Okay, so it’s not exactly news that some of Marvel Comics’ more “street-level” (read: less popular) superheroes are getting their own shows on Netflix. Yes, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage (Power Man) and Iron Fist are all getting to appear on the smaller-than-small screen of the internet. It’s kind of fitting, given their lower-tier status, and it makes financial sense since bringing them to the big screen would swamp the market and TV would be a bit of a gamble.
It’s not that surprising either that there’s been talk of the characters crossing over, and that these shows will lead into a “team” event in the same way as The Avengers solo character films did. That’s a good plan of action, and if it works then it could lead to some big screen adventures too. There’s still that mysterious untitled movie for 2016 that Marvel have penciled in, and while the odds are on Doctor Strange it could be something like another Incredible Hulk film (his popularity was massively boosted by The Avengers) or… well, these guys. It could happen, and the timing certainly works.
All of these characters need the increased exposure that Netflix can provide as a foundation. Jessica Jones needs the boost. She’s a good character that over the years has been made great, and has the potential to be the surprise breakthrough character of the bunch. Unfortunately, outside the world of comic book fans, her name currently has no recognition at all. Daredevil… well, we know of his tragic fate on the big screen, and it’ll take a good revamp to make him cool again. Luke Cage: Power Man and Iron Fist are actually pretty recognisable with younger fans right now, given their appearances in animated shows like Ultimate Spider-Man and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The strange thing is that these last two characters have been separated. In the comics, they always worked best as a duo known as Heroes For Hire. The joy of them was their odd-couple nature, one being a streetwise powerhouse who just likes to wade into a brawl, and the other being a warrior-monk who was slightly at odds with the big city who preferred to meditate over a problem before solving it with intelligence and precision. The idea that they’re getting their own separate shows is odd. That they’ll cross over and form a team works, but they’re apparently not going to be the Heroes For Hire at all. Instead they’ll be The Defenders when they team with Jones and Daredevil.
The Defenders as a team name may sound a bit like The Avengers, if they’re going for some kind of brand awareness. But on the flipside, it also sounds like a cheap knock-off, like those mockbusters that you see on the shelves in DVD stores that are made on the cheap and given similar titles to big-screen hits. Films like Transmorphers and Snakes on a Train. It probably won’t be viewed that way because Marvel are pretty clear about branding their products, but it doesn’t quite fit right. The Defenders has been a team in the Marvel U for years, with a roster starring everyone from Doctor Strange to Red She-Hulk. They’re the best-known team in Marvel, not counting The Avengers, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, X-Force, X-Factor…
This is a personal thing, but I like Heroes For Hire. I liked the comics when I was growing up. They were a good read, Luke Cage and Iron Fist were fun characters that weren’t that well known, and the title itself packed a bit of punch. It sounded cool. They were private detectives, but they also went out of their way to do the right thing. The idea that you could hire some low-rent superheroes was appealing. They wouldn’t just save you from attacks by Ultron, they would save you no matter what the problem was. That made them more relatable than The Avengers, as a team and as characters.
Only time will tell what the Netflix productions of these characters’ shows will be like, but I really hope they’re good. These are unique characters, and they’re being presented in a unique way. There’s clearly been some creative thinking behind making this happen, and hopefully forging their own path will lead to their own success, still being a part of the Marvel Universe but also being something we haven’t seen before. They’re The Defenders of Netflix and I’m going to support them because they deserve it, and because they’re doing something different…
I just wish that they’d kept the Heroes For Hire name, because that’s different too.