Thursday, July 30, 2015

I’m Back (Part II): Comics Are Coming

Hello again! Welcome back to Part II of my television comic book round up.  Last time, we went through all the comic book properties that aired on television during the 2014-2015 television season. This time, let’s take a look at the shows that are scheduled to air in 2015-2016. You’ll find some spin-offs of current shows, some new entries into larger universes, and one that’s just…weird.

As with before, this is only meant to encapsulate comic book properties that are based on the “superhero” idea, as opposed to the myriad of other comic book-based stories that occupy different worlds and tell different kinds of stories, such as The Walking Dead.

Superhero detective agency? Why not.
Jessica Jones
Remember Daredevil? You didn’t really think Marvel/Disney was going to let that be the only show they released through Netflix, did you? Jessica Jones is the next scheduled Marvel hero to get her own series and, like Daredevil, it will be part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, three of Marvel’s new television series will follow this format and are schedule to converge, along with Daredevil, into a fourth new series, The Defenders.  Jessica Jones is a former superhero who is recently retired after a brief career wearing the spandex tights and now runs her own detective agency that caters particularly to a superhero clientele. The show is already filming with Krystin Ritter as the title character and Mike Colter playing former “hero-for-hire” Luke Cage. Comic fans know there’s quite a bit of history between Jessica and Luke, so you can bet the hype for the two of them together on screen will be significant.
Airing: Scheduled for fall 2015, but possibly delayed until spring 2016 on Netflix

Well done, casting agents.
Luke Cage
Hey, he sounds familiar! Luke Cage will pick up directly where Jessica Jones leaves off (wherever that may be) to continue the story that Marvel has begun back in Daredevil. Similar to the two previous entries in this series, Luke Cage is expected to follow a grittier, more adult look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a character, Luke Cage traces his roots to the 1970s Blaxploitation era that recall a grungier, dirtier New York City. The character himself has transitioned beyond those roots to become a member of the Avengers for a while. He’s super strong and highly resistant to injury. As in Jessica Jones, the character will be portrayed by Mike Colter. (Bonus fact: A young actor named Nicolas Coppola used the character’s name to avoid the appearance of nepotism with his more famous uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, when he was getting started in Hollywood. And that’s how we have Nicolas Cage, people.)
Airing: Likely 2016, following Jessica Jones on Netflix

No word on human casting yet, but I hear the dragon from Mulan is being considered for a role...

Iron Fist
And we’re not done yet! Following Jessica Jones and Luke Cage will be Iron Fist, which will focus on a character frequently portrayed in the books alongside the previous two characters. Iron Fist is the furthest from development of the three, so Marvel has thus far not released any information about casting or a confirmed release date. Nonetheless, he continues the trend established with Luke Cage of mining characters with 70s-era bent, this time for martial arts stories. Iron Fist is a hero who is a martial artist and the wielder of a mystical force that allows him to summon and control his chi.
Airing: Unknown, but after Luke Cage and Jessica Jones on Netflix

Hail, hail, the gang's...well, half-way here.
The Defenders
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist will culminate in The Defenders, a miniseries that joins the four heroes into their own super team. In the Comics, the Defenders were a group of “non-team” outsiders, not ready for the Avengers, not family enough for The Fantastic Four, and not mutant-y enough for the X-Men. Various Marvel super heroes have been members of the Defenders, including Luke Cage. Details on this show are extremely lax, so it’s very possible this won’t even air until 2017, but I’m including it here for continuity’s sake.
Airing: Sometime this decade?

Action! Adventure! Splody things!
Legends of Tomorrow
Moving on the world of DC Comics, the big event is Legends of Tomorrow. Unlike most comic book properties that are based on a series, this is a new bird. It is a spin-off of Arrow and The Flash and came about once executives realized that they had populated this world with enough interesting super-powered characters that they could become their own super team. In other words, it’s a Justice League that’s not the Justice League. As such, Legends of Tomorrow isn’t based on any one comic book in particular, but will star the characters already introduced in Arrow and The Flash, including The Atom (Brandon Routh), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Firestorm (Victor Garber), and fan-favorite Sara Lance, the White Canary (Caity Lotz). The heroes, brought together by Rip Hunter (Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill), will be pitted against time-traveling baddie Vandal Savage. Exactly how all these characters come together, particularly the White Canary who is severely dead at this point on Arrow, has yet to be revealed but early teaser clips show a lot of big-budget action, something that the show creators have cut their teeth well on in their previous shows. The show is also designed to be something of an anthology where the cast of characters can rotate somewhat for each new season.
Airing: Scheduled for mid-season, 2016

This is literally the only production photo I can find for this show so far.
Gotham seems to be working out okay for Batman, right? Let’s do the same for Superman! Of all the shows on the DC slate, this is the farthest out in terms of development, such that it may not appear until next year. Details are slim, but we know that it will be the story of Superman’s home world, Krypton, prior to its destruction. In the best care scenario, we could get a show like Rome, which effectively showed a decadent society that was about to fall apart. We could be in for some interesting alien politics and cool sci-fi. Of course, the alternate is also true and we could have to listen to uninteresting droning about the end of the world. Personally, I’m hoping for something more like the criminally under-appreciated Caprica series. (Seriously – check it out and leave your BSG doubts at the door when you do.)
Airing: Unknown

