I’ve talked about adaptations previously (and comic adaptations). I’ve even talked about why I think The Runaways would make a far better TV show than a movie, but I feel like I need to go into why I believe that comic adaptations are well suited for TV. Yes, there are certain arcs that can be adapted into a movie. However, the switch from comic to movie and the necessity to cut numerous ties that may have been previously planted in other storylines or new clues for future storylines. TV on the other hand would allow for an arc to be explored in depth
Comics are inherently serial. Yes, there are often comics that last for a predetermined amount of time regulated by the end of the main plot. When one storyline ends another begins without much hesitation. Thus the story remains ever revolving. One of the main traits of this is often subplots that feed into a larger plot that plays out over a longer period of time. The larger plots then revolve even more creating larger arcs. This structure allows for characters to continue being relevant and evolve within a continuous story.
Why this works for TV
Comic adaptations are particularly effective (if done well) on TV because of the similar nature of storytelling. Tv works on a serialized nature as you get a span of episodes to tell a story in one season and then potentially multiple seasons to tell a full story. Since comics have a serial nature this allows for the storylines to map fairly well to a season of TV. TV also allows for the character work that we get from comics that needs to be omitted from movies when a similar storyline is adapted. This is because a TV show is alloted a much larger number of hours and can get into the intricacies of a storyline and the emotional impact it has on characters. It is similar to how short standalone books often translate better to a movie format than a TV series as it would stretch unnecessarily. Since long running comics and TV have similar serial structures, the adaptation often becomes a better choice as it is more synonymous.
Marvel sees this and is expanding their TV universe. Yes, they have their movies which are the giant moneymakers for them, but movies have their limitations as you are constrained to 2, maybe 2.5 hours. Marvel is now utilizing TV to tell more stories. This will allow for more serialization and getting closer to the characters by having more time with them.
Marvel started with Agents of SHIELD. They were able to test the waters and after the initial success they were able to launch more negotiations which came to a wonderful Netflix deal. The Netflix deal will have 4 Marvel TV shows coming (starting in 2015) with a culminating mini-series. Each show is guaranteed at least 1 season and potentially more depending on its success. Considering the wide reach of Netflix and their successes thus far, I would be surprised if at least one of the new shows doesn’t return for a second season. The Netflix Marvel deal is a genius one as it gives an already successful brand a strong platform that transcends networks and their restrictions.
That said, Marvel is still a fledgling when it comes to TV. Based off the extremely slow start and lack of quality to the early part of the first season of Agents of SHIELD, it stands to reason that Marvel TV still has a long way to go. However, there are signs of hope. Agents of SHIELD immensely improved post The Winter Soldier’s release. This was largely because Agents of SHIELD was working within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and wasn’t afraid to show the ties. In fact, many of the episodes that were the strongest, actually had direct ties to the larger cinematic universe, but still managed to build the world of the show. The lessons that Marvel TV learned with the first season of Agents of SHIELD will be useful for both their Netflix shows and the new network show Agent Carter.
DC has been making the foray into live action TV for a long time with the old Batman TV show, through Superman, and now currently Arrow. While the shows have never been perfect, DC has figured out how to make these adaptations work on screen. The current line up is expanding from just having Arrow, to now including Constantine, The Flash, Gotham, and iZombie (not in the same universe as the others). That is a huge influx of DC comic shows and while not all of them will survive, from the early looks of what I’ve seem, they aren’t terrible (but there is room for improvement). DC’s universe isn’t cohesive like Marvel’s but in many ways that frees them up a bit. The decisions that they make are decisions for the betterment of their particular show (in the case of The Flash and Arrow a mini-universe).
What do you think about adapting comics to TV? Do you think DC and Marvel will be successful?