Upcoming, Live-Action Superhero Series Round-up, part 1

I’ve said it before, but superhero genre fans are truly blessed these days. In addition to the the many live-action adaptations on the big screen, we have more leather- and spandex-clad heroes with special powers and skills on TV now than ever before — from DC’s various series on regular TV (“Arrow”, “The Flash”, “Legends of Tomorrow”, & “Supergirl” on CW; “Gotham” on Fox (no costume-wearing heroes in this last one, though)); Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC and “Legion” on FX; and, Marvel’s Netflix-original shows (“Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, “Luke Cage”, “Iron Fist”). I suppose I should throw in DC’s “Preacher” (AMC), though I don’t care for the concept and would hardly call him a hero. (Same goes for “Lucifer”.)

There were also the late, lamented “Agent Carter” by Marvel and “Constantine” by DC, both of which had loyal fan followings but still got canceled. And, of course, there have been a few that were talked about a lot but fell through — e.g., DC’s “Teen Titans”/”Blackbirds” and Marvel’s “Mockingbird”/”Marvel’s Most Wanted”.

But, there are more on the way…. Over the past couple years or so, several other comic book adaptations have been rumored, discussed, planned, and in many cases gone into production. I thought we’d take a quick look at each of them — those I am aware of, at least. (Given that I’m a bit pressed for time, though, I’m splitting the “round-up” between this week and next. Hope you don’t mind.) Let’s begin with…

Netflix

o “The Defenders”: Anyone paying attention is aware that the heroes from the first four Netflix shows have always been intended to co-star in a mini-series as Marvel’s best ever non-team, “The Defenders”. I don’t think this particular line-up has ever seen print, but anything to get our heroes fighting together and likely among themselves in time-honored Marvel tradition. It debuts this August 18th.

o “The Punisher”: The popular, gun-toting anti-hero was so popular in his appearance in Season 2 of “Daredevil” that the powers-that-be decided a spin-off show was in order. I believe I’m on record as being in favor of this, as long as they do right by the character. Last I read, this one’s scheduled for release in Nov. 2017.

o More?: A little over a year ago, rumors began that Netflix was planning to add to their stable of Marvel-based series. Specifically, Moviecreedlive reported, “Our sources have revealed that Blade, Ghost Rider, and Moon Knight are lined-up to join Netflix.” These all make sense, given the darker, street-level tone of their other series. However, I haven’t heard/read anything more about this, other than the discussions of MK replacing Iron Fist, when the latter was having trouble getting some direction. (No comment.) Of course, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has since introduced a version of Ghost Rider, so I don’t know how that might affect Netflix’s plans. Since Marvel has been keeping its Netflix properties independent from other shows & films, it might not matter at all. Personally, I’d love to see the original Ghost Rider, with host Johnny Blaze, brought to Netflix.

On the other hand, a different report around the same time said that Marvel/Netflix were next developing series for She-Hulk, Cloak & Dagger, Bullseye, and Elektra. The odd one out here seems to be She-Hulk. Not only do they already have one show about lawyers — Shulkie is also an attorney named Jennifer Walters — and two characters with super-strength, but the character doesn’t really fit the dark-n-gritty tone of the other shows. Plus, they’d need a decent CGI budget. The other three make more sense, though I haven’t read/seen anything more about Bullseye or Elektra. Most likely, it was an April Fool’s joke, anyway, since the article was published 4/1/2016. However, I’ll talk more about Cloak & Dagger in a minute — or, rather, in Part 2.

Finally, the possible Netflix show that makes the most sense to me would be the one rumored to spin off the Misty Knight character from “Luke Cage”. Ideally (for me), she would get her bionic arm and team up with Colleen Wing (from “Iron Fist”) to form “Knightwing Restorations”. (They could use that as a title, or “Daughters of the Dragon”.) It has been confirmed that Knight & Wing will both show up in “The Defenders”, so maybe it will set up events that lead to a spin-off then. Unfortunately, there has been no further news on this front, either.

That’s it for now. Continued next week…

Review of Luke Cage (Netflix Series)

”There’s something powerful about seeing a black man that’s bulletproof and unafraid!”  — Method Man in “Luke Cage” cameo

I’m a day late with this post — sorry ’bout that. Blame it on my having been on vacation for over a week and now trying to catch up on stuff. Speaking of vacation, I managed to finish watching “Luke Cage”, so I decided to push up my review by a couple weeks.

luke-cage-netflix-cast-600x264

Primary cast for “Luke Cage”

As some of you probably realize, the “Luke Cage: Hero for Hire” character was created in the 1970s to capitalize on the Blaxpoitation film craze. Much of the writing — by white guys unfamiliar with actual Black culture — involved stereotypes and often inauthentic dialogue. Nowadays, some people would call it downright racist, but I don’t think that was the intent. “Ignorant” and “misguided” would be fairer descriptions of the creators/writers themselves. Some of the storylines were pretty hokey, too, but that’s par for the course in comics. Still, Cage is a beloved character who has evolved over the decades, often written by Black writers, and losing much of the Blaxploitative aura.

The challenge, then, for Netflix’s production was to make a series about this character, in a particular environment, that resonated with the person of color in 2016, while drawing heartily from the source material and providing nuggets of nostalgia. Not an easy task, but I thought showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker et al. did an admirable job.

Let’s break it down, beginning (as usual) with the main characters….

Luke Cage (aka Carl Lucas): I probably wouldn’t put cage in my personal Top 10 Marvel characters, but I have read enough material with him in it that I find him an intriguing character. So, I’m really glad he’s getting the live-action treatment. I have commented previously regarding the choice of Mike Colter to play the role, so I won’t repeat it here, other than to say Colter continues to do a great job as this Luke Cage. It’s a more toned down, stoic, and definitely not stereotypical version of the character, which probably works better than trying to adhere too closely to the 70s version. I also understand why the original, disco-influenced, bright yellow-n-blue costume with upside-down steel tiara and huge chain for a belt would not have worked for 2016 sensibilities (not to mention Cage/Colter’s self-respect). However, I very much appreciated the “Easter egg” that had him in a version of that outfit in the flashback scene following his prison escape. The handful of “Sweet Christmas”es were great, too.

In case you didn’t know, the comics version of Lucas/Cage was never a cop, though his father was. He did go to prison as the result of being framed by Stryker. Why they made him a former cop (also framed) for this series, I’m not sure. Maybe to strengthen the idea of his instincts to help and protect people? (Given the attitude toward cops by a lot of the Black community these days, that’s a little surprising.) It irked me at first as an unnecessary change, but I’m OK with it.

Finally, I would have liked to see Cage get truly enraged when fighting a group of bad guys. I don’t know if they didn’t do this in order to avoid the “angry Black man” stereotype, or just because this version of Cage is generally more reserved. Still, I want to see what he’s really capable of when ticked off. He also had that opportunity in his big fight with Stryker, but they opted to do that differently, too. (It was kind of frustrating, IMO.) Otherwise, I thought Cage’s characterization was pretty good, especially for a current-day, live-action adaptation. (See related comments under ‘Plot’.)

15-luke-cage-1-w529-h352Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes: Mahershala Ali is a talented actor, and I’ve appreciated him since first seeing him years ago. He has a reserved intensity that really worked for this role. The Stokes character is a complex mix of mid-level underworld boss, businessman, street punk, and frustrated musician. I could feel the stress and annoyance he felt as his mini-empire began to crumble around him, all while being badgered by his cousin, who had her own issues and selfish concerns. The fact that he was far more than a two-dimensional villain made him all the more intriguing. I have to admit, though, that his tendency to burst out in often-derisive laughter got to be tiresome toward the end. (And what a sudden, gruesome “end” it was!)

Incidentally, the original “Cottonmouth” was an older guy with a white unibrow and mustache, sharpened gold(?) teeth, and an affinity for green pimpsuits with a matching hat. He was also the guy whose drugs Stryker stole and framed Lucas with. I’m not surprised they decided to throw most of that out, but at least this version was still a drug dealer and a snappy dresser! Also, as far as I can tell, he is still alive in the Marvel Comics Universe.

