Thanks to a landmark deal announced today between Netflix and The Walt Disney Company’s Marvel TV, several popular Marvel Comics characters will get their own serialized live-action series on the streaming platform beginning in 2015, including Daredevil, Jessica Jones (who starred in Brian Michael Bendis’ critically acclaimed comic Alias before moving over to The Avengers), Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Each of the four characters will get their own 13-episode series, which will then culminate in a mini-series event based on the Marvel franchise The Defenders that “reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.”
If that sounds somewhat like The Avengers, you’re correct. Well, sort of. While the film franchise The Avengers — operating under the watchful eye of director Joss Whedon — poses intergalactic threats like the Chitauri invasion, these shows seem to offer a decidedly more street-level view of the Marvel cinematic universe, introducing characters who operate out of New York City’s Hell Kitchen. While no mention was made of the tone of each of these series, expect a far grittier feel than, say, ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the ratings-troubled drama about the high-flying agents of an espionage agency that operates out of a helicarrier.
Daredevil — based on blind lawyer Matt Murdock who battles criminals as an acrobatic man without fear — will be the first to get his time in the spotlight in 2015, followed by Jessica Jones, a private investigator-and-sometimes-superhero who has gone by the codenames Jewel, Knightress, and Power Woman, as well as Iron Fist and Luke Cage, two brawlers who have often been partnered up in the comics. (The former is a martial artist gifted with the ability to concentrate his chi in his fist; the latter has unbreakable skin; both were introduced in the 1970s.)
No word was given on the financials of the deal, though both sides praised the “unparalleled” scope of such a content offering. “This deal is unparalleled in its scope and size, and reinforces our commitment to deliver Marvel’s brand, content and characters across all platforms of storytelling,” said Alan Fine, president of Marvel Entertainment, in a statement. “Netflix offers an incredible platform for the kind of rich storytelling that is Marvel’s specialty. This serialized epic expands the narrative possibilities of on-demand television and gives fans the flexibility to immerse themselves how and when they want in what’s sure to be a thrilling and engaging adventure.”
For its part, Netflix drew parallels between this deal and what the streaming platform is doing in terms of its own original programming, which includes House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, and several others. “Marvel’s movies, such as Iron Man and Marvel’s The Avengers, are huge favorites on our service around the world. Like Disney, Marvel is a known and loved brand that travels,” said Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “With House of Cards and our other original series, we have pioneered new approaches to storytelling and to global distribution and we’re thrilled to be working with Disney and Marvel to take our brand of television to new levels with a creative project of this magnitude.”
It’s worth noting that ABC had previously attempted to develop a live-action series based on Jessica Jones entitled A.K.A. Jessica Jones, which never got out of the script stage, and Ben Affleck starred in a Daredevil feature film for 20th Century Fox, which was spun-off into a starring vehicle for Jennifer Garner as Elektra. For longtime comics fans, it will be interesting to see just how integrated and interconnected these series wind up being — given the longstanding comics connections between Luke, Danny, Jessica, and Matt — as they lead to The Defenders event.