Best Live Action Superhero Shows
While superheroes currently dominate the big screen, those in capes and masks have also held a strong presence on the small screen as well. While there are countless fantastic animated superhero shows, the characters of Marvel and DC have also showed up in live action as well.
Adventures of Superman: For decades “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” has been known throughout the world as the mantra for the Man of Steel and it originated with the iconic intro of this series. Spinning off from 1951’s Superman and the Mole Men, George Reeves and Phyllis Coates (who was replaced by Noel Neill after one season) reprised their roles as Superman and Lois Lane. Due to the budgetary constraints of television this Man of Steel more often than not battled typical gangsters with more science fiction elements introduced in later years. The production was tumultuous but Adventures of Superman was a hit and pioneered a trail for live action superheroes on TV.
Batman: With one of the catchiest TV theme songs of all-time Batman is nothing short of a piece of pop art masterpiece. Adam West gave audiences not-even-remotely Dark Knight whose comedic brilliance portrayed Batman as everything an hyped-up child would imagine a superhero to be. Every week viewers tuned in to the same Bat Time on the same Bat Channel to see he and Robin challenge colorful villains portrayed by an embarrassment of riches in the guest star department. While this series was a satirical take on the Batman mythos it is an undeniable blast of a show and cemented the Caped Crusader a true icon.
Wonder Woman: Smashing through glass ceiling is what Wonder Woman as a character did from the start in comic book form, and in 1976 she did the same on TV. The inaugural season which aired on ABC took the character back to her World War II roots while the later two seasons on CBS brought Wonder Woman to a contemporary setting. Wonder Woman was famously brought to life by Lynda Carter who to this day is still famously tied to Amazonian Princess.
The Incredible Hulk: A horrific laboratory accident forever changed the life of Dr. David Banner and now whenever he feels anger he transforms into the green, super strong monster the Hulk. In the hopes of both finding a cure and keeping those around him safe, Banner has taken to the road to live a nomadic life. Though fate has other plans and the exiled scientist is continuously put into situations where he is called upon to help those he encounters as either a man or the rage-fueled monster within. The Incredible Hulk holds an interesting place in superhero media history by featuring a creator in a cameo for the first time with the legendary Jack Kirby popping up as a sketch artist in the episode “No Escape”.
Arrow: Looking to combine the success of the gritty and realism of the Dark Knight trilogy with the higher profile Green Arrow received from Smallville; creators Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg did not fail this city. After being rescued from exile on a dessert island, billionaire Oliver Queen returns to his city on a quest to rid it of corruption. Over the course of the series we watched as Queen evolved from a ruthless vigilante into the superhero we know as the Green Arrow. Arrow proved so successful that numerous other DC properties were able to be adapted to TV by spinning-off from it.
Daredevil: With Marvel’s big hitters lighting up the silver screen, Netflix proved to be the perfect place to showcase the darker, grittier, and more urban-based heroes. Paving the way is the fan favorite Man Without Fear of Hell’s Kitchen. By day Matt Murdock is a fledgling lawyer, but by night he has taken on the role of a vigilante battling the crime in his community despite his visual impairment. Looming over the entire underworld of Hell’s Kitchen is Wilson Fisk, portrayed by scene-owning Vincent D’Onofrio. Daredevil proved so popular with audiences that characters from the show are now popping up in other MCU properties.
Jessica Jones: Based on the cult favorite Mature Reader comic Alias, Jessica Jones used to have aspirations of being a superhero but now she is a jaded private eye. While her superpowers do come in handy in her current job it does little to stop the fact when her past comes back to haunt her. Jessica Jones brought a neo-noir flavor to familiar Marvel characters like Hellcat, Foolkiller, and most famously Purple Man. Krysten Ritter is fantastic in the lead and will hopefully get the chance to reprise the role of Jessica Jones somewhere down the line.
Luke Cage: The third entry into the Netflix Marvel shows proved to be another success. After debuting in Jessica Jones, actor Michael Colter proved he had no problem taking the lead in his own show as the “Sweet Christmas”-spouting hero. Thanks to a prison experiment, Cage is left with super strength and unbreakable skin. He returns to Harlem with these new abilities where he becomes a hero protecting the community from the likes of Cottonmouth and Mariah. While Luke Cage sadly came to an end with the rest of the Netflix Marvel, he is such a pivotal character in the greater Marvel Universe of the source material so hopefully this will translate cinematically.
Black Lightning: A number of DC Comics heroes were brought to the TV screen by the CW, but few had the impact that Black Lightning did. Years ago, Jefferson Pierce took on the mantle of Black Lightning in an attempt to save the town of Freeland the gangster Tobias Whale and The 100. But the toll this took on his personal life forced him to retire from the superhero life and focus on educating the next generation of the city. But when Whale reemerges, Pierce is forced to return to action but this time with his own daughter dealing with their own burgeoning super powers. Black Lightning was a slick and stylish superhero show but did not shy away from tackling very real issues with cool action and great characters.
WandaVision: When expanding the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe onto the streaming service Disney +, the studio started with a series which combined thrilling superheroics with genuine heartfelt emotions and a healthy dose of a quirky mystery. After the battle with Thanos, Vision was dead leaving Wanda Maximoff devastated. But now the two of them are in the small town of Westview which is trapped in a Hex and seemingly cycling through a number of classic sitcoms. While Wanda and Vision play happy family, Agent Woo, Darcy, and Monic Rambeau are working to get to the bottom of things. It all comes to a head as Wanda not only has to embrace her destiny as the Scarlet Witch, but also confront the devastating heartbreak of losing a loved one.