Why The CW's DC Universe Doesn't Need To Stick To The Comic Books

barry allen flash oliver queen arrow

Comic shows are all the rage right now, and comic fans are getting to see some of their favorites brought from page to screen. A lot of these shows take some pretty extreme liberties with the source material, however, and some characters end up barely resembling their comic counterparts. The CW will soon be the home of four DC TV projects: Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. Executive producer Marc Guggenheim - who works on both Arrow and Legends - had this to say about why The CW's superhero series can go their own way:

My favorite fans of the shows are the people who are not comic book fans. The truth of the matter is that a wildly successful comic book today sells 80,000 copies, but 80,000 viewers does not keep any show on the air. None of these shows exist without people who are not fans of the comics. We're not burying you in backstory and the minutiae of who these characters are.

The CW may be one of the smallest non-cable networks, but it definitely requires more than 80,000 viewers to justify the expense and effort of a show. Even if all of the comic fans of a current title tuned in on a weekly basis, the ratings wouldn't be enough for the shows of the Flarrow-verse. Besides, most of the characters starring in DC TV shows on The CW have been around for decades of reboots and retoolings in comic lore. If the shows wanted to follow comics exactly, the shows wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. There are an awful lot of comic canons to choose from for each hero.

Three of the four DC TV shows that will air on The CW this fall have been presented as origin stories. The opportunity for Marc Guggenheim and Co. to take these legendary characters in new directions means that comic fans and newcomers alike have the chance to see brand new stories as they unfold. Ongoing TV shows are always evolving; what would Arrow be today if the original Team Arrow had never formed? Is The Flash any worse for introducing a Wally West who is only a few years younger than Barry? What harm has been done to Supergirl by incorporating James Olsen as a main character? What would Legends be if Arrow hadn't created its own proto-Black Canary in Sara Lance? The ratings that are extremely impressive by CW standards are proof that taking this version of the DC Universe in a fresh direction works for viewers, no matter what their comic background.

Of course, Legends of Tomorrow does look to be delving more deeply into comic lore with the Justice Society of America for Season 2, and Season 3 of The Flash will be tackling the Flashpoint story that changed all of DC Comics. Still, Marc Guggenheim's reveal to Collider about the importance of non-comic fans tuning in means that all four shows can really go in any direction moving forward. Viewers who never knew the difference between Green Arrow and Green Lantern until a few years ago can still expect a show that doesn't require a background in the source material.

The DC Universe will be back on The CW when The Flash premieres its third season on Tuesday, October 4 at 8 p.m. ET. Check out our fall TV premiere schedule to see when the other comic series will return to the airwaves in the near future.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.