Superhero enthusiasts all over got a big exciting surprise this morning when news broke that Marvel and Netflix would be partnering to create streaming series for the Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones characters. When the shows culminate into a Defenders team-up, the end result might be more grounded and more human than anything of Marvel's live-action offerings so far. That'd be a welcome change.
I've seen a lot of reactions today using the phrase B-list to describe this cast of characters and the very Defenders concept. Maybe the various Defenders comics haven't been as successful sales-wise as those of the Avengers but they've been weirder than Marvel's flagship super-team. And that's a great thing. They fought white supremacists, weird Lovecraftian elder gods and alternate-reality versions of rival publisher DC Comics' Justice League. Based on the description that came along with today's news, the focus will be more on street-level superheroics. Most importantly, in keeping with the Defenders non-teams of the past, all these characters are outsiders. No square-jawed high-flying icons here.
Led by a series focused on "Daredevil," followed by "Jessica Jones," "Iron Fist" and "Luke Cage," the epic will unfold over multiple years of original programming, taking Netflix members deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell's Kitchen, New York. Netflix has 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.
These characters all have psychologically tense, emotionally complicated continuities that they've accrued over decades of publishing history. As far as team dynamics go, Daredevil's impulsive, sometimes self-destructive brand of justice contrasts with Iron Fist's zen-orphan kung-fu cool. Readers of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' conflicted backstories know where they came from and where they wind up. They're accidental metahumans who stumbled into helping people. Interlocked TV series—each focused on developing the textures of each hero—could be the structure that best emulates the 'strands-into-knot' phenomenon of the superhero team.
So, yeah, the Defenders announcement is exciting. Mostly because it can afford Marvel the chance to do something different than the blockbuster spectacles they've been turning out. And, if the powers-that-be don't get Isaiah Mustafa to be Luke Cage, they're crazy.