Do These Marvel Superteams Deserve Movies?

“Well, if DC ain’t gonna make us a good Justice League movie any time soon, why not let Marvel take a crack at it.” — Hunter Rasmussen, writing at DailySuperheroes

Love ’em, hate ’em, or in between, we’ve had a lot of comic book characters and teams adapted for TV and film over the past couple decades, and we have plenty more in the offing. But, naturally, we all have some favorite(s) that haven’t made it to live-action, yet. (“Invincible”, anybody?)

I came across an article titled “10 Marvel Superteams Who Deserve Movies” by Hunter Rasmussen at DailySuperheroes. (He purposely excluded “any official Avengers or X-Men teams” in order to simplify things and spotlight lesser-known groups.) I thought I’d give my 2 cents’ worth in response to Rasmussen’s suggestions. So, following his ordering…

10. New Warriors: Rasmussen referred to his favorite version of the team (pre-Civil War) as “incredibly wonderful,… charming and funny”, and he thinks a “straight up comedy” New Warriors film would work best. Much as I liked them back in the day, I’m not so sure this team (in any version) has the popularity to draw crowds to the theater. But, an action-comedy is probably the best bet, imho. Also, remember that Freeform is developing a half-hour action-comedy NW series (starring Squirrel Girl), which will likely debut this year.

Cover art for Exiles, vol. 2, #1

9. Exiles: Hmmm. I enjoyed this comic series, but my initial reaction to making it into a film was negative. However, I am warming up to the idea. The fact that it involves characters from various Marvel realities & timelines traveling from one reality/timeline to another could make for an interesting movie plot and fun action, while also keeping it separate from the main Marvel properties. OK, I’m in!

8. Alpha Flight: I love me some Alpha Flight (especially the original John Byrne incarnation), and I would love to see a faithful adaptation to either small- or big-screen. It would be best to have some link to the X-Men (even if merely referenced in dialogue or some other Easter eggs), as there is in the comics. But, the plot could be something totally unrelated to Wolverine or the other mutants. (Of course, a Logan cameo would be awesome.) Plus, I’m sure our Canadian friends would appreciate seeing their government-sanctioned home team get the live-action treatment.

7. X-Factor Investigations: This comic series was about Jaime Madrox, the Multiple Man, leading a detective agency made up of various X-people not currently on the usual mutant superteams. I read a few issues and agree that it has a lot of promise for adaptation. In fact, a few years ago I mentioned it as a potential live-action, X-Men-related TV series. More recently, it was announced that James Franco would be starring as Madrox in a solo film. Whether or not X-Factor Investigations or any of those characters will be in the film is unknown at this time.

6. MI-13: I had trouble remembering this one, as it has been many years since I read any of the relevant comics. As Rasmussen summarized, “MI-13 is the British equivalent of Alpha Flight… a governmental agency that can call on any and all British superheroes.” Not exactly, but close enough. This opens up many possibilities for characters, plots, and locales to use that are more UK- and Euro-centric. Part superhero team, part intelligence agency, and part paranormal investigations, this organization could indeed be the basis for a cool movie or three.

5. Young Avengers: According to Rasmussen, this doesn’t count as an “official” Avengers team, since it was unsanctioned. Personally, I like most of the characters, and there some good material available for stories. But,… part of the reason it works in the comics is because of the various connections to Marvel’s big name Avengers (e.g., Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye), as well as supervillain Kang the Conqueror, which aren’t there in the film universe. I just don’t see how it would work. Maybe in another 10-20 years?

4. Squadron Supreme: I was quite fond of the JLA-like Squadron — originally, the Squadron Sinister — from another Earth in my youth. It had some fun characters (especially the Superman-analog, Hyperion, and the simple-minded Shape) and explored some intriguing ideas (e.g., what if the JLA took over the world?). I haven’t read any newer stuff, but it sounds like not much has changed. As Rasmussen says, “Squadron is about how power corrupts and at what point we should question authority. And, holy heck, would it make a great stand-alone movie. No MCU connections needed. So good.”

