The Marvel Cinematic Universe has branched out into television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the upcoming Netflix shows based on Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Warner Brothers, while not committing to the whole “shared universe” concept, still has Arrow on the CW, soon to be joined by The Flash and Gotham on Fox. Meanwhile, Twentieth Century Fox has been making some noise about spinning off their Marvel Properties, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, into some sort of television spin-offs. In a story that ran in Variety, producer of X-Men, Fantastic Four and Star Wars: Rebels Simon Kinberg mentioned the real possibility of the X-Men and FF having some kind of television presence in the not-too distant future.
But just which comics and concepts in the lore of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four would actually serve as good inspiration for an ongoing television series? Here are eight spin-off comics, five from the X-Men universe and three from the Fantastic Four’s, that could serve as the basis for some awesome television shows.
The concept for late eighties X-Men spin-off Excalibur was fairly simple; a group of former X-Men become ex-pats (X-Pats?) and go to the UK, where they join up with British heroes Captain Britain and his girlfriend Megan. The early stories from writer Chris Claremont and artist Alan Davis were heavy on big wacky ideas and fun, while Claremont’s main X-Men book was always a bit on the dour side. The original (and best) line-up of the team consisted of Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Summers, and the previously mentioned Brit heroes. The idea of a group of former X-Men trying to start a new life in a new country could work on television, and with X-Men: Days of Future Past introducing the concept of alternate timelines, even the character of Rachel Summers (the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey from an alternate timeline) could work now. Plus living abroad would make it an easy way of not having to explain where the other X-Men are.
Having said that, the kind of other-dimensional antics the heroes of Excalibur got into might be a tad pricey for television, which is why this one is lowest on the list. Also, Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler and Ellen Page as Kitty were two perfect bits of casting that will be hard to re-cast. (unlike Halle Berry as Storm, whom everyone can’t wait to see re-cast.) It could still work, although of all the X-Men spin-offs on this list, it might be the one that would wind up the most different from the original comic.
Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix (originally a revamped version of X-Force, if only in name) was one of the best and most original mutant books to come out of the early 2000’s. Focusing on a group of “celebrity” mutants, who go out and fight menaces as part of a reality television show, and who don’t care so much about mutant rights and freedom as they do being giant fame whores, X-Statix as a concept is just as timely now as it was fourteen years ago (maybe even more so, sadly.) The mutants of X-Statix weren’t always the most likable, so it might be hard to sustain interest in the characters long-term (even the comic had this problem, and it was a fairly brilliant book) but the concept is so perfect for television, even if some of the characters aren’t. Still…it would be a perfect way to introduce Doop, the little green glob mutant who speaks an indecipherable language and was the team’s cameraman, into the X-Men cinematic universe. Really, it’s all about Doop.
3. The New Mutants
This was the very first X-Men spin-off book, debuting way back in 1982. In the original New Mutants concept, Professor Charles Xavier, believing the X-Men to be dead, decides to recruit a new class of young mutants to train, but to train not to fight evil mutants and bad guys, just trained to merely be in control of their powers and not put their lives in danger. Old Chuck was feeling the guilt over his original students dying and whatnot. He’d totally get over that.
The first five New Mutants were Woflsbane, who could turn into a wolf (naturally); Karma, a young psychic from Vietnam; Sunspot, who could absorb solar energy (and who is being used in Days of Future Past); Dani Moonstar, a Native American girl who could create illusions; and Cannoball, who could create an energy fields around himself and propel his body like a giant weapon. The only problem with this concept is that it requires the presence of Professor X and the School for Gifted Youngsters (and later, Magneto, who takes over from Professor X at one point) and I don’t see either the old or young actors who play Xavier and Magneto in the movies “slumming it” on television. However, if you could take some of the students from this team, and the teachers from the following team down below….well, then you might have something.
2. Generation X
This is pretty much the same concept as New Mutants, without the location of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but instead the satellite school of the Massachusetts Academy. In the comics, the headmaster and headmistress were former X-Man Sean Cassidy, a/k/a Banshee, and a newly reformed Emma Frost.
As a television series,this can fit in perfectly with the continuity of the movies, as Banshee was 15 or so in 1962 and one of Xavier’s first students (as seen in X-Men:First Class) making him about 65 now, perfect for a gruff old teacher. And Emma, well…I’d find a way for Emma Frost to have maintained her looks and youth through the decades, although I’d maybe keep it a mystery as to just how she did it. Although for the part I would definitely recast January Jones, who was flat out awful in First Class, a sore point in an otherwise great movie. I will say, however, that you might have to change the title of the show at this point, because Generation X nowadays just suggests your students are all gonna be in the late thirties to forty year-old age range.
