14 Forgotten Superhero TV Shows That Didn’t Last Very Long

Do you remember all those strange but promising superhero TV shows that have popped up here and there in the late ‘70s and ‘90s? You know, the ones that premiered with a blast but then vanished without a trace after a season or two? There have been quite a few of those over the years, though most have now been thoroughly forgotten.

Back then, however, each new show was framed as the next big thing, “the next X-Men” or “the next Spider-Man.” Networks would heavily market the pilot episodes, hoping to tap into the mainstream interest in superheroes that Marvel’c films and comics had popularized. But for each hit that stuck, like Smallville or Heroes or more recently, The Boys, there were more that sank without a ripple.

Related: The Best Superhero Movies and TV Episodes to Watch During the Holidays

These forgotten shows had big ambitions and great concepts for their premises, but some combination of poor planning, lack of vision, or simply bad luck doomed them from the start. Before we knew it, the shows had been canceled, the actors had moved on, and nostalgic memories were all that remained. And even those faded with time.

In the end, most of these old forgotten show matter little more than footnotes in the story, reminding us of an era when networks took more risk and fans’ appetites for capes and superpowers were constantly on the rise. Their time came and went in the blinking of an eye, but in that moment, they reflected the pop culture moment they were born into. And now we look back on them as relics, as faded dreams and unfulfilled potential.

14 Captain America (1966)

Captain America 1966 TV Series

Long before Chris Evans manned the shield and Steve Rogers became one of the strongest Avengers, CBS tried to make the character a flagship twice, and the ‘60s saw him as an animated hero saving the world. The show attempted to feature the star-spangled super-soldier Captain America as he fights off villains like Red Skull and Zemo.

From carrying out military operations while being brainwashed to learning about Bucky’s death and joining the Mighty Avengers, the show explores quite a few events in the hero’s journey. Very ‘60s in style and tone, the 13 episodes were rooted in political and corporate intrigue, making it less science fiction than necessary. In retrospect, one can realize just why the show couldn’t translate well.

13 Shazam! (1974 – 1976)

Jackson Bostwick as Shazam

Now there’s a blast from the past. Shazam! was a weird show, even for its time. The story revolved around a 12-year-old kind who could transform into an adult superhero (then Captain Marvel) just by shouting one word. His superhero form had powers like flight and lightning bolts. The episodes revolved around his real-life responsibilities as a kid and fighting off the bad guys as the magic-wielding superhero. Despite now being a fairly appreciated hit, back in the ‘70s, the show was only received well by a portion of the audience.

From the kid’s pushy single mom to his Mentor, there were quirky characters that carried the show for three whole seasons. Ratings were decent, but the kids probably found it strange and confusing – given the special effects of the time. Still, Shazam! remained noteworthy. If nothing else, it proved superhero shows could work for more than just teenagers and up.

12 The Amazing Spider-Man (1977 – 1979)

Nicholas Hammond in The Amazing Spider-Man

Taking a lighter tone than other shows of the decade, The Amazing Spider-Man portrays the origin story of our favorite superhero. Peter Parker is dealing with normal college life, and relationships that are meant to charm the audience. But after being bit by a radioactive spider, his life takes a sharp turn. It feels like the attempt to ground Spider-Man into the superhero genre may have been unnecessary at the time.

It was Nicholas Hammond who wore the mask and tights way before Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland. Major characters like Uncle Ben or Gwen Stacy never make an appearance on screen. The show only lasted two seasons, with the first episode being aired as a 90-minute TV movie. Still, it is a fond memory, and its fresh take on the character showed how the superhero genre had begun to evolve.

11 G-Force Guardians of Space (1986 – 1987)

G-Force: Guardians of Space

G-Force Guardians of Space is one of those offbeat animated shows dubbed and rebooted original from the Japanese Gatchaman. The unique mashup featured a team of humanoid space cops fighting villains like the Galactor and his minions. There were space battles, advanced spacecraft, and a heavy electro theme. Still appreciable for its time, the show had silly concepts and cheesy effects in the tradition of ‘80s sci-fi.

The first attempt came from Sandy Frank Entertainment’s early 1978 effort titled Battle of the Planets, which was later dubbed into English and called G-Force Guardians Of Space. The show was fun for its 85-episode run but not critically acclaimed or a commercial hit. Everything about strange bird-like superheroes – the Owl and the Swan – represented the era in television before franchises became the norm.

10 The Defenders Of The Earth (1986)

Defenders of the Earth

Long-form storytelling in the superhero genre was never a strong suit for early television. But when The Defenders of the Earth entered the field, it was considered among the best cartoon team-ups of the decade. Much like the Avengers and Justice League ensembles, this quirky ‘80s superteam series followed a group of super-powered individuals with abilities like flight, invisibility, super-strength, and energy projection.

It consisted of characters from the King Features comic strip like Flash Gordon, the Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician, focused on defending Earth from threats like the evil lord Ming the Merciless. Visually, the show had a fun and colorful style, but the production values were giving a DIY quality. As for the concept, it tried to add humor and heart in equal measure, lasting 65 episodes.

Related: Best Animated Superhero TV Series of All Time, Ranked

9 Generation X (1996)

Generation X
Marvel Productions and Fox Network

For almost a decade, television had refrained from bringing superheroes to the screens. There was no particular reason for it, but when Fox announced a pilot movie titled Generation X, which was eventually going to turn into a series, fans had great expectations. The show followed a team of young mutants coming of age and being trained under famous characters like Emma Frost and Banshee.

It embraced the teen drama roots and led the way for X-Men, with melodrama and soap opera-style relationships between the mutants. Even though the show was produced after creating a lot of hype, the story lacked potential and the plot felt unambitious. Critics panned it, viewers ignored it, and it was never really made into a full-fledged series.

