You came back! If you haven’t already, check out part one of my two part post on Comic to TV Adaptations that Failed to Thrive!
The only entry on this list that I actually recommend you watch for real entertainment value rather than “this is so bad its good” value is this short lived live action adaptation of The Tick, staring Patrick Warburton.
Ben Edlund’s creation The Tick first appeared on TV in a successful animated series that ran from ’94 to ’96. The live action series ran just a short 9 episodes in ’01/’02 when it failed to gain an audience in its Thursday night prime time spot. Coupled with high production costs this lead the series to an early end despite positive reviews.
The series gained a cult following and is pretty good if you ask me. It focuses on the personal lives of the heroes rather than action. The show has a light and silly tone but the writing is funny, strong and original. Its on Hulu for free, so if you need something to throw on next time you are folding your laundry or unwinding after a long day of data processing like me, check out this one out.
7 Locke & Key - 2011
Set in the fictional Lovecraft, MA the small screen version of Locke & Key would have followed the story of the Locke family and their encounters with the supernatural at their family estate called The Keyhouse. Because when naming a rolling state, why not go for cheap pun?
The trailer does a great job of setting up the creepiness of the series, even if it gives a bit too much of a Ring vibe. The pilot got a great reaction from fans at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con, but it apparently did not wow the good people at Fox, who chose not to pick up the series. A few other networks considered picking up Locke & Key, but as of now it has no home. The series remains in limbo and is unlikely to ever make it to your TV.
8 The Graysons - 2008
Batman’s sidekick Dick Grayson, better known as Robin, was set to get the Smallville treatment with a series about his life in a family circus act before the murder of his parents. The project was announced on September 30, 2008 and was scrapped just over a month later. According to Jeff Robinov of Warner Brothers, via Variety, the series did not get developed because “the concept doesn’t fit the current strategy for the Batman franchise.”
Rumors circulated that the word came down from Christopher Nolan who didn’t like the idea of the series being produced while he was making his Batman films. Another pointed to Warner Brothers, who owns the Batman characters, who felt that Smallville may have been the cause of Superman Returns’ poor performance at the box office. Robin never made it off the ground and fans of the Boy Wonder are left thinking about the series that could have been.
9 Generation X - 1996
Bad special effects: Check
Outrageously bright clothing: Check
Hero who’s power is pretty pretty sparkles: CHECK!
The TV movie failed to capture the attention of the 90s youth, who were probably to busy keeping their tamagotchi alive to notice it. The film is an obscure part of the X-Men/Marvel fandom on par with the Super Mario Brothers Movie. If you want to check it out the whole thing is on youtube. Did someone say “movie night?”
Make it a double feature with my all time favorite Comic to TV Series that Failed to Thrive:
10 Justice League of America - 1997
Not since Legends of the Superheros had the Justice League gotten such an undignified adaptation as this failed pilot. The TV movie made more than a few missteps. The most notable of which is that the three most well known members of the League; Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are no where to be found in this series. The roster more closely resembles the much less well known Justice League International.
The better known characters were largely rewritten for the show. The Flash is bumbling and unemployed, The Atom is a nerd who uses his shrinking power help a trapped cat while the city is under attack, and Green Lantern (Guy Gardner) comes off as an arrogant dick. But not in the shoot-first-ask-questions-later way he is in the comics, but the the-girl-you-like’s-new-boyfriend-who-you-want-to-puch way.
The movie picks the Weatherman, a retooling of Weather Wizard, for a main villain, managing to find an even less intimidating name for a character that already sounded like the host of a children’s science show.
The show is inter cut with clips of the characters talking to an unseen interviewer, attempting to give it a sort of docudrama feel. This did away with the pesky need to show how the characters develop during to story by allowing them to just tell the audience how they feel.
It was pretty clear that who ever wrote the ill fated pilot approached it more like a sitcom than an action adventure, but didn’t understand the characters well enough to make that work the way The Tick did.
Bad story telling, bad effects work, and lack of interest lead to CBS passing on the series, but the pilot can be seen here on youtube.
That wraps up this list! What Comics do you think should get a show of their own? What Comic TV shows should have never happened? Tell me in the comments!