When you think of really amazing shows on television, chances are comic shows probably aren’t on that list. Comic book shows often get shortchanged as being less than their feature film counterparts. However, if done right, comic book shows can spend years exploring various characters, bringing print continuity to a whole new medium and providing a way for fans to come along for the ride. No group of comic book series are more prominent now than The CW’s Arrowverse, which is comprised of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, with Black Lightning on its way.
Unlike Marvel, whose rights are splintered between three networks, Warner Brothers Entertainment owns both DC Comics and The CW, so turning DC comic books into live-action series has been a well-oiled machine for years now, with varying degrees of success. The Arrowverse sometimes gets a bad wrap for different reasons; people have issues with the writing, fans say the shows have less than mediocre actors, etc. However, they must be doing something right because Arrow is in its sixth season and shows no signs of ending anytime soon, with the rest of the shows in tow. CBR takes a look at some of the more popular misconceptions of the Arrowverse.
15. THEY ALL TAKE PLACE IN THE SAME UNIVERSE
While comic book TV shows are currently quite popular, almost to the point of over-saturation if we’re being honest, they still have a long way to go to stand on their own. We see this with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was a literal television spin-off of the first Avengers movie and has frequently relied on the events happening in the MCU to dictate storylines each season. The same can be also be said about the Arrowerse.
Both The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow are spin-offs of Arrow, featuring many supporting characters who first appeared in the series, allowing for multiple cross-over opportunities. However, Supergirl is in her own universe, although she does have access to the Arrowverse via a limited amount of space portals. It has been reported that Black Lightning will also be set in its own universe, with no ties currently planned to the Arrowverse.
14. THE SPECIAL EFFECTS ARE LAME
When you have characters with superpowers, good special effects are paramount in winning audiences over. Poor acting and stagnant writing can easily be forgiven as long as there’s a good fight fight scene with plenty of special effects. Fans can tell the difference and deserve to experience their beloved characters in all their heroic glory, minus craptacular CGI.
While we will admit that early seasons of Arrow suffered from an underwhelming amount of special effects, Oliver Queen doesn’t really require any augmentation. However, subsequent seasons as well as Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl have transitioned into big screen-level CGI. This can be seen in Black Canary and Black Siren’s canary cries, Martian Manhunter’s shape-shifting and Firestorm’s powers. The Flash is, unfortunately, a little hit and miss in this department, with Flash’s power set being depicted fairly realistic, but having a few villains who are entirely CGI just throws everything off.
13. THERE ARE ONLY FOUR MAIN HEROES
Heroes very rarely do things solo, there’s usually at least one sidekick at their side throughout their journey. Batman has Robin, Captain America has Bucky and Buffy has Willow. Oftentimes this results in an actual team of superheroes banning together against a common threat, as seen in Avengers. This is also just as common in the Arrowverse.
While Green Arrow begins the series as a lone vigilante, he is quickly joined by his former bodyguard, John Diggle, and computer whiz Felicity Smoak in his fight to save his city. Oliver Queen’s sister, Thea, and love interests would also eventually become part of “Team Arrow.” The same with The Flash, Barry Allen is joined by his colleagues at S.T.A.R. Labs and his adoptive father in his fight. This is similarly echoed in Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow has a whole team of superheroes, providing a wide array of representation.
12. GREEN ARROW IS THE POOR MAN’S BATMAN
Once you get to a certain amount of superheroes, their backstories are going to start sounding an awful lot alike. There are only so many creative ways to imbue an individual with superpowers; freak accidents, genetic defects, experimental procedures and radiation exposure are all used on various characters in order to turn them into superheroes. So, more often than not, a hero’s backstory is usually what sets them apart.
While we get that there are similarities to Green Arrow and Batman’s origins, there are also differences. While Bruce Wayne was never raised by his birth parents, Oliver Queen was but both parents died once he became an adult. Oliver has a sister, someone who can share in the pain of losing his parents. Green Arrow routinely depends on his team of heroes to fight crime, Batman is usually just seen working with Robin.
