Welcome to the Arrowverse, where your favorite characters have been updated for television. Spanning a total of five series with Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and (sort of) Black Lightning, The CW has had an unexpected phenomenon on its hands for some time now with its blocks of superhero programming, filling a void left behind by Smallville‘s end. As with any superhero property, be it a film or television one, fans are immediately going to look at one aspect to judge the series on: the costume. Smallville made fans endure a decade of Clark Kent in leather jackets and t-shirts before hinting at the idea of a proper Superman costume for 25 minutes, but the Arrowverse couldn’t fall back on this crutch.
The suits had to be up front, and they had to be good. This created another problem though, with adapting the sensational designs of superhero costumes to television while still maintaining a coherent tone. Arrow wasn’t originally much of a superhero show, but a grounded, gritty crime drama with plenty of violence and CW-approved love stories. Those early costumes look like suits you could make yourself, but as time went on the shows evolved to feature more complex and dynamic looks. Some of these looks are almost straight out of the comics, while others have strayed in order to create more dynamic styles. With the Arrowverse nearly eight years old, we’ve now gotten a solid mix of costumes, with many looking better than their comic book counterparts, while others should have gone back to the drawing board for another pass.
20 WORSE: WILD DOG
The Arrowverse absolutely nailed Wild Dog for Arrow’s fifth season premiere. Renee turned up wearing the classic Wild Dog suit, with a hockey mask and blue jersey. But with Arrow‘s sixth season came upgrades for the team, and also came an upgraded Wild Dog outfit.
Renee was no longer donning his real-world costume, but now a heavily armored affair and helmet. The look was the antithesis of what the Wild Dog character was created to be, and felt like a forced and awkward change. He fit in more with many of the Arrowverse’s characters, but it felt like it came at the cost of his own character.
19 BETTER: RAGMAN
Ragman’s Arrowverse debut was a complete surprise, however, Joe Dinicol’s live-action version of Ragman proved to be an incredible addition to the on-screen universe. The suit has always been a relatively simple one, a mess of rags bound together, each rag representing the absorbed soul of an evildoer.
Sure, the Arrowverse incarnation of Ragman dropped the notion of Rory absorbing the souls of criminals, but it streamlined the idea of the rag costume, creating something closer to a cloak than the typically-depicted hooded cape the character wears in the comics. The end result was something that looked practical while still being fantastic.
18 WORSE: BLACK CANARY
When Sara Lance was re-introduced in Arrow’s second season as The Canary, we got what may have been the best adaptation of the Black Canary look on television. Since then, though, attempts to update the look for other alter egos have fallen short in spectacular fashion.
To start with, look no further than Laurel’s Black Canary costume, an awkward leather get-up that never seemed to mesh well with the Black Canary gimmick they were going for. Later updates, such as Dinah Drake’s outfit or Earth-2’s Laurel as Black Siren got closer to the look, but none of them ever really feel like a proper Black Canary.
17 BETTER: MON-EL
The best Arrowverse costumes are the ones that stay the closest to their source material, making only small changes to the original design. The best example of this may actually be on Supergirl, which hit The CW with a bang introducing Mon-El in Season 2.
Mon-El would not receive a proper costume until Season 3 when it was revealed he had been stranded in the future and joined the Legion of Super-Heroes. The suit is an update of his classic red jumpsuit look, replaced with a design closer to Superman’s and breaking up the traditionally solid red bodysuit with blue vents on the side of the torso.
16 WORSE: THE ATOM
The Atom didn’t feel like a character who would fit in with the Arrowverse and attempts to force him in really hurt the character. Though he would eventually gain the ability to shrink on Legends of Tomorrow, his earliest appearances on Arrow were barely recognizable.
The A.T.O.M. is an awkward, clunky suit of armor, betraying the sleek bodysuit of the comics. While it may add to the grounded realism Arrow was going for, it felt like the polar opposite of Ray Palmer. Thought the character is a fan-favorite now thanks to his character getting room to breathe on Legends of Tomorrow, he’s still heralded as something of an Iron Man pastiche.
15 BETTER: DEATHSTROKE
Deathstroke’s Arrowverse shouldn’t work. It ticks all the boxes for a bad live-action costume. It’s awkward, bulky, clunky. It looks like it doesn’t necessarily fit correctly. It obscures far too much of actor Manu Bennett, and while it has the same real-world approach as other costumes, it doesn’t look like it meshes with the other styles on the same shows.
