The past year has seen more comic book television shows than ever, taking primetime television to wildly heightened peaks. Even beyond established favorites, the year introduced a heap of vigilantes and villains who were completely new to live-action.
Take a look below for our list of the 10 best superhero TV shows out right now.
Marvel’s Daredevil, or simply Daredevil, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Drew Goddard, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise, and is the first in a series of shows that lead to The Defenders crossover miniseries.
The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios, with DeKnight Productions for the first season and Goddard Textiles for the first and second seasons. Steven S. DeKnight serves as showrunner on the first season, with Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez taking over for the second season, and Erik Oleson joining the series as its showrunner for its third season; Goddard serves as a consultant for the series.
Charlie Cox stars as Matt Murdock / Daredevil, a blind lawyer-by-day who fights crime as a masked vigilante by night. Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent D’Onofrio also star, with Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, and Ayelet Zurer joining them for season one, Jon Bernthal, Élodie Yung, and Stephen Rider joining the cast for season two, and Wilson Bethel and Jay Ali joining in season three.
Daredevil entered development in late 2013, a year after the film rights to the character reverted to Marvel, with Goddard initially hired in December 2013. DeKnight replaced him as showrunner and Cox was hired to star in May 2014. Filming takes place in New York City, in areas that still look like the old Hell’s Kitchen.
2. Batman the Animated Series
Batman: The Animated Series is an American superhero animated television series based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. Developed by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Mitch Brian, and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, it originally aired on Fox Kids from September 5, 1992, to September 15, 1995, with a total of 85 episodes.
For the final fifteen episodes, the series was given the on-screen title The Adventures of Batman & Robin, which was also used for reruns of earlier episodes. The series became the first in the continuity of the shared DC animated universe; spawning further animated TV series, feature films, comic books and video games with most of the same creative talent.
The series was praised for its thematic complexity, film noir aesthetics, darker tone, artistic presentation, and modernization of its title character’s crime-fighting origins. IGN.com listed Batman: The Animated Series as the best adaptation of Batman anywhere outside of comics, the best comic book television show of all time and the second-best animated series of all time (after The Simpsons).
Wizard magazine also ranked it #2 of the greatest animated television shows of all time (again after The Simpsons). TV Guide ranked it the seventh-greatest cartoon of all time. The widespread acclaim led the series to win four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Animated Program.
3. The Flash
The Flash is an American superhero television series developed by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Geoff Johns, airing on The CW. It is based on the DC Comics character Barry Allen / Flash, a costumed superhero crime-fighter with the power to move at superhuman speeds. It is a spin-off from Arrow, existing in the same fictional universe. The series follows Barry Allen, portrayed by Grant Gustin, a crime scene investigator who gains super-human speed, which he uses to fight criminals, including others who have also gained superhuman abilities.
Initially envisioned as a backdoor pilot, the positive reception Gustin received during two appearances as Barry on Arrow led to executives choosing to develop a full pilot to make use of a larger budget and help flesh out Barry’s world in more detail. Colleen Atwood, costume designer for Arrow, was brought in to design the Flash’s suit. The creative team wanted to make sure that the Flash would resemble his comic book counterpart, and not simply be a poor imitation. The series is primarily filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The Flash premiered in North America on October 7, 2014, where the pilot became the second-most watched premiere in the history of The CW, after The Vampire Diaries in 2009. It has been well received by critics and audiences, and won the People’s Choice Award for “Favorite New TV Drama” in 2014. The series, together with Arrow, has spun characters out to their own show, Legends of Tomorrow, which premiered on January 21, 2016. On January 31, 2019, The CW renewed the series for a sixth season, which premiered on October 8, 2019.
Smallville is an American superhero television series developed by writer-producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, based on the DC Comics character Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The series, initially broadcast by The WB, premiered on October 16, 2001. After Smallville’s fifth season, The WB and UPN merged to form The CW, the series’ later United States broadcaster. Smallville, which ended its tenth and final season on May 13, 2011, follows Clark Kent in the fictional town of Smallville, Kansas, before he becomes known as Superman.
