Marvel Studios made quite the huge headlines in the geek world last week, when they announced four upcoming series for Netflix streaming starting in 2015, featuring their “street level” heroes Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones, who will then team up in the mini-series event The Defenders after having completed a 13 episode season for each of the solo characters. This is a huge and unprecedented move on Marvel Studios, who are on a major roll lately (they had a couple movies come out lately that did pretty well. Ya might have heard of ’em.) Right now, the details on these shows are all but non-existent, but their announcement alone leaves many questions in this Marvel fanboy’s head. Here are but ten of them.
1. Will Doctor Strange Gather This Version of The Defenders?
In the comics, the Defenders always had a pretty fluid membership. Although both Daredevil and Luke Cage were occasional members, the main, core line-up of the team consisted of Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and Namor the Submariner. Well, the particular line-up is highly unlikely, due to the fact that Namor is currently in development limbo at Universal, and Marvel Studios can’t use him (yet.) The Hulk is comfortably a part of the Avengers. Only Stephen Strange remains from the comic’s original main comic book cast who could conceivably take part in some way in a Defenders series.
We know that Marvel Studios has a Doctor Strange movie in active development for “Phase Three”, and it heavily rumored to be their unnamed film for one of the two movies coming out summer 2016 (the other is likely a third Thor or Captain America) We also know that the first of the Marvel Netflix shows (probably Daredevil) won’t premier until 2015. So let’s say we get two of those series that first year, with the two other following the next year. That means we might not get the Defenders mini-series till late 2016, early 2017 even…possibly after a Doctor Strange movie has come out.
Although a television Defenders series probably will keep things street level and not involve too much magic and mystism, there has to be at least a certain amount of it, due to Iron Fist having a quasi-mystical background. To ensure these TV Defenders aren’t just Defenders in name only, and have some ties to the comic, should our future Doc Strange be the one who gathers them all together in the mini series? Strange has been maybe the only consistent thing throughout the various incarnations of the team over the years, from the seventies and eighties team, to the early nineties “Secret Defenders,” to the most recent version by Matt Fraction. If anyone can make this crossover between the movies and the shows happen, and get a decent actor to sign on the dotted line for both a movie and TV appearance, it’s gonna be Kevin Feige and Marvel.
2. Will We Get A Black Widow Appearance in Daredevil?
This one may seem like a long shot, what with Scarlett Johansson being a big-time movie star and all, but go with me here: In the comics, one of Matt Murdock’s most serious and long time love interests was none other than the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff. She even had second billing in his title for awhile in the seventies, when for about two years the book was officially titled Daredevil and The Black Widow. Could Marvel/Disney convince Scarlett to do a one or two episode arc on Daredevil for the right price? Lots of movie actors are being drawn to the Netflix model of television these days, like with Kevin Spacey with House of Cards. And by all account, Miss Johansson seems to genuinely love playing Black Widow, as she’s about to play the character for her third and fourth time in the next two years. Stranger things have happened.
3. Will We See The Daughters of the Dragon, Colleen Wing & Misty Knight?
With both Luke Cage and Iron Fist getting series as part of this Netflix deal, it begs the question of whether or not two of their most prominent supporting players will appear in one or both of their series, Colleen Wing and Misty Knight. Originally appearing in the Marvel Premiere series in the seventies, the ass-kicking martial arts duo better known as the Daughters of the Dragon quickly moved on to appearances all over the Marvel Universe (Misty Knight was even the roommate of the X-Men’s Jean Grey at one point) before eventually joining Power-Man and Iron Fist in their title. With both of these guys getting shows, could the Daughters of the Dragon be the early connective tissue between both series? And more importantly, will Misty Knight keep her signature Foxy Brown fro?
4. Will Jessica Jones Be “Jewel” or Just Jessica Jones, P.I.?
In the original comic book series in which she first appeared, Alias, Jessica Jones was a private investigator who was once a former superhero, code-named Jewel, who had a short-lived career in tights. The book introduced our heroine some years after she had given up the name and costume of Jewel, and had changed her life after undergoing several traumatic incidents while attempting to be a superhero.
Will the show follow the same format, or will Jessica start out as superheroine Jewel and then have us witness her journey as she decides she’s not really Avengers material, and takes up a whole new career? Another question is how much interaction prior to the Defenders mini series will Luke Cage and Jessica have? These two ultimately get married and have a baby together in the comics, after all. So will they make appearances in each other’s shows – and beds – before joining up in the Defenders?
5. How Much Of The SHIELD And Avengers Universe Will We See In The Defenders?
It’s pretty safe to say that the Avengers, at least as a team, won’t be making an appearance on any of these shows. So sorry, all you old school Marvel Zombie fanboys out there – don’t expect an adaptation of the classic Avengers/Defenders War storyline from the comics at any point on television. But how much of an influence will the shadow of the Avengers have over the formation of the Defenders? And more to the point, will SHIELD be involved? At this point, there has only ever been one super team in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the Fantastic Four and the X-Men reside elsewhere. Will the formation of the Defenders be a direct answer to the Avengers, a super-team for the little guy? Will SHIELD see them as a threat or something to protect? There’s a lot of story fodder to consider, even without the Avengers ever actually appearing.
