Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
This past year with The Walking Dead continuing its ratings domination, the high profile debut of Agents of Shield, and Arrow getting a good deal of praise as it upped its game, it kind of felt like comics were really taking over TV a little bit, especially with all the gossip about books (and concepts) that were being considered and optioned. But if I’m counting correctly in the next year (or so) we’re looking at about
EIGHTEEN NINETEEN ongoing shows adapted from comics (and that doesn’t include three mini-series for Syfy, or the Netflix Defenders mini-series “event”, or the Heroes Reborn nonsense).
That is INSANE. From about three properties to
Wow. So very little is known about most these new shows. We’ve seen a trailer for GOTHAM and we got a trailer for CONSTANTINE this week and we’ve seen casting and teasers for a few more shows. Right now, most are big question marks, but based on what we know, let’s take a look at them. To make things more fun, I’ll rate my interest level via the official* Taco Bell Rating System.
Yes, the Taco Bell Sauce Rating system, you know it, right? If not, here’s the gist: FIRE of course represents “most excited,” HOT is “excited,” MILD is “not so much with the excitement” and ABSENCE OF SAUCE represents “absolute lack of excitement.” Hopefully that rating system will help us all keep from getting too serious, yes?
Let’s start with the existing shows:
Based on: (Loosely) Various SHIELD Comics/Concepts (Marvel)
There’s no show on television I WANT to love more than SHIELD. In fact, when I had to write a spec script for my Manager for an existing show, this is the one I picked. There is so much potential here, but there have also been such high expectations, and those have been hard on the show. That said, in the last half a dozen episodes they’ve really turned a corner and upped the stakes.
HERE BE SPOILERS. It can be hard to root for “the man” on a show like this and our characters kind of straddled that line uncomfortably and I don’t think the show quite knew what to do about it, but the whole Hydra destroying SHIELD from the inside thing has largely taken care of that, so it will make for an interesting second season. Some characters are becoming absolutely awesome: Coulson has always been good, Ward is more interesting than ever (though the show better be careful how they handle all this), and with a few exceptions May has always been layered and interesting, if laconic (check out #mayisms for some fun on Twitter or Tumblr if you’re bored – hilarious). Fitz and Simmons have always been standouts and they just get better and better with each episode. The introduction of Agent Triplett to the team has created some interesting and unexpected conflicts there (and is a wonderful addition from a diversity point of view). And if you noticed I neglected someone on this list, I was saving our problem child for last: Skye. Skye is one of the biggest Mary Sues I’ve ever encountered in media and it’s really tough to care about her as a character. The writers (and the actress) have done their best to rehab her, but for me, I don’t know that we can ever recover. It doesn’t help that Skye remains (in addition to EVERYTHING ELSE) some kind of magic baby that’s an Alien or some nonsense (Skrull?), which will probably make her even more perfect and annoying. You know you’ve got a character problem when some people at home (me!) are watching the episode and praying really hard that a certain character (ahem, Skye) will be the Hydra traitor. I stand by the idea that Skye as the traitor instead of Ward would have been a far more interesting development. It would have instantly given Skye layers (non-Mary Sue layers) and really subverted expectations. Skye rant aside, is this show as good as it can be? As good as we want it to be? No. But it’s still a pretty good show, and one with infinite potential, especially as the cast is really solidifying into something special. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: HOT
Based on: THE WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Tony Moore (Image)
THE WALKING DEAD is a close second when it comes to shows I’m dying to love. Unfortunately, unlike SHIELD I just don’t see consistent improvement in this show. So far — and I get that I’m odd man out, people love this freaking show and it’s a ratings giant — but for me TWD, since season one, has been a show that has two or three brilliant/moving/mind blowing episodes a season and the rest of the season is a slog. I will admit that seasons 2, 3, and 4 are better than the bulk of season 1. And losing some really terrible melodramatic unlikable characters (Andrea, Laurie, and Shane) has helped quite a bit overall.
