It's MARVEL's World, We're All Just Living in It1 of 12Marvel and Disney dropped a bomb on the internet this morning, when they announced with Netflix that they are bringing four TV series and a mini-series to the digital service. The series, starring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, will combine into The Defenders after each thirteen episode show concludes.
It's the Avengers model Marvel Studios made famous, applied to TV. And with Netflix as a producer/distributor, it means a lessened risk for Disney/Marvel.
But after the excitement of the announcement died down, we were left with lots of questions. Here are the ten biggest ones, as assembled by the Newsarama Staff.
Will DC Embrace the "Shared Universe" Model?2 of 12DC Entertainment has a bonafide hit on their hands with Arrow, and the star of that show, Stephen Amell, has made it well known that he would love to make the move to the film universe. While DC and WB have said they're expanding the film world, adding Batman (and possibly others) to the sequel to Man of Steel, and that they are preparing a Justice League movie, we don't know if it will build upon the world of Arrow, not to mention the other five series in development for television.
We have already said at length that we'd like to see that happen, but will it? Well, Amell appearing as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow would be the first real step, but there is still a problem - while the CW is behind several of DC's series in development, they're not behind all of them, making a shared universe across all of the television series practically impossible. But even if it was to be just the CW shows and the films, it would be a step in the right direction - and give them something comparable to what Marvel Studios has and is going to accomplish.
Is STAR WARS Next?3 of 12Well, now that Marvel Studios is rolling along on the big screen and small, when will Disney be turning their mouse ears towards that other recent acquisition, Lucasfilm?
Star Wars: Rebels will have an early start in the fall of 2014, and Star Wars: Episode VII is hitting theaters on December 18, 2015. But surely, those are only the first two pieces of the puzzle, and Disney didn't make such a huge purchase for just that…
Sure, there are "some games" on the way from EA (we do know one is Battlefront and we are insanely happy about that), but surely there must be more. There are rumors of origin movies and other solo spotlights, but why not do some of that on television - or better yet, on Netflix? Yes, the Marvel Universe is huge, with street-level heroes, world-savers, and those who guard the galaxy, but the Star Wars universe is huge as well, spawning hundreds of novels and thousands of comic books in the "Expanded Universe" of stories. Those stories reach across thousands of years, and multiple genres, from spy stories featuring Imperial Agents to war epics, from epic Knightly dramas featuring Jedi to ruthless bounty hunters and underground warlords. There is a Star Wars story for fans of every stripe, and surely this kind of deal could help Disney tell the ones they wanted.
Can THE PUNISHER, GHOST RIDER & BLADE Be Far Behind?4 of 12Daredevil seems to be the biggest star in the rollout for the Marvel/Netflix deal. Part of that is a given due to his higher stature than the other characters, but for the general public it has another interesting distinction: it was a live-action movie. So given how Marvel, who re-acquired the movie rights to Daredevil earlier this year, is using the character now in a television format it begs the question: what about the other Marvel characters who had movies but fell short? We're talking the Punisher, Ghost Rider and Blade.
The Punisher seems like an obvious choice given his similar street-level roots as Daredevil. And Hollywood bean-counters can't take to heart the Punisher and his villains don’t have expensive superpowers to up the special effects budget. Of all the movies based on Marvel characters released since 2000, the three Punisher movies were their least expensive to make. Marvel is notorious in Hollywood for trying to keep their budgets as tight as possible, and the Punisher could be a great low-cost series with some potential high rewards.
Ghost Rider might be a different story - putting a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle ain’t cheap. But what if Marvel dug into their history and used a trick similar to the original Hulk TV series, which employed the Hulk very sparingly and instead focused on human drama and a little bit of smoke and mirrors. Story-wise, Ghost Rider has one of the most fertile playgrounds – between the original stories by Gary Friedrich all the way to the under-rated run by Jason Aaron, there’s a lot of ideas to exploit.