The first four seasons focus on Clark and his friends in high school. After season five Smallville ventures into adult settings, eventually focusing on his career at the Daily Planet and introducing other DC comic-book superheroes and villains.
Before the series’ production, Bruce Wayne, chronicling the young protagonist’s journey toward Batman, was proposed first. Although that series failed to generate interest, it inspired Smallville. Series developers Gough and Millar pitched their “no tights, no flights” rule to the president of Warner Bros. Television, reducing Superman to the bare essentials and examining what led Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel. After seven seasons with the show, Gough and Millar departed with little explanation.
Smallville was primarily filmed in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, with local businesses and buildings substituting for Smallville locations. Most of the music for the first six seasons was composed by Mark Snow, who incorporated elements of John Williams’ musical score from the Superman film series. In season seven, Louis Febre (who worked with Snow from the beginning) became the series’ primary composer.
Arrow is an American superhero television series developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, a costumed crime-fighter created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp, and is set in the Arrowverse, sharing continuity with other Arrowverse television series.
The series premiered in the United States on The CW on October 10, 2012, and was primarily filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In January 2019, The CW renewed the series for an eighth season, which premiered on October 15, 2019. In March, it was announced this would serve as the final season of the series, consisting of ten episodes which would contribute to the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event.
Arrow follows billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, who claimed to have spent five years shipwrecked on Lian Yu, a mysterious island in the North China Sea, before returning home to Starling City (later renamed “Star City”) to fight crime and corruption as a secret vigilante whose weapon of choice is a bow and arrow. Throughout the series, Oliver is joined by others, among them former soldier John Diggle, I.T. expert and skilled hacker Felicity Smoak, former assassin Sara Lance, aspiring vigilante Roy Harper, Oliver’s sister Thea, and attorney-turned-vigilante Laurel Lance.
During the first five seasons of the show, characters from Oliver’s past appear in a separate story arc based on Oliver’s flashbacks. Starting with season seven, a series of flash-forwards focus on Oliver’s children William and Mia, exploring how present events would affect their future and Green Arrow’s legacy.
The series takes a new look at the Green Arrow character, as well as other characters from the DC Comics universe. Although Oliver Queen/Green Arrow had been featured in the television series Smallville from 2006 to 2011, on The CW, the producers decided to start clean and find a new actor to portray the character. Arrow has received generally positive reviews from critics. The series has received several awards and multiple nominations.
6. Jessica Jones
Marvel’s Jessica Jones, or simply Jessica Jones, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise, and is the second in a series of shows that led to The Defenders crossover miniseries. The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios and Tall Girls Productions, with Rosenberg serving as showrunner. Scott Reynolds was a co-showrunner for the third season.
Krysten Ritter stars as Jessica Jones, a former superhero who opens her own detective agency. Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, and Carrie-Anne Moss also star, with Mike Colter, Wil Traval, Erin Moriarty, and David Tennant joining them for the first season, J.R. Ramirez, Terry Chen, Leah Gibson and Janet McTeer joining the cast for second season, and Benjamin Walker, Sarita Choudhury, Jeremy Bobb, and Tiffany Mack joining for the third season.
A version of the series was originally developed by Rosenberg for ABC in 2010, but the network passed on it. By late 2013, Rosenberg was reworking the series for Netflix as A.K.A. Jessica Jones. Ritter was cast as Jones in December 2014. Jessica Jones is filmed in New York City, in areas that still look like old Hell’s Kitchen.
7. Batman Beyond
Batman Beyond (known as Batman of the Future in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia) is an American animated television series developed by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett and produced by Warner Bros. Animation in collaboration with DC Comics as a continuation of the Batman legacy. Depicting a teenaged Batman in a futuristic Gotham City under the tutelage of an elderly Bruce Wayne, the series began airing on January 10, 1999, and ended its run on December 18, 2001. After 52 episodes spanning three seasons and one direct-to-video feature film, the series was put on hold for the Justice League animated series, despite the network having announced plans for a fourth season.