However, the show is quick to fall back into bad patterns, namely being melodramatic and repetitive and doing far too much telling instead of showing. It’s why Daryl is one of the most popular characters – dude shows who he is through actions, not a lot of terrible repetitive speeches. Frequently the show feels like the people in charge don’t think they have enough content and so they’re trying to slow everything down, but that’s not a good recipe for success – better to push on your characters and continue forcing them to grow.
Then again, I clearly know nothing as this show is obviously a success, it’s a RATINGS MONSTER. Additionally, you’ll note that I haven’t stopped watching it. I did give up in Season 2, but came back when I heard some good changes had been made. The truth is, every time I’m ready to give up TWD hits me with a really wonderful episode that keeps me hanging on. I’m also a big fan of the comics, so there’s both a loyalty thing going on and a curiosity thing going on. I may not like it, but I’m still in. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: MILD
Based on: (Loosely) Various ARROW Comics/Concepts (DC)
I tried at the beginning and it didn’t work for me for a handful of reasons. I heard through the comics people grapevine that it had really picked up, so I tried again, three different episodes, but it’s just still not for me. I only made it all the way through one of them. I don’t know what my problem is.
Part of it might be that the world and characters are complicated enough that you can’t just keep this show on in the background and do something else (I have a few shows that I keep in the rotation like that <cough>Walking Dead<cough>) but it’s not complicated or nuanced enough to keep me engaged if I devote my full attention? I really don’t know.
Maybe because I didn’t watch from the beginning I just don’t have the character investment? I dunno, but I simply cannot connect with it.
I’m out. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: NO SAUCE
Onto the upcoming shows (in random-ish order)!
Based on: Various Comics/Concepts related to SHIELD (Marvel)
Obviously this is at the top of my pile and the show that I hope just kills it. It’s got a ton going for it – connection to huge movies, connection to an already existing show that it can talk to in interesting ways (are we gonna have a time travel episode? OMG), and an upcoming movie star that’s slumming it for TV. And let’s clarify on that before you all jump down my throat. For me, there are actors that can easily transition to film from TV – they have that “special whatever” that gives them the star wattage to make an easy transition, but not everyone can do it. Case in point – though I loved CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER, I did not think the Sharon Carter cast (the actress who currently stars in the television show REVENGE) worked in the film. She just didn’t have it. More famous case in point? David Caruso? Hmm. That may have been mean, I should leave Caruso alone.
Anyway. In this case, we’re getting a film actress – Hayley Atwell – who was wonderful in both CAPTAIN AMERICA and in her short (available on the IRON MAN 3 Bluray if you haven’t seen it) so I’m sure she’s absolutely going to kill it on the small screen.
My only qualm is that I don’t always love period pieces, but I can LEARN TO LOVE THEM. And I DO love that old 1990’s drama HOMEFRONT (Swoon! Kyle Chandler!) so maybe I’m wrong about not loving period pieces. I hope this one will be a homerun, especially since it’s one of the few on this list led by a woman. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: FIRE
Based on: The HELLBLAZER Comics/Concept (DC/Vertigo)
I have not read all the HELLBLAZER series, but I’ve always like Constantine as a character. This is a show I would definitely love to fall for, but the first trailer has me anxious. While there are ways that you can see them trying to be faithful to the HELLBLAZER series – from the very image above, to the Constantine cast – in the looks and accent department at least, to the clothing choices, to the dark grittiness – there are also alarms firing. Where’s the teaser that’s less specific and is full of badass imagery, great goose bump causing music, and small character moments (Constantine only) that piques the interest both of those who know the character and those who don’t?
Instead we got this super long (over three minutes!) convoluted trailer that tried to explain the whole concept and did it really poorly. Wrong. Just tease us with something awesome and worth tuning in for guys, then take an actual episode to explain/hook us.
