With the popularity of the superhero genre growing over the last 10 years, there have been a slew of live-action superhero TV shows based around their exploits. The two most popular of these are easily the CW’s Smallville and Arrow, which also happen to be the only ones based on popular, established characters. With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. coming this fall, now is the perfect time for Marvel and DC to take a look at their characters and see which ones could star in a hit TV show.
… Which is easier said than done.
While both companies have literally thousands of characters to choose from, very few would actually work in a live-action show. Remember, the success of Smallville and Arrow comes just as much from their realism and drama as their superhero action, something which has elevated the shows from being pure genre fare (COUGH Birds of Prey COUGH). These shows need to create worlds that lend themselves to a sizeable supporting cast and have enough of a mythology to maintain a long-running show.
And then there’s the fact that many of the characters would require too many special effects to be done on a typical television budget. Yeah, so Smallville managed to do a lot of cool stuff, but they had the fact that the main character was Superman to fall back on. There’s no way to make a live-action Spider-Man TV show that still looks as good as the films, and the Fantastic Four would have to stretch budgets further than Mr. Fantastic.
So which characters could make for interesting TV shows? Here are our top choices:
5. Black Panther
A Black Panther film has been in and out of development more times than I can count, with the current rumour being that we might see him in one of the upcoming Avengers movies. I think that the reason the Black Panther film keeps falling flat is that the character isn’t actually all that interesting; there’s not enough of a story to really grab people.
And now you’re thinking, so if that’s true, then what chance does Black Panther have on screen? Well, there was once a prince named T’Challa who was sent to get an American degree before coming back to claim his birthright as chief of Wakanda. So what if the show followed T’Challa as a fish-out-of-water, going to an American university and learning about the world, while resisting the urge to take on his birthright as the Black Panther? Perhaps he was forbidden from using his powers while away from Wakanda, so he constantly has to evade his own security detail, keeping suspicion low so word doesn’t get back to his father.
Like Smallville, this version of the character could also be learning about his people’s past, and how he came into the powers that he desperately wishes he was free to use. In addition, the university setting would offer a range of supporting characters. And if the villain happens to want to mine Wakanda’s precious Vibranium, well, then maybe it will be up to young T’Challa to save his people from afar.
This one actually looks like it might happen, albeit as a fan film. In the same way that Birds of Prey was trying to be a Batman show without Batman, I think Nightwing would actually work better than either. You can have all the same Batman villains, but with a much more interesting character that has never been explored in live-action. Okay, so we saw Robin in the Schumacher movies, but Dick Grayson is much, much more than a sidekick and Nightwing would be a great show to demonstrate that.
In addition, there would be plenty to explore in Nightwing’s past, and not just his time under Batman’s wing. We could see his life in the circus and have it come back to him in the present. You could also get a lot of mileage out of having Barbara Gordon as a recurring character, especially if Jim Gordon is still Gotham Police Commissioner. Sounds a bit like Arrow, doesn’t it?
Honestly, though, I think most of what it comes down to is that the minds behind Nightwing: Prodigal Son have the right idea and hopefully their series will show the world the potential of Nightwing.