10 Cancelled Superhero TV Shows That Would Be Successful Today (And 10 That Wouldn't)

It's the golden age of comic book shows on TV. Everywhere you look, a network is green-lighting another superhero affair. While the naysayers are already predicting the demise of the genre as a whole, citing this obscure made-up thing called "superhero fatigue," every new release seems to be proving otherwise. CW's president Mark Pedowitz told Bloomberg: "The audience will tell you when the fatigue has set in. If you have a quality show or a fun show, the audience will stay with it." He's right, you know. There's no way that the TV industry would be doing this for its own health or the fans if it wasn't making a truckload of money off it. It's a profitable business that looks like it'll be around for a very long time, so get comfy and stop complaining!

It does make you wonder what could've been for a host of shows that aired before peak superhero TV, though. There were numerous live-action and animated series that arrived and departed rather quickly, achieving only minor success among fans. Would it be different if these programs had been broadcast today? Well, in some cases, yes. There's no denying that quality superhero shows were produced in the past and many would outshine some of the big hitters on the small screen at the moment. However, there are others that would struggle even now due to various reasons. Taking a trip down memory lane will demonstrate how things could've been different (or more of the same) in 2018.

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Funny how everyone is screaming for news on the Birds of Prey film when the TV series was largely ignored back in the early '00s. Sure, the series was more of an Elseworlds-style story as it followed Helena Kyle/Huntress, Barbara Gordon/Oracle, and Dinah Redmond, but it tried to do something different. It even featured a Mark Hamill voice cameo as he reprised his role as the Joker.

Lasting only 13 episodes, Birds of Prey debuted with a whopping 7.6 million viewers, but the ratings fell sharply in the episodes that followed. Nowadays, you'd think that a show like this would find a cozy home on the DC Universe streaming platform.



Sometimes, the TV industry doesn't make sense, even to the people working in it. Released in 2001, Witchblade was one of the highest-rated shows on TNT at the time. Starring Yancy Butler as the tail-kicking and gauntlet-wearing Detective Sara "Pez" Pezzini, the series found an instant audience but was canceled out of the blue a year later.

No explanation was ever provided – though, there are a few speculations – but Witchblade struggled to capitalize on its short-lived popularity. As it was about to soar, the plug was pulled. Unfortunately, a reboot isn't likely to cut it in this current market, since there are too many similar shows lurking around.


RoboCop The Series

RoboCop: The Series was a wrong-place-wrong-time show in 1994. The original film was R-rated and took no prisoners in its depiction of violence and gore. Yet, here was a series designed to appeal to kids and teenagers, like the Diet Coke version of the real thing. It's about as logical as a 50 Shades of Grey series on Cartoon Network.

Considering how the nature of TV has changed over the years, there's now a market for R-rated and adult shows. There would be no need to tone it down for the sake of appeasing anyone, as there are numerous networks looking for mature content. Can you imagine an R-rated RoboCop show?



It seems like a million years ago, but there was a time when Superboy was about Superman's younger years. Since then, we've seen others take up this mantle, such as Kon-El. Nonetheless, the 1988 series was purely about Clark Kent and an attempt at latching onto the meteoric success of Richard Donner's Superman.

The thing is, Smallville, which arrived years later, did the younger Supes better than Superboy ever did. It also didn't help that John Haymes Newton was replaced by Gerard Christopher as the titular character in the second season, hitting the brakes on any momentum. In this day and age, no one wants to see a Superboy series about Clark.


Painkiller Jane

Based on the character created by Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada for Event Comics, Painkiller Jane arrived in 2007, two years after the made-for-TV film. The series followed Jane Vasco, as portrayed by Kristanna Loken, a DEA agent who discovers that she has the superpower of invulnerability.

It only lasted a single season before receiving the axe, but it had all the right ingredients to become a smash-hit TV show. Think about it: procedural cop stories and superpowers make for quality entertainment. All that's needed is the right network to support and promote Painkiller Jane. There are murmurs of a new film, starring Jessica Chastain, and maybe that'll result in a new TV series as well.


