While several DC Comics TV series have come and gone over the years, many projects almost happened but ended up not going forward. The comic book and superhero live-action landscape is bigger than ever, both on the big and small screen. Marvel Studios has the MCU with multiple interconnected film and TV franchises. Over on the DC side, Warner Bros. leans more into the Multiverse aspect, with their movies being set in the DCEU while also having certain films in separate continuities. On the small screen, however, the Arrowverse has been running successfully on The CW since 2012.
Comic book TV shows really became a possibility thanks to Smallville, the 10-year long Superman prequel series that told Clark Kent’s origins story before he became the Man of Steel. Back when Smallville aired, networks were still hesitant in investing in superhero properties. If it were not for Smallville’s massive success, the Arrowverse and other DC TV shows might not have happened at all.
Like other TV genres, it isn’t uncommon for a proposed comic book adaptation to never make it to air or even reach production. Despite owning so many DC characters, sometimes a project just does not pan out. It can be anywhere from creative differences to a network not being satisfied with a finished pilot. In many cases, there have been DC TV shows that were only in development phases, where discussions did not lead to it happening.
The Adventures of Superpup (1958)
After The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves, ended in 1958, the producers tried to find new replacements while capitalizing on the successful DC series. While still focusing on Superman, the creative team took an unexpected turn as they did The Adventures of Superpup. Just as the name says it, the characters were all portrayed as dogs, including Clark Kent as Bark Bent. Despite the attempt, this Superman project simply barked up the wrong tree and never aired.
The Adventures of Superboy (1961)
Years before the Superboy show in the late ’80s came about, The Adventures of Superman’s creative team attempted to make their own series about the Boy of Steel. Johnny Rockwell got tapped to play Superboy, while Bunny Hennings starred as Lana Lang. Despite 13 scripts getting ordered, the pilot was the only episode of The Adventures of Superboy to be produced. Even though it never aired, the pilot got included on Smallville’s complete series DVD collection.
Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince (1967)
Before Lynda Carter’s iconic Wonder Woman series premiered in 1975, Batman ’66 producer William Dozier tried to bring the hero to life in 1967. A 5-minute long pilot presentation called Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince was made, but with a very odd concept for the heroine. While Ellie Wood Walker played Diana, Linda Harrison portrayed Wonder Woman as her alter ego. Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince was more of a comedy with little to do with the actual Wonder Woman comics. While it never aired on TV, like many abandoned shows, it did make its way online decades later.
When Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, was suggested by the producers to join the third season of the Batman ’66 series, they created a 7-minute proof of concept. It was to convince the ABC executives and 20th Century Fox TV (which produced the show) to add the heroine. Through rumors from the late ’60s, a spinoff was briefly considered for Yvonne Craig, who became the first actress ever to play Batgirl. In the end, a Batgirl spinoff show never came to fruition.
Wonder Woman (1974)
Cathy Lee Crosby was almost TV’s first Wonder Woman before Lynda Carter played the role. A year before the classic series, a TV movie was produced and was meant to serve as the pilot for a Wonder Woman show on ABC with Crosby. This take on Wonder Woman was significantly different due to the costume and how Diana was written overall. After airing the 75-minute long pilot in March 1974, they redeveloped the project, which led to Carter getting cast as Wonder Woman.
Unlimited Powers (1989)
Before Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo did The Flash for CBS in 1990, the duo had tried to make a different DC series that included the fastest man alive. Titled Unlimited Powers, it was essentially a Justice League-inspired show featuring Flash, Green Arrow, and others. Unlimited Powers would have followed a 40-year old Barry Allen who had served a 15-year sentence in prison. In this world, superheroes had become outlawed while the villains were stronger than ever. Wally West and Oliver Queen’s teenage daughter would have also been part of the show. While Unlimited Powers did not take off, Bilson and Meo did go on to make The Flash, which only ran for one season but developed a cult following.
Justice League of America (1997)
In 1997, CBS developed Justice League of America as a potential weekly series from writers/producers Lorne Cameron and David Hoselton. The show starred Kenny Johnston as Barry Allen/The Flash, John Kassir as Ray Palmer/The Atom, Kimberly Oja as Tori Olafsdotter/Ice, Matthew Settle as Guy Gardner/Green Lantern, Michelle Hurd as B.B. DaCosta/Fire, and David Ogden Stiers as J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter. While a 90-minute pilot aired in December 1997, the presentation was met with negative reception. The show was essentially a dramedy with a similar premise to The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family, with segments of the superheroes getting interviewed. Following the airing of the pilot, Justice League of America was scrapped.