So, yeah, I’m anxious. Constantine has already been screwed up magnificently on film, I’d hate to see it happen a second time. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: MILD
Based on: Chris Roberson and Mike Allred’s iZOMBIE (Vertigo)
I have a weird history with iZOMBIE. Despite really loving the concept of the book and Allred’s gorgeous art, I just never fell in love. I read for maybe 8 issues before I gave up. I was depressed to do so, but I just couldn’t connect with it. So when I first heard this was coming to television I felt kind of mediocre about it.
HOWEVER, having Rob Thomas of VERONICA MARS in charge of it? Well, that’s a horse of a different color, kids. VERONICA MARS, especially the first season is such a great (and underrated) show, totally deserving of its cult status (and movie!). Also, though there are not a lot of details out there just yet, I’ve read in at least one place that this show is LOOSELY based on the comic and since I didn’t love the comic, that might be a good thing. Some of the changes – moving the main character’s job to a hospital instead of a graveyard are definitely smart adaptation choices. They’ve changed the lead character’s name from Gwen to Olivia (aka Liv)…which seems really random. Wonder if we’ll ever get the story on why.
Anyway, in the hands of Thomas, my interest in iZOMBIE went from somewhere around mild straight to FIRE. And again, one of the few shows with a female lead, so fingers crossed! Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: FIRE
Based on: Various FLASH Comics/Concepts (DC)
I’ll give it a try, but given my failure with ARROW I admit I’m not optimistic. ARROW’S world, from the few episodes I’ve seen is very dark (not a criticism) and his costume is this very realistic/modern/urban update from what we have seen in comics in the past and so I’m wondering how they will translate that to THE FLASH, since it exists in the same world…right?
FLASH doesn’t ever feel dark to me, he feels bright and light…so…I guess I have no idea what they’re doing. Maybe I’m wrong though, admittedly I haven’t read a lot of Flash over the years. I liked the New 52 series okay, but over time it didn’t hold my interest enough to keep buying. But even in the super grim and gritty New 52, Flash seemed a bit lighter and brighter.
The promo image released (above) DOES feel bright-ish and light-ish…and not necessarily in sync with ARROW, so I guess we’ll just have to see how well these world’s connect? I also admit to hesitancy since I know this show will likely crossover with ARROW, which I’m not watching…I know that’s a benefit for most people, but for me it’s kind of another strike against it. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: MILD
Batman is my favorite comic book character, not terribly original, I know. But I’m also a huge fan of the Batman universe in general, and Gotham as a concept specifically, so this is a case of me being really invested and excited, but also super anxious. It’s kind of how when people screw up the X-MEN on screen I can never forgive them, but when people screw up SPIDER-MAN I just go “Oh well.”
My emotional investment is far higher and thus so is the potential for failure. That said, I like what I’m seeing.
The first trailer is nearly perfect, the cast photo (above) is appropriately stylish and dark (like the trailer), I like the lead actor, I like Donal Logue, the stills I saw of a young Selina Kyle were EPIC, and well, this whole thing has a ton of potential. And I don’t know that I could be more excited (or conversely, more worried, even though SO FAR they’ve given me nothing to worry about). Fingers crossed, kids, fingers crossed! Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: FIRE
09. THE WALKING DEAD Spin off Series (AMC) –
Based on: Set in THE WALKING DEAD world and using those concepts (IMAGE)
I am so torn on this puppy. On the one hand, there are infinite awesome character stories to be told in an apocalyptic zombie world. On that same hand, the idea of starting fresh and clean with all new characters and a different non-Atlanta landscape sounds great.
On the other hand, TWD original can only manage a few great episodes a year as far as I’m concerned, so I’m not sure spreading themselves extra thin is a great idea. I mean, it IS a great idea if you like MONEY, because I’m sure this will do well and it gives them a lot of options, including opening themselves up to future crossovers between the two groups, but I remain skeptical.
