Chat Cave: Marvel + Netflix = Defenders

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. 

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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.

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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?

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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?

19 comments on “Chat Cave: Marvel + Netflix = Defenders

  1. To make a great series (no matter if it’s a comic book series or a TV show), you have to form a large cast of supporting characters. If all the attention is focused on the leading character, in the long run readers will get bored with him/her.
    On the contrary, to make a great movie you mustn’t introduce too many supporting characters, or the audience will get confused.
    Daredevil has a large cast of supporting characters, so I think that building a TV show (and not a movie) around him is the right choice.
    Among Daredevil’s supporting characters, the ones who should play a key role in the series are Foggy, Elektra and the Black Widow, in my opinion. I’ll try to explain you why.
    Foggy: As you know, it is rather frequent that a superhero decides to fight crime with someone else, with a sidekick whose help makes him/her feel more confident and sometimes pulls his/her chestnuts out of the fire.
    I love when a superhero has a sidekick who, instead of fighting crime next to him/her, as the various Robins used to do with Batman, prefers to help his/her mentor behind the scenes, as Foggy does with Daredevil. That’s why their relationship should be an important theme of the series: because Foggy helps Daredevil as a sidekick, but he does it in a way most people are not used to, that is to say by using his lawyer skills instead of his fists.
    Elektra: I don’t think I have to explain why she should get a key role: she’s a so interesting character that she got a solo series, and she’s also the most popular and important lover Matt ever had.
    Black Widow: She got a lot of popularity thanks to the Avengers, so her presence as one of Daredevil’s lovers would increase the interest around the TV show.

    • The scope and method of the world-building is a great distinction between TV and film, and could spell success if done thoughtfully. That said, I’m not sure the heroes here were selected for the size of their supporting casts. Sure, Luke Cage has his family, but that could have pretty easily have been covered in a movie. Similarly, the three supporting characters you mention for Daredevil could have been handled in a movie just fine (and every single Marvel movie has had at least three supporting characters). Also, I doubt any characters from the movies will make regular appearances on these shows (I actually doubt they’ll even appear in cameos). Scarlett Johanson’s price tag is likely more than the entire production budget for any of these shows.

      • I didn’t mean to say that Scarlett Johansson should appear in the show (I perfectly know that Netflix’s budget wouldn’t cover her price): I meant to say that her character (played by a different actress) should play a consistent role in the show. Karen Page is another worthy character I’d like to see. Thank you for your reply! : )

        • That’s an interesting thought — I’ve been assuming that these shows are sharing a universe with Marvel’s movies (and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I guess), in which case, replacing an actor just for their TV appearances would be super confusing. Is that the case, though? Do we think these will have anything to do with the Marvel movie universe?

        • I think that Marvel shouldn’t mix their movie universe with their rising tv universe. Their tv universe will have a different budget, different leading characters, different plots and so on, so it wouldn’t mesh with the movie universe at all, in my opinion. Thank you for your reply! : )

        • Didn’t last night’s S.H.I.E.L.D. address the Dark Elf attack in London (as depicted in Thor 2)? I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s my understanding that Agents is definitely supposed to be in the same universe – I mean, there was a damn Nick Fury cameo early on. I’d be willing to bet that the Marvel movie contracts build in a lot of cameos for the actors. Like, if I was making up the contracts, I’d make sure that Scarlet Johanson, in exchange for making a butt-ton of money for being in four movies (Jesus, that’s a lot Iron Man 2, Avengers, Cap 2 and Avengers 2), that she’s also obligated to reprise the role in like an episode or two of the TV stuff.

        • Exactly. She finds the time to shoot a spot for Dolce & Gabbana, so she could also find some time to play the Black Widow once again for the small screen.
          Also, I agree with many people that Scarlett Johansson is one of the most gorgeous actresses in the industry, but in my opinion the most beautiful actress in the world is Heather Graham.
          Thank you for your reply! : )

      • Although, Sam Jackson was in Agents of SHIELD recently. I’m wondering, since this is such new territory, if the big screen actors are signing new kinds of contracts that have them obliged to appear on television as well. So like, they get an extra half a mil if they agree to do a cameo on a particular show or something.

        • It’s an interesting thought — I know Mark Ruffalo is contracted for some absurd number of movies, so it doesn’t seem completely out of the question that their contracts might be unusual. Still, that extra money has to come from somewhere, right? Or maybe it’s a “you want this multi-million dollar, multiple-film contract, you’re going to agree to do a few TV spots” kind of thing. I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW BUSINESS WORKS.

    • While the character may be tied-up in Spider-Man rights, I do think that Robbie Urich is a pretty essential character for Daredevil as well. I remember a pretty significant storyline of Bendis’ time writing Daredevil was told entirely from Urich’s point of view and still managed to be both a fascinating story and a fascinating DAREDEVIL story which impressed me.

      And of course, Stilt-Man is a must.

      • Yes obviously Stilt-Man.

        On that How Did This Get Made? that Ed Brubaker was on, he did mention that Marvel has the movie rights to Punisher back too, and that he’d make sense as a supporting cast member for a Daredevil movie reboot. He’s a New Yorky enough hero that I could see him as a support cast member for just about any of these series (maybe not Jessica Jones, ‘cuz, y’know: the past).

      • You are perfectly right: Ben Urich MUST be a significant part of the show. He could also be the narrator! Just think about it: Ben Urich appearing both as a character and as the voice – over, telling us and commenting Daredevil’s life, with the sound of his fingers on the typewriter as the background music. That would be brilliant! Thank you for your reply! : )

  2. Honestly, as long as these series are GOOD, I’ll sit down and watch them all and seriously enjoy it. I’m thrilled that Marvel and Netflix are making these and that Marvel is taking so many risks, and I think that this has the potential to be a really fantastic move for both companies, but again, it’ll only pay off if the series are good. I enjoy Agents of SHIELD, I really do, but it’s still pretty thoroughly mediocre (and while I love all the Marvel movies, the only ones I think really ascended into being GREAT movies were the first Iron Man and The Avengers; the rest are all really good movies and I love them but they’re not masterpieces or anything), so as long as the guys at Marvel can put a little more pizzazz into these series, I think they’ll work fine. I do think that featuring actual well known superheroes gives the Netflix series a big advantage.

    • Hahaha. I mostly meant that he’s a deep cut, who’s struggled to maintain a series even in the niche market of comics — I’m not sure he’s going to have the popular appeal needed to make a successful TV show. Then again, I really have no idea what kind of numbers a Netflix original series needs to draw to be considered a success.

      • I was thinking about this this morning: There are a lot of movies and TV shows coming out that don’t have support in the form of comic books. Sure Luke Cage is the leader(ish) of Mighty Avengers, but it’s not like there’s a Luke Cage Book at the moment. The same is true of both Iron Fist and Jessica Jones. But it’s also true that there aren’t solo books for Ant-Man or Doctor Strange and both of them are going to anchor movies in a few years. Marvel’s done of good job of showcasing Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics right now – maybe that means we can expect a Jessica Jones solo book in the next year or so.

        • Gotham Central is another upcoming tv show that doesn’t have support in the form of comic books.
          I strongly hope that the Gotham Central comic series will resurrect thanks to the tv show, because it was an awesome comic book.

        • I absolutely love Gotham Central, but I’m not sure I’d want to see it resurrected — at least, not without Rucka and Brubaker, which seems highly unlikely. That series was so perfectly pitched to the skills and sensibilities of those writers, I’m not sure it could be reproduced by anyone else.

        • You’re right: Gotham Central wouldn’t be the same without Rucka and Brubaker, but I would like to see its comeback anyway, and I think it could be good anyway.
          For example, since Miller stopped writing Daredevil the series never reached the peeks of Miller’s run again, but Daredevil still is an entertaining series.
          I mean to say that an hypothetical Gotham Central Vol. 2 probably wouldn’t reach the peeks of Vol. 1, but it could be a very entertaining comic book anyway. Thank you for your reply! : )

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