Superheroes, zombies or demonic possession – no matter what the topic, the truth remains the same. Comic books are invading our televisions. Never have networks been so desperate for stories that jump off the page. There are currently rumored to be northward of sixty different comic book television series in the pipeline spread across various channels and providers. The sources of inspiration continue to climb, making the phenomenon something that’s sure to be pervading every network in just a short period of time.
Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe, it can be hard to wrap your head around all the shows already filling the time slots of every channel. We’re already in a golden age of television where even the best shows are being neglected purely because there isn’t enough time. That’s why we say it’s time to jump ahead of the comic book TV trend before it becomes too crazy to keep under control.
We’ve sorted through the best comic book inspired television shows in hopes of finding the highest quality live-action series imaginable. This list will also only include shows which are based on comics or prominently feature characters who got their start in comics. Sorry Fear the Walking Dead, but that makes you ineligible. Some of these stories are niche while others are well known properties. Whether they’re outdated by today’s standards or they’re currently the hottest thing on television, every show on here deserves at least some consideration before simply scoffing and turning away. It’s important to build a high tolerance to these shows before it’s too late, so for your viewing practice and because they’re simply too fun to ignore, we present the 25 Greatest Live-Action Comic Book TV Shows of All Time.
Set among a world where humans and superheroes co-exist, Powers began as a fantasy police-procedural comic from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. The story of Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley), a homicide detective and former superhuman investigating cases involving people with special abilities, was first pitched as a television series to the FX network before eventually landing as the first original series on the PlayStation Network. The adaptation of the Marvel comic depicts superheroes as pop icons, referred to as “Powers” by the rest of the world and given their own specialized advertising agencies. Christian was once one of the most famous Powers, known as Diamond. When his ability to fly is taken from him by his mentor “Big Bad” Wolfe (Eddie Izzard), another superhuman with the ability to drain the life force from anyone he touches, he finds himself working alongside the untrained Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward) under the special Powers Division of the police department.
Lacking ingenuity and chemistry between its leads, Powers has yet to build a sustainable audience among critics with its promising premise. The series is relatively tame, sticking to its procedural roots while never fully capitalizing on the fantasy elements of the show. It’s largely comparable to Gotham on Fox minus the Batman lore and brooding style of the city. The comic sadly doesn’t translate well to the screen with many of the heroes feeling misplaced and far too animated in the costume department to appear as anything the real world would ever accept as normal. There’s still plenty of potential for the series. If nothing more, Powers provides a unique perspective of the superhero world from the people left cleaning up the mess. In an era where comic book adaptations have taken over television, it’s a shame that more never came of Bendis and Oeming’s story. It lands at the end of our list as an afterthought among many more brighter shows making their name among the very best on the small screen.
24. Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
The first instance of Superman on our list, this 1990s take on the Man of Steel was in fact an excuse to further explore the love triangle between Lois Lane, Clark Kent and the superhero himself, who Lois has no idea is in fact the same person. As far as actors in the iconic role are concerned, Dean Cain fills out the costume more than most. He had the physique of a Kryptonian and the suit didn’t differ too much from that of Christopher Reeve’s in the earlier live-action films. Ditching the lame forehead curl for a sleeker, modern day hairstyle, Cain proved he had the charming good looks to pull off the character. Now all he had to do was dazzle the Daily Planet’s top investigative journalist and he would win over the hearts of every DC Comics fan in existence. The series would play largely like a drama, often delving into the romantic entanglements of the show’s leads. In season one, Superman’s archenemy Lex Luthor (John Shea) would woo Lois (Teri Hatcher), winning her over and ultimately trying to marry her despite her own mixed feelings for both Clark and his secret superhero identity.
The rare perspective seen through the eyes of the man and not the hero gave Lois and Clark its audience over the course of its four season run. The couple would exhibit great chemistry among a fantasy genre that never focused on the life behind the curtain. The final season would ultimately end on a cliffhanger as Lois and Clark settled down after being engaged for more than a season. Along the way, there would be many failed wedding ceremonies, an instance in which Lois adopts Clark’s powers and becomes a pink-suited superhero named Ultra Woman and a devastating revelation that Kal-El couldn’t father children. After a promising plot twist revealed that Clark would indeed become a father to a mystery Kryptonian child, the show was sadly given the axe in 1997 due to gradually weakening ratings. The story would receive many tie-in young adult novels during its run and prove successful, climbing as high as an average of 15 million viewers. In the end, Lois and Clark would prove that Superman had an audience on the small screen and just four short years after the show’s cancellation, that audience would be treated to another iteration of the character, but more on that later.
Being the Lord of Hell can be a boring gig. There’s all the tormenting and damned souls to worry about. So what is a man who’s seen everything supposed to do? Lucifer isn’t the first series to see the devil appear on earth and we doubt it’ll be the last, but it has us wondering exactly why Beelzebub is spending so much time with mortals stuck doing seemingly routine tasks everyday. When Lucifer (Tom Ellis) gives up his throne, he makes his appearance under the guise of the gentleman-devil, showing off his sophistication and charming good looks to anyone who will take notice. Rather than using his abilities to cast darkness over the world and spark an apocalyptic war between Heaven and Hell, he opens up a piano bar called “Lux” in sunny Los Angeles like any good fallen angel would. While operating his new establishment, his interest is piqued by Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), a by-the-books officer looking to solve the murder of an aspiring actress who died at Lucifer’s club. The king of darkness takes up arms with Chloe and together they solve the cases of other unfortunate souls who left too soon.
