The insane popularity of superheroes in pop culture has extended out to all mediums. However, TV shows and movies have been received the biggest boom. It's almost impossible to not find a superhero TV show that's airing on any given day week, let alone find a movie that's premiering in theaters on the weekend. This has been the status quo for nearly a decade.
Yet, as much success as the superhero genre as received, especially on TV, the formula isn't always a recipe for success. There have been plenty of shows that have slipped through the cracks, in one way or another.
Some superhero shows were incredible but ended up being far too short, while others have gone on for longer than their quality deserved. Some TV shows on this list predate the current supehero boom and some fall right in the middle of it. However, whether too long or too short, they all share the distinction that their length is unjustifiable.
There are some notable exceptions that won’t be found on this list-- a couple superhero shows were cancelled before their time, such as Teen Titans and Young Justice, but they either got a chance to wrap-up their stories or will receive wrap-up/continuations soon. All of these shows either ended prematurely and with a ton of lost potential or should wrap up their narratives sooner rather than later.
Here are the 9 Superhero Shows Canceled Too Soon (And 6 That Need To Go).
15 Too Soon: Constantine
NBC’s Constantine didn’t revolutionize the supernatural TV genre. In broad strokes, the show was not much different than Supernatural, Grimm, or anything of a similar ilk. However, Constantine still had one thing that all those other shows lacked: Matt Ryan in the lead role.
Ryan almost feels as if he was born to play John Constantine. Ryan elevated the material around himself, making the entire series feel as fun and charismatic as himself. Towards the end of its first season, the show also managed to find its groove on a plot level, becoming much creepier and dark. Sadly, the ratings were so low that the show was cancelled shortly after it started to find itself.
Thankfully, though, Arrow managed to revive Matt Ryan’s portrayal of Constantine by adding him into their season 4, which led to Ryan getting his own animated series and an appearance in Legends of Tomorrow season 3. However, the chances of Constantine getting a full revival or reboot seem dead for the moment.
14 Too Soon: Justice League Unlimited
Since it’s often lumped in with its predecessor Justice League, there’s a perception that Justice League: Unlimited lasted far longer than it did. However, the show that marked the end of DCaU only lasted 3 seasons which consisted of about 39 episodes. This a criminally short amount of time.
Although JLU directly follows Justice League (in chronological order) it was the far superior series. Justice League Unlimited, as the name suggests, took the entire breadth of the DC Universe and managed to tell some incredibly impactful stories.
Some were adaptations of classic comic stories; like the episode “For the Man Who Has Everything”, which told the story of the classic Superman tale of the same name. Others like the Booster Gold-centric episode “The Greatest Story Never Told” were fantastically entertaining but original stories.
Thankfully, Justice League Unlimited did have a proper ending and a series finale but with such a high pedigree of storytelling much, much more could’ve been done than less than 40 episodes.
13 Need to Go: Marvel's Inhumans
Marvel's Inhumans series was almost dead on arrival as it generated terribly negative commercial and critical buzz. It was written off from the start and its network, ABC, showed very little faith in the property, but it was for good reason. Inhumans is, largely, a disgrace to the Marvel brand, as it is aggressively and hopelessly mediocre and cheap-looking.
The TV division of Marvel is not nearly as consistent as the movies but there is at least some form of quality control present. Inhumans does not show that same polish. It's a lazy and half-hearted attempt to tell the stories of a group of characters that very few people, certainly no one making the show, cares about.
Rather than being any kind of engaging space soap opera, Inhumans is just mess of nearly epic proportions. It’s not cancelled yet, but it certainly should be axed.
12 Too Soon: The Middleman
The Middleman was not only cancelled far too soon, but it’s also so obscure that it often doesn’t come up in conversations like this one. However, The Middleman is an incredibly creative and underrated series that was cancelled far before it’s time.
Based on the comic series of the same name, The Middleman saw main character Wendy Watson get sucked into a life of bizarre and increasingly hilarious adventures with the titular character.
The Middleman is, in essence, Doctor Who but with a lot more irreverence and wacky fun embedded within its DNA. The series was stuffed to the brim with pop culture references and nerdy jokes galore.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be just a little too weird to gain any serious fans. The Middleman was meant to have a thirteen-episode first season but only managed to air twelve installments before being cancelled by network ABC family.
11 Need to Go: The Gifted
If there’s any superhero universe that’s perfectly suited for the medium of television, it’s the X-Men's. The X-Men's status as the ultimate underdogs being constantly persecuted by a world that doesn’t understand them is ripe for story potential. It’s really perplexing then why The Gifted just lacks any kind of serious interest.
