The following article contains my own opinion on the current DC and Marvel live-action television shows, and my prediction for their future shows.
Marvel Comics is more popular than DC Comics. Ever since 2008, the year when both “The Dark Knight” and “Ironman” were released in theatres, it kicked off the intense superhero craze (that has been slowly dwindling in quality). “Ironman” kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making Robert Downey Jr. the poster boy of Marvel. And ever since “The Avengers” released, more and more people are inclined to watch all of Marvel’s blockbuster action films (while completely disregarding every single flaw in the films). DC Comics has finally realized this, and started off the DC Cinematic Universe with the “Man of Steel” movie in 2013. But what about their television shows?
We’re currently living in a world where I’ve sat down on my couch, and streamed television shows for who knows how long. Television dramas like “Game of Thrones”, “Orange is the New Black”, “Breaking Bad”, “Hannibal”, “Elementary”, “American Horror Story” and “The Walking Dead” have brought in a HUGE audience, both new and old, to the small screen. Marvel and DC have acknowledged this, and have sparked their rivalry once again, having announced more live-action television shows than there are Doctors in “Doctor Who”.
Both Marvel and DC currently have their first television adaptations released, and they’ve both made it past their first season. But which one is a better representation of the future television shows?
Both shows follow the same recipe as their movie counterparts. “Arrow” takes place in a dark city that is rampant with crime (and really dark lighting), much like Gotham in the Dark Knight trilogy. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” follows the exact same pattern, and takes place in the same as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and mimics the universe’s brighter and more livelier feel. While “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” features the main characters going out into broad daylight to complete a mission, “Arrow” has Oliver Queen running around as a hooded vigilante at night. “Arrow” has to do with Oliver Queen becoming a superhero while “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” is about a special ops team dealing with superhuman events. Although these shows seem to be opposites, they’re surprisingly more similar than you think. And one thing is clear: “Arrow” did much better than “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” in general.
Promotional posters for “Arrow” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” started off with high ratings, and its first pilot had around twelve million viewers. It was connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, benefitting the series with shots in far-off locations, colourful special effects and cameos from the Marvel films. Which made that pilot look freaking awesome. However, that same connection is what made the show tank in viewers and ratings. Why? The bar was set WAY too high for the show considering the last film was “The Avengers”. In the same way “Thor” introduced Thor and Hawkeye for “The Avengers”, the first half felt like a long origin story that people didn’t want to watch. But as the show continued, it started to get better and better. However, many of the shows viewers had already abandoned the show for the more appealing Marvel films.
Now “Arrow” suffered from the same problem. It had a rocky start, high expectations (mainly because the last DC live-action television show lasted ten seasons) and a cast that made some comic book aficionados cringe. But “Arrow” had the fateful opportunity of starting a year earlier, allowing the show to fix their first season problems before “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” even aired. “Arrow” brought a constant wave of unbridled action and suspense that Marvel couldn’t really bring to the table until films like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Thor: The Dark World” were released.
An example of a fight scene from the first season of “Arrow”. This episode also aired four months before “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”.
The television networks also played a role in the success of “Arrow”. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” is broadcasted on ABC, a network with a wide target demographic, a quality that Marvel approves of because of the Disney takeover. However, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” is surrounded by more popular shows like “Modern Family” and “Castle”, making the Marvel show seem like the middle child that always wants attention. On the other hand, “Arrow” is on The CW, a network famous for attracting a prominent female audience thanks to shows like “Supernatural” and “The Vampire Diaries”, a strange place to see a superhero adaptation. Although The CW isn’t as popular as ABC, “Arrow” proved to be a powerful benefactor for the CW. The show alone expanded their target demographic by pulling in a significant number of male viewers, and became one of their most watched shows.
All these factors considered, the head start that “Arrow” gives DC the upper hand. But can Marvel’s new television shows take back the throne of superhero television?
In total, there are seven Marvel television shows that are currently being planned and filmed. The majority of these shows are going to be distributed as a series of Netflix originals, and will be connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This series of television shows will start off with Daredevil, and will continue on with other Marvel superheroes like Iron Fist and Luke Cage. These four shows will later form the basis for another Netflix miniseries called “The Defenders”. Besides that, there isn’t that much information about these four shows. Perhaps we’ll find out more at the San Diego Comic-con?
Anyway, the other Marvel television adaptations are “Agent Carter”, inspired by the Marvel one-shot of the same name, and “Powers”, a Playstation 4 exclusive show about cops dealing with superhumans.
