The 2015 debut of “Daredevil” on Netflix marked the beginning of a successful relationship between the streaming service and Marvel Comics. Other heroes and vigilantes, such as Jessica Jones, Patsy Walker, The Punisher, Luke Cage and Misty Knight followed in the footsteps of the Man Without Fear, offering fans an alternative to the flashier, more well-known cast of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Marvel and Netflix have responded to the massive support for the dramas by greenlighting additional seasons and new series. This year, we get the premieres of “Iron Fist,” “The Punisher” and the miniseries that brings the majority of the street-level heroes together, “The Defenders.” And as the doors open wider and wider, it’s likely even more characters from the pages of Marvel Comics will continue to pop up in this shared universe.
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While the television side of Marvel receives the lion’s share of praise from critics, Marvel Comics has taken the opportunity to capitalize on the increased visibility of its characters on the small screen. One would have to think long and hard for the last time Daredevil didn’t headline an ongoing comic series, of course, but now his Netflix co-stars are appearing in more and more comics as leads rather than members of the supporting cast.
Let’s take a moment to examine how the success of Marvel’s Netflix superstars has benefited its publishing line.
The Next Corner of the Marvel Universe To Keep An Eye On
During a year-end interview with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, he was asked which corner of the Marvel Universe he believed was next to grow in popularity. Alonso responded with the ever-growing Daredevil line of books. “That is the corner of the Marvel Universe to keep your eye on. The street-level heroes — Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, Elektra, Misty Knight, Moon Knight, etc. — are going to be big players in the Marvel Universe in 2017, and their fates will become increasingly interconnected. We want to tell the stories that you see on the Netflix shows a few years from now.”
That growing started to take shape at the conclusion of “Secret Wars,” which kick-started a new era, dubbed “All-New, All-Different Marvel.” Every title was relaunched with new creative teams, with writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney helming “Daredevil.” A promotional image showcased a redesigned costume for the protector of Hell’s Kitchen: gone was the all-red attire, replaced with a black-and-red combination that more closely matched the character’s suit from Netflix series. The look and tone of the book, which had been open and bright, were also altered to match the TV drama, which is dark and gritty.
Misty Knight became a household name thanks to her role on Netflix’s “Luke Cage.” The no-nonsense police detective resonated with fans to the point that she has been included as a cast member on “The Defenders.” In the comic books, she’s worked with Sam Wilson in “Captain America: Sam Wilson” since the first issue. Whenever Sam is feeling down or depressed with the world, she’s there to remind him of the importance of being an African-American Captain America and the type of role model he is. Misty even got to headline last month’s “Captain America: Sam Wilson” #16, and one can imagine a scenario in which she eventually stars in her own book.
One of Marvel’s most prominent pairings is between Luke Cage (Power Man) and Danny Rand (Iron Fist). The two have been Heroes for Hire and Avengers over the past few decades, and they’re now back together in their own ongoing series “Power Man and Iron Fist.” Each issue displays the unique friendship fans can’t wait to see in the Marvel Netflix universe. While the two haven’t met there yet, they will star alongside Jessica Jones and Daredevil on “The Defenders,” and there are more than a few fans hoping for a “Heroes For Hire” spinoff so their comic book magic can be recreated on the small screen.
Speaking of Iron Fist, his Netflix series will begin in March, coinciding with the launch of a new ongoing comic from writer Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins. If that wasn’t enough, Marvel also announced an “Iron Fists” series as part of Marvel NOW! 2.0 from writer Kaare Andrews and artist Afu Chan, in which Danny Rand appears to mentor the young girl introduced in Andrews’ previous Iron Fist title.
Many consider The Punisher as the breakout star of “Daredevil’s” second season. The gun-totting vigilante laid waste to the scum of New York City, even clashing with, and eventually working alongside, Daredevil. Like Daredevil, The Punisher doesn’t go long without a comic with his name in the title: a new volume of “The Punisher” began in May 2016, and continues to display his ultra-violent brand of justice.
The lethal assassin known as Elektra returned to the pages of “Daredevil” for a two-part story in Issues 6 and 7, right on the heels of her television debut in “Daredevil” Season Two. Daredevil and Elektra have been linked to one another ever since she was introduced in 1981, in “Daredevil” #168. On the Netflix series, she was introduced as a former lover of Matt Murdock and a fellow student under the mysterious Stick. She’s set to have her own comic book series this year from writer Matt Owens and artist Alec Morgan, which will feature, like Daredevil, a new television-influenced costume. Owens was a writer on “Luke Cage” and is making the transition to comics to place Elektra in a new environment: Las Vegas.
Moon Knight hasn’t appeared on a Netflix show, but that hasn’t stopped fans from requesting he be included in the next wave of TV series following “The Defenders.” Just in case Marvel and Netflix do have plans for the white-clad vigilante, a new comic series is already in print from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Greg Smallwood.
Although Alonso didn’t name these individuals in his interview, other street-level characters to star in new comics include Jessica Jones, Kingpin and Bullseye. “Jessica Jones” has seen Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos return to the character they created in 2001’s “Alias.” Her first season was so successful Marvel and Netflix have renewed it for a second. Bendis has even teased that some of the greater secrets of the Marvel Universe will be revealed in his run on the comic.
The relationship between Marvel Comics and Netflix seems to be a two-way street. Marvel Television and Netflix choose which characters to translate to the platform, and Marvel Comics makes sure to prop up these street-level heroes and villains in entertaining comics. Alonso reiterated this when he said, “We want to tell the stories that you see on the Netflix shows a few years from now.”
There may be no better example of this than in an upcoming February story arc in “Daredevil.”
Running With the Devil
Marvel announced “Running With the Devil” as an initiative beginning in “Daredevil” #17 and continuing in the new “Kingpin,” “Bullseye” and “Elektra” series. It will begin with Soule and Garney addressing the question dangling over the head of the Man Without Fear; namely, how did Matt Murdock regain his secret identity?
“We’re taking Daredevil and some of the characters in his orbit,” Alonso promised, “sending them off in different directions for some brand-new stories from rising stars in the comics industry.”
Is it possible “Running With the Devil” could be translated into a story for the Marvel Netflix shows? Marvel hasn’t announced a straight-up crossover between the titles, but it’s hinted at how the series will work together. What’s more, it was announced just last week that Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez will helm a new “Defenders” title featuring the lineup from the upcoming Netflix miniseries — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist — in “a sprawling, ‘Godfather’-like epic at the street level of the Marvel Universe.”
“There are a lot of fans who will say, ‘Oh they’re doing a TV show, so of course there’s going to be a comic,’” said Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president and executive editor, “but at least in this case, there’s a comic I can point you to. Read the last two pages of Brian’s ‘New Avengers’! Certainly that there is a big, new, exciting Netflix TV show coming is a good excuse for us to get to that story that we planted the seed on.”
Marvel’s motto is “It’s All Connected.” With the popularity of the Marvel Netflix franchises, Marvel Comics has ramped up its focus on putting out more comics featuring these stars. And in turn, Marvel Comics is creating stories that may one day make their way to a Netflix director’s camera.
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