Saturday, 6 August 2011

DC's dream TV slate

I really want DC to still be my favourite comics publisher in five years' time, but dammit, I just can't help but admire Marvel. Their film slate is brilliant, they have just announced a black/Hispanic Ultimate Spider-Man, and on top of that they've got some great-sounding TV shows in the works. Jeph Loeb, he of Smallville and Heroes (and, yes, formally of DC) is heading up their TV development and is currently overseeing AKA Jessica Jones (which I would watch yesterday if I could), Mockingbird (I confess I know very little about her) and Cloak and Dagger.

Everyone knows that a TV show is the best way to make a completely new audience aware of a comic book character. But Marvel are being especially savvy with this line-up, because not only are they targeting a new audience, they're targeting under-served demographics. All three projects have women in the title roles, and two of them boast black leading men. Neither groups make up the typical comics readership of 18-31 year old white men. If these shows get to TV (which of course isn't guaranteed), Marvel could successfully widen their catchment net dramatically.

Elsewhere, DC have a Wonder Woman show that couldn't get past the pilot and a show aboout Raven in development. Not so inspiring in comparison. Frustratingly, DC have many great characters who would make for brilliant TV leads. They cocked up with Birds of Prey (how did the TV series get it so wrong?), but they've seen first hand what TV success looks like with Smallville and Lois and Clark.

Here are the DC projects/characters, which, for my money, would make for great shows and also, potentially, attract a more diverse audience.

Gotham Central There's not a DC fan alive (over 18) who wouldn't put this at the top of their TV wishlist. It's The Wire of the DCU, and not just because it's a police procedural, but because it is in a class of its own. Great characters, great stories and villains that range from the outlandish Gotham villains like Two Face and Mr Freeze to real-world bad guys like Corrigan.

Casual viewers may wonder why a show set in Gotham has hardly any Batman (and not even very much Commissioner Gordon), but Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen would soon win them over. It also has an incredibly diverse cast and would make for a brilliantly original police show. Why aren't DC putting this into production right now?!

Writer: Is suggesting David Simon too much of a cliche? Actually, I think I'd want comic writer Ed Brubaker to oversee the transition to TV.

Teen TitansScrew a Raven TV show - just do the Teen Titans. You'll end up bringing most of them in as guest stars in Raven anyway, and besides, she works much better as a peripheral character slowly revealed to be far more powerful and screwed-up than anyone realised than as a main character.

Any Teen Titans team would work, but my favourite was always the New Teen Titans line-up: Dick Grayson's Robin/Nightwing, Donna Troy, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy, with Wally West's Kid Flash and Roy Harper's Speedy/Aresnal popping up here and there. The wealth of back-story would be a problem, but with smart dialogue, a good mix of drama and action and a healthy vein of comedy (and a budget big enough to cover a green guy who turns into animals) it would be, well, the new Buffy. It would attract a hefty teenage - and female - audience.

Writer: And who better to write a teenage ensemble piece with great female characters than the Buffy maestro himself, Joss Whedon? Failing that (since he's rather busy with The Avengers and what-not), Bryan Q Miller, he of Smalllville and Batgirl, would be a good shout. Basically, anyone but Josh Schwartz.

She'd make a great TV lead, juggling a showbiz career and a superhero alter ego, wielding a power that she hasn't quite got her head round yet and featuring a supporting cast of DC's magical characters. I'd put her in her mid-20s and take inspiration from Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers interpretation, pegging Zee as a bit of a screw-up who drinks too much, has very inapproriate taste in men (Batman and Constantine? Girl likes a bad boy) and has a very sharp, smart tongue, even when she's speaking words the right way round.

Plus, because's Zatanna's character mythology isn't set in stone (unlike, say, Superman's), the series would have more freedom to create friends, love interests and villains for her, all things that Zee's been lacking in comics.

Writer: Since Zee is a fast-talking girl, we're looking at Pushing Daisies' Bryan Fuller, or Gilmore Girls' Amy Sherman. Also, I wouldn't hate Rachel Bilson as Zatanna herself.


