This is a golden age of superhero television, to the point that choosing what to watch feels just like walking into a comic book store. There are so many different kinds of comic book and superhero themed shows that cater to completely varied interests.
Both Marvel and DC dominate networks and streaming services almost equally, something that had never really been seen before this decade.
However, as crazy as it might sound, for as many superhero shows as fans have right now, there are twice as many that never saw the light of day.
It happens all the time. Properties are optioned that never quite make it to air. Sometimes they get close, sometimes they fall apart in the planning process, or rights issues simply can’t be worked out.
Some shows get a chance and make it to air, but just don’t get the proper opportunity to find their footing or their audience before they’re cut short.
Other times, there are shows that last a little too long. They either outlive their welcome, or they keep going beyond a perceived end point simply because the series is a success for the network.
That can be just as unfortunate, in some ways, to watch a show that was great get driven into the ground because the network doesn’t want to grant it an ending.
This list will look at both the shows that never got the chance to see the light of day as well as the ones that deserve an ending to wrap things up before they wind up overextending their stay.
Here are the 8 Canceled Superhero Shows We'll Never Get to See (And 7 That Need To Go).
15 Canceled: She-Hulk
The Incredible Hulk had been Marvel’s first successful TV show. Other attempts, like Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and Doctor Strange simply didn’t pan out.
When the series ended, the network wanted to find a way to keep it going and looked to the comics for inspiration. Hulk’s cousin, Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk, had become a successful character to launch her own spinoff book, so they wanted to follow that example.
B-Movie legend Larry Cohen, the director behind movies like It’s Alive, Q, and The Stuff, was hired to direct the pilot. In turn, he hired supermodel Brigitte Nielsen to portray the title character.
Bill Bixby was even asked to make a cameo as David Banner, to help launch the series successfully as well as helping to establish a familial relationship when She-Hulk had never appeared in an episode of Incredible Hulk.
A promotional photo shoot was done to help sell the concept and to get the pilot off the ground. The image of Nielsen as She-Hulk started circulating and, after that, the series generated some pretty good word of mouth.
However, eventually, it stopped in its tracks. The show never wound up getting past that initial photo shoot.
14 Needs to go: Marvel’s Spider-Man
Marvel Animation has apparently fallen into a new trend of canceling shows just when they’re getting interesting. Spectacular Spider-Man was a great representation of that character.
Ultimate Spider-Man was not what people expected, but it wound up shedding a spotlight on otherwise untouched characters like White Tiger. Ironically, Ultimate Spider-Man was the perfect show to coincide with Spider-Man’s introduction to the MCU.
However, it was cancelled after the appearance of Tom Holland in the movies, just after it had started to dive into really interesting arcs such as Spider-Verse. That series revolved around Spidey’s place in S.H.I.E.L.D., so to see it replaced with a totally different show was jarring, to say the least. It even brought back J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.
The new series, Marvel’s Spider-Man was criticized right out of the gate. People commented on the animation quality as soon as the first footage was released.
Its attempts to reinterpret Spidey and his rogue’s gallery haven’t really been appealing to both older and younger viewers alike, although the back-to-high-school approach is at least refreshing.
13 Canceled: Moon Knight
Moon Knight has become a fan-favorite vigilante in recent years. For a long time, he was criticized as being Marvel’s Batman, as this character is also a rich CEO who fights crime in secret.
Thankfully, fans have realized there’s a much deeper mythology to the character than that. A man suffering from severe mental health diagnoses— including having Dissociative Identity Disorder, in some incarnations— Marc Spector also believes himself to be the avatar of the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu.
The closest fans ever came to seeing Moon Knight in live-action was a name drop to the character on Blade: The Series. The reference wasn’t for nothing.
Moon Knight had been planned to appear in the second season of Blade, but sadly it came to an end before that could happen.
Marvel Studios and No Equal Entertainment announced a Moon Knight TV series in 2006.
In 2008, it was revealed that a pilot had been written and the show appeared to be in active development. For whatever reason, though, it never got any further than that.
