Hot on the heels of the success of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, comes news that Netflix is producing four (or five, depending on the way you count ‘em) series featuring the street-level Marvel heroes. Full season orders are completed for “Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, “Iron Fist”, and “Luke Cage”.
So, how does a casual fan react to the news? It sounds like just what I needed.
If you haven’t read about any of my recent attempts to get back into the world of Marvel comics, let’s just say it’s not going swimmingly. The impenetrable mythology has made it difficult to pick up a title with “well-known” characters and have any clue at all what’s going on. The Fantastic Four features characters I know only as “not-Reed Richards”, “not-Sue Storm”, “not-Johnny Storm”, and “not-Ben Grimm”. The book should be re-titled “Not the Fantastic Four”.
And, apparently Iron Man not only was revealed to be adopted, but he has a brother he never knew who was some kind of alien hybrid, or something. So confusing…
The Marvel movies provided a welcome respite. Stories with well-known characters that actually stick to what casual fans know about those characters.
And while I’ve been a huge fan of the Marvel movie universe, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has left me flat so far. I just don’t get the obsession with Agent Coulson. It’s like super-fans decided that it wasn’t “cool enough” to like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, or the Hulk. They decided to focus all the nerd energy on a character that initially looked like a side, throwaway S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
Now, this isn’t unusual in the annals of super-fandom. I’ll admit getting geeked out about side characters in my total geekery phase. You can still see my obsession with the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, Cloak and Dagger, and Firestar as examples.
So, as a casual fan, what I’m looking for is a show with characters I actually know FROM THE COMICS to have action and adventure LIKE THEY DO IN THE COMICS but in an easily digestible format without a ton of baggage.
And lest you get the wrong idea, I’ve got no problem with a ton of character mythology. It’s just easier to handle on television. I just started watching Doctor Who this year, and I love it! This is a show with 50 years of mythology, but I can watch the episodes (guess where) on Netflix, in order, and get caught up fairly easily. In fact, I started with the Ninth Doctor, just finished the Tenth, and have been popping back to watch the Third and Fourth. On TV, that’s easy enough to handle, even with a show that has 50 years of history. Trying to do the same with current Marvel comics is near impossible.
That’s why I’m excited about the announced deal with Netflix. Here are heroes I like, in a format I can handle. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that the future of the superhero is on the small screen. Joe Quesada said as much in 2009 at his Cup o’ Joe panel at San Diego ComicCon. At that time, he said that Marvel views their publishing arm as “R&D”, finding and exploring characters and storylines that resonate with comic readers so they can decide what to take to other media. That’s smart.
Overall, these are Marvel’s “street level” characters. I don’t know who came up with that term, or when, but it’s just kind of stuck. Each of these heroes operates out of Hell’s Kitchen – a place that sounded (and probably was in reality) much scarier in 1976 than today.
These heroes are taking on the threats that are grounded in a tough, gritty, urban landscape instead of the nice, shiny, gleaming Marvel universe where you’d expect to find Iron Man or Mister Fantastic. The Marvel version of Hell’s Kitchen is where punks would roll Peter Parker and steal his camera to sell for drugs.
The plan is for each character to get a 13 episode series (hopefully with some crossover), eventually resulting in a “Defenders” mini-series.
That’s the next move for Marvel outside of comics. I like it. I’m confused why Iron Fist and Luke Cage aren’t in a single “Heroes for Hire” series, but I’ll give them each a chance.
Coming up, I’m going to write a capsule on each show, highlighting the characters – my favorite storylines and what I hope they manage to do with each series.
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