Despite various versions of the character having appeared in popular DC publications before, Lucifer got its start when the character first made his debut in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. Retiring from his ceaseless existence in Hell after reigning for more than ten billion years, the devil would receive his own eponymous solo comic series, running for seventy-five issues. Although the comic focused largely on the powerful entities of Lucifer’s past who come back to disturb his retirement after he tried to begin a New Creation outside of God’s own, the procedural crime elements were added in to widen the show’s audience. Despite leaving behind much of the comic’s fantasy for a more run-of-the-mill storyline, Ellis does an admirable job in the lead role as the attractive and comically mild mannered king of demons. Since its premiere, the show has proven a hit among audiences, already being renewed for a second season. That means we can expect this darkly angelic character to stick around for a while longer.
22. Wonder Woman
Call her what you will – an Amazonian warrior, a paragon of 1970s heroism or a sex symbol plastered on the walls of every teenage boy, but it was Lynda Carter who helped dominated the television world with one of DC Comics most iconic faces way before heroes were every considered a staple of the medium. The character got her start in an unusual fashion, with a made-for-television movie that didn’t even originally feature Carter. Instead, the dazzling blonde Cathy Lee Crosby stepped into the role. Inspired by the “I Ching” era of the superwoman, Crosby was shown without the signature tiara or costume and her secret identity as Diana Prince was widely known by the public. The film received relatively decent ratings, but they weren’t enough to warrant the television spinoff series ABC had hoped for. Searching for an alternate solution, the network returned to the classic version of Wonder Woman, casting Carter as the lead and premiering the World War II set movie The New, Original Wonder Woman on American television in 1975. A year later, the show had been picked up to a full season and the rest is history.
The show started off with a bang in the pilot. Staying close to its source material, intelligence officer and military aviator Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) crash lands his airplane on Paradise Island, waking up wounded and confused about his whereabouts. When the matriarchy of Amazons decides an emissary must be sent to earth in order to protect its people, Wonder Woman wins the right to return Trevor to his home. Along the way, she takes up residence in Washington D.C. and establishes an identity as a Navy Yeoman Petty Officer under her name Diana Prince. With her stunning transformations, brought on by Carter spinning in place, Wonder Woman would take on society’s biggest foes, including undercover Nazis plotting to take down the U.S. government from the inside. By her side were her trusted weapons of choice, including the Lasso of Truth, her bullet-defending Bracelets of Submission and her Invisible Plane. Even in its most absurd instances of patriotic Nazi crime-fighting, Wonder Woman was still a sight to behold and while the campy feel may be too much for viewers today, the series is still full of memorable moments that put a female lead on television as a heroic figure way before any other show ever considered the possibility.
21. The Flash
For all the viewers out there that watch The CW’s The Flash, you may recognize the face of John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen’s wrongly convicted father Henry or perhaps as Earth-3’s version of Jay Garrick, but there was a time when the actor suited up as Barry and he was every bit as fast as the Grant Gustin character we know today. A year removed from Tim Burton’s Batman, CBS was seeking a hero to give the same treatment. Shipp was upgraded from the tights of earlier superhero years to an all latex costume that exaggerated every muscle of his body. The series would revolve around Barry becoming the Flash after a freak accident leaves him struck by lightning and covered in chemicals. Unlike The CW’s take on the hero, the supporting cast of S.T.A.R. Labs would have only one member, Tina McGee (Amanda Pays), a love interest who helps Barry adopt his new superhero persona as he learns to control his speed.
Due to the budgetary concerns of a show like The Flash in the early 90s, the cast remained limited to its two leads. Regularly recurring members would appear, including characters like Julio Mendez (Alex Désert), a Central City Police scientist that worked alongside Barry as his best friend. When his older brother Jay (Tim Thomerson) is killed by the cop-turned-criminal Nicholas Pike (Michael Nader), the Red Speedster sets out to bring justice to his family and all those wronged by the bad guys of Central City. The two hour pilot would be an unprecedented feat in superhero television, costing $6 million to produce and featuring special effects not yet seen to the same extent on the small screen. Despite the popularity of the program and bringing many fan favorites to life such as the Trickster (played by Mark Hamill) and Captain Cold (Michael Champion), the show couldn’t afford the high production costs, leading to its demise. It was a quick ending to an otherwise promising series, but the absolute worst part is that we’ll never see any more of Pollux, the weird, blue-suited clone of the Flash created to replace Reverse-Flash. Anyone looking to take a show with characters like that off the air deserves no less than the most severe of punishments.
