Comics On TV

Krypton, Daredevil, Swamp Thing: Cancelled Too Soon or Right on Time?

We examine 12 of the year's biggest cancelled comic book TV series to figure out which ones were able to wrap up their stories in a satisfying way and which were cut short.

by | August 22, 2019 | Comments

The seemingly abrupt cancellation of Krypton left fans of the odd-but-scrappy series blindsided. Then again, fans of comics often know the sting of cancellation.

Because of the much smaller lead time involved in comic book publishing, a well-known series can end quickly with a surprise announcement on social media (see: the end of The Walking Dead). And, every so often, they end in mid-story. In the late 1970s, when market forces turned against DC Comics’ expanding lineup, the company released two issues of Canceled Comics Cavalcade — a collection of completed stories from the many comic books it cancelled in 1978.

Looking at the last year, there are certainly enough now-cancelled television shows based on comic books to form a “Cancelled TV Cavalcade” all their own. A few shows, like Arrow and Legion, were (or are) able to end on the creators’ own terms. Others managed to complete their stories despite the presumption of another season. But still others might not have been so lucky.

Below, we examine the cancelled comic book shows of 2018 and 2019 to find out which fit best in a present-day version of Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.


Krypton

KRYPTON -- "Danger Close" Episode 204 -- Pictured: Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El -- (Photo by: Steffan Hill/SYFY)
(Photo by Steffan Hill/SYFY)

Where It Left Off: Brainiac (Blake Ritson) kidnapped baby Jor-El and took him to Earth. Nyssa-Vex (Wallis Day) found herself on a strange planet bracing for a Thanagarian Invasion and, possibly, an Omega Men intervention.

Cancelled Too Soon? Absolutely. In the season 1 finale, Superman ceased to exist and the show made no effort to restore him. Instead, it found its own story to tell with Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) making his way back to Krypton while his grandfather Val-El (Ian McElhinney) led a resistance against Dru-Zod (Colin Samon). Across the 20 episodes of the series, Cuffe, Salmon, and actors like Georgia Campbell and Rasmus Hardiker breathed life into the characters, making them more than just weird footnotes in Superman’s backstory. The show also pulled off the most interesting, accurate, and terrifying version of Doomsday yet realized on screen.

Thanks to showrunner Cameron Welsh, we know the third season would’ve seen Brainiac raising Jor-El on modern-day Earth — a twist on the Superman: Red Son story we are shattered we’ll never get to see. Maybe it can be resolved on Lobo — the Krypton spinoff that may still make it to air, as it’s still being shopped around to networks — or a revived Krypton series itself. Stranger things have happened.


Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Krysten Ritter in Marvel's Jessica Jones (David Giesbrecht/Netflix)
(Photo by David Giesbrecht/Netflix)

Where It Left Off: Despite putting Trish (Rachael Taylor) on The Raft — Marvel’s high security prison for super-powered people — and planning an escape from New York, Jessica (Krysten Ritter) decides to embrace her heroic self and defend her city.

Cancelled Too Soon? Oddly enough, no. The shape of Jessica Jones as a series was always defined by Jessica and Trish. Both aspired to be heroes and both suffered for it across the three seasons. That Trish’s fondest wish would curdle and set her against Jessica makes sense. At the same time, Jessica’s decision to turn Trish in to the authorities — and make Trish’s slide into vigilantism public — felt like the appropriate climax for this version of the series. And Jessica’s decision to go back to her office at the end has a sense of thematic finality to it. No matter what adversary she might have faced in a fourth season, Jessica’s doubts are behind her.

While the series might have found a way to continue has Netflix wanted another year, this feels like the ending showrunner Melissa Rosenberg always aiming toward.


Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing -- Ep.101 -- "Pilot" -- Photo Credit: Brownie Harris/2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
(Photo by Brownie Harris/2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

Where It Left Off: Swamp Thing (Derek Mears) learned he was a plant who thinks he is a man, but decides to remain in physical form to both stay with Abby (Crystal Reed) and protect the swamp. Meanwhile, at the Marais PD, Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) completed his transformation into the Floronic Man.

Cancelled Too Soon? Most definitely. DC Universe’s Swamp Thing proved a high-quality series can be built around the character and other members of DC Comics’ horror gallery. The writing often felt like reading a DC Vertigo book from the 1990s and the performances never faltered — at least until the truncated ending, where slow burns for Daniel Cassidy (Ian Ziering) and Maria Sutherland (Virginia Madsen) suddenly went into overdrive to feel more “conclusive.”

