DC’s Legends of Tomorrow will be airing soon, and it’s got me really excited. Arrow and The Flash have brought comic book characters into the spotlight, and I am ridiculously giddy at this attempt at a team-based show. The biggest appeal for me is in the use of several characters whom we don’t see very often in media outside of comics. Since they’re not as commonly known, here’s a quick rundown on the characters we’ve seen in the trailers for the CW’s new offering.
Brandon Routh as The Atom/Ray Palmer
Brandon Routh is Ray Palmer, or the Atom, a scientist who had discovered the ability to manipulate mass by way of dwarf star matter. In comics continuity, Ray is one of the central members of the Justice League, serving as the go-to member when science is involved.
Arrow takes this one step further, kicking up the inventor persona and making him the CEO of his own company, with a powersuit that gives him his shrinking abilities as well as weaponry to give him the edge needed to fight the good fight. To be honest though, Arrow’s Atom has always felt like the writers really wanted to use Ted Kord (Blue Beetle II). I mean, come on: Scientifically-inclined, adorkably charming CEO with a superhero persona? Not to mention the several shoutouts to Kord Industries throughout Arrow.
But then, given how the Blue Beetle perpetually gets the shaft due to licensing issues, I wouldn’t be surprised if this really was meant to be Beetle, with the Atom name slapped on instead because they couldn’t get permission.
Caity Lotz as White Canary/Sarah Lance
Caity Lotz’s character, the White Canary, takes her name from a sometime-villain in the Birds of Prey comic series where the Black Canary was actually a regular protagonist. Again, though, this version is just a repackaged comic character, since Sarah Lance is still pretty much Black Canary but under another name.
One of comics continuities’ resident badass martial arts masters, the Arrowverse has her as a League of Assassins member. The original Black Canary of the series, for Legends of Tomorrow, she seems to have taken up the name “White Canary” following certain events in Arrow that has led to her sister Laurel Lance to take up the Black Canary mantle.
Victor Garber & Franz Drameh as Firestorm/Professor Martin Stein & Jefferson Jackson
The nuclear man Firestorm is notable among comic book superheroes for being made up of two people, who fuse to activate the Firestorm matrix. In comics continuity, the combination is traditionally that of Professor Stein and Ronnie Raymond. This typically had Ronnie in the ‘driver’s seat’ with Stein giving advice to the younger Ronnie in order to maximize his ability to manipulate matter on an atomic level, an ability that has him as one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe should he fully master it.
As a matter of fact, there was even a storyline where the Firestorm Matrix was actually a Fire Elemental, and Professor Stein alone was supposed to be the avatar of this power. This, while kinda cool, ultimately proved to be kind of boring so the writers brought Stein and Raymond back together.
Until they died. And then there was another Firestorm. But that’s another story.
The Arrowverse version initially has the Stein/Raymond combination, but has Ronnie eventually replaced by Jefferson Jackson, another character from the current Firestorm comics. While this Firestorm has not been shown (yet!) to have the matter-transmutation abilities his comics counterpart has, Firestorm’s still a pretty effective character, and should make for interesting moments in Legends of Tomorrow.
Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold/Leonard Snart
The Flash Rogue Captain Cold has always been an interesting character despite the goofy eskimo costume in the comics. An able leader with the street smarts necessary to keep the rest of the Rogues in check, his stolen cold gun tech gives him control over molecular motion, enabling him to slow down anything, including the Flash.
Occasionally portrayed as having a grudging respect for the Flash, The Arrowverse adaptation doesn’t seem to change much. There’s a shift, however, in the usual thuggish portrayal of Lenny to a more suave, “cold” sort of Captain Cold. Man, I can’t believe I only just saw what they did there, typing that sentence out.
Dominic Purcell as Heatwave/Mick Rory
Heatwave is another Flash Rogue whose thuggish portrayal contrasts his technical abilities, namely his in-depth knowledge of fire and pyrotechnics. A pyromaniac who channelled his obsession into committing crimes with a flamethrower, he was originally a solo act who occasionally clashed with Captain Cold, and regularly menaced the Flash. Heatwave later joined the Rogues, making them even more of a threat for Barry Allen. Mick eventually went straight for a while, assisting agencies such as the FBI and Project Cadmus, but eventually rejoined the Rogues during Wally West’s tenure as the Flash.
Arrowverse’s Mick Rory is shown to be a former partner of Leonard Snart, taking up a “heat gun” stolen from STAR labs, with his angrier and more impulsive personality highlighting his contrast with Snart as the cold, calculating type, and Mick being the… the hothead. Wow, the Flash TV writers must be really proud of themselves.