Det. Misty Knight: Giving the beautiful Simone Missick the role of Misty Knight was close-to-perfect casting. She has the look and talent (and big hair) that brings this strong, confident, intelligent woman to life. She’s a little different than I picture Knight, but not enough to be an issue.

I had forgotten that Knight was a cop before becoming a private investigator, but I’m happy that the powers-that-be retained this for the Netflix version. I’m a little unsure what to make of her “special ability” to reconstruct a crime scene in her mind. Is this supposed to be superhuman? Or, just an unusual, but still “natural”, finely-honed talent of a police detective? On another matter, I was surprised at how quickly her arm healed. I thought for sure it would need to be amputated, thereby providing an opening for her to get a bionic arm. (In the comics, she lost the arm in a bomb blast.) But, nope… didn’t happen. Either way, I enjoyed the character, and I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of her in future series.

(Black) Mariah Dillard: I always enjoy Alfre Woodard’s performances, but this was one of those characters that I can’t decide about. Well, I despise the character for many reasons, which I guess is what we’re supposed to do, even though I sorta-kinda feel bad for her, too. But, I can’t decide if Woodard was the right person to play this role. For some reason, she seemed out of place. Or, maybe it was just me, struggling with what to think of the character. In the comics, “Black Mariah” was an even more despicable character, but she looked more like an obese version of the “Mama Mabel” character we saw in flashbacks. (Btw, Mabel was played by Samuel L. Jackson’s wife, LaTanya Richardson Jackson.) I will say, though, that Woodard did a fine job with this complex character, showing her frustrations with her cousin and her career failures and being “forced” to do things she would rather not. Her relationship with Shades, though, has taken a couple of disturbing twists and turns. Speaking of…

Hernan ‘Shades’ Alvarez: Apparently, there is a “Shades” character from Stryker and Lucas’s shared past in the comics. He was a fellow-member of The Rivals gang who ended up in Seagate Prison, where he was one of those abused by the sadistic prison guard, Rackham. But, many of the details are very different from what we saw on-screen — e.g., no connection with Mariah. Theo Rossi’s version is sort of interesting, yet something about him bugs me. Not sure if it’s the character or the actor. (I’ve never watched “Sons of Anarchy”, but I know I’ve seen him in something.) I was looking forward to seeing Shades get his butt handed to him, either by Cage or Misty, but it didn’t happen. I’m guessing he’ll show up again….

Missick, Dawson, Whaley, Rossi

Missick, Dawson, Whaley, Rossi

Det. Rafael Scarfe: The comics version was indeed partnered with Misty Knight, but he also had a history with Colleen Wing, Danny Rand, and Daredevil. He was a good cop who later “went rogue”, but he was never corrupt. So, it makes one wonder why they totally rewrote the character for Netflix. I guess they wanted another character from the comics that was relatively disposable. (I’ll note that the original was tougher and less cynical.) Frank Whaley did a good job with him as written, but it was a waste of a decent character, if you ask me.

Claire Temple: I was glad to see Rosario Dawson’s “Claire” not just pop up again but get fleshed out a bit more. She is both a likable and useful character, and I appreciate how she has become a friend, encourager/motivator, and budding romantic interest for Cage. (Question: Will Cage ever partner with, and eventually marry, Jessica Jones, as in the comics?) She is a welcome thread tying the different Netflix/Marvel series together, though she isn’t scheduled to appear in “Iron Fist”. I like that she’s a girl from the ‘hood who can take care of herself, but I also like that she is apparently gonna take martial arts training from Colleen Wing. Good for her!

Willis ‘Diamondback’ Stryker: While the snakeskin suit worn by the comics version would probably have been too much, I thought this over-the-top villain was played quite well by Erik LaRay Harvey, who even looks like the original. I don’t remember seeing Harvey in anything else, but I thought his portrayal of this murderous psychopath was right-on. Stryker isn’t exactly complex and is not much more than an eccentric thug, when it comes down to it. But, if that’s what they were going for — and pretty close to the comics, too — then that’s what they got. What I didn’t like was that they minimized the character’s fascination and proficiency with knives, both conventional and modified. Not sure where the Bible obsession came from, either. On the other hand, they did keep the childhood friendship with Lucas/Cage, followed by betrayal.

Now for a few supporting players…

I loved Frankie Faison as “Pop” and was sorry he wasn’t in more episodes. He was a voice of reason, encouragement, and (when necessary) admonishment, not just to Cage but to the younger guys who frequented the barbershop. Dare I say it, “Pop” was a much-needed father-figure to some. I think the character was new for the series, which is fine. The chess-playing Bobby Fish (Ron Cephas Jones) was, I think, another new character and one I enjoyed. As an older guy, he also had some wisdom to lay on the younger folk, and I liked his efforts (with Cage) to keep the barbershop an ongoing concern in Pop’s honor.

Dr. Noah Burstein and his controversial experimentation on select prisoners at Seagate was, of course, straight out of the comics. This version was ably played by Michael Kostroff. It was good to see Reva (Parisa Fitz-Henley) show up in a few episodes, even if it still left a lot of questions regarding Cage’s and her relationship. There is also now some question about her knowledge or participation in Burstein’s experiments and possibly Rackham’s fight club. I should note that Reva in the comics had nothing to do with Seagate and was actually the girlfriend of young Willis Stryker, then of young Carl Lucas, and the cause of the rift that developed between them. Regardless, as a love who was tragically lost, she represents a crucial element to the history and person of Carl Lucas / Luke Cage.

Additional, essential elements to the story…

luke-cage-logoPlot: I thought it was a pretty decent plot, as these things go. Not stellar, but not bad. We see our hero struggling to figure out both who and what he is — ex-cop, ex-con, Black man, disillusioned preacher’s son, victim of betrayal, hero?, vigilante?, freak?, etc. — all while confronting threats to himself, his friends, and his community. He wants to be left alone, but at core he is a good man who can’t stand by while injustice is done to those he cares about. Colter did a pretty good job conveying this struggle, and I admit that someone with more muscles but less acting experience would not have been able to pull this off.

There is also the aspect of the “social commentary” — i.e., racism, oppression, and the struggle for minorities (especially Blacks) to “make it” in America. It was laced throughout much of Stokes and Dillard’s speech, as well as popping up here and there from others (e.g., Pop, Bobby Fish). There were false accusations made against Cage, resulting in the cops hunting for him. But, the accusers were both black and white, cop and criminal, so it didn’t come off as race-based. If the “commentary” had been more heavy-handed, it might have annoyed me; but, it did sound/feel authentic to me. Also, Cage’s mini-speech at the police station (in the finale) helped to explain the mindset (his in particular), as did Method Man’s on-air rap.

There were a few plot holes and unanswered questions. For example, what about the Judas Bullet wound in Cage’s shoulder? Was there shrapnel in there, or was it a through-and-through? But, I don’t remember any glaring inconsistencies. (Feel free to comment below on anything you remember being mishandled or that should have been resolved but wasn’t.)

Lastly, I loved the many “Easter eggs” — i.e., references to people, places, and events from the Marvel-based movies and the other Netflix/Marvel series, as well as a couple that haven’t appeared, yet. It really helps the fans know that the creators are building an interconnected “universe” with all of this stuff, and that they respect the source material we all grew up on.

Music: Right from the outset, this series had a distinct sound and feel to it. It began with the opening theme, which had a definite 70s vibe (though it could have been a bit stronger, imho). But, it continued with the jazz and R&B tunes performed in Stokes’ nightclub, Harlem’s Paradise. The live acts at the club are all real-life professionals — e.g., Charles Bradley, The Delfonics, Faith Evans — whose music spans the 60s thru the 90s and beyond. I’m not personally a fan of the style (though a couple tunes were catchy), but the songs fit the setting of the series and sometimes the particular scenes.

