For years, summer was a dead zone of reruns and forgettable filler on TV. While the never-ending cycle of new programming has alleviated that somewhat, summer is still the perfect time to catch up on new series or to revisit some old favorites. With so many shows and movies based on comic books available across various platforms, there’s never been a better time for comic fans looking for something to watch. But with such a dizzying array of viewing options, it can be difficult cutting through the clutter. With constant new additions and removals, it’s far too easy to lose valuable viewing time while digging through the dusty digital corners of various streaming services.
Now, CBR has put together a summer streaming guide for all your comic-based viewing needs. For this list, we’ll be looking at shows and features currently available or coming up soon on paid streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video and free-to-use sites like CW Seed. Outside of the United States, the availability of these shows and the platforms may vary. From major upcoming releases to hidden gems and classic shows, all of these comic book-based titles are definitely worth adding to the watchlist.
15. THE DEFENDERS
After starring in their own respective series, Charlie Cox’s Daredevil, Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones, Mike Colter’s Luke Cage and Finn Jones’ Iron Fist are set to team up in Netflix’s The Defenders. While the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is looking towards 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, the Defenders will take on Sigourney Weaver’s mysterious Alexandra and the ancient mystical ninjas of the Hand.
While their individual series have met varying levels of success, this street-level hero team-up is sure to have the kind gritty action and drama that suits these characters so well. For Marvel fans who never got around to finishing Luke Cage or starting Iron Fist, now’s the time to catch up. This highly anticipated miniseries is set to follow up on plots and characters from all four of Marvel’s interconnected Netflix shows. All eight episodes of The Defenders will be released by Netflix on August 18, 2017.
14. THE TICK
In 1986, the Tick was originally created by Ben Edlund to be the mascot for his local comic book store. Since those humble beginnings, the absurdist hero has become an unlikely icon with a well-remembered animated series and a cult classic live-action show. After an extended absence outside of comics, the nigh-invulnerable hero and his sidekick Arthur will star in Amazon’s The Tick.
While the first episode of the series is already streaming, the full first season will be released on Amazon Prime Video on August 25, 2017. In this slightly more serious reboot, Peter Serafinowicz’s Tick befriends Griffin Newman’s Arthur, who’s traumatized after a childhood incident with Jackie Earle Haley’s villain, the Terror. While the streets of Tick’s beloved City are a little bit darker than they used to be, the goofy spirit of the Tick thrives as it parodies the past decade of superhero media.
13. BATMAN & BILL
Bill Finger should be one of the most celebrated figures in comic book history. As the co-creator of Batman, Robin, the Joker and most of Gotham City’s most famous villains, Finger’s contributions helped shape the superhero genre. Despite all that, his contributions were minimized for decades and Bob Kane was credited as Batman’s sole creator.
Don Argot and Sheena Joyce’s new documentary, Batman & Bill, digs into the history of the Dark Knight’s ignored co-creator. Recently released on Hulu, this feature-length chronicle follows Fingers’ descendants and author Marc Tyler Nobleman as they try to get Finger the credit he deserves. While much of this information might be familiar to longtime comic fans, this documentary serves as an essential chronicle about the history of one of the world’s greatest superheroes and his forgotten co-creator.
12. ARROW/FLASH/SUPERGIRL/LEGENDS OF TOMORROW
Since the CW’s Arrowverse started with Arrow in 2012, it’s grown into one of the biggest superhero universes in TV history. With dozens of characters and regular crossovers, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow capture the spirit of an ongoing, interconnected comic book universe in a way that few non-comic projects ever have.
Even though their most recent seasons ended within the last month, they’re all already on Netflix due to a deal between the CW and the streaming site. In Arrow‘s fifth season, Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen brings together a new team of heroes and takes on the villain Prometheus. In The Flash‘s third season, Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen battles the mysterious speedster Savitar. Supergirl‘s second season sees Melissa Benoist’s Kara Zor-El encounter classic characters like Superman and Mon-El, and Legends of Tomorrow‘s second season continues the time-traveling adventures of its motley crew.
