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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Back in my day, comic-book stories stayed on comic-book pages. Yes, there were Batman movies—the best still being 1997’s Batman and Robin, naysayers be damned—but superheroes were mostly relegated to print. A live-action Hulk could fucking not be done.

I’m still right on that one, but the rest of the Marvel, DC and other comic-brand universes are now inescapable on all the screens all the time. TV has been more prolific and creative with its adaptations—Netflix (Marvel) and The CW (DC) in particular. But you already know about those, so they won’t be covered here.

Instead, here are 10 comics-based TV series ranging from, “Hey, I’ve heard of that!” to “Huh?” status to stream while you’re waiting for Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Aquaman v. Magic Mike: Dawn of Thrust-Us.

Deadly Class (Season 1 on Syfy.com and Syfy app): Based on the same-named Image Comics series, Deadly Class is an ‘80s-set action-snarker about a secret academy that trains good-looking teens to kill elegantly—“Harry Potter Assassin School” will do. Deadly Class is smart enough to go toe-to-knife-tipped-toe with Syfy cousin The Magicians, but with a gonzo-goth edge all its own and a killer Reagan-era soundtrack.

Blade: The Series (Season 1 on CW Seed): The original 1998 Blade was the first “real” Marvel movie, effectively wiping away the foul/fowl aftertaste of ’80s bomb Howard the Duck. To replace vampire hunter Wesley Snipes, 2006’s Blade: The Series cast Onyx rapper Sticky Fingaz and cranked out 13 solid-to-superb episodes before cancelation by Spike TV. Netflix’s gritty Daredevil and Luke Cage owe this Blade.

Painkiller Jane (Season 1 on Hoopla, Tubi and Roku Channel; pictured upper right): A ‘90s Event/Icon Comics title that became a 2005 TV movie and a 2007 Syfy series, Painkiller Jane (Kristanna Loken) is The Punisher and Wolverine wrapped into an Instagram model. She’s a vigilante crime-fighter with brutal combat skills and an indestructible body (though Jane can still feel pain). A forgotten series that’s soon to be a Marvel flick starring Jessica Chastain.

Black Scorpion (Season 1 on Prime Video): Moving backward, ridiculous 2001 Syfy series Black Scorpion, which was preceded by a couple of equally ridiculous movies in the ‘90s, was a TV show that later became a less-ridiculous comic book. The series, starring Michelle Lintel as barely-leather-clad vigilante Black Scorpion, is ‘60s Batman camp crossed with softcore fetish porn—kinky superhero cosplayers, take note.

Preacher (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): A disillusioned drunk of a small-town Texas preacher (Dominic Cooper and his gravity-defying hair) suddenly has the power to bend people’s will—so he sets out to find God with his trigger-happy ex, Tulip (Ruth Negga), and Irish vampire bud Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) in tow. The Vertigo comic Preacher is fantastically, mind-fuckingly weird; TV Preacher doesn’t disappoint.

Lucifer (Seasons 1-3 on Netflix): Another hell-larious Vertigo import, Fox-to-Netflix series Lucifer follows the exploits of a “retired” Devil (Tom Ellis) opening a Los Angeles nightclub and helping local police solve crimes—it helps if you don’t think about it too hard. Despite its cop-show trappings, Lucifer mixes devilish comedy and heavy drama seamlessly, and Ellis plays the best Satan since South Park.

Mutant X (Seasons 1-3 on Roku Channel): A year after X-Men cracked the superhero code in 2000, Marvel and Canada produced a blatant rip-off, er, “unrelated property,” syndicated TV series Mutant X. Super-powered beings who look great in leather—what’s the deal with all the leather, anyway?—fight evil and search for fellow mutants while avoiding government capture and 20th Century Fox lawsuits.

The Gifted (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): A better, and more legal, TV take on X-Men arrived in 2017 with Fox’s The Gifted, which focuses on younger mutants struggling to control their powers and a normie society that’s determined to snuff them out. The Gifted only dabbles in action and flash, focusing more on characters like Polaris (Emma Dumont) who get little play in the X-Men screen universe.

Legion (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu) Showrunner Noah Hawley (Fargo, the TV version) took an already-surreal Marvel Comics X-Men series about the psychologically-damaged mutant son of Charles Xavier (Dan Stevens) and turned it into a Pink Floyd acid trip of a TV show. Yet somehow, it’s the most intimate and heartbreaking corner of X-World. Legion is the ultimate cure for superhero burnout.

