Comic book movies are Hollywood’s cash cow, so it seems odd that television is only now embracing the genre. Since the birth of television, superhero programs have aired on TV with varied results; Smallville lasted 10 seasons while a live-action Flash series (which aired in the early ’90s) didn’t survive its first season. Ten years from now, people will look back at 2016 as the tipping point when comic book based series shifted from niche programming to industry standard. But why now? Several key factors have crested making 2016 ripe for television’s super hero explosion.
1 – Thanks to the success of programs like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, television networks are more ambitious than ever; showrunners, writers and network execs are all pushing the boundaries of what the medium can deliver.
2 – Pop culture awareness of the once esoteric genre is at an all-time high. We exist in an era where there are teenagers that have only lived in a world where Spider-Man and Wolverine own the box office every summer. Before the Marvel movie, Iron Man, Tony Stark was a B-level character, now he is a household name.
3 – The cost of rendering comic book level spectacle is less prohibitive than ever (shout out to budget CGI!). Not so long ago, if a show wished to regularly depict characters that could fly, move at super-speed or shoot lasers from their eyes they had to either save the special effects for only a few times a season, produce effects that looked Ed Wood-level cheesy or bankrupt the studio. While superhero shows still can’t go overboard in the effects department, they strike a solid balance of consistently churning out solid stories while staying true to the spirit of the characters and their abilities.
As a result of the aforementioned advancements, 2016 is bringing forth a tidal wave of comic book series. As of this week, superhero TV impresario, Greg Berlanti alone will be responsible for four different comic book television series currently on the air (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and The Flash). The comic book genre covers a wide spectrum, and the current crop of series is no different. This article will cover the five DC Comics series that are currently airing, and outline what’s unique about each program in order to determine if it’s right for you.
*Note: Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow (each produced by Berlanti) all take place in the same universe, meaning that characters move back and forth between shows and what happens on one series may affect the others. Supergirl (also produced by Berlanti) currently exists in its own TV universe, but producers haven’t ruled out the slim possibility of having the show eventually crossing over with the other Berlanti produced series. Gotham exists in its own universe.
** Episode numbers accurate as of Monday January, 18.