This past weekend Marvel and Netflix brought the gritty street story of Daredevil back onto our screens to make us all forget about 2003’s… unpleasantness. While the streaming service rarely produces concrete numbers as far as viewership goes; the consensus among social media seems to be that the show was an unmitigated success. Not only was it a story true to its comic roots, but it also measured on another important level; the leverage to bring in new readership. Sunday night I found my shelf clear of Daredevil stories like Born Again, Guardian Devil, and Fall of The Kingpin because I’d loaned them all to friends who don’t read comics but wanted to try Daredevil after watching the first few episodes.
Matt Murdock’s story was tailor made for the emerging binge culture of Netflix. Yes, a network show would have toned down some of the more violent moments of the story. But there are other reasons for it fitting better on the streaming service, one is the treatment of the material itself. A network probably would have wanted a legal procedural series, or some other form of episodic, where as Netflix releasing 13 episodes at once allowed a serialized story that couldn’t be properly contained in a 120min film.
While we’re getting more Netflix/Marvel goodness in the form of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Defenders; Marvel has an extensive library of characters that probably shouldn’t be brought to the big screen but would thrive in the Netflix format under the right guidance. Here’s five to consider.
The group of young heroes led by Night Thrasher would match perfectly into the “Let’s Play” digital media culture of geekery today. It doesn’t necessarily need to be serialized as Daredevil was, but the show could be catered to either an 18 episode network season or a 13 episode Netflix binge. If it’s on Netflix, Marvel could mold it into an edgier version of a 90’s teen drama. There’ve been New Warriors stories that have dealt with harsh subjects like bullying and drug use in the early 90’s, so it wouldn’t be anything new for these characters to go darker. Plus we’d get Darkhawk, Nova, Speedball, and Namorita. Had this been in consideration before, it could have even had that moment where our heads would figuratively explode leading into the Captain America: Civil War film. Yep, that Nitro moment.
Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch)
I’ll be honest, I didn’t wholeheartedly hate the Nic Cage Ghost Rider films. While they weren’t exactly what I’d hoped to see on the screen, they distracted me for 90min and I’m no worse for them. However, I’m willing to put Johnny Blaze away and do the spirit of vengeance with Danny Ketch. This is a Ghost Rider that would benefit from a long form story that explores the tragedy of his family, the relationship with his sister Barbara, the curse of Ghost Rider itself. The character comes with a stable of villains like Lilith, Blackout, and Deathwatch — just to name a few– that would make grand casting opportunities. In fact, David Lynch if you’re not going to be doing Twin Peaks take a stab at comics on TV with this character. A tale with so much gravity and lore would be incredible under the guidance of Lynch.
Yup, that’s going to be a weird one. Let’s face it, we aren’t going to see another Hulk film in the near future. Mark Ruffalo is playing an “incredible” Hulk in the Avengers movies and Ed Norton had a decent outing in his solo flick. Why can’t there be more than one Hulk in the Marvel cinematic U? We’ve already got Thunderbolt Ross as part of the MCU. Giving him an eight episode stint on a Netflix series that would explore the estranged relationship between him and Betty, his bottomless anger towards Bruce Banner, and his quest to recreate the Hulk as a weapon could be the subtle drama before a storm of smash. In this version, maybe Thunderbolt doesn’t become the Red Hulk. That’s sort of the beauty of exploration in different media, he could recreate a new monster for the MCU that would join a different Avengers team.
Venom (Eddie Brock)
If we’re rewriting the mistakes of the past then let’s tackle one of the worst things to ever happen to a movie screen, Eric Foreman as Venom. While we wait for Marvel to reboot Spider-Man films yet again let’s say they bring Venom to the movies and do it right. There’s going to be a lot more of Eddie Brock to explore whether you go with the Ultimate version of the character or the 616 version. Taking him down the “Lethal Protector” road would open up more exploration opportunities that a Netflix show could do in short binge spurts. Not only would he be trying to be the anti-hero we want, but the character would have so much inner conflict fighting the influences of the suit itself. Indeed this would be another hurdle for the Sony/Marvel Spidey deal, but they’ve already pulled it off once.
I will freely admit to enjoying all the Punisher movies on some level (even the Dolph Lundgren one); that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for Marvel to come in and do something better with Frank Castle. The Punisher’s challenges are similar to Daredevil’s in that they’re both characters whose stories are much too layered for a single film to properly tell. A Punisher series on Netflix could finally show what fans of the comics know; there’s more to the character than just shooting drug dealers. Stories like Born that glimpsed the audience into Castle’s days in Vietnam or Year One that showed the path of the man after his family was murdered all offer pieces to construct Frank Castle for a mainstream audience. Where most people in film or other media go wrong with the character is the belief that –insert criminal and shoot– are the only things you need for him, those are often the worst Punisher books. The depth begins when you put him on a collision with the injustices we all hate and wish we could do something about. Obviously, you can have bullets fly in a Punisher show but the aim has to come from more than just the sight on his barrel. The bonus is if you have all the street level characters on Netflix you could even build to crossover specials with stories like Dead Man’s Hand or Hearts of Darkness.
Those are just a few considerations for the future of Marvel on Netflix, post Defenders.
Obviously Marvel knows what it’s doing in the entertainment industry, but what characters do you want to see in film, network TV, or digital?