Night Man (Seasons 1-2 on Roku Channel, pictured below): No, not the enemy of the Dayman from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; this Night Man is a Malibu Comics character who got his own TV series that lasted for two stoopid years in the ‘90s. Jazz saxophonist Johnny Domino (Matt McColm) is struck by lightning and suddenly has the power to “hear” evil—like Daredevil, but with shitty musical taste. So bad it’s … still bad.

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Powerless (Thursday, Feb. 2, NBC), series debut: Rebooted before it even premiered: Powerless, which exists somewhere within the DC Comics universe, was originally a deadpan workplace comedy à la The Office, about an insurance firm that handled cases of civilians affected by superhero vs. supervillain battles—real catastrophic damage. Now, it’s about Wayne Security (as in, Bruce Wayne and Wayne Enterprises), a company specializing in tactical-tech personal-protection devices for non-superhumans. It’s a faster-paced, colorful upgrade that the cast (Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi, Ron Funches and Christina Kirk) delivers on hysterically—when the material’s there. Unfortunately, Powerless’ writing isn’t as consistent as that of recent NBC comedy breakouts Superstore and The Good Place, so it’ll have to be carried by its stars for now.

Superior Donuts (Thursday, Feb. 2, CBS; moving to Mondays on Feb. 6), series debut: Sitcoms like NBC’s The Carmichael Show and CBS’ Mom have shown that it’s possible for smart comedy, serious issues and … ugh … laugh tracks to coexist. But why, why, WHY?! Same goes for Roman numerals and the Super Bowl; it’s 2017—start using ’Merican numbers before I tweet at Uncle Cheeto to sign an executive order (and you know he’d do it). Anyway: Superior Donuts centers around a crusty old donut-shop owner (Judd Hirsch) in a gentrifying Chicago neighborhood who begrudgingly hires an ambitious millennial (Jermaine Fowler) to update his business. Hot-button issues like race, guns and cronuts are tackled between punchlines, but Superior Donuts tries a little too hard to be Important Commentary. (It is based on a play, after all.) I will just lean into the funny, and maybe forgive the laugh track. Maybe.

Santa Clarita Diet (Friday, Feb. 3, Netflix), series debut: Netflix’s slow reveal of just what is the diet of Santa Clarita was a shrewd move, teasing with an appealing-odd actor combo (Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant) and vague hints at suburban shenanigans for almost a year. The plot-bomb finally dropped a few weeks ago: SoCal Realtor couple Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (Olyphant) see their painfully dull lives upended when Sheila contracts a mild case of zombie-ism and a hunger for human flesh. Thing is, she’s never felt better, and life is a whole new, if murder-y, adventure for the couple. Santa Clarita Diet contains traces of Desperate Housewives, Dexter, Weeds and iZombie (no Walking Dead, fortunately), but remains its own unique, bizarro thing. Most surprisingly, drama vet Olyphant consistently upstages Barrymore, letting his comedic freak flag fly like a loose-limbed maniac.

APB (Monday, Feb. 6, Fox), series debut: Even with 45 cop shows currently set there, Chicago is still a crime-ridden hellscape—will APB finally clean up this town? Probably not, but it’ll at least kill an hour after 24: Legacy for a few weeks. Much like—OK, exactly like—CBS’ now-canceled Pure Genius, ABP finds a tech billionaire (Justin Kirk) buying a failing enterprise (a Chicago police precinct instead of Pure Genius’ hospital) and outfitting it with ultra-high-tech gear to save and/or end people. (Pure Genius only flatlined itself.) Despite all its flashy screen grids, drones and the “game-changing” APB app (you’re outta luck, flip-phoners), APB is just another cop show with an outsider consultant.

Legion (Wednesday, Feb. 8, FX), series debut: It’s an X-Men TV series … but not. Legion, based on the Marvel comics, follows David Haller (Dan Stevens), who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic as a child and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for decades. When a disturbing encounter with new patient Syd (Rachel Keller) explodes his mind-numbed world, David realizes that his inner voices and visions are real. (Don’t say “mutant powers,” because, lawyers.) Like creator Noah Hawley’s previous FX hit, Fargo, Legion looks and feels outside of its defined time, and is more of an inward psychological trip than a blockbuster Marvel flick. Not that there isn’t action and comic relief (like Aubrey Plaza as David’s perkily-unhinged hospital pal), but don’t expect Wolverine.

