It seems like superhero TV shows are the only options lately. But even if you hate superheroes, there are still some great superhero shows you’d be interested in.
You’ve heard it before. It feels like the film and television industry are incapable of original content these days. With sequels, prequels, and remakes in abundance, it’s hard to find a new thing to get excited about. It’s even harder to find something that isn’t about superheroes.
No matter what channel you put on, streaming platform you use, or movie theatre you go to, there’s always superhero content being featured. Even if you’re a fan of superheroes, it’s hard not to feel fatigued by the oversaturation of content. But let’s face it, not everyone is into superheroes. And if you’re not, it’s hard to find something good to watch, especially in the television space.
There may be an abundance of superhero TV shows out there at the moment, but fear not haters! We’ve got nine fantastic superhero TV shows for you to watch, even if you hate superheroes.
Take your classic superhero TV show, flip it upside down, and you’ll have The Boys. For those of you who hate superheroes, this one’s for you. The creator of the original comics (Garth Ennis, who gets three shout outs in this list) actually intended The Boys to be an anti-superhero story.
In this universe, superheroes are revered by the public, and marketed and monetized by a powerful corporation. They are also, however, despicable human beings who use their notoriety and abilities with reckless abandon. Enter The Boys, a group of vigilantes whose mission is to hold the superheroes accountable for their actions.
The Boys deglamorizes the conventional superhero, removing the mask and showing what the world would be like if real people had powers, and not just the “deserving” ones. Not to mention, it’s darkly hilarious. All it takes is the first five minutes of the premiere episode to get a feel for what this show has in store, and it just keeps going from there.
Oddly enough, Misfits might be the most realistic superhero show on this list. A group of teenage delinquents are working community service hours when a lighting storm hits, causing them all to get superpowers.
Delightfully, it goes exactly as you’d expect a bunch of troublemaking teens getting superpowers would go. Completely irresponsible and unable to act mature enough with their new capabilities, things get a little crazy. They accidentally kill their probation officer, and must do their best to cover up their crime and their new powers.
Each character is uniquely engaging, particularly the lively and sarcastic Nathan (played by Robert Sheehan, who appears again on this list later). Apparently Nathan didn’t get any powers during the storm, and he spends much of his time trying to “activate” his potential powers. Misfits is crass, gross, suspenseful, hilarious, and is definitely worth a watch even if you hate superheroes.
The newest superhero TV show on this list probably sounds familiar. Zack Snyder’s popular Watchmen film came out in 2009, and 10 years later, HBO is treating us to a television series. It’s not a direct adaptation of the graphic novel though, nor is it a direct sequel to the film. The Watchmen television series is a kind of standalone story based in the original novel’s universe, referencing some of its story points.
Superhero haters will love this show, first and foremost because these characters do not have superpowers. It does still have elements of the supernatural, but it’s wound into a society that’s all too real and reflective of our current state. There may be mask-wearing “heroes,” but it isn’t campy, childlike, or nauseatingly hopeful. It’s a punch to the gut from beginning to end, and not for those looking for an easy viewing experience.
The only MCU title on this list goes to The Punisher (another Garth Ennis addition). The title should be enough to give you an idea as to why. Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, is first introduced in Daredevil as an antagonist to the hero. Where Daredevil takes ethical action to rid the streets of criminals, the Punisher does whatever he wants to achieve the same goal, and that usually means killing some people.
While Daredevil is probably too self-righteous for those who hate superheroes, The Punisher is the perfect, opposite companion to that. He doesn’t consider himself a hero, he answers to his own code of ethics, and despite his brutal methods, his story is grounded is something more relatable.
There are plenty of shootout sequences to get your adrenaline pumping, but it also has more meaningful things to explore, like the difficulties in finding your place in the world, specifically in regards to veterans. The Punisher is not meant for the cape-loving variety of superhero fan, rather the type who’s into stories of regular people thrown into extreme circumstances.
Legion is a superhero show unlike any other superhero TV show. The lead characters have powers just like all the other superhero shows (it does, after all, take place in the X-Men universe), but the lead character is anything but your classic superhero.
