15 Failed Comic Book TV Shows That Only Lasted One Episode –



Television has long been a good home for comic book heroes, from early shows like The Incredible Hulk and Adam West’s Batman on to more recent successes like Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D and Arrow.

While the past couple of years have continued the great success of comic book movies, the presence of Marvel, DC, Image Comics, and more has arugably been felt to an even greater extent on the small screen. Nowadays there are simply an overwhelming amount of projects on TV or in development. Whether you like zombies, superheroes, the supernatural, and beyond, chances are, there’s a comic book TV series waiting for you to indulge in.

However, over the course of the last few decades, there have been a fair amount of comic book shows that have gotten the axe way before their time. In fact, some of these shows never even made it past one episode. And that’s the topic at hand today. While most of these shows probably deserved to get cancelled, quite a few of them feel like missed opportunities.

From a show that tried to turn the Man Of Steel into a crime-fighting canine to multiple attempts to bring an iconic superheroine to the masses; this list will be shining a retrospective light on these, one and done, failed superpowered projects. Be warned, a spoiler alert is in full effect.

15. The Adventures Of Superpup (1958)

Warner Bros.

Faster than the speediest jet. More powerful than the mightiest rocket. Able to fly around the world faster than you can say Superpup! Yup! The Adventures Of Superpup is exactly what you’re thinking: Television producer Whitney Ellsworth created a pilot that placed the Superman mythos into a fictional universe populated by dogs instead of human beings.

Instead of Clark Kent we have Bark Bent. Instead of Lois Lane we have Pamela Poodle. And instead of Perry White we have Terry Bite. The live-action actors were placed in dog-suits to portray the characters, and it’s quite a ridiculous sight to see. The pilot episode focuses on Professor Sheepdip, who has just escaped from prison. After attempting to blow up the Daily Bugle (not to be confused with Peter Parker’s workplace) he kidnaps Pamela and ties her to a rocket.

Superpup, of course, shows up at the last minute to save the day. This show would have been as ridiculous as you could ever imagine. However, there are enough (unintentional) funny moments throughout this pilot that it would have been quite interesting to see it go for several more episodes.

14. The Adventures Of Superboy (1961)

Warner Bros.

Another failed show by producer Whitney Ellsworth, The Adventures Of Superboy was meant to capitalize on the success of the hit-show, Adventures Of Superman, which went off the air a few years prior. Only a pilot episode (Rajah’s Ransom) was produced, although twelve additional scripts were prepared, should the series be picked up.

One of the first things you’re bound to notice watching this pilot episode is the fact that Super”boy”, played by Johnny Rockwell, looks like he’s about 39 years old. The episode opens at Smallville High School with Clark Kent and his sweetheart Lana Lang (Bunny Henning) in class giving an oral presentation. Soon enough, trouble arises when some would-be gangsters show up and pull off a diamond heist at a local movie theater (long story).

There are many things that simply make little to no sense with this show. For one, Superboy seems to be watching over Smallville exclusively. While that makes sense with a huge city like Metropolis, the idea that a caped-superhero would be fighting crime in one specific town in the middle of nowhere should raise a few eyebrows.

Also, there is a scene where one of the bad guys opens fire at a police car to distract Superboy from the diamond heist. Later, the cops say that he will only serve “six months tops” in jail. Was attempted cop shootings really a thing to be taken so lightly back then? It would take over thirty years until a Superboy show would finally make its way to air. The updated version, starring John Haymes Newton (and later Gerard Christopher) as the titular character, lasted for a hundred episodes from 1988-1992.

13. Wonder Woman (1974)

Warner Bros.

Before Lynda Carter had the chance to play the Amazonian superhero, Wonder Woman; there was already a failed attempt at bringing the hero to the small-screen. 1974’s Wonder Woman premiered on NBC as a TV movie, though the film was a pilot for an intended television series. Cathy Lee Crosby took on the role and the results were less than stellar.

Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Crosby) is the secretary to a government agent. She is soon thrust into a world of international intrigue and danger. Her mission is to pursue a villainous individual named Abner Smith (played by typecast bad guy actor Ricardo Montalban). Overall, this particular iteration of Wonder Woman is pretty confusing.