F/X: Of course, I am primarily referring to the demonstrations of Cage’s superstrength and durability. There were occasions where I thought he put a little too much effort into something that should have been very easy for him (e.g., ripping a door off its hinges). But, overall, I liked the way he smacked, shoved, and tossed around punks and crashed through doors and walls. His shrugging off of bullets was on point, as well, including the fact that the ricochets can be dangerous. And Cage’s irritation at frequently needing to replace his bullet-ridden clothes made for a bit of welcome humor.

luke-cage-netflix-trailerThe “Judas Bullets” could have used a little more explanation about their origin and how they were able to bore into Cage’s flesh. (Or, did I miss it?) But, they were a good plot device for making Cage vulnerable (to a select few) and putting his life temporarily in jeopardy. I appreciated the nod to the source material by having the Judas bullets (and special gun?) be manufactured by weapons dealer Justin Hammer. Same goes for Stryker’s special gear, except that the “supersuit” looked kinda goofy, and it made no sense to me why Cage didn’t just punch or rip off the power pack early on in their big fight. (Of course, then there wouldn’t have been much of a fight….)

The Verdict: Overall, despite the things I was a little disappointed in or would have handled differently, I very much enjoyed “Luke Cage”. I rank it slightly below “Daredevil” and above “Jessica Jones”, and I look forward to seeing Cage (and Claire and Misty) in “The Defenders”, as well as (hopefully) a second season of his own.

Fan-Cast: Jessica Jones

“#@&*%$!!”  — Jessica Jones, on any given day

Because no one demanded it, but I said I’d do it, here are my fan-casting efforts for Jessica Jones. When I did Luke Cage last month, I mentioned that I had skipped over Ms. Jones and would get back to her. I am actually following up on that sooner than I thought I would, for a change. As usual, I hope ya like it!

Jessica Jones

"The Pulse" cover by Mayhew

“The Pulse” cover by Mayhew

Once upon a time, Jessica Cambell was a sweet, young high-schooler and classmate of Peter Parker. Then, she and her family were in an auto accident, where they were killed and she was exposed to radioactive chemicals and fell into a coma. Months later, Jessica woke up, was eventually adopted by the Jones family, and soon discovered she had superhuman powers. Inspired by Spider-Man, she had a brief and not-very-successful career as a costumed superhero named “Jewel”. This ended thanks to an encounter with the supervillain “Killgrave, the Purple Man”, under whose psycho-pheromonal thrall she remained for eight months, and during which she fought a few of the Avengers.

After recovering from Killgrave’s influence, the psychologically-scarred and embittered Jones tried being a hardened vigilante named “Knightress”. That didn’t go well, either, but at least she met Luke Cage. Retiring the costume and alias, Jones started up a private detective agency called “Alias Investigations”. Many of her cases involved superhumans of one sort or another. So, naturally, she also crossed paths with several heroes — e.g., Daredevil, Spider-Man, Captain America, various other Avengers and X-Men. She even briefly dated former Ant-Man, Scott Lang. Some in the superhero community didn’t like that she sometimes took on cases involving her former colleagues, but she also assisted the heroes on occasion. She also became best friends with Carol Danvers (aka Ms. Marvel, later Captain Marvel), and she worked with, dated, had a kid with, and married Luke Cage. At one point, she worked as an investigative journalist, doing research (among other things) for Ben Urich on stories involving superhumans. When Cage was leading a faction of the Avengers, Jones took up the identity of “Jewel” again for awhile, but then rechristened herself “Power Woman”.

Jessica Jones - smokingSome artists have drawn Jones as a typically gorgeous heroine with hourglass figure. Personally, I prefer a more realistic approach, such as Michael Gaydos’ version in the “Alias” series and the last few issues of “The Pulse”. I also really like Mike Mayhew’s covers (see first pic). She’s still quite attractive — what I would call “cute” — and has a pretty good figure, but she doesn’t look like a supermodel. When she was a private investigator (and maybe as an investigative journalist), she was rather rough around the edges — i.e., jaded, hard-drinking and smoking, swearing like a sailor. She may have let herself go a little physically, then, too. While I haven’t read very many stories of her life after having little Danielle, I’m guessing that she cleaned up her act a bit. Probably got in better physical shape, too. Not surprisingly, she is fiercely protective of her family; and, while a reluctant hero, she will put her life on the line when necessary.

[Btw, here’s what the executive producer of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones” had to say about F-bombs and skin… “Melissa Rosenberg Reveals What Marvel Wouldn’t Let Her Use in ‘Jessica Jones'”.]

Cover by David Mack

Cover by David Mack

Jones is a fairly slim, white female with varying shades of brown hair (or pink, when adventuring as “Jewel”). Marvel’s wiki lists her as 5’7″, 124 lbs. Obviously, we want an actress to portray her who is at least in the ballpark heightwise — say, 5’4″ to 5’9″. Her age could vary, depending on how early the writers/producers want to start the story. The Netflix show opted to hire someone in her early-to-mid-30s (Krysten Ritter, 5’9″, b.1981) to play Jones close to that age — 30ish(?). That’s fine, though given that she was probably still a teen during her time with Killgrave, I figured she was in her mid-20s when she started the P.I. gig. So, I could also see casting someone under 30 who can pass for mid-20s.

Who do I have in mind? Glad you asked…

The first person I ever thought of for this role was Linda Cardellini (5’3″,b.1975), known for roles in Scooby Doo movies (live and animated), “ER”, and recently as Hawkeye’s wife in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Alas, she is both too old and too short. Sarah Jones (5’3″,b.1983) of “Alcatraz” and “Vegas” could be great, but she’s too short and too classically pretty. I think Jamie-Lynn Sigler (5’3″,b.1981) could be great as Jessica Jones, too; but, I had to cut her due to her height, too. Chloe Bennet (5’6″,b.1992) of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” also has the right look, she fits the younger age requirement, plus she’s right in our desired height range. But,… she’d have to pull double duty as two Marvel characters, and that would be weird. And, that brings us to our 3 finalists…

Jewel Staite

Jewel Staite

Genre fans will, of course, recognize the appropriately-named Jewel Staite (5’5.5″,b.1982) from her roles on “Firefly”/Serenity and “Stargate: Atlantis”. She has also appeared on “Warehouse 13”, “Supernatural”, “The Killing”, and “Legends of Tomorrow”. I tend to think of her as sweet Kaylee from “Firefly”, but she has played more mature characters, of course, even those with a bit of a hard edge. So, I think she could pull off the “Jessica Jones” character just fine.

 

 

Vanessa Ray

Vanessa Ray

Vanessa Ray (5’4″,b.1981) came on my radar in the first season of “Suits”, but then she got the regular gig as a police officer on “Blue Bloods”. She’s cute/pretty with a slightly funny nose, such that she reminds me of a cross between Gaydos’ and Mayhew’s versions of Jessica Jones. She barely meets our height requirement, but I think her look is just perfect for the role. (Assuming she goes brunette, of course.) I’d love to see her sink her teeth into a darker, edgier character like Jones.

 

 

Tamara Duarte

Tamara Duarte

Youngest (and slightly tallest) of my candidates is Tamara Duarte (5’6″,b.1991), who I first saw on a few episodes in the final season of “Haven”. She has also appeared in shows like “Warehouse 13”, “Being Erica”, Dead on Campus, and “Longmire”. I think she has a really good look for “Jessica Jones”, and her character on “Haven” shows she can play cynical, bad attitude. If a series or movie was in need of a 20-something version of Jones, Duarte might be their best bet.

Alrighty, that’s another Fan-Cast down and out for the world to see. (“Down and out”. Heh!) Got problems with my choices? Fire away!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

Fan-Cast: Luke Cage

“Sweet Christmas!”  — Luke Cage, very 70s-sounding catchphrase

Naturally, when I started fan-casting the stars of the Marvel/Netflix series, I began with Daredevil and his primary supporting characters. For some reason, I skipped over Jessica Jones, but I’ll get back to her. Then, due to some attention he/it was getting in the press, I jumped to Iron Fist, even though his series won’t debut until 2017. Now, I decided to go ahead and fan-cast Luke Cage, whose series will debut at the end of this September.

