Comics On TV

The Five Best Comic Book TV Futures (Even If They're Horrible Realities)

From The CW's Arrowverse to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., take a look at the fantastical futures comic book TV has envisioned.

by | July 12, 2019 | Comments

As 1960s psychic Criswell famously intoned at the beginning of Plan 9 from Outer Space, “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.” But genre television, and its comic book-based subgenre, has the peculiar ability to allow characters living in the relative present to glimpse into the future. Or, in some cases, spend a whole season revealing a future state for the characters established by their actions in the present. Take the example of Heroes’ Shanti virus story line, in which Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) learned the terrible truth about the mistakes being made in his present. Unfortunately, that story line was never finished due to a writer’s strike and Peter’s girlfriend — who traveled with him to the dark future where the virus killed millions — was erased from existence.

For the most part, shows that are able to jump to the future are also able to round out those story lines in more concrete ways. While the future is frequently portrayed as a dystopian hellhole, sometimes series manage to produce interesting realities despite the grim darkness of future events. Here are the five we think represent the best of those television show futures, even when they were the worst possible outcomes for the characters.


Arrow -- Image Number: ARR_S4_FIRST_LOOK_V4 -- Pictured: Stephen Amell as The Arrow -- Photo: JSquared Photography/The CW

(Photo by JSquared Photography/The CW)

Future: 2040

The seventh season of Arrow introduced a flash-forward to the “distant” year of 2040. It is a seemingly dystopian time for Star City with an added cyberpunk edge thanks to Felicity Smoak’s (Emily Bett Rickards) Archer program watching over the Glades and William’s (Ben Lewis) leading tech company offering him access to the halls of power.

To be fair, the series never had to budget to fully realize its William Gibson–esque ideas, but it was all there in dialogue. After years of being the city’s low-income hovel, the Glades found economic prosperity, formed its own municipality, voted in Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez) as its mayor, and built a wall to keep out the Star City riff-raff. Omni-corportation Galaxy One set its headquarters in the Glades and, despite Rene’s leadership, seems to be the real executive force in the community. Using a version of Felicity’s security software, they also kept close surveillance on the citizenry. Late in the season, the company introduced shock troops with AI-assisted predictive combat helmets. The ideas could fuel their own spin-off if given the money to execute them on a grander scale.

Despite the modest production values, the infusion of cyberpunk ideas into Arrow worked. In fact, it was so effective that we wish the series focused more on the exploits of William, Mia (Kat McNamara), and Connor Hawke (Joseph David-Jones) instead of Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) 2019 guilt-trip. Season 8 may give us what we want with McNamara and David-Jones’ recent promotions to series regulars. Alternatively, Oliver’s work with the Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) may erase Star City 2040 from the timestream.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 (ABC/Matthias Clamer)

Future: 91 Years Later

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s fifth season dedicated half a season to a future set 91 years after the season 4 finale. There, Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the rest of the team — minus Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) — discovered a destroyed Earth and a former S.H.I.E.L.D. base known as The Lighthouse standing as the last human settlement. Oh, and just for good measure, the Lighthouse was also occupied by the Kree, invited at the behest of Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) shortly after the destruction of Earth. Other shocks included an armless future version of Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), and Kasius, a hedonistic Kree magistrate played to Targaryen perfection by Dominic Rains.

For the most part, this future world was confined to the corridors of the Lighthouse. But occasional trips to other Earth fragments illustrated just how bad the End of the World could be. Intense gravity storms ravaged the remaining landmasses and critters imported by the Kree served as both guard dogs to the devastation and as a final punishment to any human who got out of line back at the Lighthouse.

Since S.H.I.E.L.D. stayed in the early 2100s for the duration of the story — except for a notable episode in which Fitz figured out a slow-motion way to get to the future — it could devote more resources to realizing that world. And it would do so with some spectacular special effects shots that made the Earth seem as foreign as any alien world visited on a space-faring TV show like Star Trek: Discovery. And S.H.I.E.L.D.’s future had time to breathe and develop characters like Flint (Coy Stewart), Kasius, and Deke (Jeff Ward), the scheming grandson of two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who remains with the show into the sixth season.

But the most interesting element of the story was the defeat of humanity itself. With the human world destroyed and the Kree arriving as conquerors, the people S.H.I.E.L.D. agents met were broken, more interested in mere survival than reclaiming their last bit of turf from aliens. It was a theme more harrowing than any production value.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

Caity Lotz in DC's Legends of Tomorrow --"Doomworld" (Dean Buscher/The CW)

(Photo by Dean Buscher/The CW)

Future: 2213

When it became clear Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan) was going to be more than an occasional foil for Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) and the Legends, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow seeded the idea that Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) was keeping a deep, dark secret about her past. But since this is Legends, her dark secret was part of an unusually bright and shiny Star City of the year 2213.

The paradise glimpsed by the Legends two centuries from now was just a really nice Vancouver housing complex, park, and nearby office building. But it established a surprisingly clear and lovely future — a real rarity on genre TV shows. There, everyone has a personal Ava, as it turns out Rip bought and modified an Advanced Variation Automation clone to serve as his second in command at the Time Bureau. Sure, this future may not be so bright and cheery for the Ava clones — or, indeed, Ava herself when she finally learned the truth — but it serves as an unusual outlier for future realities on the show.

