Top 10 TV Shows Based on Indie Comics, Pre-WALKING DEAD

<i>by <a href=http://www.twitter.com/graemem>Graeme McMillan, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p><em>Walking Dead</em> aside, one of the reasons that the news that <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/tv/sixth-gun-nbc-pilot-order.html>NBC has ordered a TV pilot based on Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's <em>The Sixth Gun</em></a> is so exciting is that it feels at times that it's only Marvel and DC books that get chances at television, what with <em>Ultimate Spider-Man</em>, <em>Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes</em>, <em>Arrow</em>, <em>Smallville</em> and <em>Young Justice</em>, to name just a few shows. <p>That's not the case, however there have been many television projects based on comic books that have nothing to do with the Big Two. Sure, you know about <i>Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles</i> amd <i>Tales From the Crypt</i>, but here are 10 more examples to prove it. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

BIG GUY AND RUSTY THE BOY ROBOT

Lasting 26 episodes across two seasons on Fox Kids, this animated adaptation nonetheless managed to outlast the ridiculously short-lived Dark Horse comic by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow, which only lasted two issues back in the mid-1990s. <p>The series expanded on the comic's mythology and developed the relationship between the title characters past what had been established in the original, as well. If we couldn't have an ongoing <em>Big Guy and Rusty</em> comic, this was a pretty great second prize.

NIGHT MAN

Surprisingly, this live-action spin-off of the Malibu Ultraverse comic of the same name brought to the screen by Glen A. Larson, the man behind <em>Knight Rider</em>, <em>Magnum, PI</em> and <em>Battlestar Galactica</em> lasted two full seasons, giving television viewers a chance to really get to know Johnny Domino, the San Francisco-based saxophonist who fought crime after the sun went down. <p>The television series even offered something that the comic book never could: A chance to team-up the titular hero with Professor Jonathan Chase, a.k.a. the hero of 1983's amazing-to-me-as-a-kid <em>Manimal</em>. <a href="http://www.poobala.com/manimalandnightman.html">No, really</a>.

PAINKILLER JANE

Sadly, Syfy or the Sci-Fi Channel, as it was back then only managed to get one season out of the live-action version of Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada's undercover cop-turned-vigilante, despite the series itself being the result of a TV movie that garnered impressive ratings. <p>Nonetheless, it was fast-moving and fun, and gave co-creator Palmiotti a chance to add "professional television writer" to his resume, scripting an episode in the middle of the run.

SABLE

Even before Tim Burton's <em>Batman</em> made comic books a cool source material for movies and television, Mike Grell's <em>Jon Sable: Freelance</em> made it to the small screen with a short-lived (only seven episodes aired) adaptation that aired on ABC in 1987. <p>It's now more famous for offering actress Rene Russo her first television role (as well as offering future <em>Twin Peaks</em> star Lara Flynn Boyle an early shot at stardom) than anything about the heroic children's book author-turned-mercenary that gave the series its name.

WITCHBLADE

Like <em>Painkiller Jane</em>, the television version of <em>Witchblade</em> got its start after a well-received pilot movie, but only managed to last 23 episodes before cancellation, spanning two seasons from 2001 through 2002. Nevertheless, the series brought Yancy Butler to the attention of fans everywhere, a fact that they are doubtless thankful for even today.

THE MAXX

Yes, MTV's animated adaptation of Sam Kieth's most well-known solo series may have only lasted 13 brief episodes (literally; each episode was just 11 minutes long), but what a run it was, mixing visual styles hand-drawn animation mixed with CGI and live-action imagery and bringing the first few issues of Kieth's series to life in a way that was both authentic and true to the original and complete in and of itself.

THE TICK

You could argue that Ben Edlund's superhero comedy was more successful on television than it was in comics, spawning not one but <em>two</em> shows throughout the years, both animated (from 1994 through 1996) and live-action (2001's sole season). <p>The animated incarnation was far more popular than the live-action (Three seasons versus nine episodes), but both introduced audiences to Edlund's hilariously skewed version of the superhero genre and sent people in search of the original comics.

SPAWN

Not only did Todd McFarlane manage to bring his creator-owned character to movies, but he also created this eighteen-episode animated version for HBO that ran in six-episode seasons from 1997 through 1999. <p>Offering a less obviously superheroic version of the character than the comic, the three seasons were later released, re-edited, as three animated "movies" forming a complete trilogy.

THE MIDDLEMAN

Critically adored but sadly cancelled one episode short of its original season order by the network, the television version of Javier Grillo-Marxauch's <em>The Middleman</em> was smart, funny and apparently not what the regular ABC Family audience was looking for at the time. <p>Starring Matt Keeslar as the uptight, upright title character and Natalie Morales as his somewhat unconvinced snarky sidekick Wendy, it was that rare show that genuinely was ahead of its time, and one that fans still miss more than they would care to admit.

SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH

Yes, <em>Sabrina</em>: That unusual thing, a successful comics-to-television translation that lasted seven years despite a network shift in between (the first four years of the show aired on ABC, the final three on the WB), at one point bringing in 17 million viewers per episode and spawning all manner of merchandise along the way. <p>Considering the relatively low-profile of the Archie comic that it came from, it's tempting to argue that this show actually eclipsed its source material in terms of awareness, even managing to spin-off an animated series based on the earlier TV episodes rather than the comic book. Clearly, America was just ready for a show with a sarcastic magical talking cat during the mid-1990s.

TV

Top 10 TV Shows Based on Indie Comics, Pre-WALKING DEAD

Date: 23 January 2013 Time: 09:15 PM ET