TV shows can come and go, and sometimes quicker than you have time to realize they ever existed. Most shows that don't gain extreme popularity is due to the fact they are probably terrible, but every so often a brilliant premise (or at the least a fun idea) goes unnoticed. In light of this, I would like to take a moment to congratulate The Tick for getting a supposed pilot order through Amazon, another show that never found the proper viewership. However, the series on this list don't usually make it into "remember that one show..." conversations, so here are the top 10 superhero shows that nobody is talking about.
#10 - Superboy
This 1988 show is sometimes known as the black sheep of the Superman franchise, maybe because the rights were briefly owned by Viacom at the time. And although it gained a decent cult following, it wasn't enough to hold on to the property which led to the show's cancellation after 4 seasons. The series ended with a cliff hanger, and the expectation to produce a few follow up TV movies, but WB already had different plans by that point. Some could say the show inspired the likes of Smallville, and although completely cheesy, it is always nice to believe a man (or boy) can fly.
#9 - Defenders of the Earth
Back in 1986, in the midst of an iconic cartoon era, a show by the name Defenders of the Earth assembled one of the most unique superhero teams of all time. The main players were Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and his assistant Lothar, who were all independently successful comic book heroes in the mid 1930's. The show was produced by Marvel, even the lyrics in the theme song were written by none other than the man himself, Stan Lee. Coincidentally the show took place a year ago in 2015, where the Defenders had to protect the Earth's natural resources from Ming the Merciless in a staggering 65 episodes.
#8 - Mutant X
A big producer for Marvel properties, Avi Arad (before golden boy Kevin Feige), in 2001 created a show that was more or less a part of the X-Men universe. The idea was that bio-genetic human testing had created a breed of new mutants, causing a cellular evolution in a younger generation giving them super powers. The show focused on a team of these super mutants who would seek out other like them to help them control their abilities. Easy premise, but had pretty decent acting and writing, though was shut down by Fox abruptly after 3 seasons since they technically owned the films rights and anything related to the X-Men property.
#7 - Frankenstein Jr., and The Impossibles
The first Hanna Barbera show to hit the list is the short lived 1966 show Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles (actually, these were two different segments wrapped into one show). The first part of the show was about Frankenstein Jr., a giant heroic robot created by a boy and his father in order to fight crime. The other half of the show was about The Impossibles, a trio of superheroes disguised as a popular rock band by day and superhero team by night (or whenever trouble was afoot). Then, in 1968 the show was cancelled due to newer restrictions on the use of violence in cartoons. The overall run was a measly 18 episodes, but they are jammed full of unique abilities and groovy music.
#6 - Birds of Prey
Back when it was still the WB, in 2002, Birds of Prey hit the small screen as a part of the extended Batman universe. The Bat was never really featured on the show, but he was the father of the main character, Huntress, having had the child with Catwoman. The show focused on three relatively super females, first being the Huntress, then followed by a touch telepath named Dinah, and Barbara Gordon, who in the series is already in a wheelchair as the Oracle. Everything was decent about the show, but it never really found its stride, and it also stayed away from Smallville which probably only hurt its success, ultimately it lasted just a couple seasons.
#5 - The Maxx
MTV's wild 1996 The Maxx animated series is based on an Image comic by the same name. To paraphrase a little, The Maxx is about a homeless dude who lives in a box that wants to protect a social worker that bailed him out of jail. All the while, he believes that he exists in an alternate reality called the Outback, and has powers to seek vengeance for the sake of the Jungle Queen. The aim for Image Comics and MTV was to create original content that didn't have to adhere to the giant publishers. Overall, the show was pretty well received for what it was, but it still only lasted 13 episodes.
#4 - The Herculoids
The next of the Hanna Barbera properties to pop up on the list, I would say easily their most underrated show as a whole created by Alex Toth, The Herculoids! A rag tag gang of different aliens all working together to protect the planet they live on and keep it free of technology. The show had an awesome sense of creativity, and pretty solid story telling for a basic Saturday morning cartoon. The show itself lasted a couple years with 36 different segments, but was popular enough to get a brief 11 episode revival in the early '80's apart of TV Series Space Stars. I would still love to see it make a come back!
#3 - Legends of the Superheroes
Just for the principle of the idea, the 1979 Legends of the Superheroes is a classically underrated show. Basically it was a variety/sketch comedy show set in the DC Universe. They even got Adam West and Burt Ward to reprise the roles of Batman and Robin, and added the first live versions of the Flash, and Green Lantern. It's one of those situations where it's so bad it's good, but sadly it was just a fun special for NBC and only last 2 episodes.
#2 - Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
This gem back in 2000 is another comedy show, but for all the right reasons. Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law is a brilliant spinoff of the Adult Swim classic Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, about the superhero Birdman defending citizens in the courtroom as an attorney. With a clever use of the Hanna Barbera world, they would hit topical issues in a hyper real format with profound absurdity. Plus, it now also reminds me of Michael Keaton in a loosely related way.
#1 - Freakazoid
THE #1 SHOW IS FREAKAZOID!!! As Steven Spielberg was producing a bunch of animated television in the mid '90's, he helped develop an idea created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini... The ever incredible Freazazoid! Originally a computer nerd, Dexter Douglas gets sucked into the internet by a software bug and is given the power of enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and insanity. With all sorts of wacky references, and the ability to travel the world wide web at will, Freakazoid never took himself too seriously, which is rare for most superheroes. Short lived with 2 seasons, there is still hope that one day he will be adapted into a full length feature!
There you have it, all the shows that you didn't know you should have watched, but didn't really need to watch because not that many people watched them anyway. Most of them would be nice to see on screen again (I guess I mainly just miss good superhero cartoons). It is however nice having The Flash to look forward to, or the new season of Daredevil around the corner, but they get plenty of respect. Now is the time to give some love to all shows that left us too soon. You will always be in our hearts...