After years of figuring out how to use their characters in other mediums, Marvel got a firm grasp on how to create a successful franchise that people will come back to for over ten years. There was a lot of work and careful planning that went into such a process that it's astounding how big it has become. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for how they created their TV shows. Before the MCU, most of their TV shows were disconnected and simply trying to capitalize on certain popular characters before fizzing out without a word. With the MCU in tow, now they try to create their TV shows by piggybacking off the success of their films, and it hasn't quite worked out the same way.
With the middling success and quality of their shows, Marvel has been forced to pull the plug on a lot of them. While some were justified, as they weren't great shows to begin with, there were others that deserved better. At the very least, the promise was there to create something spectacular, but a cancellation prevented it from ever being fully realized. Too many Marvel shows were treated this way. The worst cases left popular shows on serious cliffhangers, and we'll never get over them. Marvel knows exactly how to create a movie universe, but they aren't quite sure how to do the same with TV shows. Here are 20 Marvel TV shows that were cancelled way too soon. They're nothing shy of sad stories.
20 WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN
Tragedy was the theme of Wolverine and the X-Men. An explosion at the school split the X-Men apart seemingly for good. However, dastardly villains and new threats forced them to come together once more to form the old team. The disjointed and estranged nature of this show is what set it apart from other X-Men shows.
However, it didn't get the ratings that some of the higher-ups wanted. After just one season in 2009, it was cancelled, and the show ended on a cliffhanger that will never get resolved. The worst part is there was a lot of potential with this show, and it was arguably one of the better Marvel cartoons.
19 BLACK PANTHER: THE ANIMATED SERIES
Captain America: Civil War wasn't T'Challa's first appearance outside of a comic book. There was another time Marvel tried to bring him into the mainstream. Black Panther: The Animated Series followed T'Challa's struggle to become the king of Wakanda after the untimely demise of his father.
Featuring an expansive roster of villains trying to take over Wakanda, T'Challa had to fight battles both inside and outside the city of Wakanda. Despite being vastly unique from the rest of Marvel's TV shows, Black Panther was cancelled after just six episodes, not having the popularity to keep it afloat past that point.
18 SILVER SURFER
A TV series around the Silver Surfer sounds like a recipe for success. Having Jack Kirby inspire the show's direction and animation, its lasting appeal is almost guaranteed. However, despite having everything in order, the Silver Surfer TV show lasted for one season before being cancelled. It was a show that depicted the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, bringing in characters like Ego the Living Planet and Beta Ray Bill.
The issue that caused the show to be cancelled was a legal dispute. It was praised for its direction and was honestly an exciting show for its time. Now it seems Silver Surfer is destined to be locked in a legal battle.
17 SPIDER-MAN: THE NEW ANIMATED SERIES
Spider-Man has always had it rough when it came to animated shows and that sentiment is extended to Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Instead of being a retelling of the classic Spidey cartoon, this show followed the events of the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film.
This version of Peter was trying to have a relationship with Mary Jane, keep Harry Osborn off his tail, and fight off new foes like the Lizard and Kraven the Hunter. Despite the popularity of Sam Raimi's movie, it wasn't enough to get MTV the ratings they wanted for the show. After its first season, it was cancelled, leaving the show on a cliffhanger.
16 IRON FIST
Iron Fist was far from the best Marvel Netflix show, but its second season proved that it was making leaps and bounds of progress to become the proper homage to Danny Rand that fans have wanted for a long time. Finn Jones was slowly depicting himself as the Iron Fist that everyone could love.
With proper ties to the other Defenders and more concise action, it seemed that it was on the right track. Unfortunately, those small victories weren't enough to save Iron Fist from the poor reception of its first season. Having no proper audience, Marvel and Netflix pulled the plug on Danny Rand.
15 BLADE: THE SERIES
Blade was a popular character in the early 2000s. It was enough to warrant Spike to pick up a show involving his attempts to slay some vampires and look cool while doing it. Blade: The Series was the most-watched TV show premiere Spike had at the time, which led many to believe that it would have a long life.
Despite getting excellent ratings and acceptable reviews, Blade was cancelled after its first season. The reason for its cancellation was that it was too expensive and too big a risk for Spike to take at the time being as new as it was.
14 FANTASTIC FOUR: WORLD'S GREATEST HEROES
The Fantastic Four have always had it rough, especially outside of comic books. All of FOX's movies were received poorly, and they weren't treated well on television either. Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes was a TV show released around the time FOX started the movies.
It was everything the movies weren't, though: wacky, funny, and concise. Wasting no time giving audiences the backstory of each character, it jumps right into the action, showcasing alien courtrooms, space battles, and impressive powers. However, it ran for one season and was cancelled before all of its episodes were even aired.
13 MARVEL ANIME
This isn't quite a regular series. For about two years, Madhouse worked with Marvel to create a few anime episodes that followed characters like Wolverine and Blade. Without a proper audience, the anime shows couldn't get the success that Marvel and Madhouse wanted, so they fizzled out in due time.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of potential with adapting superheroes into the anime style. There were moments in the Marvel Anime shows that had great animation and action. With a few tweaks and proper direction, they could've been just what the fans wanted. Guess we'll never know what the plans were for those shows, though.
12 MOST WANTED
With the success of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel wanted to try and expand on that universe by highlighting two of the show's characters, Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter. The show was called Most Wanted and would've followed their exploits as they were on the run after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2014.
ABC ordered a pilot and it was finished. However, they refused to pick up the series for a full season, leaving the show to have only a single episode. Where most shows on this list at least lasted a season, Most Wanted didn't even get past its first episode, which seems a bit unfair.
