Click to viewEarlier this month, the CW network announced that it was scrapping plans for The Graysons, a television series that would have followed the character Dick Grayson in the years before he became Robin. Television viewers probably lucked out on that one, but The Graysons is hardly the first comic book-based TV series not to make it past (or to) its pilot. We list some of the of the terrible and sublime shows that never made it into production.
The Adventures of Superpup (1958): The Superman TV series was such a hit that television producer Whitney Ellsworth tried to recreate the show with canine characters. The live action pilot featured little person actors in dog costumes. Reporter Bark Bent worked for Perry Bite with the Pamela Poodle at the Daily Bugle. But when danger strikes, Bent becomes Superpup. Reportedly, any humor in the pilot was completely unintentional, and the networks didn't pick up the show. The Adventures of Superboy (1961): Ellsworth made a second go of it in 1961, after the death of George Reeves made a planned revival of The Adventures of Superman unlikely. Like the Superboy comic, it was to follow the life of teenaged Clark Kent, his parents, and his suspicious friend Lana Lang. Ellsworth and Vernon Clark wrote 13 episodes, but only the pilot (available online) was ever produced. The next time Superboy would come to the small screen was five years later in a series of animated shorts. The Thor Television Series (1988): In the 1988 TV movie "The Incredible Hulk Returns," Bruce Banner learned that his former student, Donald Blake, had a mystical bond with Thor. The movie was meant to serve as a backdoor pilot for a Thor television series (with Steve Levitt as Blake and Erica Allan Kramer as Thor), but the series never went into production. Marvel may have had a similar idea for Daredevil with the follow-up movie, "The Trial of the Incredible Hulk." X-Men: Pride of the X-Men (1988): Before X-Men: The Animated Series, Marvel tried its hand at another X-Men cartoon. Fourteen year old Kitty Pryde joins the ranks of the X-Men (here Charles Xavier, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, an Australian-accented Wolverine, and Dazzler) and battles the Brotherhood of Mutant Terrorists (Magneto, Toad, the Blob, Pyro, Juggernaut, and the White Queen). It was animated by Toei, the same company that did GI Joe and Transformers, but the dialogue is a bit on the atrocious side.
Generation X (1996): After a few years of success with the X-Men cartoon series, Fox decided to roll the dice on a live-action show. The made-for-TV movie/backdoor pilot Generation X takes place at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters when Banshee and Emma Frost are at the helm. They recruit Jubilee (played by the very white Heather McComb) and deal with the amoral professor Russell Tresh. The show was never picked up, probably because of scenes like this one:
The Justice League of America (1997): CBS produced a pilot for a live-action JLA show to compete with Superman series Lois and Clark. It follows Tori "Ice" Olafsdotter as she is indicted into the League. Unfortunately, silly puns, sillier costumes, and poor production values ensured that the series never took flight.
Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998): After nine years of Baywatch David Hasslehoff decided to return to his terrestrial action roots as Nick Fury. As with Generation X, Fox had the movie on a shoestring budget to see if anyone was interested in a series around the Hoff's Fury. Apparently, no one was.
Bruce Wayne (1999): Before developing Smallville, Tobbins/Robbins Productions started work on a series about Bruce Wayne's pre-Batman years. It would start when the orphaned billionaire was 17, and follow his travels to China, Korea, and France to go from spoiled playboy to crime fighting machine. Other characters would include comedian Jack Napier, psychology professor Jonathan Crane, hospital intern Harley Quinn, farm boy Clark Kent, police officer Jim Gordon, and mob boss Carmine Falcone. And Bruce's best friend would be Harvey Dent, a bright young man with an abusive, alcoholic father. The project was shelved when rumors emerged that Frank Miller's Batman: Year One was being adapted for the screen. Global Frequency (2005): Survivor producer Mark Burnett turned Warren Ellis' espionage comic into a TV pilot. Science fiction favorite Michelle Forbes (who played Ro Laren on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Helena Cain in Battlestar Galactica and is currently doing a turn on True Blood) was cast as Miranda Zero, the organizations head. The pilot was leaked online and was a bit of a hit, but Ellis claimed that the bigwigs at Warner were so annoyed by the leak that they killed the entire project.
The Amazing Screw-On Head (2006): As if you need further proof that Bryan Fuller's projects are brilliant but doomed, we offer for your consideration The Amazing Screw-On Head. Based on Mike "Hellboy" Mignola's comic, Screw-On Head is a steampunk adventure about a robot agent for President Abraham Lincoln. He battled the evil Emperor Zombie and his vampire lover Patience with the help of his butler Mr. Groin and reanimated pet Mr. Dog. The pilot featured voice work by Paul Giamatti, David Hyde Pierce, Patton Oswalt, and Molly Shannon, and was generally awesome. Sadly, it has never been turned into a full series. Click to view
Aquaman (2006): Looking to spinoff Smallville, Al Gough and Miles Millar looked into developing Aquaman. Justin Hartley (now Smallville's Green Arrow) was to star as the titular superhero who learns of his Atlantian heritage during a trip inside the Bermuda Triangle. The producers planned out, but only filmed the pilot, which enjoyed some success on iTunes.
The Graysons (2008): After failing on Aquaman, the CW looked into the origin story of the Boy Wonder. The Graysons was envisioned as a replacement or companion for Smallville, and would follow Dick Grayson, the future Robin, through his days as part of a family acrobatics act in a traveling circus. The network decided it was nixing the series less than five weeks after it was announced, which is probably all for the best.