11. THESE WERE THE FIRST DC COMIC BOOK SHOWS
Adapting a comic book for television is not an easy task, and probably wouldn’t have happened as much a decade ago as it does now. However, with the comic book boom that has happened since the early ’00s, you’d be hard -pressed to not find a comic book show on almost every network.
Many casual viewers may be under the assumption that, given the popularity of comic book adaptations right now, the Arrowverse is the first group of television shows to feature DC characters. However, TV shows based on DC comic books have been around for decades, from Batman in the ’60s and Wonder Woman in the ’70s to The Adventures of Lois and Clark in the ’90s and Smallville in the ’00s, these characters have been a regular part television. Although, the Arrowverse is the first group of TV shows that share (or have access to) the same universe.
10. THEY ALL HAVE THE SAME TONE
Given the current climate of superhero movies, it’s natural to assume that all of them are dark and gritty, like every Batman trilogy and Wolverine movie that come out the past decade. Producers assume audiences will want the same atmosphere found in the source material, so we get broody heroes who struggle with their identities and violent villains to fight. However, Deadpool and Wonder Woman have started a movement towards superhero movies that are slightly more light-hearted without sacrificing action or drama.
Similarly, superhero TV shows are following. While Arrow is indeed dark and brooding, The Flash is humorous, Legends is wild and crazy, and Supergirl is optimistic. This variety keeps the shows from being too much alike and also giving viewers plenty of superhero options to choose from. According to early reports, Black Lightning will be somewhat as dark as Arrow but also with a focus on family.
9. ACTORS DON’T DO THEIR OWN STUNTS
Actors doing their own stunts has a varied history in Hollywood, while some actors don’t mind doing them, there are some who insist on doing them to help their scene look more real. Then we have the horror stories of actors being injured, like Krysten Ritter, who was recently knocked out while filming scenes for the second season of Jessica Jones. Also, let’s not forget the heartbreaking tragedy of actor Brandon Lee being accidentally killed performing a stunt for 1994’s The Crow.
While the fight scenes featured in the Arrowverse are usually intensely choreographed, nine times out of ten, the actor is doing their own stunt work. You can follow stars’ Instagram pages and actually witness them practicing for their fight scenes. Stephen Amell (Arrow) and Caity Lotz (Legends) are known for posting pictures and videos of their fight scene rehearsals.
8. ALL STYLE, NO SUBSTANCE
A good superhero story always has to find that balance between having awesome action sequences and also having a compelling story. Early incarnations of superhero shows and movies had severe problems with this distinction, we’re looking at you, Elektra and Birds of Prey. However, every now and then, writers will come up with interesting scenarios to put heroes through while they’re trying to fight crime, without doing any detriment to the project.
Sure, the Arrowverse shows are flashy with their wire-work fight scenes and special effects, but deep down they are all heart. Each of these shows routinely preach about self-acceptance and being there for your chosen family. In fact, Chyler Leigh’s portrayal as Alex Danvers coming out as gay to her friends and family on Supergirl is one of the most poignant depictions in recent television history. Characters also grieve losses and celebrate triumphs together.
7. THEY ONLY HAVE B-LIST ACTORS
While the acting in superhero projects have been hit or miss, we’re looking at you Catwoman, having an award-winning cast doesn’t always guarantee a hit, nor does the other way around. Casting directors often insist the actors make or break the project, and most audiences tend to agree. The sweet spot seems to be to have a mix of seasoned actors with a crop of talented, fresh faces to play off of each other on screen on a regular basis.
The Arrowverse exemplifies this in pretty much every one of their shows. Veteran stage and screen actors Jesse L. Martin and Victor Garber are series regulars on The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, along with up and coming actors like Katie Cassidy (Arrow) and Danielle Panabaker (The Flash). This unique blend of energy comes across to viewers, whether it’s a fight scene or a heart-to-heart conversation.
6. SUPERGIRL IS JUST A SMALLVILLE KNOCKOFF
Smallville is the longest-running superhero show on television, running for ten seasons across two networks. It was a prequel in a sense to the story of Superman, focusing on his high school days and early adult years in Smallville and Metropolis, all while fighting evil and saving lives. Unfortunately, we never got to actually see Clark Kent suit up as Superman until the very final moments of the very last episode.