11 LUKE CAGE
As if the blow dealt to fans of Iron Fist wasn't enough, it wasn't long after when Netflix cancelled another one of their Marvel shows. Luke Cage was the next series to get the axe, which was a bit more surprising to viewers. Luke Cage was a bit better received than Iron Fist and had more dynamic acting and better story progression.
Furthermore, the cancellation of Luke Cage all but confirmed that an eventual Heroes for Hire series would never be made now that both characters didn't have a show to call their own. Luke Cage only lasted two seasons and we barely knew him.
10 POWER PACK
Power Pack has been talked about a lot as an obscure Marvel team that could make it to the MCU. Kevin Feige has talked about using them in the future. However, that wouldn't be the first time that the Power Pack made a live-action appearance. Many years ago, there was a pitch for a show surrounding the young characters. A pilot was ordered and completed.
However, Power Pack wasn't picked up for a series, leaving networks to simply rerun the pilot a few times. Despite the fact that writers attempted to restructure the pilot, it wasn't enough to convince networks to order a full season.
9 IRON MAN
Unlike most of the shows on this list, Iron Man (often known as Iron Man: The Animated Series) managed to get through two full seasons in the '90s before being cancelled. The reason for its cancellation was that ratings were down. Its first season wasn't received very well, and many were criticizing its acting and direction.
However, those problems were addressed in the second season, leading to a much more exciting and interesting superhero show. However, it couldn't bounce back from the negative reception of its first season, prompting the network to cancel it. It did get re-aired during the release of the Iron Man film.
Inhumans was an interesting concept for a series, but it wasn't handled all that well. Without any proper ties to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., having lackluster special effects and a fairly uninteresting story, it became the worst reviewed entry in the MCU to date. It felt rushed in every sense of the word, but that's not to say there wasn't potential.
Some elements were done well, and it could've made for an exciting second season. However, some poor reviews led to bad ratings, which prompted ABC to cancel it after the first season. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be the only show to survive so far.
7 ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
Not many people are defending Ultimate Spider-Man. As a more comedic follow-up to Spectacular Spider-Man, it was underwhelming. However, the writers had a clear vision and stuck to it, leading to a more concise and well-rounded series.
However, the show only lasted for three seasons before getting the ax. The reason for this cancellation was seemingly to make room for Marvel's Spider-Man, the successor, which was much worse in just about every way. It actually made us miss Ultimate Spider-Man, which likely had some more interesting stories left up its sleeve. The wall-crawler deserves a lot better on the small screen.
6 THE DEFENDERS
The Defenders was the show everyone was waiting for after Daredevil debuted. It brought together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist into a team that was trying to save Hell's Kitchen from the Hand. Results were decent, but it had a lot of crowd pleasing moments.
Unfortunately, The Defenders wasn't quite the juggernaut that Marvel and Netflix were looking for, so they cut it altogether after its first season, which lasted less than ten episodes. With most of the Defenders not having their own shows now, it seems that we'll never see a return of The Defenders. They were just getting started too.
5 AGENT CARTER
Peggy Carter proved to be one of the more interesting characters from Captain America: The First Avenger. Future MCU movies hinted at her contribution to S.H.I.E.L.D., but the Agent Carter series is what showed us just how she did it. It was an action-packed series that gave Agent Carter her chance in the spotlight.
Despite losing her beloved Steve Rogers in the war, she continued to fight the good fight. However, the show didn't have the viewer numbers that the network was looking for, so it was cancelled before getting a third season. Fans, to this day, are still quite outraged.
4 SPIDER-MAN: UNLIMITED
While Spider-Man: Unlimited has one of the most awkward costumes for Spider-Man, it proved to be one of the more interesting Marvel shows. Peter Parker was sent to a different Earth to stop villains known as the Bestials. Complete with more impressive technology in his suit thanks to Reed Richards, Spidey was much more effective as a hero.
The show was interesting and even led to a serious cliffhanger at the end of its first season. However, the show couldn't gain an impressive audience due to the popularity of Pokemon at the time, which led FOX to pull the plug on the show entirely.
3 AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES
Perhaps the best cartoon based on the Avengers, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes was everything fans wanted from a series about Marvel's greatest heroes. Complete with great action, tight animation, and plenty of powerful villains to face, the show was one of the best in its class. The team had to take down a slew of dastardly villains and did so while finding new heroes to add to the team.
However, the show only lasted two seasons. It was cancelled so that it could be replaced with Avengers Assemble, which was more in line with the MCU. Fans were not happy with this change and Avengers cartoons have never been the same.
It's still surprising that Daredevil was cancelled after its stellar third season. Arguably the best of the Marvel Netflix shows, Daredevil always seemed like the safest bet to have a long life. However, it didn't have the viewership that it did during its first season, which concerned Netflix. Still, writers pitched an idea for a fourth season, but Netflix chose not to pick it up.
It's possible that the Man Without Fear could live on in future Marvel projects, but with a specific deal regarding the character's appearance in non-Netflix properties, it seems that it will be a while before we ever see him again.
1 SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN
Perhaps the poster boy for Marvel shows that were cancelled too soon is Spectacular Spider-Man. Looking back on this cartoon, there are still people who desperately wish that it got a proper ending. Being a more story-focused series than its predecessors, Spectacular Spider-Man was the quintessential Spider-Man show.
Not only was the iconography of the character and his friends intact, but it also dealt with complex issues and ideas that made the audience think. The show inevitably ended on a cliffhanger in its second season, but it was cancelled only to be replaced with Ultimate Spider-Man.