Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 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 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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DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (Thursday, Jan. 21, The CW), series debut: The Atom, Captain Cold, Heat Wave and other superheroes previously seen on Arrow and The Flash team up in this sorta spin-off, along with The Heroine Formerly Known as Black Canary, White Canary, and “time-traveling rogue” Rip Hunter (because what other career path are you gonna take with a name like that?). Sounds promising, and The CW has been hyping Legends of Tomorrow as a soufflé of Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Who. Too bad it arrived undercooked. Unseen supervillains include The Exposition Avenger (the setup-to-action ratio is tediously uneven) and Dr. ScreenTime (errybody’s fighting for their shot), who foil the two-part pilot from ever fully rising. But the potential for another entertaining DC/CW series is there, and the droll cartoon-villain delivery of Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) is alone worth tuning in for, as is White Canary (Caity Lotz) and her sassy ass-kickery. Remember, it’s Legends of Tomorrow, not Today.

Baskets (Thursday, Jan. 21, FX), series debut: “We can’t all be florists or dishwashers. Some of us have to be artists.” So says Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis), whose definition of “artist” includes being a clown—in his case, the rodeo variety, since he’s flunked out of a prestigious French clown academy (or, as they say, “cloon”) and has been forced to return to uncultured ’Merica. Baskets is a co-creation of Galifianakis, Louis C.K. and writer/director Jonathan Krisel (Portlandia, Man Seeking Woman), so weirdness is a given; you’ve seen the FX promos with Galifianakis in full Entitled Loon mode, as well as the phrase “prestigious French clown academy” above. But even for the network that unleashed Wilfred and Louie upon the world, Baskets is bizarre—like, done-on-a-dare, sub-Adult-Swim bizarre. (Chip’s mom is Louie Anderson in drag, for just one example.) It’s also a bleak commentary on artistic failure and Western decline, which kind of deflates the “comedy” promised in those promos. Proceed with caution and the chemical mood-elevators of your choice.

Beowulf (Saturday, Jan. 23, Esquire), series debut: A record 409 scripted dramas and comedies were available on broadcast, cable and streaming services in 2015; that number could very well be surpassed this year. I’ve said it before: There are too many shows! Within that TV glut, Game of Thrones, Vikings, The Last Kingdom, Outlander and even Galavant already exist—do we really need another swords ’n’ sex epic clogging the drain with its shaggy hair and sweaty chainmail? From Esquire, no less? “Based on the complex protagonist of a classic poem, Beowulf takes place in a mythological place, The Shieldlands, and challenges the notions of good and evil, heroes and villains, and the rule of law against one’s moral code” … gggguuuuhhhh. Methinks a preemptive, Bastard Executioner-style abortion is in order here.

The X-Files (Sunday, Jan. 24, Fox), return: Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) return, lured back into the conspiracy game by kinda-journalist Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale, playing a wired hybrid of so-crazy-they-must-be-right doom-slingers Glenn Beck and Infowars’ Alex Jones) to investigate a new governmental alien cover-up (as well as more “realistic” threats like NSA spying, domestic prison camps and the “Freebird” of tinfoil-hat conspiracies, chemtrails), and generally be adorable together. Great news, but the biggest mystery here is: Why the hell is The X-Files’ comeback premiere airing at an undetermined time after something called “The NFC Championship”? What’s the guv’ment trying to hide?!

Lucifer (Monday. Jan. 25, Fox), series debut: The Devil (Tom Ellis) retires as “Lucifer Morningstar” and opens a Los Angeles nightclub, which of course leads to him working with the Los Angeles Police Department to help solve homicides. Skeptical? Lucifer is based on a Vertigo comic book (as were the dearly departed Constantine, the currently dead-alive iZombie and the upcoming Preacher), and involves writers and directors from Californication, Sleepy Hollow and Underworld. It’ll also receive plenty of free publicity from the Parents Television Council and other moral-watchdog groups outraged over a fictional character based on a fictional character. They may be justified: Ellis’ Lucifer is charming, funny and intermittently compassionate—not to mention supernaturally persuasive over everyone but, mysteriously, his cop “partner” (Lauren German as Det. Chloe Dancer—Wiki the band Mother Love Bone, kids). At the risk of casting pull-quote bait, Lucifer is just damned fun. (Have at it, Fox.)