3. Thunderbolts: On the one hand, this was an enjoyable series with some cool characters and an interesting, unusual premise — i.e., supervillains masquerading as superheroes, who (mostly) then decide to really go legit. The fact that criminal-turned-hero Hawkeye stepped in to lead them was icing on the cake. I agree with Rasmussen that the members’ internal struggles made for some great character-growth in a fun redemption tale. (I seem to remember later issues veering away from this somewhat.) But, I’m not convinced that it would translate so well to the big-screen without the villains’ histories being established, as they had been for many years in the comics.

2. The Sinister “Six”: Rasmussen isn’t referring to any of the original villains that made up this team and which were slated to be in the apparently-shelved Sinister Six film. Rather, he wants to see live-action versions of a relatively new incarnation of the team, as seen in the comic series Superior Foes of Spider-Man (2013). He calls it “the funniest and best written Marvel comic in recent memory.” I have no idea, since I am totally unfamiliar with it. But, in principle, I am less optimistic that a team of D-list supervillains could draw any but the most die-hard Marvel fans.

1. The Runaways: As I’ve mentioned before, I liked this comic series about likable, gifted teens on the run from their supervillain parents. It has definite potential. But, I think the story works better as a regular- or mini-series for the small-screen, rather than as a movie. Much more time to develop characters and plot. Apparently, Marvel agrees with me, since they developed that very series with Hulu, and 9 out of 10 episodes have already aired as of this writing. I haven’t watched it, yet, but I hope to soon. (Probably after Season 1 of “The Gifted” finishes up.)

In summary, then, I think there are various reasons why several teams on Rasmussen’s wishlist wouldn’t work out as movies. But, Exiles, Alpha Flight, MI-13, and Squadron Supreme have the most promise as do-able, live-action adaptations of lesser-known Marvel superteams that need only maintain tangential connections to the rest of Marvel’s cinematic adventures. Is anyone at Marvel/Fox/Disney listening? Helloooooo?

P.S. Incidentally, if you’re wondering what Marvel properties I think would make good TV series, check out “7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV (Part 1 of 2)” and “7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV (Part 2 of 2)”.

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Upcoming, Live-Action Superhero Series Round-up, part 2

Continuing from last week, wherein we looked at various confirmed, possible, and merely rumored Netflix series that will/would join the four Marvel adaptations so far, this week we’ll review several more superhero shows being developed at other networks. Most of them also happen to be based on Marvel properties, but not all….

Disney/ABC

o I’ve already blogged about the “Inhumans” mini-series coming out this Fall (here and here). As previously mentioned, it will focus on the Inhumans’ Royal Family (as seen in the comics) and will not be connected to “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have mixed feelings about the casting choices — e.g., Serinda Swan as ‘Medusa’ looks rather disappointing in the pic I saw — but I’m hopeful that the overall story and production will make it worth watching.

Fox

‘The Gifted’

o As we now know, the mysterious “X-men related” show that was being developed over at Fox is called “The Gifted”. The basic premise is that a suburban American couple discovers “their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive.” This appears to be a new concept and not based on any particular Marvel mutant-themed comics, but there will be a few familiar characters (e.g., ‘Polaris’, ‘Blink’, ‘Thunderbird’). The creative team / producers include many familiar names, too — e.g., Bryan Singer, Jeph Loeb, Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, Jim Chory, and Matt Nix. My interest is piqued! (No premiere date but possibly late-2017.)

Hulu

o Based on another popular Marvel comic book series, “Runaways” is about a group of teenagers who discover that their parents are the members of a secret cabal of supervillains. As if there wasn’t enough to be angsty about…. These kids discover that they have unusual skills and abilities of their own and decide to foil their parents’ evil plans. As you might have guessed, the parents do not appreciate the interference, and the kids end up on the run, so to speak. Thus the title. I remember reading several issues of this series when it came out years ago and enjoyed it. I really hope they do a decent job with this adaptation. At least the cast looks good…. (Premieres sometime in 2018.)