A British exorcist, demon hunter and conman, John Constantine has a long history as an antihero with ties to Heaven and Hell. The character was originally envisioned by creator Alan Moore as a charismatic, if not morally questionable, ally who had contacts for any situation. He made his debut in 1985 as a recurring character in The Saga of the Swamp Thing before gaining enough traction with audiences to warrant his own solo series, Hellblazer, in 1988. While the battle to intervene in Heaven and Hell’s influences over earth continued, Hollywood picked up on the popularity of the character, casting Keanu Reeves in a 2005 film adaptation, but it wasn’t until 2014 that he finally made it to the small screen in his fitted trench coat and signature red tie.
Matt Ryan was cast in the lead where his snarky persona was on full display as he dealt day in and day out with the supernatural forces of the world. Along the way, he picks up friends on his quest to redeem his soul. With the aid of a scrying map, Constantine is able to local troubled souls in need of help. Among the notable forces of evil he encounters, he faces demons, spirits, voodoo priests and cursed items capable of possessing weak-minded people. Compared to the other comic book heroes of the DC television universe, Constantine feels more akin to characters like the Winchesters from Supernatural than an actual hero. Despite falling to standard genre trappings, Matt Ryan kept Constantine enticing with his arrogant portrayal of a man whose been put through the ringer with the worst otherworldly forces imaginable. The series was sadly cancelled after only thirteen episodes due to poor ratings, but John would reappear with his red tie again in season four of Arrow, giving fans one last hope that the character could come back again in some form in a future adaptation.
19. Legends of Tomorrow
Unlike some of the other entries on our list, the time-traveling team in Legends of Tomorrow weren’t given their own comic book series until after the television show proved a success. Running with the hype surrounding their other two DC adaptations, Arrow and The Flash, the CW was looking for a way to bring another hero show to the market without stepping on the toes of the DCEU. Over the course of their runs, the other series had built up enough supporting characters to start multiple spinoffs, but none of them were enough of a staple in either show to generate a big success. So in came the idea to create a super team. The premise was viewed as a possible storyline with a rotating cast. In each season, the members of the Legends would be subject to change as leads were either given the axe or went on to better things, giving them the possibility to return or cameo in future episodes. It would keep the series refreshing as new members took the place of old and crossovers between the show’s sister series were still left open.
Legends of Tomorrow may only have a sixteen episode first season to its name, but it’s already made an indelible impression in comic book television. Returning to the past where superheroes were becoming a staple of modern society, Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) gathers his rag-tag group to defend the future from the immortal Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), an ancient nemesis who has played a role in hundreds of historical events under various names. Having glimpsed a future under the dictatorship of Savage, Hunter chooses only the lives of those whose names will not be remembered to help prevent the future from being ruled. With the aid of Atom, White Canary, Firestorm, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, the series expands into territory untapped so far in the Arrowverse. The CW network has teased a whole new approach still to come in the series’ sophomore season, including storylines involving the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Doom. With so many destinations still in store, League of Legends has plenty of time to capitalize on its unique premise and deliver one of the best comic adaptations ever witnessed on the small screen.
While everyone is still waiting in anticipation to see who ended up on the wrong side of Negan’s bat in the season six finale of The Walking Dead, the man responsible for the series Robert Kirkman has launched yet another one of his properties on Cinemax. In Outcast, a depressed man named Kyle Barnes, played by Patrick Fugit, is living in the ramshackle house where he was repeatedly abused and locked in a kitchen closet by his demonically-possessed mother. When more possessions begin occurring around the small town of Rome, West Virginia, he joins forces with Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) to seek answers to why he has been plagued by demons his whole life.
Although Outcast hasn’t hit the fame of The Walking Dead just yet, the series has plenty of time to catch up to the AMC series with the threat of a larger overarching storyline still to come. Kyle has been given special abilities which he still doesn’t fully comprehend. He has been branded an “outcast” by the demons he encounters, an outsider whose life will inevitably be restricted to facing off against the evils which continually cross paths with his loved ones. As he looks to reconcile the relationships of everyone he’s hurt with his bad luck, most notably his estranged wife who was possessed during their time together, he works to build a new lease on life. Fugit has done a fine job with the material so far, managing to capture the life of a man confounded by his ability to exorcise demons with a drop of his blood. Viewers will have to wait to fully understand the mysteries of Kyle’s powers, but there’s a lot of potential in Kirkman’s new show, giving it plenty of room to grow into another horror hit for the comic book writer.
Ten years is a long time to tell a superhero story, but that’s the kind of investment viewers made when they began watching Smallville in 2001. Many live-action versions of Superman have come and gone. From the red underwear and tights of Christopher Reeve to the toned, sleek look of Henry Cavill, many actors have stepped into the role. While Tom Welling may not have been the most convincing take on the Kryptonian, largely due to the CW’s lack of rights to include certain elements like the Superman costume, he was still paving the road for the television heroes that would follow. For the first four years, viewers watched a lovelorn Clark hide secrets from his crush Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) while the billionaire playboy Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) grew increasingly suspicious of his true identity. It wasn’t until high school was over and life at the Daily Planet began that the series truly started delving into other DC heroes and villains and fans became pondering the possibilities.
