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Marvel Heroes Defending On Netflix!

The rumors had been brewing for a few weeks. While we've all been busy pondering Marvel Movies Phase 3, Kevin Feige had a TV Phase 2 in the works. And today Marvel Studios revealed it. It's a doozy.

Disney and Netflix released a joint statement that "...four of Marvel’s most popular characters" would be coming to Netflix in original series developed exclusively and directly for that service. Each series will be related to the others, building to a huge crossover mini-series, and all will be focused, as rumored, on the so-called "street level" heroes.

Beginning with Daredevil, recently retrieved from the hell of rights at Fox, the series will then roll in to Jessica Jones (once known as Alias or aka Jessica Jones), Iron Fist, and Luke Cage (as separate series).

When all those are said and done defending Hell's Kitchen, they will come together in a mini-series called... The Defenders.

The press release offers a vague launch date of 2015 -- so we have a year, just not a month. And the way it's phrased is interesting, with the network "...committed to a minimum of four, thirteen episodes series and a culminating Marvel’s “The Defenders” mini-series event that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters."

So at least one season of each. If they're popular, and given Netflix's growing power in the media marketplace, we have no reason to think otherwise, this could be an amazing amalgam of programming that means we might never see the sun in person again. The press release seems to agree:

“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. Netflix offers an incredible platform for the kind of rich storytelling that is Marvel’s specialty,” said Alan Fine, President of Marvel Entertainment. “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.”

“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 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.”

So while unlikely, it could tie in to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., because ABC Studios is still involved (and they're all in the House of Mouse). But these are the heroes defending the little guys, while the Avengers handle the alien invasions and android intelligences menacing the world. Depending on who is cast, though, we could probably see at least cameos in the films, if by the time, say, the third Avengers rolls around, maybe they'd need these Defenders playing back-up.

While some sites already express disbelief at the hyperbole, I would have to agree that within the comics reading world, these actually are four of Marvel's most popular characters. With the way Marvel stops, restarts and regroups characters in their books, it can be hard to track. Can they translate to television? Let's tackle them in order:

Daredevil - yes, once awkwardly adapted to film starring Batman, but forget about that. One of the problems with the movie was simply that Hollywood think means you have to go big in scope FAST. (Mock me if you will, but that's what screwed up Howard the Duck, too.)

A television series will let it build slowly, and can maintain Daredevil as a street hero. Blind attorney Matt Murdock, gifted with extra powerful senses including the excellent "radar sense", dons the mask of Daredevil to take down the criminals who escape justice in the courtroom. Living in a lower income neighborhood, there is a lot of justice that needs his guidance.

Jessica Jones - This had actually been in development and then passed upon by Fox, with input from Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. No word yet on if Rosenberg still has involvement, but her take probably wouldn't have involved the Marvel Universe.

Early in Jessica Jones' career she had been the hero Jewel, possessing powers of strength, invulnerability and flight, but when we first met her in the comics, she had put that aside and become a private investigator. Her cases often crossed over into the seedy side of superheroics. (One of her first cases involved someone impersonating Captain America, which, if it had been a Fox series would have been impossible to adapt. But now...)

Eventually and reluctantly, Jessica allowed herself to get drawn back into superheroics, with a "friends with benefits" fling with Luke Cage leading to pregnancy, marriage, and domestic bliss with occasional babysitting from Squirrel Girl.

Again, with this being on Netflix, there's an obvious intersection between series, and since each series would likely be released for binge watching, we would likely not have to wait too long for Jessica to cross over into the fourth announced series, Luke Cage.

But first...

Iron Fist - Danny Rand, refugee from the mystic city of K'un L'un, where he was given the dragon tattoo and the gift of, of course, the Iron Fist. Created in the heyday of the martial arts craze of the '70s, the blond blue-eyed billionaire often eschewed his wealthy roots to get grim and gritty. (Worth checking out the Marvel Essential editions.)

Where' he came into his own recently was in Matt Fraction and Danny Aja's great series The Immortal Iron Fist, which somewhat redefined him and revived his popularity. It ended when Fraction and Aja moved on to other work, not because of a lack of popularity.

But still, Danny is best known to most people (and in the Essentials) as friend and team mate to...

Luke Cage - Sometimes known as Power Man, and mostly we all tend to overlook his blaxsploitation roots in the '70s. Luke Cage is mostly invulnerable, super strong, and one hell of a man, and I mean that in the best way. He always stands up for the right thing, and his romance with Jessica Jones was built realistically and organically, becoming one of the best examples of how a married couple can exist believably in comics, something DC doesn't seem to believe is possible.

Though he occasionally has billed himself as a Hero For Hire, the mercenary aspect of that never seems to sit well with Luke Cage, and he has proven to be one of the most popular Avengers in recent years, currently leading a team that Marvel bills as "the Mighty Avengers". (It can be confusing sorting out the titles, but trust me, it's good stuff.)

And yes, it is indeed Luke Cage that Nicolas Coppola named himself after, becoming Nicolas Cage. So perhaps we could expect a cameo from him somewhere in the series. After all, Nicolas Cage played Ghost Rider, and somewhere in the past he must have been one of...

The Defenders -- The original Defenders are occupied elsewhere. We already have The Hulk as an Avenger, and thank you very much, he should stay there on the big screen. Doctor Strange? Rumors have him appearing in Phase Three of the movies. The Silver Surfer? Damn it, Fox Studios holds the rights. So why not apply the name to this group of street level heroes, defending the streets? I'm salivating already.

Consider by 2016 that Netflix will be the exclusive carrier of first-run subscription-based Disney products -- that's Disney, Pixar, ABC Studios (all the television series after their initial season runs on ABC), DisneyNature, Disney Animation, Lucasfilm... you might as well subscribe now.

And buy stock in Netflix, because by 2017, I'll predict that's going to turn into Disney stock.

Derek McCaw

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