12 Needs to go: Avengers Assemble
For the longest time, there hadn’t ever been a truly great Avengers show. The cartoons in the ‘60s were barely animated comic book panels. The 1999 Avengers: United We Stand series had left out several major players and had been terribly received in general.
Finally, in the early 2010s when the hype to the Avengers movie was set in motion, fans got Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
That show had been the perfect adaptation of the source material, introducing the characters easily to a new audience while tackling major comic book storylines both old and new.
It respected everything that came before while knowing what to update, just as the X-Men series had done before it.
Unfortunately, it was canceled after the movie came out to make room for a brand-new series that would take heavier cues from the MCU, called Avengers Assemble.
While everything looks like the MCU in this cartoon, it lacks the same flair, the same punch. It also totally lacks the storytelling drive of the previous cartoon. The humor lands for kids, but too many of the emotional beats fall flat.
11 Canceled: Guillermo Del Toro’s Hulk
In the most clear example of the divide between the film and television divisions of Marvel, there was a long stretch where fans were expecting to see a Hulk show after the character had already made his debut in the MCU.
Unconnected to the events of The Incredible Hulk or The Avengers, the new Hulk show was going to recapture some of the inner turmoil that had been at the forefront of the original TV series. It also promised to be an out-and-out monster series like the early runs of the comics.
Monster connoisseur Guillermo Del Toro was attached as executive producer and announced that he planned to helm the pilot, at the very least.
The idea of a Del Toro Hulk show was too good to simply pass up, despite the presence of the character in the MCU.
The series kept getting delayed and kept getting pushed back as Del Toro got attached to other huge projects like Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak.
While legal issues between the rights over the films and Universal’s partial ownership of the film rights probably played a factor, Del Toro’s attachment to so many projects certainly played a factor as well.
With so many things he had started putting his name on, there was no way to really commit to a complicated project like this.
10 Needs to go: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
As it has developed, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has actually become an interesting wildcard of a show. It has one of the most diverse casts of any superhero show right now and continues to reinvent itself each season.
However, as the years have gone on, the references to the movies have lessened while the show has started to enrich its own mythology.
Inhumans, the Darkholde, and Life Model Decoys-- these are all things that have yet to appear in the films but are major elements of the comic book lore.
However, the series had almost sounded as if it had planned to end this season, and even if there is a plan for where it’s going next, it should be time to end soon before it takes a noticeable dip in quality.
It put Marvel TV back on the map and truly does deserve to go out on top. As it goes on, though, that will be harder to do.
For example, it’s almost impossible to rectify the series with the events of Infinity War, even if that’s literally the sort of thing the show was designed to do. It’s especially concerning now that the series has gone to space. Its universe is getting bigger while the movies are getting smaller, at least for now.
9 Canceled: Marvel’s Most Wanted
Agents Bobbi Morse (aka Mockingbird) and Lance Hunter had a truly rocky relationship on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
They started out hating each other and it was revealed that they had once been married and even though they sometimes still hated each other, they began to rekindle their relationship.
With both of them originating in the comics, they made sense for the first characters to be chosen for a S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff.
They were even written out of the show in a story line that served as a backdoor pilot for their series, in which Morse and Hunter outed themselves as spies in an effort to divert attention away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and went on the run.
They were principle members of the cast who were written off to do a spinoff that never actually saw the light of day. After that happened, it was impossible for them to even return to S.H.I.E.L.D. given the way that they had been written out.
The fact that Most Wanted never made it to air is sad not only because of its potential, but also because the flagship series lost two of its most interesting characters in the decision to cancel it.
8 Needs to go: Future Man
Future Man has a great concept. It centers on a dim-witted, aimless janitor who is suddenly called upon to save the world. He’s transported to the future after completing a video game, where the game’s characters turn out to be real people who need his help to fight the Biotic Wars.
The plot borrows heavily from The Last Starfighter— which is at least addressed— to the point where this could almost be considered a remake. It even features some great talent, too. Josh Hutcherson is actually likable as the lead.