The show would see numerous issues arise during its ten season stint as Michael Rosenbaum would leave the series just as Lex Luthor discovers Clark’s secret. The Man of Steel would also take many years to learn to fly, a fact which irritated many fans. At it’s best, however, characters like Green Arrow, Supergirl, Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash all took on bigger roles in Kal-El’s world. It was a step below the multi-show crossovers Arrowverse audiences know today, but Smallville did well to juggle the many layered stories of Metropolis’ savior the best it could. Although the final results were often prone to crossing over into melodramatic territory, many viewers stayed faithful, making this series way ahead of its time.
Landing just ahead of her cousin on a list of notable superheroes, Kara Zor-El now has something to hold over the head of DC’s shining Kryptonian wonder. It’s no secret that Superman has been fraught with one bad live-action adaptation after another. Whether the complaints are that the hero appears too kid-friendly or that he’s killing foes despite having committed to a good guy routine for years, fans have long believed that the Man of Steel has been dealt many bad hands from Hollywood. But whether or not you think a truly great Superman has already been brought to life by an actor, it appears The CW has something special in their hands with Supergirl.
Originally appearing on CBS before switching networks, Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) story addresses the elephant in the room from its inception. After crash landing on earth at only twelve years old, the young girl from another planet grows up under the protection of the Danvers family. Living a life of secrecy to appease her adoptive parents, Kara takes a job at CatCo working as an assistant to the company’s CEO and gossip queen Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). It isn’t until an accident involving an airplane puts her sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) in danger that Kara is forced to reveal her secret to the world. No longer living under the shadow of her cousin, she dons her own suit complete with the Kryptonian ‘S’ as a sign of hope. With a renewed sense of purpose and the help of her sister who works for the Department of Extranormal Operations, she fights threats from other worlds while trying to keep her identity concealed. Supergirl provides a welcoming dose of girl power to a world overrun by male protagonists and with Superman set to make his debut in season two, we’re sure we’ll see this female lead step up her game to show everyone what she’s really made of.
15. The Middleman
ABC Family, now known as Freeform, isn’t the channel you’d expect to make a surprise appearance on this list. In fact, we’d wager most readers haven’t even heard of the one-season series The Middleman, but it existed and while it didn’t get any recognition on the air, it was a wonderfully quirky show with plenty of comic book references and exotic, life-threatening abnormalities to boot. The twelve episode series was based on the graphic novels of the same name released by Viper Comics and written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach. The story follows Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales), a cool-headed young woman with a photographic memory. One day while answering phones at her mundane temp job at A.N.D. Labs, an experiment goes terribly wrong, releasing a jelly-like monster onto the genetic engineering department. Without much time to think, Wendy defends herself with a letter opener, stabbing the monster and thrusting her into a life of secrecy with a handsome man known only as The Middleman (Matt Keeslar).
Now teamed up with the stranger and his prune-faced android helper Ida (Mary Pat Gleason), the two battle the unearthly dangers plotting to destroy the world. From aliens to a Terra Cotta Warrior to apes assassinating Italian mobsters, facing off against the foes of earth is a full time job. Wendy leaves her life behind as she becomes the latest recruit of the Organization Too Secret To Know, or O2STK for short. Not much is known of how the position of Middleman came to be, only that it’s passed down from generation to generation. With it’s offbeat adventures and a sassy lead in Natalie Morales, The Middleman was like a sister companion to Men in Black but with more oddball creatures to set it on a course all its own. It was a show doomed to end too early and it’s a shame. For any comic book fan with time to kill, it’s a much recommended watch, but you’ve been warned, you’ll be wishing the show was never canceled.
Now entering its third season on Fox, Gotham has etched its name in the Batman mythos by gravitating away from the Caped Crusader’s run-ins with the city’s biggest foes. First pitched as an alternative approach to the city Bruce Wayne calls home, creator Bruno Heller envisioned a superhero story that took place outside the costumed figures of DC Comics. According to him, it was when the hero took on the persona of a savior among the people that he became more than a person. The idea sprang to mind to delve further into the background of Gotham, before masked vigilantes ran rampant in the streets. Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) would become the focus of the series as a new recruit whose paired with veteran Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) to investigate the murder of young Bruce’s parents Martha and Thomas during a mugging gone wrong. The stylish noir streets of the city and visually striking cinematic feel of the series took command of viewers, bring them back each week as the origins of some of Batman’s most iconic villains were revealed in each episode though a crime-of-the-week format.
Although Batman’s legacy is guaranteed to generate views based off his name alone, Heller and Fox weighed some heavy risks by creating their own canon with the DC hero. Part of the intrigue of a comic book villain is not sorting too much through their pasts to seek answers to their madness. A big question that was raised at the show’s start was whether a pre-makeup Joker would be introduced as a young boy. Fans got their answer. Cameron Monaghan (Shameless), inspired by all the maniacal versions of the character that came before him, plays a convincing young Jerome Valeska, a deranged teen who kills his mother- a snake dancer at Haly’s Circus – only to become the Clown Prince of Crime. Alongside some of Arkham’s other future inmates, including the Penguin, Scarecrow, Hugo Strange and the Riddler, Gordon must deal with the rising threats of a town that has fallen to the criminal underworld. It’s controversial any time the world of Bruce Wayne gets a makeover, but Gotham has managed to please fans by distancing itself from other variations of Batman’s story and focusing on an unseen part of a town ruled by violence.
13. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was launched on ABC with the idea of reviving Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) after his tearjerking death in The Avengers. The series was a side project for creator Joss Whedon and brother Jed who sought to expand upon the lives of the people working for the law-enforcement and counter-terrorism agency. The show would also give showrunners Jed, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jeffrey Bell the chance to introduce minor characters to audiences that had not yet been seen in either the films or on television. After hinting at his resurrection for ten episodes, viewers were finally treated with a vague explanation for Coulson’s mysterious resurgence in the Marvel universe. It would be said that the agent had died at the hands of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the summer blockbuster, but that at the request of S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Coulson’s body would be surgically revived using unethical practices before his brain was implanted with false memories of a relaxing trip to Tahiti.
Going hand in hand with the rest of the MCU, the impact of Marvel’s biggest releases would come to have a significant effect on the series’ storyline. In season one, the agency would investigate Centipede, a group of secret agents led by a mysterious figure named The Clairvoyant to build super soldiers for Hydra. After the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the agents are led by Director Coulson to restore trust from the government and gain back their good name. The second season would also pick back up on the rivalry between the agency and Hydra, leading into the third season as the ancient organization seeks to return its Inhuman leader known as Hive (Brett Dalton) to his former position of power. With the established horror comic character Ghost Rider now set to be revamped as a high octane, flaming skull teen in the fourth season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should widen its reach with audiences, adding fuel to an already hot series. It’s hard seeing the show slowing down just yet and with more characters being added to the MCU, Coulson and his agents are going to be needed now more than ever.
12. The Incredible Hulk
Lou Ferrigno’s muscles, an embarrassing amount of green body paint and Bruce Banner hitchhiking to the haunting piano solo of “The Lonely Man Theme” – these are all things you remember if you were a kid growing up in the late 70s and early 80s. It was at that time that CBS began airing The Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner and Ferrigno as his giant green alter ego. What may seem like a cheese fest of bad effects and storytelling today was every child’s fantasy back then and despite being considered a lesser version of the Marvel character compared to what Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo have to offer, this 1970s series is still good fun for comic book enthusiasts. The series would eventually culminate in three made-for-television movies which premiered on NBC. In one of the films, the Hulk would appear for the first time alongside another Stan Lee character when he meets the Norse god Thor who has been banished to earth by his father Odin. In the follow-up films he would also be paired up with Matt Murdoch’s Daredevil and an Eastern European spy named Jasmin with whom Banner builds a relationship.
The 70s Hulk was noticeably tamer for television audiences, often showing compassion towards animals, women and small children while also being able to control his rage at given times without killing or maiming those who showed hostility towards him. As any comic book reader or lover of the MCU would tell you, curbing the Hulk’s appetite for utter destruction is no small feat. He’s left cities destroyed, crushed many puny humans and has even eaten some enemies. In the series, news journalist Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) follows the exploits of the Hulk, trying to uncover his true identity and understand the truths behind his transformation. While McGee is ultimately perceived as a conniving antagonist in search of answers, trying to catch the green monster and incapacitate him, he eventually comes to realize the more human side of Banner’s alter ego. Although, the Hulk has since gravitated more towards an uncontrollable rage machine over the years, Bill Bixby’s version of the cursed scientist along with Ferrigno’s brute take on the transformed beast give yet another version of the Marvel character that not only opened the door for all the live-action interpretations that followed but conquered 70s TV at a time when superhero shows were a rarity.
11. Agent Carter
We first witness her beginnings as a British agent for the Strategic Scientific Reserve as Captain America is recruited into the secret Super Soldier program. After missing out on a dance at the Stork Club and being frozen in suspended animation due to an incident with the Tesseract, Captain America reawakens in present day to a changed world. He meets his former love interest Peggy Carter in her 90s, living out her remaining years before finally passing away in Civil War. But what happened in between that time with nearly five decades unaccounted for? That’s what ABC’s Agent Carter looked to answer as the series followed Peggy (reprised by Hayley Atwell) as she continues her life as an agent while seeking to establish some normalcy outside of work. Despite the growing popularity of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the events of The Avengers, Marvel’s second partner show with the broadcast network would prove less popular, ending after only eighteen episodes over a two season run. Still, Agent Carter proved every bit as good as its big budget predecessors and despite the lack of star characters, the series received positive reactions from critics.
The first season of the series takes place in 1946 as Peggy worked in secrecy with Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) after the scientist and weapons expert was accused of treason. With Stark’s butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy) at her side, the two set out to clear his name with plenty of murder and deceit to spread around. Aside from the Marvel movie tie-ins showing the exploits of Tony Stark’s father and former tutor who would later inspire his J.A.R.V.I.S. artificial intelligence system, Agent Carter stands alone as a whimsical good time among other boisterous comic book fare. The decadent style of the 1940s post-war era is a stark contrast to the modern day setting of the MCU where technology runs rampant. Atwell proves to be a powerhouse all her own, standing tall next to the likes of the Avengers as a woman who is largely overlooked but can pack a punch when she needs to. She provides a headstrong lead among a genre that all too often depicts a damsel in distress. The show’s strength lies in showing the hardships of being a woman when the working class female wasn’t commonplace. With television now proving by example that women can take charge of the medium, it’s a shame that this underviewed series has disappeared from existence.
