For what have essentially another thirteen-hour movies Marvel’s presence on streaming services have shown that characters who are not currently stuck on Titan, fighting in Wakanda or indeed have been wiped out of existence are pacey enough to explore long-form narrative shows of high quality (yes even Iron Fist) of near-cinematic storytelling in a format that works
We have seen bullet-proof skinned ex-convicts, street-smart super-powered detectives and even near-super-human martial artists all making appearances, the format is so popular in fact that Jeremy Renner even said he would be up for a Netflix show for his super-hero alter-ego Hawkeye and yes, this could work (as long as pizza-dog appears of course).
So with that in mind where should marvel go next? The Netflix model is working perfectly, it has little to no interaction with the cinematic universe outside of New York’s underbelly and as such does not come with baggage and restrictions put onto its other show Agents of SHIELD which always feels like they only get to play with the toys nobody else wants and of course the more ‘adult’ tone of the Netflix offerings mean you could go in some really interesting areas.
There are presently rumours of various other darker characters joining the current Netflix ranks with names such as Damien Hellstrom (Son of Satan), Moon Knight and Heroes for Hires (Misty Knight and Coleen Wing) often talked about as potential characters to develop into their own shows and while each and every one of these would be perfect (especially Moon Knight) Marvels Pantheon of characters go a lot deeper. Who would I pick to develop…why thank you for asking – here is my top ‘five of the best’ of potential new characters, comics and stories Marvel could look at producing in the same model as their current shows.
Marvel Comics Presents
About a decade ago Showtime (the US cable network) launched a show called ‘Masters of Horror’ – which was essentially an anthology series in which directors had the remit to produce a self-containing one-hour horror story that essentially could be anything. As such the show featured ‘masters’ such as John Carpenter, Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon and Tobe Hooper and had shows that featured anything from adaptations of HP Lovecraft stories to satires on the war-dead (zombie corpses coming home to vote) to new takes on serial killers and even one story that was even too grotesque even to screen (thanks to Takishi Miike).
To produce a show based on Marvel’s plethora of characters based on this format would be an ideal way of exploring every inch of the Marvel universe without the worry of disrupting the cinematic status quo. For example one week might be about the clean-up crews who have to deal with Superhero battles (Damage Control, who made a brief appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming) another could be about using superhumans as energy resources (Project Pegasus) another could be about a specific character say Tigra, Hercules, Dr Druid or a team (Livewires, Young Warriors, Losers) who would in any other circumstances have little to no chance of appearing on television. Everyone has their favourite obscure character, team or story to tell and to let say, Troublemaker studios take on a Red Wolf or Puma story would just be a comic fan’s dream.
While the US has SHIELD the Marvel universe has several other organisations that protect it from hard (see SWORD, ARMOUR, HAMMER, etc..) and while its fun to fit the name to acronyms one of the stands out from the crowd by actually having a cast of characters you care about. Essentially MI13 is UNIT – a military operation that works out of the UK and well looks a bit amateur compared to the big heavy hardware driven American intelligence agencies, the thing is MI13 get the job done and don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Again to use the Dr Who analogy there is a bit of Torchwood and a unique Britishness to them.
Created by the king of cynical comics Warren Ellis and introduced in the X-Men spin-off Excalibur the team consists of a set of odd characters including Pete Wisdom (a mutant with laser fingertips) Alistaire and Alysande Stuart – a brother and sister team who set up MI13, Dane Whitman the Black Knight, John the Skrull as well as a host of Marvel UK characters (including Captain Midlands – a 80 year old Brummie who fought alongside Captain America in World War 2). Basing a show on Paul Cornell’s very Britsh take on superheroes would be an ideal starting point for the show as it could be packed full of weirdness, myths, legends and the odd goings-on in the ‘secret’ history of Marvel.
A Grant Morrison take on the idea of ‘Captain Marvel’ that has, in various forms been around since the late 60s. Not to be confused with the first Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) a Kree warrior who tires of military life and fights to protect earth or indeed the current Captain Marvel – Carol Danvers (who is shortly to make her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) but this version of Captain Marvel is Noh-Varr an extra-dimensional version of the character – a sort of sullen teenage recruit who has had his DNA spliced with insects to give him super-speed, reflexes and the ability to run up walls.
The reasoning why this would make a great Netflix development maybe with a name change to say ‘The Protector’ (an identity he takes when he joins the Avengers) is that the series he first appeared in was just odd – nightmarishly odd with some horrific ideas and a protagonist (Dr Midas) who would make a perfect big bad who is obscure enough not to have any detrimental effects on the cinematic universe. Morrison himself described the creation of Noh-Varr as a living breathing pop video, full of kinetic energy, editing effects and special effects – to take this notion, add in a little super-science, black-op style espionage and spy movie tropes you could provide a hard-hitting superhero show that appeals to the Vine/Youtube generation.
Who said that all Netflix should be grim and gritty? If you have ever read NEXTWAVE then you know that all superheroes do not have to take their job that seriously, or actually care about doing it at all. A parody of the Avengers that originally came from the warped mind of Warren Ellis the ‘Agents of HATE’ are a collection of heroes taken from every corner of the Marvel universe by Dirk Anger (think if Bruce Campbell played Nick Fury) to tackle unusual weapons of mass destruction – such as purple pant wearing dragons, Broccoli men, evil Koala bears, baby MODOKS and dinosaurs that look and sound like Terry Thomas.
Yes it’s as mad as its sound and yes its very very funny but the adult action and adventures of Machine Man (turned from a shoe-gazing thinker to a hard-drinking swiss-army-knife), Bloodstone (monster hunter), Spectrum (former Avenger) and the Captain xxx (don’t ask) could make a perfect transition to Netflix to avoid censors and really push the boundaries of what could be done on television.
Finally, a licence that actually would make a fantastic stand-alone show that actually is not set in the Marvel Universe at all – an odd title from the mid-1980s called Strikeforce Morituri and was created for Marvel by Peter Gillis and Brent Anderson. While not a particularly well known comic this 30 issue series set in the future dealt with an alien invasion of earth by a race called the Horde. While more technologically advanced than humans this barbaric race live for war to everything that they do in the book is based around destroying their opposition. In a way to combat these creatures a team of doctors create a super-soldier programme (similar to that used in Captain America) that unlock enhanced abilities in humans – the downside to this is that the process only works on about 5% of the population and the host or these powers will use them up after one year and literally burn up after a set period of time meaning that all the soldiers recruited into the programme if successful only have one year left to live.
With the long-form that Netflix brings setting up and establishing this universe and context would be perfect as too would be the narrative around the characters who go through the process and to watch these characters go from recruits to mission-ready operatives across the series.
With this interesting sci-fi premise, the show could very well follow the same lines as other military box-set shows such as Generation Kill as well as taking examples from hugely popular shows like Galactica, Orphan Black and even politically intriguing shows such as Homeland. A heady mix of intrigue (the Morituri process is very black-ops and questionable – with the results of it going wrong being very nasty indeed), a very nihilistic style military drama and sci-fi would make this a perfect box-set binge watch and would easily tick all the genre boxes that Netflix could ask for.