Comics have a dark side, for every wisecracking Iron Man, there’s a gun toting Punisher. For every brightly coloured Superman, there’s a Batman in a shade of grey. Thing is, the audience for that type of hero isn’t the audience that makes money. So what do you do if you’re Marvel or DC, or another publisher lucky enough to have someone interested in expanding your characters beyond the printed page?
Movies cost a lot, and do you want to take a shot on something that might not be to everyone’s taste? Or, as in Marvel’s case, do you want to risk alienating your core demographic by introducing more adult themes into your movies?
Maybe TV is the answer, and DC are definitely winning the battle on the small screen, with Arrow, The Flash and Gotham all pulling in serious ratings in on both sides of the Atlantic. The downside is some of the more serious issues have to be watered down – particularly the violence – and that can lead to the show becoming unpopular amongst it’s hardcore fans. They are, after all the ones who are likely to watch a TV show starring their favourite superhero.
All of which brings me to Daredevil.
It’s a bold experiment, taking a character who could well have sustained a TV show on his own, and making it a Netflix exclusive. The appeal of Daredevil is that he manages to overcome the adversity of being blind, while fighting to defend the place where he was born and raised, Hell’s Kitchen. In some ways making it an online exclusive limits your audience, but take a moment to think about the type of character he is: Daredevil is one of Marvel’s “street level” heroes. He’s not going to foil an alien invasion or an international espionage conspiracy, but he will take care of Mafia bosses and gangland crime. To do that he has to get his hands dirty, and plenty of TV censors would have clamped down on Daredevil’s brand of hand to hand combat. The Internet has no such restrictions, and Marvel can no show one of it’s darker characters in his true light. That’s not to say violence should be condoned, but if you’re going to do the character, you need to do it right. Marvel obviously feel the model can work, as it already has plans in place for more series based on The Punisher, Iron fist and Luke Cage. It might not be pretty, but it will be different, and it could be the next step in how entertainment in all forms – not just the comic book industry – evolves.
We’ll have more on Daredevil and Marvel’s Netflix shows over the coming weeks here at Comics Culture.