The Gifted is not a bad show-- but it’s not a very good one either. All the elements for a fantastic X-Men story are present but nothing is done take it to the next level. The Gifted prioritizes plot over basic character motivation and development. The people of the universe act more as props that real human beings. There’s nothing particularly fun or even that surprising about the show, it just exists.
While there’s a chance that The Gifted can improve in a hypothetical second season, there’s been nothing that really demands more time with the characters. It’s an X-Men story with no X-Men charm.
10 Too Soon: The Flash
The Flash’s current televised journeys with Grant Gustin in the lead role don’t show any signs of slowing down soon. However, that isn't the first time that The Flash has starred in live-action on the small screen. Previously, John Wesley Shipp (or plays Jay Garrick and Henry Allen on The CW’s Flash) stepped into the role of Barry Allen in 1990.
The original Flash series is a complete product of its time. It’s cheesy and the special effects are entirely laughable by today’s standards. Yet, the show was (and is) an enormous amount of fun. The Flash was colorful, bright and all rough edges were sanded out by Shipp’s charming performance.
The Flash wasn’t a perfect show but it deserved to be given as much time to grow into a cult favorite like DC’s previous TV offerings of Batman and Wonder Woman. However, The Flash was only given one very short season before being cancelled.
9 Need to Go: Marvel's Iron Fist
The last piece of Netflix’s Defenders puzzle, Iron Fist, isn't without its positive qualities. Still, the negatives of Danny Rand’s first televised story far outweigh anything positive about them. Iron Fist isn’t quite as terrible as it is extraordinary bland.
Unlike any of its Marvel Netflix brethren, Iron Fist lacks any real intensity or complexity. Iron Fist, to pardon the pun, has no punch. There is some hope of salvaging the character and series.
Danny was ever so slightly more bearable on The Defenders and the character will be joining season 2 of Luke Cage. The latter bit of news is reason enough rejoice, as Luke Cage on its worst day is far better series than Iron Fist.
However, if season 1 of Iron Fist was the only season of Iron Fist there’d be very few reasons to complain about that fact. Nothing was introduced in Iron Fist season 1 that couldn’t be continued in another (better) show.
8 Too Soon: Wolverine and the X-Men
The X-Men have had several cartoons over the years. None have been full of so much potential and ended so early as Wolverine and the X-Men. Although Logan headlines the series and is the undeniable “main character,” the show manages to service much more than the hairy Canuck.
The series takes place after the presumed deaths of both Jean Grey and Charles Xavier, and has the rest of the X-Men roster (which includes nearly everyone’s favorites) dealing with the aftermath.
The show managed to balance fan service with an engaging and original narratives. Wolverine and the X-Men was filled with a surprising amount of depth and emotion. In particular, the arc of Emma Frost reached new heights for the character.
Sadly the quality of the series didn’t exactly translate to ratings and the show was cancelled after just one season, leaving the story off in a cliffhanger.
7 Need to Go: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has slowly and steadily improved since its first and rather unremarkable season. However, just because a show is getting better doesn’t mean it needs to continue. As Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. enters season 5, it’s reaching a point where the show is running out of stories to tell.
To its credit, the show has brushed off the shackles of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This has allowed it to be much more open and free with its storytelling. S.H.I.E.L.D. no longer just feels like one look commercial for the movies, but has become a little too ambitious for its own good. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has become crazier and crazier in its storylines meaning that it will almost certainly reach a point where things became far too outlandish.
It’s best for the series to finish out on a high note than to push its limits so far that the whole thing caves in on itself.
6 Too Soon: The Spectacular Spider-Man
Spider-Man almost always has a cartoon on the air because the character’s popularity simply can’t be matched. All that being said, the loss of Spectacular Spider-Man still stings for anyone who watched the series.
The short-lived show took a look at a high school aged Peter Parker but managed to draw characters and stories from all eras of Spider-Man so that the stories never felt limited. Rather than being messy or confusing in this approach, Spectacular Spider-Man managed to feel like the culmination of the character’s long history in one neat package.
Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, and Eddie Brock can exist side-by-side despite what Spider-Man 3 would tell you. The show was fun for fans and newcomers alike, balancing humor with intricate storylines.
