Comic Shows?

New and revived television series, that have roots in the comic book genre, give students a new way to experience comic books other than in film.

Comic book based TV shows have traditionally followed superheroes who are commonly known. However more modern programs star lesser known heroes and are even based off of comics that don’t feature superheroes at all.

“[Comics] translate very easily because they are so visual. If creators want to, they can do a direct translation,” said English teacher Mr. Eddie Mullins, “with a novel they have to cancel out so much.”

TV shows are taking a well-established medium, and reaching out to a wider audience by focusing on the humanity of the character.

This September marked the beginning of the television program, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which initially opened with great ratings. This show follows a minor character from the popular Avengers movies, Phil Colson. Colson works for the government agency, S.H.I.E.L.D.  They attempt to protect mankind from the metahuman threat that stems from the summer blockbuster The Avengers. What separates this from the other parts of Disney’s Marvel franchise is the reoccurring characters don’t have any superpowers, which seem to be a staple in the Marvel cinematic universe.

Despite dropping ratings on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Disney released that they would be creating four new TV shows based off of the superheroes: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. There will be a minimum of 13 episodes in their respective first seasons. After they are released, Disney will combine all four time lines and heroes into one mini-series that follows a superhero team called the Defenders. Netflix is set to be the distributor of the five programs even though Disney already owns multiple television networks.  These shows will focus on minority protagonists, who have not been featured in the title roles of one of Disney’s Marvel franchises to date.

In response to the news, Mullins said, “It’s the allure of superheroes: people identify with them. It’s really helpful for characters other than white males play a larger role.”

Around a week after the successful pilot episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fox announced their purchase of the rights of the television series Gotham, created by Bruno Heller, of Warner Brothers Studios.  It will depict Commissioner James Gordon in his early years in Gotham City, when he was just a police officer.  However it will not feature Batman, despite the fact that Gotham is the city where Bruce Wayne grew up.

While Gotham seems to be an origin story for how Batman’s Gotham City evolves to need Batman, the television series Arrow shows a city already in dire need of a hero. Arrow is Green Arrows origin story.  He is not one of the big heroes that immediately gained a self-titled comic book, but was written to be a supporting character. Although Detective Comics originally created him as a Batman knock-off, eventually certain character developments helped him become a hero in his own right. His real world identity is Oliver Queen, a billionaire playboy. In the television program he crashes on an isolated island in the Pacific. He battles his darker nature while on the island and after he is rescued. Oliver Queen becomes a vigilante when he returned home after spending five years on a remote island, and attempts to correct the social injustices of his hometown.  The show is now on its second season. The series seems to be separate from the DC cinematic universe.

Arrow features multiple spin off characters from the comics, including Speedy, Slade, Deadshot and Black Canary, all of whom are relatively minor characters. Episode eight and nine reveal one of the super hero comic greats: the Flash. The episodes introduce powerless Barry Allen, who is the Flash’s alter ego. Episode 20 was set to be the backdoor pilot for the new TV series Flash, however due to how well Barry Allen was received by CW executives in his two guest appearances, Flash will get its own traditional pilot.

One of the most successful comic based TV shows is The Walking Dead.  It is one of the few comic-based TV shows that have no superhero content whatsoever. It also has amazing ratings. Although the show can be pigeonholed in the horror genre, it is also a drama focusing on the shifting morals of the characters because of new situations they face due to the zombie apocalypse. The show still includes ample amounts of graphic guts and gore.  The television program was adapted from both graphic and non-graphic novels written by Kentucky native, Robert Kirkman.

TV programs, animated or live action, that feature well-known comic heroes have been popular in the past but they have traditionally been targeted towards a demographic of children, due to their campy feel. This also stemmed from the misconception that comics were written solely for children. But as the source material and perception has evolved interpretations of comic books have changed too. More recently live action TV shows look to entertain a more adult audience.