Feb 6 2014 10:00am

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.

Colin R
1. Colin R
Eh, Moon Knight. I would way rather see a spinoff of the WARRIORS THREE!!! No need for high-budget antics in Asgard and Svartalfheim--there's a long history of Fandral the Dashing, Hogun the Grim, and the LION OF ASGARD rolling around America, getting into drunken antics.
Colin R
2. Great Tummy
Re: The Punisher - There have already been two Punisher movies. And, I'm pretty sure they were both R rated. I would think it would be impossible to do a halfway decent Punisher movie with anything less than an R rating. And, I do think the second Punisher movie was, at least, halfway decent.
Colin R
3. decgem
I guess I'm not in the mood for a group that includes three properties who have already been adapted. Let's get into new territory!

I'm super into the idea of a She-Hulk series. It would be a great tie-in to existing movie canon with Jennifer Walters as Bruce Banner's cousin gamma-infected by an emergency blood transfusion. But more exciting would be the overall premise of the show: a balance of the usual "hero smash" action with some comic-tinged courtroom procedural drama. I love the thought of Jen representing normal folks impacted by sci-fi shenanigans, and maybe sometimes even defending untintentional "supervillains." Tie-ins with SHIELD could abound, until she is acknowledged as Coulson's go-to legal consultant!
Emmet O'Brien
4. EmmetAOBrien
I'm not seeing much hope for finding anything worth having in any take on this side of the Marvel Universe that does not recognise the outright awesomeness of Nic Cage's first Ghost Rider movie.
Colin R
5. NickM
If I can put on my '90s comic nerd hat -- Midnight Sons wasn't a series, but an attempt at a line (like Marvel Knights) launched out of Ghost Rider; Nightstalkers was actually one of those titles, starring Blade and some other characters who came out of the '70s Tomb of Dracula. In universe, the Midnight Sons weren't a true team, but more of a loose-knit group that came together as threats (or crossovers) dictated.

All that said -- I am totally behind this idea.
Colin R
6. Colin R
Yeah I sort of think if you're looking for subtlety and complicated nuance in a character who is a DEMON WITH A FLAMING SKULL ON A MOTORCYCLE THAT IS ALSO ON FIRE AND ALSO HAS LOTS OF CHAINS you may be barking up the wrong tree! This is a guy who was invented to be painted on conversion vans or made into cheezy tattoos.
Colin R
7. joelfinkle
Some of the best of Moon Knight comes from remembering that he *thinks* he's bonded to the spirit of an Egyptian god. There's no evidence that he's got any supernatural powers, just that he's crazy. The first issues establish multiple personalities, and it just goes bats**t from there. I use that word intentionally: it's meant to be an alternative look at the insanity that is Batman.
Jessica Trevino
8. Ciella
Hmmm, sorry, but I'm not sure I agree with any of these. I think I would go with Runaways, Cloak and Dagger, Heroes for Hire (Misty Knight & Colleen Wing, though I suppose you could throw Moon Knight in there too) and She-Hulk. The Marvel movie-verse is in desperate need of both women and POC's, and all of these would help with that. The only reason I don't agree with you about Blade, is that I'm not sure bringing vampires into the movie-verse is a great idea just yet.
Chris Nelly
9. Aeryl
For those that don’t know who he is (how is that possible?),

See this kinda stuff irritates me. It's the fake geek girl syndrome all over again, IMO.

I'm a HUGE fan of the MCU, but because of childhood circumstances, comics were never my thing. I learned some stuff about them through cultural osmosis, and I got into the XMen cartoon in the 90s, but I'm still to this day mostly uninterested in comics, unless it's covering characters that I feel don't get their due in other mediums.

And pulling crap like that on us, and there are a LOT of us, is exclusionary. It's the whole, "can't be a real Marvel fan if you don't know the history" crap I've been dealing with since Iron Man came out(who I'd never heard of before).

