I just finished watching the newest Marvel TV series that debuted on Netflix over the weekend. It’s called “The Defenders” and was the brainchild of Marvel TV exec Jeph Loeb who dreamt of creating a series of TV shows featuring lesser known Marvel comic characters and then combining them into their own TV show.
If that structure of entertainment sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Marvel Studios, the live-action movie studio arm of the comic entertainment giant, started the “formula” with the first “Iron Man” film back in 2008. Since then, the studio has introduced many other superheroes (and multiple sequels) that will culminate with the combining of all these superheroes in “Avengers: Infinity War” next summer.
The success of these Marvel movies has a lot to do with good moviemaking. The reason why people are compelled to watch more and more of these types of movies (more specifically from the Disney-owned studio) is because they have been relatively consistent when it comes to emotional and relatable plot lines and very high production value. Add nearly a decade to it all and you have people, from multiple generations, going crazy about this “final” film in a phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU).
Disney, Netflix, and Loeb were only right in thinking that the same model could work for TV. Loeb, an experienced TV producer and comic book writer, led a team to create the first TV show featuring a beloved, but “minor” Marvel character, Daredevil. The show debuted in 2015 to wild acclaim. Over the next two years, more TV shows also debuted to introduce audiences to Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist (all of which were minor Marvel characters as well). That all leads us up to “The Defenders” series that just dropped to high praise as well.
Still, the model of producing a Marvel movie isn’t equally transferable to producing a Marvel TV show. For starters, these shows were developed in a matter of months and debuted in just a few years. That means scale on production and other resources like writers and time to deliver the products were significantly less. Additionally, Marvel has more creative freedom so far as including mature language and violence that a lot of Marvel fans have wanted from the movies. All together, the critics and fan applause can’t be ignored.
And much of what both groups are saying is the best part of the Netflix/Marvel shows are that they maintain good stories that keep you wanting more with the end of each episode, which not only comes from the writing, but the actor’s performances. These remain at a high quality that people have binged these series and look forward to more. The next series will focus on a famed comic book character, “The Punisher,” whom was introduced in “Daredevil.”
Looking forward, Marvel TV shouldn’t try to be Marvel Studios in how they produce their content, but focus on the rich storytelling that comes inherently from the stories of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and other Marvel Comics’ pioneers. Add a mature twist to what can’t be shown in the movies and you have a formula for Marvel TV that won’t disappoint with the addition of new shows and introduction of new characters. It’s what works.