The Cape TV Series

In many ways, we have The Cape to thank for Arrow. It was the precursor to Oliver Queen's adventures and featured several similarities – most notably in the visual style. The series, though, struggled to captivate the minds and hearts of the audience and bombed in its first season.

While we can respect how it paved the way for other programs, it's unlikely that The Cape would find a larger audience now. If you want gritty, you have Netflix's Marvel series. If it's lighthearted that you're after, you can find it on The CW's Arrowverse. So, why would anyone want a show about a no-name hero instead of recognized characters?


Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

We've had a constant stream of Spider-Man animated shows for a few decades now. As soon as one gets canceled, another enters the production line. The problem is, they're all kind of similar and regurgitate the same narratives after a while. This is where Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was different.

Undoubtedly, Peter Parker was the star here, but he had an interesting supporting cast of Iceman and Firestar. This dynamic created something unique for viewers and introduced a never-before-seen team-up in the Marvel Universe. If only we had more original concepts like this, rather than the same-old Spidey series that see poor Uncle Ben meet his maker.


The Crow Stairway to Heaven

The Crow franchise is in a state of limbo. If we're being honest here, things went downhill after the 1994 film. Nothing ever matched the epic nature of the cult-classic. Since then there have been plans for a reboot, but it has failed to materialize. However, there was a "remake" of sorts in the form of The Crow: Stairway to Heaven, which reimagined the Eric Draven tragedy for TV.

Starring Mark Dacascos as Draven, it aired for one season and had decent ratings and positive reviews. Unfortunately, it wasn't as groundbreaking as the original film. Even today, we doubt that a Crow TV series could do much to revive this franchise.


The Green Hornet TV Series

For many, the legacy of The Green Hornet is due to the late, great Bruce Lee portraying Kato and the infamous crossover with Batman. However, the show is much more than that. It's become a cornerstone of geek culture and lives on, even if the franchise wasn't milked dry like a host of others.

Our last on-screen interaction with it was the 2011 movie starring Seth Rogen and Jay Chou. It didn't quite light up the box office or set the review columns on fire, but it did prove one thing to everyone: The Green Hornet is certainly much better suited to the TV format than film.


Ninja Turtles The Next Mutation

On paper, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation should've been every fan's dream. C'mon, a Turtles live-action series that's inspired by the films? Sign us up! Unfortunately, too many corporate hands soiled the set and this ended up as some hare-brained attempt at pretending to understand the source material.

While the introduction of Venus de Milo as the fifth member of the group was a nice touch, the absence of other pivotal characters made this unfamiliar territory. It was the ideal opportunity to introduce Bebop and Rocksteady, but they were nowhere to be found. Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation was a misguided effort that no one would like to see repeated ever again.


The Flash

John Wesley Shipp must have mixed feelings about The Flash. While he's surely happy about getting a chance to appear in the latest series, he must feel disappointed that his own run as Barry Allen didn't take off (especially when they're practically the same show).

From the light tone to the over-the-top villains, it's evident that The CW's speedster series was released at the right time. There was nothing wrong with the storylines, Shipp's Flash, or supporting cast, as we've seen a bunch of them pop up in the new show as well. The only sin of 1990's The Flash was that it was – like the titular character – ahead of its time.



When someone says the Avengers to you, you immediately think of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and so forth– not Wasp, Hawkeye, or Wonder Man. While there's nothing wrong with those characters, selling us a show about the Avengers' B-team isn't exactly riveting, and that's where Avengers: United They Stand went wrong.

After seeing the likes of X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and The Incredible Hulk receive high-quality animated series, the expectation was high for the granddaddy of them all: an Avengers show. Fox Studios pulled a fast one, though, and gave us pineapple on pizza. Let's just say that Avengers: United They Stand ran for 13 episodes too many.


You have to feel sorry for Green Lantern: The Animated Series. It was released right after the failure of the live-action film and suffered because of it. Unlike the movie, the show was incredible and captured the real magic of Hal Jordan and the Corps. Unfortunately, the backlash from the big-budget production and poor toys sales ended the series after 26 episodes.

