As a comic book fan with a good deal of free time and who is looking to get his money’s worth for subscriptions to multiple streaming services, I am eagerly anticipating the next upcoming Marvel TV show, as well as the latest DC TV shows to return or premiere for the first time. However, I am also just as big a fan (if not a bigger fan in some instances) of superhero TV shows that are not affiliated with either of those comic book publishing giants, such as The Boys - which returns for a third season in June 2022. In fact, let’s start with that dark, satirical masterpiece for our list of some of the most super series that are not based on either Marvel or DC comics.
The Boys (Amazon Prime)
In a world in which superheroes are real and are primarily involved with the crimefighting business for the fame and fortune, a young man (Jack Quaid) who has grown to hate costumed vigilantes due to personal tragedy joins a former Special Forces agent (Karl Urban) and his ragtag crew on a mission to expose all “supes” and their corruption, and destroy as many as possible.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: While originally published under DC’s now defunct Wildstorm imprint, writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson’s brutal and hilariously biting, The Boys, transferred to Dynamite Entertainment before showrunner Eric Kripke adapted it into a brutal and hilariously biting Amazon Prime original series that has already inspired an animated anthology spin-off with a live action one on the way, too.
Invincible (Amazon Prime)
With the help of other young super-powered individuals like himself, a teenager (Steven Yeun) struggles to live-up to the expectations of his father (J.K. Simmons), who also happens to be the most powerful and famous superhero in the world.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: Often compared to The Boys for its extremely graphic content, dark sense of humor, and stellar voice cast, Amazon Prime’s animated hit superhero show Invincible is co-created by The Walking Dead comic scribe Robert Kirkman, whose own Image Comics title inspired the series.
Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix)
With the definition of justice changing and the people who aim to obstruct it growing in strength and numbers 90 years after the first generation of superheroes emerged, veterans of the world-saving business (including Josh Duhamel and Leslie Bibb) prepare their grown-up children (such as Andrew Horton) to take over as the Earth’s sworn protectors, while also trying to mend their own personal relationships.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: A live-action TV show based on an Image title that also focuses on young superheroes struggling live up to their powerful parents’ legacy is the eight-episode Netflix original, Jupiter’s Legacy - developer Steven S. DeKnight’s action-packed, visually stunning, and heartfelt adaptation of the graphic novel series by writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely.
The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
With the threat of a cataclysmic destruction looming, a group of specially gifted adoptive siblings (including Academy Award nominee and former X-Men movies star, Elliot Page) reunite to prepare themselves for defending the earth while also trying to mend their own personal relationships.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: A live-action Netflix original (with an upcoming third season) based on a Dark Horse title that focuses on young superheroes struggling live up to their own legacy is The Umbrella Academy - creator Steve Blackman and developer Jeremy Slater’s unique and thought-provoking adaptation of the award-winning comic book series created by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way.
Raising Dion (Netflix)
After learning that her young son (Ja’Siah Young) has been born with extraordinary abilities, a widowed single mother (Alisha Wainwright) struggles to figure out how to keep him safe while he keeps the world safe.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: Another Netflix original superhero TV show that would be perfect for The Umbrella Academy fans for its unique and clever take on family dynamics and coming-of-age themes is Raising Dion - developer Carol Barbee’s refreshing and poignant adaptation of the one-shot comic book that writer Dennis Liu originally released independently online.
After learning that they have been gifted with extraordinary abilities, a group of otherwise seemingly ordinary people must band together to protect the world and themselves from a man (played by Zachary Quinto) who wishes to claim their powers for himself.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: In addition to not being based on any pre-existing comic book, creator Tim Kring’s beloved NBC series Heroes was one of the most truly original and groundbreaking superhero TV shows of its time for its grounded themes, inventive depiction of its characters’ superhuman abilities, and lack of any of cheesy costumes.
The Tick (Amazon Prime)
After learning that the city in which he resides is under the control of a powerful supervillain, a meek, ordinary accountant (Griffin Newman) decides to join forces with a goofily earnest superhero dressed as a blue, muscular, anthropomorphic bug (Peter Serafinowicz) and become a vigilante himself.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: A series that boldly celebrates cheesy, comic book-accurate costumes is Amazon Prime’s hilarious, Emmy-nominated superhero spoof, The Tick, which was the second live-action adaptation (and third television iteration overall) of cartoonist Ben Edlund’s antennaed character that he originally created as the mascot for New England Comics in 1986.
After a computer bug gives him a variety of abilities ranging from super strength to instant access to all information found on the internet, a teenage computer genius (Paul Rugg) with blue skin and a strange haircut dons red long underwear to fight crime in Washington D.C.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: A cult favorite animated series that was groundbreaking in the 1990s for its cleverly meta way of poking fun at superhero tropes was the Steven Spielberg-produced Freakazoid!, which was not based on any pre-existing comic book but was originally created by two men behind one of the most acclaimed animated series based on a DC comic - Batman: The Animated Series producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.
One Punch Man (Netflix, Hulu)
In a world full of superhuman beings, one teenage boy (Mokoto Furukawa, or Max Mittelman for the English-language dub) possesses the unique ability to defeat any enemy with a single strike - a strength that quickly becomes a weakness when the hero begins to grow bored of how easy saving the world comes for him.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: A more recent beloved animated superhero spoof with an inventive and absolutely hilarious commentary on what it must be like to possess unstoppable power is One Punch Man, which is also one of the most popular and acclaimed Japanese anime series of its time and is based on the manga by Yusuke Marata.
Danny Phantom (Paramount+)
After an accident involving his ghost-hunter parents’ very strange machine, a young man (David Kaufman) gains all the known (and unknown) abilities of a paranormal entity (such as walking through walls, disappearing, and flying) and uses them to fight ghostly evil.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: Another popular animated series about a teen with superpowers, but one in which the title hero often struggles to gain a hold of his abilities, is Danny Phantom - a spooky, fun Nickelodeon hit (that deserves its own Netflix movie) from the creator of The Fairly Odd Parents, Butch Hartman.
Todd McFarlane’s Spawn (HBO Max)
After he is murdered by his boss and sent to hell, a C.I.A. assassin (Keith David) is later resurrected on Earth to lead a satanic army, but instead becomes a watchful protector and a punisher of corruption.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: A much darker and more mature series about a man with paranormal abilities who fights ghostly and demonic evil is Todd McFarlane’s Spawn - HBO’s Emmy-winning adaptation of the popular Image comic that was previously made into a live-action film and has another feature-length adaptation in the works.
Ultraman (Pluto TV)
An alien transfers his life force to an adult human, which gives him the ability to transform into a giant, superpowered warrior in order to defend the earth from large, monstrous creatures.
Why it is a great non-Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV show: While there have been countless iterations of the Ultraman character (including a Netflix original animated show), I figured it was most appropriate to go with his first appearance on his own influential, self-titled Japanese series from the mid-1960s, that would later inspire a loosely-connected manga of the same name.
Now, if you have consumed all the DC or Marvel-related content you can find but still crave more fun superhero stories, you know just where to look. On that note, however, there are still plenty of great comic books like this that have yet to be given the series treatment. Hopefully, we will see this list grow even larger soon.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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