Of course, we have already met the live-action Netflix version of Luke Cage in the “Jessica Jones” series, as played by Mike Colter. As I said in my review of that series, “Mike Colter is a better Luke Cage than I had anticipated, though ideally the character should be a little taller, have more muscle mass, and act/sound a bit more “street”, in order to be faithful to the source material.” I stand by that. However, it is becoming increasingly evident how difficult it is to find someone who has the right look, build (especially w/ big muscles), and has any acting talent. (More on that in a moment…)

Luke Cage

Luke Cage - old-styleFor those who aren’t all that familiar with Luke Cage from the comics, I’ll try to boil it down for you…. Carl Lucas was a gangbanger from Harlem who eventually tried to go straight. His best friend, William Stryker, was still in the gangs and made the mistake of ticking off the Maggia (aka The Syndicate). Maggia thugs gave Stryker a serious beating, until Lucas stepped in and fought them off. Unfortunately, Stryker blamed Lucas for his girlfriend breaking up with him, so he framed Lucas for heroin possession. Lucas went to prison, where he was consumed with rage and resentment, and he was not exactly a model prisoner. After a transfer to Seagate Prison in Georgia, he also became the target of a brutal prison guard. Lucas agreed to be experimented on by Dr. Noah Burstein, who had developed a variation of the Super-Soldier process. The sadistic guard tried to sabotage the experiment, in hopes of injuring or killing Lucas. In the end, the experiment was more successful than anticipated, and Lucas gained superhuman strength (which has greatly increased in the years since), stamina, and durability (including bulletproof/knifeproof skin).

Luke-Cage-Marvel-Comics-Max-era-aLucas used his new powers to break out of prison and escaped to New York, where he adopted the name “Luke Cage” and worked as a “Hero for Hire.” For awhile, he gave himself the professional moniker “Power Man”, but he later dropped it. Over the years, Cage has battled many conventional and costumed and/or powered criminals, including his old friend Stryker. He was eventually cleared of criminal charges and became friends and even colleagues with many superheroes — e.g., Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Punisher, etc. He has worked in various incarnations of the Defenders, Avengers, and (briefly) Fantastic Four. But, he is best known for his repeated partnering with Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, sometimes under the business name of “Heroes for Hire”. Cage and Rand are also frequently joined, personally and/or professionally, by the bionic-armed Mercedes “Misty” Knight (who will debut in “Luke Cage”) and the katana-wielding Colleen Wing (who will debut in “Iron Fist”). In later years, Cage met, befriended, dated, fathered a child with, and then married the superpowered Jessica Jones.

Luke Cage - very ripped white t-shirtLuke Cage is a very tall (6’6″), heavily-muscled (400+ lbs.), African-American male. The early 70s version (see 1st pic) has him with a short afro, and in the early 2000s (see 2nd pic), it was a bit closer cropped. Nowadays, he shaves his head and sometimes has a little facial hair (see 3rd pic). He is generally a pretty laid-back, cool cat (does that sound 70s?). But, if he gets ticked off, look out! He is a “self-taught hand-to-hand combatant with years of street fighting experience” and additional training with Iron Fist. He can also toss around Mack trucks and go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest superpowered bruisers out there. He has a big heart (metaphorically speaking) and is steadfastly loyal to his friends, come thick or thin. He is smart, self-educated in the law, knows several languages, and is an inspiring and charismatic speaker. But, any portrayal of the character should not forget that he spent several years in a criminal gang in Harlem, and he feels most comfortable on those streets.

I’m pretty sure Cage was in his early 20s when he got his powers. For a live-action depiction of his “origin”, I certainly wouldn’t want the actor to be over 30; mid-20s would be better. But, given Cage’s physical attributes, it is hard enough to find someone that comes close, no matter what age. And, of course, it would be nice if he had some acting talent. As usual, I considered several actors and athletes, most of which I rejected for being too old, too short, too pretty, too ugly, not black enough (e.g., “The Rock”), etc. I figured my best bet was to ease up on the height requirement — say, keep it to at least 6’2″ — and then find someone under 40 with some muscles and, if need be, hope he is willing to bulk up even further. Terry Crews (6’2.5″,b.1968) looks great and is in amazing shape, but he’s already in his late 40s. Similarly, wrestler Bob Sapp (6’5or7″,b.1973), whom I suggested to play “B.A.” in The A-Team, though he is a few years younger. Others I looked at include Henry Simmons (6’4″,b.1970), LaMonica Garrett (6’2″,b.1975), Mario D’Leon (6’5″,b.????), Boris Kodjoe (6’3.5″,b.1973), Billy Brown (6’2.5″,b.~1970), Michael Jai White (6’1″,b.1967), Erik King (5’8or10″,b.1963), Mark “Rhino” Smith (5’10”,b.1969). Then, I went looking at a few more wrestlers, bodybuilders, even football players. [Note: It is amazing how many professional bodybuilders are/were under 5’9″!] I found Quentin “Rampage” Jackson (6′,b.1978), Bobby Lashley (6’1″,b.1976), Phil “The Gift” Heath (5’9″,b.1979), Lee Haney (5’11”?,b.1959), Ettore Ewen (aka Big E Langston) (5’11”,b.1986), Lincoln Brodrick (6′,b.1984), and, finally, my top three candidates for Cage…

Brian Orakpo

Brian Orakpo

Brian Orakpo (6’3or4″,b.1986) obviously has the required minimum height and muscles, accompanied by athletic prowess. He is a linebacker who played several years with the Washington Redskins, before moving to the Tennessee Titans in 2015, and he is known for both his speed and strength. But, his main advantage here is his youth. On the other hand, as a professional football player, he has the least experience as an “entertainer”. I have no idea if he has any acting talent.

Titus O'Neil

Titus O’Neil

Titus O’Neil (6’4″ (billed at 6’6″),b.1977) — real name Thaddeus Michael Bullard Sr. — is a retired pro-footballer who is now a popular wrestler with the WWE. He is older than I would prefer. Otoh, he is (obviously) another biiiig dude who could play our hero. The fact that he is used to playing a role and performing for the audience gives me hope that he might have some acting chops, as well. O’Neil and Orakpo both have fairly deep voices, too, which I think Cage should have.

 

 

Ezekiel Jackson

Ezekiel Jackson

Rycklon Stephens, aka Ezekiel Jackson (6’3or4″,b.1978), is another tall and (very) muscular wrestler — formerly WWE, now independent — who just might do “Luke Cage” justice. He is the most massive of our three candidates, which works in his favor for this role. As with O’Neil, I am cautiously optimistic of his acting ability. Unfortunately, his voice isn’t as deep as those of the other two, which works slightly against him. Still, can you imagine finally having a superhero on-screen with a physique like that?

Comments?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

Bits-n-Pieces

I didn’t have time this week to do a regular-size piece on any one subject, but there were a few recent news items that I’ve been thinking of briefly commenting on. So,…

star-trek-axanarItem #1:  First up is the latest development re the suit against the producers of fan-film Star Trek: Axanar. The film short, “Prelude to Axanar” (2014), got a lot of good feedback, and Axanar Productions has been able to raise over $1 million, so far, for the full-length film. But, Paramount/CBS must have gotten nervous, especially since the production quality rivaled their own. So, they began legal proceedings a few months ago, claiming trademark infringement on multiple elements: species (including Vulcan ears), themes, characters, costumes, settings. Producer/actor Alec Peters predicted as much and was ready for a fight. (Or, perhaps a diplomatic negotiation? Good thing he is an attorney in his “day job”.) The most recent dispute is over the right to use the Klingon language. Sigh!