All that said, as I mentioned above, I continue to watch TWD despite my frustration with it, so I’m sure I’ll be willing to give its new cousin a try too. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: MILD
10. Thief of Thieves (AMC)
Based on: Robert Kirkman (and Nick Spencer and Shawn Martinbrough) THIEF OF THIEVES (IMAGE/SKYBOUND)
I know that people really like it and it gets good reviews, and that the “high concept pitch” is about a master thief who retires from the game to then begin stealing only from other thieves. Hence…THIEF OF THIEVES.
Seems like a good idea.
Certainly something I’d be willing to check out. Obviously, having not read the book, my emotional investment is low going in, but if I like what I’m seeing as casting and promos begin getting released, this would certainly be worth a shot.
However, despite loving some of AMC’s work (MAD MEN, THE KILLING), AMC plus Kirkman can only get me mildly excited at this point. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: MILD
Okay, this is our third (and final) project led by a woman and I am OFF THE CHAIN excited about it. I’ve had really good experiences with Netflix – every series of theirs I’ve watched has been pure excellence – ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, and two seasons of HOUSE OF CARDS. So I know they can do it. Marvel has been smart and brilliant on the film front, and smart and pretty good on the TV front, so putting their heads together SHOULD result in something awesome.
I’ve loved Jessica Jones for a very long time and I think she’s an excellent candidate for television. I personally hope they go with the more private eye version of her than the traditionally superhero-ish, but either can work.
Regardless, I’ve got everything crossed on this one and all my hopes and dreams piled on there. NO PRESSURE THOUGH. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: FIRE
Based on: IRON FIST Comics/Concepts (MARVEL)
I’ll be honest, I’m pretty pumped about ALL of the Netflix/Marvel shows. IRON FIST is the one I’m least excited about but only because I know the least about him as a character and because he seems the most “bright costumed type” of the group, except maybe DAREDEVIL. But the Daredevil character has more name recognition which probably mitigates some of the costume-y stuff that might not work as well on TV as it does in comics.
Is there a way to do IRON FIST right? Absolutely, I’m sure of it. And since these are all being developed in tandem and with one another in mind, I’m sure they’ll speak to one another well, which should hopefully be good for all of the shows (or bad for all of them if something goes wrong of course. Oy. I can’t even think about that).
I’d like nothing more than to fall for IRON FIST…maybe I’ll go read that Ed Brubaker/Matt Fraction/David Aja/Travel Foreman IMMORTAL IRON FIST series that everyone’s always raving about. Yeah. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: HOT
Based on: LUKE CAGE Comics/Concepts (MARVEL)
Loooove Luke Cage, and very excited to have a man of color front and center. I’ve been drawing attention to when women are front and center, but I haven’t talked much about diversity and I have to say, it’s seriously lacking.
Of these 19 properties I’m pretty sure only LUKE CAGE and SCALPED have characters of color as the leads. That’s pretty disappointing, but I’m glad they’re here at least, let’s hope they’re both good and can go the distance ratings and critical reception-wise.
Luke Cage is a great character overall with a lot of interesting stories (and layers) to explore, but I have to admit that given his relationship with Jessica Jones I’m particularly excited to see where the writers are going to take things. The only thing that could make me even more excited? Idris Elba as Luke Cage! I know it’s unlikely Elba would return to TV, and it’s hard to return to TV when your TV was arguably the best show ever on television (THE WIRE) but a girl can dream, and my dream is Idris Elba FOREVER! Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: FIRE
Based on: DAREDEVIL Comics/Concepts (MARVEL)
We’ve all been burned by Daredevil. It’s hard to wipe the memory of that terrible Ben Affleck movie from our minds. But like the rest of the Netflix line up, Daredevil is a great “street level” hero and I think there’s a way to really make him work for television hopefully better than he worked on film. In a way, it’s good that the Daredevil film feels so long ago and films based on Marvel properties feel like such different animals these days because it’s comfortable to feel like they can do something different with Daredevil and they’re not carrying that monkey on their back so much that they don’t have to spend all their time distancing themselves from it.
