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[OPINION] From Page to Stage: The Arrowverse and the Comics it Came From

16 Jul 2019

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Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpoilerTV.

The CW's Arrowverse, which includes Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow (plus the upcoming Batwoman), has been a popular addition to the television landscape, especially its annual crossover event. Next season's crossover has been announced as "Crisis on Infinite Earths," a DC Comics event that reshaped the status quo of the multiverse at the time of its publication. While the Arrowverse's version is almost guaranteed to be different (SPOILER ALERT FOR DECADES OLD COMICS!!! - Barry and Kara aren't getting killed off since they lead their own shows, and if they do they won't stay dead) there still may be repercussions for each individual show going forward. This is a good time to look back on the shows and see how they compare to the comics that originated the characters.

The thing about comics, however, is that there are decades of stories with different writers, editors and artists who put their own spin on the characters. There are Elseworlds and the multiverse and tie ins with movies and television shows. Sometimes characters have their own title, sometimes they don't, sometimes they're in two different titles at the same time doing totally different things. It can be a lot to keep track of.

This article is going to narrow down the comparisons between the shows and the comics to one question: how well does the show reflect the core of the corresponding comic book? That core might be tricky to define, but hopefully this piece will provide good arguments for a particular viewpoint. And if not, don't feel shy about sharing your own views in the comments below.

First up, the namesake of the Arrowverse and entering its eighth and final season this fall,


Let's be honest with ourselves here: Arrow is a Batman show. According to a description of the show when it first premiered, "As Oliver reconnects with those closest to him, he secretly creates the persona of Arrow - a vigilante - to right the wrongs of his family, fight the ills of society, and restore Starling City to its former glory."

That's Batman, y'all.

That's not to say that Arrow isn't an entertaining show. There have been ups and downs but cool fight sequences and compelling characters have helped cover up some questionable writing choices over the years. And the comics version of Oliver Queen, known as Green Arrow, has been very Batman-like for much of his history, so it's not surprising that the show would do the same.

But when I think of the Green Arrow I think of the character that's more Robin Hood than dark knight, standing up for the poor and progressive ideals. The character description on the DC Comics website illustrates this:

"A modern-day Robin Hood, he constantly fights for the little guy as a crusading symbol for revolution."

The Dennis O'Neil/Neal Adams run in the 1970s where Green Arrow teams up with Green Lantern best illustrates this view of the character. Paired up with Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the two characters have opposing viewpoints: Hal is all about law and order while Oliver looks to help the underdog. During this run Oliver is called a beatnik and ends up at a monastery after accidentally killing someone (don't worry, the monks encourage him to NOT give up violence). These stories also give Oliver a more distinct, individual personality that helped to make him different from Batman.

Arrow only has ten episodes left to cover Crisis and whatever other stories they have to finish up. But there have been tantalizing hints of Diggle as a Green Lantern and while a Green Arrow/Green Lantern team up seems like a long shot on the show at this point, seeing those two characters together in live action would be fun.

Next up is the character (or characters) knows as,

The Flash:

When I went looking for official descriptions of The Flash I was sort of surprised to find this from DC Comics:

"Three men have held the title of "The Fastest Man Alive"—Jay Garrick, Barry Allen and Wally West. Each of them redefined the word "hero.""

Each generation has a Flash that they consider their own and it seems like DC doesn't want to make anyone mad by declaring Jay, Barry or Wally as the one true Flash (though, where is Bart Allen?). While the show focuses on Barry Allen and his superheroing it's also featured Jay and Wally, as Earth-3 Flash and Kid Flash, respectively, so it doesn't ignore the history of the character. One standout episode is season four's fifteenth episode, "Enter Flashtime," which had Jay, Barry, and Jesse Quick trying to save Central City from a nuclear bomb. It was fun to see the three speedsters work together and was a reminder that the Flash is a superhero that may eclipse the person underneath the mask.

"Flashpoint" is probably the best known Flash comics story, and it should be recommended reading for any fan of DC Comics. The show touched upon it but the comic is so much more rich for how it portrayed the other heroes (that image of Kal-El is seared into my brain for eternity). But at its core it's a Barry Allen story and a fine one at that.

With "Crisis" coming next season I'm hoping for more multiverse twists which would fit right in with the history of The Flash.

The third entry in this article focuses on the Last Daughter of Krypton (if you don't count all those other Kryptonians floating around in space),


The Supergirl television show has had a turbulent history. It has switched networks from CBS in its first season to The CW in its second and subsequent seasons. It has also had backstage drama that almost certainly has affected the storytelling in seasons two and three. Throughout all the upheaval the show has remained focused on Kara Zor-El, Kryptonian refugee turned superhero. The writing seemed to have settled for the just-concluded fourth season, which has arguably been the best of the series.

The comic character of Kara has also had her ups and downs, including being killed off for twenty years in DC Comics continuity. The official description of Supergirl on the DC Comics website is kind of sad:

"A lonely girl with astounding might, she struggles to find her identity on her new reluctant home."

The biggest difference between the show and the comics is Kara herself. In the comic books she is usually depicted as a teenager, new to Earth after having been in the Phantom Zone for decades after escaping the destruction of Krypton with her baby cousin. The show touched on this background with a few episodes showing a young Kara adjusting to a new home, planet and family, but largely it focuses on a mid-twenties Kara. Which is fine, though at times there's the feeling of it being closer to a Superman show rather than Supergirl. The Clark Kent/Kara Danvers parallels are sometimes a bit too on the nose for me.

Those young Kara episodes give a glimpse on what the show could have been, with the episode "Midvale" a great example of how an entire show about a Kara who just arrived on Earth could have been compelling and interesting. But it probably hit a bit too close to Smallville territory, even if that approach would have been closer to the comics in tone.

I categorize Supergirl comics in two different ways: the cosmic stories and the growing up stories. The cosmic stories tend to tap into the darker side of Supergirl, with the Red Lanterns arc a great example of this. It features an angrier Kara than we've seen on the show, save for a handful of times, but one that feels natural considering her youth and past traumas.

But I'm more partial to the comic's growing up stories and one of the best examples of this is the miniseries "Supergirl: Being Super." A new to Earth Kara is adjusting to her powers and is not yet a superhero. She's getting settled on a new planet while being a teenager, which is hard enough, but then there's added tragedy which highlights that not everyone can be saved. It's heartbreaking and just when you think Kara will finally catch a break, nope, she's got even more stuff to get through.

I'm hoping that for the fifth season Supergirl continues to have flashbacks to young Kara and Alex as teenagers, if only to have a small link back to the comics.

And last but certainly not least,

Legends of Tomorrow:

Is there a Beebo comic yet? No? Call me when they come to their senses.

What's your favorite episodes of the Arrowverse? What's your favorite runs of the comics? Other thoughts or criticisms? Leave a comment below!