Television has long held an affinity for the comic book art form. Sometimes mining it for pure comedy gold, as they did with Batman in 1966, and sometimes using the platform to seriously look at what man can, and maybe should, accomplish as they did with the Six Million Dollar Man. Hey, that first movie didn’t win a Hugo Award for sound effects. Other highlights included Wonder Woman, Flash and Smallville. Each putting their own spin on things. Obviously I’m skipping a bunch but I want to get this done before we’re all old. The one thing they all had in common was that they eschewed the traditional bonds of film-making to get directly to their audience. While rarely commented on it was kind of revolutionary. Movies were where you told stories, TV was a place for stories to go to die. That changed, obviously, as time marched on but TV was mostly dominated by variety shows and family friendly pablum. Yet the shows I named here all managed to entertain adult themes, occasionally make you laugh, and keep you coming back for more. Hollywood noticed but, as evidenced by the amount of crap they threw in the middle to try and capitalize on that, HI LEGENDS OF SUPERHEROS 1979, JUSTICE LEAGUE 1979/80 & JUSTICE LEAGUE 1997, you can quickly see that none of the executroids had a fucking clue what was happening.
However, as I noted, things change. The new Arrow show based on the Green Arrow comics has done a tremendous job of mimicking the arc of comic book stories while managing to avoid the whole “Will he survive? Tune in next week ….” schtick. They later added Flash to that universe and paved the way for great shows like Gotham to explore characters at a much deeper level than films would traditionally allow.
All of these shows, wisely in my humble opinion, stick to what makes comics great. While the action is a part of it, the characters – who are they? why do they do this? what effect does their life have on others? – are what keep us coming back. We want to know about them. Done well you get compelling story telling, done poorly you get Birds of Prey.
But TV has limits. Content must be kept acceptable for Newton Minow‘s hypothetical 10 year old. Sexuality must be avoided or merely alluded to.
Jane live an alternate lifestyle, now let’s go have a beer!
In the comics it’s more like “Jane’s a lesbian, here’s her girlfriend Darla, they kiss, they hold hands, how the hell are they going to pay the rent?”
Much more in keeping with the world we live in. Which is kind of odd when you think about it.
Now, as comics have begun to reflect our world in all its diversity those who want to celebrate that in the live action format are stymied. Well, they were. Enter the Internet.
This week the nice people at Netflix let some fun loving cretins take a peek at a few episodes of the new Daredevil. The Observer saw all four presented episodes and provided this interesting review.
I know it’s still early in the year, but I’m calling it now: The most beautifully choreographed fight scenes of 2015 will be on Netflix, courtesy of Marvel’s Daredevil. We’ve seen the first four episodes, and this show is like no other comic book adaption on the small screen yet. The beauty of Netflix is the freedom it allows—Daredevil gets as dark as the source material requires. It’s so dark, it’s almost a better Batman show than Gotham, and that show actually has Batman in it. If nothing else, Daredevil will rule the comic book TV landscape for years to come.
What TV landscape? There are no TVs involved, really. Oh, sure, you can watch Netflix on a TV ….. if you have an Internet connection, but that ain’t TV as anyone knows it. The related shows of Luke Cage & a/k/a Jessica Jones are also getting the dark and gritty treatment. And, while they will reference the Marvel universe in general (no way not to when you think about it) they are all much more stand alone properties than you might expect. Also they’ll be dealing with stuff that adults should talk about, like morality.
Mature content doesn’t mean boobs and disco. It means content that mature adults will find interesting. See the Daredevil trailer below as example A.
Yeah, he’s a devout Catholic who kills people. And, yes, there IS an interesting story behind that.
See what I mean?
And yet, for some, that isn’t enough. Tossing copyright laws into the fire some people are spending serious money, think hundreds of thousands of dollars, to make “fan films.”
And, guess what? They’re good and studios are paying attention.
In 2013 director Jesse V. Johnson & actress Nina Bergman tossed a complete film trailer for how they thought Wonder Woman should be done as a film. If you don’t think that Warner Brothers and DC Comics were paying attention, watch their film and then CLICK HERE to see the new images of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
About the same time Andy Hansen & Michael Slater took a swing at the Nightwing mythos and nailed it. Now TNT is developing Teen Titans for TV. It too has a similar feel to the fan film. Well, that film and Grayson 1, a film that imagines what all the Robins would have been like without a Batman. That’s actually a really good piece of work. It also has a female Joker who calls herself Mamma and talks to God. And, naturally, God talks back.
Supergirl? Missiane Videos took a look at the story in 2012 and the video is still wildly popular. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that a similar show is coming out on CBS this year.
Don’t even get me started about Deadpool.
Basically, more and more of these shows are throwing conventions to the winds and, if they need to, are just going straight to the fans. And if they have to crush a few laws to get there? Well, no one seems to be stopping them. And there’s a reason for that. For the first time in history comic book companies and film studios are getting real world test marketing without spending a dime.
Oh, you’re right. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence too.
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