Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How Much Superheroes is Too Much Superheroes?

Are you tired of superheroes yet? Well tough rocks – the spandex gang are bigger than ever, and have recently targeted the medium of television as their next conquest. Netflix is preparing to unleash no fewer than four new shows based on Marvel Comics characters.

The fine folks at Marvel Studios have been laying siege to the box office for a few years now. Riding the wave of popularity, the show Arrow has become an underground sensation, and will be used to launch no less than two other superhero shows in the next year (Hourman and The Flash… for now). On a more major network, Marvel has crossed over by sending their background characters the Agents of SHIELD to their own ongoing weekly.

The news has come out that Marvel and Netflix are seeking to recreate the magic of the Avengers on the small screen with a bevy of second-tier characters. These are folks who the average non-geek won’t recognize at all, but have unique and interesting enough stories to build a solid series around. 

The plan is to launch 4 (count ‘em FOUR) different shows on Netflix, that will all culminate in one larger cross-over mini-series. On paper, it’s a great concept. The characters they picked all show great promise. And so far, it seems that Netflix is headhunting good creative talent to make each show.

In short, everything looks really good so far… so why is an avowed comics nerd like myself still a little hesitant to jump on board this idea?

Because too much superheroes, that’s why.

Listen, it’s hard enough to make one great show. But to try and execute FOUR great shows at once? All set in the same place (Hell’s Kitchen) at the same time (now-ish, I’d assume) in the same genre? The truth is, even if all four shows are insanely good, it still might be too much.

The market is flooding, so let’s flood the market the most!

It’s a gamble, no doubt, but Marvel has rigged it so the odds are ever in their favor. If any of the four shows are successful, then BAM they have a new cash cow which they can parlay into more seasons of the show, or even their own movie. If any or all of the shows are not successful, then they are just abandoned: it doesn’t cost Marvel a lot of money or credibility, because no one really knew that character to begin with.
So who are the new heroes on the block?

Luke Cage
Also known as Power Man, Mr. Cage has a long history in the comics as a tough guy with a heart of gold. Originally, he was sort of like John Shaft with powers – bullets bounced off his ironhide skin and he could bench press an armored car filled with jive turkeys. Cage is the type of hero we haven’t seen on screen before. Also, he’s black, and a major African-American superhero is something that is long overdue. Unless you count Hancock. Which I do not.

Iron Fist
Back in the day, this super-kung-fu master was teamed up with Luke Cage – as Heroes for Hire, they were the premier salt-and-pepper duo in all of comics. The angle of a hero with the power of Super Fu is unique, and could play well as a balls-out action show. But will they be able to overcome Fist’s real handicap… his lack of a cool character to go with his cool abilities?

Shut up about Ben Affleck’s Daredevil. Yes, the movie was terrible, but that was neither the fault of Affleck or Daredevil himself. The Man Without Fear has always been a dark and gritty version of Spider Man, and in the comics he has proven that he is only as good as his writer. With a powerful story, Daredevil could be the best show of the bunch. But if they rely too much on the (admittedly lame) gimmicks like the blindness or the super-lawyering, it will end up on the junk pile.

Jessica Jones
Who the hell is Jessica Jones? You may be asking. She doesn’t even have a super name! That said, her story will translate to episodic TV the most easily, and give viewers a completely original take on the genre. In a nutshell, Jones is a disgraced and forgotten former costumed hero, who now works as a private investigator taking cases in the world of supers. It was a unique comic, and could be the dark horse of this whole bunch.

Four shows, four heroes, four – to be honest – interesting concepts. And if it all plays out well, it could lead to one hell of an epic mini-series bringing them all together. So my inner fanboy is cautiously optimistic. But on the other hand, even as a fanboy the prospect of keeping up with 4 super shows at once makes me feel burned out before I’ve even watched one episode.

There is, of course, one sure fire way to get me hooked. They need a good villain, an established Marvel comics character who can make each and every show better simply by showing up. He has the background and mainstream recognition to raise the profile of the shows, and the great unpredictable character to make all the storylines electric.

I’m talking, of course, about the Punisher. He of the 3 failed movies, he with the power of super-violence, he who sees himself as a hero while the heroes see him as a villain.

Note to Netflix – get Big Pun in the mix, and I’m on board.

So, what’s your take on all this? Are you psyched about the new batch of Marvel heroes taking over your streaming service, or could you not care less?

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