Thursday, December 7, 2017

Marvel TV News

In my last post I addressed concerns that the Netflix shows would be pulled to become part of Disney's streaming service (it has since been confirmed that they will stay). We now know that not only will the shows remain but that Netflix owns the IP. It's not clear from Ted Sarandos' comments what that IP consists of (he simply said "the Defenders", presumably meaning all five series-leading characters: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Punisher, who were packaged with supporting characters--how many that we haven't seen is unknown). If that's the case then Netflix could theoretically expand their Marvel shows to include the Daughters of the Dragon, Hellcat, Elektra (if she had been popular--rebooting her at this stage is probably impossible), etc. That said, this is clearly part of the reason why more and more side characters are being created for the shows.

It's an interesting question: which characters were folded into the IP (especially as it's unlikely more will be handed over, meaning characters like Moon Knight won't appear on the Netflix platform--although the case of White Tiger is more complicated, see below). Because Daredevil and the Punisher's rights were previously sold, it's likely the character packages provided to Netflix are similar (certainly both Kingpin and Elektra continue to be part of Matt Murdock's universe). Many of the Jessica Jones' comic roster are characters intended for film, so much of what we've seen on her show is a hodgepodge of her own (like Malcolm) with replacements like Trish Walker (instead of Carol Danvers) and Nuke (a Daredevil villain). Luke Cage and Iron Fist have a small roster of their own villains (most of the latter's big names have already been used, see below), with many of their more traditional supervillains not fitting into the Netflix format (that is to say, grounded).

The other question is: how does owning that IP impact the characters appearing in the movies? Presumably that was negotiated as part of the original deal (Charlie Cox has a movie option in his contract, suggesting something is already worked out). I assume that, while Netflix controls their rights to some extent, Marvel is allowed to use them in the movies if they wish (in cameos or as supporting characters)--a usage now vastly unlikely because Marvel won't want to help a competitor (Netflix). The other confusion is that both Luke Cage and Black Panther seem to be using the same character (something that may no longer be happening; I recall Coker saying that she was "just a name" for the film, but can't find the quote so take that with a grain of salt). I feel like the cases of film duplicating TV are accidental--easter eggs where the film-side had no idea that the TV-side was using the character (this would apply to the Doctor Strange/Runaways double cast as well).

Variety reports that Wilson Bethel has been cast as a series regular playing an FBI agent in Daredevil season three. This is not the same FBI agent casting call we saw most recently, but does seem to match what The Hashtag Show posted months earlier (same link). Their speculation, which has been copied elsewhere, is that his character might be Sin-Eater--I think that's questionable (he's awfully similar to the Punisher as well as being a Spiderman character--so presumably owned by Sony), but CBR's contention that he's taking over Nuke's role in the story (the character perhaps unavailable due to Jessica Jones) makes sense (whoever they are). Thematically the FBI angle echoes The Punisher and I wonder if the Netflix writers are trying to make a more concerted/coherent effort for their lead-in to the next Defenders series (this, incidentally, would not have impacted Jessica Jones' season two, as it was written in the summer of 2016, long before such a shift could have occurred).

While the other three Defenders have had their most iconic personalities appear already, Daredevil still awaits Bullseye and Typhoid Mary. Because the former's background remains a mystery Netflix can do whatever they want with it, while the latter could easily fit into season three's arc if they choose (given her connection to the Kingpin).

I mentioned White Tiger as being a possible exception to the general crushing of various Netflix rumours (Moon Knight, Namor, BladeCaptain Britain, and Spider-Woman) and that's because she's not necessarily hitched to her own IP. While the others have quite distinct, stand-alone histories, Angela Del Toro is strongly linked to Daredevil and outside of a mini-series has never lead her own comic. This suggests she could be folded into another IP and her specific reference in Jessica Jones may mean she's part of the Netflix package (whether that's Daredevil or Jessica Jones is hard to say). Countering this would be the various references in Daredevil season one, which seem purely like easter eggs, but I bring it up because the standing of White Tiger as IP isn't clear (particularly as there have been five characters who have worn that identity).

