By Steve Bonanno
The start of Fall means the kickoff of new TV series and seasons, and just like on the big screen, the line up is littered with comic book adaptations. The only difference is on this terrain DC is out numbering Marvel four to one. This wont be the case for long though, as Marvel plans to release four shows on Netflix by next year, but the focus here is not a numbers game. What’s important is how these two companies are tackling the realm of TV differently.
Marvel is keeping one fluid universe between television and film, which has proven to be one of their greatest strengths. When “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” first premiered it didn’t look too promising. The first few episodes were weak and I feared that bringing Coulson back from the dead and giving him his own spinoff was going to wind up being The Avengers equivalent of “Joey.” It wasn’t until six or seven episodes in, right around Thor 2‘s premiere, that the show started strongly connecting to the movie universe and picking up steam. By the end of season one, where the show tied directly into Cap 2, it had broken all expectations. Avengers characters such as Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) had made cameos and characters like Deathlok had been introduced. Also the characters on Coulson’s team had broken the cliche’ molds they originally appeared to be cut from.
So far season 2 has done a great job further expanding the Marvel universe. We’ve already seen characters like Absorbing Man and Blizzard, which is one of the best aspects of this show. No one’s going to go see these characters in theaters, but they can still exist in the same story as RDJ’s Iron Man. It adds a depth to the overall story, which strengthens the movies just as the movies do for the show.
That being said, with Avengers 2 hitting theaters at the end of this season, it’s safe to assume the show will build up to those events. As for Marvel’s Netflix projects, we will be introduced to the street level vigilantes of Marvel’s NYC, including DareDevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, eventually bringing them all together in a new version of The Defenders. Since Netflix has a better track record of playing with others than most networks, it’s a fair bet that Coulson and his team will make some appearances. All this will lead up to Marvel’s cinematic adaptation of it’s Civil War arch. If at this point you feel like you’ve just been shown a wall in a dim lit basement covered in newspaper clippings connected by string, that’s completely normal.
DC’s approach has not been quite as singular. For starters, there seems to be a strict separation of church and state when it comes to movies and TV, and even all their TV endeavors have an “eggs in different baskets” mentality. The problem with this is some of these eggs turn out to be chickens while others are just chicken shit. As of now they have “Gotham” airing on Fox, “Constantine” on NBC, and a new “Supergirl” TV show is in the works for CBS. The only shared basket seems to be The CW, where “The Flash” recently premiered along side “Arrow.”
Despite my less than positive review of “Arrow’s” first season, I actually feel now that it’s one of DC’s best television ventures. Throughout season 2 it became a grittier show. It shed itself of some unwanted characters, and started introducing ones from the comics we’ve wanted to see. Along with the roster of iconic villains come to life, season 2 introduced The Flash, sparking his own show. While the first few episodes have had a corniness reminiscent of early “Arrow,” the promise of what’s ahead is enough to get through it. Now season 3 of “Arrow” is set to introduce characters like The Atom and Ra’s a Ghul, which means this CW universe is expanding. The only question is why is Supergirl out of the equation? Granted, the notion of an internetwork crossover isn’t ridiculous, but it’s a lot less likely than if she was on The CW.
This is by no means DC’s biggest mistake. That is reserved for the sheer existence of “Gotham.” Out of all of the untapped stories in DC’s library this is the show no one asked for. To truly merit making a prequel to a story there needs to be questions people want answered, and Gotham has none of those. No one asked for The Penguin’s origin story. We already knew Gotham was a corrupt city and Jim Gordon remained a straight cop. We’ve seen the Waynes get shot more times than Uncle Ben, and we safely assumed Bruce was a troubled boy afterwards. We don’t need to see him standing on roofs and burning himself with candles, we get it, he’s going to be Batman. What this show boils down to is a generic cop drama laced with so many Batman references you think it’s a prequel. Young Cat Woman watched the Waynes get shot, then Poison Ivy’s dad was framed for it? What’s next, the Joker bullying young Bruce Wayne at school? Or maybe Scarecrow will be his guidance councilor.
DC’s final show, which premiered last week, is Constantine, and after seeing just the pilot I have faith. Now most likely, being on a separate network and dwelling in the realm of magic, this will remain separate from The CW’s universe. However, that’s probably a good thing. While Marvel is striving to connect all aspects of the comics into one linear plot, that’s not necessarily the only or even best method. These upcoming Netflix shows need to meet an overall high production standard, so when the time comes they can seamlessly blend into the movies. That’s why developing a separate TV universe works for DC, because while “Arrow” has gotten much better and “The Flash” shows promise, neither of them would be able to mesh with the upcoming Justice League movies. As for “Constantine,” having the dark, magical side of DC play out on its own turf may work best. Provided the rest of the first season goes well, we may see comic classics like Swamp Thing come into play, something that would be hard to introduce to CW’s light, sci-fi universe.