From what I understand, the planned film is set to adapt ideas from a 2-book module in the FASA Star Trek role-playing game: Return to Axanar/The Four Years War. It follows the events of a serious conflict between the nascent Federation and the Klingon Empire in the 2240s — i.e., two decades prior to ST:TOS. Sounds cool. I guess maybe I should watch “Prelude to Axanar” to see what all the hubbub is about….

Item #2:  There had been quite a lot of speculation about what race the title character would/should be in Netflix’s “Iron Fist”. Originalists like me wanted a white guy, while others thought an Asian or mixed actor would be more appropriate. Now that the very white Finn Jones (“Game of Thrones”) has been cast, the controversy has heated up even more, with those who wanted Danny Rand to be white (as he has always been in the comics) being called “racist”. Gimmeabreak! People throw that term around so much and so unfairly these days that it has lost its punch. (No pun intended.) I read an article a few months ago by an Asian guy who did not want Iron Fist to be Asian, either, but his reason was different. If I remember right, he didn’t want the first major Asian superhero to be a martial artist, ‘cuz it feeds a stereotype. Not sure I agree, but I understand and sympathize with the position. I guess he isn’t too thrilled about the rumor that Shang-Chi will make an appearance in “Iron Fist”.

Item #3:  Spider-Man news! Everybody is talking about the wall-crawler’s cameo at the end of the new trailer for Captain America: Civil War. I loved it, though it sort of ruins the surprise (if Spidey’s appearance is a surprise, anymore) within the movie itself. Still, I understand why they did it. I also love Spidey’s costume. It isn’t quite the comic original, but it is much closer and more like what a teenager would put together than the suits the Maguire and Garfield versions had. (Here’s a Youtube “Costume Breakdown” of the suit.) Also, in case I haven’t mentioned it, I am very happy with the casting of Tom Holland.

A second bit of Spidey-related news is that the Venom movie may happen after all. I have mixed feelings about this. I wasn’t thrilled with the version from Spider-Man 3, but my enthusiasm for the character had waned loooong ago, since its overuse in the 1990s and 2000s. If they want to do a solo film for this creature/villain/anti-hero, fine, but there are other characters I’d rather see get the live-action treatment.

Item #4:  Jessica Jones, Supergirl, and Agent Carter have each been renewed for another season. This is great news! I’ve mentioned (in my review of the show) that I was disappointed in several aspects of the Jessica Jones adaptation, but I liked it enough that I’ll probably watch a second season. I’m rather curious what the plot and main villain might be. Similarly, my “Initial Impressions of Supergirl” post included some negatives, but I continue to enjoy the show and am glad to see that the studio has seen fit to give it another season. (I may need to do a follow-up review, once Season 1 finishes.) As for Agent Carter, I never reviewed it, but I am enjoying that one quite a bit, as well. So, I’m thrilled that Hayley Atwell et al. will get a third season.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them - posterItem #5:  On the fantasy front, you may have already heard about the release of a script book for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II play and maybe the confirmation that there are three Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films planned. But, unless you are a Potterhead (or whatever they call themselves), you may not be aware that J.K. Rowling is now writing material about other wizarding schools in other countries & continents at the Pottermore website, with particular emphasis on North America (since that’s where the new movies will take place). I checked it out, and so far they are relatively brief pieces. But, they do help to answer a few questions, fill in the blanks, pique our curiosity even more, etc., regarding magic in the rest of Harry Potter’s world. Looks like fun!

Item #6:  A fifth installment of Indiana Jones, starring Harrison Ford and directed by Steven Spielberg, has now been officially (re-)confirmed and even a tentative release date announced: July 19, 2019. Woohoo! That’s just a few days after Ford turns 77, so I hope he doesn’t overdo it! (That’s what stuntmen are for, right?) I also hope he and Spielberg can “make up for” the Crystal Skull and end the series on a high note. I’m rootin’ fer ya, guys!

The End.

UPDATE 5/13/2016:  Regarding #4 above, it looks like I jumped the gun. What I had read about “Supergirl” was, I believe, merely the optimism of one of the producers. However, it has now been announced that the show has been renewed for season 2 but is moving over to CBS’s cousin, the CW. (Now, they just have to figure out how to reduce its huge budget without losing quality or beloved characters.) Unfortunately, the news is not good about “Agent Carter”. Don’t remember what I read that gave me the idea it had already been renewed, but it (and I) was wrong. The show’s future has been in limbo all this time… until now. ABC has finally decided to cancel it. (At least, we’ll see Hayley Atwell in her new series: “Conviction”.) They also decided not to move forward with the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” spin-off, “Marvel’s Most Wanted”. No word, yet, on if they’ll try to bring the Morse & Hunter characters back into the fold.

Fan-Cast: Iron Fist

Since Marvel/Netflix seem to be having a rough time getting some traction on the “Iron Fist” series (or, at least, last I read), I decided to help them out with some casting suggestions for the central character, Danny Rand, aka (the) Iron Fist. It’s the least I could do….

Iron Fist

Iron Fist crouching pose with fiery fistDaniel Rand is the son of successful businessman Wendell Rand, who had ties to the extra-dimensional realm of K’un-Lun, and his wife Heather. Wendell and Heather were killed during a trip to Tibet when Daniel was nine. Young Daniel spent the next decade in K’un-Lun, where he was trained in the martial arts by master Lei Kung the Thunderer. When he was 19, Daniel successfully battled the mystical dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, leaving him with the distinct brand of a dragon on his chest and granting him the abilities, title, and responsibilities of the “Iron Fist”, protector of K’un-Lun. The abilities in question included a general manipulation of his enhanced chi (e.g., for enhanced senses, healing, environmental adaptation) and the power to focus that chi energy into his fist, making it “like unto a thing of iron.” In later years, he learned additional ways to vastly augment and manipulate his chi for varying physical and psychological effects. He is a master of multiple martial arts fighting styles and other disciplines, as well as being at “peak human level of strength [for] a man of his age, height, and build that exercises intensively.”

Daniel Rand returned to America, where he took over his father’s business, aided by his father’s friend, an attorney named Jeryn Hogarth. In his “off hours”, and often when he should have been more involved with his business, Rand fought criminals of various types, “normal” and costumed, as “Iron Fist”. Sometimes referred to as “the Living Weapon”, Iron Fist is one of, if not the, most powerful & skilled martial artist(s) on the planet. He has teamed up with many different individuals and groups over the years, including Spider-Man, Daredevil, and incarnations of the Avengers and Defenders. But, he is best known for his frequent partnerships with Luke Cage, aka Power Man I, sometimes under the business name of “Heroes for Hire”. Rand and Cage are also frequently joined, personally and/or professionally, by Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, who do bodyguard and investigative work under the banner “Knightwing Restorations”. Rand’s enemies have included businessmen like Harold Meachum and Norman Osborn, as well as costumed villains such as Sabretooth, Davos (aka Steel Serpent, also from K’un-Lun), Master Khan, Robert Hao (aka Chaka Khan), and Nightshade.

iron_fist_v2_by_uncannyknack-d7pzp0bWhile I don’t remember much from Iron Fist’s early comics, I do seem to remember that he is generally level-headed. Not always responsible, but level-headed. Sometimes he gets angry or frustrated, but his training has helped him to maintain an even keel. He can be quite serious when necessary and very focused (also enhanced by his training), but he is also known to have a healthy sense of humor.

Despite the clearly Asian nature of his background, Daniel Rand has always been blonde and Caucasian-looking. There has been some talk of casting an Asian, or half-Asian, but others (like myself) think that would be a bad idea. Marvel’s wiki says Rand is 5’11”, 175 lbs., so I think a height range of about 5’10” to 6’1″ would be fair. How old? Well, if we stick to the source material, he became “Iron Fist” at 19 and returned to America shortly thereafter, when the once-every-10-years mystical conjunction between Earth and K’un-Lun reappeared. According to recent reports, the Netflix show will begin “just as Rand has returned to the Big Apple, after having gone missing from [the] city for several years.” It isn’t clear, though, if this will be his first time in NYC since becoming the Iron Fist nor how closely it will stick to the comics when it comes to K’un-Lun. But, rather than going with a 20-year-old businessman/superhero, I am guessing the show’s producers will want someone a bit more mature. So,… I think our best bet is casting someone in his mid-20s to early-30s.