Bruce Wayne (1999)
If it hadn’t been for a canceled Batman prequel series, Smallville would never have happened. In 1999, screenwriter Tim McCanlies pitched Bruce Wayne, an origin story that would follow the Gotham City billionaire before he became the Dark Knight. The Batman prequel would have started on Bruce’s 18th birthday, as he takes the first steps in his journey to becoming Gotham’s protector. Like Gotham, the proposed Bruce Wayne series would have included the origins of multiple iconic Batman characters. The WB was very interested in adding the DC prequel to their slate; however, development on Bruce Wayne was stopped by the studio’s film division. Since the feature side was rebooting the Batman franchise, they didn’t want a TV show to be running simultaneously. Tollin/Robbins Productions, the company McCanlies had pitched Bruce Wayne to, was able to take the concept and develop it into Smallville, focusing on Clark’s early years.
Wonder Woman (1999)
Deborah Joy LeVine, who created Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, tried to bring Wonder Woman back to television in 1999. Years after the Superman series ended its run on ABC, LeVine teamed up with Warner Bros. to make a Wonder Woman show, pitching it to NBC. LeVine’s concept depicted Wonder Woman as a Greek history professor who was struggling with juggling her heroic responsibilities. While the show included the comic elements, LeVine’s Wonder Woman had a similar approach to Lois & Clark. Despite the attempt, nothing came from the NBC show, although this would not be the last time that network tried to do a Wonder Woman series.
Even though Stargirl viewers know Sylvester Pemberton as Starman, that title is associated with Jack Knight, who almost got his own DC TV show. In 2002, Smallville and Birds of Prey producers were developing Starman that would have followed Jack as the titular hero and his father Ted, who has also carried the mantle in the comics. Starman would have been set in DC Comics’ Opal City and focused on the Knight family’s adventures. However, Starman was put on hold in 2003 after Birds of Prey was canceled by The WB after only one season.
The Flash (2003)
Before Arrowverse’s The Flash, the DC speedster almost had a show on The WB before it merged with UPN to become The CW. In 2003, The WB began developing The Flash from writer/producer Todd Komarnicki. This iteration was a distinct take on The Flash from the previous CBS series and the future Arrowverse versions. Like Smallville, the hero would not have had a costume, and it was never clear which Flash it would follow. Time travel was the driving force of the show as he would have used his powers to go into the past and future to help stop crime, and a character — likely Jay Garrick — would have acted as his mentor. Despite hoping to get it on the 2004 fall schedule, The WB seemingly canceled it as no updates came after 2003.
Global Frequency (2005)
In 2005, TV producer Mark Burnett attempted to adapt DC’s Global Frequency into a live-action series. Global Frequency focused on a private organization that relied on worldwide crowd-sourcing to stop crimes. While the pilot was produced, it never landed on a network. Instead, the pilot was leaked online, something that Warner Bros. was not thrilled about, and the studio canceled the project. Since the initial attempt, The CW tried to develop Global Frequency in 2009 with Scott Nimerfro as the writer. In 2014, Jerry Bruckheimer developed a new version of Global Frequency with writer Rockne S. O’Bannon for FOX, with a pilot production commitment. Like the 2005 project, both of the following attempts never moved forward.
After Aquaman debuted on Smallville, the creators behind the Superman prequel tried to make a series centered on the Atlantean hero. It was never a spinoff as Al Gough and Miles Millar approached Aquaman as a standalone series, with Justin Hartley cast as Arthur Curry. During the pilot’s production, rumors speculated that Aquaman would be picked up by the newly formed network The CW. However, following the WB and UPN merger, The CW passed on the series, and the Aquaman pilot was released on iTunes. The pilot did well in purchase numbers and received positive reviews, and while Hartley didn’t get to be Aquaman, it led to him getting cast as Green Arrow on Smallville.
Smallville’s Green Arrow & Lois Lane (2006)
Throughout Hartley’s entire run as Oliver Queen on Smallville, there were always questions about a potential Green Arrow spinoff series. While it never happened, the actor did discuss the project with Smallville co-star Michael Rosenbaum on his Inside of You podcast. Hartley revealed that during Smallville’s run, the producers had discussed the ideas of a Metropolis-centric series about Green Arrow and Lois Lane. Ultimately, it didn’t happen, but Hartley did become a series regular for Smallville’s final three seasons.
