5 Bizarro Marvel TV Shows That Almost Happened
Marvel Comics is, obviously, pretty good at making comics, but it took them a long time to stop crapping the bed in other areas. While they were printing out pure gold in the comics pages, Marvel was simultaneously coming up with some utterly baffling TV show ideas. Instead of just doing a show about Iron Man being Iron Man, they kept trying to sell producers on insane stuff like ...
The Captain America Show Set In WWII ... But Without Nazis
Captain America was created for the specific purpose of punching Hitler, by a man with first hand Nazi-killing experience no less. And yet, when Marvel tried to get a TV show about Cap off the ground in the '90s, it was decreed that the word "Nazis" couldn't be used to describe the villains. As we've covered, the X-Men cartoon similarly couldn't mention Magneto's Jewishness or the Holocaust, because as the old saying goes, "Those who fail to learn from history will have a swell time, because history is a bummer."
Now, there are plenty of Captain America stories in the comics that don't have Nazis as the villains, so what's the problem? The problem is that this show was going to be set in World War II, so ... which side is Cap supposed to be fighting in this promo reel?!
And yes, the whole show would have happened in WWII -- it's not like he gets frozen in the first episode and is learning about grunge music and Furbys by the second one. This caused troubles for veteran Captain America writer Steve Englehart when he wrote an episode called "Skullhenge," which (obviously) involved the Red Skull reshaping Stonehenge into a giant swastika. Englehart already had the episode mapped out when he was told they couldn't show swastikas either, ruining the entire motif of his masterpiece.
Another big problem with the show: despite having a perfectly good superhero secret identity name like "Steve Rogers" at their disposal, they decided that Cap's real name should be Tommy Tompkins, for some dumbass reason. Also, the storyboards for his buffing up scene makes us wonder if the animators didn't think they were making a Hulk cartoon.
In the end, the show never happened ... not because it was a terrible idea, but due to Marvel going broke at the time.
The Adventures Of Daredevil And Lightning, The Super Dog
As the Netflix show proved, Daredevil works best when the character is allowed to be all gritty and tormented. Dude's a blind orphan whose girlfriends keep getting murdered -- how could you possibly make a character like that fun and whimsical? Well, how about by giving him the cutest superhero sidekick ever created?
This show was actually greenlit by ABC in the '80s. According to the guy who wrote the series bible, "Lightning the Super Dog" wasn't actually super. He was a regular seeing-eye dog who helped Daredevil in a "Lassie" sort of way (presumably the main antagonist would have been a villain who pushes children down wells). It's still silly that the dog's only disguise consisted of assuming a poor posture, lazing around, and suddenly becoming much thinner. That's not a secret identity, that's just untreated depression.
Regardless, both ABC and Marvel were excited about the show, so what happened? This did:
No, Daredevil didn't accidentally shoot the dog. Reportedly, someone at ABC saw the cover of this famous Frank Miller issue and decided that this guy wasn't Saturday morning material. Considering that, a few issues later, our intrepid hero was playing Russian roulette with a paralyzed villain in a hospital bed, they may have been on to something there.
Marvel Made A Show Encouraging Kids To Be Astronauts ... Right Before The Challenger
Young Astronauts was a program launched by the White House to get kids hyped about exploring space, which is like trying to convince dogs that licking their balls is cool. This involved a TV show and a comic about a family that goes into space along with their cat and their wacky robot sidekick (a crossover with the Cat Astronauts and Wacky Robot Sidekick Astronauts programs). Both the comic and the show would have been handled by Marvel, which proudly spammed their readers with ads telling them to "blast off."
CBS, Marvel, and the Young Astronauts Council were involved in tense negotiations to determine how much of the show should be scientifically accurate and how much should be entertaining bullshit. By early 1986, Marvel had thirteen episodes in the can, and they were finally all set to air the cartoon. Nothing short of a disaster could stop them!
And then a disaster happened. On live TV. With every kid in America watching from their classroom.
The Space Shuttle Challenger blew up with a beloved schoolteacher inside it. Suddenly, CBS wasn't so thrilled about airing a show about children going into space. Reportedly, the pilot aired exactly once, three days before the Challenger violently got the show cancelled. Marvel ended up suing the Young Astronauts Council over their cut of some McDonald's toys that came out a few years later, and won. So hey, it wasn't a total waste.
Skrull Kill Krew Would Have Featured Shapeshifting Cows From Outer Space
Listen, all we know about this show is that it was listed as "in development" by Marvel in 2006, but if it was half as insane as the comic of the same name, it belongs in this list. Skull Kill Krew STARTS with alien cows. In an early issue of Fantastic Four, Mr. Fantastic hypnotizes some shapeshifting Skrull aliens into believing they're cows as a humane way to get rid of them, instead of killing them. Then he just leaves them on a pasture, having apparently forgotten what we do to hundreds of thousands of cows every day.
Skrull Kill Krew reveals that those cows were eventually slaughtered and turned into burgers. The Kill Krew is made out of random people who ate the burgers and gained superpowers ... including one called "dying painfully of an alien virus in the near future." So, they decide to band together to hunt and murder Skrulls posing as regular humans in our world. This is probably the only Marvel comic that opens with the heroes bursting into a classroom and shooting the teacher and a little kid.
Oh, and one of the Krew's members is a Neo-Nazis skinhead whose skin is slowly turning black due to the virus. He hates black people, but he works with the other characters because he hates green ones even more.
Yeah, before Iron Man or Thor had their own movies, Marvel said "You know who deserves their own live action adaptation? These freaks." Although who knows, we might be on the 19th entry on the Skull Kill Krew-verse if they'd started with these guys.
Marvel's Original Transformers Pitch: Muffy The Talking VW
In the '80s, Hasbro found itself with the rights to a bunch of transforming toys from Japan, but had no idea how to sell them. They approached Marvel about creating a backstory for these robots, and Marvel came up with ... Muffy (short for Muffler), a whimsical talking Volkswagen who hangs out with three human kids and their dog.
Yep, before settling on Optimus Prime and the gang, Marvel tried a more Hanna-Barbera-ish approach to the franchise. It's unclear how Muffy came to live with the humans. Is he from outer space like the Transformers? A regular car that was hit by lightning? A mutated member of the family? Did the father drunkenly stick it into an exhaust pipe one night, and then this happened? We might never know the precise details.
The above images were published by Marvel in 1985 (after Transformers had debuted) to tease a show called Car and Cable, so for decades, it was believed that they were simply trying to pull a GoBots and rip off their pals at Hasbro. But, in 2020, a new piece of concept art emerged, showing Muffy being threatened by one of the Japanese toys that would end up being used in Transformers. Which makes sense, because let's face it, these characters are ugly as hell (even before Michael Bay got involved).
In other words, Optimus Prime could have ended as a throwaway villain in a silly cartoon ... well, sillier than "ancient alien robots decide to look like '80s cars," anyway. Luckily, Hasbro went with another proposal, while Marvel had so much faith in this idea that they were apparently trying to make it happen on their own a few years later. Of course, a lot of this is merely speculation. All we know for sure is that Michael Bay would have definitely found a way to make it racist.
Top Image: Saban Entertainment