Even though superheroes seem immortal, everything ends. Every never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way comes to an end, whether it's for a little while or forever. While your favorite superheroes might continue on in some form until the end of the world, the cinematic universes, TV shows and comics they star in eventually stop. While a lucky few of these stories came to their natural conclusions, most of these ongoing tales were, or will be, canceled for disappointing, mundane reasons. Usually, these cancellations have something to do with low sales, slumping ratings or irreconcilable creative differences, but some never-ending battles come to a close for much weirder reasons.
Now, CBR is counting down some superhero movies, comics and TV shows that were canceled for surprising reasons. In this list, we'll be taking a look at some of the superhero stories that ended before their time for some moderately shocking reasons. We'll also be looking back at some productions that died in development and never quite got off the ground for similarly odd reasons. While some of these productions ultimately found a second life, their cancelations are still odd pauses in the ongoing multimedia adventures of your favorite superheroes.
15 YOUNG JUSTICE
For two seasons, Young Justice gave some of DC's younger heroes a critically-acclaimed showcase on Cartoon Network. Starting in 2010, the Warner Bros. Animation cartoon offered a serious take on a team that included Superboy, Robin, Aqualad, Miss Martian, Artemis and Kid Flash. Thanks to its expansive cast, complex characters and serialized storylines, the series became a cult sensation before its cancellation in 2013.
According to widely circulated rumors, Young Justice's diverse audience, which skewed older and more female, was a driving force in its cancellation. However, series co-creator Greg Weisman refuted those rumors and revealed that the show was canceled because of lackluster toy sales. Most of the show's funding came from Mattel, and the toy giant effectively doomed the show when it pulled its funding. After years of online fan petitions, Young Justice is finally set to return for a third season on DC Entertainment's upcoming streaming service.
14 BLADE: THE SERIES
While the Wesley Snipes Blade started Marvel's movie renaissance in the late 1990s, Blade: The Series was the first nod towards mature audiences shows like Netflix's Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Starting in 2006, Blade continued the vampire hunter's cinematic adventures on a weekly basis on Spike TV. The show's only season followed Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones as Blade and Jill Wagner as a vampire, Krista Starr, as they battled the ominous-sounding House of Chthon.
With work from future DC Chief Creative Officers Geoff Johns and screenwriter David S. Goyer behind the scenes, Blade got relatively high ratings and modest praise. Despite that, the show was Spike's first original series and was a fairly expensive production. Although Johns later said that Spike didn't want to end the show, it was simply too costly for the young network to produce, and it was canceled after 13 episodes.
13 JUSTICE LEAGUE: MORTAL
Almost a decade before Zack Snyder's Justice League hit theaters, another film almost brought DC's super-team to moviegoers for the first time. In 2007, Mad Max's George Miller signed on to direct Justice League: Mortal. The film would've starred Armie Hammer's Batman, D.J. Cotrona's Superman, Megan Gale's Wonder Woman, Common's Green Lantern, Adam Brody's Flash, Santiago Cabrera's Aquaman and Hugh Keays-Byrne's Martian Manhunter. The League would've gone up against Jay Baruchel's Maxwell Lord, Teresa Palmer's Talia al Ghul and the robotic OMACs.
Even though sets were being built and the cast met for table reads, Miller later claimed that two things ultimately killed his Justice League film, the 2007 writer's guild strike and an odd ruling by the Australian Film Commission. After that commission basically ruled that that production wasn't Australian enough to qualify for tax incentives, Justice League: Mortal died as the WB moved on to other DC films.
12 SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN
After Spider-Man became a cinematic super-star in the early 2000s, Spectacular Spider-Man proved that the Marvel hero could still swing his way to success on TV. Over two seasons in the CW and Disney XD, the Sony Pictures Television cartoon followed a young Peter Parker as he navigated his way through high school and his early crime-fighting days. After premiering in 2008, the show became a fan-favorite for its serialized stories, expansive cast and inventive take on Spider-Man's mythology.
After Sony gave up Spider-Man's TV rights as part of a larger deal with Marvel, neither company could legally continue making Spectacular Spider-Man on its own. While Marvel owned the characters, Sony still owned the show's character designs and stories. Although there were loose plans to introduce characters like Carnage, Scorpion and Hobgoblin in future episodes, those stories couldn't happen, and the show was ultimately replaced by Ultimate Spider-Man in 2012.
