10 DC characters the Arrowverse did better than the DCEU, ranked

Plenty of DC characters popped up in both the DCEU and the Arrowverse over the years, but the movies struggled to keep up with these TV icons.
Arrow -- "Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Four" -- Image Number: AR808c_0501ra.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Ezra Miller as Barry Allen and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash -- Photo: Jeff Weddell/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Arrow -- "Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Four" -- Image Number: AR808c_0501ra.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Ezra Miller as Barry Allen and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash -- Photo: Jeff Weddell/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

2023 was the end of many eras for DC shared universes. The release of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom in December brought about an end to the cinematic world of DC characters known as the DC Extended Universe, while the release of The Flash's ninth and final season brought closure to The CW's 11-year-long Arrowverse.

It all has to do with the relaunch of the characters' journeys on the big screen as DC Studios is launching a new single DC Universe that will take place across film and television. It's unfortunate because there were some phenomenal properties cut short just for the sake of the company's desire to be like Marvel, but it does present audiences with a chance to reflect on both the DCEU and the Arrowverse and analyze which one had the better journey.

But it isn't really a debate if we're honest. The Arrowverse shows may have had a much lower budget than the 15+ DCEU movies, but it also possessed more coherent writing and stronger portrayals of various DC characters. It also adapted storylines much better too, with its portrayals of stories such as The Flash's rise and the union of the Justice League all being far better received than their cinematic adaptations.

With that in mind, let's take this opportunity to reflect on both shared universes and look at some of the characters that the Arrowverse did better than the DCEU.

Arrowverse, Black Canary
Arrow -- "Starling City" -- Image Number: AR801b_0078b.jpg -- Pictured: Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance/Black Siren -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

10. Black Canary

The DCEU admittedly had a pretty great version of Black Canary. Jurnee Smollett played her in her - thus far - only appearance in the franchise when she appeared in Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn). She was awesome in the role, performing as Black Mask's singer and bodyguard before eventually becoming a hero. The only problem was that she didn't have enough focus in the movie, with the film's decision to prioritize Harley Quinn hurting the actual Birds of Prey.

The Arrowverse had its ups and downs with the character, mostly because Arrow couldn't figure out who it wanted to hold the mantle. We're going with Dinah Laurel Lance since she's the comic-accurate version, and she definitely took us on an emotional rollercoaster on the show. Earth-1 Laurel was a very authentic character, starting off as a lawyer fighting the criminals in the courtroom before the loss of her sister Sara (the original Canary) inspired her to become the Black Canary. While poor creative choices eventually robbed her of the triumphant run as the character she deserved, the Earth-2 version of Laurel was introduced soon afterwards and that was when they finally got it right.

The former villain-turned-Earth-2-Black-Canary is easily the best live-action adaptation of the character thus far. She's edgy, hard-hitting, and has that iconic Canary Cry ability to incapacitate her opponents at any given moment. She also had three seasons to evolve from evil villain to one of Star City's greatest heroes, making her the most well-rounded and compelling iteration of Black Canary yet. And Katie Cassidy's effortless performance made her such an intriguing character.

Deathstroke, Arrowverse, DCEU
Arrow -- "Lian Yu" -- Image AR523a_0609b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Deathstroke and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

9. Deathstroke

Like Black Canary, the biggest (and only real) issue with the DCEU's portrayal of Deathstroke was the lack of screentime that he had. The suit looked great, the character had great screen presence, and they even had the awesome Joe Manganiello bring him to life (hence the strong screen presence). But he was only on-screen for a mere post-credits scene, teasing fans with what could have been in a movie that never was. He was supposed to be the villain of a Ben Affleck Batman movie, but it wasn't to be.

On the other hand, Arrow had two seasons to build up Slade Wilson's backstory, introducing us to him as a friend and ally of Oliver Queen's on Lian Yu before he was driven crazy by both loss and the Mirakuru strength-enhancing drug. He then resurfaced in Starling City to target The Arrow, vowing to take everything from his former friend until Oliver ultimately stopped him.