10. Tales from the Crypt
Anthology horror is a mixed bag. Like horror flicks, the short stories stumble over themselves with bad movie tropes and one-note characters without anything to speak of in the brain department. Tales from the Crypt followed in the footsteps of its predecessors in terms of tone and campiness, connecting with horror lovers everywhere by introducing each episode with the animated corpse of the Crypt Keeper. While the show wasn’t always top notch, it was far and beyond the best horror anthology series we can remember. Much like Alfred Hitchcock Presents from the 50s, the cackling white-haired skeleton would talk to the audience each week before airing the story. Voiced by John Kassir and using hackneyed one-liners to lure in his guests, the host became the spirit of the franchise despite never actually appearing in any of the EC Comics publications.
Now with the series making a return to the much less provocative cable network TNT, M. Night Shyamalan is set to spearhead the show’s revival without the talking puppet. It will be a chore reworking the series as a cable friendly horror block. The HBO series strived on its creative freedom, prone to displays of graphic violence, adult language and nudity. Anything less than a mini horror film in each episode would be a disappointment and the new producers are going to need everything at their disposal if they want to touch the creativity of the original. Pulling every week from a plethora of talent looking to unload their ideas onto the screen, Tales from the Crypt became a one stop destination to let loose and have fun. The bevy of talent included such big name guest stars as Steve Buscemi, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor and Brad Pitt. Such talent working among the ranks of generic horror hasn’t been done the same way since. Each week was thirty minutes of terror and puns built to make audiences hid their faces and laugh hysterically. While the stories were hit or miss, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see anything like it again.
Following the trend of zombie shows cashing in on the phenomenon taking over the world, iZombie is a procedural mystery series about one unfortunate medical student’s newfound ability to see the memories of the victims she eats after joining the ranks of the undead. Determined to use her power for good, she helps the local Seattle police department solve murder cases and bring justice to the deceased. With her pale appearance and charm, Rose McIver has reinvented the living dead, extending past the typical depictions we know with a lively performance that proves zombies can have brains beyond just the ones they digest on a frequent basis. It’s only when her character Liv hasn’t eaten or becomes overly stressed that she loses control, going into her “Full-on Zombie Mode” complete with red eyes and inhuman strength and reminding us that this is one girl you don’t won’t to mess with.
iZombie began as the creation of writers Chris Roberson and Michael Allred under DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. The series and comic differ drastically, with the later centering on a zombie named Gwen Dylan who works as a gravedigger. The comics also have many more supernatural elements including vampires, ghosts and were-terriers. While the adaptation is only loosely based upon the source material from which it gets its name, iZombie excels in proving that the genre of the undead still has plenty left to be explored. The characters are not only bright and witty fast-talkers, but they’re often openly critical of the world around them. It’s a refreshing, lighter tone that gives zombie lovers a pleasant alternative to shows like The Walking Dead and while it doesn’t quite touch base as much on the dramatic level, it’s nevertheless enthralling for its clever concept, which makes McIver a talent to watch out for.
The CW has created a ruckus among DC fans with the Arrowverse and at least thus far, television has managed to keep the higher budget DC Extended Universe at arm’s length with its villain-of-the-week format and season arcs with worthy adversaries plotting to destroy cities. It all got its start with Oliver Queen, whose heroics on a stranded island led to him becoming the masked vigilante known as the Arrow. While the show began as a worthy quasi-Batman tale of redemption, the consensus over the past two years has been that Ollie and his gang have slipped with the show focusing on more supernatural bad guys. Although the chemistry between the leading man Stephen Amell and his supporting cast have remained a strength for the series, the show continues to be outdone by The Flash as it’s lost base with what made it great. Still, the occasional shocker and a few entertaining guest appearances each season has given us hope that the series still has much left to give.
Season five of Arrow is set to bring big changes for the hero and his compatriots as the series was originally intended as a five year development for Oliver. As we all know, the former playboy was stranded on Lian Yu, among other places, for half a decade before returning home to Starling City. It makes sense that the series would finish up its flashbacks in the next season, but with many of the show’s scenes from the past becoming too convoluted and full of filler, viewers have been asking for an earlier end to all the extra story to focus more on the characters in the present. Producer Wendy Mericle has stated the show will be returning back to basics for the next season with the story centering on Oliver’s ties to the Russian mafia, giving the show more baddies with criminal backgrounds rather than unnatural abilities. If the fifth season can successfully return to the quality of the show’s first two years, it’s likely Arrow will only cement itself among the best comic books series still on the air.
7. The Tick
With all the drama, power, and nigh-invulnerability of a 400 pound brick wall, The Tick came crashing down on children’s television sets as an animated series in 1994, lasting a total of three seasons before airing its last episode in 1996. Before the show, however, the absurdist spin on comic book heroes got its start in Boston as a mascot for New England Comics, but it’s the short-lived live-action series from the character’s creator Ben Edlund along with the child-like wonder of Patrick Warburton’s performance that finds its way onto our ranking of the best comic book shows of all time.