Finally, Blade could be their secret weapon. Although he’s never been able carve out a long-term run in comics, in live-action film Marvel discovered he has potential and interest from fans. Forget the Spike TV series from 2006, and instead think back to the first two Blade movies and imagine how that vampire drama could be turned into a serialized television story.
Who Will Play IRON FIST?5 of 12Daredevil is a blind man also identified as a faithful Roman Catholic. Luke Cage is African-American, and Jessica Jones is of course a woman (duh). Fairly diverse cross-section of headliners there, at least in the relative terms of comic book superheroes.
So we can’t help but wonder will Marvel stay faithful to the comic book and make Iron Fist a blond-haired, blue-eyed martial arts expert?
Let’s be clear here, we know NOT all Asians know martial arts and there is absolutely no reason a Caucasian can’t be a martial arts expert. We’re not going there. In truth, the reason we bring it up isn’t a “diversity” issue … it’s a following the money issue.
It’s no secret parts of Iron Man 3 were filmed in China in part to broaden the appeal of the film in Asian markets. It’s probably also one of the reasons Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing was cast in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Adding locales and stars that appeal to foreign markets is no doubt an emerging trend for studio tentpoles. And while Netflix hasn’t yet expanded into Asia (the white whale of emerging international markets), who knows if that will be the case in 2015-16?
Iron Fist gives Marvel something of opportunity with some logic behind it to add a legitimate Asian star to their Cinematic Universe. We’ll see if they take it.
How involved will BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS Be?6 of 12Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis was the driving force in making both Daredevil and Luke Cage popular again in the modern age, and he (along with Michael Gaydos) created Jessica Jones and established her as a major part of the Marvel Universe in Alias. So given this announcement – specifically with this group of characters – an interesting question comes up: could, and should, Bendis be involved with these television productions?
Bendis was famously pulled in at the last minute to script the post-credits scene of Iron Man which set the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe in motion, and since then Marvel has put him to work on two different Spider-Man animated series. Marvel TV Head Jeph Loeb was probably behind that hire, and given these new Netflix deals would also fall under Loeb then he might already be thinking the same thing we are.
If Marvel is interesting, two hurdles still remain: Bendis’ schedule and Bendis himself. The writer is currently writing four titles for Marvel (some shipping bi-monthly) and event series like Cataclysm, as well as three creator-owned titles. In addition to that, Bendis continues to work with FX on a television adaptation of Powers and also writing episodes of Ultimate Spider-Man the animated series. That makes Bendis a busy, busy man – too busy perhaps to commit to a live action television project for Marvel. But given his personal stake in Jessica Jones, his ties to Daredevil and his personal affection for the Luke Cage character, he might be open to shifting things on his plate.
Can This Advance the BINGE VIEWING Phenomena?7 of 12If you’re like us and wait weekly for every new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Walking Dead and Arrow, these new Marvel programs on Netflix could be help usher along what may be an emerging and game-changing TV dynamic. If these new Marvel shows on Netflix do follow the release pattern of the service’s previous shows, full seasons would be available all at once.
And that might not be a bad idea.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has said he doesn’t think his show would have reached “critical mass” without binge-watching. Although Breaking Bad was serialized weekly on AMC, previous seasons of the shows were readily available on Netflix and other platforms allowing viewers who didn’t catch the series when it launched to catch up quickly.
Gilligan also believes viewers who binge-watch, for Breaking Bad at least, are “more rewarded” because their memories of previous episodes are fresher.
In 2012 Netflix released metrics about the habits of its customer base, saying that on average each subscriber watches 6.8 episodes of television shows via Netflix per week – that’s a 38% increase from 2009. With many new subscribers and much more content, the numbers today in 2013 could be much higher.