Smallville’s Justice League (2007)
One of Smallville’s most iconic episodes was the Justice League-centric one from season 6, appropriately titled “Justice.” However, the plans were to use that episode as a gateway for a Smallville: Justice League spinoff series. According to Steven S. DeKnight, who wrote and directed “Justice,” the episode was meant to have Green Arrow, Impulse, Cyborg, and Aquaman go into their own show. DeKnight was set to co-create the Justice League series, which would have included a new take on Brainiac. Despite those plans, a Justice League spinoff from Smallville never happened. It likely had to do with Warner Bros.’s planned Justice League: Mortal film that George Miller was going to direct.
Smallville’s Supergirl (2008)
Before Supergirl premiered in 2015, Smallville’s Kara Zor-El almost had her own series. According to Laura Vandervoort, who played the Kryptonian heroine on Smallville, there were talks during the seventh season about having Kara star in a spinoff show. In an interview with Empire from 2016, Vandervoort explained that the producers had a Supergirl series in mind when she booked the role. From Smallville getting affected by the WGA strike in 2007-2008 to the original creators departing the show after season 7, that probably factored into Vandervoort’s potential spinoff being scrapped.
The Graysons (2008)
During Smallville season 8, it was initially unclear if the show would return for a ninth season until Tom Welling eventually renewed his contract. In the meantime, Smallville bosses began prepping The Graysons, a series following a young Dick Grayson before his family was murdered. While The Graysons was an odd concept, the show had to be canceled because of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movie series. According to Warner Bros., The Graysons didn’t “fit the current strategy for the Batman franchise,” meaning they were prioritizing anything related to the character in live-action for the big screen.
Blue Beetle (2010)
While Jaime Reyes is finally getting his own DC movie, the teenage Blue Beetle almost had a live-action series a decade ago. In 2010, Geoff Johns revealed test footage for a potential live-action Blue Beetle series, (currently available on Youtube). The proof of concept showed Jaime suiting up as the titular hero with the alien scarab. However, it was never specified what network Blue Beetle was being eyed for or how far it got in development. To this day, the test footage was the only thing fans ever got to see.
When Smallville was coming to an end in 2011, The CW was looking to find new DC TV replacements (before Arrow debuted in 2012). While the Teen Titans came to life through Titans many years later, Rachel Roth almost starred in her own TV show on The CW. In late 2010, the network put Raven into development with writer/producer Diego Gutierrez. While Raven got a script order commitment, the project never came to fruition, and The CW never revealed in detail what the show would have been. At least Raven is now part of Titans, played by Teagan Croft.
The Spectre (2011)
FOX has had several comic book shows over the years, and in 2011, a project based on The Spectre was in development. Brandon Camp was tapped to write and executive produce the DC series. The Spectre would have followed a former police officer (likely meant to be Jim Corrigan) who had spent a long time in the afterlife limbo. However, as he became the Spectre, he would begin going after criminals on behalf of the deceased. Like many proposed DC TV shows that did not happen, no updates ever emerged about The Spectre.
Booster Gold (2011)
Before Greg Berlanti brought Arrow to The CW, the Arrowverse creator tried developing Booster Gold on SYFY. In late 2011, Berlanti and former Arrowverse boss, Andrew Kreisberg, got a pilot script order from SYFY for the Booster Gold show. The series would have focused on Booster Gold becoming a superhero as he traveled back to the present from the future. There were a few updates on Booster Gold between 2012 to 2014 until it quietly went away. Why SYFY did not proceed with it has never been clarified.
David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman (2011)
In 2011, David E. Kelley attempted to make a Wonder Woman TV series, and initially, all the networks passed on it. However, NBC gave Wonder Woman a pilot order, and the first episode was produced with Adrianne Palicki as the DC heroine. During production, it became evident that Kelley’s ideas were not something many fans were connecting with through social media. It became significantly worse when the first look at the costume came out, as the negative reception caused them to do a quick redesign. In the end, NBC nixed the Wonder Woman series, and it has become known as one of the worst unaired comic book shows of all time.
After Smallville ended, The CW was looking to create a show about the DC Comics hero Boston Brand, a.k.a. Deadman. The network teamed up with Supernatural creator Eric Kripke to write and executive produce the potential Deadman series. Similar to the comics, Deadman would follow Boston after he was murdered. While Boston would get the power to possess other people’s bodies, he would use his new gift to help them with their problems. As Deadman also was silently scrapped, Kripke tweeted in 2016 that it was probably for the best, stating the script didn’t come out the way they had hoped.
