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The 20 Best Comic Book TV Shows of All Time, Ranked

Shows based on graphic novels and the like go way beyond Batman and Superman (though don't worry, they still show up).


12. “iZombie”

Like a zombie who has just had a second helping of cerebellum, viewers can’t help but find “iZombie” supremely satisfying for its hilarious, sick, and surprisingly touching twist on the classic horror monster. You see, zombie and morgue assistant Liv Moore (Rose McIver) still has a conscience and uses her newfound powers — accessing abilities, memories, and occasional personality quirks of a murder victim’s brains after she’s consumed them — to solve crimes. The procedural element of the series would be more than enough, especially given McIver’s remarkably elastic comedic skills that allow her to shift from acquired personality to personality with infectious glee. You really haven’t lived (more) until you’ve seen the actress play a frat bro or a dominatrix or a hopeless romantic or a D&D dungeon master and yet still maintain that essential bit of self that understands that she’s “on” a brain temporarily. While this formula is ripe for comedy, a slew of death-related puns, and winking pop culture references, the show is also surprisingly affecting when it wants to be. After all, “iZombie” asks what it means to live, even if you’re technically not dead.

11. “Gotham”

GOTHAM: Ben McKenzie in the “A Dark Knight: Reunion” episode of GOTHAM airing Thursday, March 15 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2018 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: David Giesbrecht/FOX

For every bat in the batcave, there’s a reason “Gotham” shouldn’t work. It’s a dark and gritty take on Batman’s origin story that airs on a broadcast network (where dark and gritty often comes off bright and goofy). Its first season bounced between a police procedural and a serialized take on James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) before finding its footing. And oh yeah: Batman is nowhere to be found. But within these limitations, the Fox drama has thrived. McKenzie’s grizzled performance keeps things humming. The writers have come up with compelling season-long arcs to push the overall story forward. (Season 2’s “Rise of the Villains” is particularly well done.) And even when villains like Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy show up, fans aren’t missing Batman. There are enough heroes to root for — including a young Bruce Wayne — to make the present what counts, instead of just waiting for The Dark Knight to show up.

10. “Marvel’s Luke Cage”

Mike Colter, "Luke Cage"

Before “Black Lightning” and “Black Panther,” Netflix brought a relatable black superhero to life with Luke Cage (Mike Colter). That he’s a bulletproof hero who proudly wears a hoodie makes a statement about how we perceive blackness in America. Creator Cheo Hodari Coker is a diehard comics fan, and it shows. In the series’ first season, he crafted a charming but inspiring hero, complete with a colorful origin story, kickass action sequences, and plenty of Marvel Easter eggs to spare.

Each of the allies and villains that populate Harlem — which Coker took pains to bring to vibrant, pulsating life — are appropriately larger than life, as well. Alfre Woodard, Mahershala Ali, Theo Rossi, Simone Missick, and of course, Rosario Dawson, all comprise a meaty cast with some standout moments. While Season 1 falters a bit in the later episodes (the Netflix 13 episodes bloat is real, y’all), its overall energy and attitude make it well worth watching. Bring on more Power Man.

9. “Preacher”

Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga, "Preacher"

Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga, “Preacher”

Skip Bolen/AMC

Danger and whimsy is a tricky combination. This adaptation of the Garth Ennis comics hasn’t always found the perfect calibration of those two warring tones, but the show’s best episodes have been delightful spits into the faces of mortality and authority. One man’s search to reconcile his past and the cosmic power that has been entrusted to him, “Preacher” has told his story with reckless abandon across Texas and New Orleans. With Dominic Cooper as Jesse Cutler, anchored by two of the best supporting performances from any of the shows on this list — if Ruth Negga and Joe Gilgun ever want to do a spinoff, we will donate our own money to the cause — “Preacher” has wrestled with God and still managed to come out alive. Toss in some of the best action sequences anywhere on TV and you have a series that’s doing just as much visually as it is philosophically. We’re looking forward to how those twin ambitions continue to dovetail as Season 3 approaches.

8. “The Boondocks”

Aaron McGruder’s anime-influenced art translated surprisingly well into animation, and the stories he was able to tell outside of the four-panel format showcased his unique voice as a creator. The premise — two brothers move with their grandfather from Chicago to the suburbs — remained consistent from the strip, while the show’s examination of politics and black culture got even more intense. Occasionally controversial but never lacking for insight, “The Boondocks” wasn’t a perfect show, but Regina King’s double role as both activist Huey and thug-life enthusiast Riley is a truly undersung voice acting feat.

7. “The Middleman”

This lively, ultra-nerdy riff on genre tropes was a cult favorite for its brief run, thanks to the charms of stars Matt Keeslar and Natalie Morales and the snappy scripts by creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach (who wrote the original comic as well) and his team. Loaded with pop culture references and over-the-top fun action, “The Middleman” was exactly what you think of when you think of “comic book television,” but in the best way. Over the course of just 12 episodes, the show spotlighted lucha libre wrestlers, trout-craving zombies, succubi, a hyper-intelligent gorilla, secret islands, vampire puppets, and alternate universes. It’s a shame we never got to see what they would have done going forward.

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