The second season of Arrow remains the show's greatest season, and this is largely the reason why. It was an exhilarating watch that never ever faltered, and Manu Bennett's performance as Deathstroke was thoroughly compelling and always terrifying. He has etched his place in history as the best live-action portrayal of the character yet.

There was so much potential in the DCEU's Deathstroke but it just wasn't to be. Even if it was, he would have had a hard time outshining the Arrowverse's positively exquisite adaptation.

8. Henry Allen

Here we have another character that the DCEU has actually done a pretty great job with. Aside from the fact that he had to be recast at one point, his characterization has been strong and the bond between him and his son Barry - who has been trying to free him from prison - has been a compelling emotional core of The Flash's big screen story. Furthermore, both Billy Crudup and Ron Livingston delivered strong emotional performances with very limited screentime.

That said, the Arrowverse's interpretation of the character was far stronger. Of course, The Flash TV series had much more time to explore the character's backstory, his wrongful imprisonment, the loss he felt over the death of his wife Nora, and the pride he felt for his son Barry, but Henry wasn't a regular character on the show; and yet we all loved seeing him appear on our screens. The writing was nuanced and John Wesley Shipp's warm performance made it easy to love him.

If we're being totally honest, The Flash made a huge mistake killing Henry off. It might have made for a truly shocking moment that drove Barry's arc forward in the moment, but the show suffered long-term without him. And any time he got to reappear via flashbacks or time-travel, we were always happy to see him. That's how you know they did a good job with the character.

Lex Luthor, Arrowverse, Supergirl
Supergirl -- “The Last Gauntlet” -- Image Number: SPG619fg_0042r -- Pictured: Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

7. Lex Luthor

While the DCEU itself was a divisive franchise, one character that the vast majority of fans feel was a complete misfire was Lex Luthor. Jesse Eisenberg played the role and while he was certainly intriguing in action, the quirky, eccentric and gleefully unhinged character was absolutely nothing like Lex Luthor. Make no mistake about it, Eisenberg was thrilling to watch in the role, but all his performance managed to show us was how great a Riddler or Joker he would be. The writing here for Lex was completely wrong, and that resulted in his unusual characterization.

Ironically, fans raised some eyebrows when it was announced that comedy legend Jon Cryer would be playing Lex Luthor on Supergirl, but all it took was one scene to see that he was absolutely perfect for the role. Cryer approached the role with intensity, ensuring that Lex was commanding, intimidating, and worthy of the reputation that the show had given him in its various namedrops over the three previous seasons.

However, he could also be whimsical and unhinged in a way that still felt very in-like with who Lex was (look no further than the scene where he commands the Luthor Mansion's security systems like a music conductor to attack the officers coming his way). He was arrogant, vindictive, and self-serving as they come; all qualities associated with the Lex Luthor in the comics.

As we're going to be referencing Arrowverse offshoot Superman and Lois on this list multiple times, it would be remiss of me to overlook Michael Cudlitz's performance as Lex Luthor. He's much more physically imposing than his counterparts and far more intimidating too, which makes sense considering he had spent 20 years in prison. He's very different from the Supergirl version but there is more than enough recognizable Lex Luthor qualities in there. And Cudlitz is nothing short of chilling in the role.

Supergirl, Arrowverse, J'onn J'onzz
Supergirl -- “Rebirth” -- Image Number: SPG520B_0343r -- Pictured: David Harewood as Hank Henshaw/J'onn J'onzz -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

6. Martian Manhunter

It feels a little odd to include Martian Manhunter on this list since he never actually revealed himself in any of the mainstream DCEU movies. The big revelation took place in Zack Snyder's Justice League when Secretary of Defense Calvin Swanwick showed his true form. Seeing J'onn J'onzz standing before Bruce Wayne really was a sight to behold, and the fact that he had been hiding in plain sight all along made it that much more fulfilling.

Still though, that can't compare to the version we met on Supergirl. Also hiding in plain sight, DEO Director Hank Henshaw revealed himself to be the Martian Manhunter in the show's first season, establishing a father-daughter bond with Alex Danvers. From that moment on, J'onn became an integral part of the show, with the Arrowverse series regularly exploring his Martian backstory, relationship with the White Martians and, perhaps most importantly, the bonds he formed with those around him.