Swamp Thing also proved a high-quality series based on the character is out of the financial reach of most streaming services. Maybe if another platform wanted Swamp Thing — and a few other characters like Madame Xanadu and the Phantom Stranger — as their only prestige DC show, the budget might actually work out.


The Tick

The Tick season 2 (Amazon Prime Video)
(Photo by Amazon Prime Video)

Where It Left Off: AEGIS director Tyrannosaurus Rathbone (Marc Kudisch) is compromised by the squid hiding in his heart, not that The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) or Arthur (Griffin Newman) noticed anything different about him. They were too busy heading off on patrol. Meanwhile, in space, Superian (Brendan Hines) plans to turn back the flow of time.

Cancelled Too Soon? Yes and no. Though it is clear creator Ben Edlund wanted to keep going, the final episode of season 2 works as a fine coda to the ideas established early in the first season. The Tick and Arthur end up as recognized heroes and Arthur’s family shed all their various secrets. Even Overkill (Scott Speiser) has found some acceptance. If not for the two cliffhangers regarding Rathbone and Superian, this would feel like a natural end of the story.

But then again, it is The Tick and we can never get enough of it — especially in this incarnation. And as Newman told us back in March, the show was nearing a place where it could introduce some of the classic characters from the cartoon and 2001 live-action series. The Tick always finds a way back to TV, though, so we imagine a new iteration will be here before too long.


Marvel’s Luke Cage

Luke Cage keyart (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

Where It Left Off: After both protecting and facing off against Mariah Stokes (Alfre Woodard), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) found himself in control of her family’s nightclub, Harlem’s Paradise, and her criminal enterprise. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Cancelled Too Soon? Yes. Perhaps more than any other Marvel shows on Netflix, that hypothetical next season of Luke Cage had a clear direction in front of it: Could Luke turn Mariah’s poisoned chalice into a boon for the neighborhood? Or would the power consume him as it did Mariah, her cousin Cornell (Mahershala Ali), and the rest of her family before her? Those questions are so powerful that they echoed over into Jessica Jones’s finale thanks to Luke’s brief cameo. It set up a showdown between the two characters we will never see.

But beyond the crossover potential, we just wanted to see Luke in charge and seeing what self-imposed rules he would bend to be Harlem’s undisputed defender.


Gotham

GOTHAM: Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma / The Riddler; Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin; Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle / the future Catwoman; Cameron Monaghan as Jerome Valeska / Jeremiah Valeska; Shane West as Eduardo Dorrance; Erin Richards as Barbara Kean in season 5 ©2018 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: JUSTIN STEPHENS / FOX
(Photo by Justin Stephens/Fox)

Where It Left Off: After ten years of relative calm, the criminal insane of Gotham City returned to raise havoc. But this time, things will be different as Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) has a new ally in the war on crime: the Bat-Man (David Mazouz).

Cancelled Too Soon? Gotham ended at just the right moment, which seemed to be the point of the final storyline. It was clear Jim’s leading role was coming to an end. It had to, as there were few ways left to compromise his integrity and still make him worthy of the Bat-Man’s friendship at the end. Also, most of the villains, like Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), were fully formed by the end of season 4 — meaning it was time to end that story and begin a legend of the Dark Knight.


Preacher

Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer, Ruth Negga as Tulip O'Hare - Preacher _ Season 3, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
(Photo by Alfonso Bresciani/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Where It Left Off: There are still a few episodes to go.

Cancelled Too Soon? This is the Goldilocks show — the creative team paced it out just right. The original Preacher comic book spanned 66 issues, five special releases, and a miniseries focused on the Saint of Killers. It was never really built to run that long. At the same time, it is something of a miracle that AMC gave the show four years to raise Hell and make Hitler an ongoing character. But a story flirting with the profane like Preacher can only last so long.


Marvel’s Daredevil

Marvel's Daredevil SEASON Season 3 EPISODE 7 PHOTO CREDIT David Lee/Netflix PICTURED Charlie Cox
(Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

Where It Left Off: With Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) defeated and Matt Murdoch’s (Charlie Cox) soul intact, the Daredevil of Hell’s Kitchen found himself ready to reclaim his public identity and form a new law firm with Foggy Nelson (Elden Hensen) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). Meanwhile, a broken Dex (Wilson Bethel) sees nothing but bull’s eyes.

Cancelled Too Soon? Despite the clearer creative direction of season 3 and the Bullseye stinger, Daredevil found thematic completion in its final moments by reuniting Nelson, Murdoch, and Page. Their friendship — and the way Matt tested it as Daredevil — was as much the story as Matt’s struggle against Fisk or The Hand. Sure, Foggy and Karen were always willing to help Matt, but his journey to be worthy of their friendship was something he had to finish in the most ridiculous and brutal fashion. The fact all three characters came out of the brutality of season 3 in tact makes it difficult to imagine how the series would go back to that blood-soaked well for a fourth. Like Jessica Jones, there could be a way, but we don’t think it would be as satisfying a story as the one presented in Daredevil’s final Netflix appearance.