Years ago, I thought David Paetkau (5’10”,b.1972) from “Flashpoint” would make a great Danny Rand, but he’s already in his mid-40s, so… too old. Martial-artist-turned-actor Scott Adkins (5’10”,b.1976) is too old, too, but he might make a good Davos/Steel Serpent (i.e., archenemy of Iron Fist). Also considered but deemed to be a little too old are Travis Fimmel (6′,b.1979) (“Vikings”), Charlie Hunnam (6’1″,b.1980) (“Sons of Anarchy”), and Alain Moussi (6’0.5″,b.1981) (Wings of the Dragon), though the last one could do all his own fights/stunts. (A Moussi vs. Adkins fight could be epic!) Model/actor Julien Kang (6’3″,b.1982) is too tall, plus he is half-Asian, so he probably wouldn’t look “natural” as a blonde. I like Jason Mac (6’2″,b.????), but he’s a little too tall and might be a little too old. Rick Cosnett (5’11”,b.1983) (“The Flash”) is a possibility, but his voice grates on me. I even considered UFC-fighter Alexander Gustafsson (6’5″,b.1987), but he’s way too tall and has no acting experience. Freddie Stroma (5’11.25″,b.1987) — Cormac McLaggen in the last three Harry Potter films — is a strong contender and gets an ‘honorable mention’. Finally, I considered Alexander Ludwig (6’2″,b.1992) but decided he is slightly too young and slightly too tall.

My top three candidates range in age from 26 to 33 (at this writing), so there’s one for each end of my preferred range and one right in the middle. They are…

Luke Bracey

Luke Bracey

First up is Luke Bracey (6′,b.1989). He hasn’t been around all that long, but genre fans may remember him from G.I. Joe: Retaliation, The November Man, and the recent Point Break remake. So, he’s familiar with action-oriented roles. He has the right height and build, and he definitely has the blonde “dude” look down. I think he’d make a fine Danny Rand / Iron Fist.

 

 

 

Chris Zylka

Chris Zylka

Next, Chris Zylka (6′,b.1985) can be seen in the Canadian series “The Secret Circle” and movies like Shark Night 3D, Piranha 3DD, The Amazing Spider-Man (as Flash Thompson), as well as the current series “The Leftovers”. So, he’s a physical match and he has genre cred. Could be just famous enough — but not too well-known — to make a great Danny Rand / Iron Fist.

 

 

 

Travis Van Winkle

Travis Van Winkle

If Travis Van Winkle (6′ or 5’11.25″,b.1982) looks familiar, then you may have followed my suggestion to watch “The Last Ship”. But, he was also in Bloodwork, 247°F, the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th, Asylum, Transformers, and appeared in several TV shows. I think he has a great look that would be just perfect for Danny Rand / Iron Fist.

 

 

 

Alright, lads and lasses. I gave it a shot, and I think I found some decent candidates. I hope Marvel/Netflix can do at least as well!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

Review of Jessica Jones (Netflix Series)

It took me awhile (as usual), but I finished watching “Jessica Jones” shortly before the Christmas holidays. If you are curious what I thought of it, then you’re in luck! 😉 This review won’t be quite as long or in-depth as the one about Season 1 of “Daredevil”, but I do have a few things I want to get of my chest.

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this one as much as I was DD, and I expected to not like it. I liked the title character well enough (from what I remember of the comics), but I never cared for Killgrave, and a story involving the murderous creep who can control people’s minds and effectively mind-rape them (or force them to do… whatever) did not appeal to me. I also didn’t care for the casting choice of Krysten Ritter to play Jessica. And, of course, the originalist fanboy in me was not looking forward to the various ways the writers/producers would surely change the character(s) from their comic-book counterparts.

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Jessica Jones poster art for Netflix seriesAs it turned out, the story was OK, with its various plot points and characters weaving in and out. But, not great. While we did find out some of what Killgrave did to Jessica and others and the psychological aftereffects, the show didn’t have quite as twisted a tone or feel to it as I was afraid it would — and, considering what it did have, I suppose that says something about my imagination. So, that was actually a bit of a relief. However, it was somewhat slow in parts and didn’t really carry the sense of suspense that it could have and that I hoped for. At least, they did preserve the basics of Jessica’s personality and history, both as a former superhero-turned-private investigator and in regards to her time under Killgrave’s control.

We didn’t get to see Jessica (or Luke) use superpowers as much as I would’ve liked. I suppose this can at least partially be explained by her disillusionment with the whole superheroing thing and a general reluctance to be reminded that she is a “freak”. As with Daredevil, the Visual F/X were minimal and made significant use of camera angles and cutaway editing and such. In one of the earlier episodes, Jessica explained that she can not so much fly (though I think she could in the comics) as leap long distances; but, we never once saw her do this. Mostly, we just saw her wrench locked doors open and jump several yards up or down. Again, a little disappointing. However, the knock-down-drag-out fight with mind-controlled Luke was pretty good and demonstrated that they are pretty evenly matched, though both were holding back a little.

Now, a few words about the main characters….

Jessica Jones: I always thought the comic version of Jessica was cute and likable, despite her problems (see below). I know Ritter has done some modeling, but I only find her to be moderately attractive, so I would have preferred a different look. More to the point, her look didn’t really fit the character in my eyes. Still, she was the right age (i.e., 30ish) and a decent actor. The character is known for her bad attitude, foul mouth, chain-smoking, and drinking problem. Most of these were present, but I noticed that for the show they eliminated her chain-smoking, likely ‘cuz that’s not politically-correct these days. (But alcoholism is, apparently.) I expected more F-bombs, since it isn’t network TV and the comic character drops them regularly, but somebody apparently decided Jessica’s speech shouldn’t be quite so profane. (I don’t have a problem with that, btw.) Overall, though, I guess Ritter did a decent job.

Kilgrave: I am of two minds regarding Kilgrave, similar to how I was with the portrayal of DD’s nemesis, Wilson Fisk. On the one hand, David Tennant does a wonderful job (and probably had a lot of fun with it) playing the morally-deficient narcissist, who turns out to have serious mommy/daddy issues. You can sense the glee with which such a character would wield such mind-control powers, forcing people to cater to his every whim. (He truly was short-sighted, though, which I suppose we can chalk up to his obsession(s).) On the other hand, I would have preferred a closer match with the comics’ “(Zebediah) Killgrave, the Purple Man”, Soviet spy turned supervillain. I’m not too surprised they didn’t give the character purple-dyed skin, but I would have liked to see more than just a purple sport coat as a nod to the original. (Perhaps he could have temporarily turned purple whenever he used his powers?)

Luke Cage: Mike Colter is a better Luke Cage than I had anticipated, though ideally the character should be a little taller, have more muscle mass, and act/sound a bit more “street”, in order to be faithful to the source material. I was a bit surprised at how much screen time he got (i.e., he was in half of the episodes), given that this was Jessica’s show and Luke will be getting his own. But, the reasons and connections with the main plot worked for me. It seemed a bit soon for them to get involved, though, and I also could have done without the “love” scenes, even if there wasn’t a lot of skin. Overall, though, I enjoyed the character and look (luke?) forward to seeing more of him in “Luke Cage” and “Defenders”.

Jeri Hogarth: In the comics, Jeryn Hogarth is an ethical, very business-savvy lawyer-turned-executive, who worked first for Wendell Rand and then for his son, Danny (aka Iron Fist). That Hogarth, it should be pointed out, is a 50-something, heterosexual male. In this show, Jeri Hogarth appears as a morally-challenged shark of a lawyer, who occasionally hires Jessica Jones — no mention of Rand — for P.I./strongarm work. This Hogarth is a 40-something lesbian, who is cheating on her “wife” with her secretary/assistant. I didn’t mind the gender-swap, but also making her a lesbian was too much of a PC push for my taste. Beyond that, making her such a cold-hearted jerk was disappointing, too.