J'onn was a constant on Supergirl; a paragon of integrity who the Girl of Steel relied on as a voice of reason, a moral compass. It was a loyal adaptation of the character that honored the comics and the world of the show, modifying aspects of him for television but never losing the heart that made him who he was. David Harewood was a force-to-be-reckoned with on-screen, delivering our most definitive adaptation of the character thus far. And we're so thankful we got to see him tackle such an incredible role.

Iris West, The Flash, Arrowverse
The Flash -- "Phantoms" -- Image Number: FLA809b_0041r.jpg -- Pictured: Candice Patton as Iris West-Allen -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- (C) 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights ReservedPhoto Credit: Bettina Strauss /

5. Iris West

Iris West is The Flash's lightning rod; a staple of his life and a moral compass that guides him back home from the most outlandish of occurrences (which is basically every day of the week in Central City). You won't find a stronger representation of that than the Arrowverse's.

In The Flash TV series, Iris is a focal point of the ongoings in Central City, not just as Barry's wife and lightning rod, but as an accomplished reporter and editor of the esteemed Central City Citizen. The first episode teases much of the iconic future that awaits her, and she lives up to that in each and every season. Candice Patton is a gem on the show, delivering some of the strongest performances in its nine-season history and adding to the legacy of one of DC's most pivotal characters.

Unfortunately, she wasn't given anywhere near the level of love that she deserved on the big screen. Kiersey Clemons is a phenomenal actress (look no further than her awesome performance in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters), but the DCEU franchise gave her very little to work with. From deleting her scene from the theatrical cut of Justice League to the limited role she actually had in the movie, she didn't have enough to do, and that just never felt worthy of Iris West. There was definitely potential in Clemons' performance but the material just wasn't there in the script.

TV's Iris, however; she has gone down in history as a game-changer and we're eternally grateful to everyone involved in bringing her to life.

Supergirl, Arrowverse
Supergirl -- "The Martian Chronicles" -- Image SPG211b_0140 -- Pictured: Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved /

4. Supergirl

Supergirl was a fixture of the small screen for close to a decade when the CBS/CW series ran from 2015 to 2021. Melissa Benoist's Girl of Steel was a game-changer, packing an emotional punch every time she was on-screen and quickly becoming the definitive version of the character. She inspired hope, compassion, and love no matter where she went, making audiences fall in love with her along the way.

For the longest time, the character didn't exist in the DCEU. It wasn't until 2023's The Flash movie that she arrived, and it was an alternate timeline version. Portrayed by Sasha Calle, she helped Ezra Miller's Scarlet Speedster and Michael Keaton's Batman battle Zod's army and protect the world from an alien invasion.

The DCEU portrayal of Supergirl was really good, and Calle was a force on-screen as viewers longed to know more about the broodier adaptation of the character. However, she didn't have enough screentime in the film and the death of the DCEU has ensured that we won't see her again - which is a shame because the potential was there.

On the other hand, Melissa Benoist defined the character for a whole new generation, introducing us to a Kara Zor-El for a modern audience and exploring her story for six whole seasons. While that certainly gives the Arrowverse portrayal a significant advantage, Supergirl's Supergirl was still a much stronger (and more enjoyable) version of the character - one that will be remembered for generations to come.

Lois Lane, Arrowverse, DCEU
Superman & Lois -- "Through The Valley of Death" -- Image Number: SML112a_0174r.jpg -- Pictured: Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved /

3. Lois Lane

That brings us to the Superman and Lois of it all. Technically, there are two versions of Lois Lane in the Arrowverse: The Earth-38/Earth-Prime/Supergirl version of the character that popped up crossovers such as Elseworlds and Crisis On Infinite Earths, and the Superman and Lois version who exists on a standalone Earth. Both of them are far superior to the DCEU's portrayal, and I say that knowing that the former of the two Lois' didn't feature on-screen all that much.