In 2012, The CW took a shot at bringing Wonder Woman to life by borrowing a page out of Smallville’s book. Unlike the NBC series, The CW project was a Diana Prince origin story titled Amazon. The show would have chronicled Diana’s life on Themyscira as she discovered Man’s World. Between 2012-2014, Amazon was stuck in development hell as The CW tried reworking it for a potential pilot. They got far enough in the process where The CW did start holding casting calls for Diana, but by 2014, the network officially passed on Amazon, and it got more challenging for The CW to do Wonder Woman after Gal Gadot’s movie was a huge success.
The same year as The CW developed The Flash, the network also looked at Hourman as a potential DC TV series. Michael Caleo came on board to write and executive produce Hourman, which would have been a reimagination of the Justice Society of America hero. Hourman would have featured the titular hero who had been suffering from traumatic visions that take place one hour into the future. Looking to win back his family, he would become Hourman and use these visions to stop crimes before they could happen. However, as the Arrowverse quickly expanded, Hourman fell through the cracks and never proceeded beyond the script phase. Luckily, Hourman is part of Stargirl, and Warner Bros. is developing a feature film about the Golden Age hero.
TNT’s Titans (2014)
While Titans did become a DC Universe original, Warner Bros. was trying to bring them to life a few years earlier. In 2014, TNT was developing Titans with Akiva Goldsman, who is part of the current show. The biggest difference between the TNT and DC Universe versions was that Berlanti wasn’t attached to the original project. TNT’s Titans had a similar line-up of characters as the DC Universe show, featuring Nightwing, Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven, Hawk, and Dove. Barbara Gordon was also set to be part of the team but as Oracle. Former TNT boss Kevin Reilly had also alluded to Roy Harper being part of Titans. In January 2016, TNT shelved Titans as the pilot wasn’t where they wanted to go with the show.
Static Shock (2014)
Warner Bros. is in the process of making a Static Shock film, but there was almost a live-action TV show for the teenage hero. In 2014, Warner Bros.’s Blue Ribbon Content division was developing a Static Shock series with writer/producer Reginald Hudlin. While updates never emerged, there were rumors that Jaden Smith was being eyed to play Virgil Hawkins, but that was all it was. It was also never clear on what platform Static Shock would have aired on if it had happened. Despite the project being scrapped, at least Virgil will be starring in his own Static Shock movie, with Hudlin still involved as a producer.
Arrowverse’s Suicide Squad (2014)
Arrow seasons 1 and 2 introduced several Suicide Squad characters and even went as far as doing a whole episode about them. Not only did viewers respond well to the team, but Arrow planted those characters for a potential Suicide Squad spinoff show. Several Arrowverse actors and writers have talked about how they always intended to spin off the characters; however, The CW had to scrap all of their Suicide Squad plans because of the DCEU film by David Ayer.
SYFY has had an interesting history with developing shows based on DC characters, and one of them was Ronin. In 2014, the cable network tried to adapt Frank Miller’s Ronin graphic novel as a television show. Ronin, which was eyed as a limited series on SYFY, would have followed a reincarnated 13th-century samurai in the 21st century. After failing to save his master from a demon in his former life, Ronin would take on his murderer in the present time. While they looked for a writer, SYFY never went anywhere with Ronin, as the initial announcement was the first and last update fans got.
One of DC’s scraped properties was the Scalped TV show. The series was conceived as a modern-day crime series. Scalped got developed by Doug Jung for WGN America in 2014, but the project didn’t get a pilot order until 2016. Scalped would be set in a Native American Indian reservation while following the community, which Chief Lincoln Red Crow led. The following year, Alex Meraz, Gil Birmingham, Irene Bedard, and Chasker Spencer were cast as the pilot’s leading characters. After the Scalped pilot was filmed in April 2017, WGN America passed on it several months later after seeing the episode.
The Question (2015/2016)
Vic Sage, a.ka. The Question, was close to getting his live-action debut through filmmaker Kevin Smith. In a May 2019 episode of Fatman Beyond, Smith revealed he, Marc Bernardin, and Johns attempted to make a 10-episode The Question series. Smith elaborated they had taken The Question to Warner Horizon TV to shop it around to potential outlets. However, those plans got stopped as Smith explained how ownership issues came up about The Question due to the character originating from Charlton Comics. Beyond using him in the comics, there were problems with using Vic in media, which is why The Question never happened.
In 2015, Machinima and Warner Bros. were teaming up to adapt DC’s Dial H For Hero into a live-action series called #4Hero. The concept revolved around Nellie Tribble, who discovers a life-changing app that allowed her to become a superhero for a limited time. #4Hero would see Nellie get different powers each time depending on what was trending on social media whenever she used the app. Following the original announcement, no future updates were provided for #4Hero.
