Though it certainly seems like every project that is related to comic book superheroes will get a greenlight from studios these days, the case is actually quite different. There are several superhero movies we’ll never get to see, and unfortunately, there are also quite a couple of promising superhero television series that just didn’t move forward.
The landscape of TV has never been more welcoming or broad. With the rise of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, it certainly seems like content will always find a way to go on air, even when all the elements haven’t been properly figured out yet and the characters are virtuously unknown by the majority of the public. Who knew Jessica Jones would be so successful at Netflix? And that Runaways would find an audience on Hulu? And that The CW would air five different superhero shows simultaneously?
While there are several good examples out there, it is not true that every project gets hashed out, finds a network, connects to an audience, and goes on to air for many years. Some TV series just make it to the pilot episode, others barely make it, and a few don’t even leave the ideation process.
These are 15 Canceled Superhero Shows We’ll Never Get To See.
15 DAMAGE CONTROL
Marvel Studios seemed pretty adamant about its plans to produce a Damage Control TV show, which would be the studio’s first half-hour comedy series on television, and would feature the underpaid crew that cleaned up after superheroes whenever there was a big battle in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Through the years, it started to seem like the production of Damage Control stalled after the show’s announcement in 2015. Later, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the Damage Control crew was featured as background noise to the main plot, essentially confirming rumors that Marvel had given up on plans to transform this property into a big part of the MCU.
Three years later, Damage Control has no production crew lined up, no official cast, and not even the glimpse of a release date. It’s pretty certain that we’ll never get to see this TV show.
14 HBO’S BRUCE WAYNE
Way before Fox’s Gotham, there was an actual plan to develop Bruce Wayne for HBO, which would be set in a pre-Batman era of the title character’s life. That’s right – a Batman television series on HBO. All we can say is: can you imagine?!
The Iron Giant writer Tim McCanlies pitched the idea for Bruce Wayne in 1999 and HBO started to negotiate the deal right away, but it didn’t take long for The WB network (which later would become The CW) to convince McCanlies that Bruce Wayne would fit perfectly alongside Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which had just premiered on the channel in 1997 and turned out to be a huge hit.
As the story goes, the Bruce Wayne series was somehow flipped upside down and, eventually, became what we all know as Smallville – the origin story of a (very) different DC Comics superhero.
13 DAREDEVIL (1989)
Before Netflix’s Daredevil came out in 2013 and jumpstarted what is now known as the street-level Marvel Cinematic Universe that also includes Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher, there was a 1980s attempt to turn the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen superhero into a TV star.
As Marvel’s history goes, Academy Award-winning writer Stirling Silliphant began crafting a Daredevil pilot script in 1983, but that project didn’t move forward. In 1989, NBC aired the TV movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, in which Matt Murdock was shown as Bruce Banner’s lawyer and reveals that he is also a hero that goes by Daredevil.
Though Marvel tried – really tried! – it didn’t work out for Daredevil in the 1980s, and TV would only find a place for the character many years later on Netflix.
12 AQUAMAN SPIN-OFF
The WB did very well for itself between 2001 and 2011, as Smallville was a big hit for the channel. The 2000s were the age of industry-shaping commercial hits such as the 2002 Spider-Man movie, award-grabbing masterpieces like 2008’s The Dark Knight, and cringe-inducing overall disappointments such as the 2005 Elektra film. But on the TV side, superhero projects were even farther from showing any promise, and Smallville was a first sign that these properties could find a place in a different medium.
However, as the team behind Smallville tried to produce an Aquaman spin-off for The WB, things went south. While Aquaman had indeed made a splash (pun intended) in his Smallville cameos, the character was recast for the spin-off, and the series’ tone was given a The OC treatment that just didn’t make sense for the character.
A pilot was produced, but the show was never picked up.
11 MARVEL’S MOST WANTED
Like Damage Control, everything seemed set for Marvel Studios to release another TV project called Marvel’s Most Wanted, which was a spin-off of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that would follow the storylines of former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter. The series was in development around 2011 and was poised to air on Freeform (a network then called ABC Family). But even as Marvel tried to reinvent the concept of the show, ABC ultimately passed on the project, by 2016, Most Wanted had been officially given up on by the network.
The furthest Most Wanted got was to produce a pilot episode, which never aired and was never reutilized for any other purpose. Jeffrey Bell and Paul Zbyszewski – the two creators of the show – went back to focusing solely on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is in its fifth season.
10 GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S THE HULK
Around 2010, following the success of 2008’s Iron Man and the beginning of what became known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios announced a The Hulk television series. By 2012, writer and director Guillermo Del Toro was attached to the project, which understandably caused massive excitement from fans around the world.
However, another big thing happened in 2012 that would change everything: The Avengers. Marvel Studios didn’t expect how well-received Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the Hulk would be in the movie, which made the possibility of rehashing and recasting that character to work on television seem completely absurd.
While we definitely would like to see what the man behind Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water would do to the Hulk, we also have to be happy that Mark Ruffalo stayed in the MCU.
9 HELLFIRE CLUB
The Hellfire Club was featured as the main antagonist in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. In an attempt to expand its X-Men cinematic universe to another medium, Fox greenlit several projects that included Legion, The Gifted, and yes, a Hellfire television series based on the Hellfire Club.
The Hellfire TV show was initially given a spring 2017 release date, but by 2016 – before any speculation that Disney was interested in buying Fox – the series had already stalled and reports came out essentially regarding the project as canceled.
The Hellfire Club was recently depicted in Fox's The Gifted. Given that characters such as Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost are well-regarded by fans, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Hellfire Club joins the MCU soon, along with the X-Men.