John Constantine, as brought to screen in a British-American co-production would just be heaven. British cast, locations, black humour and grit, with American money. It's about time the Keanu version was wiped from audiences' minds, and this would be the way to do it.

Constantine is one of comics' best, and most under-used, characters and a TV show would fit him perfectly. It would also bring in a new British audience, who are not typically comic book readers. It's just a shame that Mark Sheppard doesn't remotely look the part, because I can't think of anyone who embodies Constantine's sardonic spirit quite so perfectly. Ah, hell. Cast him anyway.

Writer: Oh, so many British writers who I'd love to see tackle Hellblazer. Mark Gatiss has the gothic sensibilities, Steven Moffat has the smart plotting, Paul Abbott has the realistic grit. But I think their best bet may lie in persuading Jane Goldman to take a TV job.

Secret Six

Mainly because it's not a Follow The Nerd post if Secret Six aren't mentioned somewhere. Also, because it would be brilliant. Super-violent, morally bankrupt and inventively weird. It would be a shame to lose their interactions with DC's more mainstream heroes (I don't really see Wonder Woman guest staring in a TV version of Secret Six) but they have a good enough cast of their own allies and villains to more than fill a series, although some liberties will have to be taken as to their origin story. The adult content, mixed-gender characters and a hefty dose of LGBT themes will attract an audience other than the Smallville loyalists.

Also, cast Josh Holloway or Jared Padalecki as Catman and have him be naked a lot. That'll attract a certain audience right off the bat.

Writer: It seems impossible to imagine anyone but Gail Simone writing these guys. But I reckon Ben Edlund (formally of Firefly and The Tick, currently writing the weirdest - and best - episodes of Supernatural) would do a great job.

Selina Kyle is a ready-made leading woman. I'd take a heavy influence from Brubaker's run on her book and give it a great gumshoe vibe and a supporting cast including Holly, Karon, Slam Bradley and Leslie Thompkins. The fact that Catwoman is inextricably linked to Batman could cause problems, but she has enough of her own history and stories to carry a good few series' without him: Her training with Wildcat, her background with the Falcone family, her childhood on the streets and rise to wealthy society burglar extraordinaire, with a social conscience. Robin Hood in Louboutins.

Writer: Veronica Mars and Cupid's Rob Thomas.

Booster Gold

Okay, so a show about Booster Gold won't bring in anyone other than DC's usual white male 18-31 audience. But come on, who wouldn't want to see a comedy action show about the world's tackiest superhero? (I have a soft spot for Booster.)

Writer: Ben Edlund would be pretty good for this one too. Damn. But I'll go with Reaper's Tara Butters and Michelle Fazekas.

Blue Beetle

Jaime Reyes' Blue Beetle is DC's somewhat belated answer to Spider-Man: A gawky teenage boy gifted amazing powers overnight has to juggle high school, home life and superheroics. And Jaime isn't always very good at it, mostly getting by on self-deprecating wit and a hefty dose of luck (and a symbiotic alien). He also has Traci 13, who, as love interests go, is pretty awesome.

This show would have a fun, young feel, all teenage angst and action.

Writer: Oh, alright. Josh Schwartz can have this one.

Wonder Woman

Just because David E Kelley's version didn't work, doesn't mean DC should abandon Wonder Woman altogether. I'd like to see a take on the character that wears her Greek myth background with pride and actually features the other Amazons. There's humour to be mined from Diana arriving on Earth for the first time, a fish-out-of-water tale, and Kelley's version missed a trick by having her already settled on Earth.

Wonder Woman should have humour, heart and heroism, and I'd love to see her brought to the screen properly.

Writer: Former WhedonVerse writer, BSG and Torchwood scribe Jane Espensen.

1 comment:

  1. I already called dibs on writing for the TEEN TITANS series. Oh, and any possible FLASH series as well.