Project 13 (2017)
By 2017, The CW had more than five comic book shows on their line-up, and they were not planning on stopping anytime soon. In 2017, The CW began developing a Project 13 series with Elizabeth Banks attached as an executive producer. Project 13 would follow Traci Thirteen and her father, Terrance Thirteen, as they investigated paranormal cases. The writer for the pilot was Daegan Fryklind, who would also executive produce Project 13. However, Project 13 fell off the radar and seemingly got canceled behind the scenes. Had it moved forward, it’s unclear if it would have had any ties to the Arrowverse.
Hawk & Dove (2018)
When Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly got cast as Hawk and Dove for Titans season 1, there was an option for them to go off into their own spinoff. During their casting announcement, it was reported the Titans team had a Hawk & Dove spinoff in mind. In a 2019 interview, Ritchson elaborated on how there was the potential for a Titans spinoff about Hank and Dawn. According to Ritchson, the creators wanted to see how they did on Titans first while they figured out the DC Universe platform. Since DC Universe became a comics app, Titans moved over to HBO Max, and it seems like a Hawk & Dove spinoff is not happening.
Before DC Universe launched in fall 2018, the streaming platform was developing a handful of shows. One of them was another Superman prequel show, titled Metropolis. However, rather than focusing on the Man of Steel, Metropolis would have been about Lois Lane and Lex Luthor as investigators. The series would focus on Lois and Lex exploring “the world of fringe science and expose the city’s dark and bizarre secrets,” years before Superman came to Metropolis. Gotham showrunner John Stephens was set to write and executive produce Metropolis with director Danny Cannon. In May 2018, Metropolis went back into re-development, and nothing came out of it, meaning it was quietly canceled.
Secret Six (2019)
Although Supergirl had a short run on CBS before moving to The CW, the former did try to adapt another DC property. While the DC TV division could not do the Suicide Squad, CBS instead attempted to develop a Secret Six series with Suits writer/producer Rick Muirragui. CBS gave Secret Six a pilot production commitment, as the show would focus on six morally grey characters forced to become a team through a mystery player. Together, the team would try to expose the “corruption of the corporate and political elite,” as the Secret Six. However, CBS did not proceed with Secret Six after Muirragui revealed to a fan in a now-deleted tweet that the project was dead.
SYFY was close to having its own DC TV line-up through the Superman prequel series, Krypton. As Krypton season 2 added Emmett J. Scanlan as the DC character Lobo, SYFY began developing a spinoff before he debuted on the show. Krypton showrunner Cameron Welsh was part of developing the Lobo show as it would feature his wild adventures as a bounty hunter. However, when Krypton got canceled in 2019, SYFY also decided not to go forward with Lobo. There were reported attempts at shopping Lobo around to other platforms, but nothing came about it.
Green Arrow & The Canaries (2020)
When Arrow ended with its eighth season, The CW attempted to keep the Emerald Archer’s legacy alive through Green Arrow and the Canaries. The spinoff centered around Mia Queen (Kat McNamara), Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), and Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy,) with the backdoor pilot airing as Arrow’s penultimate episode. However, after the Green Arrow and the Canaries backdoor pilot had aired, fans had to wait until 2021 to find out that The CW was not moving forward with it. There was an attempt to have Green Arrow and the Canaries air on HBO Max, but ultimately those discussions fell through. The pandemic seemed to have been a reason why the Arrow spinoff got scrapped, which was the case for many TV shows in 2020.
Wonder Girl (2020)
Despite the many attempts at bringing Wonder Woman to the small screen, The CW was close to introducing a different Amazon. In 2020, The CW began developing Wonder Girl, which would have focused on a recently created DC heroine named Yara Flor. Berlanti was teaming up with Queen of the South co-showrunner Dailyn Rodriguez. However, in 2021, Rodriguez revealed on Twitter that Wonder Girl was not moving forward. Despite being proud of the script she had written, Rodriguez’s comments alluded to The CW seemingly not being sold on the concept. Had Wonder Girl moved forward, it would have been the first superhero series to feature a Latinx character as the lead.
While Black Lightning came to an unexpected end with the fourth season, there was an attempt to continue at least one character’s story: Khalil Payne. Amid Black Lightning’s final season, the creators planted a Painkiller backdoor pilot for a potential spinoff that would have followed Jordan Calloway’s antihero in Akashic Valley. Despite the positive reception, The CW ended up not going forward with the Black Lightning spinoff. It’s unclear exactly why the network scrapped Painkiller, but at least the characters can show up in the other Arrowverse shows in the future.
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