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.
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.
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.