Best Comic Book Shows
Based on Garth Ennis' comic book of the same name, The Boys is a dark twist on the superhero genre that explores a world in which our heroes aren't the squeaky-clean icons we believe them to be. Fortunately, if you've already binged the eight-episode Prime Video series and are hungry for more gritty, off-kilter superhero stories, there are plenty of great shows out there that will scratch that sadistic itch.
From grim crime dramas to offbeat series that flip comic book TV conventions on their head, here are 10 shows that all fans of The Boys should check out.
If you're looking for an anti-hero that's even more brutal and unrelenting than Billy Butcher, look no further than Jon Bernthal's The Punisher. This televised take on the popular Marvel character is appropriately gritty, focusing on Frank Castle's quest for revenge after the murder of his family. The Punisher doesn't hold back when it comes to intense violence, but at the heart of the show is an exploration of Castle's PTSD, as well as an increasingly complex narrative that has him discover and confront vast military conspiracies and nefarious underground gangs alike. Like many of Marvel's Netflix shows, The Punisher ended way too soon after just two seasons, but both are worth a watch. — Mike Andronico
If you liked The Boys with its subversive gritty take on superheroes, you're going to love Preacher. Written by Garth Ennis, who also co-wrote The Boys, Preacher takes a dark, gritty look at some of the tenants of Christanity. The show and comic follow Jesse Custer, the titular preacher in a small town who's inexplicably possessed by a mysterious power from heaven that lets him control people who can hear his voice. After discovering that God has abandoned heaven, the disillusion preacher takes off to find God, bringing with him his murderous ex-girlfriend Tulip and alcoholic vampire Cassidy. However, the road to God is paved with colorful murderous characters determined to stop Custer in his tracks. It's a funny, vulgar look at faith that you have to see. — Sherri L. Smith
If "Brendan Fraser as a robot superhero" isn't enough to sell you, know that Doom Patrol takes one of DC's quirkiest super-teams and turns it into a comic book show unlike any you've seen. Every member of the Doom Patrol got their abilities via a tragic accidents, resulting in a supergroup that fights to save a world that could care less about them. With a roster that includes Negative Man (Matt Bomer), Crazy Jane (Dianne Guerrero) and Cyborg (Joivan Wade) and just the right mix of striking visuals and offbeat humor, Doom Patrol will definitely scratch your not-quite-superhero itch. — Mike Andronico
This is not your little brother's Teen Titans. Dick Grayson (aka Robin the Boy-Wonder) tries to find a normal life as a cop after falling out with Gotham's Caped Crusader. Dick meets Rachel Roth, a young mysterious runaway who's the target of a Doomsday cult trying to bring the end of the world. Expect to see some ultraviolent fight scenes set in a gritty DC Universe with darker twists on some of your favorite heroes. Titans goes deep into the DC roster with some cameos from the Doom Patrol, Hawk and Dove, and even a certain Dark Knight with a thing for bats. You’ll come for the obscure Batman references but you'll stay for Starfire's killer outfits. — Jorge Jimenez
The Umbrella Academy
Based on the comic series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, Netflix's The Umbrella Academy focuses on a ragtag group of young superhero siblings who are out to discover the truth about their father's death. The show can be described as a dark comedy version of the X-Men, complete with dysfunctional family drama and an all-star cast of anti-heroes that includes Ellen Page's Vanya Hargreeves and Tom Hopper as Luther Hargreeves, each of whom have their own deadly powers. — Mike Andronico
While it doesn't have much in common tonally with The Boys, Legion is yet another great example of a superhero show that completely eschews genre conventions. This psychedelic drama focuses on Marvel's mutant telepath David Haller, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age only to later realize there's much more going on inside of him. From David's early battles with the literal demons in his head to his eventual turn to a self-absorbed, borderline villainous character, Legion uses stunning cinematography to pull viewers into striking mental spaces that will make you question what is real and what isn't. — Mike Andronico
Ever wonder about what Bruce Wayne was like as a teenager? The early days of Commissioner Gordon? The youthful Penguin, Riddler and Joker? This five-season series echoes both the gritty Batman movies and the goofy '60s TV series, with corrupt cops, dangerous dames and over-the-top villains. There's a no-nonsense Det. James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), and a moody, recently orphaned Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), but the excellent side characters — especially an oddly sympathetic Penguin; a cold, analytic Riddler; and a tough-as-nails Alfred Pennyworth -— steal the show. The real star is the city of Gotham itself, a darkly gorgeous, crime-ridden burg with no smartphones or flat-screen TVs, but airships and lots of extra buildings. New York in the '90s never looked so good, and never seemed this much fun. — Paul Wagenseil
Another Marvel Netflix classic featuring a great anti-hero, Jessica Jones sees its badass titular character (played by Krysten Ritter) solving murder mysteries as a private eye while also dealing with supervillains, family issues and her own past. Season 1 stands out from the bunch by focusing on the cerebral warfare between Jessica and David Tennant's unforgettably evil Kilgrave while touching on the repercussions of rape, abuse and PTSD. Season 2 explores Jessica's relationship with her super-powered mother, while Season 3 has Jessica take on the chillingly murderous Gregory Salinger while coming to terms with her own heroism. Jessica Jones's three seasons contain some of the best storytelling Marvel's too-short-lived Netflix universe has to offer — and some of the most unflinching. — Mike Andronico
The Venture Bros.
Sure, on the surface this Adult Swim animated series looks like a fun, twisted look back at the Johnny Quest era of superheroes. But it gets much darker once you get episodes under your belt and learn about the terrible familial relationships at the core of the Venture compound. Not only is Rusty Venture a terrible father figure to his nearly-abused sons Hank and Dean — routinely putting them in more danger than a minnow in a shark tank — but he only inherited these flaws. The true rot comes from Dr. Jonas Venture Sr., whom we meet in flashbacks, whose mistakes and affairs have wide rippling effects throughout the history of the show, but explained only recently.
Oh, and I almost forgot Brock Samspon, the curly blonde-haired murder machine who guards the Ventures when he's not a spy and who struggles with his lust for his ex, Molotov Cocktease. — Henry T. Casey
If all the grittiness and grimness of The Boys leaves you wishing for a palate cleanser, there's nothing better than The Tick. Ben Edlund's big, blue, nigh-invulnerable Tick is just the sort of winkingly aware take on superheroes we need when the avalanche of caped-crusader drama gets to be too much. And both seasons of the 2016 live-action series are already on Amazon!
The Tick, along with his trusty sidekick, Arthur, might save the world, or they may just grab a bite to eat. But the surrounding world is one filled with super-friends and villains, all poking fun at the tropes and formulas that seem to dominate today's media landscape. It's a meta-humor bonanza that will leave you chuckling at small moments and laughing out loud at larger set pieces. And while there are plenty of humorous takes on the superhero genre out there, The Tick might just be the most wholesome.
Whether it's government bureaucracy, organized crime or cataclysmic doom, The Tick faces every obstacle with his real superpower: An optimism that swings between inspiring hope and blind, stupid naivete. It's funny in all its forms, whether it's the original Saturday morning cartoon show, the short-lived series with Patrick Warburton, or the latest incarnation from Amazon. -- Brian Westover