Last week, Marvel Studios announced that it would be producing four original, live-action series for Netflix — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist — and a Defenders mini-series that would theoretically tie them all together. Marvel Studios proved they were capable of conquering the well-established medium of feature-length films, and Agents of S.H.IE.L.D. is already a monster hit for ABC, can they accomplish the same in the untested waters of the Netflix Originals market? What’s in it for them? What’s in it for us? Hell, do you even have room in your heart to love FIVE NEW SERIES? Welcome to the Chat Cave.
Mikyzptlk: I’m going to start off this conversation the way I enjoy starting out pretty much any conversation (comics-related or not): by talking about DC Comics. Oh, don’t act so surprised, my name is an homage to a famous Superman villain for crying out loud! Anyway, when I first heard the news about the Marvel/Netflix deal, my first thought was, “Damn, yet another blow to DC.” Of course, that’s just my pessimism acting out, as what this really is is great news for Marvel (and hopefully DC Comics and other comic properties, depending on how successful this strategy is). Marvel has been blazing the trail when it comes to bringing a massive shared comics universe to the live action arena, and the Netflix deal only continues to prove Marvel Entertainment’s dedication to pushing their properties to the forefront of pop culture.
Netflix (and other streaming services) is the future of television. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. So, it comes as no surprise to me that Marvel would want to cash in on the popularity of the streaming service. Not everyone has cable these days, as the younger crowd is more apt to opt in to streaming services. Marvel’s Netflix deal is a logical way to tap into the streaming market with arguably the best streaming service available today. Netflix, in return, is bound to get a slew of new subscribers itching to get their digital paws on some of their favorite Marvel characters. I mean, it’s a win-win for both companies. As long as Marvel continues to infuse these new shows with the same level of quality that we’ve seen in their previous efforts, I’ll have more than enough room in my TV schedule for them, because, hell, as a Netflix subscriber, I make my own TV schedule.
Drew: Obviously, I’m well within the target audience for this thing, and while I’m almost certainly going to watch every single one of these, even I’m a bit perplexed at the heroes they’ve chosen to highlight. Sure, Daredevil has the name-recognition AND stigma from his own box office flop — it makes sense to relegate him to TV — but Iron Fist? Dude’s a joke even to comics nerds. Even to comics nerds. With 13-episode orders for each series, we’re going to spend more time with these characters than we will even the heroes introduced in Marvel’s first wave of live-action films, and I’m not sure Iron Fist or Jessica Jones can really hope to hold our interest for that long.
I suppose that’s what really interests me with this announcement: even though these shows are getting TV budgets and B-list heroes, they’re going to collectively have more narrative time than the entire Marvel movie franchise. Perhaps more importantly, the serialized nature of comics has a much more natural analogue in television. Comics fans are used to having satisfying chapters that fit together to form small arcs which in turn build to larger arcs, and while Marvel seems to be treating their films like that, it’s hard to build momentum when installments come every few years. Getting a new episode every week (or Netflix simply releasing all of the episodes at once, as they are wont to) is much more immediately satisfying, and should have no trouble reaching the hearts and minds of, say, fans of DC’s own live-action TV successes.
Shelby: While I agree the heroes Marvel has chosen seem…odd, I take it as a sign of the confidence Marvel feels in this market. There’s something about the way they produce live-action media that tends to get people more excited than anything else. There are Marvel movies coming out soon that I never thought I’d see: Guardians of the Galaxy, Days of Future Past, Ant-Man. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for all these things, but in my little nerd heart I never imagined Marvel would have the balls to launch movies about a man who can communicate with insects, time travel nonsense like only the X-Men can do, and god-damn Rocket Raccoon to a mainstream audience. Meanwhile, DC can’t even get people excited about their casting selections.
Marvel finds itself in a really fun place; with their solid universe-building in the Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Avengers franchises, they can afford to take bigger risks with their other movies and media. Even then, the potential rewards way outweigh the risks. A deal with Netflix comes with a HUGE built-in audience. They have the potential to draw big nerds with these B-sides characters as well as introduce mainstream audiences to new characters. Even if I don’t watch all of these (honestly, I had to look up Jessica Jones on Wikipedia), I’m excited about the possibilities this partnership opens up. And who doesn’t love an opportunity to introduce fun characters to a new audience?
Patrick: I love the business implications behind this. Marvel’s not going to be able to make Avengers movies indefinitely – Chrises Hemsworth and Evans have both been vocal about how unpleasant is it staying in superhero-shape while their movies are filming, and in another 10 years, they just flat out won’t be able to do it anymore. If the cinematic superhero boom lasts that long (and I’m not saying that it will), Marvel brass is going to need to have a gauge on which characters can anchor a film that’s expected to gross a billion dollars. Netflix is capable of gathering an absurd amount of information, and Marvel Studios will know exactly what characters to market to which audiences and how risky each one will be.
Creatively, I’m also fascinated by the freedom granted distributing these things on Netflix. That on-demand quality is going to be built into format, meaning that stories can be as long or as short as they need to be. Can you imagine how cool it would be if they did a few 10-minute stories mixed in with the 45-minuters? And of course, episodes could also be 90 minutes! There’s no reason to standardize their length. For as okay as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is (and that might be a generous assessment), that series has to stick to the weird tones and rhythms of network dramas – and Netflix Originals don’t have any restrictions. The trend has been making episodes too long and too slow. Both Arrested Development and Orange is the New Black fell victim to this, but those are both the products of strong personalities (Mitch Hurwitz and Jenji Kohan, respectively) who had decades of experience writing for television.
I guess that means there’s no guarantee that it’ll work. But it is a guarantee that it’ll be something different – and that’s good enough for me. Now! Who do I call about a staff writer position?