8 JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (1997)
What many know as the CBS television movie Justice League of America was actually a failed pilot episode produced in 1997 that did not entice the network enough to be picked up for a TV series.
The episode features Green Lantern, the Atom, the Flash, Martian Manhunter, Ice (Tori Olafsdotter), and Fire (B. B. DaCosta). Veteran DC Comics writer Mark Waid famously described the pilot as “80 minutes of my life I'll never get back,” which was in tune with the overwhelming negative criticism the project received.
It’s hard to understand why CBS aired a pilot it didn’t like very much in the first place, but the network probably decided to at least recoup some of the money it invested in the episode, giving superhero fans the opposite of what they wanted.
7 GENERATION X
Generation X was yet another case of failed pilot that went on to air as a TV movie. This 1996 project based on X-Men comics was directed by Jack Sholder, best known for his work in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. It featured characters such as Emma Frost, Banshee, Mondo, M, Buff, and Skin.
The biggest conundrum between the Generation X comics and the TV series is that the entire originating point of this team of characters was that they were mutant who did not attend Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and therefore did not train with Professor X in any capacity. In the first volume of Generation X, they train at the Massachusetts Academy and live in Berkshire. In the TV adaptation, however, they were suddenly all under Professor X’s wing.
It was probably for the best that the pilot didn’t result in a series.
6 BATGIRL (1968)
As the 1960s Batman live-action series began to slow down in its third season, there was one promising character introduction that kept it afloat: Barbara Gordon, aka. Batgirl, portrayed by Yvonne Craig.
Around 1968, there was serious consideration over at ABC to explore a Batgirl spin-off that could potentially keep the Batman momentum going. But the original show was facing abysmal ratings and, at the end of the day, producers deemed that the introduction of Batgirl hadn’t been enough to save the project.
Some producers in the network have insisted on the narrative that ABC never considered making the Batgirl spin-off, and that the cancelation of Batman was all but inevitable. But the introduction of Batgirl was indeed intended to give one last shot at superhero properties on television in the 1960s.
5 WONDER WOMAN (1967)
During the same time that the 1960s goofy Batman TV series was airing, another DC Comics hero was being considered for a standalone television show: Wonder Woman.
Batman producer William Dozer really wanted to get another superhero on TV, so he brought in writers Stan Hart and Larry Siegel – both of whom had worked in The Carol Burnett Show – to pen a script for a potential Wonder Woman television series. And so it came to life the episode Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?, a failed pilot turned into a short film.
It’s worth noting that Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? aired in 1967 on TV, five years after the Broadway play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? made a splash in New York City. The title resemblance is particularly strange since Virginia Wolf and Diana Prince have arguably very little in common.
4 LOCKE & KEY 1.0
With so much talk about adapting Marvel and DC Comics into film and television projects, it seemed promising that a smaller publisher, IDW, would get its shot on TV with the series Locke & Key.
The chatter around Locke & Key became even more intense as writer Roberto Orci (whose credits include Xena: Warrior Princess, Sleepy Hollow, Fringe, and the Star Trek reboot films) became attached to the project in 2010. Fox bought the pilot script and expressed an interest in producing it. Singer Jesse McCartney was given the lead male role, Ty Locke, and a pilot episode was shot. A year later, it shown at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con.
Ultimately, however, Locke & Key just didn’t go anywhere. At one point, MTV was interested in airing the series, but that didn’t happen, either. A new adaptation of the comic has found life as a pilot on Hulu
3 GLOBAL FREQUENCY
Mark Burnett, one of television’s most successful producers in history, having been responsible for projects such as Survivor, The Voice, The Handmaid’s Tale, Teen Wolf, and the TV adaptation of Fargo, attempted to bring the DC comic book series Global Frequency to The WB network in 2005.
Actress Michelle Forbes was cast as Miranda Zero, Aimee Garcia portrayed Aleph, and actor Josh Hopkins was chosen for the role of Sean Flynn. A pilot was shot and given to The WB, but the network for inexplicable reasons passed on the series. This Global Warming episode eventually leaked and was shared around the Internet through illegal downloads, but this did not change The WB’s judgment call.
Given that, years later, a scene leakage would result in a highly successful Deadpool movie, maybe Global Warming deserved a shot to be aired.
2 POWER PACK
The Power Pack comic book series ran for 62 issues that began in 1984. By 1991 the comics were over, but Marvel decided that it was a good idea to develop those characters into a live-action TV show for NBC’s Saturday lineup that targeted mostly children.
Back in the 1990s, interest in comic book and superhero properties wasn’t as prominent as it is today, so it’s not surprising that NBC passed on the series even after a pilot was shot. Marvel then made several changes in an attempt to make it work – at one point, the Power Pack kids wouldn’t even wear costumes, for instance – but the network remained uninterested.
During the 2000 pact between Marvel and Artisan Entertainment to turn at least 15 superhero properties into films, Power Pack was one of the projects being considered, but that relationship was mostly fruitless.
1 BLUE BEETLE
It’s no secret that DC Comics has been trying to bring Blue Beetle to television for years now. As a matter of fact, the hero was going to be featured in Arrow during two particular storylines, but producers were told not to do that, because DC had bigger plans for the character. Which is the reason why nods to Kord Industries happened time and time again, but Ted Kord was never actually seen.
During 2010 and 2012, there was an active effort to produce a standalone Blue Beetle TV series. Test footage was conducted, actors were considered, and the project was shopped around a few networks. Unfortunately, no one saw promise in the character the same way that DC Comics did, and the series was scrapped before it even had a chance to air.
Which of these superhero shows would you most want to see? Let us know in the comments!
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