The series is even produced by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, who knocked it out of the park with Preacher. But the only sin a comedy series can truly commit is not being very funny. Future Man ultimately isn’t.
There are some interesting things that it’s trying to say, but none of them are new. The show itself is a hodgepodge of plot pieces from classic sci-fi and comedy films, but without always calling out or referencing those similarities.
Because of that, it’s hard to get a read on just how self-aware the series actually is. While Future Man has been met with a mixed reaction, it has been green lit for a second season.
Hopefully, the sophomore season will improve on the first and give the series a reason to continue on. Otherwise, it might have been better to simply leave well enough alone.
7 Canceled: Amazon
After Smallville had completed its ten-year run on television, before Gotham started spinning stories about a young Bruce Wayne, Amazon was going to be DC’s next foray into exploring the origins of a classic superhero.
This show, in some ways, had more potential than the other two. After all, Smallville definitely fell into the trap of tackling most major Superman villains and plot lines before Clark ever even put on the suit and became that iconic hero. Gotham is starting to follow that same path.
However, seeing Diana’s years prior to becoming Wonder Woman could have been amazing, especially considering the fact that she truly hails from another world.
Themyscira is a place with its own rules, laws, and can borrow freely from the pantheon of Greek Mythology. Getting an entire series out of that could have been incredibly easy.
It would also have been amazing to see a TV series with an entirely female cast, especially an action/adventure series like this one.
The only standouts would likely be characters like Ares and Zeus. Even if a few men were shoehorned in, a series about the Amazons would need to be dependent on female leads. Ultimately, though, DC decided not to move forward with the project.
6 Needs to go: Arrow
Arrow has always struggled with being the series that kicked off the CW DC universe. It was designed to be dark, gritty and entirely realistic, but the universe it spawned quickly became something else entirely, something far more reflective of the comics themselves.
Since that time, Arrow has constantly struggled to adapt. It has tried to shed its gritty tone, but that never really works, or sometimes alienates viewers who have been fans from the beginning.
After six seasons, Arrow has undergone many attempts to reinvent itself and reimagine its lead character, defining him by his place at the center of a larger DC universe, while trying to remain a vigilante show at heart.
In some ways, it succeeds. But it definitely seems to be the show that suffers the most fatigue from the fans, partially because it’s been on the longest.
It would make sense for Arrow to end its run with season seven. That would be a long stretch of time to be on the air and would allow for more focus to be given to the other shows within that universe.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that will happen and it’s easy to see Arrow remaining on the air for upwards of ten seasons. If that happens, one can only hope that they continue to reinvent and reinvigorate the character in a way that finally sticks.
5 Canceled: Bruce Wayne
Before Smallville ever hit television, DC had considered producing a TV show centered on a young Bruce Wayne, called Bruce Wayne.
In 1999 screenwriter Tim McCanlies was a hot commodity after his script for The Iron Giant had been so well received. The movie had done well and McCanlies had gone on to pitch WB a TV show centered on a young Bruce Wayne before he became Batman.
The idea took heavy cues from Frank Miller’s successful graphic novel, Batman: Year One.
The concept was sold to Tollin/Robbins, who then took the show to HBO and began negotiating the broadcast rights.
The WB wanted the series, believing it to be their next big hit show, along with the then-new Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff, Angel.
The only trouble was that the Warner Bros.' movie department was developing the exact same idea at the exact same time.
The plan was for the next movie to go back and explore Batman’s origins, also using Batman: Year One as a jumping off point. Because they didn’t want to create a divide between the movie and TV divisions, WB shelved the project in favor of the movie.
It went through many changes of hands before eventually becoming Batman Begins. A similar TV series finally got off the ground in 2014 as Gotham.
4 Needs to go: Gotham
Gotham has been an interesting journey for viewers. It started off semi-serious, but always tackled wildly different tones and plotlines, often within a single episode.
It’s been known to be as grim as the Dark Knight series in one moment and as full-blown campy as the ‘60s TV show the next. In that respect, Gotham is at least embracing the entire scope of Batman history, to some degree.
