Marvel's upcoming 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' TV series represents one of the company's biggest projects yet: their attempt to merge the cinematic Marvel universe seen in 'The Avengers' with an ABC television series. Time will tell if this gambit succeeds, but they certainly get points for ambition. What will happen if the series is the hit that Marvel (and Disney, of course) wants it to be? Well, we can probably expect additional Marvel shows and an even more tightly interwoven universe, where watching every movie and catching every show will offer its fair share of rewards.
So listen up, Marvel/Disney/ABC. We don't want to tell you how to do your jobs (and you seem to be doing all of this fairly well), but if you are planning to pursue additional Marvel TV shows in the near future, there are some comics that you really should focus on. Trust us. When it comes to knowing good comics, we're professionals.
NOTE: due to all kinds of legal issues, not every character or comic on this list is necessarily the current property of Marvel Studios and Disney. But hey, we can dream, right?
Although 'Journey Into Mystery' is the long-running series that introduced the character of Thor into the Marvel universe many decades ago, it has transformed into something very different in recent years. Since Thor himself usually has his own solo title, the original series has become the place to follow the adventures of the other citizens of Asgard. From Young Loki to Sif, the series casts a spotlight on Thor's numerous allies and enemies, telling stories that have that Thor flavor without the big guy himself. Considering how big the Asgard world is, it's easy to imagine a 'Journey Into Mystery' TV series that follows day-to-day life in this realm. What are Sif, Heimdall and the Warriors Three doing when Thor is down on Earth being an Avenger? A show would answer that question.
As much as we like Jeremy Renner, let's face the facts: Hawkeye didn't get to do a whole lot in 'The Avengers.' That's the problem when you're an archer among super soldiers and gods -- your skill set just looks little lame. However, there is plenty to be done with the character and Marvel and Disney should look no further than the current 'Hawkeye' series being written by Matt Fraction. Focusing exclusively on Hawkeye's life when he's not being an Avenger, the series is a funny, strange and touching look at a normal guy living in an extraordinary world and how he uses his very human powers to make the lives of his friends and neighbors better (and sometimes worse). Hawkeye may look a little out of place on the big screen, but he feels built for your television.
Created during the martial arts craze of the '70s, Iron Fist is like Batman if Bruce Wayne earned superpowers by defeating a dragon on a mystical mountain and becoming the next in a long line of legendary warriors. Yeah, it's a little silly, but it's no sillier than your typical Kung Fu movie (or most superhero comics, really). It's easy to imagine a series here: wealthy industrialist by day, badass supernatural martial artist by night, etc. However, any TV version would be wise to look to the recent series 'The Immortal Iron Fist' for inspiration, which took the character to new heights of popularity.
Here's the inherent problem with Frank Castle, AKA, the Punisher. Strip away his costume and all you've got is a fairly typical action hero, a badass vigilante with a lot of guns and gumption. That's why the character failed on the big screen -- we've seen that a thousand times before. It's difficult to imagine the character getting another shot in the movies, so we'll have to count on the character eventually getting a chance on TV, where some of his more interesting aspects can be explored. You see, the Punisher is a typical vigilante, but he's a typical vigilante in a world full of superheroes and supervillains. The Punisher tries to stay in his own corner, but he's at his most interesting when he finds himself crossing paths with heroes who disagree with his violent philosophy and villains who make his firepower look minuscule. What makes the Punisher a fascinating character (and what would be wonderful to see on TV every week) is that this is guy who can stare the impossible in the face every week without blinking ... and then put a bullet in it, of course.
Considering their box office, it's hard to imagine the regular Avengers heading to TV anytime soon. However, you just know that Disney and Marvel would like that familiar brand sitting alongside 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' on ABC and there's an easy solution that would make them and fans happy. Let's say it together: a 'Young Avengers' series! Their origin will probably have to be retooled, but the basics of the group could remain the same: a group of teenagers (some super-powered, some not) put on costumes inspired by their favorite superheroes and take it upon themselves to fight crime. Cue a surprisingly compelling mixture of superhero antics and teen angst. It's a win-win-win: Marvel gets an 'Avengers' series on TV, fans get to see the Young Avengers in action and audiences get to watch a bunch of attractive people every week. Hey, it works for 'Arrow.'
The last time they tried to bring Daredevil to the big screen, the results were unsatisfying, to say the very least. Although 2003's 'Daredevil' had its share of huge problems, perhaps the biggest problem was that this is a character who feels like he was built for TV instead of the movies. Matt Murdoch/Daredevil doesn't have extremely flashy powers and the villains he fights aren't the biggest or the most cinematic. He's a street-level crime fighter, cleaning up small-time crooks while battling his own personal demons and attempting to keep his law firm afloat. The greatest threat to Daredevil has always been his tumultuous personal life and how he lets his greatest mistakes come back to haunt him. He's the kind of character you really can't get to know properly in one movie. But a show? That's more like it.
A movie version of 'Runaways' has been stuck in development hell for quite some time now, but the obvious solution to the problem is staring everyone right in the face. Bring them to television! Brian K. Vaughn's wonderful series follows a group of kids who learn that their parents are all supervillains, which they don't take well at all. Naturally, they band together to take them down, using inherited superpowers and technology of their own. To say much more would involve getting into spoiler territory (this is a far more focused story than most superhero comics), but there is plenty of additional drama beyond that juicy kids vs. adults premise. It's telling that Vaughn would write for 'Lost' and 'Under the Dome' and that Joss Whedon wrote 'Runaways' for awhile -- this is a series that has the focus, drive and emotional punch of a great TV series.
Most superheroes, upon gaining their powers, devote themselves to a life of crime-fighting and world-saving because they realize that "with great power comes great responsibility" and so on. Not so with Heroes For Hire, a group originally founded by Luke "Power Man" Cage. Initially a solo effort, Cage was eventually joined by Iron Fist and the two of them set out to actually make a living from being superheroes, offering their services to anyone willing to pay them. It's an immediately fun concept that turns the entire idea of superheroes on its head. Rather than fight for a cause, these are guys fighting to make a living. They're private detectives or security guards, just with super strength. Although Luke Cage and Iron Fist could make their debut on the big screen, surely it would be more fun to watch them deal with the day-to-day drudgery of monetizing superheroics on the small screen.
'Damage Control' is a Marvel series that's popped up off-and-on over the years, always charming readers but never really sticking around. That's a shame, since it has one of the coolest premises in all of comics. The title organization is the team that comes in after the superheroes have finished a battle and perform clean-up duties. Yep, these are the folks whose job is to truck away the destroyed bodies of massive robots, repair the roads that Hulk smashed and rebuild the homes that Dr. Doom leveled. It's all about the normal people who make a living cleaning up after superheroes, people who live on the fringes of action but never participate. Imagine this premise as a 'The Office'-style comedy series about workplace shenanigans ... except that the workplace is wherever the Avengers have been last.
Despite being a longtime member of the Avengers (and occasionally the Fantastic Four) in the comic book Marvel universe, She-Hulk is a character who gets laughs and raised eyebrows when mentioned to normal people. The only thing you can do is point the dissenters toward Dan Slott's run with the character, which saw the gamma-powered Jennifer Walters kicked out of the Avengers and forced to pursue her original, pre-superhero career: practicing law. But since this is a comic book world, she enters the dangerous realm of superhuman law, working on cases that involve superheroes and other extraordinary figures. The series may be one of the best and funniest things Marvel has ever published (Spider-Man sues J. Jonah Jameson for libel!) and it feels ready-made for television. A seemingly typical lawyer show where the lawyer is a green superhero and her cases involve aliens, robots and ghosts? Sign us up.