superhero TV

Renegade Staff Picks: The Best Live-Action Superhero TV Shows

It seems like there is a surge of comic book related TV shows, with the popular Arrow joined by its spin-off Flash, the Batman prequel Gotham, the upcoming iZombie and much more. With that in mind, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Comic book related TV shows have been around since the 1950s Superman and 1960s Batman, followed by The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman in the 1970s.

With that in mind, the staff of Renegade Cinema sat down and discussed their favorite live-action comic book TV shows in this week’s Renegade Staff Picks. See which shows made the list.

 

Smallville

Derek Johns: It’s ironic that in a day where audiences have tired of seeing our favorite superheroes origin stories, that one of my favorite representations of Superman is nothing but an origin story.

Nevertheless, it’s surprisingly interesting to watch Tom Welling’s Clark Kent develop from an unsure teenager who happens to have superpowers (while growing up in a Sci-Fi version of Sunnydale) into the heroic beacon of hope we’ve known him to be for the last 75+ years. Conversely, seeing Micheal Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor start out as a well meaning rich kid only to let his demons and his thirst for power ultimately get the better of him, makes him perhaps the shows most tragic character.

Some have understandably criticized Smallville for sticking around too long at 10 seasons but the excellent finale made all the ups and downs worth the effort and proved that the show was run and written by people who had true reverence and respect for Superman.

Caleb Masters: Smallville isn’t a flawless 10 season beast, but when it does what it set out to do you can’t help but get chills.

Before the mainstream was totally bombarded by origin stories, Smallville did something we hadn’t seen before by tying the core to Superman’s identity to his arch nemesis Lex Luthor. Even when Clark seemed to stagger in his development during some of the midseasons, Lex consistently thrived as a fascinating and deeply tragic character who sought to change the world for the better in the face of his own darkness.

This brotherly type relationship gone sour has been something that we’ve seen done time and time again in superhero blockbusters, but Smallville did it in TV long form first and better.

 

Batman (1967)

Caliber Winfield: OK, I know, Batman is dark, and brooding, and unless he’s moping around for 3 hours while using cell-phone GPS to fight, he can’t get any respect, But I say fuck that. When I was a kid, Batman was DRAMA. It was serious to you, and you took it as such. It was an absolute blast, and you had so much fun watching it. I liken it to Saved By The Bell and pro-wrestling, you enjoy it on two different levels: as a child, and as an adult. When you’re a kid, you just want the action, the gadgets, and the villains. When you’re adult, you laugh at the absurdity of the Bat-cell-phone, the Bat-shark-repellent-spray, lines from Batman such as “Yes, old chum, I do believe that is the first thrust of manhood” when Robin says that Batgirl is cute. It’s a timeless series, and something that should be cherished, not thrown to the side and disregarded.

 

The Adventures of Superman

Sandi Davis:  The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves. I came home every day from school and watch Superman beat all the bad guys and Clark Kent give the clever and sometimes corny reasons why he always misses the action. The series was filmed from 1952 to 1958, the last three years in color. You can still find this series occasionally on cable channels specializing in classic series.

George Reeves’ 1959 death is still questionable. Did he kill himself or did a jealous girlfriend do the job. No matter which side you believe, Reeves took his job as role mode seriously. He did his own stunts and stopped smoking because his character didn’t.

The easiest way to learn a lot about Superman, Kent and Reeves, grab a copy of the movie “Hollywoodland” starring Ben Affleck as Reeves.

 

Agent Carter

Bethany Lewis: I know there have been some mixed reviews, but what there’s been if the latest Marvel series I think has been fantastic. Every character has been dynamic and complex in their own way, the storylines -while admittedly convoluted – have been exciting and fun to follow, and Peggy Carter herself has been a strong, fascinating, capable, and realistic female lead. If there’s a second season, I’m all about more Peggy Carter.

 

The Incredible Hulk

Shawn S. Lealos: Yeah, maybe the new shows like Arrow and Flash are better, and I love Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, but honestly, I will let nostalgia and my rose tinted shades sway me on this one. When I was a kid, Friday nights meant The Dukes of Hazzard and The Incredible Hulk, and as a comic book kid, Hulk was the one that really did it for me (although I was in love with Lynda Carter from the Wonder Woman show as well). I loved the way that they set up David (not Bruce) Banner as a man on the run, walking from city to city, trying to find a place to fit in, always finding it ruined when someone made him angry and Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk busted out. Then, there was the obnoxious reporter Jack McGee tracking his every step, the episodes where Andre the Giant played Big Foot and the episodes with a second gamma radiated monster (Dell Frye).

 

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Shawn is a film critic with over 25 years of experience in print and online media. He is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and loves everything from critically acclaimed movies to B-level action flicks.


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