First of all, it’s Cathy Lee  with no change of haircut or hair color. It’s very contemporary and has some adult innuendo throughout. And Wonder Woman has pretty limited powers  mostly Kung Fu of an Amazon variety. Also, the hero is not in her recognizable classic costume, she’s in an outfit that more closely resembles a female Evel Knievel. Wonder Woman is a strong character who fights evil and looks good doing it. Crosby looks good but her acting is simply disappointing. The Shaft-like music is another cringe-worthy aspect of the film. As a side note, try counting the number of times someone uses a telephone during the film. You could make a drinking game out of it.

12. Archie: To Riverdale And Back Again (1990)


it was recently announced that The CW would be launching a new series based around Archie Comics’ Riverdale. However, for a select few, this might feel like déjà vu. Indeed, back in the early ’90s a failed TV movie was produced that was meant to serve as a pilot for a possible series.

Archie: To Riverdale And Back Again followed the titular character and his childhood pals fifteen years after graduating from Riverdale High. The concept behind the movie was to combine the long-standing familiarity of Archie from the comics with adult issues. This leads to a lot of things that you would never have seen in the comics at the time. One scene finds a scantily clad Veronica pleading for Archie to have sex with him. Another scene finds Jughead (and his son) rapping, because apparently that’s a thing that movie characters did at the time.

Overall, it’s a poor tribute to an American icon, and these characters should never have been portrayed as anything but teenagers.

11. Dr. Strange (1978)


Benedict Cumberbatch’s big-screen take on the Sorcerer Supreme will be here shortly, but, little do some fans know, the character of the oddball doctor was already played on the small screen, in a 1978 made-for-TV movie, by Peter Hooten.

Like The Incredible Hulk, CBS had hoped to launch Dr. Strange as a full-time series. In the fall of 1978, a two-hour TV movie/pilot was produced, written and directed by Philip DeGuere. The film is a marked improvement over Spider-Man Strikes Back, another low-budget turkey from Marvel. Though, that isn’t saying much.

If Marvel cinematic movies have a distinct house style, so do these 1970s television productions: Charisma-impaired leads, wooden acting, clunky writing, and special effects that can at best be called charmingly naive. However, regardless of the final result, it’s still remarkable that back in 1978 someone at CBS decided, We should make a live action Doctor Strange movie. Something that no one else has tried to do for the next thirty plus years. Let’s just hope that this time around, Dr. Stephen Strange is a little more interesting.

10. Pryde Of The X-Men (1989)


X-Men: Pryde Of The X-Men (commonly known as Pryde Of The X-Men) was originally broadcast in 1989 on the Marvel Action Universe television block, alongside the likes of Dino-Riders and RoboCop: The Animated Series.

Narrated by X-Men co-creator Stan Lee, the pilot episode begins with Magneto making his escape from a moving military facility with the help of The White Queen (before she became known as Emma Frost). We then cut to Kitty Pryde as she makes her way to Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters where we meet the X-Men: Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine (who speaks with a terrible Australian accent for some reason) and, because it was the ’80s, Dazzler.

Though, there isn’t much time for pleasantries as the Brotherhood Of Mutant Terrorists (Magneto, Toad, the Blob, Pyro, Juggernaut, and the White Queen) invade the school. What follows is an epic face off between the X-Men and the Brotherhood (in outer space of all places). This forgotten late-eighties pilot showed promise but was never picked up as a series.

Although the characterizations are annoyingly overwrought (in typical Saturday morning cartoon fashion), the adaptation was very faithful to the source material. They even managed to include Lockheed, Kitty’s ridiculous pet dragon. Not a bad job, and it proves that you don’t have to extensively reinvent the comic (as was done with X-Men: Evolution) in order to make it work on the small screen. Marvel would, of course, go back to the drawing board for 1992s X-Men (The Animated Series).

9. Power Pack (1991)


Created by writer Louise Simonson and artist June Brigman; Power Pack was the first team of preteen superheroes in the Marvel Universe and the first in comics to operate without adult supervision. In 1991, following the cancellation of the original comic, Marvel developed Power Pack into a live-action show for NBCs Saturday childrens television lineup.