While Supergirl may have some similarities to Smallville on the service, there are larger differences. We see Kara suit up as Supergirl in the very first episode, she has an assistant’s job for Cat Grant (and then works her way up in the company) and is already well-versed in her powers from the start. It’s refreshing to see a hero already holding their own and becoming the kind of hero they felt they were meant to be.
5. THERE IS NO DIVERSITY
Diversity in Hollywood has always been an issue, with certain actors of a certain race typically getting stereotyped after one or two roles. Fortunately, studios are starting to realize that’s not what viewers want. More and more, audiences are demanding to see equal representation on television and on the big screen, with several networks taking strides to showcase that they appreciate and promote diversity.
Casual viewers may think the Arrowverse is more pretty white people with problems, only with superpowers, but there are actually many minorities represented in each show. Several gay or bisexual characters have been featured, like White Canary, Mr. Terrific and Alex Danvers, while all four shows have a good mix of races in their main cast. The Arrowverse is closer to real world representation than most things on TV these days.
4. THERE ARE NO TIES TO COMIC BOOK CONTINUITY
Fanboys (and girls) can be a very picky bunch. Networks and studios walk a fine line between adapting superhero source material enough to draw in those already established fans, while also making enough changes so the movie or TV series isn’t predictable. Portraying accurate comic book continuity is easier for an animated movie or series because there is no budget to worry about, but it gets a little more muddled when it comes to live-action. Many projects start off with the basic concept of the comic book story and build upon that in their own way.
The Arrowverse routinely pays homage to comic book continuity. The love between Oliver Queen and Laurel Lance is depicted, Flash’s battles with Zoom and Savitar are highlights of the past two seasons and Supergirl is introducing her latest comic book arch-nemesis, Reign, this season. We’re sure there’ll be more to come.
3. TOO MANY MASKED VILLAINS
There are certain visual cues to indicating who is a villain and who is a hero. Villains are often dressed in black, often with cloaks or masks to hide their hideous features. Heroes are usually the ones wearing bright colors and no masks at all to hide who they are. Actors have stated that villains are often more fun to play because they never get to be that evil in real life.
The Arrowverse has a rogue’s gallery of villains, often having them crossover shows. While there are a few who were masks or hoods to hide their faces, we’ve seen plenty of villains who do not hide who they are. Specifically, Black Siren and Damien Darhk in Arrow and Livewire in Supergirl have appeared in recent seasons, with more to come.
2. TOO MANY STAGNANT CHARACTERS
It happens all the time’ after a show has been on a couple of seasons, creators usually have new writers join production in order to keep the material fresh. Although we’ve seen how TV shows who are getting a little long in the tooth, looking at you Grey’s Anatomy, have an unfortunate habit of recycling characters and storylines. It’s just a fact that after a while, there are no new stories to tell (at least, in a good way).
Characters rarely go stagnant in the Arrowverse, although it has happened, looking at you Iris West. There’s always some new cause or villain or hardship to overcome. Oliver Queen’s bratty little sister grew up to become the hero Speedy, and Barry Allen’s nerdy co-workers eventually developed superpowers of their own to help him fight crime. Legends literally takes place somewhere different in pretty much every episode. Smells fresh to us.
1. THE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS SUCK
Superheroes are nothing without a support system. The stress of fighting crime and defeating supervillains on the daily has to take it’s toll, and heroes need to surround themselves with people they know will understand and can count on. The supporting characters also, more often than not, help the hero save the day.
The Arrowverse has a vast array of characters, superheroes and non-superheroes alike. The supporting characters are just as much a part of fighting crime as the hero actually doing it. In fact, supporting characters often steal the spotlight from the heroes with better storylines. Case in point: Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant frequently gets the best lines on Supergirl, and Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance became so popular after appearing on Arrow, she got to lead her very own spin-off, Legends of Tomorrow.
Which of these are the biggest misconceptions about the Arrowverse? Let us know in the comments!
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