(In trying not to add spoilers, a few bits of information below will be subject to change due to “Avengers: Endgame”.)
Along with their burgeoning movie franchise (check out my article on Marvel’s Phase Four), Marvel launched an initiative to develop series for network TV and streaming, with “Agents of Shield” in 2013, followed by a plethora of Netflix shows, “Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, “Luke Cage”, “Iron Fist”, “The Punisher” and “The Defenders”, along with “Cloak and Dagger”, “Runaways”, “Legion”, “The Gifted” and various animated series. These have been spread out over a multitude of network, cable and streaming channels, but it appears they will now consolidate their new shows on their own streaming platforms Disney+ and Hulu (Disney acquired a majority stake during its Fox acquisition). The cancellation of all their Netflix shows is most indicative of this since Netflix will now be a direct competitor. It does not appear they will be reviving these Netflix shows but if they do, they will most likely be rebooted.
Here’s a rundown of new programming being developed for their new streaming ventures.
Disney+: In a crowded and growing streaming market, Disney needs to make sure that people will pay for yet another channel (even at a reasonable $6.99) so they’ve tasked themselves with creating must-see programming. To that end, they’re bringing actors from the movies into their own series.
Loki: The magnificent Tom Hiddleston, who brought to life a rather tiresome comic book character, is coming in for a Loki series. Last we saw, he had been killed by Thanos but there are always ways to work around that.
Hawkeye: Jeremy Renner is coming back as Hawkeye, despite the fact he had retired (but then things got busy with “Endgame”). Reports are he will be training a young protégé Kate Bishop who in the comic books takes over as Hawkeye.
WandaVision: This is an odd title, maybe hopefully reflecting a co-dependent relationship between the Scarlet Witch and her synthetic boyfriend Vision? In any case, Elizabeth Olson and Paul Bettany will return but now with more to work with; their screentime in the Avengers and Captain America movies was quite limited. A great storyline could be “House of M”, where Scarlet Witch suffers a breakdown and radically alters reality, although it might make an even better “Avengers” movie. There’s also the complicated history of the comic book Vision, having the body of the original Human Torch who was an android and the memories of Simon Williams aka Wonder Man. This doesn’t jibe with the movie version but perhaps could be worked in somehow. A boy can dream.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Focusing on Captain America’s sidekicks, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan will reprise their roles.
What If: Imaginary stories have been a staple of comic books from the beginning, but Marvel codified it with the “What If” series in 1977. Per Marvel President Kevin Feig, “Our first episode will ask the questions, ‘What if Peggy Carter was the one who became a super soldier?’ and ‘What if Steve Rogers had stayed a scrawny young kid, but joined the fight with an armored suit built by Howard Stark?'”
Marvel’s Hero Project and Marvel 616: Two documentary series: the first spotlights real-life young heroes helping their communities; the second will explore comic book history and creators along with a look behind the scenes at Marvel Studios. Personally, I like reading more about comic books than actually reading comic books (shhh), so I am looking forward to “Marvel 616” the most.
Kevin Feige has expressed the possibility of introducing new characters or feature minor ones such as breakout star Goose from “Captain Marvel”. However, I vote for “Machine Man”, “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur”, “Nightcrawler”, and above all else, “Squirrel Girl”.
Disney+ is launching on November 12, 2019, although only “What If” will be available at that time; the other series should follow within the next year.
Hulu: “Runaways” is already on the Hulu and is coming back for season three. Now that Disney has taken over, they’ve announced a huge slate of new Marvel projects. The first five will be animated and more adult-oriented.
Howard the Duck: This is the biggest news of all. Despite the crime committed by George Lucas in his horrendous film adaptation, Howard the Duck is a great character and deserves so much more. Now he’s got a real shot. The maligned and misunderstood fowl is getting his own series run by Kevin Smith. Not sure who would be better equipped to do justice by Howard.
Modok: This megalomaniac supervillain with a monstrous head and itty body could always be counted on for some chuckles, which is why Patton Oswalt is the perfect person to steer this series.
Hit-Monkey: I’m not familiar with this character, to be honest.
Tigra & Dazzler Show: Chelsea Handler is producing this one so it should have a good satirical edge. I could see Tigra with a little Cardi B swagger and the Dazzler sporting a Taylor Swift vibe.
The Offenders: A wink to “The Defenders”, this will feature a team composed of the characters from the four series listed above.
Ghost Rider: Newly announced, this will be a live-action with Gabriel Luna who played the character in “Agents of Shield” reprising his role.
Helstrom (Son of Satan): This show will focus on Helstrom and his sister Ana. The comic book Hellstrom (with two l’s while also using the spelling Hellstorm) was incredibly sexy as long as you didn’t think about his family connections, so I would encourage the costume department to hark back to the original drawings. Because Helstrom was first introduced in a Ghost Rider comic, it’s possible these two shows will cross-over.
And that’s it for now. But new things are being announced almost daily, so I’ll keep you up to date as we learn more about Marvel’s new ventures.