The CW’s Arrowverse repeatedly adds new characters from the DC Universe to its massive and ever-growing stable. In translating DC heroes, villains, and regular folk, some aspects, whether they be in relation to powers or personality traits, are often not brought to screen. Other instances, however, may considerably augment a character for the better, fleshing them out in a manner that comics and other cross-media iterations have likely failed to do so. It is persistently enthralling, but special interest is typically given to how powers and abilities are adapted across the various live-action television series. Such alterations, regardless of how significant or inconsequential, lead to compelling characterizations that are at least worth acknowledging.
Changes to a character’s abilities usually begets a difference in their formidability; in certain instances, this may be evidenced in someone being overpowered. Contrarily, the diminishing of a character’s power-set can contribute to the perception of them as less threatening than other iterations. The Arrowverse is inarguably guilty of depicting some of its super-powered beings as either overpowered or underpowered. This list examines them, focusing entirely on villains, eight that could reasonably be considered overpowered, and seven that do not quite match their comic counterparts in terms of ability.
15. OVERPOWERED: BLACK SIREN
Introduced in Justice League’s animated series as an Earth-2 version of the Golden Age’s Black Canary, Black Siren bears no actual superpowers. She’s a martial artist, sure, but the bulk of the time she spends in the “Legends” episode of Justice League relegates her character to performing household duties and little of anything else. Therefore, the Arrowverse’s depiction of the character is irrevocably overpowered.
Earth-2 Laurel Lance in the Arrowverse is a meta-human, who bears Black Canary’s signature Canary Cry. In addition, she’s a skilled combatant able to hold her own against Team Arrow. Aside from wielding superpowers, the biggest aspect differentiating the two counterparts is the live-action version being cast as villainous, which undoubtedly makes her all the more devastating and quite the force to be reckoned with.
14. UNDERWHELMING: ANTHONY IVO
Of course, Professor Anthony Ivo, ability-wise, is an average human being with genius level intellect and ambitions beyond what most usually harbor. In Arrow’s second season, where the character appears as the antagonist of the Lian Yu flashbacks, his extraordinary intelligence and lofty scientific goals are consistently on display. However, Ivo’s stint in the Arrowverse sees him grounded, intent on saving the life of his terminally ill wife. As such, gone is the greed and thirst for immortality and limitless power that drives his comic counterpart.
Alterations in motive make for compelling storytelling; furthermore, they work to divert Ivo’s focus. Thus, Arrow’s version of the Professor never creates androids such as Amazo or Tomorrow Woman. Besides T.O. Morrow’s Red Tornado, Slade’s Mirakuru soldiers may be the closest the Arrowverse will get to realizing any semblance of comic book Anthony Ivo’s aspirations on screen.
13. OVERPOWERED: RAINBOW RAIDER
Despite being a villain-of-the-week from The Flash and Arrow’s first crossover, Rainbow Raider is regrettably forgettable. He provides an interesting case study, though. In the comics, Roy G. Bivolo is merely the color blind son of an eye doctor who wants his child to see the world in color. Attempting to improve his son’s eyesight, Roy’s father designs goggles that ultimately fail to work as intended. The goggles do, however, give Roy the ability to affect the emotions of others, which essentially allows him subject people to his will.
As a meta-human, Rainbow Raider’s depiction on The Flash does not require special glasses. The villain’s eyesight, following the Particle Accelerator explosion, effectively provides him his unique powers. “Whammying” the Speedster is but one way Rainbow Raider demonstrates his prowess, while others manifest in his manipulation tactics.
12. UNDERWHELMING: PROMETHEUS
Prometheus is an example of an Arrowverse big bad who benefited greatly from having his powers stripped as he made the transition from comics to a live-action television series. The villain’s comic book counterpart is typically written as a Justice League foe, who’s made it one of his missions to defeat the League. Therefore, he builds technology in a helmet that downloads and archives information, such as advanced martial arts techniques and the combat moves of DC’s more devastating fighters. He’s additionally equipped with a slew of gadgets and weapons, one of which permits him to mimic voices.
In the Arrowverse, Prometheus relies solely on his own faculties and minimal gadgetry; at his core, he’s essentially the Anti-Green Arrow. Arguably, this depowered version of Prometheus is the most fascinating depiction of the villainous character yet.