Elizabeth Tulloch has done a wonderful job as both versions of Lois. While the linear Arrowverse version didn't have much screen-time, she was very traditional Lois Lane, offering up insightful observations, quirky one-liners, and not being afraid to get to the truth (and involved in the action!). The Superman and Lois version is much more nuanced than that, having all of the above, but also have a grit, determination, and authenticity that doesn't just make Lois feel like her comic book counterpart but like a real person. It's the greatest portrayal of the character to ever make it to the screen, and Elizabeth Tulloch's performance is quite simply sublime.

Amy Adams did everything she could to make the DCEU's version of Lois Lane engaging, but the character never felt like the legendary Lois Lane, she never felt like a main character in any of the storylines she was involved in, and she lacked almost all of the character traits that Lois is renowned for. While Adams gave a heck of a performance, the material never once allowed it to feel like she was actually playing Lois Lane.

Superman and Lois, Arrowverse
Superman & Lois -- “Complications” -- Image Number: SML311a_0060r -- Pictured: Tyler Hoechlin as Superman -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

2. Superman

Like Lois Lane, the Arrowverse introduced us to two Supermen played by Tyler Hoechlin. The first arrived on Supergirl in 2016 and he was as traditionally triumphant as they come. Though the material didn't always serve him well, Hoechlin's performance was picture perfect, as he embodied the awkward dorkiness of Clark Kent with ease and nailed the toothy grin, the charm, and the heart of the Man of Steel while he was at it. He then brought all of that and more to his more nuanced take in Superman and Lois.

Henry Cavill first played Superman in 2013's Man of Steel before reprising the role in subsequent DCEU movies. To say he looked the part as Superman would be an understatement, as he was nothing short of perfection on-screen. It was the DCEU's overall moodiness that undercut his performance, preventing him from becoming the definitive version of the character. Make no mistake about it; he was excellent, delivering a more subdued performance as Clark that was subtle in nature and yet understood the character's awkwardness. It was the Superman where everything went wrong, because the franchise's attempt to produce a modern Superman robbed him of all the qualities that made him, well, Superman. He was broody almost all of the time and lacked the triumphant charm that has become the Man of Steel's most timeless quality.

If you want a modern Superman with an air of seriousness about him, look no further than Superman and Lois. He's a veteran hero on that show, worn down by 20 years of heroics, but he's still inspired to fight the good fight every day, without ever losing the heart that makes him Superman. He's a husband, a father, and a hero all at the same time, and he's still inherently Superman. This is how you bring a classic character into the future without losing what made him so great in the past. And that - along with Hoechlin's career-defining performance - has made this version of the character one of the best to ever appear on the screen.

Arrowverse, The Flash
Arrow -- "Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Four" -- Image Number: AR808c_0143r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Ezra Miller as Barry Allen and Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash -- Photo: Jeff Weddell/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

1. The Flash

That brings us to the one that started this whole debate; the moment we all realized that the DCEU and the Arrowverse would take two separate paths: The Flash.

When Ezra Miller was cast as the Scarlet Speedster in the DCEU just days after the series premiere of The Flash on The CW, fans were outraged because it meant that the star of the show, Grant Gustin, wouldn't reprise the role in the movies. It implied that the show wasn't as important as the universe they were building on the big screen; my oh my, how ironic it is to look back on that after a decade.

2023 saw the long-awaited release of The Flash movie. It also saw the series finale of The Flash TV series air on The CW. One was marred in controversy and ultimately underperformed at the box office, and the other bowed out after an incredibly successful nine-season run. Which one do you think was more important to the character's legacy?

While Miller's performance as the DCEU version of Barry Allen was fun and enjoyable, the DCEU never really treated the character like the main event hero he could have been. The actor was very impressive in The Flash itself, but the franchise's version of the character is still pretty divisive and in-your-face, and he didn't have the same levels of nuance or character development that his TV counterpart did.

Grant Gustin, on the other hand, completely redefined the Scarlet Speedster, introducing mainstream audiences to him and bringing them along for new adventures each and every week via their own TV screens. There was such richness to the way he played Barry Allen and (for the vast majority of the show's run) he had much stronger material to work with as well, showcasing the depth of the character and the one thing that always drove him: Heart.

Gustin's portrayal is now widely recognized as the best version of The Flash and it's going to be a long time before that ever changes. Honestly, it probably never will. He is, was, and always will be The Flash.

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