8 Night Man (1997–1999)

Night Man

Night Man was a bizarre series depicting the nighttime adventures of a musician who recently acquired superpowers. Matt McColm plays Johnny Donimo, a saxophone player who was struck by lightning one night, and discovered that he now possessed supersonic hearing – meaning, he could hear people’s thoughts and filter out the evil.

Directed by Glen A. Larson, who also created the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica, the show was stylish but strange. It blends elements of fantasy, carried a dark tone, and features standard super-heroics. Guess its weird abstracted tone was a tough sell because the show only ran for two seasons. As for the Ultraverse character, Marvel had long acquired the rights. For now, the studio does not seem to have any plans for the hero.

7 The Avengers: United They Stand (1999 – 2000)

The Avengers: United They Stand
Fox Kids

Based on the famous team created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Avengers: United They Stand had a lot of potential to launch the Avengers into a bigger audience. But instead, the show took the original comics and twisted them into something clearly mediocre. It featured some of the less important heroes like Ant-Man, Wasp, Hawkeye, Tigra, Falcon, and Vision.

The team gets together to fight all evil in the world. However, the plot was way to simplistic to grab the attention of viewers. Fox turned the heroes into enhanced versions of themselves – wearing armor instead of suits and being more muscular than seemed believable. While the sole purpose was to commercialize the franchise and sell merchandise, the show could not even achieve that, ending only after 13 episodes.

6 The Zeta Project (2001 – 2003)

The Zeta Project
The WB

The DC Animated Universe is massive, and with so many flagship heroes, it is common to overlook some C-listers. The Zeta Project was a spinoff that revolved around a robot going rogue. Zeta was made by the government to infiltrate and assassinate as per the orders. But instead, he goes against his creators, leaves camp, and uses his abilities in a different land. All with the help of Ro.

The character first appeared in Batman Beyond, and no one would imagine giving him a solo series. There were concepts like teleportation and modern-day stories of conspiracy, corporate intrigue, and danger. The premise looked interesting on the surface, but as the ratings plummeted, the show couldn’t make it beyond two seasons.

Related: Superhero Characters Who Need Their Own Animated TV Shows

5 Birds of Prey (2002 – 2003)

Birds of Prey
The WB

Birds of Prey suffered from not having any motivation or props to make the show a success. Set long after the tragic death of Catwoman at the hands of The Joker and Batman leaving New Gotham out of grief, the show allowed their daughter Huntress to carry their legacy forward. Under the supervision of Batgirl, who is now Oracle, and in the company of a third psychic and driven hero, she forms a trio called Birds of Prey.

Together, Black Canary, Oracle, and the Huntress fought villains while commenting on female empowerment. Yes, it was politically progressive for its time, but the show did not have any memorable stories or characters and it ended after 13 episodes. Today, it is seen as a minor footnote in the DC database.

4 Krypto the Superdog (2005 – 2007)

Krypto the Superdog
Cartoon Network

Krypto the Superdog was a kid’s series about Superman’s dog Krypto who was sent to Earth from Krpyton. Just like his master, he had gained superpowers to fight crime. When adopted by 9-year-old Kevin Whitney, he played an unassuming Labrador. But at night, he’d become Superdog, a canine who wanted to get rid of all evil.

It had a fun, family-friendly tone with science fiction concepts mashed up with superhero story. It centered on Krypto using abilities like flight, heat vision, and super-strength for comedic adventures and life lessons. With its corny premise and dull execution, Krypto the Superdog failed to deliver and viewers found it forgettable.

3 Aquaman (2006)

Aquaman 2006 TV

Another television series with a pilot episode meant to kickstart an entire series, Aquaman was created by the people behind Smallville, namely Al Gough and Miles Millar, with high hopes. But surprisingly, this one has fared worse in memory and esteem. Despite being based on a major DC superhero, the show was canceled after just one episode. It starred Justin Hartley (who later became Green Lantern in the franchise).

The show aimed to adapt Aquaman’s undersea kingdom origin stories and character dynamics with a blend of fantasy, mythology, and comedy. But the show was plagued by wrong timing, low budgets, and a somewhat strange tone that failed to resonate with audiences. Aquaman’s later film successes and iconic status in DC’s universe have done little to revive views on this flop of a series.

2 Blade: The Series (2006)

Blade The Series
Warner Brothers Television Distribution 

Blade: The Series was yet another attempt to launch a superhero/horror franchise, this time based on the Blade films. It follows Blade as he investigates supernatural threats in NYC while balancing relationships with humans and vampires alike. The show featured Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones in the lead role, and as it tried to create a compelling and unique environment, it mildly succeeded and received positive reviews for its dark and gritty style.

However, viewers found the stories unengaging, and the concepts were too confusing. The Spike TV show struggled for ratings and was canceled after 13 episodes, leaving its potential unrealized. Today, Blade is seen as a missed opportunity waiting to be revived.

1 Powerless (2017)

Vanessa Hudgens and the cast of Powerless

Powerless was a recent superhero/workplace comedy hybrid. It is set in a world where many people had some kind of superpower and focused on the team supporting those powers in the Director of Research & Development department at Wayne Security. Led by Vanessa Hudgens’ Emily Locke, the show received positive buzz for its original premise and style, blending fantasy elements with workplace ensemble comedy in a creative new way.

However, the show struggled from its launch, as audiences found that the concepts were thinly stretched across too many characters, cultures, and tones. Reviews were mixed, and it only lasted one season despite acclaim for its ambition and originality.

Related Articles

Back to top button