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Published on December 22nd, 2010 | by admin

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Mars Needs Culture! #4: Video Killed The Comic Book Star: Part Three

Wow, this really turned out to be a much bigger project than I first thought it would be. What do you say to wrapping it up? I know it means skipping a few fun items like The Tick, the Dr. Strange movie, and Captain America in a motorcycle helmet?!?! It pains me for these glaring omissions; however, I never intended this to be a column dedicated to the superhero shows of yore, so I am sure we will struggle on somehow.

There are a few, however, that I wanna touch on, as they got more right than wrong…mostly.

10) Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) – I really, REALLY wanted to hate this show. All of the ads looked like teen-ridden angst, and I didn’t have the time. Plus, the only reason I wanted to see the movie was to see Paul Reubens make his return to the spotlight after that whole pornography debacle in Florida (I am still 100% on his side, and think he was railroaded, but that is another column). I never thought for even one second that Buffy was worth my time. Then one day while my girlfriend was at work and I was too bored to summon the will to do anything difficult, like reach for the remote to change the channel, I watched two episodes in a row. As it turns out, it was the perfect two to get a person of my tastes hooked. The first episode was indeed the pilot, so I was introduced to the tentative rag-tag gang that would soon be known as the Scoobys. The second, and this was the crack in the pipe, so to speak, was the musical episode “Once More, With Feeling.” Next thing you knew, I was planning my Sundays around watching two hours of Buffy, one from the first season and one from the sixth. Now, enough personal history, let’s talk about what Buffy got right and wrong. The main thing that I feel that this program nailed was the supporting cast. If we are comparing these shows to the comics they borrow so heavily from, then the rest of the crew are all important. Batman needs Alfred, Spider-Man needs J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May, because we have to feel that these heroes are well rounded people. If the show was 60 minutes of slugfests, sure some people would watch it for a while, but even the simplest of us will get bored eventually. Which brings me to the weakest point of Buffy, and that is quite frankly…Buffy. While she grew as a character, she was always the least interesting to watch. When your name is in the title, and you keep getting upstaged by a group of introverted geeks and bookworms, you need to get a stronger personality. 11 issues of a 12 issue miniseries.

11) Smallville (2001-infinity) I remember in 2000 when the geek world trembled at the idea that “The CW” was going to base a television show on Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming Batman. It would borrow heavily from the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm animated series that had several flashback episodes revealing the life Bruce led, traveling the world learning from whoever could teach him, before he settled into the cowl and protected Gotham. I still get weak-kneed thinking how cool that show would have been. But it couldn’t happen because Christopher Nolan wanted to make brilliant movies, and the network decided to substitute Superman for Batman. Hell, a hero is a hero, right? Silly network types. I still say that this show was past its prime the moment that they got a howler monkey to sing the theme. I do not have the words to express how much that song grates on me. It’s as if the entire band Remy Zero is chewing on my spinal column, sending pain to every nerve ending in my body. Well, that is a bit extreme, but I really don’t like it. The cast in Smallville is, in my opinion, uneven. Tom Welling (Superman) grows into the part, but he was pretty flat in the early days, and that lets Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) own the show. Much like Buffy, it becomes all about the supporting cast. What a villain, though! Rosenbaum is by far the best live action Luthor we have gotten. As much as this show grated on my nerves after a few episodes, I kept watching for several seasons just to watch Lex. Of course, I guess it says volumes about this show that I kept wishing they would get rid of the superhero stuff and just have a drama involving Jonathan and Martha Kent vs. Lionel and Lex Luthor. Just imagining it makes me want to make some popcorn and watch TV. 9 issues out of 12.

12) Heroes (2006-2010) Heroes was unfortunately one of the most disappointing shows in this whole series of columns. Was it because of the crazy time travel? Was it the addition of those awful “Wonder Twin” wannabe characters added for no reason in season 2? Was it the fact that the writers strike left them with large chunks of plot the way Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) abandoned his Irish girlfriend in the future (see, like I said, crazy time travel, ugh)? In a word, no. Heroes made me sad because it had so much potential. Most of the first season was a note perfect comic book world. It made its own world and stayed true to the rules it established. Then, it collapsed on its own weight. I read an interview once with the creator of the show Tim Krieg; he stated that he had never read comics and made a point not to read them as the show progressed. He wanted to keep the show fresh by staying away from the established archetypes. As the saying goes, those who do not read bad comics are doomed to repeat them. If ever a show could have used a Geoff Johns or a Brian Michael Bendis to swoop in and carry the show back to sanity, this was it. I have heard from some that the show was getting its feet back by the end, but by then I and many others had already moved on and mourned. First season 11 issues out of 12, second season and beyond 8 of 12.

So now that I have blathered on and on about what I do and do not like in my superhero television, you might ask yourself, what in the heck was the idea I have been talking about? Well, it’s simple really. Here is what my hope for the future of comics on television will be:

Either Marvel or DC, since they are owned by a large movie making company could do this, but in my opinion it is more of a Marvel idea. Why, you ask? Because what I want to do is build a universe. I can hear you now, “Geez, JJ, why don’t you start with a BIG idea?” To this I say, “Quell your sarcasm Sir/Madam, I have a plan!”

Marvel has been trying for the last several years to build a movie universe. I say they are thinking too small. Imagine if you will, a future where they take the actors they have under contract and use them for large screen and small screen crossovers! Before you start to poke holes in my plan with your monetary questions, let me make it a little clearer. What I want is not say, an Iron Man show starring Robert Downey, Jr. That would be crazy. No channel could afford to keep a cast and crew the caliber of the Iron Man movies. However, if the show was set in the Marvel Universe, and Tony Stark just happened to stop by…

The most logical Marvel property to use as a template is, unfortunately, currently impossible. In 2004 Brian Michael Bendis created a comic book series called The Pulse. It was a section of the Daily Bugle dedicated to superhero stories. Sadly, Marvel does not have the rights for Spider-Man or the characters that make up his supporting cast. However, I think you could bend it enough that it would work. I would miss J. Jonah Jameson, but we could still get Jessica Jones tracking down stories and guest appearances by whatever big name character has been cast in a blockbuster. Or, if not big names, you could also use it to cheaply test out new characters. Not sure if the public will flock to an Iron Fist movie? Then have a Heroes for Hire storyline and see how the ratings respond. Plus, as the films already have shots of CGI for the movies, might I suggest a little re-use? I for one wouldn’t complain if Thor flew by the same bush in the theater and at home. Finally, if the budget for the television show could be offset by the already existing contracts and budgets of the feature films, we could see something truly amazing.

Disney/Marvel, I have many more details in my head to make this work, if you want to send bushels of money to get more info out of me just contact me at MarsNeeds@gmail.com.

– JJ

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