Top 10: Comic Book TV Series – UPDATED by Jerry Whitworth
Back in 2012, Comic Art Community assembled a top ten of live action comic book TV series. However, since that time, there’s been an explosion of new comic shows. Further, even more series are coming down the line, be it from Marvel, DC, and more. Simply put, the old list can no longer suffice. However, it’d be boring to retread a lot of what was already covered (not to mention trying to figure out where to put what pitting nostalgia against modern storytelling). So, rather than blend the old list with some new shows, we’re going to just start from 2012 and up for this updated version. Of course, this in and of itself will be no picnic. For DC Comics, the popularity of Arrow spun into an entire expanded DC Television Universe and Marvel, not to be outdone, branched out its Marvel Cinematic Universe into the world of television with shows on ABC and Netflix (with Powers on the PlayStation Network). Even The Walking Dead got into the game spinning off into Fear the Walking Dead. So, lets then take a look at what the top ten live action comic series have emerged in the past four years (most of which are still on the air today).
First published in 2010 by Vertigo (an imprint under DC Comics), iZOMBIE was created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred and featured a gravedigger named Gwen Dylan who was turned into a revenant, a unique kind of zombie, after her death. Forced to eat a brain every thirty days to prevent from turning into a mindless zombie, Gwen is flooded with the memories of that brain and is compelled to fulfill that person’s final wish (often by solving the mystery of their death). In 2013, the comic would be loosely adapted for television and premiered the following year on the CW network (home to several other comic book series, both past and present). For Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright’s iZombie, Liv Moore (Rose McIver) is a coroner’s assistant turned into a zombie that must consume brains in order to prevent herself from losing her mind. However, eating the brains changes her personality toward that of the deceased and she has glimpses of theirs memories and skills which she uses to solve their murders with detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) who believes she is a psychic medium. The series features a mystery of the week format which involves Liv and Clive trying to solve cases as Liv develops everything from kung fu to sniping to painting from the brains she consumes. There’s also subplots involving Liv’s superior Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) trying to find a cure to her condition and Liv’s ex-fiancee Major Lilywhite (Robert Buckley) becoming dragged into her bizarre world. Liv also faces re-occurring threats from Blaine DeBeers (David Anders), the drug dealer who infected her and who made a business of supplying brains to victims he infects, and Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber), the CEO of Max Rager, the energy drink the zombie virus emerged from, who has suppressed news of the outbreak of the virus and who wants to re-engineer the virus to develop immortal superhumans. iZombie is currently in its second season (with six more episodes ordered a few months ago to extend the latest season).
Emerging in 1985 in Saga of the Swamp Thing and created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben, John Constantine is an amoral magical advisor whose popularity saw him transition from a supporting character to a leading one in 1988 for his own series. Hellblazer featured Constantine as an occult detective who tried to affect good for mankind while creating more enemies than he vanquished and leaving a trail of bodies of those who were his friends and allies (becoming literally haunted by their ghosts). Part of the emerging anti-hero genre that gained popularity around the time, the title did well and would be incorporated under the Vertigo banner when that imprint emerged in 1993 becoming its longest running series (ending in 2013 to make way for the new series Constantine which would subsequently lead to Constantine: The Hellblazer). In 2005, the movie Constantine would emerge based on the series starring Keanu Reeves as the eponymous character which received mixed reviews despite being considered a financial success. Taking liberties with the source material (which included Americanizing its British leading character), 2014 would bring a TV series based on the comics which skewed closer to the books with Matt Ryan as the eponymous character. Sadly, the show would receive poor ratings as fans of the comic felt the series tried too hard to redeem the character rather than embrace his anti-hero roots (a common criticism of adaptations of Marvel’s Punisher). Still, the show had its merits as Ryan was likable where his Constantine had a dark sense of humor and was troubled by his past indiscretions but fell into the repetitive monster of the week format. Elements emerged as the season went on as the angel Manny (Harold Perrineau) manipulated John toward his own ends, revealed in the final episode to have in part be responsible for many of the threats the series’ protagonists faced, while voodoo shaman Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw) became a reoccurring threat. The series lasted a single season of thirteen episodes where it appeared had the show continued, it would have spanned DC’s occult landscape teasing the Spectre (Emmett Scanlan) and Dr. Fate while tackling Felix Faust (Mark Margolis) and Eclipso (Nick Gehlfuss). A massive social media campaign emerged to renew the show but it only managed to convince the showrunners of Arrow to have Matt Ryan guest-star as Constantine for their series for one episode.
First cousin of the Man of Steel, Supergirl was rocketed to Earth to escape the destruction of her homeworld Krypton and to watch over baby Kal-El. However, she instead joined him after he had already become an adult in Superman as her ship ran off course delaying her arrival. It was decided in 2014 to bring the character to the small screen for her own series, choosing to leap frog over her younger years (which she is likely best known for) into an adult and largely act as a surrogate for Superman in National City where, in many ways, she tries to escape his far-reaching shadow from Metropolis. Supergirl is portrayed by Melissa Benoist as her character is joined by her adopted sister and D.E.O. agent Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), CatCo art director and Superman’s best friend James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), CatCo programmer and the psychotic Toyman’s son Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan), and the Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz who masquerades as D.E.O. Director Hank Henshaw (David Harewood). For Supergirl, when the lead character was rocketed to Earth, she somehow ended up in the Phantom Zone only to somehow years later escape it, not only coming to Earth but pulling the intergalactic prison Fort Rozz from the Zone with her. Various alien beings held captive inside the prison emerged on Earth, notably Kryptonians led by Supergirl’s aunt Astra (Laura Benanti) and her husband Non (Chris Vance). In addition to these threats, Supergirl is also troubled by xenophobic Terrans like General Sam Lane (Glenn Morshower) and malevolent tech giant Max Lord (Peter Facinelli), not to mention Superman’s foes like Reactron (Chris Browning). Supergirl premiered last October and a month afterward was given a full season order of twenty episodes. It was announced recently its eighteenth episode will feature a crossover with the series The Flash.