"Jessica Jones" (partial) cast shot

“Jessica Jones” (partial) cast shot

Malcolm: The “Malcolm” of the comics is a “superhero nerd” teenager with glasses, white, kinda short. Instead, we get a 6′ tall black junkie (though we can blame that last bit on the villain) with a weird afro and an existential crisis in the making. I guess I can understand them not wanting some nerdy kid bugging Jessica, especially since they really minimized her doing work that had to do with powered individuals. On the other hand, the original “Malcolm” still could have filled the role that this one did. I actually liked the character OK and thought the actor did a fine job, but I can’t help but wonder if the change was made mostly in the name of diversity.

Trish Walker: It has been a long time since I read the “Alias” series, so I didn’t remember if Trish (formerly “Patsy”) Walker was friends with Jessica Jones in the comics. I looked up both characters on Marvel’s Wiki and found no connection. That said, I liked how the writers/producers worked her into the story and into Jessica’s past. Not sure I would have cast Rachael Taylor, but she did a good job. I also like how the character has a personal Krav Maga trainer, such that she can hold her own in a fight. In fact, I wonder if they are planning to have her join the “Defenders”. She might not have powers or a feline theme or wear a costume (though we know she was keen on Jessica wearing one back in the day), especially since her character in the comics, aka Hellcat, was a member. Could be a cool surprise, though.

Robyn & Ruben: What was with the freaky-twin neighbors? They weren’t just plain weird (and possibly incestuous), they were annoying, and the girl, well, I think I hated her even more than I did Jeri. I suppose they played their roles in the story satisfactorily, but I just didn’t care for them. (Well, I did feel bad for Ruben, and I admit to feeling sympathy for his sister after his “disappearance”.)

Det. Oscar Clemons: Now, I didn’t realize this when watching the show, but NYPD Detective Clemons actually appeared in an issue of Punisher a few years ago. I liked his portrayal in the show by Clarke Peters. (Sort of reminded me of his role as a detective in “The Wire”.) It’s too bad he won’t be around to try to stop the Netflix version of the Punisher.

Sgt. Will Simpson: This character was loosely based on the comics character of Frank Simpson (aka Nuke), an unbalanced black-ops operative who joined “Project Homegrown”. This experiment turned him into a “partial cyborg with a sub-dermal mesh able to deflect bullets, and a second heart that, working in conjunction with some Adrenaline Pills, controlled his aggression, leaving him addicted as well.” For the Netflix series, Simpson retained the military background and use of a combination of red, white, & blue pills to control his enhanced aggression. The comic version also has a connection to Daredevil, but not to Jessica Jones or Trish Walker. Frankly (pun intended), I don’t care much for either version of the character.

Claire Temple: It was a pleasant surprise to see Claire again, even if just for one episode. Besides being a great character and portrayed by a talented actress, she reminds the viewer that the show shares a reality with Daredevil.

In a nutshell, I didn’t enjoy “Jessica Jones” as much as I did “Daredevil”. But, there was some decent acting and some interesting character development and other plot points. IF it ends up getting a second season (which has not been determined as of this writing), I’ll probably watch. I just hope it is a little more action-oriented and shows Jessica using her powers more, as well as doing some smart detective work.

Super Titanic News!

It’s a great time to be a superhero comics fan! Especially if you like seeing live-action versions, too!

I’m not even talking about the movies; though, with the current output both DC and Marvel have planned, the next few years are going to (hopefully) be uncannily, incredibly, amazingly super-awesome! (Did I overdo that just a bit?) I’m actually just referring to the many TV series. (For my purposes here, I mean all “small screen” productions, including from regular TV, cable, Netflix, and Playstation.) Animated series aside, we have only had a few shows — mostly of marginal quality or faithfulness to source material — over the past decades. There were, of course, early serials from the 1940s and 1950s, as well as the campy fun of the 1960s “Batman” series. But, let’s jump to the 1970s….

Marvel heroes on TV in the 70s-80s

Marvel heroes on TV in the 70s-80s

The TV version of “The Incredible Hulk” (1978-1982) was arguably the best done and most successful of Marvel’s shows. (Loved it, despite the much smaller Hulk and several aspects that differed a lot from the comics.) That show also tried unsuccessfully to spin off Daredevil and the Mighty Thor in later TV movies. There were 14 sporadic episodes of “The Amazing Spider-Man” (1977-1979). Dr. Strange got a campy TV movie in 1978. In 1979, Captain America got two TV movies that I enjoyed. DC’s “Wonder Woman” (1975-1979) was their big hit, with star Lynda Carter becoming an icon and idol of little fan-boys and girls everywhere. (I had such a crush!) Of course, we can’t forget the Saturday morning “Shazam!” show (1974-1976), either. I have to admit, I was a fan of them all. (Though, I’m not sure I saw all of the Dr. Strange movie, and I’m sort of glad that Daredevil and Thor didn’t spin off. They were pretty bad.)

“Superboy” (1988-1992) was fairly popular, though I don’t think I ever watched it myself. The 1990s brought us the first “The Flash” TV show (1990-1991), which was pretty cool but short-lived. We saw DC’s Swamp-Thing get a TV series (1990-1993), and “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (1993-1997) was a lot of fun. The less said about the “Justice League of America” TV movie pilot from 1997, the better. Marvel produced a poorly-executed and (generally) poorly-received “Nick Fury: Agent of Shield” TV movie in 1998, starring David Hasselhoff. (Another failed pilot.) I can’t remember anything else by Marvel during this time, but I may be forgetting one or two. (UPDATE: There was a rather disappointing “Generation X” TV movie in 1996, which also failed as a pilot, despite having Matt Frewer as the villain.)

The 2000s introduced a new era of comic-based TV shows, beginning with DC’s “Smallville”, which gave us 10 years (2001-2011) of pre-Superman Clark Kent and friends. An unaired pilot was produced for a new “Wonder Woman” series in 2011, starring Adrianne Palicki (aka Lady Jaye, aka Agent Bobbi Morse). But, it’s the new crop of shows that seem to be popping up left & right that have us excited. The fan-favorite “Arrow” debuted in Oct. 2012. Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” spun out of the first Avengers movie, landing on our TV screens in Sept. 2013. DC gave us three new shows in 2014, with “Gotham” kicking off in September, followed by “The Flash” and “Constantine” in October. Meanwhile, a year prior Marvel and Netflix announced a partnership that would be producing series based on the Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist characters, culminating in a “Defenders” mini-series. (The first one, “Daredevil”, is due out in May 2015.) Also, with “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on mid-season break right now, the “Agent Carter” mini-series will start it’s 2-month run in January.

Outside of Marvel and DC properties, let’s not forget the “Powers” series based on the Bendis/Oeming comic of the same name. (Technically, it is published by a Marvel imprint, but they don’t own it.) There are 10 episodes being produced for streaming on Playstation. Originally, it was to debut this month, but it has been postponed until sometime in Winter 2015. I don’t own a PS, and I’ve already written about my frustration with their casting choices, but I may give it a look sometime down the road. And, of course, there is the well-done and very popular “The Walking Dead” series that debuted in 2010 and is already in its 5th season!

Agents of SHIELD - red posterSo far, DC has the most shows and best track record, but “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has improved a lot, and Marvel’s upcoming shows — what little we’ve heard/seen — sound and look like they could be pretty darn good. But, if you’ve been paying attention as I have, you know that DC isn’t resting on its laurels, either. In September, they announced both a new “Supergirl” series and a live-action “Titans”. (Technically, the first one is as yet unnamed, though we are assured it will not be called “Supergirl”. Still, I have to call it something.)