David Haller is a diagnosed schizophrenic, but he is also a telepath with a parasite in his brain trying to control him. For David, and for the audience, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s a hallucination. David may be the main character who’s leading us through this story, but he’s an unreliable narrator at best. After a group of mutants help him escape the hospital, it can sometimes be hard to tell if that was really the right decision.
Legion is definitely not a show to watch if you’re tired. There’s little to no fluff or filler content, favoring more an assault on your mind style of storytelling, urging you to pay attention, rather than throwing in explosions left and right that would allow you to zone out.
Aside from a captivating story, it’s also just visually striking, with more layered themes than your average superhero TV shows. Legion is definitely not for everyone, but it’s also definitely worth a try if you hate superhero TV shows.
Another “superhero” TV show brought to you from the mind of Garth Ennis, Preacher is a Western-eque story about an unconventional preacher in Texas who becomes possessed by a power that allows him to make people bend to his will. Along with his volatile girlfriend and a mischievous vampire, Jesse goes on a mission to find God (quite literally) and discover the truth about his new abilities.
You’re not going to get a righteous hero story with this group. The Preacher gang aren’t exactly the most morally driven people (and vampire), but they are a delight to watch. With a unique supporting cast that includes Arseface and Hitler, Preacher is perfect for those who hate superheroes, especially if you’re into comical and violent action sequences.
Out of every other TV show on this list, Gotham is the most like your traditional superhero show. Mainly because, it features one of the best known superheroes, Batman. That said, Batman is not the lead of this show, nor is he even Batman. Gotham deviates from the story you’re used to, as it shows Bruce Wayne as a child/teenager before he ever becomes Batman.
Gotham also benefits from having most of its stories be about the iconic Batman villains, rather than a typical hero arc. It’s more like a police procedural that happens to have comic book characters. Jim Gordon plays a prominent role in the series, and his job is to take these villains down. But the great part of Gotham is that you can’t help but sometimes root for the criminal, whether that be Cobblepot, Nygma, Mooney, or Jerome. They may be bad, but they’re so fun to watch, you don’t want to see them go.
‘The Umbrella Academy’
On the surface, The Umbrella Academy sounds a lot like X-Men. Kids are born with powers and are trained (and raised) by an old man in a mansion. Except that’s as far as the X-Men similarities go, otherwise it wouldn’t be on this list.
The Umbrella Academy is dismal yet hysterical, dramatic yet action-packed, and clever without being confusing. It has elements of Kingsman, with its stylistic ultra-violent action sequences set to pop music, mixed with witty banter. It does take its time to world-build and character-build, but the wait is worth it. Once the ball drops, it hits the ground running and you won’t want to stop watching.
If the plot isn’t enough to keep you binging, then the characters will make you stay. Though touting a stellar cast and characters that includes Ellen Page, it’s Aidan Gallagher as Number Five and Robert Sheehan as Klaus that are the easy favorites. While Gallagher balances a snarky old soul in a young body with aplomb, likewise Sheehan captures the vibrance and darkness of a man struggling to get by but pretending everything’s fine.
Just like Klaus, The Umbrella Academy plays with both light and dark. It’s a great show to watch if you’re in the mood for something a little more serious, but without the feeling of hopelessness at the end.
Possibly the furthest thing from a superhero TV show on this list, Utopia is not based on a comic book, nor do any of its characters have superpowers. The story revolves around a comic book though. A group of very average people get ahold of a rare graphic novel that appears to have predicted the world’s worst disasters. They’re then hunted down by an organization called The Network, who will stop at nothing to get the book. That sounds like a cliche but they truly will stop at nothing.
Utopia may not have strong superhero tropes, but it does have the look of a comic book. The cinematography and vibrant color scheme give off strong comic book vibes. But that bright saturation is contrasted heavily by dark themes, dark humor, and lots of violence. If you hate superheroes, Utopia is a fantastic superhero-adjacent series to try.