In an era where both movie and TV landscapes are populated with superheroes, some viewers have ended up becoming disgruntled. Understandably, not everyone enjoys watching people flying or shooting lasers. Even some of Hollywood's biggest names aren't superhero fans.
But there are some superhero programs that are very palatable to even the most skeptical viewer. These shows heavily use elements from other genres or incorporate plenty of real-world themes. Others heavily deviate from the comics that inspired them, meaning audiences don't have to have read the books at all. These shows establish that someone doesn't need to be a superfan to watch superheroes.
10 Watchmen (2019)
Watchmen's events -- which center around battles between the Tulsa Police Department and a white supremacist organization -- are based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Elseworlds comic, but are still independent since what happens in the series takes place 34 years later. Thus viewers don't have to have any knowledge of the comic book.
Rather than dwell in fantasy worlds as most superhero projects do, the HBO series stays relevant to modern times by heavily dissecting racism, the flaws of the criminal justice system and police brutality. Apart from avoiding scenes that require suspension of belief, the show inserts a few real events -- notably the infamous Black Wall Street massacre. Sadly, there was only one season of Watchmen, making it one of the good superhero shows that was too brief.
9 The Punisher (2017)
Marvel’s The Punisher hardly feels like a superhero show since none of the main characters have superpowers. The titular character Frank Castle isn’t a hero either. He lives by his own code and is solely motivated by the desire to inflict punishment on everyone who was responsible for harming his family. As such, The Punisher prioritizes action over any kind of interconnected plot, making it one of the most easily accessible Marvel shows.
Each episode is littered with intense beatdowns. The most memorable ones are Castle brutalizing a Homeland Security agent with a toaster and his uses all kinds of gym equipment to defeat muscular Russian goons. There’s too much of the one-man army trope here, but viewers are unlikely to ever get tired of it since each fight Castle finds himself in unique.
8 Raising Dion (2019)
Although it centers on the protagonist's exploration of his superpowers, Raising Dion will be irresistible to skeptics since it has a very likable protagonist. Dion Warren has a strong set of principles and is a dedicated animal rights activist. He thus has different priorities than just looking for superpowered baddies to beat.
Despite being one of the most obscure superheroes, Dion has a greater sense of responsibility compared to other child protagonists. The show focuses as much on his bond with his mother as it does his heroic journey. Viewers get treated to a heartwarming show that’s about parenting and family, while saving the world is simply part of that story.
7 Agent Carter (2015-2016)
Agent Carter is more similar to popular spy TV shows than its fellow Marvel projects. Scenes such as Peggy Carter infiltrating a high-end club to retrieve molecular nitramine and decrypting an encoded message from Levathian wouldn't be out of place in a James Bond movie. The series is also worth watching for lovers of period dramas like Downton Abbey, since it takes place post-World War II.
While Peggy and other main characters have strong links to Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, the Avengers are only referenced. The show's key connections to the MCU are through Tony's father Howard Stark (an excellent Dominic Cooper) and Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy), both of whom stand on their own. Thus audiences can enjoy Agent Carter even if they don't know Marvel canon.
6 Stan Lee’s Lucky Man (2016)
Stan Lee’s Lucky Man chronicles the adventures of Central London detective Harry Clayton. But despite Lee's involvement, it interestingly isn’t part of the Marvel Universe. The Marvel legend told Digital Spy he created the series as a response to a question about the power he would like to have the most: the ability to control one’s luck.
Though Harry has that very special power, Lucky Man uses the character to provide discourse about human behavior. Harry goes on to use his abilities to gain an advantage in casinos rather than solve murders. He engages in other vices such as hiding evidence and stealing, knowing he won’t be caught. He is definitely not a superhero, even though he was created by one of the best-known comic book icons of all time.
5 Constantine (2014-2015)
Constantine is an occult detective drama, so it had a legitimate reason to not include any superhero elements. Though it’s based on a DC Comics character, the series focuses on English exorcist John Constantine’s efforts to hunt down demons. He doesn't have superpowers in the normal sense; he has occult abilities like scrying and necromancy. Because of this, horror fans will find it easy to watch the show without having to dig into any DC lore.
Most importantly, the single season of the NBC series did not include any interactions with other DC heroes. That came much later, when Matt Ryan reprised his role of Constantine within The CW's Arrowverse. Within his solo series, he had his own stellar supporting cast; fan-favorite Harold Perrineau (Lost, From) was a series regular as the angel Manny.
4 Misfits (2009 – 2013)
People who hate superheroes because they all seem to tell the same story will enjoy Misfits, whose main characters are absolutely not interested in using their powers to do good. The teenage delinquents get their powers after a lightning strike and only end up being more irresponsible. The series is the complete opposite of a superhero show.
The teens are so chaotic accidentally cause their probation officer’s death. Their crass adventures also involve plenty of humor, particularly from one character who's disgruntled and jealous because he hasn’t figured out what his powers are. Overall, Misfits is about a group of average young adults who just happen to have special abilities -- with all the drama that entails.
3 Gotham (2014-2019)
Gotham is set in Gotham City -- but without Batman, making it palatable to fans of all genres. It’s more of a procedural because Gotham City detective (and future Commissioner) James Gordon is its protagonist. While many members of Batman's rogues' gallery appear, most of them are treated like criminal masterminds instead of larger than life supervillains, with the show focused on telling the story of the city rather than its future hero.
None of the baddies ever manage to become global threats like they do in the Batman comics. Even without having a Caped Crusader to help, Gordon is able to do his best to protect Gotham. And while Bruce Wayne appears, he's much younger in the series and only takes significant strides toward becoming Batman as the series nears its end.
2 Jessica Jones (2015-2019)
Jessica Jones’ titular protagonist isn’t interested in using her powers. She behaves more like the troubled person from a prestige TV drama: drinking excessively, overworking herself after taking up a career as a private investigator and failing to manage her money. Her story would be just as compelling if it focused on her as a person, and her being a reluctant hero just adds another layer.
As some form of respite, Jessica is granted a romantic relationship that would easily fit into any other drama series. She dates Luke Cage -- another hero who isn't always heroic -- and the two share many sweet moments. And Jessica solves ordinary cases that many of the most loved TV detectives could have handled. While she does battle supervillains, there's enough other plot in the show to keep both fans and non-fans watching.
1 The Boys (2019-Present)
The Boys heavily dives into themes of capitalism, corruption and consumerism. It centers around a group of superheroes who are adored by American citizens -- but are marketed by Vought International, which highly profits from them. They may appear to be heroes, but in this crass and violent series, they're anything but.
What makes The Boys the best show for those that hate superheroes is that it questions how normal people would behave if they had powers. Anyone who gained Superman’s abilities might not be flying around saving the world; they could be condescending and tyrannical like Homelander. The Prime Video series is the exact opposite of a superhero TV show -- and then goes several steps further over the proverbial line.