Indeed, Legends began with an attempt to stop a grim 2042 from occurring. There, Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) was the absolute ruler of the world and Rip was forced to watch his wife and child die during one of Savage’s raids. When that future was eliminated, it was replaced with a 2042 in which A.R.G.U.S. became a totalitarian regime, persecuting Metas and non-Christian faiths with equal ferocity. Legend Zari Tomas (Tala Ashe) hailed from this grim future, which has seemingly vanished thanks to Nate’s (Nick Zano) attempts to create empathy between humans and the monsters the Legends unleashed in season 3. Perhaps his actions have brought the 2213 future in which everyone appears to have adequate essentials and commercialism seems to co-exist peacefully with the environment much closer to his own present times.

The Umbrella Academy

Aidan Gallagher in Umbrella Academy character poster (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

Future: One Week Later

The grim future on Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy was set to begin shortly after the first episode. As Number 5 (Aidan Gallagher) explained, his first attempt at time travel took him to a spot 25 years in his future, but roughly a week ahead of his family when he finally rejoined them. The future he glimpsed saw a dead Earth with himself as the only survivor. Unable to use his powers to return to his present, 5 spent many years alone with a department store mannequin as company. Finally, agents of the Commission arrived to offer him a job as a time-traveling hitman. And when you consider the charred wreck of world he found himself in, killing people to maintain the timeline was a definite upgrade.

Thanks to the Netflix budget, the desolation of the future was appropriately epic. From an initial smaller set of a ruined Umbrella Academy to a great sweep in some later shots, the series set up a future so bleak, you never really questioned 5’s drive to prevent it.

And unlike many of the futures we’ve discussed, the dead Earth Number 5 experienced is at the very center of the story. Even as the show prepares its second season, it is unclear if the group’s actions during the season 1 finale really stopped the Apocalypse. It may just be on pause while the group work out their issues.

The Flash

The Flash -- Image: CW_FLASH_S5_8x12_300dpi.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Jessica Parker Kennedy as XS and Grant Gustin as The Flash -- Credit: Katie Yu/The CW -- © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by Katie Yu/The CW)

Future: 2049

Whatever issues Earth-1 faced in the early parts of the Arrowverse’s 2040s, it all seems to be resolved by 2049 — the year repeatedly visited by The Flash cast throughout season 5. Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy) hailed from that time. But growing up without her father Barry (Grant Gustin) meant an isolated childhood surrounded by mementos of his exploits at the Flash Museum and the less-than-comforting words of his concerned friends. She also dealt with an overbearing mother who dampened her Speed Force abilities.

As realized on the show, the Central City of 2049 seems to have escaped the darker futures glimpsed on Legends and Arrow. S.T.A.R. Labs has been fully converted into the Flash Museum and meta-abilities appear to be celebrated within city limits. Also, the town infrastructure remains in tact despite countless raids and attacks from villains looking to trip up Team Flash across the years.

