My Five Favorite Superhero TV Shows

One question keeps crossing my mind each week when I watch Arrow on the CW.

“Is this a good show?”

It’s one I can’t seem to answer, even now that this first half season is done. I’m going to take some more time before I level a final judgment, but it got me thinking about which other superhero TV shows have been my favorite over the years.

My five picks are below, but feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Batman: The Animated Series

I didn’t grow reading comics, so Batman: The Animated Series was my very first introduction to the character. And to this day, I think the show was one of the best versions ever seen of the character. No matter how good Nolan’s movies are, Batman will always be Kevin Conroy, and the Joker Mark Hamill. These iconic voices became the characters for me, and everyone else is just doing their own impressions of them. It’s a testament to their quality that Conroy and Hamill are still doing the voices today in games like Arkham Asylum.

2. Heroes

Yes, I know what you’re going to say, and you’re right. Heroes was terrible. But it wasn’t always that way. The vast majority of season one really felt like a new page had been turned in superhero TV. Heroes sparked the “everyman” superhero trend that continued for some time after with Kick-Ass and Super and so on, it did it so well at least for the first season. The stories were gripping, the villains were terrifying, and it was a breath of fresh air for network TV. When it became bad, it actually ended up being SO bad that it was fun to make fun of, so that’s not really a total loss either.

3. Young Justice

This is the only show on this list still on the air, but it’s a really impressive accomplishment, far more than I anticipated. It focuses on the sidekicks of the JLA, Robin, Red Arrow, Aqualad, Superboy, etc. forming their own squad, but it expands far beyond them and draws from a HUGE number of DC Universe characters. And it’s not just a “villain of the week” set up either. The show has very long plot threads that last for multiple episodes or entire seasons. And the show demonstrates an ability to evolve by doing a big time jump in between season one and two, and pulling it off.

4. Smallville

Love it or hate it, Smallville might be THE iconic superhero show. No other show in this genre lasted a decade, and even though it clearly went on for a few years too many, I’ll be damned if I didn’t end up seeing it through until the end. I absolutely loved the first few seasons of this, and I think the show ended up peaking around season six where they have a full-on mini-JLA squad going. The show handled DC mythology very well, and though it suffered when cast members like Lex and Lana left, it was still watchable until the very end.

5. Batman Beyond

Probably my favorite show on this list, and one I’m sad didn’t last longer. Batman Beyond was probably the most creative superhero show ever attempted, having to reinvent Batman from scratch. The idea sounded gimmicky on the surface, but in practice it created an incredibly cool show with a host of memorable episodes. I highly suggest checking it out if you haven’t as it even stands up to viewing as an adult.


  • I can’t find anywhere to write to you guys directly, but I just wanted to note that I’ve stopped visiting Unreality (it was on my daily open tabs) as the ads (and now popup in new window ads) are really overbearing. The comment box I’m writing in now is partially covered by an ad for Mars. I mean, really, I can’t even see what I’m writing!

    Get it under control guys, would love to make Unreality part of my daily digest again.

  • JB

    Agree with Jamie. The ads and popups sometime get my browser to crash.

    As far as best superhero show you can go wrong with anything from the original DCAU with Batman, Superman, Justice League, Unlimited, and they even tied in Beyond in there. Loved that but I do agree, Young justice was a pleasent surprise.

    I kinda love Lois and Clark too but that maybe my nostalgia covered glasses and love of Teri Hatcher as Lois.

  • some guy

    I dont get that many ads and i dont even have an ad blocker…maybe use firefox? and plus thats how this website makes money is ads i say the more ads the better cause these guys are awesome and deserve every cent they get…o and BTAS was the best…for sure

  • Any love for Static Shock and X-men: Evolution?

    I swear to God, I still think that X-men: Evolution was somehow catered to young girls. It’s pretty obvious since all of them were mostly high school students. It’s like Smallville wherein the teens had to balance between being teens and heroes. In addition, that whole story arc with Cyclops and Jean Grey that lasted throughout the run of the series was the cherry on top.

    It seems like it was only yesterday, my friends and I were school girl gushing about this show over lunch.

  • mjlaxnmd

    You kids need to get off my lawn.

    Any list like this that doesn’t include at least an honorable mention for The Incredible Hulk just isn’t a valid list.

    Yeah, looking back now with all the blockbuster this and CGI that, the old Hulk shows can seem quaint but remember, this was a show that held down and did well in a primetime slot on network TV when there were only 4 or 5 channels to choose from on TV. On top of that, for a kid, that show was AWESOME. Bixby was the best Banner ever, even if the network made the show change his name from Bruce to David. I still get pangs of nostalgia when I hear the theme song.

