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7 Shows like Arrow: Secret Superheroes

Chris Suffield itcherOur collective obsession with superheroes continues to be a major source of inspiration for the film and television industry. The continued success of superheroes in movies led to a surge of TV shows once again turning to the pages of comic books. ‘Smallville’, ‘The Flash’ and ‘Daredevil’ are a few other TV shows like ‘Arrow’ that centre on a superhero taking on a secret identity. ~ Chris Suffield

Cleaning up the Streets One Criminal at a Time

Based on the DC comic book series ‘Green Arrow’ created by Morton Weisinger and George Papp, the CW series ‘Arrow’ launched to a rapturous reception in 2012.

Having survived the perils of being marooned on a remote island for five years, wealthy playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell)  arrives back in Starling City a new man with a singular purpose. Donning a hood and armed with his trusty bow, Queen transforms into ‘Arrow’ and starts a one man war on the criminal element.

‘Arrow’ embodies everything we have come to expect from a superhero story, our champion has endured the personal torment that teaches him the error of his way and sets him on his redemptive quest.

‘Smallville’ (WB 2001-2006, CW 2006-2011)

The early adventures of Clark Kent (aka ‘Superman’) was a fixture for a decade on TV, racking up a total of 218 episodes. Tom Welling stars as the teenage man of steel grappling with super powers and coming to terms with his destiny.

Over the course of ten seasons, Clark finds true love, befriends and becomes an obsession for Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) and forms unbreakable bonds with fellow heroes. The character of Green Arrow is introduced into the series during its sixth season, Justin Hartley portrayed Oliver Queen and remained on the show until the finale.

Beyond the fact that ‘Smallville’ features the same character as ‘Arrow’,  the template for future TV shows was forged right here. There wouldn’t be an ‘Arrow’ series without the success of ‘Smallville’ as it found a new way to explore one of the most iconic superheroes in history.

Similarity Match: 95%
If you’re looking for a show similar to ‘Arrow’ then ‘Smallville’ is the perfect match in every aspect.

‘The Flash’ (CW, 2014-Present)

Taking cues from Marvel’s connected cinematic universe, the producers of ‘Arrow’ introduced Barry Allen (aka ‘The Flash’) into the show in the eighth episode of the second season. His inclusion in ‘Arrow’ was essentially a back-door pilot and in 2014 ‘The Flash’ speeded his way onto The CW with his own spin-off.

Sticking with the same winning formula, ‘The Flash’ is a bright and breezy superhero series that expands the ‘Arrow’ universe’ mythology. Oliver Queen has made several appearances in ‘Flash’ along with other ‘Arrow’ cast members.

Similarity Match: 90%
‘The Flash’ is set in a different corner of the same universe as ‘Arrow’. The CW will continue to cross-pollinate their TV superheroes shows, so there are lots of surprises to come.

‘Daredevil’ (Marvel Entertainment/Netflix, 2015-Present)

Following the disappointing 2003 movie starring Ben Affleck, Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ was a character in dire need of a reboot. In 2015, Netflix made this a reality and launched the first of five planned Marvel TV shows.

Charlie Cox takes on the role of Matt Murdock and his crime-fighting alter ego, a lawyer by day he serves up a fistful of justice by night as ‘Daredevil’.

‘Daredevil’ is still connected to the expanded Marvel Universe, but it carves out a harder tone and ventures down a darker path than Marvel had previously explored. The series was a resounding success, the spectacular corridor fight sequence at the end of episode two emerged as a game-changing moment.

Similarity Match: 85%
Like ‘Arrow’ our hero has a love of his city and wants to bring it back from the brink. He is supported by a handful of trusted friends and by donning a mask he becomes a symbol of hope for the innocent.

‘The Cape’ (NBC, 2010-2011)

After witnessing the murder of a fellow police officer Detective Vince Faraday (David Lyons), is framed for the crime and swaps his badge for a secret identity to fight injustice as ‘The Cape’.

The Cape was unceremoniously cancelled after just one season of ten episodes, the show found a loyal audience that tried in vain to save the series. Interest in ‘The Cape’ resurfaced thanks to Dan Harmon’s ‘Community’ as the show is a favourite of resident geek Abed (Danny Pudi).

Similarity Match: 80%
Like ‘Arrow’ we have a man on a moral and personal quest that must conceal his identity. ‘The Cape’ might not have lasted long but if you’re a fan of ‘Arrow’ it’s a must see.


If You Like Arrow You Will Like…

So far, the TV shows like ‘Arrow’ we’ve looked at all feature heroes that adopt a secret identity to fight crime. Not every hero needs to wear a mask, a hood or a cape to battle the nefarious forces of darkness.

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (WB 1997-2001, UPN 2001-2003)

Joss Whedon’s seminal series paved the way for TV shows like ‘Arrow’, the connection might not be abundantly obvious but if you look a little closer it’s all there to see. We have a central hero fighting the good fight to clean up the streets, plucky sidekicks and a never ending supply of villains.

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ help change the face of genre television, the show might not have had the biggest audience (comparatively speaking) yet its cultural impact is immeasurable. Buffy Summers and her gang of Scoobies don’t need gadgets and gizmos to avert the apocalypse.

‘Buffy’ might be supernatural in the genre but make no mistake, Whedon’s debut series is a superhero story through and through.

‘Angel’ (WB, 1999-2004)

We can’t bring ‘Buffy’ into the mix without talking about ‘Angel’, the hit spin-off from Joss Whedon’s show was every bit as good as the series that spawned it. The vampire with a soul  (David Boreanaz) relocates to Los Angles to open up a detective agency following the end of ‘Buffy’s’ third season.

Helping the helpless one soul at a time, Angel is aided by Sunnydale alumni Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) and former Watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof).

Like ‘Arrow’ our hero is seeking redemption for himself and the greater good, there’s an evil corporation to thwart and a dash of the mystical.

‘Gotham’ (Fox, 2014-Present)

Exploring the early days of another iconic DC creation, ‘Gotham’ explores the early days of a number of well-known characters as seen through the eyes of a young James Gordon. Long before his days as Police Commissioner aiding ‘The Dark Knight’, idealistic rookie detective James Gordon didn’t need a costume to battle evil and corruption in the heart of ‘Gotham’.

A pantheon of reimagined Batman villains make appearances with Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) stealing every scene he’s in. Bruce Wayne also features, but we meet him aged twelve on the fateful night his parents were murdered.

Jim Gordon has always been the moral backbone of the ‘Batman’ world. With his incorruptible nature and unwavering heroism Gordon inspires Bruce Wayne to become ‘The Batman’.


TV versus Movies

The battle between TV and Movies has never been so heated; Marvel continues to blur the lines as all their TV output exists in the same universe as their movie franchise.

It’s a curious thing that DC comic book adaptations have had more success on the small screen than their big screen counterparts. DC has had plenty of success with Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ and ‘Man of Steel’, but they are still playing catch-up to Marvel in the shared universe competition.

‘Arrow’ successfully launched a TV franchise that continues to expand, as well as ‘The Flash’ the CW produced a second spin-off with ‘Legends of Tomorrow’.

Are there any shows like ‘Arrow’ we missed? Add them in the comments below.

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