While network superheroes may be on hiatus for another week, the world of comic book television never really stops. Thanks to cable channels and streaming services, shows outside of The CW paradigm debut and return regularly throughout the year.
In 2019, superhero TV will offer tantalizing new concepts and great returning shows. With that in mind, here are 16 comic book–inspired shows we cannot wait to see.
Why We Can’t Wait: In season 2, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) becomes embroiled in the attempted murder of a young girl (Giorgia Whigham). As the mystery surrounding her near-death unfolds, Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) returns to settle the score leftover from the duo’s last encounter. While the first season may have had pacing issues (it felt just a little too long), Bernthal’s take on Frank Castle is outstanding and seeing him in action is always worth the investment of time. Also, we can’t wait to see Castle vs. Russo Part 2 now that Billy has embraced the spooky Jigsaw persona. And, as seen in the just-released trailer, his mask may hide scars less severe than his comic book counterpart’s, but it also reveals the person hiding behind Billy’s formerly flawless physiognomy.
Returning: Friday, Jan. 18
Why We Can’t Wait: Based on the comic book by Rick Remender and Wes Craig, Deadly Class is set at an assassin academy filled with the children of mobsters and murderers. Marcus Lopez (Benjamin Wadsworth), a kid from the streets with a lot of issues to address, finds himself accepted to the school and faces all the trials of adolescence and ninja school at the same time. Socially awkward but morally centered, Marcus must maintain his moral code while surviving a ruthless curriculum, vicious social cliques, and his own adolescent uncertainties. Set in the 1980s, the series also features some of that decade’s reckless abandon and plenty of its post-punk soundtrack. If the first episode Syfy put on YouTube last month is any indication, this will be a show to keep an eye on.
Debuts: Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 10 p.m.
Why We Can’t Wait: Ellen Page headlines the Netflix adaptation of Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s comic series as Vanya Hargreeves, the one member of her family without superpowers. Black Sails’ Tom Hopper and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ Robert Sheehan also star as members of the Hargreeves family — one with the body of a Martian Gorilla and one with the ability to speak to the dead, respectively. The Hargreeves reunite after the death of their adoptive father, uncovering a mystery and coping with the abuse they suffered at his hands while he tried to make them a superteam. The show has the potential to be very different from other superhero programs with the comic’s cool aesthetic and use of superpowers as a mechanism to cope with trauma.
Debuts: Friday, Feb. 15
Why We Can’t Wait: One of the very best episodes of Titans‘ premiere season introduced the live-action TV versions of DC Universe’s weirdest heroes. The Doom Patrol lives somewhere between teenagers, Frankenstein’s monster, and the X-Men — though the Doom Patrol debuted a few months before Marvel’s Merry Mutants — and the members of the group attempt to manage their unusual forms while saving the world. If the bizarro premise wasn’t enough, the cast is amazing with Timothy Dalton, Brendon Fraser, and Matt Bomer lending themselves to characters like the morally dubious Dr. Niles Calder, the beloved Robotman, and bandaged Negative Man. Rounding out the ensemble is April Bowlby as the stretchy Rita Farr, Diane Guerrero as Crazy Jane, and Jovian Wade as Cyborg, a character usually associated with the Titans. They will face off against Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) a one-off Silver Age villain given an extensive and memorable re-imagining from Happy! co-creator Grant Morrison.
Debuts: Friday, Feb. 15
Why We Can’t Wait: Part 1 of Netflix’s Riverdale pseudo–spin-off proved to be an interesting show at odds with itself. Part Netflix supernatural series and part CW teen drama, the series anchored itself with star Kiernan Shipka walking the border between both realities and, ultimately, using the character’s confidence in navigating them as her part of her undoing. Part 2 will see Sabrina embracing her witchy nature while still defying the social norms within the Church of Night. Meanwhile, status quos will change and one character will learn a new, important truth.
Returning: Friday, April 5
Why We Can’t Wait: Few shows are as relentless, mean, and as paradoxically full of joy as Happy! Christopher Meloni proved he is one of our greatest living actors by diving headfirst into a character as despicable as Nick Sax. But the most exciting aspect of the second season will be its new story. The original comic book, written by executive producer Grant Morrison, was a four-issue miniseries, meaning Nick and Happy (Patton Oswalt) are headed to uncharted lands as the series shifts from the winter holidays to an Easter focus. Does that mean Nick will end up punching an Easter Bunny in Times Square and relieving himself upon his defeated foe? We wouldn’t put it past the series, which already made rubber raves and child-snatching Santas a part of Christmas cheer.
Returning: Spring 2019
Why We Can’t Wait: Stars Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph proved to be able leads as they navigated a new world of superpowers and corporate conspiracies in Freeform’s teen-focused Marvel series. The first season wisely switched the comic book dynamic with Tandy (Holt) coming from a broken home and Tyrone (Joseph) enjoying a privileged private school education. It allowed the show to make interesting socioeconomic points while still delivering a kick-ass superhero experience. The second season will once again flip the characters’ situations as Tyrone learns how to cope with his sudden homelessness. Presumably, the pair will also grow closer even as ally Brigid O’Reilly (Emma Lahana) offers them a new form of mayhem.
Returning: Summer 2019
Why We Can’t Wait: Based on Alan Moore’s seminal run on the 1980s Swamp Thing comic book series, the latest attempt to bring the character to television stars Gotham’s Crystal Reed as Abby Arcane, a CDC researcher who returns to her hometown to investigate a swamp-born virus. She eventually encounters the Swamp Thing (Derek Mears), who may or may not be a reborn Alec Holland (Andy Bean). Then again, it may just be a plant who thinks he’s Alec Holland. Considering Will Patton is playing Avery Sunderland and Kevin Durand is playing Jason Woodrue, the latter seems likely, as both characters appeared in the Moore-written issue in which Swamp Thing learned the shocking truth about itself. If that is the case, then the series will be leaning heavily into its horror and gothic-romance roots, which is a nice change of pace from the two feature films and the inconsistent USA series from the 1990s. Also, Ian Ziering has been cast as the fairly obscure DC Comics character Blue Devil, which is just too weird and awesome to ignore.
Debuts: Summer 2019
Why We Can’t Wait: With showrunner Melissa Rosenberg leaving the program after the third season debuts and the current cancellation epidemic befalling the Marvel shows on Netflix, it is entirely possible the third season of Jessica Jones will attempt to pull off something few superhero shows have done before: a definitive ending. Where the superhero model inherited from comics is a literally never-ending, exhausting battle, Jessica Jones may be in a position to confront that idea head-on. Granted, Jessica (Krysten Ritter) has never been a traditional superhero and the show already revolves around emotional trauma, but that also makes it uniquely suited to address a character’s end-state. And that could mean Jessica will finally get to heal. Meanwhile, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) will continue her slide into the superpowers-as-drugs metaphor, but perhaps there is also an opportunity to see both her and Jessica find a way through their issues to something more stable. If the show was expected to continue, that would be less likely. But here, it is possible and that makes the upcoming season a little more thrilling.
Why We Can’t Wait: After spending season 3 splitting up the characters and establishing a deeper mythology, Wynonna Earp’s fourth season needs to do one thing first: get Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) and Doc (Tim Rozon) out of the Garden of Eden. Also, it has to resolve that cliffhanger in an appropriately unique fashion. At the same time, with the program’s original curse undone, Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) will have to find a new way of life now that her raison d’être literally turned to ash. Maybe the creature being contained in the Garden will offer some sort of career opportunity, and Wynonna can always take over Shorty’s when it comes right down to it. But considering how much of the story the show wrapped up last year, the thing we can’t wait to see is how it recreates itself. Well, once Waves and Doc have been rescued, of course.
Returning: Summer 2019
Why We Can’t Wait: Even though Jesse (Dominic Cooper) managed to get most of what he wanted across the third season, there are still troubles to conquer before he can confront God. For starters, he and Tulip (Ruth Negga) have to save Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) from the Grail base at Masada, which means they will have to face off against Herr Starr (Pip Torrens). Beyond that, there’s the ever-present threat of the Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish) and his deal with Satan (Jason Douglas). Should Jesse die, his soul and Genesis will find their way to Hell, where the Prince of Lies plans to use the power of Genesis for his dark ends. And if that isn’t enough, there is still God to consider at the end of the road. His attempts to prove to Tulip that He is loving and merciful always seem to make things worse. And like Starr, he also has a grand design that Jesse and Genesis could spoil. Considering Preacher defied the odds and survived to a fourth season, this could be endgame for the series as well. When you think about the epic checkerboard the series set up, this might be the right time for it.
Returning: Summer 2019
Why We Can’t Wait: Flipping the superhero script, Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson’s The Boys takes place in a world where powered heroes are as corruptible and vain as any celebrity. But there is some sort of oversight, even if its legality is questionable: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Karen Fukuhara, Laz Alonso, and Tomer Capon star as a group dedicated to dealing with the excesses of the superheroes. But some members of the group may take their task too personally and to unfortunate extremes. Their principle antagonists are the Seven, a group of superheroes with more than a few similarities to the classic Justice League lineup. Like Preacher, the series has the potential to be profanely funny, even if the god being mocked on this series is the American notion of the superhero.
Why We Can’t Wait: After a stellar first season, we anticipate a bigger season 2 based around Tick’s psychosis and Arthur’s anxiety. But of course, there is a mystery to solve as the duo has been warned about what might happen with the return of the superhero community to the City. AEGIS, the superhero monitoring agency, is none-too-thrilled by their antics. But really, we are here for Dangerboat, who needs more screen time in the upcoming season. If it continues to build on all of the ideas from preceding Tick series and the paradigm it set up in this version — Valorie Curry is the best version of Arthur’s sister Dot to date — the second season has the potential to be the funniest and best Tick unleashed.
Why We Can’t Wait: As one of executive producer Geoff Johns’ earliest comic book series, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. lived an all-too-brief life in the 1990s. But thanks to DC Universe, Johns gets to explore the idea again with Stargirl. Brec Bassinger stars as Courtney Whitmore, a teenage girl who moves from Southern California to Blue Valley, Nebraska when her mother marries Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson). Rummaging through his stuff, she discovers he was a member of the Justice Society of America and decides to become a hero with the aid of Starman’s (Joel McHale) gravity-defying Cosmic Staff. Between a youthful premise and a love of Golden Age heroes like Dr. Mid-Nite (Henry Thomas), we expect the show to be a fun mixture of high school hijinks and superhero action — just like the comic book.
Debuts: Late 2019
— HBO (@HBO) January 7, 2019
Why We Can’t Wait: The 2011 Watchmen movie was the best possible movie it could be, though many (justifiably) see the flaws in trying to contain Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s expansive 12-issue series into two hours and 43 minutes — or three hours and 35 minutes if you have the Ultimate Edition with the “Tales of the Black Freighter” sequence woven back in. Moore himself believes adapting the work into a dramatic format is a waste of resources. But if it must be adapted, television was always the natural home for a story that spans generations, four Nixon administrations, and the time it takes Dr. Manhattan to decide life is special. Lost’s Damon Lindelof developed the series to serve as a successor to the comic book, but not as a direct sequel or remake. That idea may have changed as the concept developed. Taking place in the modern day, HBO’s Watchmen picks up in a world decades after Adrian Veidt’s (Jeremy Irons) plot was exposed by fellow Minuteman Rorschach. And despite the visual cues from the comic book — and the expansion of masks in the clips seen so far — the television series’ most unsettling idea may be how close our world has come to the book’s dark vision.
Why We Can’t Wait: David Haller (Dan Stevens) is finally the villain in this wildest of X-Men spin-off media. While we hope for more dance sequences and strange imagery, the show needs to confront this radical change to the status quo. With David finally embracing the thrill he gets from hurting people — and, in fact, violating Syd (Rachel Keller) in the process — David is closer to becoming the reality-destroying Legion than ever before. Though the second season meandered a bit to get David to that place, finally putting him in a villainous context may give the show the same sort of narrative thrust it had in the first season and the underpinnings necessary to make its visuals, format-breaking asides, and other flights of fancy as strong as viewers know they can be. But perhaps the most thrilling aspect of the show going forward is the very challenge of highlighting a character who cannot be redeemed.