But Deathstroke somehow manages to work. The military style tactical gear lends a new level to the character, who in the comics was always depicted in sleek, more traditional attire, including giant, cuffed boots and an ornate sword. Arrow‘s costume creators were able to perfectly blend the traditional Deathstroke look with military garb and made something truly memorable.
14 WORSE: CITIZEN STEEL
Citizen Steel was a surprise favorite member of the 2007 comics relaunch of Justice Society of America. With the second season of Legends of Tomorrow, DC pulled the character out of the dustbin, making Nathanial Heywood a central member of the band of time traveling misfits and one of the Arrowverse’s first true legacy heroes.
Heywood would eventually gain the ability to transform into living steel, an interpretation of his comics counterparts uncontrollable enhanced strength and invulnerability. He would eventually get a costume, but even the team behind Legends must know it’s a bad look. This awkward, linebacker styled costume rarely appears, even when other characters are in full costume.
13 BETTER: HAWKMAN
Hawkman and Hawkgirl made their first live-action appearance in decades across The Flash and Arrow as part of the mid-season build to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Hawkman has always had a costume that didn’t feel like it would translate well to live-action, be it his traditional pants and bare chest look or his ‘90s black leather and metal wings look.
For the Arrowverse, they went a different direction, decking Hawkman out in simple, brown leather attire. It feels simple, obvious, almost trite. But it works, as a character who has had as many different looks and as little exposure as Hawkman has, the costume’s simplicity makes it stand out on the merits of the characterization instead.
12 WORSE: THE FLASH
It’s a pretty rough gig adapting The Flash’s look in a medium other than comics. The ’90s put John Wesley Shipp in a massive, foam rubber costume that looked spectacular, but cost so much it was a factor in the show’s cancellation. Justice League went for a more armored look that was honestly kind of messy. And for the Arrowverse, they originally went with a leather and spandex combo.
Look, Barry’s costumes are…fine. They’re awkward, but they keep getting better. With season 5, Barry finally got a new suit that went a long way to making his outfit look truly spectacular, though it sadly kept the same giant, leather cowl that triples the size of Grant Gustin’s head.
11 BETTER: SUPERMAN
For Supergirl‘s first season, the team worked hard to make sure you never really got a good look at Superman. He was always a presence, but never actually there, only seen from behind or as an obscured shadow. Naturally, it was a huge relief when he was introduced as a living, breathing character for Supergirl‘s move to The CW.
The Superman of the Arrowverse absolutely looks the part, with a simplified take on the modern costume. The suit is even an upgrade of the expensive Man of Steel costume, with brighter colors, a simplified design (including a nice, red belt to break up the monotony of the blue torso) and, most importantly, a Superman who actually smiles once in a while.
10 WORSE: BLACK LIGHTNING
Black Lightning is a huge hit, but his tailor should be fired. The suit is another attempt to make a costume look grounded (no pun intended) that loses too much of what made the original design so iconic.
Jefferson Pierce’s TV costume is a thick, bulky affair, more akin to armor than spandex. The glowing lightning bolts look great on screen, but you can tell the suit is restrictive, something even Cress Williams has touched on in interviews. The worst part of this, however, is how great the classic Black Lightning suit looks in flashbacks during the first season!
9 BETTER: MARTIAN MANHUNTER
J’onn J’onnz was the greatest surprise of Supergirl‘s first season, but adapting the character to TV wasn’t an easy thing. His classic comic book costume is far from great, despite being treasured by true-blue fans. With a giant blue cape complementing blue trunks and a red criss-cross of chest straps, it’s not a dynamic look for comics or live action.
The look has been updated a few times, keeping the blue color scheme and crossed red straps across the chest. For Supergirl, a lightly armored look was added while retaining the feel of the original. It took three tries to get a Martian Manhunter this good in live-action that actually looked like the character, and it was well worth the wait.
8 WORSE: MR. TERRIFIC
Some looks just aren’t meant for real life. The updated Mr. Terrific, first debuting in an issue of The Spectre in 1997, Michael Holt has been a cornerstone of the DC Universe ever since, and one of the flagship characters going into The New 52. Arrow introduced him early in Season 4 as Curtis Holt, slowly transitioning him to Mr. Terrific the next year.
For better or for worse, the Arrowverse’s Terrific is depicted as awkward to the point of being a liability. And while the comic interpretation of Terrific’s costume, with a T-shaped mask and Fair Play jacket, has become instantly recognizable, the suit just doesn’t hold up in live-action.
