All television shows come to an end, even the most popular ones. Sooner or later, the ratings fall too far, interest fades, and the network moves on to more promising properties. It happens all the time, on every network, and it happens to your favorite comic book television shows. We have been lucky to see so many of the Arrowverse and Marvel Cinematic Universe TV shows last so far, because someday soon, the end will come.
While a select few find a way to tell their natural story before bowing out of the spotlight, most series end when the money runs out. Still some are cancelled for reasons beyond the showrunner’s control. Over the years, many of the most well known television shows have been cut from their network due to unforeseen circumstances, legal issues or meddling from the executives. Television is a risky business, and even when you do everything right, things can still go very wrong. It’s a rarity that the general public comes to know the real reason for a show’s demise, but if you give it a little time, the truth will come out. Here are 15 behind the scenes reasons your favorite comic book TV shows were cancelled.
15. YOUNG JUSTICE
Between 2010 and 2013, Young Justice was among the very best in animated television shows. The series took place on Earth-16, allowing it to exist outside the popular DC Animated Universe. In this world, young heroes were trained by the Justice League in order to be superheroes in their own right.
After two successful seasons, a third season was highly anticipated by fans of the show. However, no new season appeared and Young Justice was quietly cancelled, leaving fans to wonder what happened. It was only years later that we learned that the show was cancelled because of toy sales. Apparently funding was directly based on a toy deal with Mattel. These toys did not sell well, so Mattel pulled their funding and a third season couldn’t be produced.
14. LOIS AND CLARK
In the early 1990s, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was one of the hottest shows on television. Popularity eventually waned by the end of Season 4, but ABC still announced that the series would be back with a fifth season. The finale ended on a cliffhanger, but in the end, no new season would be produced, leaving us with unanswered questions.
It turns out that, even with confirmation of a new season, ABC executives abruptly changed their minds about the show. The producers and writers were already working on the next season and were caught completely off guard. In order to make up for its commitment to Warner Bros., ABC was forced to order a season of Prey, a drama starring Debra Messing.
13. ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN
Superman’s first foray with television was a monumental success called Adventures of Superman, which lasted a total of six seasons. Many remember that the show came to an end following the tragic death of Superman actor George Reeves in 1959. However, there were at least two more seasons in the works at the time. The producers actually had plans to continue the show even without Reeves.
Jack Larsen, the actor who played Jimmy Olsen, was approached about continuing the series with focus being placed on his character. The show would be retitled “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen,” with appearances by Superman created with a combination stock shots of George Reeves and stunt doubles filmed from behind. To his credit, Larson rejected this idea as utterly distasteful, and this is what finally brought the show to a true end.
12. SILVER SURFER
In 1998, the Silver Surfer: The Animated Series was quite a bit ahead of its time. A 13-episode first season was produced for the Fox Kids Network programming block. It used a blending of cel and computer animation to render the characters in Jack Kirby’s distinct style. Though many of the characters differed from their comic book equivalents, the show introduced many cosmic beings who would one day make it to the big screen.
The series received praise for its art style and innovative animation, but the series came to an end after just one season. An additional eight episodes had been written for what would have been the second season before an ongoing legal dispute between Marvel and Saban Entertainment effectively killed the show.
11. MUTANT X
The Mutant X television show lasted three seasons between 2001 and 2004, and in that time it was plagued by all kinds of legal issues. Originally intended to have some kind of loose connection to the X-Men franchise, Fox sued because they had the rights to the property. Tribune then sued Marvel for fraud, claiming Marvel misrepresented the rights they had acquired.
The series moved forward through production, but many characters and storylines had to be reworked, leading to millions in losses. The show was finally put down when the production company Fireworks Entertainment was sold off and dismantled in 2004. Interestingly, Fireworks was also sued by Sony because their shown Queen of Swords was too similar to Zorro. It sounds like someone didn’t know what copyright infringement was.
Between 1957 and 1959, Zorro was one of the most popular shows on television. Despite this, the series only lasted two seasons and four television specials before a financial dispute between ABC and Disney (this was long before Disney owned ABC) effectively killed the project. The two sides fought over who owned the rights to Zorro and his appearances in other Disney properties, with litigations continuing for several years.
Despite an ongoing legal battle, Disney managed to produce four one-hour Zorro specials between 1960 and 1961 in order to keep up public interested. By the time the legal dispute was settled, though, Walt Disney felt like the show’s audience had moved on, so the series was officially cancelled. Disney actually continued to pay for the television rights to the show for another decade.
9. BLADE: THE SERIES
Fans of the Blade film franchise were given a surprise when Spike TV introduced Blade: The Series in 2006. The show was created and written by David S. Goyer (who wrote the films) and Geoff Johns, and starred Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones in the title role. The first season was 13 episodes and picked up on story threads following Blade: Trinity.
The pilot debuted to much acclaim, but even a successful first season couldn’t save the show from cancellation. Blade: The Series just couldn’t compete with other series debuts on more popular networks. At the time, Spike was still a newcomer, and they didn’t have the resources needed to keep the show afloat. Geoff Johns confirmed that they didn’t want to cancel the show, but they couldn’t afford the production costs in the end.
