Comic Books on TV: How Much is too Much?

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This week I am going to stray a bit from my usual comic book review and talk about something that’s been on my mind lately, comic book shows and movies. There are so many coming out! Is it too many though?

Don’t get me wrong I am really excited for a lot of upcoming shows. Preacher, the recently announced Y: The Last ManOutcast, and the much-rumored Scalped (that is still a thing right?) are all on my radar. Then there are those I am hesitant of or skeptical about happening, like Titans — which is the working title for a Teen Titans TV show currently being developed — and even more that I want to happen, such as Invincible (animated please!!) or Northlanders (also animated please, but featuring different styles for each season like you did with the volumes!!!); and finally there are the ones that got canned. Rest in peace, Locke and Key, we were so close!

But, honestly, isn’t this getting a little ridiculous? Every channel is trying to capitalize on success stories like Image and the Walking Dead or Marvel and Agents of Shield, also can’t forget Arrow or Flash over at DC. It’s all a bit much.

This is not to say that TV isn’t a perfect place for comic-book adaptations. I have long thought the episodic nature of television would be ideal, given that the medium being adapted tells its stories in 33-page, one-month gaps. It’s a match made in heaven really, but ease up, guys. It seems like we are going from zero content to an overwhelming amount fairly quickly. I am running out of time to watch it all, which is a shame because I truly want to try all of it.  My problems with this trend are many but the ones I think about most are: 1) flooding the market, 2) misrepresentation and 3) the adaptation changing the source material.

Let’s look at my first issue, flooding the market. This is already happening. There are 4 Marvel shows, 5 DC shows and at least 6 from Image, Vertigo, Icon, or other comic-book imprints on the air (or soon to be airing). This is not counting the dozens of shows in the planning stages. So already television is sporting 15 shows with that number climbing easily to 25+ in the next three years. This is insane! It’s getting to be too much, especially when a lot of these are going to tank or, worse, keep the market so saturated that the more creative properties won’t be touched. I think that’s what makes this trend so concerning, the fact that if things don’t change, books like Saga or Manifest Destiny or Rat Queens may never get the on-screen treatments they deserve.

My second issue is misrepresentation. By misrepresentation I mean a show using a character in name only, or when the adaptation is so loosely tied to the source material that they are unrelated conceptually. Now I am not saying deviations aren’t OK or warranted; just look at Walking Dead, a show that doesn’t always follow the books yet manages to capture their spirit. But it’s when NOTHING is the same except superficial details that it becomes a problem. I also understand things like censorship exist and that not all of these shows can be on HBO or AMC, but look at Constantine. They took a character known for a foul mouth, sex magic, drinking and smoking, and made him fit into a prime time slot by saying, “yeah he does these things and you will see it lightly, but a lot of it will happen off camera.” It’s when people think that Speedy was always Oliver’s sister, or Liv worked as a psychic cop instead of living in a crypt, that I start to worry. Don’t even get me started on the crap that is Gotham.

Finally I want to talk about the original work being influenced by its reimagined treatment. Marvel and DC have been notoriously bad for this. I have a serious problem with an adaptation causing a retcon or new character getting shoehorned into a long-standing franchise. There are very few times when this works for a company, the best obviously being Bruce Timm’s introduction of Harley Quinn in Batman the Animated Series. The forcing of Agent Coulson and Fitz into my issue of Karnak, on the other hand, was not appreciated. I felt like they were not really needed, so much so that I have to wonder why they are there outside of gratuitous cross-promotion.

I also really dislike when the TV costume becomes the comic book costume. Sorry, Arrow, but your outfit will never be as cool as Green Arrow. Until you grow yourself a beard or goatee, don’t even bother putting on the hood. I resent that when I pick up a Green Arrow comic now all I see is a super-young, clean-shaven Oliver Queen (despite still seeing a middle-aged Bruce Wayne). It’s called source material for a reason, guys.

Also, remember animation? I really miss animated superhero shows that were amazing. I understand Guardians of the Galaxy may be a great series but it will never be as good as Young Justice or Spider Man the Animated Series. I feel like the current generation of kids is really missing out on clever stories being told through animation. The fact that Fox and Marvel pulled off an animated Secret Wars in the 90s is really crazy. They were accurate adaptations that literally just told the same story as the comics. I also miss innovative cartoons, like Young Justice, ones that took well known characters and placed them in an alternate continuity and told mature stories that any age could watch and appreciate. Why it was cancelled I will never know or forgive.

At the end of the day, I really am happy these TV shows are getting made, and I genuinely hope that the books I love get the adaptations they deserve later on. I just want some thought and consideration put into the process and worry that we are getting ahead of ourselves. Now if you’ll excuse me I have an episode of SHIELD and two episodes of iZombie to watch.

Andrew Dearborn
About Andrew Dearborn (81 Articles)
Andrew Dearborn is a part-time reviewer, long-time reader, and occasional video gamer. He grew up in a small Southern Manitoba town and, as many from his area tend to do, migrated to the "big city" of Winnipeg, where he works full time as a bookseller and event facilitator for McNally Robinson as well as a substitute teacher. He is actively pursuing a career in teaching, having received his Bachelor of Education in high school History and English from the University of Manitoba in 2013. While attending the University of Manitoba he was lucky enough to have one of his many short stories, "Socrates' Last Drink", published in The Manitoban. Andrew is also a bilateral cleft palate, a Mennonite, and a nerd, having started his comic book collection at the tender age of seven with a small stack of hand me down Spider Man and Jack Kirby-drawn Eternals issues. In his spare time he reads, writes and talks... incessantly.
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