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Thoughts on Marvel's Netflix Shows, Part One (Daredevil and Jessica Jones)

With the new information about Daredevil's Netflix series, courtesy of New York Comic-Con, this seems like a good time to post a few thoughts on all of Marvel's ambitious slates of Netflix shows. Let's take a look at each individual series…

Daredevil: In some ways, this is both the biggest and smallest risk. Daredevil is the most well-known outside of comic-reading circles because he's the only one to have any adaptation in more popular media, but that increased exposure may be largely negative, because of how poorly-received his big-screen debut was. Marvel's gonna have to fight the tide of bad memories for the old movie, both by reminding the public of their consistent record, and presumably a marketing campaign that will emphasize how different this new iteration is. Daredevil's the leadoff hitter, so if it fails, it will drastically reduce the viability of the later properties; I don't think Marvel's gonna let that happen. They're gonna pour all their energy into making this series great and distinguishing it from the unsuccessful movie, so that people will give them a chance on the lesser-known properties.

Of the four heroes leading the shows, Daredevil has the longest and most voluminous publication history, so he also has the most source material to draw from. Personally, I am not at all a fan of Frank Miller, so I'm a little wary that they've claimed inspiration from him (but on the plus side, this is live action, so we won't have to see his eyesore excuses for "art"). I don't think Daredevil works best as Batman-lite, and I think them trying too hard to do that was a big part of why the movie did so poorly (which is why it's so ironic that Ben Affleck is now playing Batman, but that's a different story). The reveal of what seems to be an early prototypical costume seems to be emphasizing his ninja background (which Miller added); I'm not really sure that's the best move. If they get too deep into flashbacks showing a younger Matt Murdock learning to fight evil with a league of ninja assassins that he breaks away from because he realizes they're evil themselves, and then he comes back to a major city riddled with corruption to stalk the rooftops in a black outfit, the more casual viewers are just gonna be saying, "I already saw this movie, except it had a bigger budget and was directed by Christopher Nolan." That would not be to the show's advantage.


If nothing else, Daredevil has one significant element which Batman doesn't, his day job as a lawyer. That plays especially well in a live-action show, where courtroom drama can be used to build tension and provide exposition about the criminal Daredevil will be pursuing, without any expensive fight scenes or special effects. I remember in times past, watching JAG (which was often a hybrid of courtroom drama and more traditional TV action), and thinking how well a Daredevil show could work with a similar format. I'd like to see some of that dynamic be put to use here (and there was some mention at Comic-Con of the courtroom coming into play).

In terms of casting, I'm pretty lukewarm. I don't watch Boardwalk Empire, so I haven't had any exposure to Charlie Cox. I do think it's a bit strange, though, that another English actor is playing an American superhero. You'd think with how much emphasis Marvel is putting on authentically shooting in real New York locations, they'd at least consider getting a real New York actor for the hero. Still, I really like Eldon Henson for Foggy, and Vincent D'onofrio will probably do quite well as the Kingpin.

The other big question left hanging right now is what his costume will end up looking like. If the featureless black outfit seen in the picture from Comic-Con is something he wears for a long time (which seems unlikely, but possible), or if the more permanent costume he ends up with is similarly drab and muted, my interest in the show will be drastically diminished. Marvel Studios has been pretty good in the past at capturing the comicbook aesthetic while not going too over-the-top for the casual fans to accept, so I feel pretty confident that we'll be seeing some other costume eventually (but please, for my blood pressure, make it soon).

One more thing; since Black Widow was the featured co-star of Daredevil's magazine (and they were romantically linked) for years back in the seventies, I really hope they can get Scarlett Johansson to at least do an episode.


Jessica Jones: I'm surprised this one is second in line, I guess I just kind of assumed they would follow the order the characters showed up in the comics. I must confess, I'm not really familiar with the character, since I tend to favor older comics. I doubt I'll be the only one who isn't familiar with her, though. Even without Daredevil's big-screen presence, Luke Cage and Iron Fist have still had some exposure in other popular media, whereas the closest thing Jessica Jones has is being a summonable ally for Luke Cage in the Marvel Heroes MMO. So that's gonna make her less of an easy sell. I think the title might be problematic as well; it's just a person's name, and a fairly generic one at that. It doesn't sound like a superhero or a comicbook character or anything particularly distinct. Then again, since the Daredevil show is technically titled "Marvel's Daredevil," this will most likely be called "Marvel's Jessica Jones," and at least that will tip people off that there should be some thrilling heroics involved.

As I said above, how well Daredevil does will be a crucial factor in whether people will come back to see the other shows with more obscure characters. If Daredevil does well, an appearance by him in the first episode to pass the torch will probably provide a good boost. But probably more important than that will be the casting; if Marvel can get a known actress who has an established record of playing strong characters who kick butt (Yvonne Strahovski is one random example of a TV actress who's developed that reputation, and already has appeal to genre fans), then that will go a long way toward selling potential viewers on what kind of character this will be, even if the name means absolutely nothing to them.


As for the story, I'm not too sure about that. Just from what I've read about the character, she has some very unique elements to her origin. It seems like she was designed as sort of a deconstructionist, "other side of the superhero world" type of story, which might be kind of hard to translate to this format. Things like having her go to the same high school as Peter Parker obviously can't be done (though she could be given a connection to some other major character in the MCU), and her heroic origin seems pretty grim, as befitting Marvel's MAX imprint (the Wikipedia synopsis even uses the phrase "psychologically torturing her," which I would just as soon do without). I think this one will present the most interesting comparison/contrast between the show and the comics, which elements they chose to keep and which they let go.

...Well, that ended up being a lot more lengthy than I'd expected, so I'm just gonna put it on pause for now. Check back soon (or, feel free to just hit that Follow button) to see the second part, which will cover those two classic Heroes for Hire, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. And, of course, leave your own opinions and opposing viewpoints in the comments.


EDITED TO ADD: Being as the Purple Man is a significant character for both Daredevil and Jessica Jones, I can't help but wonder whether Marvel will have the cajones to actually have a completely purple person as one of the villains for these "more grounded" shows. I doubt it, but with Marvel, anything's possible.

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