Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Marvel Netflix Trivia & Speculation

I know, I know.  I should totally be working on something productive today.  However, for the second day in a row, I just can't seem to get started.  They say that writer's block is bullshit.  If that's the case, then so be it.  Maybe I'm just lazy.
Regardless, let's talk about TV...
Iron Fist, Jessica Jones (Jewel or Power Woman), Daredevil, & Luke Cage (Power Man).
This team would typically get the name "Heroes for Hire".
Marvel Netflix Trivia & Speculation
Let’s start with the obvious.  As of this writing, Marvel Television has released a season of Daredevil and a season of Jessica Jones, both on Netflix, both closely tied to the work of iconic comics writer Brian Michael Bendis.  A second of Daredevil is supposed to be headed to Netflix around April next year, and seasons of Luke Cage and then Iron Fist are in the works, Cage for maybe a year from now and Iron Fist as yet to be determined.  All of this is to be followed by a six-episode mini-season of The Defenders.

What We Know
I like this cover because it shows
Daredevil's roots as a boxer.
That first season of Daredevil was a little like Daredevil: Yellow as written by Bendis.  It was very much a relationship-driven ensemble piece, but for as much as it was a full season of TV, it was still just a single Year One story arc—Daredevil vs. the Kingpin.  We saw Stick, we saw a ninja (presumably from the Hand), and we saw Melvin Potter (aka the Gladiator), but we only ever saw Daredevil himself in costume,and that was at the end of the series.  Mostly what we saw was Matt Murdock fighting the Russian mafia in a set of black pajamas.  It was awesome stuff, but by the standards of superhero TV, it was also an achingly slow reveal.  
By the end of the first season, it seemed obvious to me that Wilson Fisk just didn’t have the manpower to compete with Matt Murdock in a straight-up fistfight, that he was fighting a costumed superhero; he therefore needed a costumed supervillain.  To that end, Season Two promises the Punisher and Elektra.  It won’t surprise me if either Bullseye or a costumed version of the Gladiator shows up as well, though I suppose there’s no rush.  On the one hand, I can imagine a Gotham-style story arc with Hell’s Kitchen suddenly bursting with heroes and villains; on the other, Punisher and Elektra represent more than enough menace all on their own.  They are two versions of a similar idea.  Both are ruthless killers, one searching for justice and the other for… something else entirely.  That juxtaposition—with Murdock in the middle—is without question enough for a season of great TV.
Daredevil and Karen Page.
I think this panel is from Daredevil: Yellow by Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb,
current director of Marvel TV.
From Alias.  A great series but raw.
I haven’t seen all of Jessica Jones yet.  So far it seems broadly similar to Daredevil.  It’s a single story—Jessica vs. Kilgrave (the Purple Man)—with a couple of side-plots and character pieces thrown in.  To be fair, there’s not a ton of Jessica Jones source material, though Kilgrave doesn’t show up in Alias, Jessica’s original comic book, until sometime in the second half of that book’s run.
Power Man and Iron Fist
Unlike Jessica Jones, Luke Cage (Power Man) and Danny Rand (Iron Fist) both have tons of history, much of it together.  Power Man and Iron Fist was a crazy-ass buddy team-up book, often pitting our seemingly mismatched heroes against giant robots (lots of giant robots), ninjas, mad scientists, and other assorted wackiness.  For lack of a better description, the book was a bit like a 1970s Kung Fu flick set against the over-gritty backdrop of the Marvel Universe's take on Harlem.  They made it work brilliantly.  
The iconic 1970s look from Power Man & Iron Fist.
More recently, Cage took a leadership role in the New Avengers, the underground Avengers group that followed Captain America into exile in the wake of Civil War.  Considering that Luke Cage appears slated to come out after the Marvel movie version of Captain America: Civil War, this is a potential plot line for Netflix’s Defenders, with the “flawed heroes of Hell’s Kitchen” uniting behind Cage in the face of full-on government oppression.  We already know that Cage was wrongly imprisoned and experimented on by the government.  With Civil War coming, it makes sense that he would be the least trusting of the heroes overall.  He is by far the most likely to resist any type of “gifted” government registration.
I’m expecting Luke Cage to be a bit like the CW’s Arrow, heavy on flashbacks and on things from the past becoming threats in the present.  Unlike Jessica Jones and Daredevil, Cage doesn’t have a single, iconic archenemy, so what the series will present beyond back story is a major mystery.  Wikipedia notes that a few Harlem crime lords have been cast for Luke Cage, as has Danny Rand’s sometimes girlfriend Misty Knight.  If Iron Fist has been cast, I’ve not heard about, nor is it necessarily a given that he’ll show up.  It would be surprising if he doesn’t at least make a cameo, however.
Two modern version  of Luke Cage.  Marvel still tends to dress him in yellow.
As of this writing, Iron Fist has no release date.  It’s the most mystical of the Netflix titles by a wide margin, so it may well serve as the lead-in to the Defenders, though this is by no means a certainty.

Patsy Walker: Hellcat
The original incarnation of Patsy Walker,
Patsy and Hedy from the 1940s.
One of the most intriguing things about Netflix’s Jessica Jones is the inclusion of Patricia Walker, aka Hellcat.  Walker is one of the oldest characters in the Marvel Universe, having debuted in the 1940s under the Timely Comics banner, a precursor to Marvel.  In the 40s, Walker’s book was a comedy/romance ala Archie, but when she was brought into the actual Marvel Universe in the next decade, they made the old “Patsy Walker” comics a part of her backstory—as comics that appeared in the Marvel Universe!  This was serious meta-storytelling for the time, and amazingly, it has survived to become Netflix cannon.  She goes by “Trish” now, but Jessica Jones’s version of the character got her start as a child star on a show called “Patsy Walker”, which was largely about her own childhood.  She is Marvel's take on Melissa Joan Hart, but she grows up to be Howard Stern.  In both cases—comics and Netflix—Walker’s mother was an abusive, domineering stage-mom in ways that seem ready to impact the narrative going forward.
Walker has martial arts training in both version of the series, and in the comics, this means that it’s only a matter of time until she puts on a costume and heads out to fight crime.  Hellcat gets her start as an Avenger, but she is much more commonly associated with the Defenders, and I expect this will hold true on TV as well.  In fact, it is through her adventures with the Defenders that she meets her eventual husband, Damien Hellstrom, aka the Son of Satan.  It then turns out that Patsy’s mother sold Patsy’s soul to Satan to make her famous, and well… wackiness ensues.
Patsy Walker: the Hellcat
Mr. & Mrs. Damien Hellstrom,
aka Hellcat & the Son of Satan!
I can’t help wondering if Marvel would actually put the Son of Satan into its TV catalogue, but who knows?  We've already seen Constantine, and Fox has a show called Lucifer set to air next year, so anything is possible.
The Defenders
Defenders debuted in 1971.  Issue #1 featured the Hulk, Dr. Strange, and Namor, but I doubt that any of those three will show up on Netflix.  Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange is perhaps the most likely, but that would still be really surprising as a matter of budgeting.  Similarly, Marvel might like to use the Hulk, but his CGI budget would probably surpass Cumberbatch’s paycheck by an order of magnitude, so I’m going to doubt it for the same reason.  
The Defenders #54 (1974), starring Hellcat, Namor, the Hulk, and the Black Knight.
Dr. Strange is probably in this one, too, just not on the cover.
It is therefore tough to say who or what the Defenders is going to be exactly.  
I expect Power Man, Iron Fist, and Hellcat to be on the team—Power Man and Hellcat are both perennial team members, as is the Son of Satan—but it will be a little weird if Jessica Jones joins up as well, especially since her gig is being the hero who isn’t a superhero.  That’s the whole point of her show.
Do they put Daredevil on the team?  Daredevil is almost never on super teams in the comics, and why should he be?  His solo book is hugely popular, and his solo Netflix series did enough numbers to merit instant renewal.  Sure, they could stick him in there, but I’m not totally satisfied that this would be a better play than just making more Daredevil solo seasons.  There is a lot of very good Daredevil material out there, and even with a movie and two seasons of TV, they will have only scratched the surface of the possibilities.
There are some other ways that they could play it, though.  For example, Valerie is an easy add.  She ties into Asgard, doesn’t cost a lot, and has a ton of history with the Defenders in the comics.  She seems like a near-certainty if you ask me.  They could add Moondragon for similar reasons, by way of tying in Thanos and Marvel-cosmic or just because she’s a very different kind of hero than anyone who's on the team right now.  Other potential contenders are guys like Nighthawk, Gargoyle, and the Black Knight, all of whom have at least some connection to the mystical side of the Marvel Universe—and most especially to the Marvel’s demonic and occult.
The Defenders #45, starring (from left to right): Hellcat, Hulk, Nighthawk, Valkerie,
Red Guardian, and Luke Cage.
With Patsy Walker in play, my best guess is that they bring in Damien Hellstrom as a guy who needs help with some occult shenanigans, and that Power Man and Iron Fist are his go-to guys.  Jessia Jones is presumably still around, but maybe in the Pepper Potts role from the first Avengers movie, and then add in Valkerie, Moondragon, or Nighthawk.  There you have it.
But what do I know?

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