Hells to the Yeah: Marvel and Netflix are having a Baby!
Brilliant news rocketing around the Interwebs yesterday: Marvel and Netflix are partnering to produce four (4!!!) direct-to-net shows based on the various heroes of Hell’s Kitchen! Daredevil comes first, followed by Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, presumably with crossovers throughout. Each hero is being treated to a 13 episode series, culminating in a miniseries featuring the characters as members of The Defenders (could this be how they’ll introduce Dr. Strange to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?! A boy can dream…).
According to Marvel:
“…the epic will unfold over multiple years of original programming, taking Netflix members deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Netflix has committed to a minimum of four, 13-episodes series and a culminating Marvel’s The Defenders miniseries event that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.”
New content will start to arrive as early as 2015 (first up Daredevil) and will span years of releases, according to Marvel’s press release. Needless to say, this is awesome news regardless of how it all shakes out. Now we just have to convince Marvel/Disney to lock Brian Bendis to a typewriter for the duration…
Lets count all the ways that this is awesome. First and foremost in my mind is that this move by Disney/Marvel represents a true media powerhouse thumbing its nose at traditional distribution in a big way. It’s an enormous endorsement of alternative media outlets, which regardless of Disney’s motivation (e.g. $), marks a sea change in how big media is thinking about giving us content. Between this and the news that HBO is testing models for delivering content without cable, I for one am looking forward to canceling my cable subscription… As a consumer, it’s hard not to be excited by news like this.
Beyond the big media considerations there are simple, practical joys. We’re looking at pipeline of roughly 54+ hours of Marvel content, delivered direct to net. We can expect that we’ll get full seasons all at once, in keeping with Netflix’s M.O. for delivering original content. Since these shows are going to deal with actual Marvel heroes (albeit, “street level” heroes), its safe to say that we’ll also see some actual Marvel villains (and who knows what cameos from other heroes, not to mention MCU/Avengers characters. After all, Hulk was a Defender too…).
Because Netflix isn’t bound follow FCC rules about content, they can be edgier than their traditional TV counterparts (say, like that milquetoast show on ABC). I’m not anticipating nudity or gore, of course, but given characters like Luke Cage, I am thinking we’ll get some “that’s pretty rough for a superhero” moments. This is a Good Thing, because for Marvel’s TV content to really work they’re going to have to market it up their demographic scale. Disinterested parents will turn off their brains for a two hour Iron Man movie, but they won’t tune in for a 22 episode TV season (or a 13 episode Netflix season) if the content isn’t at least somewhat tuned into their sensibilities.
Of course, it’s not all good news: ABC TV is purportedly running the productions, which I could take or leave. While Agents of SHIELD has started to turn around with the last few episodes (F.Z.Z.T. was actually good), I’m not alone in associating ABC with cheesy, kid-friendly melodrama. This is not an association that Marvel’s grittiest heroes need. That said I expect Netflix will drive ABC to step up their game.
All told, this is an unprecedented development. Every geeky fiber of my being is at full attention in anticipation of 2015’s flood of Marvel awesomeness. But more than my excitement for Marvel, I have to wonder what this bodes for Disney’s shiny new Star Wars brand… I love the future.