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Comic Book Shows: The Definitive Live-Action List

Have we reached peak comic book shows?

We’re living in the heyday of shows based on comic book properties. There was a time when live action shows came out every couple years and the quality was always questionable. Shows like Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and Smallville were few and far between. We’d gnaw on every little morsel thrown our way in hopes it would boost ratings leading to more adaptations. Remember Ultraverse’s Night Man? Or The Crow: Stairway to Heaven?

How the times have changed. In the first half of 2018, there are were nearly 30 shows based on comic books. It isn’t slowing down. The already long list will be joined this fall by Titans (please be good enough to justify a “Titans Hunt” storyline), Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and possibly Umbrella Academy. 2019’s new comic book shows include Doom Patrol, Deadly Class, and The Boys. If we want to keep our sanity (and have a social life) we need to now make sacrifices of shows instead of sacrificing our free time for questionable quality.

With impending comic book show doom on the horizon, I thought it might be a good time to take stock of what’s out there and what brings me joy. Below is a list of live action comic books shows I’m currently watching and what I think about each one. At the end are shows I stopped watching and shows I’ve yet to watch.

Note: This article about comic book shows is full of spoilers about every single one of these shows.

Note II: Updated November 28, 2018 to include The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. December 26, 2018 to include Titans. February 23, 2019 to include Happy! season one, The Punisher season two, and Daredevil season three.

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Establishing the DC Shared Universe: Zatanna’s Search

In this modern age of comic-influenced pop culture we’re neck deep in shared universes and, increasingly, shared multiverses. It can be hard to imagine a time when that wasn’t the case. It can be even more difficult to believe we didn’t see the first true comic book shared universe until the mid-1960s. That’s when the daughter of the third most important character to debut in Action Comics #1 arrived on the scene in a quest to find her father. Zatanna’s search would take her on a winding path through six DC titles. As a result, it impacted several heroes and had repercussions on the DC Universe as a whole.

Zatanna's Search Justice League issue 51

Justice League of America Vol. 1 #51

Characters with their own titles crossing over with other characters is a common occurrence going all the way back to the birth of superhero titles. It’s difficult to pinpoint who can lay claim to the first ever superhero crossover.

The honor could possibly go to Lev Gleason Publications in 1940. That publisher teamed up the characters Silver Streak and Daredevil (not that Daredevil). It just barely preceded the first known team up of Marvel characters.  Marvel Mystery Comics #8 featured Namor and Human Torch going head-to-head for the first time. For DC characters, the first crossover medal goes to All-Star Comics #3 which saw the first appearance of the Justice Society of America. At the time, it was likely the biggest crossover in terms of number of characters featuring Flash (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Hawkman (Carter Hall), Spectre (Jim Corrigan), Hourman (Rex Tyler), Sandman (Wesley Dodds), Doctor Fate, and Atom (Al Pratt).

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