They Can't All Be Winners1 of 12It’s that time again! Time for a new wave of television show announcements, including several new superhero-based prospects. While fans are likely to embrace many of the comic book TV shows on the horizon, the law of averages tells us that at least a few of them will be real stinkers.
Yesterday, we counted down the best superhero/comic book TV shows of all time and today – you guessed it – we’re counting down the worst. We’re willing to bet a lot of you may have fond memories of some of these shows, but let’s be honest – most of them haven’t stood the test of time.
THE TICK2 of 12What were they thinking? Sure the comic book was an underground hit and the animated series garnered a cult fanbase, but that's a long way from something like The Tick being a viable candidate for a primetime live action TV series. Nevertheless, in 2001 Fox put a live action The Tick series into the high stakes slot of Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. and promoted its debut during the World Series. It didn't take long for the series to falter.
That's not to say the show didn't have a lot going for it. Ben Edlund had assembled veteran writers from the animated series a few years prior to work on this, and Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfield was even involved. In addition to a main cast headed up by Patrick Warburton, it had some noteworthy guest stars including Hellboy's Ron Perlman and Back To The Future's Christopher Lloyd. Heck, it even had Lost's Richard Alpert, a.k.a Nestor Carbonell, playing a Spanish Batman homage named Batmanuel.
But at the end of the day, viewers failed to tune in; the show lasted little more than two months and became a humorous footnote in the resumes of everyone involved. Sometimes a comic book is best translated into animation, and not live action.
Fans of the Tick got a second chance at a live action show now that Amazon has aired the pilot for a reboot, with plans for more later this year.
BATMAN3 of 12We will be up front with you on this: this show also appears on the 10 Best Comic Book Live Action series, and even higher up on that list. In fact, the 60s era Adam West Batman show ranked high by defining DC's Dark Knight to audiences for thirty years. But that doesn't mean it's a good thing.
The hokey dialogue and campy nature of the twice-weekly show pigeonholed comic book super-heroes as vaudeville hijinx out of touch with reality. The ever-present "Bif! Bam! Pow!" became shorthand for the comedic endeavors perpetuated by Adam West and crew. There's no doubt there were some admirable performances from the likes of Frank Gorshin and Cesar Romero, but the series became a fun-house mirror interpretation of what Batman was in comic books at the time.
It took decades for Batman, and superhero comic books at large, to break free from the stereotypes pressed onto the form by this late '60s show. Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's good, especially given its effect on the perception of comics. And every time you've read a "Bif! Pow! Comics aren't just for kids anymore" headline (yes, all 10,000 times), you have this show to blame.
BLADE4 of 12The success of Wesley Snipes' Blade movies surprised everyone, including Marvel Comics. The first movie might have been considered a fluke, but when Guillermo del Toro upped the stakes in Blade 2, it made people realize there was something potent here.
The TV series debuted at No. 1 in key demographics among cable shows, but quickly faltered as people realized this wasn't the Blade from the movies they were familiar with. And Spike TV was quick to cancel it because of how expensive it was to produce, especially given it was the network's first live action drama.
But the TV series didn't have to be this way. Originally the plan was for Wesley Snipes to reprise his role as Blade in this series, and for it to air on Showtime in keeping with the adult nature of the movie. That fell apart when Snipes backed out due to a lawsuit with the movie franchise's producers, which led to the television show being shopped around to Spike TV and casting rapper Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones in the role. Bringing in the movie trilogy's screenwriter David Goyer and comic book/film vet Geoff Johns failed to help the show succeed.
SWAMP THING5 of 12These days super-hero movies are big business, but in the early 80s – even after the success of Superman – they were a hard commodity to pitch. DC's Swamp Thing became one of the first (and last) b-movie hits, thanks in no small part to writer/director Wes Craven. After two mid-range move hits, a fledging USA Network picked up the series to be one of its first original shows. But the USA Network of the 1990s wasn't the one we know of today from Mr. Robot and other hits, it was fringe cable.
Nevertheless, stuntman Dick Durock reprised his role as Swamp Thing and was thrown into the mix in his biggest role to date - all while wearing an 80-pound costume in the south Florida heat. The production made a big commitment early on, shooting six days a week for 50 weeks to produce 50 shows - a grueling schedule for anyone. The relatively low TV budget and the demands of the costume hampered the action scenes, and although Durock had been in countless television shows and films as a stuntman admitted on his own that he wasn't an "actor actor."
The series went on for an improbable 72 episodes due to the market at the time, where in today's world it would have been clipped after the first nine.
BIRDS OF PREY6 of 12On paper it sounds like it could be a real hit: a Charlie's Angels-style group of female adventurers living and working in the shadows of Batman's Gotham City. But then the translation from comic book page to the small screen saw some liberties taken that made it hard for fans to latch onto.