If you haven’t heard of this relatively unknown and obscure show, don’t fret. There’s still time to catch up on all the amazingly inept superheroes The Tick managed to create in just nine episodes. The series begins at a bus terminal where a towering man in a giant blue tick costume has sworn to protect everyone coming in and out of the building. His history is unknown. Is he the hero he claims, or a homeless man with dementia? When he’s forced to leave the bus stop, he moves to The City where he takes up residence with his sidekick Arthur and begins fighting crime.
Featuring characters like Batmanuel and Captain Liberty, a Spanish version of Batman and an incompetent take on Wonder Woman respectively, The Tick was a show that proved too out of place for its time. Watching the series, you’ll find yourself immediately consumed with quotable lines from nonsensical inspirational speeches while calling out in battle cries. It was a show which truly depicted superheroes out of touch with the world around them and a city which never paid them any attention. Luckily, Amazon has picked up a reboot of the series, giving us hope that this gem will continue on in another form.
Jesse Custer is a lousy preacher. He drinks, smokes, swears and fights. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, Texas, overrun by the hatred and sinful desires of the townspeople, he’s made a home with his small church, but his sordid past is catching up with him and he’s starting to see his faith slowly slipping away. After a supernatural accident leaves Jesse (Dominic Cooper) possessed by an entity known as Genesis, he finds himself given the ability to become the literal word of God. Now with his very will being done by all of those who cross him, Jesse’s path collides with a 119 year old Irish vampire named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) and his ex-flame Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga). Joining in on all the action is Arseface (Ian Colletti), a deformed teen whose disfigured face is the result of a failed suicide attempt with a shotgun. As all the pieces fall into place, the preacher finds himself pitted against angels looking to remove Genesis from his body as well as a frail old man by the name of Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earl Haley), whose meat and power business gives him complete control over the majority of the town.
Bolstered by its hard-boiled western influences and a down-to-earth philosophy about making it through a society riddled with temptations, Preacher balances the religious subtext and violence of its source material with ease. Taking command of this DC Comics adaptation is Cassidy, whose performance from English actor Joseph Gilgun makes for a bloody good time. Partially a tale of redemption set among the rustic backdrop of a degraded Texas town and partially a supernatural tale of viscera and nihilism, AMC has crafted a story that questions one man’s faith while always bringing him back around again as the rest of the world crumbles at his feet. The bleak outlook is an attestation to Jesse’s strong will, but just as things are starting to look up, there’s always another surprise lurking around the corner. The action is fast paced and well choreographed with just the right touch of dark humor thrown in at the right moment. We’re only a single season in, but already we’re anticipating a long and successful run for a show that has had us gripped from the very start.
Call it what you will – retro, outdated, Adam West in tights – but whatever you call it, the truth remains the original 1960s Batman set the groundwork for the caped crusader we know today. When Bob Kane and Bill Finger first introduced their creation to the world, Batman was fighting foes in damp alleyways and dark comic book panels. While the versions of Bruce Wayne’s bat persona we know today have since adopted the same brooding disposition the creators intended, the character was once a kid-friendly fixture of the DC Comics universe. Alongside his Boy Wonder sidekick Robin (Burt Ward), the dynamic duo fought the evil-doers in a city of vibrant colors that popped off the pages. It was this iteration of the character that West brought to the screen and he has never gotten the love he deserves for bringing the hero all that extra attention.
With big names like Frank Miller and Christopher Nolan adding their contributions to the cynical version of the Dark Knight, it’s easy to label the 1960s series as purely campy, but little is actually known of the series and its awesome place among other notable versions of Batman. In 1966, the show would receive an Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Series for its tongue-in-cheek humor. It wasn’t by chance that West and his co-star Burt Ward delivered lines like “To the batpole!” with an exaggerated sense of excitement. Over the top, self-parodying comedy was what the creators intended and it blended well with the low production costs and brightly colored uniforms. Examples of zany scenes included West’s comical take on the then-popular dance the Watusi (later coined the “Batusi” by fans) as well as Batman and Robin being served subpoenas after being sued by The Riddler for false arrest. The 60s were a different time and Gotham called for a different kind of hero. Whether the series is perceived as a disgrace by Dark Knight loyalists or not, there’s no denying the series’ impact on comic book sales. Batman soared to new heights because of the show, later giving rise to Keaton, Bale and Batfleck. We think that calls for a little gratitude.
When Netflix came together with Marvel to bring the continuity of the MCU to the small screen, magic was born. The Man without Fear had long been the savior of Hell’s Kitchen, butting heads with the likes of Wilson Fisk and Bullseye. Bringing Drew Goddard aboard as a producer meant the series would be in good hands, getting the kind of faithful adaptation it deserved. In the end, season one delivered an unforgiving depiction of a town overcome by the underground criminal organizations which loomed over everyone. Despite his inability to see, Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox) had not become desensitized to the infestation that had taken over his home. He becomes the man he must to prevent any further injustices from being swept under the rug. With the help of his college friend Foggy (Elden Henson) and the enigmatic Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), the three seek to uncover the truths that lie hidden from the streets.