1. X-Factor Investigations
At Marvel, the name X-Factor isn’t so much a concept for a team as it is a trademark; there have been so many mutant teams with the name X-Factor in the Marvel Universe, it’s hard to keep track. The first was the original five X-Men reunited. Well, the original five are all firmly embedded in the movies, so forget that. The second was a government sponsored mutant team. Not a bad idea for a show, but I’d go with the third version of X-Factor, which was X-Factor Investigations.
Peter David wrote this version of the team for eight years, which featured Jamie Madrox, also known as the Multiple Man, leading a detective agency that specialized in mutant specific cases. (Madrox was already in X-Men: The Last Stand played by Eric Dane as a villain; I’d just say that the version in the movie is one of Jamie’s rogue duplicates.) Among the cast were several mutants who have yet to even make an appearance in any of the X-Men movies so far, like Rictor, Strong Guy and M. (although Polaris is the illegitimate daughter of Magneto, which could tie into the movie universe) The idea of a mutant detective agency is pretty ripe for an ongoing television series, where the focus is on solving cases and not mega battles that would cost Twentieth Century Fox an arm and a leg to do on a television budget. They might need to change the name of the show though, as to not be confused with that other X-Factor show, which is why I’d just call it X-Factor Investigations.
Writer/producer Simon Kinberg also mentioned Fox’s other Marvel property The Fantastic Four as being something that could serve as inspiration for a television series. While not having nearly as many spin-offs series to serve as a launching point, there are still a handful that could serve as a start for a decent ongoing television series.
3. The Frightful Four
Every big superteam has their “opposite number” – the Justice League has the Crime Syndicate, the X-Men have the Brotherhood of Mutants, and the Fantastic Four have the Frightful Four. Much like the Fantastic Four, the Frightful Four is also lead by a scientific genius in the form of the Wizard, who gathers together a group of villains to mostly out of sheer boredom and a desire to one-up the Fantastic Four. I always kind of liked that his origin for a villain was basically “oh, I was really bored.”
The Frightful Four could be re-worked as a television concept as a sort of Fantastic Four with less of a moral center, who need to redeem themselves after having been caught having committed various crimes (hey, if the Sinister Six can get their own movie, the Frightful Four can get a TV show.) Certain members of the team might have their rights tied up with other studios (Sony has Sandman, since he’s a Spider-Man villain, and Marvel Studios has Medusa as a member of the Inhumans.) But you could always replace them with characters like Klaw and Thundra, who have also been members of the team in the past.
2. The Fantastic Force
There is maybe nothing more ’90s than this cover.
The Fantastic Four, while being Marvel’s first family and the very foundation of the Marvel Universe, have never had the amount of spinoff books that their sister teams the X-Men or the Avengers have had. Because of the very nature of the group, which is really a family unit more than a team in the traditional sense, it’s just harder to do spin-offs for the FF.
One of the few was Fantastic Force, a short lived title from the mid ’90s, which featured a time travelling adult Franklin Richards (son of the FF’s Reed and Sue Richards) going by the name “Psi-Lord.” Well, I’d drop that awful name, but the idea of an adult Franklin Richards (who is a mutant, therefore tying in to the X-Men) leading a team could be a decent concept, even if you totally have to rework who the team is. No one really cares or remembers Fantastic Force anyway, so I say just go nuts with the concept. Only that one guy on the Internet (who’ll be commenting below in 3…2…1…) is gonna care if you change it.
1. The Future Foundation
This is one of the more recent Fantastic Four spin-off books, and there have actually been two versions of it, both titled FF. The second and most recent was a replacement team for the Fantastic Four when they traveled through time and space, but it’s the original concept for the Future Foundation that I’d totally go with for a television series.
The first FF book had Reed Richards forming the Future Foundation, a collective brought together to create a better future for all of the human race. Gathering a group of young, brilliant minds, Mister Fantastic plans to mold them into a team that will come up with solutions to the world’s problems.Among those genius kids that are part of the Future Foundation are mutants Artie and Leech (tying it into the overall X-Men mythology) and even the android Dragon Man. This is a pretty solid foundation for an ongoing television series, although the actual Fantastic Four play a big part in the comic book, and the question is how do you get the movie actors to commit to guest starring in a TV series on the regular? Even if they aren’t big names? Would it be possible to do a series with kids running around with the numbers 5-12 (or however many there are) when the original four can’t be seen? Who knows, but I’d watch the hell outta this show.
Previously by Eric Diaz: