Superhero Series You Don’t Remember

Series that mainly come from pre-Marvel times, although Marvel already existed back then.

Odys Korczyński

10 May 2024

superhero series

Sometimes, however, you do remember them. Yet a few entries in this compilation seem completely forgotten. The rest are partially forgotten films, mainly among the younger generation that doesn’t remember the ’80s and ’90s. These productions mainly come from pre-Marvel times, although Marvel did exist back then. However, it didn’t exhibit such a cinematic expansion until after 2005. Some of these slightly flawed ideas have survived to this day and served as innovative concepts for major blockbusters. Sometimes with films, it’s like what happens with popular music. Careers are made by songs that were composed and performed by completely different artists before, and today’s generation of listeners is firmly convinced that these are contemporary hits. It’s worth reaching into the past, even in the superhero genre, to see how many things have already been done and are now only repeated in a technically better and visually richer form.

“Shazam!” (1974)

Some might find it hard to believe that Shazam is that old. I’m not talking about the ’70s per se, but about 40 years ago. It’ll be interesting when you compare Zachary Levi with Michael Gray. The difference in appearance isn’t so significant, but the costume certainly is. Gray has a very seventies vibe, which has its charm. And to think that Shazam could have been Captain Marvel if it weren’t for Marvel’s actions. Shazam! gained popularity as an adventure series, not a superhero one, when it aired on Saturday mornings. Three seasons were produced on CBS. The series paved the way for the success of productions like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Unfortunately, the role of the vanguard isn’t grateful. Shazam! as a series blazed a trail but then disappeared.

“NightMan” (1997)

It’s colorful like the ’90s used to be, which was typical, and the superhero wears a shiny costume. It’s reminiscent of Batman from Joel Schumacher’s vision. I doubt that even today, in the era of immense popularity of superhero movies, anyone remembers this title. It was loosely based on the NightMan story from Malibu Comics. It aired in 1997 for two seasons. NightMan was actually Johnny Domino, a jazz musician who gained the ability to sense evil after a painful encounter with lightning. He wore a bulletproof suit and utilized technology that gave him additional abilities such as a laser eye. NightMan was produced as a low-budget series, resulting in many cheap special effects. Marvel eventually bought Malibu Comics, shut it down, and canceled the series. Ultraverse disappeared, and NightMan faded into oblivion. The reasons for Marvel buying Malibu Comics were obvious. Malibu was a company with potential. It had such a large market share that if, for example, DC had bought the company, their combined shares would have surpassed Marvel’s current market share. So Marvel, like a vampire, bought the company to destroy it and take over its assets.

“Electra Woman and Dyna Girl” (1976)

This series wasn’t even acceptable in quality in the ’70s. The premise was that it was meant to be a lightweight, accessible TV product for a younger audience, and it probably fulfilled its purpose for some viewers back then. There wasn’t much competition at the time. It’s colorful, with two female heroes, funny antagonists, and unfinished post-production. All of this should have contributed to an amazing retro atmosphere that today’s fans of old movies adore. Unfortunately, it turned out differently. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl will forever remain a parody of themselves, completely indigestible for today’s viewers, especially the younger ones for whom this series was originally intended. The reason is banal. Over those decades, children’s perception has changed. They’ve become more mature, despite their age, and on the other hand, more mentally clumsy—a change in the properties of the psyche adapted to the development of civilization. Neither change for the worse nor for the better, really. It’s just different, in many respects better, more nuanced, sensitive, and aesthetically. That’s why such technically weak and thematically naive series have no chance with today’s youth audience accustomed to superhero cinema, even in its serial, streaming version. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl lasted only 16 episodes before being canceled. An attempt was made to revive them as a typical parody in 2001, as if there weren’t enough parodies with this title already. If you’re curious about this title, look for it on YT.

“The Cape” (2011)

Many viewers doubt whether the main character is a superhero because there’s no comic book template. It’s established today that superheroes first gain fame in comics and then become movie stars. That’s not the case here. The Cape is a good cop from Palm City. So good that he’s framed for several murders. However, Faraday manages to survive and, formally deceased, becomes a vigilante known as The Cape, hoping to clear his name and bring justice to the criminals. Circus performers turn out to be helpful in this task. The Cape wasn’t a masterpiece, and by its release, Marvel was already aggressively entering the superhero market. So the series was almost completely forgotten.

