Just yesterday we again discussed the topic of crossover potential between superheroes from Marvel Studios’ slate of films with other popular heroes owned by rival studios Fox and Sony. For Marvel, there’s admittedly no rush to join forces with other studios since they have a vast library of Marvel Comics characters and stories to tap into first. Today we see exactly what they mean.
In the film business, Marvel Studios accomplished something never before seen, building a shared cinematic universe with a series of interconnected films beginning with 2008’s Iron Man and big screen team-ups (The Avengers). On the television side, they’re attempting to push the envelope as well with Marvel TV signing a landmark agreement with Netflix.
Confirming a report from three weeks ago indicating that Marvel is developing four TV shows and a miniseries (a total of 60 potential episodes) and pitching it to various networks, Disney-Marvel and Netflix have joined forces for exactly this. In what’s described as an “unprecedented deal,” Netflix is expanding their partnership with Disney after signing an agreement last year for first-run rights to their movies in the U.S. beginning in 2016 – which does of course include Marvel Studios properties and whatever’s in the pipeline from newer acquisition Lucasfilm.
The new deal will see Netflix exclusively airing original Marvel live-action TV programming based in the “gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York.” This will begin in 2015 with Daredevil, an intellectual property reacquired by Marvel Studios from Twentieth Century Fox last year. Jessica Jones, previously talked about as a potential ABC series, is next on the list, followed by other fan-favorite characters in Iron Fist and Luke Cage.
In addition to the four series, the agreement will also see a live-action miniseries TV event based around The Defenders which could potentially bring together the above-mentioned characters along with heroes from the films, assuming they – like Agents of SHIELD – take place in the same universe which they likely will. Alan Fine, President of Marvel Entertainment:
“This deal is unparalleled in its scope and size, and reinforces our commitment to deliver Marvel’s brand, content and characters across all platforms of storytelling. Netflix offers an incredible platform for the kind of rich storytelling that is Marvel’s specialty. This serialized epic expands the narrative possibilities of on-demand television and gives fans the flexibility to immerse themselves how and when they want in what’s sure to be a thrilling and engaging adventure.”
Fine’s words confirm that just like other original Netflix programming, these shows will offer the unique benefit of allowing viewers to watch all episode of a season/series in one marathon-style sitting. Unlike on ABC with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, each season doesn’t need to be a full 20+ episodes stretched out over an extended period of time, weaving in and out of the continuity of the films. An episode of Agents of SHIELD coming later this month, as an example, is based on the aftermath of the events in Thor: The Dark World and rumor has it the show’s final episodes will directly tie into next April’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The shorter seasons will feature 13 episodes and in addition to viewers not having to watch commercials during the episodes, arguably the most important benefit is for the creators. They will not be tightly restricted by film continuity and on Netflix they can offer more adult-focused programming for characters and stories that may not work as well for the family-friendly ABC demographics. Since the shows will embrace shorter, pre-planned story arcs, they may even have access to higher profile talent than they would otherwise on serialized television on traditional networks. We’re thinking (and hoping) for something like House of Cards but with superheroes.
What’s most interesting about the chosen characters from Marvel’s Hell’s Kitchen, is in how connected they are. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones fall in love, have a child and get married in the books. Cage and Iron Fist often team-up, forming the Heroes for Hire together. Cage and Daredevil (real name: Matt Murdock) are good friends and Iron Fist (real name: Danny Rand) has even suited up as Daredevil himself. Jessica Jones serves as Murdock’s bodyguard when he’s not suited up. Expect all of these shows to interconnect.
As for The Defenders, a team featuring a rotating roster of characters over the last few decades in Marvel Comics, it’s possible that Marvel’s feature film heroes including the still-to-be-introduced Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, possibly even Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, could work together with characters from the Netflix Marvel shows. It just depends how ambitious and how “big” Marvel wants to take their growing universe. We only know from the official announcement that the miniseries will “reimagine” the heroic “dream team.”
Which character(s) are you most excited about?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on Tuesdays @8pm on ABC.
Thor: The Dark World releases November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie & TV news!