I speculated back in May that the new Fox Marvel TV shows were a possible indication that they had been traded for the tarnished Fantastic Four and that's what a source for Den of Geek reported (officially denied, for whatever that's worth). While the rumour may be incorrect, clearly something was given to Marvel in order for Fox to brand-build on TV; I suspect we'll learn what sooner than later.
After some optimistic speculation last time about the inclusion of the Netflix characters in Infinity War, I'm leaning the other way now (that it won't happen, despite the recent rumour that Daredevil will appear in the untitled fourth Avengers film). This isn't due to any any particular news (although the double Nightshade casting, see below, seems indicative), but more a matter of logistics. Even if both movies are in the two and a half hour range, there's precious little time for such an inclusion. With that said, I still think appearances in future MCU films will happen--there's no downside to it, other than whatever leftover hostility Kevin Feige has towards the TV division. There remains a small chance that the TV universe will be separated completely from the MCU (ala DC), but I think that would only hurt the brand so I don't think that's in the cards.
It's a funny thing to be hyped for The Defenders while having no interest in their antagonists, the Hand. As I've mentioned before I hope the show puts an end to them (except, perhaps, for Iron Fist) so we can get back to more interesting villains. That aside, we have one piece of casting news (via IMDB, so all the usual caveats):
- Architect - likely the Elektra character (created by Peter Milligan and Mike Deodato Jr), who lasts just six issues; sadly this comic run is not available on Marvel Unlimited so I haven't been able to read through them
Luke Cage casting (featuring two of the five options Comicbook.com suggested back in December, along with my favourite pick from that selection):
- John McIver (who is or becomes Bushmaster) - created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, he debuted as an Iron Fist villain back in 1977 (eventually facing Luke Cage); he's a street kid with a violent streak who becomes a gang lord (a lot like Diamondback, admittedly), who has a romantic interest in Misty Knight; eventually Noah Burstein mutates him (giving him superior strength and durability); in the comics Bushmaster dies (his mantel picked up by his brother Quincy). For those with Marvel Unlimited here's the reading material chronologically: Iron Fist #15, Marvel Team-Up #63 (Iron Fist and Spider-Man), Power Man #48-#49, and Power Man and Iron Fist #67 (McIver's death)
- Tilda Johnson (who is or becomes Nightshade) - A more ubiquitous villain (created by Steve Englehart and Alan Weiss) who originally faced Captain America (1973); she eventually becomes a hero (an ally of Misty Knight), but I suspect that's a long way off. Born in poverty in Harlem, she becomes a brilliant scientist, using it for criminal enterprise. For those looking for earlier material on her (chronologically): Captain America #164, #189, Power Man and Iron Fist #51-#53, Marvel Team-Up #3 (Iron Fist, Power Man, and the Hulk), Power Man and Iron Fist #110; she later has an extensive run on Mark Gruenwald's Captain America as an antagonist (which likely isn't relevant), but Christopher Priest's Black Panther run might have some insight (#16-#17, #39-#41, #43-#45, and #48)
This is strong evidence of the divide between MCU and Marvel Entertainment, as clearly Cheo Hodari Coker didn't care what Ryan Coogler was doing (the former casting the role after the latter).
Digging into what we might expect in Luke Cage: all the Netflix showrunners have remained pretty faithful to the source material (in spirit if not always specifics), so I'd expect these versions to stick fairly close to their histories. While Mariah and Shades remain from season one as antagonists, presumably McIver either joins or is a rival to them in criminal enterprises--perhaps working in tandem with Johnson (the former may also have a connection to Luke via Seagate Prison). I also wonder if Diamondback will return--I'd think they'd wrap up that storyline, but it remains uncertain at this point.
