When Marvel announced that 'The Incredible Hulk' would be returning to television in the wake of Warner's plans to revive 'Wonder Woman' for the small screen, the knee jerk reaction was to chalk it up to nostalgia programming. We've already seen 'Battlestar Galactica,' 'The Bionic Woman,' and 'Knight Rider' revived for TV; these moves just looked like more of that. However, a deeper look at Marvel's plans reveals that this isn't a retro cash-in, but part of a bigger push to establish their brand on television with the same success they've had on film.
We're not just getting 'The Incredible Hulk,' but, according to The Hollywood Reporter, 'Cloak and Dagger' too (about a pair of teenage runaways in NYC who gain their powers at the hands of an evil pharmaceutical company). If Marvel has their way, you'll also see 'Heroes for Hire,' 'Ka-Zar,' 'Moon Knight,' 'The Eternals,' 'The Punisher,' and more as live-action adventures. Serialized television is so similar to the format of a monthly comic book series that I'm surprised 'Smallville' seems to be the only comic-based show to truly take advantage of the format.
The heroes on Marvel's list (with the exception of the Hulk) aren't exactly A-listers, but that's to be expected with Marvel saving their big guns for the big screen. Fans (and the eventual show-runners) should be more concerned over whether these properties are good for TV. Are they? Most of the titles on Marvel's television development slate are comics that have been canceled and re-launched over and over and over again. If the world didn't buy the 'Ka-Zar' comics, will they tune in to watch him on TV?
In the world of televison, concept often wins out over quality. Marvel could produce the best 'Ka-Zar' show ever, but if people aren't interested in seeing an aristocrat play Tarzan in the jungle, then 'Ka-Zar' is doomed from the start. I'm not meaning to pick on 'Ka-Zar' specifically, but if the concept doesn't click (and, honestly, 'Ka-Zar' hasn't with comic book fans), then what does Marvel gain?
My advice for any comic book company looking to make the leap into television? Start with killer concepts. 'Smallville' works because Superman works. So, if you're DC or Marvel looking to take a television risk on a lesser known property, might I suggest the following ...
The Pitch: 'Hill Street Blues' meets 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'
'Top Ten' proves that Alan Moore can do fun and breezy just as well as he can do dark and serious. The idea is a simple, hilarious one -- what kind of police force would exist in a world overrun with superheroes? Early issues follow a rookie officer in her first days on the job, which sounds like a great place for a television series to begin.
The Pitch: 'The West Wing' meets 'Iron Man'
In this highly acclaimed series, a superhero, with the ability to communicate with machines, is elected to public office immediately after 9/11, and tries to balance his day job with his high-profile alter-ego. Writer Brian K. Vaughn takes a more realistic approach to the series, mixing big-time super-heroics with riveting back room political drama.
The Pitch: 'Dirty Jobs' meets 'Cloverfield'
Who cleans up the Marvel Universe after the day is saved? Sure, Magneto was vanquished, but buildings were toppled, and homes lay ruined. Who has a mop? Damage Control. Marvel's given the good workers at Damage Control their own mini-series on a few occasions, and while the concept might not be action-packed enough for a monthly comic, it's certainly rich enough for a television show.
Howard the Duck
The Pitch: 'Taxi Driver' meets 'Darkwing Duck'
It's time we all stopped thinking of Howard the Duck as Lucasfilm's abysmal movie, and start remembering his roots as an awesome, absurd Steve Gerber comic book creation. The perfect home for Howard would be on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, either as an animated series or a blend of animation and live-action (with a cartoon or CH Howard interacting with actual humans). The original comic alternated wildly between personal, pointed satire and silly fantasy spoof, and remains one of the most unique comics of all-time. The movie kept none of Howard's cynical charm, and instead gave us Jeffrey Jones as a claymation demon. It's time audience get re-introduced to the character, the way he was meant to be.
Which superhero comics would you like to see make the jump to weekly television?