  • XenoIrish

    X-men Evolution and Wolverine and the X-men were both decent, and are both on netflix for those that are interested.

    The Batman shows were the best though, no doubt about it.

  • Tonyctitan

    What about the tick? That cartoon was incredible.

  • Todd X

    The Batman series are the only ones on this list that I would consider good.

    Young Justice is probably a generational thing but since I have kids in my life I can look forward to watching some of their shows with them. This one need more Flaming C.

    Heroes was a train wreck midway through the first season. Unlikable main characters. Just disappointing all around.

    Never a fan of Superman.

    Now for ones I like. The Powerpuff Girls, The Tick (both), and I seem to recall Darkwing Duck being surprisingly great. Would Doctor Who be considered a superhero in the same sense as Superman? the are both aliens.

  • Steve

    Paul, if you like these, I have some recommendations for you:

    The Mighty Avengers: About to head into its third season, highly enjoyable, well written.

    Ultimate Spider-Man: Going into season two. They write Spider-Man a little “Deadpool-meets-Zach Morris,” and if you’re not down with that, we can never be friends.

    Arrow: Green Arrow gets the “Smallville” treatment, but doesn’t suck. It plays out like a Christopher Nolanized “Gotham,” but it’s Starling City instead. (don’t ask me why it’s changed from Star City… I had to hear it a couple times to realize they changed it)

    Maybe you can come back and give us a review after you catch up on them.

  • ac2smart

    Maybe I’m aging myself but you have to have the original X-men cartoon from the ’90s on this list.

  • wevs

    Jeez, download AdBlocker and stop being such technologically illiterate grannies. I swear, how can you even survive these days without an ad filtering browser add on is beyond me.

    As for the shows I couldn’t agree more on Young Justice, it just took me out of the blue when I was channel surfing one day and I caught the premier on CN. Really good show, great plot and compelling characters.

    Agreed with Tony and Todd, the list is missing The Tick. The bluest superhero of them all!

  • DontbeaGoof

    It occurs to me that the title is “My favorite cartoon tv shows”

    This is Tassi’s list, you don’t have to agree but it just makes you look like an ass when you say things like “Isn’t even Valid” “How could you forget this” “List is missing this”

    First and foremost “No mans knowledge here can go beyond his experience”

    Maybe hes never watched any of those shows you disagree with


  • kasper

    Arrow is not a good show, but it is an enjoyable show. The writing is laughable, the acting wooden, but the story is compelling enough and the action fun enough to keep watching.

    As for your list, the Incredible Hulk should get a mention just for the ending song if nothing else.

    Also, the X-Men cartoon from the nineties was pretty damn good.

    But most egregious, where the f is Buffy?

  • kenTa

    I don’t see Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on that list.

  • GrandWazoo

    My list: Batman, X-Men (original, not that evolution crap), The Tick, Freakazoid, and whichever Spider-Man it was floating around TV in the mid 90’s.

  • Kalyde

    Hum…excuse me? Justice League (and Justice League Unlimited)…anyone? How can you not mention Justice League!

  • GrandWazoo


    I did like Justice League, but I limited myself to my top 5, but JL is in my top 10 for sure.

  • Loki

    Any 90’s kids here?

    screw xmen evolution etc.

    the 90’s X-men cartoon actually took some of the major plots from the comics and transcribed them fairly well for a show that was aimed to cater to kids under 10.

    same with the 90’s Spider-man show. the fact that both are entirely on netflix now is just awesome.

    and yes buffy. I mean she has super skills and saves the world from evil… that’s a damn super hero.

  • Dan

    So… No JLA, no Superman animated series, no X-men (the one from the 90´s,), but instead smallville and heroes…. oookkkkk… ( slowly walking away)

    • I didn’t watch that much of JLA or ’90s X-Men. Superman the Animated Series was alright, but I liked these other shows better overall.

  • I would add Alphas to your list. It should at least replace Heroes. It’s a really good spin on an “X-Men” type story.

  • mexican giant

    Watched batman when I was 8 and it was the most amazing cartoon ever.

  • Tycen

    Batman the Animated Series is my most favorite cartoon of all time. And as far as the ads go i use Chrome with Ad Blocker installed and i get literally zero annoying things but if I had even half the trouble some of these other people have with them i would have stopped coming here a long time ago and that is from someone who really loves the site.