Having filmed for over three months, surprisingly not much has been leaked or confirmed about the show's second season. The assumption at this point is that Nuke will be the primary foe, tying into the IGH material featured in the first season. What we do have is a casting call from a few months ago that includes three series regulars and another that's recurring. MCU Exchange makes the following guesses for who these characters could be (pointing out that Jessica Jones doesn't have much of a roster of characters to borrow from; they are listed with the regulars first):
- Dr. Karl Malus - a minor character who has bounced around the Marvel universe in limited fashion; his primary schtick is giving people powers through experimentation--he eventually becomes Carnage for awhile (a development we can ignore); the idea of him appearing is certainly plausible, although given how generic the role description is it could be a show-creation; chronologically his earlier appearances: Spider-Woman #30-#32, Iron Man Annual #7, Captain America #308, #328-#331, Fantastic Four #306, Captain America #363-#364, Avengers Spotlight #29, Captain America #375-#378, Doctor Strange #27, Cage #13-#14, Captain America Annual #12, US Agent #2, and Thunderbolts #44.
- Typhoid Mary - a major Daredevil villain (created by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr.), she is the second of two potential selections MCU suggests for this particular casting call, but by far the most interesting (the other is addressed below); ultimately it strikes me as wishful thinking; while the idea of having a major female villain is quite likely, there's nothing about the casting call that suggests Mary Walker other than her height (she's tall); it's far more likely she'd be reserved for Daredevil, where he is accidentally responsible for making her into who she is (she also has connections to the Kingpin)--while she could easily be compared to Elektra, because of the version of the latter that's been used the similarities wouldn't be as apparent; the role, without any announcement of who it is, has been cast (Leah Gibson); early reading for her: Daredevil #254-#257, #259-#263, Power Pack #53, Captain America #373-#377, Daredevil #284, #292, #294-#295, #297, Marvel Presents #110-#115, Marvel Presents #123-#130, Daredevil: Man Without Fear #2, Marvel Presents #150-#151, Spectacular Spider-Man #213-#214, Astonishing Spider-Man #1, and Typhoid #1-#4
- Ian Soo (aka Telekinian) - implies a gender-swap (male to female); the casting call didn't designate ethnicity, so presumably it was open, but given that the actress cast (Gibson) is white I think it's extremely unlikely that she'd be playing the Asian-character; the theory was that because the character was created for the most recent Hellcat comic and is bisexual it would fit, but it's a tenuous connection that doesn't match the other aspects of the call sheet
- Otis Johnson (the second Marvel character of that name) - would be race-swapped (white to Latino); the MCU likes him because of his connection to Misty Knight/Colleen Wing and that he seems like a dorky version of Luke Cage, but that awkwardness does not fit the casting call description at all and if their other guess (below) is correct this would be more than overkill; I suspect this is an original character (all his appearances are in either Heroes for Hire volume 2 (#2-#8) or Daughters of the Dragon (#2-#3, #5-#6))
- Paladin - another race swap (white to black); he's an original Daredevil villain (created by Jim Shooter and Carmine Infantino) that's seen as a Luke Cage stand-in (since that romance isn't likely continuing in Netflix continuity); it's reasonable to expect the show to stick with Jessica's interracial romance so it's an understandable theory; Paladin is a fairly ubiquitous minor character who has bounced around Marvel for decades as both a hero and villain, but he has connections to the other Netflix Defenders characters; the casting sheet doesn't require this interpretation, but of all MCU's suggestions this one seems the most likely to me; for early reading: Daredevil #150, #152, Marvel Premiere #43, Defenders #62-#63, Daredevil #154, Marvel Team-Up #108-#109, Avengers #251, Peter Parker #105-#106, and Avengers #271
We're finally getting more casting listed on IMDB (usual caveats):
- Marion James - played by veteran actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio; there's no character with this exact name in Marvel and no "James" or "Marion" who seems appropriate, so she seems to be a show creation
- Geiger - while matching the name of a very minor character from Doc Samson, the listing for the show is male and the character is female and not very suited to either the Punisher or Netflix (as she's super powered), so I think this is also a show-original
While doing my research for this I came across this 2015 rumour from Screen Geek, which discussed potential new Netflix shows that included not just the Punisher, but also Moon Knight, Spider Woman, and Deathlok. While analysis I read elsewhere described this simply as someone's inspired wishlist (which seems true), it was almost correct for the year of the Punisher show (2018 was the prediction) and that Jigsaw would be the villain (or, at least, a villain). Incidentally, the Bushman said to face Moon Knight is not the one appearing in Luke Cage, but rather Raoul Bushman (an entirely different character created by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz). I missed this particular Moon Knight rumour when I was compiling them several months ago (so we can say such rumours have happened every year since 2014). Incidentally, and I put this here because I don't know where else to place it, Comic's Explained has two Moon Knight videos--in the first he says he's just Batman, but five months later the title is "He's Not Just Marvel's Batman"--I find that amusing. Spider Woman, incidentally, is likely too super powered for television.