Speaking of casting, The Hashtag Show is reporting Iron Fist is looking for a series regular: (open ethnicity) dubbed Tanya Parker (this may be the role Alice Eve has just landed, but that's not clear): "a freelance covert operative, Tanya has carried out many high-level missions. A chameleon adept at playing roles, Tanya inhabits the “part” that best fits the mission." They speculate this is Lady Gorgon, a minor Punisher character (with the usual short lifespan of most Punisher villains, eight issues from 2008-11), an assassin for The Hand. I think the reason the Hashtag guys picked her is that her first name is Tanya and that she's a martial artist, but I believe the Netflix shows (including Iron Fist) are going to steer clear of The Hand for awhile given its lukewarm reception (there's also no chance they'd have open ethnicity auditions for an Asian character). I've seen others speculate that she's a character connected to the Immortal Iron Fist run (Tiger's Beautiful Daughter specifically), but there's not much left to use from that run and the show can't afford to do it justice anyway (a reality some fans cannot accept--it also has the same ethnicity problem as Lady Gorgon). As I mentioned months ago there's not a lot of Iron Fist source material left to work with unless Luke Cage is involved and it's quite likely the Tanya character has been created for the show (just like Dinah Madani was for The Punisher--there's no guarantee her name will even be "Tanya"). If I was picking from Danny Rand's roster, incidentally, I'd go with former KGB operative Ninotchka (who was a member of the same Russian program that trained Black Widow).

The broader question is, will the show double down on mysticism, or will it go the pulpy route of the Heroes for Hire comics, or will it do something more grounded? I'd prefer the show do the latter, as it fits in better with the general tone on Netflix and would suit having the Kingpin as the main villain in a second season of Defenders (as yet we have no idea if that's planned).

Of all the shows Iron Fist is the one most able to respond to the reaction both to its first season and The Defenders. New showrunner Raven Metzner was only announced in July and while I'm sure there were ideas and possibly even scripts for season two before that I assume they have been tossed aside or scrubbed thoroughly since. We know very little about what's planned--the return of Sacha Dhawan (Davos) is unchanged, but we don't know if the inclusion of Misty Knight was added after audience reaction or planned all along (given comments suggesting the inclusion of Danny in Luke Cage was in response to the audience, I'd guess it was not the original plan). The idea of Danny's evolution as a character in The Defenders clearly was the original conception, but from audience (and critical) response another change is allowing Finn Jones to work on his Kung Fu prior to the start of the season (and, undoubtedly, give him his costume).

CBR's Renaldo Matadeen believes Hulu is the wrong platform for The Runaways, arguing it's missing out on a much larger audience by not being on Netflix or Amazon. In a literal sense he's correct--less people will watch the show because of the platform--although this also means the bar for success is significantly lower. I haven't seen numbers to suggest how it's performing, but there's little reason not to expect the show to continue--it's a critical success and even if Hulu can't or won't support it Marvel can simply shift it elsewhere. If Disney buys Fox and uses Hulu as their platform, then The Runaways will be well-positioned for a viewership bump in the future.

I wanted to make a short comment about why I don't discuss Agents of SHIELD because I haven't explained it before: I've never watched the show. As intrigued as I was with the "it's all connected" idea when the show debuted back in 2013, I thought resurrecting Coulson was a dumb idea (however much I like Clark Gregg; Joss Whedon, responsible for both killing and resurrecting him, has said conflicting things about it since), and that the network format of 22-episodes is far too much content to support a show like it. Over time, as the movies continue to ignore the TV-side and it had extremely limited connection to the Netflix characters, any reason I had to get into it has simply disappeared. I'm not saying the show is bad--it might be excellent--I just haven't been drawn in. If there were ever genuine, meaningful crossovers with the movies or the Netflix shows, that might draw me in.

John Campea claims that even if Fox sells its movie division to another company the comic rights they own will revert back to Marvel (although he admits there may be legalities he's not familiar with). If he's correct I'm not sure it would apply to the Fantastic Four, since their rights are owned by Constantine Films (what Fox has are distribution rights, much like Universal does for the Hulk--these are, presumably, rights they could sell). That being said, it seems extremely unlikely Fox will sell to anyone other than Disney at this point in order to avoid possible legal hurdles (like the legal challenges to AT&T's takeover of TimeWarner).

Incidentally, there's been a lot of confusion in some of the fan-reporting on the potential merger (for example) with the biggest errors over which assets Marvel would actually be acquiring.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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