There are reports emerging that Marvel has created a new company arm called Marvel Television.
Appointed with bringing some of Marvel’s lesser known characters to the small screen is veteran writer Jeph Loeb. While he’s been criticised recently for demolishing the Ultimate universe and making the Hulk family books nearly unreadable, there is no denying that, consdiering his past work on the Colours, Batman and acclaimed Hush books, as well as his experience with television production (working on Smallville and Heroes) and films (he wrote Teen Wolf and Commando), he is a perhaps the best writer to take Marvel franchises onto television.
So, for those trying to forget Blade: The Series, Mutant X and the pile of rubbish that represented Marvel’s attempt to bring its heroes to life in the early 1990s (Generation X, Power Pack, NightMan), here are some suggestions as to where the publisher could look to get some inspiration for small screen debuts.
Heroes For Hire
While it has been rumoured that Power Man, aka Luke Cage, would be getting the cinematic treatment by John Singleton for many years, and that his partner Danny ‘Iron Fist’ Rand would be bought to the cinema in the form of Ray Park, it seems that the chances of ever seeing these two at your multiplex are quite limited.
However, that’s not to say the Heroes For Hire concept could not easily be translated into a successful television series.
For those who have never read the comics, this buddy book has been around since the 1970s, and sees streetwise Cage, with his bulletproof skin and super strength, teamed up with kung fu expert Rand to work as heroes, but getting paid for the jobs they do.
While the appeal of blaxploitation and karate in the 70s was high, and it may seem Power Man And Iron Fist was only riding on the crazes of the time, the duo have remained popular and have since become cult fan favourites.
Having a television show based around these two would be fantastic, bringing in both the street level gangs of Cage and the mythical elements of Iron Fist to produce a wide reaching action adventure show, and who wouldn’t want to see Iron Fist’s martial arts buddy Fat Cobra bought to television?
Okay, I admit that I quite liked Marvel’s attempt to bring The Man Without Fear to the cinema, and while Ben Affleck may have been miscast in the title role, there is a lot to love about the movie (Bullseye, Foggy Nelson, the isolation tank sleeping arrangements, the sonar view and the battered teeth getting pulling out in the shower scene), but two hours wasn’t enough to really delve into the world of Daredevil.
A mix of crime drama, noir and hints of mystical and religious themes via a bit of martial arts, Daredevil‘s comics have enjoyed a wave of popularity since Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada released the crimson-clad vigilante onto an unsuspecting comic reading audience just over a decade ago as part of the Marvel Knights initiative.
Only really popular thanks to Frank Miller’s run on the book, the character had drifted into near obscurity, but with this boost, followed by an acclaimed run by Brian Michael Bendis, the character has had a resurgence in popularity and a steady stream of high class writers delving into the character’s different angles.
With the Shadowland book coming out, the character’s dark side is really being brought out, and now more than ever a transition to a gritty and hard hitting television adaptation such as The Wire or Underbelly would be great, playing on the character’s interaction with street level crime rather than acrobatics and his dealings with other Marvel superheroes.
Admittedly, Marvel already tried this in the 1990s (the pilot, or bits of it, are, of course, on YouTube) with little success. However, the idea of four kids receiving superpowers, a cool spaceship and aided by friendly aliens to combat giant lizard monsters could make a great TV series.
With a cool set of elemental powers (mass, energy, gravity and light), the teenage comic series ran throughout the 80s and 90s and appeared in a more child-friendly form in the Marvel Adventures line of books.
Whether going for a Twilight-style teen show or a more kid friendly, lighthearted approach, the concept, characters and setting would make for perfect television.
A mix of superheroes and Canadian myths, Alpha Flight was a superteam created by John Byrne back in the early 1980s. Alpha Flight started off as protagonists for the X-Men, but proved popular enough (much to the dislike of Byrne) to have their own spin-off comic that lasted for well over one hundred issues.
And while it would be impractical to bring some of the characters to the small screen (such as Sasquatch, a 10 foot tall bigfoot) on a weekly basis, the idea of the supernatural and mythical elements of the series could make for an interesting weekly show: a government funded group of heroes who are there to protect North America from unruly gods, tricksters, ghosts and great beasts with Snowbird, Shaman, Talisman and Guardian forming the core team.
Under the hand of somebody like Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daises and Wonderfalls), this quirky fan favorite team could easily make the transition to television.
Ghost Rider and the Midnight Sons
If we forget Blade: Trinity (please forget Blade: Trinity), the Midnight Sons were a theme that was introduced to the wider viewing public thanks to the toned frames of Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds, and while they were, quite frankly, rubbish in an even more rubbish film, the notion that there were vampire slayers other than Blade running around the Marvel Universe bought up some great ideas and considerable potential.
A mix of occultists, monster hunters and incarnations of Ghost Rider, the entire supernatural line could be thrown into the series.
