Superheroes have occupied a fairly prominent space in the American psyche (and by extension, Western Culture) since their creation. And their migration from niche comic book characters into favorites of the masses took several forms, be it a series on the radio, a TV series or movie (animated or live-action). Since the first portrayal of The Shadow by Rod La Rocque in 1937, up to the slew of superhero-centered movies (numbering in the tens) that the Hollywood studios are going to release during the next ten years or so, the writing and the production have come a long way.
But like in any artistic domain, these endeavors have had their own winners and losers, their successes and failures. Let’s not dwell on the successes, since they are obviously well-known (Batman, Superman, The Flash, The Incredible Hulk etc.).
Let’s take a look instead specifically at the TV shows that didn’t get produced, meaning that at least a full season of them was not ordered by any network company. Those that had just a pilot made or even aired qualify. Those which are currently in production or their status is on-hold do not.
Without further ado, here’s 5 superhero TV show might-have-beens.
5. Wonder Woman – 1967
Linda Harrison, who starred in Planet of the Apes, was to portray Wonder Woman in a TV series produced by William Dozier, the man behind the successful Batman live-action series that aired in the sixties, because he wanted to have a female heroine as the center piece of a show.
A short movie with the length of 4 minutes was produced, with the aim of creating hype around the Wonder Woman character in the hopes of justifying the making of a pilot and ultimately a series. The short was deemed odd and unsatisfactory and the network pulled the plug on the whole thing. Decide for yourself if they were right.
4. Daredevil – 1975
The 2003 Daredevil starring Ben Affleck is not the first attempt at a live-action adaption of The Man Without Fear, despite most fans’ assumption that this is so. David Bowie’s wife, Angela Bowie, had purchased the rights for Daredevil in 1975 for just such an attempt.
As she had also purchased the rights for The Black Widow earlier in the same year, which she intended to make into a series as well, her plan was to jump-start both of them via a pilot spy-type movie centered around these two characters, starring her as the Black Widow and Ben Carruthers (ex-Megadeth drummer) as the Daredevil.
She got as far as a photo-shoot, in costume, but the show never saw screen-time. Possibly because the ridiculous shiny, tiny-horned Daredevil costume is considered the most disastrous, ever. Incidentally, The Black Widow wasn’t picked up either.
3. Daredevil – 1985
Angela Bowie’s attempt at a Daredevil series isn’t the only failed one. In fact, in 1985, a cartoon version of the character was meant to be made. Mark Evanier, the comic writing legend, was contacted by ABC to retool the “bible” (the main written resource which contains everything about a show) and finalize the script for a pilot for this animated series.
In it, Evanier intended to make changes in style, by adopting the one that writer Wally Wood had made famous, and also by including Lightning, the eye-dog, which was Matt Murdock/The Daredevil’s trusted companion in the comics.
Why the project was abandoned is not clear to this day, but Evanier mentioned as the main cause a Marvel employee’s disrespectful comment towards an ABC executive.
2. She-Hulk – 1989
Jennifer Walters, turned into She-Hulk by a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner (The Hulk), given in a life or death situation, was first introduced in 1980 with the first edition of the Savage She-Hulk comic issue #1, and the character hit it off well with the fans.
However, no live-action series (or movies) were ever made featuring She-Hulk. There were only two plans for live-action movie appearances, in 1989 and 1990. They were both abandoned.
1. Justice League of America – 1997
One instance that stands out as much for its ambition as for its failure is DC Comics’ desire for a live-action round-up of superheroes, long before their current (2016) project Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
As such, a pilot titled Justice League of America was produced in 1997, centered around the Green Lantern, Fire and Ice, The Flash and Atom. These superheroes, who were not so popular at the time, were chosen so as to avoid licensing issues with better known ones like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
The costumes were ridiculous, the writing was bad and the villain was highly altered compared to the canon. So the pilot never aired and the show wasn’t approved by CBS. Here’s an excerpt from the pilot.
In closing, although fans might mourn the potentially awesome renditions that never made it (like, perhaps, Evanier’s Daredevil), better they should rejoice at the probable disasters avoided (judging by the “samples”). Oh, and, yeah, divert their energy to analyzing the plenty efforts that did, do and will make it to the screen. Loss-Win-Win.