The Second Wave: Netflix and the Expanding Marvel Universe

Neflix will soon be a staple in the Marvel diet, so I thought I would take the opportunity to mention what would make a great second course for the binging pay service. The announcement of the four series/one mini-series that Disney recently sold to Netflix will greatly expand the presence of the superhero footprint on the small screen, but there’s always the desire for more before we’ve even gotten what was already promised. What opportunities does Marvel Television have to broaden and expand their relationship with the streaming juggernaut beyond this first tasty bite?

Marvel has thousands of characters from which to draw, as ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D seems to only now be realizing. Of course, some of these characters are off-limits while Marvel Studios broadens the narrative of its many upcoming films and developing productions. That said, there are plenty of characters that deserve and need the chance to shine. The silver screen has no plans for most of these properties in the immediate future, so here are a few suggestions for the next slate of series that Marvel and the Mouse can offer Netflix if the first batch is successful.


The Punisher—The avenging vigilante created by Gerry Conway and John Romita, Sr. who began his life in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man is the most obvious choice. For those that don’t know who he is (how is that possible?), Frank Castle is a former Marine turned vigilante in order to avenge the murder of his family by the Mafia. Given that Netflix is a pay service, it allows for the content to be somewhat more mature and less family-friendly and this brooding anti-hero is perfect for a series if Netflix wants a second helping of comic book mayhem. While I don’t think we’ll ever see an “R” rated Marvel film, I do see the ability to translate a character like this in a series of darker tales.


Ghost Rider—To those of you that have seen the film adaptations of Johnny Blaze and his hellspawn alter ego, I offer my condolences. What you watched was a cheap imitation of a complicated character that should have made you feel empathy instead of elicit laughter at one of Nic Cage’s hyper-bad performances. In the comics, the character created by writer Roy Thomas and artists Gary Friedrich & Mike Ploog sold his soul to the demon Mephisto in order to save a friend—the passionate, self-sacrificing act of a man whose heart is willing to do anything for justice. Upon encountering the presence of evil at night, his flesh burns and he’s consumed by hellfire and bonded with a demon. He uses the power of evil against evil. This show could be described in tone as Marvel’s version of Supernatural, only slightly darker.


Blade—Yes, there was already a series based on this property, but it didn’t have the detail of the Wesley Snipes films or the blessing of Marvel’s television strategy to help it grow (plus, it just downright sucked). Given the right actors and writers, this would be a great addition to this collection of “Dark Marvel” series. The Daywalker (created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colon) is ripe for translation on the small screen under the right circumstances. There are many writers in Hollywood that have the right tone and feel for this type of series. The only thing more popular than vampires right now are zombies and this show, structured over a 13-episode arc, could take advantage of the current craze for bloodsuckers. It doesn’t need to evolve into an “adventure-of-the-week” story. I like how Marvel takes the long approach to all their properties and would love to see this character exploring the world of the night that most of us don’t really know or understand, and therefore fear.


Moon Knight—Lastly, a character that is not as much dark as mystical. Created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, Mark Spector is an American mercenary working for an archeological dig and is left for dead in the desert by his employer. A nomadic group of Egyptians who worship an ancient god save his life in a ceremony that connects him to the spirit of the forgotten Egyptian deity. He comes back to America and invests his fortune to help him fight the evil he has seen, while pretending to be a rich socialite. Think of this as a little bit Highlander meets The Shadow, with the opening having the feel of a darker version of The Mummy (the first one, not the bad second, or the third/worst).

Now, if they wanted to follow the same template as the first set of shows sold to Netflix, there could be a mini-series that ties them all together. I’d propose making a mini-series of one of Marvel’s supernatural teams. There was a series in the 90’s called Midnight Sons (from the pages of Ghost Rider) that could work for this, but I prefer another book from Marvel around that same time period…


The Nightstalkers is a comic created in the 90s, also originating in the pages of Ghost Rider (yes, again) that would work in bringing these dark creations together. It could follow a storyline where the Punisher is investigating a series of events that lead him to cross paths with Moon Knight and eventually has them coming face to face with both Ghost Rider and Blade. Mephisto would provide the villainy as the main antagonist in a confrontation with the supernatural characters over Rider trying to reclaim his soul (perhaps featuring a vampire artifact that Blade knows of which Moon Knight’s alter ego purchased?) The Punisher could be on the trail of a victim connecting back to the artifact. It would tie in all the characters for a compellingly vision of the shadowy underworld of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And with the likelihood of Dr. Strange moving into the theatrical part of that universe (Phase 3 is around the corner), these characters could provide the television expansion of that concept. The sky is limitless, really. Kevin Feige and the suits of Marvel have opened up whole new worlds for us to explore. How long will we have to wait before there are others like this for us to enjoy?

After the first batch of shows hit Netflix next year, the wait won’t be long…

Honor Hunter is a writer focusing on the entertainment business of film, TV, games and pop culture all around. The Mouse is his specialty, but not exclusively, as he posts about news, rumors and opinion of the world we all love to know.


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