comics, some the movies and some that work perfectly in video games. Occasionally, we can look past the questionable special effects or terrible writing, but sometimes there’s just no redemption. Television is a different game, not every attempt to bring heroes and villains to life work. Here are 15 embarrassing DC TV characters you were never meant to see.
Don’t worry Arrowverse fans, we’re not picking a fight about Melissa Benoist. She’s doing a great job with the role of Kara Zor El. No, the Supergirl we have a real problem with is the Laura Vandervoort version. She made her debut in the 7th season of Smallville, and her character arc was boring.
All she was really given was the ‘fish out of water’ comedy trope to deal with in most episodes. There weren’t any really intriguing parts for Kara to delve into and struggle with. Add to that the Fortress of Solitude sent her off into the future instead of being there to help Clark against Darkseid, and Smallville really did a disservice to Supergirl. Don’t even get us started on the lack of a costume.
14 HARLEY QUINN
Yeah that’s right, we have a problem with Doctor Harleen Quinzel. Or more specifically, the version from Birds of Prey. Truthfully, we have problems with the entire series, but Harley Quinn is the first notable problem. She’s played by Mia Sara, in probably the worst attempt at bringing the legendary villain/anti-hero to life.
The writing of her character is incredibly poor, she only has one motivation: to get revenge on Gotham for what it did to The Joker. Lame. The closest we get to the classic red and black outfit is a red jumper with a black diamond pattern on the chest. Boring. Plus, she’s not exactly a compelling villain across the series, there’s nothing for the audience to connect with whatsoever. It’s probably best just to stick with the version that debuted on Batman: The Animated Series.
When Arrow and The Flash introduced Kendra Saunders, there was a glimmer of hope that Hawkgirl could actually have a great character arc in live action. That is until they introduced Carter Hall, spinning off a love triangle including Cisco Ramon. It all became so convoluted that we just didn’t care anymore.
Did you know that Kendra is “just a barista!”? No? We’re surprised, considering that was half of her dialogue throughout The Flash and the Arrow crossover. Then there’s the leather costume, it’s boring. It’s just brown leather and her helmet. There’s nothing incredibly special about it. To say that Hawkgirl has so much potential, it’s a shame they ruined it. There’s no wonder that she and Hawkman were promptly written out of the series after Legends of Tomorrow’s first season.
Whilst Smallville did try and be bold with their choice of villains and plot lines, Doomsday ultimately fell short because they avoided the ‘Death of Superman’ arc and also killed of Jimmy Olsen. Not cool Smallville. But then there’s the look of the monster -- it doesn’t look very convincing.
Doomsday should be a hulking giant, instead he’s usually kept in the shadows and is only just taller than everyone else. Yes, they were on a constrained budget. But if they can’t do Doomsday properly they just shouldn’t do him at all. And yes, that goes for Batman v Superman as well, we’re not defending that version in the slightest. Ultimately, the character arc for Davis was actually well written, it’s just a shame they didn’t have the effects to back it up.
11 BLACK CANARY
Luckily, we have multiple versions of these characters to critique, otherwise we’d nearly be alienating a whole fandom. This isn’t our problem with the Arrowverse Black Canary, but the one included during Birds of Prey. She’s still named Dinah Lance, but she really is not the Black Canary in any way.
She’s brought to Gotham after The Joker’s revenge. She gets a vision, and that’s what prompts her to move there of course. She hasn’t got the Canary Cry, she’s a telepath. But Dinah discovers that her mother was ‘Carolyn’ Lance, the Black Canary. Last time we checked, the Black Canary has never been a ‘Carolyn’ aside from in Birds of Prey. It’s a strange direction to take Dinah. Let’s just forget it ever happened.
10 GREEN FURY
Oh Powerless, we barely knew you. The short-lived comedy series set inside Wayne Security, saw a team of inventors try to create gadgets to help normal people survive in a world of superhero battles. But It says a lot when an episode of a comedy show revolves around trying to raise the opinion of D-list superheroes. Does Green Fury get great treatment in Powerless?
No. She’s basically reduced to the fact that she’s glamorous, as one of the characters just ogles over her the entire time. Considering we live in a time where Wonder Woman just stormed the box office, NBC should have taken more precautions with what they were doing with their female heroes. It’s a shame, because Powerless originally had potential. But considering it failed to write compelling superheroes in it, there’s no surprise that it got cancelled.
9 VANDAL SAVAGE
Vandal Savage is one of the most notorious Justice League villains. He’s an immortal man who’s been around since Neanderthals, made intelligent by a crashed meteor. But the way that Legends of Tomorrow used him was actually embarrassing. He just appeared across time as this cheesy, gloating villain who spoke in hissed threats and stereotypical monologue-ing.
Caspar Crump’s performance was nearly unbearable to watch. He’s just not believable enough as an immortal genius. He would actually fit in more with Powerless than he does with the rest of the Arrowverse. It does the formidable character from the comics a complete disservice. He did die in Legends of Tomorrow, and let’s just hope that it stays that way for a long time.
Does this one really need explaining? It stands to reason that if Hawkgirl was incredibly embarrassing, then Hawkman would be too. This is only the second time that we’ve had a live action version of Carter Hall, and he’s unbelievably bland. And that’s without the extremely boring love triangle.