While Matt Ryan’s mystic antihero John Constantine eventually made his way into the Arrowverse, his own series, Constantine, originally stood on its own. Despite fairly positive reviews, the DC/Vertigo character’s show was canceled in 2015 after only 13 episodes, which are all currently streaming on the CW Seed.
Even though the show was retroactively placed in the same continuity as Arrow, this is one part of the Arrowverse that some fans might have skipped. Along with adapting Hellblazer‘s general tone and more memorable characters, the show’s only season also features some of DC’s mystical heavyweights like Felix Faust and Jim Corrigan. After voicing the magician in the animated feature Justice League Dark, Ryan is set to reprise his role in an upcoming CW Seed animated web series.
10. BATMAN & MR. FREEZE: SUBZERO
While the 1993 animated feature, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, is generally regarded as one of Batman’s better cinematic outings, its sequel isn’t usually mentioned in a similar tone. Released direct-to-video in 1998, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero is one of the most overlooked parts of the DC Animated Universe.
The feature, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, was originally meant to coincide with 1997’s Batman & Robin. After that film’s critical failure, SubZero was put on ice for a year before being released to positive reviews but considerably less fanfare. Following up on events from Batman: The Animated Series, the feature follows Kevin Conroy’s Batman as he and his allies battle Michael Ansara’s Mr. Freeze. Although Freeze made a few more appearances in the DCAU, this movie tied up the storyline involving his ailing wife Nora Fries that revitalized the character.
9. AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
Although Marvel’s Netflix shows have grabbed more headlines over the past few years, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still going strong after four seasons. Led by Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson, this series has evolved into a reliably entertaining extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its 2013 debut.
With Inhumans set to debut later this year, now’s the time to catch up on the series that introduced them to the MCU. While past seasons have seen the agents go up against Hydra, Mister Hyde, the Absorbing Man and the Inhumans, the show’s fourth season, which was recently added to Netflix, has been called one of the show’s best. With the introduction of Gabriel Luna’s Ghost Rider, the ABC series takes a turn into the supernatural corner of the MCU. This critically-praised season also introduces S.H.I.E.L.D.’s famous Life Model Decoys and the computer-generated alternate reality, the Framework.
Although Spawn is still remembered as one of the most prominent new characters of the 1990s, the Emmy-nominated HBO animated series Todd McFarlane’s Spawn hasn’t had the most celebrated legacy. Over 18 episodes, all of which are currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the critically-acclaimed cartoon blazed a trail for adult-oriented animation in the west.
Led by Keith David’s commanding performance, the show chronicles the deal with the devil that turned commando Al Simmons into the supernatural avenger Spawn. While the series made a few change to its source material, it’s a largely faithful adaption with roles for characters like detectives Sam and Twitch, who will star in their own upcoming live-action BBC America series produced by Kevin Smith. Although considerable work has been completed on a follow-up show, Spawn: The Animation, there haven’t been any updates on the project in a few years.
7. SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
Although it was one of the more popular cartoons of the 1990s, Spider-Man: The Animated Series never quite reached the same iconic status like the Batman and X-Men cartoons of that era. Over 65 episodes, all of which are currently available on Hulu, the show introduced Spider-Man to a generation and provided some of the most fondly remembered Spider-Man moments of the 1990s.
Despite some dated animation and bizarre censorship restrictions that kept Spidey from throwing a single punch, the show is filled with classic villains, guest stars and adaptations of classic Spider-Man tales. Led by Christopher Daniel Barnes’ angst-ridden Peter Parker, the cartoon features highly serialized stories like “Neogenic Nightmare” and the first animated adaptation of Secret Wars. Before director Jon Watts takes Tom Holland’s Spider-Man back to high school later this summer in Spider-Man: Homecoming, this is a great way to revisit a slightly older Spider-Man.
After decades of publishing old-fashioned adventures with Archie and the gang, Archie Comics has gone through a creative renaissance to become one of the most innovative, exciting publishers in the comic book industry. That transformation has hit the airwaves with the CW drama Riverdale, one of the most fascinating new shows of 2017.