Promotional poster for Marvel’s “Agent Carter”. It looks pretty swell if you ask me.
Marvel made a fantastic decision to broadcast five of their shows on Netflix, a television network that has a multitude of shows with cult followings. If a Marvel show can explode in popularity like “Orange is the New Black” has, Marvel might be able to pull themselves out of the gutter and reach a wider audience on the small screen. However, DC already has the headstart by releasing their shows this year, while Marvel’s Netflix series will be premiering sometime in 2015. Again, this “Everything is connected” universe is starting to get on my nerves. They’ve managed to cover up the problem by releasing everything in a certain order.
Now DC is taking a different route. They’re releasing three new shows this fall, and the others will consecutively appear sometime during late 2014 or 2015. They don’t have to worry about everything being connected, because most of the shows are either creator-owned and exist in their own continuity, or the showrunners have been given free reign on what to do with the DC properties. Then again, DC is still taking a risk by releasing all these shows at once.
On The CW, DC has given them three new shows to broadcast and film. “The Flash” is a series about the eponymous superhero’s origin,”. “iZombie”, a series about a medical student who becomes a brain-lusting zombie and goes on to solve crimes with a detective because she retains the memories of the brains that she eats. And lastly, the CW is hosting a timeless favourite, a magical tale that everyone’s been looking forward too: “Hourman”! Yes, you read it right here on TIP. Our friendly neighbourhood “Hourman” is coming to the small screen!
Don’t you remember Hourman, the greatest superhero ever?
All jokes aside, Hourman has very little known information about it. Besides being a potential CW show, no actors have been chosen, no pilot script has been made, and I’m not even sure if it’s connected to “Arrow” and “The Flash”. However, if it’s anything like “Arrow”, the time-based show deals with Hourman’s origin story: A biochemist creates a highly toxic drug called “Miraclo” that gives you superpowers for an hour, and fights crime. Think of the character like a superhero version of Bradley Cooper in “Limitless”. (Or even better another DC character who gains his powers from a highly toxic drug!)
Welcome to the ’80s, when there was cool electronic music and cocaine-powered supervillains were real.
Fox’s “Gotham” is about how the Detective James Gordon and Gotham City Police Department handled crimes in Gotham before the Batman even existed. NBC’s “Constantine” features a Liverpudlian demon hunter who has to protect humanity from a growing supernatural threat. AMC’s plans to make a live action adaptation of “Preacher”, a story about Reverend Jesse Custer and how he has to set things right after he figures out God has abandoned His duties. And finally, Syfy’s “DMZ”, is currently in development.
So what’s the weak point in all these shows? Most of them are about obscure characters that the mainstream audience doesn’t know about. Ever since “Arrow”, a show that introduced more obscure characters like Bronze Tiger and Deadshot, it’s clear that DC wants to experiment how the audience will react to these new shows. In my opinion, this can result in many of the shows getting a quick cancellation. (I would hate to see Fox pull another “Firefly” and cancel “Gotham” after its first season.)
On the other hand, DC has laid out a massive smorgasbord of DC adaptation for a wide audience. All of their shows, planned or in development, can appeal to more people than Marvel’s more Disney-oriented television shows. DC even has a headstart to try this out, having “Constantine”, “The Flash”, “Arrow” and “Gotham” to release this fall. This rapid experimentation of DC characters and concepts lets them open up more of their source material to the mainstream audience, allowing viewers that have never picked up a comic book to actually read a comic book. Note that this is the same strategy Marvel had when they started to release films like “Ironman” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”.
Once Robert Downey Jr. portrayed Tony Stark in “Ironman”, the popularity of the alcoholic B-list superhero exploded.
Taking all of this into account, I believe DC has the upper hand in this small screen feud. Their combination of an early start and a wide array of television shows, DC might be able to win over the small screen audience faster than Stan Lee can say “Excelsior!”. But it’s a very high risk with an even higher penalty. If DC doesn’t succeed in the television field, it won’t be long before Marvel hits back strong with “Agent Carter” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Even worse, DC absolutely NEEDS to keep up with Marvel’s massive head start in the film world, a difficult feat to accomplish after the (somewhat decent) “Man of Steel” movie.
So what do you think? Will DC’s high risk, high reward plan will win over the mainstream audience, or will Marvel dominate the small screen as much as they have in the box office? Tell me what you think in the comments below.