TV networks can cancel any of their shows at the drop of a hat if they crunch the numbers and the show’s ad revenue isn’t up to snuff, which can leave fans devastated.
Those fans aren’t at the forefront of the network’s priorities, not when they have profit margins to meet in order to appease shareholders and stay afloat. Nevertheless, when a TV show is canceled, fans deserve to see the rest of the story play out. That’s where comic books can step in to continue the characters’ journeys. Shows have had varying degrees of success there, as we're about to see.
10 Failed: Star Trek: The Original Series
Gold Key Comics’ run of Star Trek comics was published in the wake of the unfortunately short-lived The Original Series (the world wasn’t ready for Star Trek yet). The problem with the comics is how drastically they deviated from the established canon of the series. For example, everyone in the Enterprise crew apart from Spock wears a lime-green uniform in the comics.
The quickest way to alienate a fan base is to screw with the canon. After this proved to be controversial, the comics tried to get back on the right track with sequels to classic TOS episodes like “Metamorphosis” and “The City on the Edge of Forever,” but it was too little, too late, and the series only lasted for 61 issues (making it 18 installments shorter-lived than its short-lived source material).
9 Successful: Battlestar Galactica (1978)
After the original Battlestar Galactica series ended, Marvel Comics was eager to publish their take on that rich space opera universe. Despite some legal issues with which characters and storylines they could use from the show, Marvel charged on with their series and put their own unique stamp on the Galactica universe.
The result was a comic book with the same spectacular visuals as Marvel’s cosmic universe (the one that will reportedly play a large role in the future of the MCU), beautifully realizing that world in ways that a 1970s TV budget and 1970s-era visual effects technology simply couldn’t.
8 Failed: Battlestar Galactica (2004)
The comic books based on the 2004 reimagined Battlestar Galactica series have been less successful than the ones based on the original. Dynamite Entertainment kicked it off when they published an ongoing series set midway through the second season of the show. Since then, they’ve done a couple of miniseries here and there, but nothing that has broken any new ground or gripped fans in any tangible way.
The problem with the new ones is that they feel like a shameless cash-grab, whereas Marvel’s comic adaptation of the original series felt fresh and vibrant as they put their own spin on it.
7 Successful: Batman Beyond
The great thing about Batman Beyond is that it’s an animated series that was adapted from comic books and later adapted into comics. Although Batman Beyond was critically acclaimed and adored by fans, the show was tragically short-lived.
So, the comics swooped in to continue the stories about this particular characterization of the Caped Crusader. Just as the original animated series had bridged the gap between animated series and comic book, the comic book adaptation bridges the gap between comic book and animated series, to the point that they feel like one and the same.
6 Failed: Charmed
After the first TV run of Charmed came to an end, the story was continued in comic book form, with mixed results – and equally mixed reviews. Ever since Charmed was rebooted for television and the characters’ journeys continued in different ways on the small screen, these comics have felt like a waste of time.
They’re like the Charmed universe’s version of “Star Wars Legends,” the label that Disney has assigned to everything in the Expanded Universe that they no longer consider to be canon. Plus, TV cast members Rose McGowan and Holly Marie Combs have criticized the comics for sexualizing the characters.
5 Successful: Smallville
While Smallville was on the air, 11 comic book issues were published to tie in with the show. But due to the production of the comics overlapping with the production of the show, the continuity often got a little messed up and the series was quickly canceled.
However, the Smallville comics became much more successful after the TV series ended and the comics continued its story. The series dealt with the aftermath of Darkseid’s attack from the series, and saw Clark Kent drop the “Blur” moniker and instead went by the superhero alter ego that he’s best known for, “Superman.”
4 Failed: Jericho
Jericho is often included on lists of TV shows that were canceled too soon. It was a fun, heartfelt, deeply engaging post-apocalyptic tale that only made it to two seasons and left audiences hanging – until a third season was written and published as a monthly comic book series.
The plot revolves around the breakout of the Second American Civil War, and the issues were later collected as a graphic novel. This works less as a comic in its own right and more as a wish list for what might have been in a third season of the show (and a fourth, released in 2012). The ideas and stories aren’t fully developed, they’re more just thrown at the page.
3 Successful: Invader Zim
The Invader Zim comic book series has been running for years and it’s been a huge hit with fans of the original show. Jhonen Vasquez explained the decision to bring back the series in comic book form: “I’m always confused when people say how much they miss Invader Zim, because the show never stopped running in my head, and then I remember everyone else isn’t in my head.”
The comics generally release monthly and have been collected into a handful of volumes. The same pitch-black sense of humor and mind-boggling science fiction concepts have been carried over wonderfully from the show.
2 Failed: The X-Files
The X-Files got a tenth season in comic book form – but then it got a tenth season in TV form many years later, making the comics moot. Still, they had a short run that was semi-interesting. In the comics, Scully and Mulder take on such supernatural legends as Bigfoot, the Count of St. Germain, and the Chupacabra.
The artwork and writing were generally pretty good, translating the framing and feel of the TV show onto the pages of comic books. The problem was Topps Comics, the publisher, whose shortcuts with the printing made the series fall behind schedule and appear cheap.
1 Successful: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The comic book continuation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been one of the most popular series in recent years. This is partly helped by Joss Whedon’s prior experience with comics – and the fact that he wrote most of the Buffy comics with the writing staff from the TV series – and partly helped by the fact that the world of Sunnydale translates perfectly to comic book pages.
In fact, Buffy and her friends might be even better suited to a comic book than a TV series. Various Buffy series ran for over a decade and the Buffy comics were recently rebooted by BOOM! Studios.