11. OVERPOWERED: MUSIC MEISTER
Music Meister is a new addition to the DC Universe, his first appearance being in the “Mayhem of the Music Meister!” episode of Batman the Brave and the Bold, which aired in the fall of 2009. In the series, and his few comic appearances, the Golden Age-inspired foe can control people with the power of music. The Arrowverse stretches his capabilities far and wide.
For starters, the newer iteration presents him as a supernatural being that, as he explains in the “Duet” Flash and Supergirl crossover, exists beyonds the confines of what we understand as the multiverse. Because of other skills such as teleportation and the ability to adapt the powers of Supergirl and The Flash, one theory posits the Arrowverse’s Music Meister may be similar to the fifth-dimensional Imp, Mister Mxyzptlk.
10. UNDERWHELMING: VANDAL SAVAGE
Make no mistake, the Arrowverse’s Vandal Savage is an undoubtedly menacing force. Several of his domineering qualities make it from page to screen, but what’s largely absent is the actual depiction of his power. Contrarily, Supergirl’s various abilities are continuously shown on screen — impenetrable skin, superhuman speed, flight, heat vision, etc. Apart from immortality, minimal uses of magic, and displays of his strength, there’s little to intimate Vandal Savage as any more superior than the Arrowverse’s other super beings.
In addition to his immortality, alongside the enhanced intellect and strength seen in live-action, Savage from the comics is also equipped with superhuman speed. All of his strengths combined make him one of DC’s more devastating villains, capable of besting Superman in some iterations. Could the same be said of the Arrowverse version? It doesn’t seem likely.
9. OVERPOWERED: LEGION OF DOOM
Is there a version of the Legion of Doom that can take the Arrowverse version to task? It’s not impossible, considering Superboy Prime’s brief stint on the team prior to the events of Flashpoint. However, it could be argued the likes of Reverse-Flash and Damien Darhk place the two Legions on equal footing. One thing that’s certain is Legends of Tomorrow’s Legion being unequivocally more powerful when compared to the most well known iteration — the Legion of Doom featured on Super Friends.
The cartoon’s Legion members include Sinestro, Lex Luthor and several others. But when adding a Speedster to the mix, as well as a powerful magician like Darhk, the odds are instantly in the Arrowverse’s favor. By virtue of the Reverse Flash being overpowered, the sole way of defeating him rests on the Black Flash, after all, there’s no arguing against this iteration of the Legion outclassing others.
8. UNDERWHELMING: COUNT VERTIGO
Unfortunately, Count Vertigo is one of Arrow season 2’s few weak links. His Joker-esque stylization aside, the Count simply never warrants the extensive attention he is given throughout the show’s second run. Little about him compels audiences, despite the story arc surrounding him consisting of some fascinating narrative beats.
Instead of inducing vertigo via his own internalized superpowers as his comic counterpart does, the Arrowverse’s Count develops a narcotic that can emulate similar effects. Logically, the drug is deemed Vertigo and the Count adopts the moniker for himself. As a regular human, Arrow’s Count Vertigo lacks other powers as well; for instance, because he subjects people to vertigo with narcotics, influence the comic character wields over technological systems doesn’t make the cut. In truth, though, a comic accurate Count may have been a tough sell in a pre-Flash Arrowverse.
7. OVERPOWERED: THE THINKER
Within the pantheon of DC characters, the Thinker is relatively low on the mindshare ladder — lower than D-list levels of low. On paper, he’s one of the Flash’s campier rogues. In both Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis continuities, the villain dons “Thinking Cap,” which greatly enhances his intelligence. New 52 revamps the character in a manner The Flash has evidently borrowed from.
With his extraordinary intelligence, the New 52 version of the Thinker takes genius into a different stratosphere, as he’s capable of anticipating future events. In The Flash, the villain is similarly powerful, but the show adds a new wrinkle — his brainpower is used for tactical purposes, as well. Predicting outcomes, then, is no longer exclusive to determining the future; this particular skill is now used to ensure the Thinker can craft future events to his liking.
6. UNDERWHELMING: RED TORNADO
Red Tornado debuts in the Arrowverse as a villain-of-the-week during Supergirl’s pilot season. As an experiment of T.O. Morrow’s, he and Supergirl are pit against one another to test the android’s strengths and weaknesses. Compared to his various comic book and animated depictions, it seems Supergirl’s version of the android is fairly weak.