2002's Birds of Prey series on the WB had an Oracle relatively identical to her comic counterpart, but the Huntress, loosely based on the Silver Age version of the character, was the illegitimate child of Batman and Catwoman – somehow gaining metahuman abilities akin to a cat along the way. Sounds pretty... different, huh?
The show was spear-headed by a relatively new screenwriter, Laeta Kalogridis, whose main work up to that point was rewrites to Scream 3 and the first Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie. Kalogridis went on to work with James Cameron on multiple projects, but she didn't seem an ideal fit to make something like Birds of Prey work, on the big screen or small, with only 10 episodes airing.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN7 of 12Never heard of this? Consider that a good thing.
In the late '70s, Marvel partnered with MGM to make a live-action CBS series out of its flagship star but tripped up due to the low-budget of television at the time and poor writing that strayed so far from the character's comic origins that it led to even Stan Lee complaining the show was too juvenile.
In the lead role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, the show's producers cast Nicholas Hammond, one of the young boys from The Sound of Music 12 years earlier. The show pitted Spider-Man against plain-clothes threats instead of his familiar rogues gallery, with him fighting everything from a new age guru to a cavalcade of thieves in all shapes and sizes. To top it all off, Aunt May was played by a different actress each time she appeared in the series and neither of Peter's prominent love interests - Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson - were a part of the series.
That Parker Luck.
FLASH GORDON (2007)8 of 12In 2007, the Sci Fi Channel made a valiant attempt to revitalize comic book pulp hero Flash Gordon in a new television series. Enlisting former Smallville star Eric Johnson in the lead role and former Charmed producer Peter Hume to guide the show, Flash Gordon quickly became a dud with SFX Magazine naming it the worst show it ever reviewed.
In the show, Flash Gordon is Steve Gordon, a twenty-something who lives at home with his mom with a pretty aimless life. It's not until his old flame Dale Arden returns to town that he shows signs of life, but an alien invasion puts a hamper on any plans he has. But good thing, as it's revealed these aliens were also responsible for the death of Steve Gordon's father years ago. Gordon ends up jumping between Earth and Mongo, pursued by villains resembling characters from '80s music videos, replete with copious amounts of hairspray and biker wear straight out of Michael Jackson's "Beat It."
I don't know whose Flash Gordon this is, but it isn't ours.
LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN9 of 12Re-interpreting the Superman and Lois Lane dynamic as a romantic comedy isn't a bad place to start, but this early 1990s series took the super out of superhero and made it more of an office romance with one of the two lovebirds moonlighting as the most iconic superhero in history. The show carried on a soap opera-esque flair for the dramatic, which carried over to even more bizarre antics when it involved Lois Lane clones, secret colonies of Kryptonians, and a mystery baby attributed to Lois and Clark.
Although successful for a time, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman calcified Superman's heroics for the mainstream public and put the actual superheroing in the backseat in favor of on-again, off-again romance. At least it gave us the marriage of Lois & Clark, which was mirrored in comic books - a marriage that was recently brought back into mainstream comic book continuity with "Rebirth."
NIGHT MAN10 of 12Based on the little-known character of the same name from '90s Malibu Comics, the syndicated television series Night Man saw a working jazz saxophonist get hit by lightning and gain the ability to see evil but with the price of never sleeping again. TV veteran Glen A. Larson (Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider) was brought on to helm the show, bringing with it the unique ability for Night Man to crossover with another oddity - Manimal, the lead character from Larson's previous TV series.
One of the primary bones of contention with the series is how a working jazz musician could afford and build the Night Man bodysuit with its abilities for flight, invisibility and shooting lasers. As jazz saxophonists go, we don't think any of them could do it - not even Bill Clinton or the late Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.
Guest spots by Little Richard and future-U.S. President Donald Trump couldn't save the show, and Night Man's become one of the most unusual oddities in the pantheon of live action television shows based on comic books.
MUTANT X11 of 12Pretend you're a Hollywood executive in 2000 and you'd just seen the long-awaited X-Men movie become a blockbuster hit. The chance comes to develop a television series based on the X-Men titles with the full backing of Marvel, so what do you do? In the case of Mutant X, you throw out all the pre-existing characters and even the concept of mutants in favor of rebellious test subjects given mutant powers by government experiments.
The syndicated series Mutant X ran for three seasons in the early 2000s, carrying the branding of Marvel and the X-Men but containing nothing resembling the characters people would know from the comic book or the then-recent hit film. In a way it was like the Go-Bots cartoon if it called itself Transformers; derivative, but needlessly so in Mutant X's case.
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