Daredevil has had some really fantastic stories over the last few years especially, a resurgence if you will, and I’d love to see the show bring some of that innovation and creativity.
I confess to some excitement regarding some of the characters that might show up (ELEKTRA!). But like with CONSTANTINE, I would hate to see such a great character be butchered twice, the man deserves better. Fingers crossed, kids. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: HOT
Based on: Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra’s Comic SCALPED (VERTIGO)
My biggest concern with this is that I don’t know that I’ve EVER watched anything on WGN. In fact, there were awesome posters all around NYC for WGN’s series SALEM, and yet somehow I never managed to find the damn thing. In fact, I’m not entirely sure I even HAVE the channel (sidebar: I checked, I do have it).
Anyway, in this constant bombardment of media it can be hard to remember to look for something even if you’re interested in it. We tend to get into patterns and easily forget what’s not already in the pattern.
All that to say, I’ve heard amazing things about SCALPED for years, it’s a book long on my “to read” list and I’d be pretty pumped to check this out, but A) having no history with the quality of television WGN produces and B) knowing that it might be a fight to remember to look for it are mitigating my interest level/expectations from Hot down to Mild. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: MILD
Based on: Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s POWERS Comics (ICON)
See above re: availability/convenience. I don’t have a Playstation, and though I do have access to a lot of streaming options, I’m certainly not going to pay for just ONE television show, no matter how good it is (probably). My excitement for a POWERS TV show, a show I think should be awesome and relatively easy to adapt (though so far it’s proving the opposite) is ridiculously high, but there are things that bring me down to earth with a crash. 1) This show has already (for a variety of reasons) hit a million roadblocks in trying to get off the ground. It seemed like a great fit for FX and they just couldn’t make it happen. 2) The aforementioned access and convenience 3) This is Playstation’s first attempt at original TV content and so I have no ability to know how skilled they are going to be at this new medium and 4) Everywhere I see this show pitched (both when it was at FX and now for Playstation) it’s described roughly as:
“Powers follows the adventures of Detective Christian Walker and his dark journey into a world of murder, mystery and superheroes with secrets.”
To which I must say an extreme WTF?!?! Where is Deena Pilgrim from that sentence? Walker is a great character and he absolutely belongs in the “pitch sentence” but a pitch sentence without the words DEENA PILGRIM in it tells me somebody is getting it wrong. WAY wrong. Wrong enough that I wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole.
Still, it’s Powers and I ALL CAPS LOVE POWERS so I’m going to leave it at a MILD rating, rather than “Lack of Sauce” and hope that if Deena is not a co-lead at the outset, she quickly becomes one. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: MILD
Based on: Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s PREACHER Comics (VERTIGO)
I read the first three trades, liked them very much, got sidetracked and somehow never circled back around to finish buying and reading. But I liked what I read and I know how beloved the series is generally, and this seems like a good fit tonally for AMC, so I find myself kinda pumped.
PREACHER has long seemed like kind of an obvious property to adapt (kind of how I feel about Y THE LAST MAN…gods that would be a great series). Anyway, excited to see what a smart team can do with it and this is one I’ll be following closely and seek out for certain just based on the strength of the original property.
I suppose my biggest problem now is that I need to find the cash and the time to circle back around and read the rest before the show comes out. Adding it to the to-do list now! Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: HOT
18. LETTER 44 (SYFY)
Based on: Charles Soule and Alberto Albuquerque’s LETTER 44 comic (ONI)
This is a pretty new book for Oni and I believe they’re only five issues into their run, but it’s being developed as a series, so someone out there loves it! I have not read it and know almost nothing, except that Soule is impressing me over on SHE-HULK (yes, I know that has almost nothing to do with actual LETTER 44, whatever!) So I might check this out. The concept, one that seems to mash together The President, Nasa, and Aliens isn’t bad (kind of reminds me in a basic way of Vertigo’s SAUCER COUNTRY what with the President and Aliens) but whatever. Might be worth checking out.