His action scenes are unimaginative, the costume looks awful and the delivery of his lines just feel incredibly weak. Smallville occasionally missed the mark with the way they brought characters to the screen, but their version of Carter Hall was actually excellent. He was broken down by losing his friends, teammates and the love of his life. Whereas this version just seemed like an arrogant fighter who didn’t actually care for Kendra that much as he did his own destiny. Sorry.
7 RED TORNADO
We hate to bring up the Marvel vs. DC debate (it all comes down to preference really), but the MCU managed to bring The Vision to life during Age of Ultron in a believable way in the continuity. He looks fantastic, and yes that’s mostly down to the budget. Red Tornado however, is actually awful. His one-episode arc in Supergirl was basically an excuse for Kara to get into more trouble and push her further.
But it’s extremely hard to take the villain seriously when he looks like that. But there’s also no personality to the conflict. Yes, he’s a robot so obviously there’s no actual personality, but that doesn’t really make him compelling to watch. There needs to be an emotional depth of some kind to make the audience care about the fight. Red Tornado sucks.
6 THE JOKER
Usually, most live action Jokers are very well received, even if they’re not seen as great. Many people weren’t exactly happy with Jared Leto’s version, but still appreciated the new direction he took the villain in. But it’ll be pretty difficult to find someone who loves The Joker from Birds of Prey so much they rank him next to Heath Ledger.
Sure, he only shows up for an episode and is voiced by Mark Hamill. But if they were going to use The Joker in the series in any capacity, why not just have him as an over-arching villain? At least then we’d actually get to see Harley interact with him and provide some context for her character arc. It’s the fact that he’s played by Roger Stoneburner but voiced by Mark Hamill that makes it feel quite disjointed too.
5 SWAMP THING
No, seriously, there’s a Swamp Thing television series. We’re not joking. We’re going to surprise you even further, it ran for 72 episodes. Crazy. Remember the extremely silly Swamp Thing movie? It’s basically that costume for the entire run of the show.
It’s a man in a rubber suit with some leaves and moss attached to him. Some of the plots of the episodes are equally as ridiculous. Swamp Thing becomes addicted to hallucinogenic Iguana eggs at one point and thinks he’s human. Or what about the killer mist that is on its way to kill the nearby town and Swamp Thing has to team up with Anton Arcane to stop it? Fantastic. How did this not win an Emmy? Because it’s terrible, that’s why. We need a Justice League Dark movie to do Swamp Thing right…
Okay, we all know that the version of Arthur Curry that Smallville gave us wasn’t exactly the best. He was a glorified surfer bro, and let’s not even talk about the costume. But strangely enough, the WB (who later became The CW) optioned Aquaman for his own solo series. But it wasn’t to star Alan Ritchson, who played Arthur in Smallville, but Justin Hartley aka Smallville’s Green Arrow.
The pilot itself did a poor job of giving us a realistic take on Aquaman and Atlantis, instead going for glowing necklaces, cyclones and beams of light as part of Aquaman’s skillset. Justin Hartley did manage to bring some enthusiasm to the role, but ultimately it’s hard not to see him as Oliver Queen. Since the pilot didn’t get a full season run, it’s no surprise they want you to forget about it.
We just have a lot of problems with Birds of Prey. They get most of their characters completely wrong, and the Huntress is no exception. They adopt the Bronze Age origin, so she’s the daughter of Batman and Selina Kyle. And then there’s her powers. Oh, did we mention that the show makes her ‘half-metahuman’ gaining powers from a metahuman Catwoman?
She has feline powers, including night vision and a sixth sense when it comes to sensing impending danger. ‘Cat-Sense’ just doesn’t have a ring to it. She has no idea who her father is, and it’s left as a dangling plot point. They try and give her a compelling character arc in hating The Joker, as he was supposedly the one to murder Catwoman. But they can’t stick to that plot and it’s revealed to be Clayface. Boring.
2 SOLOMON GRUNDY
Say what you like about the Arrowverse, but they do try and give us some ‘grounded’ takes on popular heroes and villains. Unfortunately, one of those characters is barely a shell of his comic self that he’s almost unrecognizable. Cyrus Gold, aka Solomon Grundy, makes an appearance during Arrow's second season.
Cyrus Gold is one of Brother Blood’s acolytes, and is injected with Mirakuru giving him extreme strength. That’s the extent of his similarity to Grundy. Oliver kills him by shooting a barrel of acid near the villain. The only other direct reference to his true comics form is when Ollie finds the nursery rhyme towards the end of the episode. It’s a poor attempt at the zombified villain, Gotham is doing a much better job with Grundy.
1 BLUE BEETLE
Jaime Reyes made his live action debut in Smallville during the tenth season, coincidentally the same episode that saw Booster Gold make an appearance. He goes looking for Booster to help him get rid of the scarab on his back, but his plan backfires. The scarab initiates the armor, attacking Booster Gold instead.
And it looks terrible. For starters, the armor is huge. In the comics, animated series and video games that Jaime appears in, the armor is quite sleek -- almost like a second skin. But here, he’s like a miniature Transformer. The effects are terrible. Plus, we can’t see his mouth, which is blocked by a faceplate. So it makes it quite difficult for the audience to connect with Jaime. Let’s just forget this ever happened.