From the more human Frank Drake to the parasitic vampire Morbius, Danny Ketch, and the Caretaker, all these supernatural and magical characters could be brought in to fight some of Marvel’s forgotten formidable creatures like Blackout, the Darkhold Cult, Blackthorn, Lilith and Centurious.
A mix of Buffy, Supernatural and Vampire Diaries could make this a fantastic foray for Marvel onto television.
Teens on the run with a dinosaur, a set of futuristic superweapons and a Hello Kitty-obsessed ten-year-old who can lift a juggernaut, all hiding from a set of parents who are members of a secret society hell-bent on world domination. What’s not to like?
And while Marvel has recently dropped the ball (okay, dropped the ball on numerous occasions recently) with trying to capture the comic perfection of Brian K Vaughn and Adrian Alphona’s initial take on these teen heroes (even Joss Whedon couldn’t pull it off), the ideas behind Runaways would make for an excellent television show.
With an eclectic cast of teen heroes, personalities and powers ranging from witches, jocks, science nerds to feisty loners, the show really could be as popular as something like Glee (though obviously without the singing), with teen dysfunction and trying to fit in with the in crowd being as big a part to the show as stopping the series of unworldly threats the team had to face.
After numerous superhero battles, cities like New York need to be rebuilt. It’s lucky, then, that in the Marvel Universe there is Damage Control, a superhuman construction company, to clean up the mess. While never hugely popular, Damage Control would nevertheless make a fantastic television series.
The series could be a mockumentary like The Office or Cloverfield, but about a group of heroes having to deal with the fallout of a battle between the Fantastic Four and the Mole Man’s monsters, who clear up the hole in the centre of New York after the famous cover of Fantastic Four issue one, who dismantle all the death rays, and clean up Fing Fang Foom’s poo.
The idea that this company has to do all the dirty work would make for a great comedy filled show.
Damage Control could also be an ideal vehicle for a range of Marvel Universe cameos. Think how cool it would be to see She Hulk as the legal advisor, Hercules downing beers with construction workers, or SHIELD agents assessing how much it would cost to repair a car…
Marvel’s Dirty Dozen book has always been about villains trying to find redemption. Whether it’s the first incarnation run by Baron Zemo, or the most recent incarnations of the team led by Norman Osbourne, the characters of Thunderbolts have always muddied the waters when it comes to heroics.
With personal gain, a path towards making amends, or just plain thrills, the books’ range of characters and depth could make for a perfect television show. With a rotating cast, potential candidates easily being killed off, and the idea that nobody is safe making for great viewing.
With a power set that wouldn’t be too difficult to put on screen, characters like The Fixer could easily be computer hackers with little or no need for special effects. Songbird and Moonstone wouldn’t need a lot of expensive effects spent on their power set, and bringing the armour of Mach V to life could easily be done, as was shown in Iron Man.
Captain Marvel/Marvel Boy
Not to be confused with DC’s Shazam character or the ‘other’ Captain Marvels floating around the Marvel Universe (Genis and Phyla Vell, Carol Danvers, and Monica Rambeau – phew!).
Noh-Varr was created by Grant Morrison as part of the Marvel Knights line, and was a completely new take on the ‘alien invasion and infiltration’ angle. A genetic warrior from another dimension bred from cockroach DNA, this incarnation of Captain Marvel is packed with weird and wonderful elements, and while the limited series only lasted a few issues, the notions of the book could be ideal for an ongoing series.
Whether it was the Plex hive-mind that was Captain Marvel’s companion (which looked like a giant bogey with a face), or the intelligent Brand X-product placement alien invasion, the series had more ideas per page than a lot of other comics on the shelf, and showed that intelligent sci-fi writing could easily be adapted for the comic format.
While the new Marvel is currently starring in Avengers as The Protector (with the worst superhero costume of all time), the idea of a strange teenager from another dimension trying to fit in with humanity while attempting to save them from a eclectic array of monsters, creatures and threats is a perfect action adventure show waiting to happen.
“Magic and mystery are part of their history.” Oh, sorry, that was the Gummi Bears.
While Doctor Strange isn’t a bouncing ball of Disney fun, Marvel’s master of the mystic arts could very well be a great adaptation for television. He has recently had an animated movie dedicated to him (which was surprisingly modern and fun), yet the good Doctor has not had a mainstream book to call his own for many years, but has remained popular from numerous appearances in other books, specials or limited series as the go-to guy for all things mystical and scary in the Marvel Universe.
Marvel already gave Doctor Strange a try in a live action pilot way back in the late 1970s (again, check it out on YouTube) but a modern twist, or a cool urban magic take with somebody like, say, Grey’s Anatomy’sPatrick Dempsey could bring the right mix of magic and real life drama to Steve Dikto and Stan Lee’s Marvel mystical mainstay.
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