Casting for Freeform's New Warriors has finally been announced, but since I'm not familiar with any of the actors I don't have strong opinions about it (other than they are older than the characters are portrayed in the comics). How well will a comedy superhero show work? It's down to the writing and performances.
Critical ratings for shows and movies rarely shift over time (outside of those that reach cult status). That said, viewer ratings do change over time, regressing to the mean (or rising to it). I was curious, years later, how the various Netflix shows had normalized, but Rotten Tomatoes voters don't follow-up on shows so it's a useless measure. IMDB does continue to update ratings, although I can't figure out how you divide things up by season (the votes for individual episodes are a very small sample-size); I've listed the number of votes because I think it's relevant--the larger the number the less likely vote-brigading and initial buzz is a factor:
Jessica Jones 8.2 (125k votes)
Luke Cage 7.7 (65k votes)
Agents of SHIELD 7.5 (150k votes)
Iron Fist 7.1 (54k votes)
I don't care about awards one way or another, but I was amused when Tilda Swinton won a Saturn Award for Doctor Strange. It's a slap in the face to the small number of critics who attacked her casting (and went on to bury Iron Fist), albeit one that will have no impact on the next rubicon of outrage to come (Nick Fury in Captain Marvel could be next).
It's hard to find interesting criticism of both Marvel TV and the MCU at large. There are plenty of opinions out there, but most of them lack depth--a product of whatever echo chamber the proponent resides in (for example the host of this video; another is the MCU Podcast--via the link a host talks about how he's not excited for the Inhumans and his only specific comment is that they brought up guest stars in an interview but didn't expand on it--wtf? His equally clueless cohost thought Medusa had been largely cut from the show because she wasn't featured prominently in the trailer--what planet are these guys on?). Most of what I see or read is someone simply saying X is good/bad, which isn't criticism. What's interesting are the reasons justifying whatever conclusion is being made (albeit deep discussions on things like colour-palate are generally just a ruse to allow the critic to beat on something that's otherwise difficult to criticise). It's also not that useful to talk about performances--it's unavoidable, but there's no way to discuss it productively since it's down to personal preference (if I say so-and-so was great and you thought they were awful, how can those opinions be bridged?). This applies to other things (like "there's too much CGI"--as if there's a magical measurement over what is or isn't "enough"). A good reviewer will tell you what they do or don't like when it comes to personal taste before they get into their review--this allows you to judge whether or not their opinions are likely to match your own--but not enough of them are open and clear about that. The kinds of things that interest me are criteria like: did the plot make sense? Do the characters undergo a story arc? Etc. These are useful elements in a review, but they are rarely focused on.
Somehow I missed Amy Pascal's racist comments back in 2014 (revealed via the Sony email hack, which she apologized for when they were revealed)--this is old news, but I hadn't heard about it, so I thought I'd mention for others who also missed it. Whatever you think about the particulars, I'm shocked this comes from someone so outspoken on social issues--if you preach you need to be consistent.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)