“The Gifted” (2017–2019)

The fate of some cinematic universes can be ironic. In 2017, 20th Century Fox finally got its own X-Men series. “The Gifted” told the story of a family of young mutants who joined the resistance movement against forces hostile to mutations. However, something went wrong. Today, we can certainly say that the downfall of the series had two reasons. “The Gifted” was set in the X-Men universe but didn’t actually feature the X-Men themselves, which would have helped the story attract viewers. Initially, it seemed like the number of fans was growing, but then a new reason emerged on the horizon. Disney bought 20th Century Fox, leading to a revision of produced titles. As you can easily guess, “The Gifted” fell victim to the new policies and profitability assessments of productions.

“Inhumans” (2017)

We can now watch it out of sentiment because interesting actors played in it—interesting, however, from other productions. If I were a fan of this type of soap opera, I would say I can’t forgive Iwan Rheon for the role of Maximus after what he showed me as Ramsay Bolton in “Game of Thrones.” However, I think more rationally and know that an actor’s craft requires sacrifices to rise again after a weaker role. So “Inhumans” somewhat resembles a superhero soap opera and was supposed to be an alternative to the X-Men. It lacks stronger action, but there’s a lot of talking, although not very wisely or abstractly. The dialogue creators opted for monotony and endless considerations about who will take power from whom and when it will happen. Slow jokes, dear Marvel creators. Critics’ and viewers’ opinions apparently reached the marketers at the corporation because the series was canceled. Canceled and forgotten. In such cases, even if a production is considered bad, you never know because after years, it may turn into a curiosity and then a strangely cult title.

“Automan” (1983)

“Automan” is somewhat like an aesthetically very, very cheap “Tron,” although it has an unforgettable vibe, positively speaking. Today, we can confidently say that in the world of sci-fi series, “Automan” is a symbol of the ’80s and the visual influence it left after “Tron.” However, even then, it couldn’t become a cult production. For clarification: “Automan” is an artificially created computer program capable of leaving the digital world and helping fight crime as a hologram alongside his police officer partner and programmer. Automan is full of irony and apparent self-awareness, a program that viewers will treat like a human hero, even though he’s artificial. It was the beginning of an era in cinema when behaviors of artificial intelligence were being seriously analyzed.

“The Invisible Man” (1958–1960)

This was long before Alan Moore crafted someone like a superhero in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” from “The Invisible Man.” “The Invisible Man” tells the adventures of Dr. Peter Brady, who became invisible after exposure to radiation. Desperately seeking a cure for his invisibility, Brady begins collaborating with British special services and intelligence. He becomes a secret agent. The series had two seasons. It was boldly executed as it didn’t spare stuntmen. “The Invisible Man” really set the bar high for its remake successors. Among cinema enthusiasts, it’s still popular. Younger generations, however, might complain about the outdated production style of the series.

“Highlander” (1992–1998)

Today, this production is more of a “guilty pleasure.” The series was lost in its own time, right from the start. The fight with the legend, embodied by Christopher Lambert, even with Sean Connery by his side, was doomed to fail. Furthermore, ironically, Adrian Paul, an average B-movie actor known mainly from… well, I just looked at his filmography now, and it turns out Adrian Paul is most famous for the “Highlander” series. It couldn’t succeed. A mediocre series burdened with a great ambition to tell Duncan MacLeod’s story in depth, day after day, adventure after adventure. It was painful to watch, with fight scenes at the level of those from “Walker, Texas Ranger,” where opponents also landed blows without touching each other, and one fell like a Polish soccer player desperately trying to change the result by forcing a penalty kick. It’s no wonder that today, the “Highlander” series is completely forgotten. It aged poorly and ultimately died because of it. The actors involved didn’t achieve dazzling careers, nor did the creators.

“Moon Knight” (2022)

I know the series is highly regarded, but there’s no accompanying hype, no loudly celebrated fame, no media pouring out information that a masterpiece was created in the MCU world, which happens sporadically. Let’s recall the scene with the Jackal. A typical action scene that, one might think, we’ve encountered many times in superhero cinema. However, how we’re prepared for it as viewers has colossal significance for its subsequent reception. We absorb the rooftop race, jumps between buildings, and finally, the literally grandiose skewering of the Jackal on a spire with much greater emotions. And naively, we think that from now on, we’ll always observe a Moon Knight with undivided personalities. Nothing could be further from the truth. The creators of the series will continue to play with us, and the excellent Oscar Isaac will showcase his acting talent, sometimes even causing us to get angry with his insane character.

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

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