It even proves how powerful hindsight can be, as Gotham has taken many fashion and style choices from Joel Schumacher’s Batman tenure, and those things have largely been embraced by fans.
However, as it has continued to develop, Gotham has fallen into exactly the same trap that Smallville did. It’s introduced virtually every villain at this point. Right from season one, those villains have gone through their entire origin stories while Bruce Wayne has been stuck at the beginning of his.
Now, Bruce is a teenage vigilante, already in a costume and it’s stuck in the same problem Smallville had in its later seasons. If this character has started fighting crime to save their city in costume, why not actually make them the hero at that point?
With how far Bruce has come, there’s no reason not to put him in the Bat suit already.
The series has reached a perfect ending point and there’s no reason for it to last beyond that, even though it almost surely will.
3 Canceled: Generation X
Generation X is still technically the first live-action X-Men that fans had ever been treated to. The pilot movie premiered on Fox, with there being every intention of it launching a TV series.
It was of course based on the extremely successful ‘90s comic book, which saw Emma Frost and Banshee leading a new school for mutants that included Jubilee among the students. The pilot movie cast terrific character actor Matt Frewer as an original villain called Tresch.
However, it tackled the themes of the X-Men lore head on. The mutant control agency was at the heart of the pilot and in some ways, it had already one.
Undocumented mutants could be taken to internment camps if they weren’t careful. The success of the pilot, though, was how believably it showcased the relationships between its teenage characters.
Despite its low budget and the goofy costumes revealed at the end, the show actually had potential.
It still would have been amazing to see what could have become of Generation X. Had it actually aired, it would have been a teenage superhero show that would have beaten the likes of Buffy, Roswell and Heroes to the punch.
It could only have been successful had it actually been allowed to continue past the pilot, but at least fans got to see X-Men on the big screen four years later.
2 Needs to go: Iron Fist
Iron Fist was the first Marvel Netflix show to be met with widespread criticism. It was especially noticeable after the critical acclaim of Luke Cage.
Many were skeptical of Iron Fist going in, worried that there was something about the character’s roots as a privileged white man who has mastered martial arts better than the people it culturally belongs to that simply wouldn’t translate to the screen in 2017. In some ways, they were clearly right.
Fans had also been extremely excited to see the Iron Fist costume on the big screen, as that’s maybe the most beloved thing about that character.
However, even though it would have made more sense for Iron Fist to have a costume, as he’s a famous billionaire protecting his identity, the show opted to depict him in street clothes for no real reason at all.
In fairness, though, the show tried to tackle Danny’s privilege even though it fumbled sometimes. It also went out of its way to note that he was the worst Iron Fist there had ever been and that it had been a mistake to give him this honor, especially as the entire series revolves around Danny having left his post.
Ultimately, Iron Fist proved to work best in interactions with other heroes during The Defenders.
1 Canceled: Black Widow
Since The Avengers, fans have been making their demands known for a Black Widow spinoff. There have been rumors every year that it might be closer to happening, but those rumors never seem to come to fruition.
The movie is likely still a long way off, if it ever actually does happen. However, most fans probably don’t know that Black Widow could have gotten her own TV series, long before the days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In fact, the plans for this show predate even Marvel’s classic ‘70s TV version of The Incredible Hulk.
Angela Bowie, then wife of David Bowie, had stumbled across a comic book in the early ‘70s featuring the pairing of Daredevil and Black Widow and wanted to make this into a TV series.
She envisioned herself playing Black Widow and actor Ben Carruthers was cast as Daredevil for a promotional photo shoot.
The series was deemed too expensive to film at the time, so networks passed on it. Daredevil would make his live-action debut in Trial of the Incredible Hulk, which was also meant to launch a TV series for the hero. A character based heavily on Black Widow also appeared in Death of the Incredible Hulk.
Can you think of any other superhero shows that were canceled too soon? Are there any others that need to go? Sound off in the comments!
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