Over time, many have come to appreciate the program and petitioned for its return. With the DC Universe streaming platform set for action soon, we'd imagine that a Green Lantern show must be high up the agenda. Maybe a continuation of Green Lantern: The Animated Series isn't out of the question?


Swamp Thing

No, no. We aren't talking about the live-action Swamp Thing, because we're aware that there's a reboot in the works. This is about the animated series that ran for a whole five episodes in 1991. While the character and comic book series tackle in-depth and important social and ecological issues, the cartoon turned into a blundering combination of Toxic Crusaders and Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

Let's face it: Swampy is a serious character and deserves to be treated as such. If any animated shows are in the pipeline, they should be mature and allow the horror element of the comics to filter through. This isn't a kid-friendly franchise, after all.


Blade TV Series

There were two main issues with Blade: The Series. One, it followed the less-beloved Blade: Trinity. Two, it wasn't R-rated. Even so, the series premiere was the most-watched original in Spike TV's history. Unfortunately, the ratings didn't hold up for 13 episodes and the show wasn't picked up for a second season.

Series producer/writer Geoff Johns said that it was mostly due to the cost of the program that it was canceled. Well, with Netflix dropping a lot of dough on the Marvel shows, there's no reason that it can't add Blade to this roster. In fact, you'd struggle to think of a better home for the Daywalker.



The Zeta Project is the Batman Beyond spinoff that no one asked for. Look, it's not to say that it was a bad show, because that would be a lie. For two seasons, it had chutzpah and gave us something different from the regular superhero programming on the small screen.

Yet, you don't exactly hear anyone calling for a continuation or reboot of it. Those two seasons were more than enough and we got our Zeta fix; plus, there are other series that we'd prefer to see make a return. If we were talking about Batman Beyond, though… Well, now that would be a different story.


Silver Surfer Animated Series

When we talk about the Marvel animated series of the '90s, Silver Surfer is usually forgotten among the usual favorites such as X-Men: The Animated Series and Spider-Man. It's a travesty, really, as it was one of the most stylish shows and a fantastic adaptation of the cosmic character. Heck, it was a proof of concept to Marvel that stories set in space can be adapted for TV and film.

Jack Kirby's creation would likely be better appreciated by a new generation. With films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War being favorites among MCU fans, there's no doubt that Silver Surfer would find a home in their hearts now, too.


Human Target

Look, we need to stop trying to make the Human Target a thing; it isn't. There was a failed pilot in 1990, then the 2010 show starring Mark Valley, aka Jack Devereux in Days of Our Lives. Now, the character pops up in the Arrowverse from time to time, as portrayed by Wil Traval.

Honestly, the latter is the best option for everyone here. There's no need for another series about him. The master of disguise shtick is a tired and old trope, so why make a program about it? Let's continue to use him as a supporting character, rather than as the main star of his own series. Okay?


Released in 2014, Constantine should've been a massive hit. Unfortunately, it aired on the wrong network and was pulled after one season. Matt Ryan has managed to carry over the character to the Arrowverse and voice him in some animated projects, but he really does deserve another live-action series to call his own.

If Constantine had been part of the Arrowverse from the start or the DC Universe, things could've been different. With Swamp Thing in production and who knows what else, we could've been heading towards a Justice League Dark reunion in the near future. There's still hope that this could happen, so let's hold thumbs and say a few magical words for it.


Street Hawk

Street Hawk was like the biker alternative to Knight Rider. It found a cult following, even though it only lasted 13 episodes. That said, it never found the same international success as the Hoff's sweet-talking car KITT – that was next-level entertainment for the '80s.

As such, you can't expect a Street Hawk reboot or remake to achieve much. Sure, it might serve some nostalgic value and find some curious long-time fans tuning in, but for how long can it maintain the hype? Even Knight Rider hasn't successfully translated to modern times. These are the types of shows that are perfect for their time, but they should remain there for everyone's sake.

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