We all know the top shelf characters who are still as popular as the day their first issue hit the stands such as Superman, Captain America, Wolverine, Batman, etc. However, there are quite a few characters whose popularity wasn’t so immediate and they garnered popularity through other media. Whether through the Animated/Live-Action TV shows, Direct to Video movies, or even some of the videogames, these characters have risen to a much higher standing then when they started. Links go to awesome Youtube videos but BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
5. Speedy, Red Arrow, Arsenal
If people used to see Green Arrow as a poor man’s Batman then without a doubt Speedy was the Robin knockoff. Essentially the two were the same: apprentice to a real super hero, constantly underappreciated, joined a team of other teenage heroes and eventually decided to strike evil out on their own but still themed their name after their former mentor. However, Robin was always a step ahead with Batman as his mentor and being the leader of the Titans whereas Speedy only had Green Arrow and was just a member.
Despite starting as a lower shelf character, Roy Harper gained some recognition as he debuted in the Teen Titans animated series where he managed to keep up with Robin in combat, though Robin succeeded in defeating him, more effectively than any of the other Titans. This along with his badass incarnations as Red Arrow and Arsenal in Young Justice helped him finally get a following and live-action portrayal which shot his popularity through the roof. Though audiences were skeptical of the Arrow version at first with his reliance on mostly muscle, once a bow was properly put in his hand, the fans were raving.
As much as Speedy was second to Robin, Robin was still just merely Batman’s plucky sidekick. Created originally to attract kids to the Batman icon and maybe to literally brighten the icon as well, Robin was a very cheesy and childish character. Even when Robin became Nightwing, the popularity shifted with that transition because Nightwing was still more mature than the new Robin who retained many of the childish characteristics.
It wasn’t until the Robin from the Teen Titans animated series debuted that the forces behind these comics realized a serious Robin would actually excite fans. A miniature Batman would actually be a huge hit rather than having a Robin who constantly held the Dark Knight back. They then took it a step further and created a Robin that even Bruce would have to mollify, Damian Wayne. This blood thirsty version of Robin made the character an even bigger hit than Nightwing to the point where he got a Direct to Video movie last year where he was an actual important character and not just a supporting character of Batman’s. This hadn’t happen since the release of Under the Red Hood three years prior.
3. Deathstroke, Slade Wilson
You’re probably going to wonder why I didn’t just title this article “What Teen Titans Gave Us” but the show really did contribute a lot to boosting the lower shelf characters to where they stand today. Of three sources that I feel really catapulted Slade’s success, Teen Titans contributed 40%. The show did a really impressive job of capturing his deviousness and skill. The other source, to which I give ten percent credit, is the videogames. Arkham Origins and Injustice helped Slade by just giving him some extra exposure where he was the focus of a trailer or promo and really driving the point of his danger as an opponent.
However, the last 50% of credit is given entirely to the Arrow series. Arrow’s portrayal of Deathstroke is essentially Teen Titans without the kid gloves. Arrow brought to TV screens the true ruthlessness and brutality of Slade. It also put on a better display of Slade’s perfect calculating and no nonsense mentality. There was no mistake on Slade’s part to let the hero’s win, he challenged them and never gave them an inch. The show gave the best depiction of why he is one of DC comic’s greatest assassins.
Now before you throw your hands up and call me a “Titan Lover” hear me out. I actually do not credit the Teen Titans animated series with anything for boosting Cyborg’s popularity because they did not really make him any more impressive or make him a huge deal in the show. He was just an average character.
I credit mostly the success of Injustice which was an extremely popular video game across every platform and it depicted Cyborg as a member of the Justice League. With the addition of the Direct to Video [Justice League](movie:401267) movies Flashpoint Paradox and War, Cyborg continued to shed his part as a Teen Titan and slowly grew into the role of a League member with the acceptance of audiences. However, the upcoming Dawn of Justice will be what makes or breaks the acceptance and it depends on how impressively or unimpressively the character is represented in the movie.
1. Green Arrow
I said it earlier, but let me reiterate: Green Arrow used to be a poor man’s Batman. The problem with Green Arrow in comparison to Batman, beside the Robin Hood costume not even coming close to matching up against the Bat Suit, was that his lack of Batman-level seriousness made him seem less committed to crime fighting and that he actually just did it because he could and didn’t have a purpose.
The popularity of Green Arrow pretty much remained static until his Smallville debut which produce a positive makeover, losing the feather cap and tights getup and starting the era of the green hooded vigilante we love today. However, his popularity was almost lost with the decline in Smallville, which lost a substantial number of viewers towards its end. Arrow saved the character by allowing him to graduate from one of Clark Kent’s superfriends to a full-fledged independent hero. With his own city and no other heroes to rely on for support, Arrow forces Oliver Queen to step up into his role as Starling City’s protector and audiences loved it. There were even cries of disappointment that Aquaman was to be included in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie over the Arrow.
BONUS!!! Harley Quinn and Terry McGinnis
Harley Quinn and Terry McGinnis (Batman Beyond) didn't even begin in comics but rather had their debuts in Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, respectively. For a list of 10 Comic Book Characters That Were Created Outside of Comics, check out this article here.