7 BETTER: ARSENAL
A lot of comic books fans have more or less grown up with Roy Harper as a mainstay in DC Comics. He’s had an exciting journey, starting off as Green Arrow’s energetic ward Speedy until falling into drugs and despair, coming out the other side as Arsenal and eventually becoming Red Arrow.
We only briefly saw Roy as Red Arrow, but his Arrowverse look as Arsenal is a great approximation of what that suit would have become. Roy’s look, later adapted for Thea under the Speedy codename, had a great look to it. A simple, dark red outfit with highlight lacing and straps, as well as black highlights, give Roy perhaps the best outfit in the entire Arrowverse.
6 WORSE: PROMETHEUS
In the Arrowverse, Prometheus is a shade of his comic book self. The comic version, with its mix of cartoony sensibility and an inexplicably knight-like helmet, rivaled the JLA for years. While the name was adapted for the Arrowverse, though, he was ultimately something far less.
Prometheus wore black garb that was a cross between the League of Assassins’ attire and Oliver’s own gear. It didn’t really stand out and seemed to only exist to obscure his identity for a reveal. There also was the weakest aspect of Prometheus, with the out of nowhere reveal that Adrian Chase was the villain.
5 BETTER: GREEN ARROW
Green Arrow’s costumes in the comics have always stuck to a fairly straightforward look. Simple, green costumes, accompanied by a hood or a silly hat of some sort, with a splash of brown here and there to accentuate the color scheme. The character went with green leather for his Arrowverse debut, and it became, simply, iconic.
The first look fit the Arrowverse’s street-level theme, but as the series progressed he would eventually come into a more superheroic-looking costume. The look eschewed the more simple designs of previous suits, and it paid off in spades with a visually interesting design. The look went over so well that it even wound up influencing the comics’ “Rebirth” designs of the character.
4 WORSE: HOURMAN
Fans got a pretty big surprise with the Legends of Tomorrow finale when the team was greeted by the surprise arrival of legendary DC character Hourman. Portrayed by Suits alum Patrick J. Adams, the character was a big deal for an arrival, even if ultimately his role was to be grumpy for half an episode before meeting his end at the hands of Reverse-Flash.
Hourman has never had much of a bombastic costume, but it’s always been a look uniquely his own. For Legends, this was streamlined even more, to wearing black leather with some subtle red highlights on the bracers, and a hooded cape. It’s a fairly generic affair, and if not for the giant hourglass belt buckle, it could be anyone.
3 BETTER: REVERSE-FLASH
The costume of Reverse-Flash has always been a very simple one. The original version was the inversion of Barry’s colors, with a yellow bodysuit and red boots and highlights. With the first season of The Flash on The CW, Reverse-Flash quickly was established as a central threat, and his iconic costume came with him.
For TV, the suit is tweaked, but the changes work for the best. The suit is notably not Barry’s, with a thicker, more detailed material that make the suit look bigger. The suit also drops the solid yellow scheme, with the forearms and the lower body having strong, black highlighting to give the costume a dashingly unique look.
2 WORSE: JAY GARRICK
Sure, we got the “classic” Jay Garrick costume early on in The Flash‘s second season. But that was worn by the duplicitous Hunter Zolomon, who was masquerading as the captive Jay. When we finally met the real Jay Garrick, he’d never even seen the World War II-era helmet Zolomon had added to the costume!
The updated Garrick’s costume is another instance of a suit that looks fine but doesn’t feel like the character we know and love. The generic superhero costume doesn’t scream Jay Garrick at all, and if he hadn’t been persuaded to keep the classic helmet, you’d probably not recognize him in the first place.
1 BETTER: SUPERGIRL
Supergirl has gone through a lot of changes over the years, with her costume being almost constantly updated to reflect changing fashion senses. Originally debuting in a variant of her cousin’s costume but with a skirt, she’s gone on to wear a billowing top and ‘80s headband, a mid-riff exposing ultra-chic ‘90s number or the more alien looking New 52 look.
With her transition to The CW, the producers went for the classic look with some slight tweaks. She’s in the traditional long-sleeved, skirted costume, but with a much darker tone, and ditching the traditional yellow backing of the S-shield for a gold outline. The look’s subtle changes work great for the small screen, instantly classic without looking goofy.Via this site