While a pilot episode was made, the series was indeed not picked up. In the show you have Alex Power (Nathaniel Moreau), Julie Power (Margot Finley), Jack Power (Bradley Machry) and the adorable Katie Power (Jacelyn Holmes) whose powers range from being able to run faster than the speed of light to absorbing molecules with a touch and converting them into pure energy.

During the pilot we watch as our heroes try to balance school/childhood and being superheros. Though, superhero is probably too strong of a word. It’s more like a bunch of kids who have superpowers and use them for arbitrary reasons such as cleaning their room or retrieving a retainer from out of the sink. A few years back it was rumored that Marvel had plans to bring Power Pack to the big-screen (which for some reason, doesn’t seem likely at this point). Though, if they ever do decide to resurrect the property, you can bet that it wouldnt resemble this miscalculation in the slightest.

8. Justice League Of America (1997)


For decades, the Justice League Of America, home to Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, acted as the premiere superhero collective. It spawned comic books, cartoons, and a steady stream of merchandise. It also produced the pilot to The Justice League Of America, an 80-minute mini-movie designed to carry DC back into the world of serialized television. Needless to say, it didn’t work out that way.

One of the biggest problems was the Justice League themselves. While the show does feature recognizable heroes like the Flash and Green Lantern; it mostly focuses on a host of D-list characters, like Fire, The Atom, Ice, and a diabolical weatherman named… The Weather Man. Overall, this was not the greatest representation of these characters. Their costumes are fairly ridiculous (particularly The Atom’s). The villain didn’t seem to have any motivation. The story is contrived, unengaging and simply doesn’t make much sense.

Since its still-born release and abandonment by CBS, JLA saw interest from comic book conventions and now the Internet, where it will exist in a mocking purgatory for all eternity.

7. Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998)


To many Marvel fans, Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury. Not only has Jackson played the character right across the MCU, the Ultimate version of the character was actually modeled after Jackson  years before Iron Man came out. But there was a time long ago (well, 1998) when Nick Fury was played by none other than David Hasselhoff in a two-hour TV movie (which also served as a pilot for a potential series).

At the time, Marvel Comics longed for a day where they could move past camp and produce a film that captured the pure essence of their characters, a day which was right around the corner with David S. Goyer’s Blade and Bryan Singer’s X-Men, but in the meantime, they would have to settle for Hasselhoff. Though, as easy as it is to make jokes, Hasselhoffs presentation of the character was actually pretty spot on. In fact, despite Hasselhoff’s apparent frustration at being replaced, he says he’d be willing to strap on the eye-patch again, as he told Yahoo Movies:

“I was hoping to have played him in the movie. And then Samuel L. Jackson came in and he was a great Nick Fury but he wasn’t really the consummate Nick Fury, the way he was written. And I think thats a shame because hes a great character and a funny character. Im hoping to do it again sometime.”

Okay, Mr. Hasselhoff, it’s probably a good idea if you don’t hold your breath.

6. Welcome To Eltingville (2002)

Adult Swim

Although only the premiere episode has aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, Welcome To Eltingville (based on the Dark Horse Comic series created by Evan Dorkin) is an extremely well-drawn animated series with sarcastic, penetrating insight into the geek-world of comics, fantasy role-playing and genre films.

The show takes place in Eltingville, Staten Island, and focuses on the lives of four teenage boys: Bill Dickey, Josh Levy, Pete DiNunzio and Jerry Stokes, all members of “The Eltingville Club”, who have shared interests in comic books and science fiction, among other things. The greatest moment of the pilot comes when two of the show’s characters go head to head in a “trivia-off” in order to decide who goes home with a collectible Boba Fett action figure.

What follows is five gloriously geeky minutes of the two characters asking each other random trivia questions only the geekiest geeks would know the answers to. The questions range from which rock star played on the Star Wars Christmas album to what Digimon digivolved into Sukamon. The dialogue comes fast and furious, and is scathingly funny. Anyone who is into comics, sci-fi or fantasy will find enough inside-jokes and self-references to fill several hours worth of research. Highly recommended!

5. Aquaman (2006)

The CW

In 2006 Alfred Gough and Miles Millar had the unenviable task of trying to make DC’s Aquaman palpable and cool for TV audiences. That’s not an easy task given the character’s punch line status in pop culture at the time. The task may have simply been too much for anyone to realize. The end product was an odd cross between Smallville, The X-files and Baywatch (which sounds a lot more awesome than it actually is).