The biggest sin of Spectacular Spider-Man’s cancellation isn’t exactly that it was so good. It’s the reason that the show was ended, which had nothing to do with ratings. Spectacular Spider-Man was axed due to legal issues between Disney and Sony Pictures. Eventually those issues would be worked out to bring Peter Parker to the MCU but Spectacular Spider-Man remains a huge casualty of that conflict.
5 Need to Go: Teen Titans Go!
The original Teen Titans did get a movie that wrapped up the storyline. Still, a revival of sorts was created in the new series, Teen Titans Go!-- it's a just revival that no original fan wanted. TTG sees the voice cast of the original series reunite to play the same characters but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. While Teen Titans was a show for all ages, Teen Titans Go! is clearly targeted at very young children.
Its ratings on Cartoon Network can’t be denied but it’s also a rather insufferable portrayal of the characters. Teen Titans Go! is aiming for comedic tone but it goes very far overboard so that every line is some juvenile joke. There are moments of cleverness, but they’re greatly outweighed by humor of the lowest common denominator.
The chances of Teen Titans Go! being cancelled are very low. However, in order for Cartoon Network to have some more palatable superhero content, it absolutely should go.
4 Too Soon: Marvel's Agent Carter
The fact that Agent Carter got not just one, but two seasons is a bit of miracle. Hayley Atwell was extraordinary in the role when she first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger, but it wasn’t as if the character was created to make a spin-off. However, Agent Carter happened, and while it lasted, it was gloriously refreshing take on the superhero genre.
There are so many things about Agent Carter that separated it from the competition. It was a female-led series and a period piece, but most importantly it starred Hayley Atwell. Atwell has an undeniably and magnetic star quality about her that’s almost impossible to explain properly. She’s simply someone worth watching and she brought Peggy Carter to life in a way that few actresses could.
Sadly, the originality of Agent Carter might’ve been its downfall. It separated itself from the MCU in style and tone so much that it just couldn’t manage to gain the massive audience it deserved. It was cancelled after two seasons, the second of which ended on a frustrating cliffhanger.
3 Need to Go: Arrow
The fact that Arrow should end is in no way a comment on its declining quality. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Arrow season 5 was arguably the best year of the show yet and there are ton of interesting plot threads in season 6. However, there’s something to be said for a show going out on a creative high.
Arrow has rebounded (in a huge way) since seasons 3 and 4 but the best days of the series are most likely behind it. Historically, shows don't get better after season 6 and beyond. Arrow has brought Oliver Queen from a myopic and miserable loner to someone that is much more mature and overall happy.
There’s been a real progression of Oliver’s character from season 1 to season 5, so much that he's almost become a radically different person. Part of the reason that season 5 was so amazing was because it served as the ending to a years' long story. Season 6 has served as a new beginning but it shouldn't last as long as the original tale.
Oliver's journey is one that should end with a metaphorical ride into the sunset, not one that's long extended past its expiration point so it becomes a mockery of its once greatness.
2 Too Soon: No Ordinary Family
No Ordinary Family was not based on any comic book property, being a completely original story with original characters. However, in it’s very short-life span the show managed to nail the classic elements and themes that attracts fans to the genre in the first place.
As one of super-producer Greg Berlanti’s pre-Arrowverse projects, No Ordinary Family had almost everything fans love from Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl. Though it maybe not in a direct way, the show still paved the way for the successful CW superhero universe.
No Ordinary Family was a bit like a live-action Incredibles, with a regular suburban family developing super-powers. The show boasted a great cast with Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz at the center and just exuded fun action-adventure.
Sadly, No Ordinary Family preceded the superhero TV boom by a couple years and couldn't grab a hold of an audience, being cancelled after one season.
1 Too Soon: Green Lantern: The Animated Series
Green Lantern: The Animated Series premiered and aired right alongside Young Justice. It was also cancelled right alongside Young Justice. While the latter’s cancellation earned real ire from fans, Green Lantern’s axing went relatively unnoticed, which is a true shame because the show was one of the best adaptations of the Green Lantern mythos outside of comics.
The 3D animation, with its very simple textures, might have been off-putting to some, but Green Lantern still used the style to the greatest amount of efficiency. The show didn’t look cheap at all-- rather the 3D look sold the show as an otherworldly space adventure.
This is not even to mention that in the show’s first and only season, it managed to pack more story and development than most other shows can do in twice its time. While the season finale did wrap up most things up, it still stands as an example of lost potential. There should have been many more years and stories to tell.
What superhero shows do you wish lasted longer? Which ones would you like to see end? Sound off in the comments!
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