8. THE CROW: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
The Canadian television series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven retold the story from the 1994 film The Crow, which was based on the graphic novel of the same name by James O’Barr. The 22-episode first season debuted in 1998, but even with positive reviews and stable ratings, the series ended up being cancelled in 1999 all the same.
What happened was the production company Polygram was sold to Seagram in 1998 and later merged into Universal Music Group. The company’s new owners decided they weren’t interested in continuing Stairway to Heaven, so the show was cancelled. Since the season finale ended on a cliffhanger, the creators wanted to wrap up the unresolved story with a TV movie. This never came together and the plot was left dangling.
7. SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN
Spectacular Spider-Man had the misfortune of being in production during Disney’s outright purchase of Marvel. The show had been created to be a part of the Kids’ WB programming block on The CW, but when Marvel was sold, the the second season of the series was aired on Disney XD.
A third season was planned as well, but production was halted until ratings for the second season and DVD sales came in. During this time, Sony had agreed to return the television rights of Spider-Man back to Marvel, but Sony retained their rights to the show’s production designs and story elements. This made it impossible for either side to continue the series on their own. When Disney bought Marvel, they announced Ultimate Spider-Man, a new cartoon that they would solely own.
Created by Image Comics under their Top Cow Productions imprint, Witchblade has been one of the more popular indie comic characters since her debut in 1995. In 2001, she was the subject of a live-action television series that was met with critical acclaim and impressive ratings. Despite all this, the show was cancelled after just two seasons.
The series was cancelled at around the same time that lead actress Yancy Butler entered into rehab for alcoholism. While there has never been official confirmation that this was the reason the show came to an end, enough people have spoken about the matter to give us an idea as to why TNT decided to cut the cord on this one. It remains one of the highest-rated television shows to be cancelled.
5. GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
It would seem that Green Lantern: The Animated Series suffered from bad timing in the end. When the live-action Green Lantern film starring Ryan Reynolds hit theaters in 2011, an animated series was planned for the following year in order to take advantage of the film’s success. Unfortunately, the movie failed and the tie-in merchandise didn’t sell, so stores didn’t really have any interest in toys that tied in specifically to the animated series.
This meant that Green Lantern: The Animated Series did not have corresponding merchandise, which is usually where most animated shows make their money. Despite positive reviews for Bruce Timm’s new show, the series wasn’t able to generate enough money to pay for production costs.The show was cancelled after 26 episodes because they couldn’t afford a second season.
4. THE LONE RANGER
The Lone Ranger proved to be ABC’s first true hit through the 1950s. After five seasons on the air, Jack Wrather acquired the rights to the Lone Ranger and made several big changes to the show. He brought back Clayton Moore as the title character, changed the episode count to the industry standard, and even started filming in color. Wrather also introduced outdoor shots for action sequences.
After the final season of the show wrapped, Wrather didn’t try to negotiate a new deal with the television network, instead deciding to take the property to the silver screen. Though the show came to an end, Wrather was able to produce The Lone Ranger 1956 theatrical feature and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold in 1958.
3. THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN
The New Adventures of Superman was a 68-segment series of shorts that were often packaged with other DC Comics animated shows between 1966 and 1970. The series made up the Superman side of The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure and The Batman/Superman Hour. The series proved to be successful, but the show was cut in the midst of a political blowback against television programming deemed too violent for children.
The grassroots movement known as Action for Children’s Television successfully targeted superhero action shows of the ‘60s and ‘70s in order to get them kicked off the air. Since Superman was shown punching his opponents, The New Adventures of Superman was found to be objectionable and was ultimately cancelled. This led to children’s animation taking on the more child-friendly approach that The Super Friends had.
2. AGENT CARTER
By no means was Agent Carter ever a ratings powerhouse, but the show did have its fans and it generated a cult following over the two seasons it was on the air. Following the conclusion of the second season, ABC notified Marvel that they had ended the show, to which Marvel was not happy about.
Series star Hayley Atwell spoke out about the cancellation, believing it to be about network politics. ABC knew that Atwell was popular among the show’s fans, but her reach was limited on Agent Carter. They decided to cancel the show and move her to the more mainstream Conviction. This didn’t work out well in the end because the new series didn’t make it through the first season before getting cancelled.
Batmania took over in the 1960s with the debut of Batman in 1966. Just two years later, though, and the show fell out of favor and came to an end. What most people don’t realize is that the series was originally expected to continue at one point. Once ABC saw their numbers dropping, they cancelled the show, but NBC was ready to take over and keep it going.
However, Before the deal was finalized, it was discovered that someone had already destroyed all the sets ABC had used for Batman. These elaborate sets had cost thousands of dollars to build, and NBC had no interest in investing the money to recreate them. With all the familiar sights of Batman now gone, the deal was cancelled and the show came to an end.
Did we miss any? Let us know what other TV shows were cancelled for secret reasons!
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