Some of Red Tornado’s standard powers faithfully make it to live-action — flight, missile projection, self-preservation, tornado generation and invisibility. However, a few of the android’s defensive abilities are noticeably absent — force field generation and deflection in particular. It’s possible these aspects of the character are lacking because this Red Tornado is technically first generation hardware. Interestingly, Earth-X’s Red Tornado, who appears during the “Crisis on Earth-X” event, has a comparably limited power-set.
5. OVERPOWERED: DAMIEN DARHK
H.I.V.E. connections aside, nothing about the Damien Darhk introduced as Arrow’s season four big bad even remotely resembles the villain depicted in the comics. An apparent intellectual and criminal mastermind, comic book Damien is primarily a mysterious figure who constantly keeps government investigators on their toes. Because he only features as a foe in a handful of Teen Titan books in the late ’90s, source material for development of the ominous figure was rather limited when the Arrowverse brought him to the small screen.
Thus, a magic wielding, former League of Assassins member was born in Arrow’s version of Damien Darhk. He’s also much older in this iteration, is somewhat of an immortal, and bears a myriad of other abilities that are too numerous to list, such as enhancements in strength, advanced combat abilities and telekinesis.
4. UNDERWHELMING: GORILLA GRODD
It may seem as though fan-favorite Arrowverse staple Gorilla Grodd is overpowered in his appearances on The Flash, and his recent inclusion in a Legends of Tomorrow episode. However, there are several fascinating powers the psionic simian possesses in the comics that have yet to be translated for his live-action adaptation. Some are minimal and not exactly worth the extra effort necessary to make them work (i.e., the ability to control animals). Yet, there are other limitations also related to his telepathic abilities.
The primary use of Grodd’s telepathy has been in subjecting human targets to mind control, but a few iterations feature his being able to project energy. One aspect conspicuously nonexistent in The CW version is Grodd’s penchant for tortuously demonstrating via telepathy how he’ll kill his victims before actually enacting the deed.
3. OVERPOWERED: REVERSE-FLASH
Admittedly, The Flash’s Reverse-Flash appears to be relatively on par with the Speedster as he’s depicted in the comics. For a villain who doesn’t quite engender devastation on a cosmic scale, like a Darkseid or Anti-Monitor, the Reverse-Flash is still capable of wreaking havoc that can prove ruinous to the world or a particular timeline… or several timelines.
In the Arrowverse, Eobard Thawne plays an infinitely larger role than any he’s had in past incarnations. Seriously, he’s been a persistent force since he was introduced as the main villain in The Flash’s first season. Much of what makes this Reverse-Flash overpowered is his incessant tampering with matters big and small throughout the multiverse, completely in disregard of the rules Speedsters are meant to follow. Based on his Earth-X ventures, it seems even Black Flash, whom Thawne once greatly feared, can’t slow him down.
2. UNDERWHELMING: DEATHSTROKE
Unlike the source material from which he’s derived, Arrow’s Deathstroke isn’t a medically enhanced super soldier. In fact, when Slade Wilson debuts, he’s a reasonably average mercenary simply trying to escape an abnormally difficult situation. The Mirakuru injection that’s intended to save his life is what gives him superhuman strength and durability, but the enhancements are only temporary.
Due to how he obtains his abilities and the impermanence of them, Deathstroke isn’t half as powerful as he is in the comics. As he exists now in the Arrowverse, post-Mirakuru recovery, Slade can no longer regenerate to heal; enhancements such as strength, durability and sensory awareness are gone as well. These alterations have made his characterization all the more compelling, grounding him in a fashion that may have come across as otherwise artificial.
1. OVERPOWERED: ZOOM
The Flash’s sophomore effort took the idea of Hunter Zolomon and blew the lid off of expectations. Removing the villain from the Reverse-Flash legacy line that encompasses him in the comics and making him an ominous Earth-2 figure, the Arrowverse crafts a terrifying representation of speed at its most evil. Zolomon’s obsession with speed and obtaining unparalleled power pushes his capabilities into a overdrive; even when he’s not moving electricity can often be seen rapidly surging through him.
Even seemingly menial tasks, relative to Speedsters, are rendered exclusive to this incarnation of Zoom; one example is evident in his effortlessly traveling between dimensions. Of course, any discussion of the Arrowverse’s Zoom also warrants mention of Black Flash, a demonic agent of the Speed Force sent to punish errant Speedsters. In this role, the character is infinitely more formidable, capable of killing Speedsters on contact.
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