A bit over a week ago news broke that Marvel and Netflix were teaming up to bring some comic heroes to Netflix’s digital distribution network. The launch is said to feature Luke Cage (aka Power Man), Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Daredevil, as well as the potential for a mini-series starring the Defenders. Some of these names will probably be familiar to young television fans since Luke Cage and Iron Fist both star in Disney’s Ultimate Spider-Man television show as members of Spider-Man’s team (alongside Nova and White Tiger), and Daredevil was a made into a movie in the early years of the comic movie boom. Jessica Jones is probably not very well known outside of comic circles, but we will come back to her shortly. The Defenders, at this point, is just a name and it will be hard to say where they are going with it until they announce who will be on the roster. The traditional Defenders roster is Hulk, Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange and Namor, but I suspect we will see something more inline with later incarnations that feature characters like Hellcat and Nighthawk (bonus points if you know anything about either character).
Details on what we can expect out of this deal are still emerging, so there is not much to go on except for the characters themselves. To the best of my knowledge we do not even know if these will be animated, live action or some mix. We do know that each series will have 13 episodes initially, except for the Defenders, and that they are only loosely connected to the Marvel Cinema Universe that has been building since the first Iron Man movie. For those of you wondering, the Ben Affleck led Daredevil and subsequent spin-off, Elektra, are (mercifully) not part of the Cinema Universe since they were part of Marvel’s deal with Fox (which also netted the X-Men, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, which is why they do not crossover with the Avengers). This gives Netflix the opportunity to start fresh with Daredevil and maybe do away with the bright red costume in favor of something more subdued, like his semi-armored look in the 90s.
What is most interesting is that the characters in these new series are all fairly interconnected in the Marvel Universe. Daredevil is actually the outlier here, and is probably along mostly as the “big name” of the group to cement the new as a big deal. Iron Fist and Luke Cage have a very long history together, and their team-up series in the 70s and 80s is generally held up as some of the better work produced at the time. Jessica Jones came along years later as a creation of Marvel to introduce the then-new Max line of adult-oriented comics meant to compete with DC’s Vertigo line — and failing spectacularly at that objective in just about every way possible (Max now exists pretty much to allow characters like Wolverine, Punisher and Deadpool to have stories with the limiters taken off and be ultra-violent). Jessica’s introduction in the comics Alias (no relation to the television show with Jennfier Garner, who would ironically end up playing Elektra in the Daredevil movie and spinoff) included her having rough sex with Luke Cage on the theory that she was one of the only people who actually could do so safely, given his strength and the rough qualities of his skin (she has similar powers). Way to start Max off classy, Marvel. From that rather inglorious start she eventually turned into a more traditional superhero and would go on to marry Luke Cage, and have a kid with him. It will be interesting to see if the characters start married on Netflix, or if they will ditch that line entirely (though that would be disappointing).
Daredevil completes the set only on the basis that all four of them happen to be most known for protecting the Hell’s Kitchen part of New York, and they tend to interact fairly frequently because of that. They did also all feature in the Shadowland crossover a few years ago when Daredevil went insane, which would actually make for a fairly entertaining “Season 2” if the shows are popular enough. The question then becomes whether this team will form the Defenders, or if that will be a new cast similar to how Marvel is handling the Agents of SHIELD television show. I suspect that this is at least part of the idea since it would be the common link between the shows in much the same way that Avengers drew together the other Cinema Universe movies last year. It would be nice to add a few other characters to the mix, but if we are restricted to the Hell’s Kitchen location there are not that many options left.
Ultimately I think Marvel made a smart move with these characters, despite their obscurity outside of comics. These are street-level heroes who would not fit in with the flashier Avengers like Iron Man and Thor, despite all four of them being Avengers in the comics universe. These shows could also be a great opportunity for Marvel to learn from the mistakes they made with Agents of SHIELD and regain some credit with their fans who do not read the comics. These are also all characters who are on the lower end of the power scale, so there will not be a need for super-flash VFX to waste the budget on. Leave that for the spectacle movies, and let these guys get in some good, old-fashioned super heroing.
If I did not already have a Netflix account, this announcement would have definitely been enough to get me there.