It is a future which fits the more optimistic Flash, as opposed to the cyberpunk future of Arrow. It also represents the curious way in which all three interconnected Arrowverse shows look 20-odd years in the future and arrive at different conclusions. But the Central City of 2049 may not be as solid as it seems with the date of Barry’s disappearance moving from 2024 to 2019. Will that pleasant future disappear with Barry during the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover? Time will, of course, tell.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Premiere Dates hidden camera superhero Film Pirates lord of the rings vs. period drama biopic Amazon Studios Hollywood Foreign Press Association golden globe awards zombies PlayStation deadpool Tomatazos Interview documentaries Calendar Television Critics Association Character Guide BAFTA Sneak Peek golden globes Avengers classics Nominations YouTube Premium Lifetime Christmas movies 24 frames GoT animated NBC comic books Black History Month crime thriller RT21 women international Masterpiece scorecard Mystery TV Land politics TCM video on demand CW Seed die hard Emmy Nominations royal family cartoon Exclusive Video Best and Worst worst black comedy FX on Hulu BET rt labs critics edition joker transformers Opinion Image Comics crime drama CNN nature festival ABC Family singing competition stop motion San Diego Comic-Con Star Wars hist ABC Holiday Nickelodeon Photos 73rd Emmy Awards Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt television RT History Vudu FXX cancelled anthology news Horror Columbia Pictures Universal Pictures harry potter 99% Anna Paquin Shondaland Writers Guild of America Universal Disney disaster sequels Classic Film Pride Month The CW Biopics Tumblr comics Rocky independent Pet Sematary slashers 72 Emmy Awards ITV adventure emmy awards leaderboard Britbox films Shudder FX popular Hallmark Baby Yoda romantic comedy video book worst movies PaleyFest Thanksgiving serial killer anime Tarantino cinemax Bravo Lucasfilm 93rd Oscars Pop Apple TV Plus Oscars Fox News Alien USA Network Film Festival Reality theme song indie Mary poppins young adult ghosts crossover dragons Prime Video hollywood VOD breaking bad Comic Book Action australia Drama cancelled TV shows tv talk heist movie boxing french Comics on TV comic Comedy Central TV movies stoner based on movie comiccon olympics Fox Searchlight james bond south america sports Paramount Plus mutant screen actors guild documentary free movies Reality Competition legend Captain marvel Sundance renewed TV shows Syfy dramedy target 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards genre feel good saw spanish Lifetime rt labs Trailer Marathons Paramount Network zombie festivals satire indiana jones dceu ratings foreign 2017 miniseries Countdown name the review dreamworks Creative Arts Emmys YouTube 2021 Toys docuseries YouTube Red Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Mary Tyler Moore scary black finale WGN VICE hispanic Set visit Fall TV 90s OneApp Cosplay See It Skip It chucky twilight Musicals versus Spike Black Mirror TCA 2017 Academy Awards elevated horror dc AMC Plus Binge Guide Video Games Crunchyroll criterion high school Watching Series Mary Poppins Returns Lionsgate 45 Amazon Prime Sony Pictures blaxploitation The Walt Disney Company Comedy Disney Channel trophy Holidays Extras Dark Horse Comics TLC streaming movies new zealand canceled TV shows Amazon TNT Endgame boxoffice Stephen King laika Family football diversity scary movies Marvel Studios venice Warner Bros. japan game show Christmas canceled Certified Fresh series E3 science fiction National Geographic razzies New York Comic Con kong Polls and Games A&E robots werewolf Winners AMC Election basketball biography Super Bowl Hulu fresh Amazon Prime Video toy story spanish language mission: impossible The Walking Dead nfl DC Comics Hear Us Out Brie Larson doctor who Red Carpet Emmys 71st Emmy Awards Music universal monsters Year in Review christmas movies Hallmark Christmas movies rotten movies we love historical drama witnail Pacific Islander revenge game of thrones Peacock X-Men Arrowverse Pixar TCA Song of Ice and Fire LGBTQ DC streaming service ESPN Schedule Mudbound new york godzilla mcc Showtime BBC cancelled TV series blockbusters SXSW Freeform all-time concert true crime Western TruTV prank NBA IFC Rom-Com wonder woman CBS All Access IFC Films Heroines The Purge Fantasy cops Star Trek adenture vampires blockbuster 1990s a nightmare on elm street spider-verse cancelled television obituary mob comic book movie Starz rt archives docudrama superman DirecTV book adaptation TV renewals trailers CMT Spring TV art house WarnerMedia USA police drama SundanceTV Grammys ID batman directors 21st Century Fox The Academy Sci-Fi Netflix Christmas movies TIFF Disney+ Disney Plus new star wars movies Rock rom-coms DGA child's play quibi TCA Awards rotten Trivia spy thriller know your critic monster movies Comic-Con@Home 2021 A24 Apple El Rey ABC Signature archives OWN japanese thriller green book HBO Go kaiju Infographic remakes Teen sag awards halloween 4/20 telelvision movies Legendary Netflix ViacomCBS hispanic heritage month italian TV One VH1 critics social media comedies Adult Swim 2015 Martial Arts best toronto Epix Ghostbusters E! composers American Society of Cinematographers Broadway screenings LGBT TBS Trophy Talk facebook CBS casting GLAAD BBC One franchise Disney streaming service Crackle YA aliens dogs sitcom Country Winter TV First Look cults PBS space DC Universe Tags: Comedy Food Network sopranos First Reviews Summer justice league asian-american action-comedy Superheroes stand-up comedy Nat Geo Tubi The Witch Box Office Disney Plus MTV Fargo live event fast and furious Spectrum Originals Apple TV+ Ellie Kemper Sundance TV Valentine's Day children's TV latino Superheroe comic book movies binge adaptation IMDb TV spain TV technology debate Acorn TV award winner talk show Kids & Family Travel Channel posters Logo spinoff psychological thriller Esquire Elton John Turner MCU Animation NYCC spider-man TCA Winter 2020 discovery marvel comics GIFs Quiz crime Paramount Turner Classic Movies marvel cinematic universe cooking jamie lee curtis Women's History Month medical drama The Arrangement critic resources Awards Tour SDCC scene in color Wes Anderson what to watch 2016 Cartoon Network Neflix 2020 Marvel Television 007 aapi cats Chernobyl war king kong Instagram Live FOX supernatural 20th Century Fox zero dark thirty 2018 teaser kids HBO Max mockumentary Sundance Now pirates of the caribbean Rocketman sequel dexter live action Podcast streaming MSNBC natural history reviews Marvel nbcuniversal Musical slasher Awards 79th Golden Globes Awards psycho halloween tv richard e. Grant unscripted Pop TV gangster President HFPA Funimation Discovery Channel Television Academy Ovation Cannes dark romance cars reboot Walt Disney Pictures movie APB BBC America BET Awards king arthur travel parents Tokyo Olympics strong female leads Mindy Kaling political drama suspense History HBO 2019 jurassic park