Ciara Renée as Hawkgirl/Kendra Saunders/Chay-Ara
Kendra Saunders is the latest incarnation of Hawkgirl, one of DC’s biggest continuity headaches. Since it’s a long story about aliens and Egyptian magic and shitloads of retcons, I’ll try to simplify it for you. The closest version to the Arrowverse is the pre-52 Hawkgirl, whose powers stem from mainly from her possession and constant exposure throughout her several lifetimes to the alien ‘Nth metal’, a material that has assisted her memories in passing down every time she is reincarnated.
This material also affords her some degree of enhanced strength and endurance, and gives her the ability to fly. The flight ability isn’t perfect, however, as she requires the use of a winged harness to control it effectively. The reincarnation itself is a tricky business; the clearest version of the story has her soul supposedly guided by the magic, but the nth metal is what allows her memories and skills to be retained. With Kendra however, something seems to have gone wrong. While she has all of the fighting skills of Shiera (her most previous incarnation), she doesn’t seem to have inherited any of her memories.
This eventually culminates in a story where we learn that Chay-ara/Shiera’s soul has passed on, with the hope that Hath-set’s curse over her and Hawkman has been broken, and Kendra Saunders is now her own person. Ciara Renée plays Kendra in the Arrowverse, a newcomer who has just learned that she is the latest reincarnation of the warrior priestess Chay-ara. As her past memories resurface, her warrior skills do as well, giving her access to abilities and memories accumulated over several lifetimes, as well as wings that give her the ability to fly. Unlike the comics adaptation however, the flight ability has yet to be explained, as the wings seem to be part of her physiology instead of equipment.
Falk Hentschel as Hawkman /Carter Hall/Khufu
Another character whose origin is hard to explain due to DC’s retroactive continuity, the most popularly accepted version, like Hawkgirl, is the reincarnation of Egyptian royalty who was murdered. But thanks to alien technology, (and some magic) Khufu and Chay-ara are trapped in an endless cycle of rebirth and murder, until we come to the modern incarnation who takes the nom de guerre ‘Hawkman’. There’s a short bit in there somewhere about an alien named ‘Katar Hol’ who is somehow tied to Carter, but let’s leave that off to one side, as it’s all kind of fuzzy.
Like Renee’s Hawkgirl, Falk Hentschel’s Hawkman has yet to be explored, but Khufu and Chay-ara seem to be a very big part of this storyline, due to how their characters tie in to the villain. From what we’ve seen so far, unlike Kendra, Carter seems to have reawakened his Khufu memories earlier, and has assimilated his past lives and abilities into his modern identity, giving him access to his accumulated knowledge and powers of flight.
Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter
In an amusing sort of meta twist, the time lord’s companion now portrays DC’s Time Master, Rip Hunter. A time traveller who has taken it upon himself to police the time stream from villains who might subvert continuity for themselves, Rip Hunter’s true name and origin is unknown to almost all to protect himself from other time travellers who might use this knowledge against him.
In more recent stories though, we learn that Rip is the son of goofball time traveller Booster Gold, who – in an interesting twist of causality – is learning about the timestream and the multiverse from Rip Hunter himself. As we’ve seen from the Legends of Tomorrow trailers, Rip is the one who gets this team together, to battle a threat to the timestream itself; That threat being none other than the immortal Vandal Savage.
Casper Crump as Hath-Set/Vandal Savage
Another slightly complicated one, Hath Set is the man responsible for the deaths of the original Khufu and Chay-ara. His curse (or alien metal shenanigans, depending on what you read) caused the trio to be born repeatedly, with Hath-Set repeatedly plaguing the hawks throughout time.
In comics continuity however, Vandal Savage is actually another character altogether. A cro-magnon exposed to unknown radiation from a meteorite, Savage has been alive since the dawn of humanity, and he claims to have had a hand in many of history’s great events. From building the pyramids as the pharaoh Cheops, to sinking Atlantis, to stalking London as Jack the Ripper, Vandal Savage is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants, and all the time in the world with which to do them. A notable story actually has Vandal Savage as an opposing leader during the Pharaoh Khufu’s time, leading an army in an attempt to destroy Khufu and take Egypt for himself.
Casper Crump’s character however, takes the Vandal Savage name and slaps it onto the Hath-set character. While the origins and motivations have changed, the Arrowverse Vandal Savage appears to be every bit the threat the comic version was, forcing Rip Hunter to gather the aforementioned heroes to try and stop him.
Legends of Tomorrow is scheduled to air on The CW, debuting on January 21, 2016.