Freeform (formerly ABC Family)

o “Cloak & Dagger”: “Two teenagers [Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson] from very different backgrounds find themselves burdened and awakened to newly acquired superpowers while falling in love.” To be honest, I never really got into these characters much. I remember reading a few stories with them — maybe the initial, limited series and a few guest-starring appearances in other titles. But, they never really got me excited. Still, it’s an interesting concept, and I know their fans have been talking for some time about the possibility of these characters arriving either on the small- or big-screen. Well, it’s finally happening, so for their sakes, I hope this is a satisfying live-action adaptation. (Premieres early/winter 2018.)

o Not much is known about the “(Marvel’s) New Warriors” series being developed for Freeform, except that it will be a half-hour action-comedy and apparently features ‘Squirrel Girl’. Now, since debuting in the ’90s, this team has gone through a few different rosters. But, it has always been (mostly) serious, despite the silliness of Speedball, and the ridiculous Squirrel Girl has never before been part of any incarnation of the team. This series “is about six young people with powers living and working together. With powers and abilities on the opposite end of the spectrum of The Avengers, the New Warriors want to make a difference in the world… even if the world isn’t ready.” The team will be led by SG, whose “most important trait is that she has faith in people and teaches them to believe in themselves.” Not the way I’d have gone with this property, but I guess…. (No premiere date but probably 2018.)

You might be wondering if there will be any crossover between the two Freeform series. Well, probably not. As per Karey Burke, Freeform’s Vice President of Programming, “If you know these two properties, they’re not particularly connected. There are many degrees of separation with where they fall in the Marvel universe. But anything is possible with Marvel. Their tones are so wildly different. Cloak is this angst-filled, achingly beautiful, heartfelt romantic drama. And Squirrel Girl is a balls-out comedy.”

CW

‘Black Lightning’

o DC’s latest — fifth, or sixth if you count “iZombie” — entre on The CW will be “Black Lightning”, starring Cress Williams in the title role. The incredibly busy and talented Greg Berlanti is one of the executive producers, along with his producing partner Sarah Schechter. Husband-and-wife team Salim and Mara Brock Akil are writing, with Salim also directing at least the pilot. The show tells the story of Jefferson Pierce, a long-retired superhero who gets pulled back into the biz, when his daughters (who I think also have powers) get involved in some heavy stuff. The trailer I saw looked pretty good, so here’s hopin’…. (Premieres either this October or early 2018.)

???

o The one we know the least about is “Quantum & Woody”, based on a Valiant title by the same name. (I loved the original but haven’t read the new one.) It was a quirky, clever series with fun characters: adopted, adult brothers — one black, one white; one serious, one goofy — who gain superpowers and (naturally) become costumed adventurers. This past March it was announced that the Russo Brothers (“Community”, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War) would develop the property as a TV series, once they wrap The Avengers: Infinity War. Other executive producers include Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (Ant-Man), who are currently working on Ant-Man and The Wasp. Sounds like a great creative team! But, correctly casting the title characters — with the “odd couple” vibe and repartee from the comics — will be crucial to the show’s success. (No premiere date.)

o Just before going to press, I discovered that DC’s live-action “Titans” series has not only been revived but will begin shooting in September. Apparently, I missed the announcement back in April that it was moving forward, after all. Beside the shoot-date, we also now know that Berlanti (along with Geoff Johns and Akiva Goldsman) is co-developing this one, too, and it will be “part of a brand new digital service from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.” Does this mean it won’t air on a regular TV or cable channel? I dunno. Regardless, I hope they do the team justice. Teen justice! <<ahem!>> (Likely premieres sometime in 2018.)

I don’t know about you, but I think there is a *lot* to look forward to over the next couple years, and that’s just from this particular subset of our beloved sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. Even if only half of these series catch on, I’ll be happy. (Assuming I have a chance to watch them, that is.)