Both companies are calling this a “pioneering” and “unprecedented deal,” in which each of the four heroes will receive at least one 13-episode live-action series over multiple years, and then all four will come together in an Avengers-style miniseries, “The Defenders.” It is unknown what other heroes will appear in “The Defenders” besides the four announced, if any, but Marvel’s The Avengers also included Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury, heroes who had appeared in other films but had never been the stars.
As described in the press release, Marvel’s “The Defenders” will be an “event that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.”
Unlike the current spate of Marvel movie characters, Daredevil and the others announced in this deal are more street-level heroes, even more so than the everyman superhero Spider-Man. The series are poised to reflect this darker and more realistic world, with both companies stating that “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.”
The arrangement announced today is part of last year’s deal between Marvel’s parent company, Disney, and Netflix, which made Netflix the exclusive subscription service for movies from Disney and its subsidiaries, including Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm.
Tying the heroes together as the Defenders– the same way Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and other heroes were brought into one film as the Avengers– is an interesting move for Marvel. In the comic books, the Defenders were a team made up of more cosmic and powerful heroes such as the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, and the magic-wielding Doctor Strange. The press release from Marvel and Netflix, combined with a roster including Daredevil and others like Iron Fist, makes it sound like the Defenders will be very different from the comics when these heroes are brought to the screen in these five new shows.
Though popular, many of these street level heroes may be less familiar to audiences outside of comics. But fans of Marvel’s existing stories know them well.
In the original stories, Daredevil is Matt Murdock, an attorney blinded in an accident that also left the rest of his senses superhumanly acute. He takes to the streets in the costumed identity of Daredevil to defend the inhabitants of his neighborhood, New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, which will apparently be the setting that binds together all the new series. Daredevil has previously been imagined for film (starring Ben Affleck in a 2003 film not held in high regard by fans) and TV (as a guest star in an Incredible Hulk TV special), and is currently the star of a hit comic written by fan favorite creator Mark Waid.
Iron Fist was one of the first martial arts based superheroes, conceived during the kung-fu trend of the 70’s. His secret identity is Daniel Rand, a billionaire industrialist, but rather than growing up in luxury, Rand was orphaned and raised in a Shangri-La like lost city, where he is trained in the martial arts. Eventually, he defeats a supernatural dragon to take on the mantle of the city’s protector, the immortal Iron Fist.
Luke Cage was a comic book hero born in the 70’s as well, but inspired by the blaxploitation craze of films like Shaft rather than kung fu. A gangster trying to reform, Cage is wrongly imprisoned, where a shady experiment using inmates as subjects gives him superhuman strength and bulletproof skin. Escaping prison, Cage takes on the name Power Man (long since abandoned to other characters) and embarks on a career as a hero in New York.
Jessica Jones is the most recently created of the featured heroes, having first appeared in 2001, and also the least traditional. She is presented as an embittered former superheroine turned private investigator in the comic series Alias (unrelated to the TV show). Having gained her superhuman strength and endurance in a freak accident (as these heroes often do), her short lived crimefighting career ended in tragedy and a horrific psychological trauma, causing her to quit until her relationship with Luke Cage draws her back into superheroics. Years ago, the character’s offbeat, realistic adventures were to be adapted into a TV series by Twilight‘s Melissa Rosenberg, but that project was either shut down or has transformed into this one.
All four heroes share deep ties that will make it easier to weave their series together. When Daredevil’s secret identity is revealed, he attempts to hide it by hiring Luke Cage and Jessica Jones to be his bodyguards as Matt Murdock, while Iron Fist fights crime in the costume of Daredevil. Iron Fist and Luke Cage have been best friends in the comics for years, and were the co-stars of the series Heroes for Hire. Finally [spoiler alert!] Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have a one stand night that becomes long term when Jones becomes pregnant, with the two eventually falling in love and marrying to raise their child together.
The rights to Daredevil as a film and TV property only recently reverted back to Marvel and Disney. Fox had made the 2003 film and still retained the rights, but the status of future projects was unclear. A-Team and The Grey director Joe Carnahan was attached to project for quite some time, envisioning as a gritty, 70’s style vigilante drama. After the project stalled, Fox let the rights return to Marvel in Cotober 2012, and Carnahan released his sizzle reel– a stylistic blueprint for the film using existing footage and images– via Twitter. The video (included below) may be our best glimpse into the style of street-level superheroics Marvel be envisioning for the new series.
Though these characters are less well-known, their screen adventures show every sign of being a success. The live-action series Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a strong hit, both in live broadcast and on streaming, which is how Netflix subscribers will see it. Also, the formula used is only a slight variation on the one that led to the worldwide hit film Marvel’s The Avengers. In 2015, when Netflix and Disney bring Daredevil, Iron Fist, and the other heroes to life in these five new shows, fans of Marvel, both in the comics and on the screen, are likely to stay loyal.
By: Jeremy Forbing