In effect, these 13-episode first seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage won’t be television shows, but rather 13-hour movies dropped in viewers laps with intermissions every hour. Sure budgets might not be in the $150 million-plus range of the movies, but reported the Hell’s Kitchen backdrop could go a long way in stretching Marvel and Netflix’s dollar
The dominant TV-watching model has been in place since the very invention of the medium. Could a deal of this size and potential be a tipping point for a TV sea change?
Has Marvel Just Identified Their TV Niche?8 of 12Remember the scene in Marvel’s the Avengers in which Captain America directs a NYC cop to help protect civilians during the Chitauri attack on Manhattan?
This is exactly the conceptual (not literal) narrative niche these four series and then “The Defenders” (say that again please) event can exist in - superheroes protecting the people on the “street-level” when the epic Marvel Universe superpowers battles rage on ‘above.’
Fans around the world have mostly overlooked what must have been a significant body count during that scene in an otherwise family-friendly film, and Marvel has maybe identified a natural response to that.
This astute aping of the Phase 1 film model but with a more grounded twist could be the ying to the Avengers yang. The Avengers take the global-type battle to the threats, and the Defenders protect the people.
Which might also mean…
Will This Work Better Than AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.?9 of 12Yes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still early in its life and yes Joss Whedon has legitimately earned his reputation as a stronger closer than he is a starter, but ABC’s weekly series is always going to face an uphill battle with the issue of scale. Trying to depict what should be a super-funded, globetrotting spy organization on a TV budget will never be easy.
And that’s not even mentioning S.H.I.E.L.D.’s need to appeal to broadcast network advertisers. Again, it’s early, but S.H.I.E.L.D.feels like weekly episodic broadcast TV, where as The Walking Dead (for example) feels more like a mini-event.
This Netflix model at least suggests the potential to be a more easy fit with the big-budget films, and perhaps a conceptually better response to the films.
Yes, Marvel has every reason to expand the “Cinematic Universe”, but every episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. chips away a little at what makes the heroes of the films so special. By making the Universe bigger every week – by discovering new tech and more people with powers – it’s actually making it ‘smaller’ … the extraordinary too ordinary … perhaps too quickly.
How Much Further Can the Line Between Screens Be Blurred?10 of 12Of course Phil Coulson anchors Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders have already done cameos, and Marvel will try their hand at a Thor: The Dark World-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tie-in later this month, but the Netflix model may offer the opportunity to further break down the walls between the big and small screen.
First of all, binge-style viewing (see above) already more closely approximates the more “event” status of feature films, and the presumed production schedule of the 13-episode finite model could potentially open the doors to a wider talent pool. The essentially yearlong, multi-year, commitment network TV shows entail can sometimes be prohibitive to actors with active feature film careers.
And at first glance it seems relatively easy to imagine the heroes of these announced shows making the jump to at least cameos in the films. Who knows how this cross-pollination of film and TV will ultimately play out, but it appears as if good or bad, Marvel and Disney will be pioneers.
What Does This Mean for MARVEL COMICS?11 of 12Daredevil's series ends early 2014. Iron Fist hasn't had a solo comic in a few years, and he and Luke Cage have only been in Mighty Avengers for a couple of months - a series that Jessica Jones is a bit, background character in, to make the most of her status there.
While the publishing arm of Marvel likes to tell people that they aren't governed by the greater entertainment arm, there have been certain synergies. Bendis's Guardians of the Galaxy series launched (with film star Iron Man in tow) just as the live action film of the same name was announced and got started. Thor: The Dark World features the villain Malekith, who coincidentally is the feature villain in the comic book Thor: God of Thunder for an arc right now.
So while right now, comic books featuring these characters may be scarce (even the name Defenders doesn't seem to be going too well right now - Fearless Defenders ends this year), we wouldn't be surprised to see a big push for all four of these characters sometime next year, giving us just enough time to have a trade or two in place before the TV series start launching in 2015 on Netflix.
In the meantime, read Waid's Daredevil, Bendis's Alias and New Avengers, and Fraction's Iron Fist, and the current Mighty Avengers. Seriously, go.
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