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Over the current television season? So are the broadcast networks—they’re moving on to the 2015-2016 season, and here’s some of what they’ll be serving up this fall and early next year:

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (The CW): The Atom, Captain Cold, Heatwave and various other characters previously seen on Arrow and The Flash team up in this sorta-spin-off, as well as The Heroine Formerly Known as Black Canary, White Canary, and “time-traveling rogue” Rip Hunter (!). Oh, you can stave off that superhero burnout until 2016.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW): A successful-but-lonely New York woman (Rachel Bloom) impulsively moves to California to pursue her ex in a musical-comedy originally produced for … Showtime? Remember: Jane the Virgin seemed like a bizarre idea once, too.

Supergirl (CBS): Speaking of superhero burnout and single gals in the big city, here’s Superman’s cousin, Kara (Melissa Benoist, Glee). The first trailer, while impressive, is far more The Devil Wears Prada than Daredevil, and strangely similar to Saturday Night Live’s fake Black Widow rom-com Marvel movie. But, she’s unrecognizable in glasses—classic.

Angel From Hell (CBS): Allison (Maggie Lawson, Psych) has a wacky new frenemy (Jane Lynch, Glee) who is either a bona fide guardian angel … or just insane. Which is it? Since single-camera, laugh-track-less comedies are COA (canceled on arrival) at CBS, you’ll probably never find out.

Scream Queens (Fox): Ryan Murphy’s comedic (but still dark) broadcast-friendly take on his American Horror Story series stars Emma Roberts (AHS: Freak Show) and Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween). A sorority-slasher series may seem like a stretch, but it’s still a more likely Fox hit than Murphy’s defunct Red Band Society: Kourageous Kancer Kids.

Bordertown (Fox): This “Mexifornia”-set cartoon from Family Guy writers/producers (as well as cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and Ask a Mexican columnist/Independent contributor Gustavo Arellano) has been floating around for almost two years, and will finally premiere in 2016 … an election year. Pretty sneaky, Fox.

The Grinder (Fox): After his hit legal drama The Grinder is canceled, an actor (Rob Lowe) moves back home to Boise and joins forces with his unwilling brother (Fred Savage), a real lawyer, in the courtroom. And if the younger demographic likes this

Grandfathered (Fox): … They’ll love John Stamos as a suave bachelor-about-town whose swingin’ lifestyle gets record-scratched when he learns he has an adult son and a baby granddaughter. At least Stamos has Fuller House to fall back on.

Lucifer (Fox): The Devil (Tom Ellis, Rush) retires as “Lucifer Morningstar” and opens a Los Angeles nightclub, which of course leads to him working with the LAPD to solve the murder of a young pop star. Skeptical? Lucifer is based on a Vertigo comic-book series, and involves writers and directors from Californication, Sleepy Hollow and Underworld. Parents Television Council, you’re up!

Blindspot (NBC): The clues to unravel a vast international conspiracy lie within the tattoos of an unidentified woman found naked in a duffle bag in Times Square. Damn, those Suicide Girls will do anything for attention.

Heartbreaker (NBC): Melissa George (The Slap) stars as a heart surgeon (get it?) who’s as annoyingly feisty as she is brilliant and stubborn … or as brilliantly annoying as she is stubbornly feisty … or something.

People Are Talking (NBC): Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Franklin and Bash) and Tone Bell (Bad Judge) play buds who “analyze and obsess about everything.” This is one of two whole comedies airing this fall on NBC—analyze and obsess about that.

Oil (ABC): It’s Dallas … in North Dakota! With Don Johnson as the designated local oil tycoon/villain! Lucifer doesn’t sound so ridiculous now, huh?

Uncle Buck (ABC): America has rejected a TV version of the beloved 1989 movie once before—but this one has an all-black cast, so ABC at least deserves some credit for further chipping away at the tube’s Whiteytown. Uncle Buck, however, is gonna suuuck.

The Muppets (ABC): Imagine The Office as a behind-the-scenes docu-com at The Muppet Show. Yeah, I can’t believe that pitch worked, either.

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