It might have helped, though, had the pilot not been blemished by awful dialogue and flat performances. Justin Hartley is Arthur “A.C.” Curry (the beach bum who would be king of Atlantis), Ving Rhames plays lighthouse keeper-turned-mentor McCaffrey and Denise Quiñones portrays USAF Lt. Rachel Torres. Given the ludicrous nature of his character, Hartley manages to not embarrass himself, which is no small feat.

Overall, the series showed a lot of potential, but the real question comes with how many others would maintain their interest in an aquatic superhero. Mixed reviews were received in the evaluation of this one-off show which most likely was too mixed to sink a TV series budget into.

4. A Kitty Bobo Show (2001)

Cartoon Network

A Kitty Bobo Show was created by Kevin Kaliher and Meaghan Dunn for Cartoon Network. The pilot revolves around the titular character, Kitty Bobo (Dante Basco), as he tries to prove his coolness to his friends. The premise is roughly based on Dunn’s life as a Korean adoptee; the main character had previously been featured in a comic strip by Dunn titled Kimchi Girl.

During the pilot Kitty Bobo wants to prove how cool he is by getting a cell phone. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be receiving many important calls, thereby reducing his cool factor, so he begins to fake incoming calls. In this regard, the show serves as a time capsule to when having a cell phone was truly a big deal. As far as CN pilots go, the show had some potential.

The appealing design and color styling are praiseworthy and the characters are actually quite funny. The pilot aired in June 2001 on the network as part of their Big Pick competition, a marathon of ten pilots with viewers selecting one to be produced for the network’s fall 2002 season. The series lost second place to Codename: Kids Next Door.

3. The Amazing Screw-On Head (2006)


The Amazing Screw-On Head is a one-shot comic book written and drawn by Mike Mignola and published by Dark Horse Comics in 2002, starring the character of the same name. Similar in tone and theme to Mignola’s better known Hellboy, The Amazing Screw-On Head is a black comedy that stars a robot living during the Lincoln administration whose head can be attached to different bodies with different tactical abilities, and who functions as an agent of the U.S. government.

An animated pilot, based on the plot of the comic, was produced by the Sci-Fi Channel in 2006, with Bryan Fuller as writer and executive producer and Chris Prynoski as director. Voicing the titular character was none other than Paul Giamatti, who does quite a hilarious job. It’s actually surprising that this show wasn’t picked up for a full run. It was original, had quirky and funny characters and a unique artwork style. One could compare the style to shows such as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog or The Venture Bros, both of which were quite successful. Compared to the other original crud Syfy pumps out, this would have likely gathered them a respectable audience.

2. Locke & Key (2011)


Locke & Key is a modern haunted house story (in comics written by Joe Hill and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez) about a new widow and her three children who move into the late father’s sprawling family estate, which has a series of keys with special powers, a malevolent spirit and lots of other creepy things going on.

The subsequent pilot episode for a proposed series was produced by Fox but never actually picked up for a full season. Though, that didn’t stop the show’s creators from taking it to Comic-Con in 2011, which was a bit unusual. Here was a screening for a pilot that hadn’t been picked up by its network, that was never going to air anywhere, and that comics publisher IDW had gotten special permission to show just because they wanted fans of the Locke & Key comic to get a chance to see the work.

However, all hope is not lost for fans of the comic series. Earlier this year, Joe Hill announced that Universal Studios had signed on to adapt Locke & Key into a trilogy of films. No other specifics were given but you still have permission to get a little excited if you so choose to.

1. Wonder Woman (2011)


It had a great, promotable brand, top female superhero, Wonder Woman, experienced TV creator behind it, David E. Kelley, and an appealing star, Adrianne Palicki. So why didn’t the infamous 2011 Wonder Woman pilot go to series?

Well, you’d probably need Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth to find out what NBCs executives really thought of the pilot and why exactly they decided not to go with it. A few years back TV.com released several leaked scenes of the show, which they deemed to be “glorious in their crapitude.” Needless to say, there’s not a great chance the pilot will ever be widely released.

Please wait...

And Now... A Few Links From Our Sponsors