TV shows based off comic books seem to be on their way to taking over the airwaves. Soon it’ll be reality shows and superhero shows on every channel. Or DEAR GOD, reality shows about superheroes.
As I stated earlier, comic to TV adaptations haven’t had the best track record. In fact it’s been down-right abysmal. The Generation X TV movie, Swamp Thing, Birds of Prey, The Amazing Spider-Man… You want me to go on? Really? Oh… Night Man, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Mutant X, again that horrendous Justice League pilot.
Superheroes can be expensive. Big special effects are fine when you have a $150 Million budget, but when you’re on FOX right after Hotel Hell you’re not going to have money for that fight between the hero and the giant robot that’s destroying half the city. So producers have to settle for cheaper effects, or setting the show in a more “real world” setting. Like Gotham, or Arrow.
With Arrow the series started very low key on the super heroics front, more street level non-powered action. But as the series has progressed more and more DC heroes and villains are appearing in the show. The Suicide Squad, Deathstroke, Arsenal, Flash have all made an appearance. But for some reason the show refuses to call itself Green Arrow, because the showrunners thought that prefacing Arrow with “green” would be too stupid.
By the time Smallville was mercifully taken off the air, we finally got to see Clark as Superman, donning the tights and flying off into the air. It was what fans wanted to see but it took just too damn long to get there. Oh and then there’s the Season 11 comic… but we won’t go there.
With NBC's Constantine, we are finally getting a British John Constantine. Yay. No Keanu Reeves milquetoast portrayal. Double Yay. A first episode directed by Dog Soldiers, The Descent helmer Neil Marshall. Super Yay! What I can almost guarantee we're not getting is Hallblazer John Constantine. This is going to be the okay for network television Constantine. More akin to the character from the New 52 than Vertigo's Hellblazer. While I a big fan of Neil Marshall's films there's no way NBC is going to give Constantine the same leeway with content that they do with Hannibal. The property is relatively unknown outside of comic circles and has a bit of an uphill battle to stand out.
This better make it into an episode Rogen!
“Don’t tell them Uncle jokes no more...”
Shows like Scalped, Preacher, and Lucifer, seem to be heading to channels that allow for more graphic content, which in their cases is a good thing. Preacher and Scalped are two of the best Vertigo titles ever, and two of the best comic series I’ve ever read. Preacher has the odd distinction of being produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the team that brought you Superbad, and This Is The End. So I’m really nervous on how this can go. Both claim to be die hard fans of the comic, so that give me some faith, and they seem to have a pretty good sense on how to make it work.
To be fair to the people at DC, there was a time when they owned TV with their cartoons. Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Justice League Original and Infinity (a.k.a. Justice League Extra Crispy), Teen Titans, but those shows are all gone and DC seems more intent on producing straight to DVD cartoons, of varying quality when it comes to their cartoon initiative. Sadly Teen Titans GO! is the only DC cartoon on the air right now. Which isn’t a bad thing, Teen Titans Go! is a great show, that has a lot of adult jokes, and it’s a gateway for my daughter to enjoy superheroes. Her favorite being Starfire. It’s just TV needs more of that.
Marvel isn't guilt free in this recent onslaught of comic shows. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a strong if not consistent first season, Agent Peggy Carter the highly anticipated Captain America spin-off will run during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. midseason break, then there's the Netflix exclusive Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and finally Defenders. The main difference in Marvel's model compared to DC is that Marvel is releasing their shows explicitly on either ABC or Netflix, and all of the shows tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While DC's shows are split amongst the CW, NBC, CBS, AMC, and FOX.
Now is Marvel’s model better than DC’s when it comes to television? With Marvel you get a consistent voice and tone amongst the shows, which build towards a greater mythology the same way their movies do.With DC, the fact that they are being produced by different networks can allow for a little more variety from show to show. But the fact that they are produced by multiple networks takes away some of the security that Marvel has. Marvel is owned by Disney which also owns ABC, hence why you see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter together on the same network. DC is owned by Time Warner, which in turn owns the CW, where you’ll find Arrow, The Flash, and iZombie, skews to the teen crowd and wouldn’t necessarily be a good platform for show like Preacher or Constantine. Well especially Preacher… given all the anal sex. So it makes sense that DC would shop for other venues for their properties, but who would have thought sooooo many? It’s like they couldn’t then settle on one. NBC, CBS, FOX, TNT, AMC, the CW, I think the only thing that’s missing is ABC, and HBO.
I wonder who the target audience was for this image?
What all this boils down to is quality over quantity. With a variety of shows DC has a chance at appealing to a broader swath of people. You’ll get a younger crowd with The Flash, and an older one with Scalped. Then there’s almost a guaranteed audience with comic fans, at least for the first little while. Look at Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and their initial strong start, that waned in the middle of the first season. It took a dramatic status quo shift due to the Captain America movie to get people really interested again. DC’s tv shows won’t have the advantage of the cinematic universe backing it up. With the exception of Arrow and The Flash, none of the DC shows cross over, they’re each their own separate thing. And while the more hardcore Batman fan will know that the Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins is different than the Ra’s in Arrow, the common person may be stuck wondering why the Ra’s on Arrow isn’t Liam Neeson. It’s a similar pitfall of relaunching the Batman franchise so soon after Dark Knight Rises.
We won’t mention the Spider-Man relaunch. It puts Batfleck in a mood.
Whether DC’s plan will be successful remains to be seen. To this observer, this “go for broke” attitude with putting out as many properties as possible seems to be reactionary to Marvel’s success in theatres. It somewhat smacks of a dictate from the higher ups at Time Warner to get as much stuff out there both on TV and theatres
Who know’s, maybe all these upcoming shows will be great. I hope they are. As long as the people who are making them are passionate about the project and are somewhat faithful to the source material, each of these shows may be well worth the watch. In all likelihood though some of these shows aren’t going to make it, or be very good. Just as long as they’re not as terrible as the GODDAMN AWFUL JUSTICE LEAGUE PILOT!