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The Mick (Sunday, Jan. 1; Fox): Broke lowlife Mackenzie (Kaitlin Olson, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) gets stuck raising the kids of her just-incarcerated rich sister. It’s Uncle Buck meets Mary Poppins meets, well, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ransom (Sunday, Jan. 1; CBS): A good-looking hostage negotiator (Luke Roberts) and his good-looking team resolve kidnapping and ransom cases in Your Town, USA (which is really Canada—shhh!). Ransom moves to Saturdays after tonight, so it’s already canceled.

One Day at a Time (Friday, Jan. 6; Netflix): A remake of the ’70s sitcom—with a Cuban-American twist, complete with single mom (Justina Machado), precocious kids, a sleazy building manager and, unfortunately, a damned laugh track. Almost had it, Netflix.

Emerald City (Friday, Jan. 6; NBC): A dark “reimagining” of The Wizard of Oz that’s been kicked around for two years, with a smoldering Puerto Rican Dorothy (Adria Arjona, True Detective) and a promisingly weird Wizard casting choice (Vincent D’Onofrio!).

Taboo (Tuesday, Jan. 10; FX): Long-missing James (Tom Hardy) returns to 1814 London to inherit his father’s empire, only to become caught up in a treacherous legacy that may get him killed as well. FX’s sexiest period drama since The Bastard Executioner.

Jeff and Some Aliens (Wednesday, Jan. 11; Comedy Central): Loser earthling Jeff (voiced by Brett Gelman) is observed by, and annoyed with, a trio of aliens crashing in his apartment. As Comedy Central cartoons go … this is one of them.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Friday, Jan. 13; Netflix): Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Joan Cusack, Aasif Mandvi, Alfre Woodard, Don Johnson, Catherine O’Hara and other erase that trainwreck 2004 Lemony Snicket flick from your meh-mory.

Sneaky Pete (Friday, Jan. 13; Amazon Prime): A fresh-out-of-prison con man (Giovanni Ribisi) assumes the identity of his former cellmate to hide from a vengeful gangster, only to learn that his new “family” is just as dangerous. Smart upvote, Primers.

Throwing Shade (Tuesday, Jan. 17; TV Land): Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi adapt their pop-culture-skewering podcast to television. Wait, you can do that? Any networks out there want to turn my podcast into a TV show? Comedy Central? Telemundo? Anybody?

Riverdale (Thursday, Jan. 26; The CW): The “dark-sexy” Archie Comics drama no one asked for, with CW-ized Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and even Josie and the Pussycats! Sound terrible? More like, terribly entertaining! Bring it!

Powerless (Thursday, Feb. 2; NBC): Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi and Ron Funches star in an (insurance) office-place comedy set in the DC Comics universe of superheroes and villains. The Good Place is no longer NBC’s strangest sitcom.

Santa Clarita Diet (Friday, Feb. 3; Netflix): Husband-and-wife SoCal realtors Joel and Sheila (Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore) lead boring suburban lives … until they don’t. No further details, but it’s probably not about dieting.

24: Legacy (Sunday, Feb. 5; Fox): Another looming terrorist attack, same real-time 24-hour format—but no Jack Bauer! This time, Dr. Dre saves the day! Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) takes over for Kiefer Sutherland; otherwise, same show.

Legion (Wednesday, Feb. 8; FX): The producers of the Fargo series take on The X-Men, even if they’re not actually called X-Men. (Apocalypse just ruined everything.) Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens stars, along with Aubrey Plaza and zero bald guys.

Doubt (Wednesday, Feb. 15; CBS): TV’s latest attempt to make Katherine Heigl a thing is yet another pretty lawyer show—but the cast (which includes Dulé Hill, Steven Pasquale, Elliott Gould, Dreama Walker and Laverne Cox) might save it. Might.

Crashing (Sunday, Feb. 19; HBO): Comedian Pete Holmes stars as a Pete Holmes-like comedian flailing in the New York City comedy scene, along with Artie Lange, Lauren Lapkus and T.J. Miller. A Judd Apatow production; proceed with caution.

The Good Fight (Sunday, Feb. 19; CBS): The Good Wife spin-off no one wants to watch will become even harder to get: After it premieres on CBS proper, The Good Fight will move to CBS All Access, a streamer with about 30 subscribers. Why not double-down and add Katherine Heigl, CBS?

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