Batman Beyond is set in the chronological future of the DC animated universe (despite being released before Static Shock, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited), and serves as a continuance of both Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures.
Though the initial announcement of the series drew mixed reactions, Batman Beyond went on to receive critical acclaim and a cult following. The show is said to explore the darker side of many Batman projects, playing on key elements such as emotions, personal relations, fear of the unknown, as well as cyberpunk and sci-fi themes such as the issues and dilemmas of innovation and technological and scientific progress affecting society, and the psychology of the character of Bruce Wayne.
As such, it was considerably darker than most other children’s programs at the time, although producer Bruce Timm recalls it was conceived as a kid-friendly Batman cartoon. It is also the first Batman series to portray the hero as a teenager.
8. Krypto the Superdog
Krypto the Superdog is a Canadian/American animated television series produced by Warner Bros. Animation, based on the DC Comics character Krypto. The show premiered on Cartoon Network on March 25, 2005, and aired on Kids’ WB in September 2006. It would usually air after the Tickle-U block.
A comic book series (based on the TV show) was published by DC Comics under the Johnny DC imprint, which lasted 6 issues, from 2006 to 2007. The show was designed primarily for young children.
The show was produced in a manner reminiscent of the Hanna-Barbera shows of the 1960s to the 1980s, from the sound effects down to the animation style (veteran Hanna-Barbera designer Iwao Takamoto served as a creative consultant). The series is rated TV-Y.
Gotham is an American crime drama television series developed by Bruno Heller, produced by Warner Bros. Television and based on characters published by DC Comics and appearing in the Batman franchise, primarily those of James Gordon and Bruce Wayne. The series premiered on Fox on September 22, 2014, and concluded on April 25, 2019. The series stars Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon and David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne.
The series was originally intended to focus only on Gordon’s early days with the Gotham City Police Department, but they subsequently included the Bruce Wayne character and the origin stories of several Batman villains, including Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, Hugo Strange, Solomon Grundy, Ra’s al Ghul, Nyssa al Ghul, Bane and The Joker.
Development for a prequel series based on Batman began in September 2013, with Bruno Heller hired by Fox to serve as a writer and executive producer. In March 2014, Fox originally ordered 16 episodes for its first season before expanding it to 22. Filming primarily took place across New York City.
Since its broadcast, Gotham received positive reviews from critics, with many praising the performances, production values and writing. Despite initially high viewership, ratings began dropping considerably throughout the series’ run. However, it continued to attract consistent acclaim from critics as the series progressed. In May 2018, Fox renewed the series for a fifth and final season, consisting of 12 episodes, premiered on January 3, 2019, and concluded on April 25, 2019.
10. Teen Titans
Teen Titans is an American animated superhero television series developed by Glen Murakami and Sam Register, based on DC Comics’s superhero team of the same name. It premiered on Cartoon Network on July 19, 2003, and its first two seasons also aired on Kids’ WB. Initially, only four seasons were planned, but the popularity of the series led to Cartoon Network ordering a fifth season.
The final half-hour episode of the show, “Things Change”, aired on January 16, 2006; it was later followed by a TV movie, Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo, that premiered on September 15, 2006, serving as the series finale.
Teen Titans became one of Cartoon Network’s most beloved and critically acclaimed series, renowned for its character development and serious themes. During its run, the series was nominated for three Annie Awards and one Motion Picture Sound Editors Award.
Spin-off media included comics, DVD releases, video games, music albums, and collectible toys. Reruns have aired on Cartoon Network’s retro animation sister channel Boomerang until June 1, 2014. In 2013, the show spawned a spin-off, titled Teen Titans Go!, which received a theatrical film released on July 27, 2018, titled Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.