The announcement, in juicy press release form, that Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Marvel (NYSE: DIS) are teaming up to deliver four 13-part superhero miniseries (COMIC-CON: OMG) followed by one ginormous inter-telly event, left us rather excited. The 52 episodes will plunge viewers into the Daredevil-run streets of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen – before it got really trendy, we’re assuming – in the company of three other Marvel heroes, culminating in their assembly as superhero team The Defenders in another showcase miniseries. But what, or more specifically who, is involved? Glad you asked. Here’s a swift run-down of MarFlix’s four lead characters…
CHARACTER BACK STORY Somewhat akin to Wolverine, Cage’s superpowers are the result of an experimental procedure. In Cage’s case, the result was supposed to produce immunity to all illness, but he emerged from the operation with steel-tough, bulletproof skin, super-dense muscle, and massively enhanced strength and stamina. It happened to him in prison, where he was thrown for a crime he didn’t commit (of course). He agreed to be messed with in exchange for parole, but ended up getting out through a jailbreak anyway. As Power Man he became a “hero for hire”, eventually teaming up with Iron Fist. For a while he was one of The Defenders, with Doctor Strange, the Hulk and Nighthawk. In the last few years, across Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias, The Pulse and The New Avengers, he became part of the latter troupe and married Jessica Jones.
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT Potentially lots of eventual crossover with Iron Fist and Jessica Jones, given his long-standing relationships with both in the comics. Alone, however, we might assume a detective format, like a one-man A-Team, helping those with a problem no one else can solve, if they can find him. Marcus McLaurin’s 1990s “Cage” series saw him relocate to Chicago, teaming up with non-super detective martial artist Dakota North and facing super-villainy from Hardcore, Coldfire and any number of acquaintances from his prison days. There’s also a possible recurring nemesis in Willis “Diamondback” Stryker (no relation to X-Men’s William).
WHAT WE PROBABLY WON'T SEE For one thing, there’s probably no need for a costume: the modern day Luke Cage eschews such nonsense, and his identity isn’t secret so there’s no need for a disguise. And Alias and The Pulse aside, his latterday comic adventures have had him right in the middle of the Marvel universe – Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Shadowland – but we can count out all of that because rights issues to key heroes there are held by Fox and Sony.
DREAM CASTING He needs to be charismatic, occasionally humorous, and capable of ultimate badassery. It has to be Michael Jai White.
CHARACTER BACK STORY He may sound like the 27th member of the Wu-Tang Clan, but Iron Fist, A.K.A. Danny Rand, dates back to the Bruce Lee-obsessed days of the early ‘70s. To borrow from the mighty Black Dynamite, Iron Fist combines “scientific biological transmogrification” (he got a superfist by placing his hand in a molten dragon heart) with “kung-fu treachery” (his parents’ business partner Harold Meachum caused both their deaths when Rand was a nipper). Expect him to start out with revenge in mind, before new adversaries spring up around him.
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT We smell a martial arts revival in the air – the Weinsteins are already digging about in the Shaw Brothers’ back catalogue while Keanu Reeves is launching a one-man T’ai Chi renaissance – and Iron Fist could arrive just in time to exploit it. So loads of cool fights, basically, and some angsty character development as Rand stoically endures a Bruce Wayne-like orphanhood. Also, ninjas. Lots of ninjas.
WHAT WE PROBABLY WON'T SEE Given that the studio and network are stressing the New York-based setting, while pocket dimensions are really expensive to film in, the K'un L'un backstory will probably be outlined in exposition (if it even features) rather than flashback. We’d expect these miniseries to be sparing with expensive CG work, keeping the locations and sets as light on green screen as possible, and focus instead on character beats and hand-to-hand (well, fist) combat. Iron Fist’s green and yellow costume, with ‘70s-style crotch pouch and a chest ‘V’ that heads all the way to Mexico and back, looks like a kind of porno Norwich City strip and might need a rethink too.
DREAM CASTING Michael B. Jordan: Blond haired and blue eyed in the comic book, the casting wonks should take the chance to switch it up. Jordan’s charisma and superhero chops – see Chronicle for more on this – make him a strong shout for the role of the ass-kicking magnate with the Smaug fist. One thing that may stand in his way, however, is if he gets the role as Johnny Storm (a.k.a. Human Torch) in the planned Fantastic Four reboot, with rumourmongers currently pegging him as a safe bet. Check out his interview with Empire at Cannes for more details.