11 GEORGE CLOONEY'S NICK FURY MOVIE
Long before Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury became one of the first linchpins in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fury was set to star in his own feature film. While David Hasselhoff has already played the S.H.I.E.L.D. super-spy in a forgettable 1990s TV movie, George Clooney was in talks to play Nick Fury in the character's theatrical debut.
A few years earlier, Marvel Comics had launched MAX Comics, a mature readers imprint that pushed boundaries with explicit content. One of the imprint's first titles was 2001's Fury, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. In one of that series' most gruesome fight scenes, Fury strangled another man with his own intestines. After Clooney reportedly saw that particularly brutal, gory scene, he left the production over concerns about the film's potential violence. Despite this incident, Fury's creative team reunited on a follow-up series, Fury: Peacemaker, in 2006.
10 SUPERMAN LIVES
After Tim Burton turned Batman's first serious movies into worldwide blockbusters, he was a natural choice to bring Superman back to the big screen for the first time in a decade. After the WB commissioned several scripts for a Superman movie in the 1990s, Burton took over the long-gestating movie, tentatively called Superman Lives. Nicholas Cage was famously cast as Superman in the film, which would've loosely been based on the iconic "Death of Superman" storyline.
Although Cage appeared in costume as Superman in a few screen tests, the film's ongoing production troubles continued. As the film continued to languish through numerous script rewrites, Warner Brothers grew desperate for a blockbuster hit. After WB executives reportedly saw Cage's screen tests in April 1998, they abandoned Burton's vision for Superman Lives and threw their support behind Barry Sonnenfeld's Wild Wild West, which received largely negative reviews.
9 GLOBAL FREQUENCY
In the early 2000s, Global Frequency was one of the most forward-thinking, critically-acclaimed comics on the stands. Created by writer Warren Ellis, the series chronicled the adventures of the Global Frequency, an organization of 1001 highly-skilled members. In each issue, the mysterious Miranda Zero would assemble a new team of Frequency members for missions that required their specialized skillsets.
In 2005, Mark Burnett produced a Global Frequency pilot episode for the WB Network. The proposed serious would've had a central cast featuring Michelle Forbes's Zero, Aimee Garcia's techie Aleph, Jenni Baird's scientist Katrina Finch and Josh Hopkins' Detective Sean Flynn along with a rotating crew of Frequency members. After the pilot was filmed, it leaked online in 2005. As Ellis later claimed, this angered the WB to the point that it killed the project, even though the pilot received solid reviews from those who downloaded it.
8 LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN
Starting in 1993, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman introduced a wide audience to a more modern version of Superman. With its mix of romance, workplace drama and superheroics, the Warner Brothers series ran on ABC for four seasons. While the relationship between Dean Cain's Clark Kent and Teri Hatcher's Lois Lane was the heart of the series, Cain's Superman still battled villains like John Shea's Lex Luthor and Howie Mandel's Mr. Mxyzptlk.
While the show's fourth season was airing, ABC tentatively renewed it for another year, with plans for the show to keep its Sunday night timeslot. However, Disney purchased ABC in 1996, and C.E.O. Michael Eisner wanted to bring back the classic movie showcase, The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. The last few episodes of Lois & Clark were burned off on Saturday nights, and the series ended on a cliffhanger that disappointed fans.
7 JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA
Before the Avengers or the Justice League, there was the Justice Society of America. Created by Sheldon Mayer and Gardner Fox in 1940's All-Star Comics #3, the Justice Society was comics' first superteam. Since their rich history is so tied to DC's past, the Society has fallen into an increasingly precarious role in the ever-changing DC Universe. While most of DC's characters have gotten younger through DC's numerous reboots, the Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat and the other Society members have only gotten older.
After the middle-aged Justice Society was freed from an interdimensional prison, they returned to the DC Universe and starred in 1992's Justice Society of America, by Len Strazewski and Mike Parobeck. Although the series was relatively well-reviewed, DC editor Mike Carlin allegedly ordered the cancellation of the series because he thought the heroes were too old. Most of the original Society died by the end of the decade.
6 STATIC SHOCK
While Static might not have the lengthiest comic book history, the electric hero became an icon to a generation thanks to Static Shock. Created by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and Michael Davis, Static was the biggest success from Milestone Media, a critically-acclaimed DC imprint that focused on diverse characters. Although Milestone stopped publishing comics in 1997, the Warner Brothers Animation series gave the teenage hero a TV home starting in 2000.