6.Just How Much Of An Influence Will Brian Michael Bendis Have On These Shows?
For the past twelve years, writer Brian Michael Bendis has been as much the face of Marvel as Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada has, between such high profile runs on comics like Ultimate Spider-Man, The Avengers, and now the two main X-Men titles. But aside from that, he is the creator of Jessica Jones, and wrote the entirety of Alias. He single-handedly brought back Luke Cage to prominence in the pages of New Avengers, to the point where Cage is practically a Marvel Universe A-List character. His run on Daredevil with artist David Mack from 2001-2006 is one of the character’s most celebrated runs.
So that’s three of the four characters that are part of this Netflix deal that Bendis has had a huge hand in shaping. Bendis has worked in Hollywood before, including on the current Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. Is it possible that Bendis is about to trade up, from Marvel Animation to live-action? I guess the question isn’t really will Bendis have an influence, it’s just how much of an active role will he take with these shows.
7. Just How R-Rated Will These Shows Be?
One of the complaints about the current Agents of S.H,I.E.L.D show on ABC is how safe and “vanilla” it is. Whether or not that’s a valid complaint is an argument for another day, but no matter how much darker and grittier these new Netflix shows are going to be, they’re still part of the Marvel branding machine (and by extension, Disney). Characters like Daredevil and Luke Cage and Iron Fist still appear on little boy’s pajamas and toys. So while the allure of producing these shows for Netlfix has to be the ability to get away from both the MPAA ratings board and the FCC, there almost certainly has to be a limit on how far Disney is going to let Marvel go.
The people who tune in to Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards do so because they know they are in for edgier content than what they can get on the networks. If they don’t deliver on something a little more adult, will they lose that coveted demographic? And if they show Luke Cage having anal sex with Jessica Jones (as was once heavily implied in the comics) will they gain the ire of parent’s watchdog groups because these characters are, no matter how loosely, connected to the family-friendly Marvel Cinematic Universe? In producing these new shows for Netflix, this might be the trickiest balancing act Marvel Studios has ever done.
8. Just How “Down To Earth” Will These Shows Be?
The biggest connective thread between these four series, aside from the fact that all the characters will be residing in the Hell’s Kitchen part of New York City, is that they are all “street-level” in terms of super powers. They all have a limited degree of super strength, agility, and in the cases of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, invulnerability.So while these heroes are on the somewhat more believable end of being sci-fi (or fantasy, in the case of Iron First) they are definitely not like the Punisher or Batman; there is something “super” about each of them.
But with the limited budget of television, how crazy will things get? Will Marvel keep all the villains more or less “real world”, like the Kingpin, who many expect to be the “big bad” of all four shows? Or will we see things allowed to get a little more outlandish? After all…they still live an Avengers world, and it should be acknowledged. In the comics, the Purple Man is a major villain for both Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and as his name suggests, he’s a guy with purple skin with mental powers.
9. What Happens With Elektra?
One question that hasn’t been properly answered since news of this Marvel/Netflix deal went down is whether or not the character of Elektra is going to be able to be part of Daredevil’s television world, or do her live-action rights still reside with Twentieth Century Fox. Elektra is a major, major part of Daredevil’s most popular stories after all, and one would think that Marvel Studios wouldn’t want to go ahead and do a Daredevil series without being able to use her.
Of course, these shows aren’t set to hit Netflix till 2015, giving Marvel enough time to wait for Elektra’s rights to come back to them. (If I’m not mistaken, Fox holds the rights for ten years to a character, and if they do nothing with them within in that time, Marvel Studios gets the rights back, which is what happened with Daredevil.) The Elektra movie came out in 2005, meaning that if in the next two years, Fox decided to do a cheap, straight to DVD sequel to Elektra just to screw with Marvel/Disney, it would keep the character unavailable for a Daredevil series. It would be super petty of Fox to do that..,but this is Hollywood, where petty is a way of life. I don’t put anything past them.
10. Just What Do We Need to Do to Get Michael C. Hall to Play Daredevil?
Let’s be honest here, actor Michael C. Hall looks more like the comic book version of Matt Murdock than Ben Affleck ever did on his best day. and this come from someone who kinda likes that movie (well, the director’s cut anyway.) After eight seasons of playing Dexter, we all know that Michael C. Hall has the chops to play an intense, brooding vigilante type (although I use the term vigilante loosely when it comes to Dexter Morgan. But you know what I mean.) Marvel would be wise to pursue Hall, who has cred with critics, viewers and fanboys and fangirls alike.
But after 12 straight years on television, first with Six Feet Under and then Dexter, Hall might not want to jump into another series. Marvel Studios would have to throw a lot of money at him…and throwing money around isn’t Marvel Studios’ way. But they need an actor perfect for the part of Daredevil to sell the series to non-fanboys, whose only memory of the character is a movie with Ben Affleck that is something of a punchline. And I can’t think of anyone better than Michael C. Hall to be the television Marvel Universe’s version of Robert Downey Jr, the “name” actor that grounds the whole endeavor in quality. So again, what do we gotta do to make that happen?
Will Luke Cage ever wear the yellow blouse on the show? Just once??
Other articles by Eric Diaz: