It’s easy to think that with the explosion of superhero media out there, we’re currently living in a comic book renaissance. TV and film have stopped looking at boring old books for script inspiration and moved to graphic novels. It’s a move that has mostly paid off, with some of the biggest and most entertaining TV shows and movies around coming from comic books. These adaptions are nothing new, though, especially in the television realm.
There’s more comic book series now than ever before, but the small screen has been adapting them for decades. While some proved to be real success stories, or have since morphed into cult classics, the track record hasn’t always been all that squeaky clean. There have been some truly horrific comic book TV shows in the past, and it’s a trend that has continued into present day.
With this list, we set aside our personal opinions of the worst comic book series around, and instead compiled our rankings based on the opinions of the user base on the Internet Movie Database, otherwise known as IMDb. The rating system on IMDb is based solely on the average viewers’ opinions, but fear not, because that still gave us a list of some truly terrible TV shows. There might not be anything “professional” about the site’s rating system, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate – outside of a handful of arguable exceptions.
Here are the 16 Worst Comic Book TV Shows Ever (According To IMDb).
16. Iron Fist – 7.0
Squeaking on to the list with a 7.0, this IMDb rating is proof that audiences enjoyed Netflix’s Iron Fist much more than the average critic. Then again, a C minus isn’t exactly a smashing success, either. The last piece of Netflix’s Defenders puzzle wasn’t the worst thing to happen to superheroes on TV, but it sure was insanely boring.
The problems with Iron Fist start with Danny Rand as an aggressively mediocre hero, and they trickle down from there. Danny’s bland nature is emblematic of the entire series, which comes off as rote and uninspired.
Danny might have the titular Iron Fist (and he never hesitates to remind people of that fact), but he does almost nothing else in the first season of his own show. Danny’s arc consists of saying his own name, being groan-inducingly naive, and sulking. The Defenders handled Danny slightly better, but the first season of Iron Fist did little to drum up desire for a second – but we’re getting it anyway.
15. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – 6.8
Some comic book fans might have fond memories of Dean Cain and Terri Hatcher portraying the “first couple” of comics, Clark Kent and Lois Lane. IMDb users aren’t among them. One of Superman’s many televised adventures, Lois & Clark is much more of a romance than anything else. This, more than anything else, probably explains the rating.
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman is an undeniable product of its time. It’s very cheesy and often cheap looking, at least by modern day standards. It’s obvious that the series couldn’t afford to focus fully on Superman’s superheroic adventures, despite the title, so they approached things from a more personal angle.
The show is all about Lois and Clark’s relationship and the state of their romance. While some comics have done well with that type of story, specifically DC Rebirth’s Superman run, Lois & Clark didn’t exactly soar with it.
14. Swamp Thing – 6.7
The early ’90s Swamp Thing series isn’t unenjoyable. It’s just enjoyable for a completely unintentional reason.
Swamp Thing is totally campy and completely ridiculous. Honestly, it’s not that dissimilar in tone to the beloved Batman show from the 1960s. The problem is that Adam West’s take on the Caped Crusader was aiming for camp, while Swamp Thing was trying to take the material deadly serious. It completely backfired.
There were moments where Swamp Thing shot for some emotional gravitas and (kind of) succeeded. This explains, at least partly, why it’s not ranked quite that low by IMDb users. But the instances where the show gets to the heart of Alec Holland’s monstrous transformation are inarguably outweighed by those with comically evil villains and needlessly complex plots.
13. Supergirl – 6.6
It would appear that IMDb users are very particular about their televised Kryptonians. The Girl of Steel might be one of the pillars of The CW’s Arrowverse, but Supergirl somehow ranks in at a shockingly low 6.6 on IMDb. Even though Supergirl is a joyous delight on the surface – and it succeeded in reshaping Kara from a forgettable female version of her better known cousin into her own endearing and lovable character – not all audiences seem to agree.
Supergirl isn’t a perfect show, especially in its first uneven season; there are certainly a few problems with Kara’s story. Before the series switched to The CW for season 2, it focused a lot on a romance (that was going nowhere fast) between Kara and James. Even after the switch, there was still a ton of romantic melodrama between Kara and her new beau, the controversial Mon-El.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with romance in a superhero story, it’s always been the weakest part of Supergirl. The weakest part that’s still been front and center for most of the series. That said, it obviously doesn’t belong alongside these small screen duds of the comic genre.
12. Birds of Prey – 6.6
Of all the shows on this list, Birds of Prey might have been the biggest disappointment. The comic is a perfect blueprint for a TV series, with Barbara Gordon, as Oracle, organizing the best of DC’s female heroes and sending them out on day-saving missions. Birds of Prey had all the heroes necessary for a successful adaptation, with Oracle working with Huntress and Black Canary (even if the show messed with comic book canon to get there). It’s the execution that left a lot to be desired.
Birds of Prey hit in 2002, just as Smallville was getting underway. While the series jumped right into the action (unlike Smallville), it actually made everyone wish they had held back. Birds of Prey was very cheap looking, and seemed to have been thrown together on a shoe-string budget.
11. Witchblade – 6.5
Be honest: you completely forgot this stinker even existed.
Here we have yet another example of a show that should’ve been amazing but delivered far less than promised. The premise to Witchblade is not all that dissimilar to the iconic Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A young female heroine is tasked with fighting the forces of darkness when she’s given powers that are both a gift and a curse. While Buffy was imbued with actual powers, Witchblade’s Sara “Pez” Pezzini gets hers from the show’s titular glove / weapon.
The issue is that Witchblade played its wacky premise depressingly straight. There was no shortage of obnoxiously unsubtle and hacky dialogue, and the performances were just barely passable. It all resulted in a show that was much less than the sum of its parts.
10. Superboy – 6.5
The one good thing that can be said of Superboy is that they nailed the look of the titular hero. Gerard Christopher played a young Clark Kent and he looks like the perfect mini-Christopher Reeves, who was the most famous Superman actor of the era. Everything else about the adventures of this young Clark Kent was dreadful.
The acting was at high school production level, as were the poor excuses for special effects. Some of this can be put down to the time and the platform. TV shows simply didn’t have the production budget in the late ’80s and early ’90s that they do nowadays. Even with that heavy caveat, however, Superboy is embarrassingly bad.
9. Blade: The Series – 6.5
There’s plenty of jokes to be made off of the fact that the actor that played Blade in this series was a rapper with the stage name of Sticky Fingaz. This is just one very small slice of the problem pie that is Blade: The Series.
There’s nothing wrong with the idea of the famous vampire hunter having his own TV show. In fact, Blade would make for a perfect TV series antihero if done correctly. This one season trainwreck was not even close to being done correctly.
Despite his laughable stage name, Sticky Fingaz wasn’t a terrible Blade. He was a little boring at times, but fine. But just about everything surrounding the titular character was shameful. Blade: The Series is shoddily made, and it appears that almost no effort went into making anything remotely plausible or engaging. It’s as drab and cheap as can be imagined.
8. Powerless – 6.4
Powerless isn’t based on only one comic book, per se. It does take place firmly in the DC Universe though, and it recounts the lives of its average citizens, not the superheroes. This is actually a pretty fantastic premise for a show, particularly for a comedy. However, even with an all-star funny cast, Powerless did next-to-nothing with its concept in its first, and only, season.
Powerless didn’t embrace its unique setting enough, but this wasn’t the main problem. Powerless’ cardinal sin was that it wasn’t remotely funny. Humor is subjective, sure, but Powerless shot mainly for poorly conceived cringeworthy/loud jokes over anything even approaching clever.
7. NightMan – 6.4
As amazing as it would be, we’re sad to report that this is not an adaption of the character from Charlie Kelly’s musical in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Rather, it’s the live-action series based on the lesser-known Marvel/Malibu Comics character of the same name.
NightMan is the story of Johnny Domino, a famous saxophone player who is struck by lightning. The incident gives Johnny powers that allow him to fight crime, but prevent him from sleeping. With a premise like that, it’s not at all surprising that NightMan is as stupid and terrible as they come.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man – 6.4
The 1970s were not kind to Peter Parker. While the ’70s Japanese Spider-Man series is the stuff of Internet meme legend, it was never really intended to be an accurate portrayal of the beloved Marvel character. On the other hand, the 1970s American show The Amazing Spider-Man was definitely meant to be the story of Peter Parker (albeit an obviously comedic take) and it’s a huge failure.
The costume was ridiculously ill-fitting, looking like little more than a child’s Halloween costume. A different actress played Aunt May in every episode she appeared, without any explanation. Worst of all, Peter was a genuinely unlikable, humorless weirdo.
Stan Lee, who has championed nearly every Spider-Man adaptation to date, reportedly hates the show. He claimed that it took out everything that people liked in the comic. He’s not wrong.
5. Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. – 6.3
An animated comic book adaptation is almost always a mixed bag, specifically because the intended audience a much younger audience than your standard comic reader. It can be unfair to judge a show clearly made for children for being too simple, silly, or outlandish. Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. is certainly a kid’s show, but it’s still unforgivable in how lazy it is with its humor and presentation.
Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. is about a reality show within the show that is meant to humanize Hulk. It’s a cute premise that is poorly handled, with the same repeated slapstick gags and obvious fourth-wall breaks. Its childish, inane nature is a disappointment, to be sure. A kid’s show doesn’t (and shouldn’t) need to sink to the lowest common denominator of fart jokes to appeal to a young audience.
4. Mutant X – 6.1
Marvel’s relationship with the X-Men on the small screen is a messy one. While Marvel have started to play nice with the mutants, partnering with 20th Century FOX on Legion and the upcoming The Gifted, things weren’t always so smooth. In the early 2000’s, right after the first X-Men movie was released by FOX after Marvel had sold off the film rights to the characters, the House of Ideas went to work on Mutant X.
The show was a blatant attempt by Marvel to ride the wave of X-Men’s success. Though the show is full of genetic mutants, there’s not a single recognizable character in sight. Mutant X‘s full of “new mutants” banning together and trying to protect themselves from a world that hates and fears them.
FOX ended up suing Marvel and the production company behind Mutant X, believing it was a breach of contract for FOX’s rights to the characters. While the suit against Marvel was eventually dropped, FOX continued to go after the production company, which caused them to shutter their doors and for the show to be cancelled on a cliffhanger. Fortunately, the people who cared about the story of Mutant X were very few in number, so there weren’t too many tears shed.
3. Painkiller Jane – 5.8
Painkiller Jane isn’t by any means a mainstream comic book character. However, as a virtually indestructible police officer turned superhero, there is a basis for an interesting TV show. The series that ran for one season in 2007 definitely wasn’t that show.
Painkiller Jane had the comic heroine’s powers, but nothing else of value was adapted from the comics. The show wasn’t nearly as gritty, edgy or even remotely interesting as the source material. It was little more than a bland cop show, with a main character that just happened to be all-but immortal.
Painkiller Jane was just incredibly thin. Its one defining aspect was the character’s superpowers, but the series did no work to build anything around that premise, especially not in the way of giving that same main character a definable personality.
2. Marvel’s Inhumans – 5.2
The MCU isn’t batting a thousand anymore. Still, with its combined efforts on TV and on film, Marvel has a very consistent track record. The product might not always be fantastic, but it’ll almost always at least be watchable. Marvel’s Inhumans is the first real example of the MCU completely and utterly dropping the ball. Interestingly, the series hasn’t even properly premiered on TV yet (though the first two episodes were released in IMAX), and it’s one of the worst rated superhero shows on IMDb.
Inhumans‘ number of redeeming qualities are slim to none. The premise is sound; it’s essentially Game of Thrones meets superheroes. Yet the characters are dreadfully boring (the series lead doesn’t even speak), the special effects are truly horrific, and the plot never really engages on any level.
1. Teen Titans Go! – 4.8
Teen Titans Go! Involves almost every member of the original voice cast from the beloved Teen Titans animated series that ran from 2003 to 2007, but this (soft reboot? sequel? we’re not even sure) definitely isn’t intended for those fans. This is precisely the problem with it, and the reason why it’s rated so low on IMDb. Unlike the original Teen Titans cartoon, which was made for fans of all ages, Teen Titans Go! is for very young children with very short attention spans.
The jokes of Teen Titans Go! are nonstop, obnoxious, and without depth. Teen Titans Go! is hyperactive and unable to be serious for half a second.
In its defense, the series is aware of its sensibilities, as it has poked fun at itself numerous times – the most memorable example being when characters from Young Justice crossed over and mocked the TTG crew. Self-awareness doesn’t automatically lead to forgiveness or acceptance, and certainly not in this case.
Dishonorable Mentions: Wonder Woman (4.5) and Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (3.7)
It would be a magnificent trainwreck, but this final entry does not refer to a series where DC’s Wonder Woman co-starred with Marvel’s Nick Fury. Instead, these are two separate TV pilots that are among the worst things ever created out of the comic book genre. Thankfully, they were never ordered series.
It could be argued that the 2011 Wonder Woman pilot got the casting right with the criminally underrated Adrianne Palicki in the title role, but the rest is a misguided mess. Having made its way online in the years since it was canned, it safe to say that this series understood nothing about Wonder Woman as a character, let alone how to make a decent show for her.
As for Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, well, just about everything went wrong with this pilot. Created at the tail-end of David Hasselhoff’s TV popularity in 1998, the former Baywatch star sure looks like old school Fury, but he sure doesn’t act like him. The intended pilot, which was eventually released as a TV movie, is a joyless, drab affair that was miscast and underdeveloped from head to toe.
What’s the worst comic book show you’ve ever seen? Sound off in the comment section!
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