The first season of Daredevil was undeniably owned by Vincent D’Onofrio who commanded the screen with his daunting stature and fragile-minded behavior as Wilson Fisk, a relatable but psychologically tormented villain. The series became a crime drama like no other, where the enemy was the underbelly of the neighborhood and not the powers that lie out of our control. Season two would take a different approach as the show sought to eventually cross paths with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Murdoch would uncover a plot from the ancient organization known as The Hand involving a mysterious child called Black Sky, resulting in an unclear path for the character of Elektra (Elodie Yung) which left many viewers in confusion. But The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) would breathe life into the season, bringing with him a grittiness that directly conflicted with Murdoch’s moral outlook. It was a mixed, but ultimately successful season that has kept viewers loaded with questions as they await the next Marvel outing from Netflix.
3. The Flash
While Arrow has disappointed some fans by crossing over into the supernatural world, The Flash continues to surprise with weekly villains beyond your regular run-of-the-mill baddies. Barry Allen’s (Grant Gustin) abilities have expanded the Arrowverse in ways that the CW has only began to touch upon. Most notably, the Red Speedster’s use of time travel and alternate universe jumping has opened up the possibility of crossovers not just with the hooded hero of Starling City, but also with Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow and with season three now heading into the famous ‘Flashpoint’ story arc, Barry’s world is about to change dramatically from the one we’ve come to know.
At the end of season one, Barry makes the rational, heartbreaking decision to not save his mother after traveling back in time to face off against Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanagh). The second season saw that decision corrected, resulting in an alternate timeline which only the speedster will see as different. There will be obvious changes between the ‘Flashpoint’ storyline as the series will not feature a defeated Superman contained by a government-sanctioned project, the Thomas Wayne version of Batman, nor a war between Wonder Woman’s Amazons and Aquaman’s Atlanteans. Despite the numerous differences, however, the paradox will inevitably open up a world of conflict for Barry as he’s forced to adjust to the changes that have come with his decision. The supporting cast of characters, including his family and the rest of his friends at S.T.A.R. labs, may very well forget who The Flash is, if he still exists at all. It’s this constant chance at restructuring the story that keeps this newest version of The Flash refreshing among a sea of shows that continue to repeat themselves.
2. Jessica Jones
A private investigator with a secret past and a mind-controlling British man taking over her life usurps Netflix’s Daredevil with a more noir-esque depiction of Hell’s Kitchen. While Matt Murdoch was occupied with taking down Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) and dealing with the moral ambiguity of Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), Jessica Jones was treading lightly with a madman named Kilgrave (David Tennant) capable of making people do whatever he pleased with nothing more than the power of suggestion. It may be a toss-up for some on which show gets the upper hand, but with a hero who lives within a world of temptation, Krysten Ritter plays the character to a T, offering up a flawed and often sarcastic character who doesn’t bury her troubles. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and makes a living off capturing photos of others’ secret lives behind closed doors. There’s little beauty in Jones’ world but she always manages to find the light at the end of the tunnel by remaining a relatively moral figure in a town of corruption.
Leading into the culmination of The Defenders, a key relationship between Jones and Luke Cage has already be set up for superteam series. In the comics, the two eventually marry and have a child together, though any likelihood of that happening is much later down the line. The duo will bring a much bleaker outlook to the fold with a rough around the edges attitude that should come to a head with the good intentions of Murdoch sometime in the future. We’re still years removed from seeing anymore of Jessica Jones with season two set to film alongside the first season of The Defenders, but we see a tough time ahead for the heroine as she’s been down the superhero road before and it didn’t pan out. She’s not looking to be anyone’s hero, which makes her the type of atypical persona that fits perfectly with the gloom of New York City. In a world where the only female heroes are way too happy most of the time, Jones isn’t looking for a good time. She’s a survivor, making it through the best way she knows how.
1. The Walking Dead
What else could be number one on this list but one of the highest rated television shows of all time? Robert Kirkman’s apocalyptic zombie show has shocked, disturbed and pulled at the heartstrings of audiences around the world. With a southern twang and the strength of character to boot, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has led his group of survivors through the treacherous terrain of a world removed from any sense of wrongdoing. The setting has provided ample opportunities for the cast to explore decisions of moral relativism among a sea of bad guys intent on mutilating, tormenting or even eating anyone at anytime. It takes courage to make it past a crowd of walkers who could rip you apart, but while the macabre depiction of death has been a shining light for fans and critics alike, it’s the humans of the show who remain the most appealing aspect of The Walking Dead.
When you fear for the death of a character week in and week out, a showrunner can truthfully say they have succeeded in building a rapport with an audience. That’s exactly what this fan favorite has done with the faces of people like Darryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Carol (Melissa McBride). New supporting cast members are introduced all the time, but the same old faces stick around because they’ve grown detrimental to the show the audience has grown to cherish. Still, the looming threat of death is always a reality even for the most experienced of survivors. That’s why the season six finale still remains as a vivid nightmare in the minds of viewers. Who will get the axe when the show makes its return? Whether it’s a long-running character or another newer addition that falls at the hand of Negan’s weapon of choice, we’re sure to have a moment of remembrance once the episode is over. It’s rare that a show manages to balance big budget action sequences with character drama, but The Walking Dead has done exactly that for the past six years, giving it the edge over the other comic adaptations that have made their way to the small screen.