Deadly Class

DEADLY CLASS -- "Reagan Youth" Episode 100 -- Pictured: Benjamin Wadsworth as Marcus -- (Photo by: Allen Fraser/Syfy)
(Photo by Allen Fraser/Syfy)

Where It Left Off: Marcus (Benjamin Wadworth) managed to recover Chico’s severed head, but he and Maria (María Gabriela de Faria) immediately find Chico’s father waiting for them with guns drawn. Meanwhile, Gao (Olivia Cheng) took Lin’s (Benedict Wong) daughter for an initiation.

Cancelled Too Soon? Yes. The show was only getting started. That said, while Deadly Class may not have been as satisfying as Krypton or Happy!, it nonetheless had a solid cast, and interesting setting, and a world in which Wong could get a fight scene all his own. Also, that cliffhanger is just a rough place to leave things. But let’s just pretend Saya (Lana Condor) bailed Marcus and Maria out of their current predicament.


Marvel’s The Punisher

Marvel's The Punisher - Jon Bernthal (Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)
(Photo by Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

Where It Left Off: Frank (Jon Bernthal) left a trail of bloody corpses ranging from Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) to the leaders of a religious movement. He also saved Amy’s (Giorgia Whigham) soul. Madani (Amber Rose Rivah), meanwhile, transferred to the CIA and offered Frank a job, but The Punisher always goes his own way.

Cancelled Too Soon? In its Netflix form, no. One of the things that makes Frank so appealing also makes him wrong for a ongoing television series: He cannot change. As both seasons of The Punisher demonstrated, he is a killing machine who will only be at peace while plotting murders or executing people he perceives as the bad guy. There’s no journey for Frank — especially now that all of the people connected to his family’s execution are dead. The narrative weight falls on characters like Madani and Amy. But with Amy off in Florida and Madani an employee of “The Company,” their character arcs are at an end. Like Jessica Jones and Daredevil, the series completed its thematic throughlines. It also used every bit of plot it could wring from Frank’s time on Daredevil. All a subsequent season could do is pit him against the Gnucci crime family — or Annabella Sciorra‘s Rosalie Carbone — but it would be little else than violent scenes. Sure, there’s a catharsis there, but that’s only good for a handful of episodes before it becomes repetitive.

Because of his inflexibility, Frank is better suited as a support character who is not required to grow and change.


Happy!

Chris Meloni as Nick Sax, Patton Oswald as Happy! (Syfy)
(Photo by Syfy)

Where It Left Off: God (Jeff Goldblum) told Happy (Patton Oswalt) to look out for the “half-zombie” of Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni). Six months later, Sax reappeared to get his revenge on Smoothie (Patrick Fischler), but it is unclear if death suits either of them. Meanwhile, Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo) is off becoming an assassin with Meredith (Lili Mirojnick) while Amanda (Medina Senghore) stews in the slammer.

Cancelled Too Soon? Yes and no. On the one hand, we’re pretty disappointed we’ll never see Happy and Nick’s Halloween reunion. On the other hand, something as wild as Happy! must burn brightly and fade quickly to maintain its unique character. Sure, there would be ways for the show to continue — there are more holidays to satirize — but the best destiny of Grant Morrison and Crank co-director Brian Taylor’s strange and wonderful TV show was always that of an all-too brief firework. If it had continued, we can’t imagine the show keeping its spark past Halloween.


Marvel’s Iron Fist

Marvel's Iron Fist SEASON Season 2 EPISODE 1 PHOTO CREDIT Linda Kallerus/Netflix PICTURED Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick
(Photo by Linda Kallerus/Netflix)

Where It Left Off: Danny Rand (Finn Jones) and Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) both have powers of the immortal Iron Fist in their weapons. Somehow, Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) is still alive.

Cancelled Too Soon? Ha, no. Despite a stronger second season, Iron Fist never fixed its key conceptual problem: Danny Rand — at least in his TV form — is a supporting character. Consider his much stronger guest appearance in the second season of Luke Cage, or the way Colleen and Misty Knight (Simone Missick) steal the series from him, and you see just how misguided this endeavor really was. That’s said, we’d happily watch all of these characters in a Heroes for Hire series played by these actors.


Featured image credit: Steffan Hill/SYFY; Netflix; Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

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