CHARACTER BACK STORY It's a rare to meet a Marvel superhero who grew up in the bosom of a nurturing and stable family, and Jessica Jones isn't that superhero. Hers was wiped out in the car smash, caused by a collision with a military convoy transporting radioactive materials. When she wakes from the subsequent coma she finds that she has super strength, invulnerability and the (admittedly unreliable) power of the flight, gifts that she learns to harness under the super-alias 'Jewel'. Prior to all that, as longer-term fans will know, she shared Midtown High with one Peter Parker and his adversaries, including the deeply nasty Purple Man, who soon become her nemesis.
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT Well, Purple Man. He's a super-powered professional crim who is apt to make superheroes his bitch with mind powers derived from a nerve agent accident. He inflicts serious trauma on Jones/Jewel, even prompting her to abandon her superhero path for a time, and their (probably toned down) encounters would be hard to omit. Alternatively, the show may discard the early superhero stuff to focus on Jones' life as a P.I., as per Alias/Pulse/New Avengers. Jones is known for her surveillance and stakeout skills, so expect plenty of bits with her in a brown sedan car reading The Daily Bugle and chomping on donuts. Here her frisson with Luke Cage, and their later marriage and baby daughter, might see the two miniseries converge towards the end of their 13-ep runs.
WHAT WE PROBABLY WON'T SEE Jewel interacts with Spidey, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch and Thor at different times in her comic-book exploits, characters we're very unlikely to see cameoing here. Three have business elsewhere in the Marvelverse and the rights to the other reside with a different studio. Equally, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos's comic book had Jones' novitiate suffering all kinds of cruelty under the mind-control of Zebediah Killgrave, A.K.A. the Purple Man, including abuse of a disturbingly sexual nature. We're guessing – and indeed hoping – that the Netflix iteration will steer away from this Silence Of The Lambs terrain.
DREAM CASTING Alexis Bledel is smart, funny and needs a gig to replace Gilmore Girls, in which she smart and funny on a weekly basis. She played a student in Rushmore, so can find her way to math class in the high school bits, and took care of herself in Sin City, which exposed her to the seamy side of city life, and could probably handle to smoochy bits with Luke Cage. The only thing she can't do is fly… but then some would argue, neither can Jessica.
CHARACTER BACK STORY Matt Murdock, as a child, was blinded by a "radioactive isotope". While the accident rendered him permanently sightless, it also enhanced his other four senses to superhuman levels, and he can "see" with a kind of bat-like radar system. His mother abandoned the family to join a convent, leaving Matt in the custody of his father, washed-up boxer Battlin' Jack Murdock, who's eventually murdered by the mob when he refuses to throw a fight. Matt grows up to become a lawyer by day – partnered with his pal Franklin "Foggy" Nelson – and the costumed vigilante Daredevil by night.
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT A Catholic who dresses as a devil, and a lawyer who engages in illegal vigilantism, Murdock's contradictions provide scope for some excellent ongoing drama, and a great role for the right actor to really sink his teeth into. He's also probably the unluckiest hero in Marvel's canon, with a particularly hapless love life, so there's room for some soap opera among the superheroics. Tone-wise, we'd imagine a noir-ish crime series, reflecting Daredevil's street-level milieu in New York's Hell's Kitchen. The long arc of the last few years of the comics – begun by Brian Michael Bendis and continued by Ed Brubaker – in which Murdock is outed as Daredevil by the Kingpin with protracted and complex repercussions – would work well in weekly TV instalments.
WHAT WE PROBABLY WON'T SEE Frank Miller's Elektra saga has been done (whether or not you thought much of the Ben Affleck film), and perhaps some of Miller's other more outlandish plot strands – ninjas, resurrected assassins – might be best left in the comics. Likewise the recent business where Daredevil's off-message behaviour was explained as due to his possession by an actual demon; let's just pretend that never happened. Ann Nocenti's Lone Stranger arc is also way out there. And David Hine's Redemption (in which Matt Murdock to all intents and purposes defends the West Memphis Three) would be fascinating, but might take us too far from New York.
DREAM CASTING The problem here is the costume: a lot of guys would make fantastic Matt Murdocks but fail to carry off that unforgiving Daredevil suit. Conversely, an overt action hero wouldn't convince as a lawyer. So we give you Garrett Hedlund: old enough to convince in court; the dramatic chops to successfully play Neal Cassady in On The Road; convincing in the grimy darkness of James Wan's Death Sentence; and he carried off a bodystocking/wetsuit in Tron Legacy.