Comic book characters and properties have become the new big Hollywood commodity. Marvel Studios has built an entertainment empire from their roster of characters. Warner Bros has had mixed results at the box office but has scored big by bringing DC characters to the small screen. It took Hollywood a long time to crack the formula for successful superhero stories but now that they have the fans get to reap the benefits.
We all look forward to the latest blockbusters in theaters but while I love the superhero movies we are getting I think the comic book stories work better on TV. There is a commonality between episodic TV and the monthly comic books. Each one is the continuing adventures of our favorite heroes and villains, usually with a larger overarching story.
In 2015 there are now 7 live action comic book based TV shows currently airing on the major networks, with possibly 3 more scheduled to come out later this year between standard broadcast TV and Netflix. I think it’s safe to say that comic book characters are entering a new Golden Age, and there appears to be no sign of audience burnout. The options on TV range from the fun adventure stories on the Flash and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the darker stories of Arrow and Walking Dead. There are stories to fit a variety of interests and styles.
Flash built off the success of Arrow which borrowed heavily from the style put forth by Christopher Nolan’s Batman movie trilogy. The Flash however took a more fun filled turn with Barry Allen’s adventures being much more light hearted than his network neighbor Oliver Queen. The Flash also saw the first true supervillains brought to the screen in the DC universe, Arrow’s villains had been much more grounded in reality.
Agent Carter was another spin-off of sorts. It is another piece of the multimedia giant that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This follows the adventures of Peggy Carter after World War 2 has ended as she struggles to deal with the loss of Captain America and a changing world. Only a few episodes in to it’s unfortunately short run and it’s already gathering a lot of positive attention. Hopefully we can see more adventures from Agent Carter in the future.
Gotham seems to pull in decent ratings, it has been met with some negative feedback from critics and fans however. It seems many are not quite sure what to make of a Batman-less Batman show. If the show stays true to the Bat-canon then things in the already bad Gotham City need to get worse before young Bruce Wayne returns as his more famous alter ego. There is something to be said for making a show that is about a world that just sinks deeper and deeper into hopeless and despair, just look at the Walking Dead’s bleak stories and massive ratings. But I don’t know if I would tune in every week to see things just get darker and darker as the heroes get more and more outnumbered. I haven’t yet seen an announcement for a second season, but I wonder if the show will do any time jumps in an effort to bring us closer to the arrival of the Bat.
Constantine is the other newcomer this year. It is clearly drawing inspiration not only from the Hellblazer/Constantine comics but also from “monster of the week” shows like Supernatural and Grimm. I’m not very familiar with the character of John Constantine, but from what I have gathered they are doing a very good job of capturing this unique character. The show has struggled though, the ratings have been questionable at best and the show has been teetering on the bubble, not yet cancelled but also not yet renewed for a second season.
I hope they continue the show because there is a unique quality to the show. Much like Gotham it’s nice to see the creators explore different avenues for the superhero shows. The comics are always exploring different stories and styles with each new creative team coming on the books. It’s also refreshing to see that we can have comic book and superhero inspired shows that don’t feel the need to force feed us capes and cowls every week.
There is still more to come later in 2015.
First in March there is the premiere of iZombie, a story of young woman who must eat brains in order to keep from going full Zombie who takes a job at a morgue to gain access to a never ending supply of brains but finds that she can see some of the memories and help solve crimes.
In April we have the first Marvel show to premiere on Netflix, Daredevil. Matt Murdock gets the small screen streaming treatment to explore the grittier side of the Marvel Universe as he fights crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.
Rumoured to be coming later this year is a Supergirl show from the creative team that brought us Arrow and Flash, and Marvel’s next TV show based on Jessica Jones.
Fans now have plenty of chances to see their favorite characters in the comic shop every month and on their TV’s every week. It’s a pretty good time to be a geek.