With Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiering this week on ABC, a lot of fandom's attention seems to be turned to how our favorite characters can be adapted for the small screen. Rumors persist that Marvel is seeking out other areas of their cinematic universe to exploit on television, with the most predominant news item being their preparation of a series focusing on Agent Peggy Carter, Steve Rogers' partner and love interest in Captain America: The First Avenger. With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. exploring the "modern age" of the Marvel U, it definitely seems interesting to have a series exploring the past of the same shared universe.
With DC and Warner Bros.' Arrow preparing to go into it's second season, and promising more longstanding DC characters like the Flash for its future, it seems that superheroes are starting to break into television in a big way. To that end, here are five potential series based on the DC and Marvel universes that would probably make for some pretty awesome TV series.
5) Superman: Metropolis
While the original intent of this comic series focused on a mutated Metropolis reeling from a technological upgrade by an alien enemy, the basic conception actually seems like it'd be a pretty good basis for a TV series. Life in the Daily Planet is likely pretty hectic, with giant monsters, supervillains and general insanity plaguing the city while Superman dashes around to stop it. This means that the Planet has people desperately trying to cover it all, and one of the people often shown on the front lines is cub reporter and skilled photographer Jimmy Olsen.
Beyond this, quieter moments in Metropolis often reveal corporate espionage, political intrigue, and prospective supercrime all necessitating investigations that delve deep into the city. A series chronicling the efforts of the Daily Planet with possible inspiration from shows like The Newsroom or House of Cards may provide a very fresh superheroic bent to the media procedural drama. With a relatively smaller but courageous character like Jimmy in the front seat, it may help bring a fun perspective to an old tale.
4) Arkham Asylum: Living Hell
Traditional superhero comics focusing on the likes of Batman, Spider-Man or the Avengers don't often go into the category of horror, but the Dark Knight's world has always been able to permit it in ways that other mainstream superheroes often can't. With much of Batman's own legend oriented toward perpetuating fear, many of his best villains have a requirement to be a little scary, or even in some cases, genuinely frightening. The living embodiment of the darkness and craziness of Batman's legendary rogues gallery is Arkham Asylum, often characterized as a horrific madhouse of dark corridors and dimly lit cells that reverberate with the screams of the insane.
In the comic series Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, Warren "Great White Shark" White pleas insanity in his case in an attempt to avoid going to prison, since he feels that a stay in Arkham will likely be better than a cell in Gotham's Blackgate Penitentiary. As the series progresses, he's incredibly mistaken, being locked in the madhouse with some of the most viciously remorseless and detached criminals that Blackgate would never permit. The comic series focused on characters like the Asylum's administrator, Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, as well as staff psychiatrists and guards like Aaron Cash, who was a featured character in both Arkham video games. A series exploring the home of Batman's enemies in the vein of something like American Horror Story would be fascinating, and could definitely be a memorable exploration of Batman's larger world on the small screen.
3) The Punisher
With two attempts on film that failed to garner new material in recent years, and with the rights for the character having reverted back to Marvel Studios, maybe a better course of action would be trying to explore the Punisher's relentless one-man war on the mob from the small screen. As one of Marvel's most continually interesting characters, the two recent films from 2004 and 2008 haven't been able to fully capture the essence of what makes Frank Castle so compelling. One of the reasons for this might be that one film just isn't enough time to delve into some of the greater complexities added to the character in recent years by comic writers like Garth Ennis, Rick Remender or Greg Rucka.
While some of the violence would have to be toned down to a degree to make it on television, recent shows that have a penchant for gritty gun battles and street-level underworld wars like Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy would likely be a good place to start to bring Castle into an episodic world. Taking inspiration from the comic book works, particularly of Ennis and Rucka, would definitely be a formula for success in examining the War Journal of Frank Castle in an ongoing, episodic format.
Picture this: a young girl in the same high school class as Peter Parker has a secret crush on the bespectacled young man, and finally works up the courage to say something to him while they're out on a field trip. When she almost works up the nerve, Peter is seemingly distracted and doesn't quite allow her the opportunity to say anything. He was distracted by a spider bite that would prove very fateful for young Parker, and would be echoed in the young girl's own exposure to radioactivity that would grant her some extranormal abilities.
This is the story of Jessica Jones, a superhero named Jewel who retires from masked adventuring in order to become a gifted private investigator, where she has to often handle superpowered incidents around some high profile areas of the Marvel Universe, but from the grounded perspective of a relative outsider. As the series that launched Marvel mature readers MAX imprint, the subject matter of Jones, her cases, and her own self-realizations limit the kind of network that the show would be suited for to something like HBO or Showtime. If toned down it could likely work on a station like AMC, but either way, it seems like a show of this nature would fit in very well with the tenor of Marvel Studios' most prominent creator, Joss Whedon.
1) Gotham Central
With the popularity of certain police procedural shows like CSI:, NYPD Blue and The Wire, setting a show of that genre in with a comic book shared universe seems almost like a no-brainer. When looking for comic book influences for a show like that, you need not look further than the critically acclaimed 2002-2006 DC Comics series Gotham Central, written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka with artwork by Michael Lark. Rumors have abounded about creating a show out of this series for years, but it's always lagged whether it's because of the Dark Knight trilogy, or Warner Bros.' unwillingness. Either way, it'd make a fantastic episodic story, profiling the average hardworking detectives and officers of the Gotham City Police Department trying to make headway against organized crime, supercrime and occasionally, the Batman.
The comic book series won numerous awards for its use of the comics medium, and the way that it would push the boundaries of storytelling in general. The most notable example of this is Greg Rucka's arc "Half a Life," but the series was incredible when an overworked police department scrambles across town to stop a rampaging Joker from picking civilians off with a sniper rifle. Other great stories profiled the Gotham PD's efforts against villains like Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, the Mad Hatter,and even obscure villains like Firebug. All in all, Gotham Central is a masterpiece waiting to happen. All it'd take is the studio willing to pull the proverbial trigger.
ADDENDUM: Literally as this last section was being written, it was officially announced that Fox picked up a new, forthcoming series called Gotham that will focus on the early days of James Gordon's career with the Gotham PD, before Batman's arrival in town. It is also said to explore the origins of the villains in the city, and how Gotham becomes the playground for the extreme personalities Batman will battle when his war on crime begins. It's not exactly Gotham Central, but the premise and the character of focus certainly sound very promising.
That does it this week for Comics on Film, but is there a comic series that you think would make for a great TV series? Sound off below, and we'll see you next week!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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