Girl's got that hero pose thing down...
Remember how I said the big event for DC this year is Legends of Tomorrow? I could be lying; it could be Supergirl. The show is from the same production team that runs Arrow and The Flash and while DC has said not to expect the three shows to overlap with each other, they haven’t put the kibosh on any future interaction just yet. The biggest barrier to interaction with the others will be how to explain away Superman. In Supergirl, he’s already a presence, something that would likely have come to a point of conversation among Barry or Ollie in their shows. Either way, Supergirl will follow Kara, Kal-El’s cousin who is also from Krypton and managed to escape before it was destroyed. The show will follow the modern take on Kara, which is to say that rather than follow Kal as a baby, Kara will have left Krypton as a young teenager tasked with caring for her baby cousin and keeping him safe. Unfortunately, Kara is separated from Kal and by the time she makes it to Earth, Kal is already on his way to becoming Superman, leaving Kara to play catch up. This might be the superhero show I’m most excited about this year – Melissa Benoist seems to “get” Kara and plays her strong and tough but also with an eagerness to prove herself and with an appreciation of how cool it is to fly around and have super-strength. To say nothing of the fact that it’s more than time that superhero show was based around a female character. Don’t let me down, Supergirl.
Airing: October, 2015

Avoiding all cat jokes from here on in.
Speaking of female superheroes, Vixen is coming to the CW this fall. But this one has a twist – it’s coming as an animated series that will nonetheless take place in the same continuity as The Flash and Arrow making it the fourth official show to occupy that shared universe. Cast from the previous shows will make vocal appearances on Vixen, but for the time being it’s not clear if anyone from Vixen will appear on The Flash or Arrow. Some history: Vixen is Mari Jiwe McCabe (voiced by Megalyn Echikunwoke), a young woman from the fictional African country of Zambesi. Mari comes into possession of a totem that can give her the ability to take an attribute from any member of the animal kingdom and use it for her needs – flight from a hawk, the running speed of a cheetah, the ability to breathe under water from a fish, for example. Show creators have said that they reason the show is animated is due to the production values needed to accomplish the special effects being much easier in this format. And while I would love a live-action Vixen series, here’s why this is such a good idea: by debuting a relatively unknown character (Vixen is seriously great, but she’s hardly as well-known as Batman or even Green Lantern) as a low-cost series, DC can introduce a wide variety of characters to their shared universe and see what sticks before investing in bigger, more costly live action shows. As such, the success or failure of Vixen is going to be critical for DC going forward.
Airing: Fall, 2015 on the CW Seed

But wait, where are the giant naked man-eating monsters? 
Teen Titans
This is possibly the most nebulous of all the shows I’ve talked about here, but I’m listing it only because it seems to be chugging toward reality, if at a slightly slow pace. The Teen Titans are one of DC’s premier super hero groups, typically made up of all the sidekicks. Traditionally led by Robin/Nightwing, other regular teammates include Superboy, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash. Something like a Junior Justice League, you can see an excellent interpretation of the same thing in the animated Young Justice series. Akiva Goldsman has written the pilot for this series, slated to be released on TNT and it features Nightwing, Starfire, Raven, Barbara Gordon, Hawk, and Dove. I’m an unabashed fan of the Teen Titans and would love to see a live-action take on the characters. Here’s hoping this one comes through.
Airing: Pilot is scheduled to be shot in 2015.

Handsome devil.
Finally, here’s the weird one. Lucifer is technically a DC property about the Devil (Marvel fans, make your jokes here). In DC Comics, the character Lucifer squared off against Morpheus in Neil Gaiman’s excellent Sandman series before decided to abandon Hell all together and move to, where else, Los Angeles to run a piano bar. The comic’s Lucifer is described as having rebelled against God three seconds after creation and spent the last 10 billion years causing mayhem, however he has grown bored of his existence and the various stereotypes applied to him and seeks a new life.  The television series will take this same approach, only because its Lucifer will now assist police in solving crimes. Because even the Devil can’t resist a good police procedural. I’m openly skeptical of this approach because the comic series was so good and the policy procedural idea is just so pedestrian. That said, Comic-Con fans watching the first episode came out raving about it, particularly star Tom Ellis’s portrayal of the character. Plus, since the announcement of the show, One Million Moms has thoroughly denounced it, claiming the series will “glorify Satan” and demanding that Fox cancel the show. Anything One Million Moms opposes is probably good in my book. My hope is slightly renewed, but I can’t help but feel like it’s a trap laid by a demon.
Airing: Early 2016, on Fox

So, what to be most excited about? Obviously, that’s in the eye of the beholder but the ones that have my Spidey-Sense tingling most are Jessica Jones, Supergirl, Vixen, and Lucifer. Jessica Jones has a lot of potential to merge the Daredevil and Agent Carter audiences if done well. Supergirl just looks like fun to me and, hopefully, done in a way that illustrates a good, strong female protagonist without underlining too much that she happens to be a girl. Vixen is fascinating to me because of the business behind how superhero stories will get made and told in the future. Lucifer has, unexpectedly, gotten my hopes up with its positive reception at Comic-Con. I’m holding back a few molecules of skepticism to keep myself safe with on this one, but I’d be lying if I said that my nerdy little heart didn’t beat a little faster at the idea of the show being well-done.

Bring it on, Fall Schedule!

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