The “Supergirl” series is being developed by Greg Berlanti (“Arrow”, “The Flash”) and Ali Adler (“Chuck”, “The New Normal”). They will write — with Adler writing the pilot — and co-executive produce with Sarah Schechter. DC’s Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns, will also be involved, and Warner Bros TV will produce. The show was originally pitched to The CW (who are enjoying success with “Arrow” and “The Flash”), but they declined. It has since been picked up by CBS (part-owner of The CW with Warner Bros.). There is already a 13-episode commitment, and the pilot will likely air in the Fall. Though the probability of crossover was originally cautioned against, a recent interview in Entertainment Weekly quotes Berlanti as saying it’s quite possible Supergirl will share a continuity/universe with Arrow and The Flash. Whether Superman will be specifically referenced or depicted in the show, however, is unknown. (I’m guessing not.)

Initial rumors reported by Deadline said the series would be a “new interpretation of the Supergirl character and her story.” This was a bit worrisome to me. I really want a fairly faithful version of Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin who shares his Kryptonian powers, rather than someone else in the costume or different powers or different origins. Official reports now say that the show will indeed follow the adventures of Kara Zor-el, who escaped the planet Krypton at age 12. She was adopted by the Danvers family, who encouraged her to hide her powers. But, now at age 24, she “is forced to use her powers to stop an unexpected disaster” and “begins embracing her abilities in the name of helping the people of her city.” That sounds close enough to modern comics continuity to satisfy me. Also, Kara’s brainy and slightly jealous, adoptive sister, Alex, now “works for a secret government organization and, alongside her heroic sis, will face many challenges, both mundane and super.”

The “Titans” series will be an action-packed drama, reportedly loosely based on Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s The New Teen Titans comic series, with the sidekicks of the big guns “adopt[ing] personalities and identities of their own”. It has been pointed out that the “teen” aspect is intentionally being left out, since the idea is to take a more “grown-up” approach, despite the heroes being “younger”. According to Entertainment Weekly, “In the pilot, former Robin Dick Grayson “emerges from the shadow of Batman to become Nightwing, the leader of a fearless band of new Super Heroes including Starfire, Raven and many others.”” Note that this indicates the roster won’t be limited to (former) sidekicks. Cyborg was named specifically in an earlier report (in the Wall Street Journal), though that may change if DC decides it doesn’t want both a small-screen version and a large-screen version (a la the announced Cyborg movie). On the other hand, with Ezra Miller cast as Barry Allen for the The Flash movie (2018), they’ve proven they aren’t averse to having two separate, live-action versions. Speaking of Flash(es), word is that the current “The Flash” series will be introducing a version of Wally West / Kid Flash at some point. It would be great if he and Arsenal (from “Arrow”) could cross over to “Titans”; but, given that the new show won’t be on The CW (see below), it’s doubtful.

Titans

Titans (one popular line-up, anyway)

Somehow, I don’t think they will perfectly reproduce any particular line-up from the comics. But, as long as it includes several classic characters and assuming they get those characters’ personalities and the group dynamic right, I’ll be satisfied. (Well, also assuming decent plots, acting, directing, F/X, etc.) Also, in case you’re wondering, the series is being developed for TNT via Warner Horizon Television. Akiva Goldsman (“Fringe”, I Am Legend) will be writing and executive producing, with Marc Haimes co-executive producing. Goldsman’s reputation is not good when it comes to sticking closely to source material, so here’s hoping he surprises us….

But, the fun doesn’t stop there! Earlier this month (Dec. 2014), DC announced a series titled “Krypton”. Rumored back in October, this SyFy series is being developed and exec-produced by David Goyer and Ian Goldberg (“Once Upon a Time”, “FlashForward”). Very few details, or even a timetable, are known at this point. It will probably be similar to “Gotham”, in that it will be a prequel of sorts to all of the superheroics. I’m sure the House of El will be major players, if not central to the story. It has been suggested that we may get to see the beginnings of legendary Kryptonian tech/characters like Brainiac, The Eradicator, and Doomsday. There may even be contact with other worlds. It isn’t clear how much of the sterile-looking, “scientific” environment Goyer helped create for Krypton in the Man of Steel movie — itself inspired by John Byrne’s reboot of Superman’s origins in The Man of Steel comic (1986), as well as his World of Krypton miniseries — will make it into the new series. If it’s there, it will likely have to be on a much smaller scale to be within budget. Personally, I think they could probably manage with a dozen or so well-done, establishing shots and keep the rest of the money for interiors. SyFy isn’t known for high-quality productions, but there’s always a first time….

Happy New Year, everyone! Looks like 2015 is shaping up to be a crazy-fun year for fans of live-action superheroics (and associated material)!

Marvel’s Flawed Heroes of Hell’s Kitchen

In case you missed it, a new, live-action series of Marvel superheroes is brewing over at Netflix and will begin filming in New York this summer (2014). As per Nerd Jedi, the new project will be produced as “four serialized programs totaling 52 one-hour episodes culminating in a four to eight episode mini-series programming event.” Each 13-episode arc will feature one of Marvel’s “darker” heroes based in and around Manhattan’s “Hell’s Kitchen” district, known for its seedy, dangerous atmosphere. Which heroes? Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones. Ol’ hornhead (DD), the Man Without Fear, will be first at bat, because, well… he’s fearless. Jones, Fist, and Cage will follow.

Defenders quad - Marvel NetflixThe first report I read made it sound as if this is a single series with separate character-oriented story-arcs, but a single title was not given. Interestingly, IMDB has separate entries for each of the three male characters, as if they will be separate series. (What about Jones?) I guess it remains to be seen how they will be marketed — either separately or under the “Defenders” banner.

The miniseries will have the four heroes team up. This makes sense, given their common area of operation. Plus, Cage and Iron Fist often teamed in the comics as “Heroes for Hire”, and Cage eventually dated and had a child with Jones. I’m guessing that this is when they will first be called “The Defenders”.

If you are unfamiliar with the characters, here’s the summary from the AP release:

“In the Marvel world, Daredevil is the superhero identity of Matt Murdock, who is blind but whose other senses are extra-human. Jessica Jones is a former superhero now working as a private detective. Luke Cage was wrongly imprisoned and gained his powers unexpectedly in an experiment. Iron Fist is the superhero identity of Daniel Rand, who has amazing martial arts abilities.”

As it happens, I am familiar with the characters and, while they may not be my favorites, I do like them and am excited to hear that they will finally get their shot(s) at the screen. I’m just a little ambivalent about whether I like the idea of them going (first) to the small screen. Daredevil, of course, already had his shot at the big screen (2003) — to mixed reviews. I liked it OK, but it wasn’t exactly satisfying. Maybe a TV version is the way to go, this time. I would like to see a Luke Cage or Luke Cage / Iron Fist (aka “Heroes for Hire”) movie, but maybe these series could lead up to it. As for Jones, she isn’t a “big” (i.e., well-known and/or important) enough character to warrant a feature film of her own, but I can see her being included as a supporting character. Having a 13-episode run to introduce our ex-superhero/private detective to a larger audience is probably a good move. Plus, the advantage for all of them is that there is more time to develop the characters — their personalities, histories, abilities, relationships, etc. (I guess I am warming up to the idea of this series. (Or, series of series?))

Personally, what I would rather see is a “Marvel Knights” series (either TV or movies) starring Daredevil, Luke Cage, Punisher, Moon Knight, and Ghost Rider (done right, this time), maybe with rotating membership and guest stars like Elektra, Cloak & Dagger, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Black Widow, and Wolverine. Sigh! A boy can dream, right?

We likely won’t see any of the new Marvel/Netflix stuff until at least 2015, probably 2016. (There are conflicting reports.) Then, “the epic will unfold over multiple years of original programming.” But, I for one look forward to whatever they put out — as long as it is a quality product, with good casting and scripts, and is faithful to the source material — and I hope it’s a sign of more to come!