There was a brief period in the late ’70s when Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk were all airing on network television. We realize that the late ’70s might as well be the Stone Age as far as the internet is concerned, but that should give folks an idea of just how long it’s been since there was more than one live-action superhero TV show on the air at once.
These are very different times. We’ve known for quite some awhile that Arrow would return for a third season, but in the last week, we’ve been overwhelmed with the news that The Flash series has been picked up by the CW (as well as iZombie), Constantine has gone to series with NBC, FOX’s improbable Batman prequel, Gotham, would see airtime, and that Agents of SHIELD was not only renewed for season two, but that it would get its own spinoff/sidequel, Agent Carter.
We’re dizzy with anticipation. Here’s a quick rundown for you.
We’re leading with The Flash because this is potentially the biggest deal of them all. How can this be? The CW doesn’t pull anything resembling the numbers that the other networks on this list (NBC, FOX, and NBC…CBS remains the sole holdout from the superhero party at the moment), but The Flash is potentially the most high-profile and action figure ready name on the schedule (although a case could be made for FOX’s Batman prequel, Gotham). It also helped that his introduction on Arrow was one of the best and most well received episodes of the series.
With the most visual power set, the most iconic costume, the most primary colors, and a cast that includes Glee’s Grant Gustin and serious continuity ties to the CW’s ascendant Arrow, The Flash is the most explicitly and unapologetically “superhero” show of the bunch. If the show is a hit, expect Warner Bros. to deliberately not say a word about whether their TV universe ties into its film one (don’t hold your breath), driving fans into a frenzy as they try and get Grant Gustin to join the big screen Justice League.
No night or time slot information is available yet. That should change soon, though.
Ever wonder how Jim Gordon went about cleaning up Gotham City before he was getting an assist from a millionaire dressed like a flying rodent? If early fan reaction is anything to go by, Gotham is going to be the most divisive show in fandom. Setting aside any concerns about the potential problems of doing a Batman show without Batman (kindly keep your Smallville jokes to yourself), Gotham unveiled a dynamic, cinematic trailer in celebration of FOX ordering the show to series…and it looks pretty good.
A solid cast (Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon and Donal Logue as his partner, Detective Harvey Bullock), a trailer that was heavy on the Batman mythology, and a thoughtful showrunner in Bruno Heller (Rome, The Mentalist) mean that Gotham might have a fighting chance to win over skeptical fans. Whether you’re watching out of genuine interest or watching in the hope it crashes and burns, one thing is certain: you’ll be watching.
Gotham will air on Monday nights at 8 pm on FOX beginning this September.
The wild card of the bunch, Agent Carter is a more unique prospect than some of its other super brethren. For starters, it takes place in a Marvel Universe potentially devoid of super-characters. Why? Because it’s set in 1946, while Captain America is still a freshly frozen capsicle, leaving Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to run secret missions with Howard Stark and transform their little organization into what will eventually become SHIELD.
Word on the street is that Agent Carter will get a relatively small episode order, and will probably air during Agents of SHIELD’s mid-season hiatus. The limited episode order should make for a higher budget, and perhaps allow for other marquee names (like Dominic Cooper) to spend a little time in the spotlight, as well. While big movie studios are still scuffling their feet trying to figure out how to make Wonder Woman work on the big screen, Marvel is bringing a female super secret agent to prime time.
Agents of SHIELD Season 2
After a difficult first season that was as much marred as much by impossible fan expectations as it was questionable writing and a lack of genuine villains, Agents of SHIELD hit its stride in the final third of season one. It took all year, but the show finally found a balance between fairly regular bits of Marvel movie fan-service and actually convincing viewers that there was something at stake for the show’s chosen group of super secret agents.
With any luck, Agents of SHIELD season two will continue this upward trend. With only one Marvel film scheduled for release during the season proper (May’s Avengers: Age of Ultron), the show should be able to carve its own destiny a little more confidently than it did in its freshman year, where it was hampered by the impending shockwaves of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s hard to paint a Marvel show with Disney behind it airing on ABC as an underdog, but it will be nice to see if Agents of SHIELD can shake the rust off quickly in its second season, and hopefully be less shy about showing off some Marvel Comics villains that matter.
Arrow Season 3
Arrow‘s steady evolution during its second season from a CW soap with occasional bouts of action into what is, without question, the most intricate and easter egg heavy superhero TV series of all time, makes us wonder just what season three has in store. If you’re a DC Comics fan waiting for Warner Bros. to catch up to Marvel Studios in the fan service department, you’re only hurting yourself by not joining the fun on Arrow each week.
Since season two introduced us to a full-blown Deathstroke, the Suicide Squad, assorted references to and appearances by various Teen Titans and Birds of Prey…not to mention the actual introduction of Barry Allen/The Flash and some serious teases of a certain Gotham City based vigilante, we can only wonder what season 3 will show off.
TV has an obsession with anti-heroes, and John Constantine fits the bill. The sorcerer, con man, and supernatural investigator is generally a bit of a rat bastard, but has a rakish charm, wit, and a certain rock star appeal. When the show was first announced, it seemed like it was going to simply be NBC’s supernatural answer to the procedural format, with a scruffy anti-hero who just happens to talk to demons…but the trailer looks like Constantine has a bit more of a horror edge to it than anyone expected.
We wouldn’t ever accuse John Constantine of being a hero, super or otherwise, but his recent makeover in DC Comics’ New 52 has put him quite firmly in regular dialogue with a number of DC’s more well known caped crusaders. Hell, he even regularly appears in a Justice League book (to be fair, it’s the magic and horror themed Justice League Dark). The fact that Constantine has David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel) involved, and he’s already promised that there will be other DC heroes, villains, and otherwise popping in, it would be wrong not to include this one.
Like Constantine, iZombie is not strictly a superhero show, but it still deserves inclusion. First off, if a zombie is using her undead abilities (in this case, an ability to absorb memories by eating the brains of the recently deceased) in order to solve crimes, we suppose that could, if you squint a bit and ignore the smell, make her a superhero. iZombie comes from the pages of DC Comics and was created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred. While the show is clearly taking some liberties with the source material, the core concept remains, and the firepower of Veronica Mars‘ Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero behind it means that iZombie should at least compete for your time.
Most importantly (alright, well, this isn’t really the most important part of this), correct us if we’re wrong, but does this mark the first time a character co-created by Michael Allred has made the jump to television? We will continue to hold our breath in the hopes of seeing Madman (singular, not to be confused with, you know, that really popular show) on the big or small screen some day…
Quite a list, isn’t it? And this doesn’t even take non-super (but equally comic book based) shows like The Walking Dead season 5 into account, or 2015 offerings like Ronin, Letter 44, and Marvel’s slate of Netflix shows. The new golden age of TV may already be in full swing, but we may also be witnessing the birth of the golden age of comic book television.