We are the reason Agents of SHIELD knew better than to throw hundred's of comics characters to the ignorant masses(much to the comics fan's dismay), because that would have turned us, the majority audience, away from the show. The slow integration of existing comic characters is a much better way to educate the ignorant about the possibilities of this world.

Sorry comics books fans, but the movies and the shows, at the end of the day, aren't designed for you. They are designed for the rest of us, who never did comics, but have discovered we love these characters anyways.

This kind of exclusionary crap is the same shit the jocks and cheerleaders pulled on us geeks in school. Did we really become the dominant force in popular culture, just so we could become those we hated?

@8 Ciella, I agree, I'm liking the proposed lineup because it is featuring more women and POC, and as we move into Phase 3, I'd like to see these characters get integrated into the movies. Blade, Punisher and Ghost Rider have had their turns, let someone else have a chance at bat. Maybe Runaways, I'd like to see that, as I've heard good things about the comics.
Jessica Trevino
10. Ciella
9. Aeryl If you haven't had a chance to read the Runaways comics, I HIGHLY reccomend them. The writing is phenomenal (though the pop culture references are now a bit outdated) and the art even more so (the main artist, Adiran Alphona, is the artist on the new Ms. Marvel series). And to top it off you have incredible characters with diverse personalities, ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities.

Personally, I stopped reading shortly after Brian K. Vaughn left the series. I enjoy Joss Whedon immensely, but his run on the series left a lot to be desired (with the exception of the one character he adds to the crew, I thought she was interesting).
Matthew Glover
11. themightysven
I have long held that Marvel needs to do Damage Control, (the series, not the PR technique) and Netflix series would be the ideal structure for it
Chris Nelly
12. Aeryl
See, now learning that Vaughn worked on it makes me want to even more(though I like Whedon too). I loved his work on the Buffy comics. I'm about to finally break down and get a tablet reader, so getting these older comics in e-format will be easier, and less costly that way.
Colin R
13. N8
These characters represent a full 7 of the worst movies ever made by anyone, anywhere. I didn't even make it all the way through the second GR, I was so sick of the script/editing/cast. I've seen more compelling high school newscasts. In some ways it would be nice to see these characters get some redemption, but I feel like it's too soon. Give me a while to get the travolta/cage/snipes/reynolds/nolte out of my head. Or, more to the point, time enough for all the people who had a hand in those productions or who thought they were cool to get fired, or retire, or have their souls claimed by Nick Cage. Let's tread some actual new ground for a while, see where that takes us.
Colin R
14. Colin R
A She-Hulk series as a part-superheroics, part-procedural is a great idea, btw.

I'd also rather see Squirrel Girl and the GLA over any of these schmoes!
rob mcCathy
15. roblewmac
1. Aeryl I'VE read a Ton of Marvel comics and I say anybody pulls "you're not a real fan" nonsese screw them it's a hobby not a cult!
2. That said anybody wanna see a Terror inc show?
Jason Parker
16. tarbis
Three characters with recent-ish movies (who Marvel may not own the television rights for) and a bad Batman rip off. I have to say none of them really fit and the FX budget on Ghost Rider would get high awful fast.

I like the idea of Runaways in the shape of a television series, but given the diversity of power sources (magic, time travel, mutants, hypertech) it would be a pain in the current Marvel cinematic to get things to make sense. Legally I'm not sure if Marvel can use existing mutant characters without paying money to Fox. That and they would either have to cut Old Lace or have her end up looking really stupid. Also they may have to pay Vaughn to use the characters and Disney is probably not down for that.

If we're going with odd properties I say 'Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins.' A handful of people chasing pages from an off-brand Necronomicon and running into new weird stuff every week. It can be made on a budget. They can use it to introduce the dark supernatural edges of the universe and since none of the characters are iconic they can jettison most of them to avoid paying creator royalties.

She-Hulk could also be some fun. Pitch it as 'Boston Legal' with superheroes.
Colin R
17. Shea
Glad to see a post from you Honor. Was a huge fan of bluesky disney. I'm looking forward to more posts from you in the future.

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