Over its four season run, Static Shock garnered high ratings, earned solid reviews and even featured a crossover with the Justice League. Despite all that, only a few licensors wanted to make Static Shock merchandise. While most superhero shows are supported by massive action figure lines, Static Shock only merited a few picture books, fast food toys and a canceled video game. As McDuffie later revealed, lackluster merch sales played a major role in the show's cancellation.
5 JUSTICE LEAGUE/AVENGERS
After Marvel and DC's heroes teamed-up throughout the 1970s and 1980s, DC's Justice League was finally set to meet Marvel's Avengers. Marvel editor Jim Shooter worked with DC editors Len Wein and Dick Giordano to assemble a creative team that included mega-star artist George Pérez. While the plot's details were still being worked out between Shooter and the DC editors, DC gave Pérez the go-ahead to start drawing the book from a tentative plot.
When Shooter found out, he was not pleased. The public dispute between the publishers escalated, and Marvel released an article that featured some of Shooter's surprisingly detailed comments. From insisting that Ant-Man couldn't appear to arguing that Quicksilver couldn't help power the Flash's Cosmic Treadmill, the list was filled with disagreements over the most minor details. The crossover was ultimately abandoned and the two superteams wouldn't meet until 2004's JLA/Avengers, which was penciled by Pérez.
4 BATMAN '66
Starting in 1966, the Adam West-starring Batman was a legitimate pop culture phenomenon. Thanks to a colorful, campy tone that appealed to kids and adults, West's Batman and Burt Ward's Robin defined the Dynamic Duo for generations of viewers. After three seasons and a movie, Batman's popularity started to fade significantly. Despite the introduction of Yvonne Craig's Batgirl, ABC canceled the Fox-produced series due to low ratings.
Despite that, NBC wanted to renew Batman two weeks after it was canceled. In addition to funding new episodes, the network even wanted to air the series twice a week, like it had been at its peak. However, NBC quickly lost interest in continuing the series after it discovered that Fox has already destroyed the show's sets. Unwilling to foot the $800,000 bill to rebuild, NBC let Batman slip away.
3 STORMWATCH: TEAM ACHILLES
As one of the pillars of Jim Lee's WildStorm Productions universe, Stormwatch helped make Image a comic book powerhouse in the early 1990s. After DC bought WildStorm, the series evolved from following an unremarkable United Nations-sponsored super-team into the controversial, groundbreaking title, The Authority.
In 2002, WildStorm revived the concept as Stormwatch: Team Achilles, which followed a paramilitary human squad. Written by Micah Ian Wright, the series became a critical darling for its politically-charged action. Wright claimed that this and his other political works were informed by his experience as a U.S. Army Ranger Sergeant. However, Wright hadn't had any affiliation with the military since he was an ROTC student in high school. Shortly before Team Achilles was set to end, The Washington Post was set to expose Wright's act of stolen valor. After Wright admitted his wrongdoing, WildStorm halted the series, leaving the final issue of the title unpublished.
While most major live-action superhero shows leave a lasting legacy in their way, Superboy is still mostly forgotten. Starting in 1988, the syndicated series starred John Haymes Newton as a young Clark Kent in character-driven tales. In the show's second season, Gerard Christopher took over as Superboy as the show incorporated more elements from Superman comics like Bizarro and Metallo.
The series was produced by Ilya and Alexander Salkind, who had purchased the film and TV rights for Superman in the 1970s. After Superboy ran for 100 episodes over four seasons, the Salkinds wanted to continue the show as a series of TV movies. But in the early 1990s, Warner Brothers sued the Salkinds to take back Superman's TV rights. The ensuing legal entanglement effectively ended the show in 1992 and paved the way for the 1993 premiere of the WB's Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
1 FANTASTIC FOUR
In 1961, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four #1 kickstarted the modern Marvel Universe. While the FF haven't always been Marvel's best-selling team, they've been an essential part of Marvel's ongoing epics. Even through various relaunches, Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and the Thing never went more than a few months without starring roles.
After the publication of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk's Fantastic Four #645 and Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic's 2015 crossover Secret Wars, the Fantastic Four were left without a regular series for the first time. According to comments from Hickman and several other creators, Marvel canceled the title because of ongoing disagreements with Fox, who held the FF's movie rights. When Marvel's parent company, Disney, announced plans to buy Fox, the publisher began teasing the FF's comic book return, and fans began salivating at the possibility of a Marvel-produced Fantastic Four movie.