The show’s first season, which was recently added to Netflix, finds Archie and the gang in a lurid tale of mystery surrounding the death of Jason Blossom. K.J. Apa’s Archie, Lili Reinhart’s Betty, Camila Mendes’ Veronica and Cole Sprouse’s Jughead all have major roles to play in this stylized, subversive take on the iconic comic characters. While the show is definitely not kid-friendly, the novelty of seeing traditionally wholesome characters in decidedly not-wholesome situations quickly gives way to an addictive, dynamic soapy drama that stands well on its own.
5. JUSTICE LEAGUE/JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED
One of the few flaws of the DC Animated Universe is that Wonder Woman never starred in her own series. While Wonder Woman starred in a direct-to-DVD animated feature in 2009, most of the Amazon’s animated adventures took place in Justice League and its direct sequel, Justice League Unlimited. With a combined 91 episodes, all of which are now streaming on Netflix, these shows defined Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League for a generation of fans in the 2000s.
While Zack Snyder’s Justice League won’t hit theaters until November, these two shows are already counted among the best superhero cartoons ever made. With work from comics veterans like Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie, these shows feature dozens of DC characters in outstanding stories that show why the DC Animated Universe is still a fan-favorite today.
4. BLADE: THE SERIES
Before Marvel tied its shows and movies together with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Blade: The Series was the film’s first film and TV crossover. Taking place after Blade’s cinematic trilogy starring Wesley Snipes, the show lasted for one season in 2006 on Spike TV.
Over 13 episodes, all of which are streaming on CW Seed, Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones’ Blade and Jill Wagner’s vampire Krist Starr fought the vampires of the House of Chthon. Behind the scenes, the show featured work from Blade film writer David S. Goyer and future DC power player Geoff Johns. While the show drew modest praise and had decent ratings, it was simply too expensive for the young cable channel to produce. Although the larger promise of the show mostly goes unfulfilled, it’s more than a curiosity that was slightly ahead of its time.
3. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
While the Ninja Turtles’ last two cinematic outings were met with mixed reviews, their ongoing Nickelodeon series has reintroduced the heroes in a half-shell to fans of all-ages with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Since its 2012 debut, the CGI cartoon has followed the continuing radical adventures of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo.
Over the show’s first four well-received seasons, all of which are now streaming on Hulu, the series has offered a compelling, serialized take on the characters that’s been influenced by many of the Turtles’ older comics, movies and cartoons. In the fourth season, the Turtles have a dimension-hopping team-up with their counterparts from the Turtles’ iconic 1980s cartoon. After the conclusion of the show’s ongoing fifth and final season, it will end to make way for a new show, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is set to premiere in 2018.
From its early days as a super-powered teen soap opera to its full-fledged embrace of the DC Universe, Smallville established the template for the modern superhero TV show. Over 10 seasons, all of which are available on Hulu, Tom Welling’s Clark Kent discovers his powers and battles a variety of foes including Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor.
From finding a balance between action and drama to introducing Green Arrow to a wider audience, Smallville is a direct ancestor of the Arrowverse. While it wasn’t always entirely successful, the long-running show updated most of Superman’s mythology and made a few new additions like Alison Mack’s Chloe Sullivan, Clark Kent’s best friend and partner. Despite its more melodramatic moments, it remains essential viewing for DC fans, with frequent guest stars like the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
1. YOUNG JUSTICE
After years of speculation, Young Justice is finally set to return to screens next year with a new series, Young Justice: Outsiders. While that cartoon will be a launch show for DC’s upcoming digital service, the first two seasons of the critically-acclaimed cartoon are currently streaming on Netflix.
Despite some broadcasting irregularities on Cartoon Network, the animated series garnered a cult following for its sidekick-focused take on a young DC Universe. Thanks to its serialized stories, this show is a rare all-ages cartoon show where familiar characters like Robin, Superboy and Kid Flash actually evolve and change, especially during the five-year time gap between the first two seasons. With a wide array of DC’s younger heroes in compelling adventures, now’s the time to see why Young Justice is one of the greatest superhero cartoons of all time.
Stay tuned to CBR for all the latest in comics and pop culture. Let us know what you’ll be watching this summer in the comments below!
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