I’m sometimes skeptical of Syfy, in part, I admit, because of the annoying spelling change to the channel name. Some of the stuff I’ve seen there is really under-budgeted for what’s required and ends up looking bad, but with the right budget and smart writing, there’s no reason that Syfy can’t join the ranks of cable networks killing it with fascinating shows, but I admit that I’m going to hang back on this one. If people are saying good things I’ll try to jump on, but it’s not on my “will check out” list. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: NO SAUCE
EDITED TO ADD: #19. DMZ (SYFY)
I can’t believe I missed this one. Chalk it up to not paying enough attention to what Syfy is doing over there and perhaps not taking them seriously enough as an emerging content provider.
But it is a big mistake, because unlike some other properties that I may have missed here, DMZ is one I really like and can totally see working for television, it also happens to be but a show that interests me far more than the other offerings Syfy has picked up (see more on that below) and I like that it’s for a series like LETTER 44, instead of a mini, so this is certainly cool to hear and I am sorry I missed it.
Perhaps most impressive is the caliber of the producers on board who have been intimately involved as producers on the first six seasons of MAD MEN, as well as GRAVITY and HARRY POTTER. Those are incredible credentials.
This easily warrants a HOT rating, at least. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level: HOT
Lastly, not really comics but possibly worth a mention since it’s superheroes…
Based on: Not comics, instead TV’s own attempt at superheroes sans a comics roadmap.
The first season of HEROES blew my damn mind. And my boyfriend’s too, and he’s not one for network television. But like me, he has comics (and superheroes) deep in his blood and so we were, like most of the rest of the world, surprised by the quality of HEROES. Season One is excellent.
And then it took a nosedive off a cliff IMMEDIATELY in Season 2 and never recovered (not even close).
I watched I think well into Season 3 before finally giving up…and that was a sacrifice…I can’t unsee some of that shit. So will I watch HEROES REBORN – whatever it ACTUALLY is?
I GUESS I might tune in to see if by some miracle this stand alone 13 episode “maxi-series” could capture the lightning in the bottle of the first season, but my brain literally cannot comprehend it. I’ll give this a special Frankenstein half mild/half no sauce rating. Kelly’s Official Excitement Level – ½ MILD, ½ NO SAUCE!
As if 20 shows based on comics in development were not enough, there are also, as mentioned above, a handful of mini-series being developed right now. Syfy has picked up three comics properties for mini-series – Frank Miller’s RONIN (DC), Jonathan Hickman’s PAX ROMANA (Image), and Juan Jose Ryp’s CLONE (Image/Skybound).
CLONE, in concept, is certainly the most interesting to me of the group, but I’d be a lot more likely to check it out if it wasn’t a mini-series. I have to say, I have little to no knowledge of these three original books and I’m not a fan of a mini-series generally (I think DEFENDERS as an event that ties together other shows is a little bit different). Anyway, mini-series rank somewhere just above TV Movies for me. Not saying they can’t be good, just saying I’m skeptical and it’s not my thing. If promos come out and look great, I will certainly change my mind, but for right now I have to list “Official Excitement Level” for all of these (except DEFENDERS) as NO SAUCE.
I’m giving the DEFENDERS event mini-series a HOT rating, if only because my interest level in the shows it will be tying together and my confidence in Marvel/Netflix is so high right now.
And what about books that have been rumored to be optioned but we’ve heard no word on? Properties are optioned constantly and nothing ever comes of it, but one that we all heard about that I would really like to see make it to the screen is Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING. As always, in all these announcement the lady roles are a bit less than I’d like, and RACHEL RISING is chock full of incredibly interesting dominant ladies, and it’s a hell of a horror story.
Which ones are you all excited about? Did I miss any?
*Rating system is in no way ACTUALLY official to Taco Bell (or anyone else except me, I suppose).
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