If you've seen my article about the new shows of this season, you'll know that I'm a fan of "Arrow". I'm also a fan of most comic book based shows as long as they're decent. So, I've seen at least a little bit of probably just about every comic based tv series which has come along in the past tweny to thirty years plus the really old ones like fifties Superman, sixties Batman, and seventies Wonderwoman. So, I feel like I've got a pretty good source base to go off of to make some comparisons now. Some people might look at this and immediately say, "Well, what about Smallville?!!" Those people are dense. And probably no older than twenty. Smallville was a ridiculously superficial, overly dramatic, mostly poorly acted, show geared towards teenagers which had little or nothing to do with it's own source material. By all rights, it should never have gone past four seasons. That being said, there were some good things about it. But the creators never seemed interested in doing the comics justice or more importantly, the characterS. I emphasize the "S" there, because it wasn't as much the character of Superman/ Clark Kent which got butchered in that show, but rather every guest starring character from other parts of the DC universe. Their version of Green Arrow for example was a preppy nightmare of an excuse for the character in the comics.
That last part is the main reason I was afraid that "Arrow" would suck the big one. And although there is probably a lot more dramatic presense in the show than the comics would ever suggest, it does a good job of making this a hero driven storyline. And what's more, it makes sense at least so far. So, if you're not among the hard core Smallville fans who've possibly stopped reading this article at this point, let's move on...
Despite what may be common belief these days, there were other shows besides Smallville to come out from DC comics in recent decades. Some may recall the short lived "Birds of Prey". It was awful. You should never watch that. Moving on, there have been several shows that were so bad they never made it to the air like a recent attempt at a Wonderwoman show and a possible Dick Grayson (original Robin for those who don't know) show. Next up I think would be the "Flash" show from I think it was the late eighties or early nineties. That lasted maybe two seasons and it was okay, but they put the Flash in a muscle suit and it didn't look right and they didn't take full advantage of his powers, really only showing him running in a straight line really fast in what pretty much had to be recycled footage after one or two episodes. I enjoyed it as a kid, but it was no where near the level that "Arrow" already is in it's first season.
Many will recall "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". Now, I loved this show for a little bit as a kid. Teri Hatcher was probably the most attractive Lois Lane I'd ever seen at that point and there were some interesting things going on in that first season. However, as the show went on, it focused less on what would be realistic storylines even by comic book standards and more on the ridiculous. Also, the show dragged out the relationship between Clark and Lois seemingly even more than the comics had done in the previous sixty years. It got to be like beating a dead horse.... a dead horse that had glowing eyes, wings, and time travel powers.... because that's the kind of show this turned into. It became more about the romance and less about the fact that this was Superman. And it just didn't work. Another short lived show in the eighties was "Superboy" and it was pretty much the opposite of Smallville in that not every villain had to be the result of some weird kryptonite meteor shower and Clark was already flying around in the red and blue. And it wasn't bad for the time period, but again, I believe "Arrow" has reached higher levels at this point.
I think that covers most of the note worthy DC comic based shows of the past twentyfive years or so. That brings us to the older and some would say more iconic shows. The time period alone and the fact that there was just plain a lot less to choose from back then makes it hard to compete with these. The Superman live action series of the fifties was probably the first comic based tv series to really make an impact with a large audience. It also did the character justice for the most part given the time period. It wasn't as in depth or dramatic as "Arrow", but given the context it's hard even for me to say that "Arrow" has surpassed it or even for sure if it will.
Next up let's talk about the seventies Wonderwoman show. This thing was big for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that a lot of fans considered the star of the show, Lynda Carter, to be a huge sex symbol. Again we have to look at the time period to really understand the full appeal of this show. This was the time when women were lobbying for the right to vote, to work the same jobs and get the same pay as men. This was bra burning, sign carrying, women's lib. And here comes Wonderwoman. The guys think she's hot and the girls think she's strong and want to be like her. The show only ran three seasons, which is small compared to the six (would have probably been more) seasons Superman ran. However, you find someone who grew up in the seventies and see if they don't remember that show. So, "Arrow" would be hard pressed to measure up to Wonderwoman in a lot of respects.
Last, but not least, let's take a look at the super iconic sixties Batman show. This show was the big black eye on every true comic book fan's face for the longest time. It was so far from what the character was originally intended to be. And yet, the impact of this show was huge. I still remember seeing a documentary about the show long after it's end where a man who had moved to America from I think it was a Spanish speeking country, actually started learning English from watching Batman on tv. The bad part of the show was of course that movie makers such as the world's greatest monster, Joel Schumacher, would one day think of it as a movie template and then make their movie even more ridiculous than the show had been. But the good thing about the show was that even if they weren't the same as what was on television, kids were picking up comics again and it brought at least an interest in the character. The bottom line is that the sixties Batman show did a lot for the genre in terms of name recognition and staying power and it just can't be overlooked.
Now, "Arrow" has a few of the same problems as some of the other shows I've mentioned. For one thing, it can some times focus a bit too much on the dramatic and maybe even romantic side of things. However, so far its done a good balancing act and I can't say that about some of these other shows. Another issue may be the fact that the show is certainly not adhereing completely to the comic book take of these characters and deviating quite a bit when it comes to the central characters in the series themselves. However, this may very well be the same type of case as when Wesley Snipes first portrayed the Marvel half vampire antihero, Blade, in the movies. There were all kinds of changes with that character. However, the general public wasn't really familiar with the character before the movies. And most importantly, the changes worked for the most part. So, it ended up being for the best.... until the third movie at least. So, the same could be true for "Arrow" as long as the changes serve a purpose and are done right. The need to stay true to who Oliver Queen/Green Arrow/"The Hood" is really supposed to be. So far, I think they've done just that. So, again, if you haven't already, check out "Arrow". And if you'd like some more specifics on the show, you can check out my reviews of it here.