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Comic Book–to–TV Preview: 14 New and Returning Series to Watch Out For

Black Lightning and Superman’s granddad join Jessica Jones, Jesse Custer, and more characters who originated in the comic book world and are being brought to life on screen.

by | June 7, 2017 | Comments

Jessica Jones, Black Lightning, Preacher (Netflix; J Squared Photography/The CW; Skip Bolen/AMC)
(Photo by Netflix; J Squared Photography/The CW; Skip Bolen/AMC)

There’s never been a better time to be a fan of both comic books and television, as the two have slowly intertwined with more and more TV hours dedicated to adapting well-known and obscure comic titles. Well-established DC series Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, and Gotham will return in October from their summer slumber, as will newcomer Riverdale from Archie Comics, and Marvel properties Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC,  Legion on FX, and Netflix series Daredevil and Luke Cage are expected in 2018.

Meanwhile, let’s take a look some other new and returning series born of comic books that could be your next TV obsession.


Wynonna Earp 87%


Based on the mid-1990s Image Comics miniseries by Beau Smith and a variety of artists, the television series reframes a demon-hunting U.S. Marshal, played by Melanie Scrofano, as a ne’er-do-well member of the Earp family returning to her hometown to face their ongoing curse. She must send all the people Wyatt killed back to Hell. Aided by Doc Holiday, her sister Waverly and U.S. Marshal Xavier Dolls, she also gets to figure out who she is in the process.

Premiering in spring of 2016, the show quickly earned a rabid cult following, the Earpers, who regularly fill Comic-Con panel rooms. After a serious pilot, the show quickly found a quippy tone that at once undercuts and supports the threats Wynonna and her friends face. For those looking to catch up, the first season is available on Netflix.

For Fans Of: Supernatural
Suggested Reading: Wynonna Earp: Strange Inheritance from IDW
Premiere Date: Friday, June 9 (Syfy)


Preacher 89%


Foul and profane, Preacher finds the lighter side of heresy as small-town minister Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), his ex Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), and Irish vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) begin a quest to find an absentee God and tell him off for leaving his post. At the same time, they are also being hunted by the Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish), an immortal gunslinger acting as the Angel of Death. Like its source material, the show can be outrageous, funny, dumb, and surprisingly emotional all in the space of a handful of minutes. It is a minor miracle that the show exists at all as attempts to adapt Preacher in the past 15 years always fizzled out.

The first season moved much slower than fans expected. But now with Jesse and his band aware of God’s abdication, the second season is free to adapt some of the wilder — and equally profane — ideas from the comic book series by Garth Ennis and the late Steve Dillon. The first season is available on Hulu.

For Fans Of: Again, Supernatural
Suggested Reading: Preacher: Gone to Texas from DC/Vertigo
Premiere Date: Monday, June 19 (AMC)


The Tick 92%


Originally designed as a comic book shop mascot by cartoonist and later TV writer Ben Edlund, The Tick quickly morphed into one of the greatest superhero parodies ever conceived. Mentally unstable, but with a big heart, the Tick defends the City with his pal Arthur and a cohort of obvious, yet delightful spoofs of popular heroes.

The upcoming Amazon series represents Edlund’s third television version of the character following a beloved 1990s Fox animated series and a short-lived live action primetime series on the same network. Now in the form of Peter Serafinowicz, the Tick may just be the figment of Arthur’s imagination or the start of something great. Griffin Newman takes on the role of an unwilling and medicated Arthur, while Jackie Earle Haley appears as the Terror. As seen in the pilot, the City is a grittier place, but the Tick’s corny — and sometimes indecipherable — maxims and sense of justice remain as true to the character as the first time he uttered his catchphrase, “Spoon!”

For Fans Of: Guardians of the Galaxy; 1978’s Superman — no, really!
Suggested Reading: New England Comics’ The Tick: The Complete Edlund, which will hopefully be back in print soon.
Premiere Date: Friday, August 25 (Amazon)


Marvel's The Defenders 74%


From the moment Netflix and Marvel announced their plans for five television series, this has been the one most eagerly awaited. Combining the headliners of Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) into a street-level Avengers is a killer premise, even if fans are mixed on Iron Fist. In the comics, the original Defenders were Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Namor, and Silver Surfer. Not exactly a street-level group, but the name suits the Netflix heroes as they finally band together to take on the Hand; the criminal organization behind nearly all of their troubles. The four must overcome their own recent traumas to figure out how to work together, which may be a tougher mission than beating the Hand.

Supporting characters from the various shows will also appear as will Sigourney Weaver as the principal antagonist. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel-Netflix show without Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple.

Unlike the previous series, Defenders will be a tighter eight-episode story, perhaps pointing the way toward future Marvel-Netflix collaborations.

For Fans Of: All those Marvel-Netflix series
Suggested Reading: Power Man and Iron Fist Volume 1 by various writers and artists
Premiere Date: Friday, August 18 (Netflix)


Marvel's Inhumans 8%


A king whose voice can devastate continents. A queen with super-strong, controllable hair. A teleporting bulldog. These are only a handful of the characters Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created when The Fantastic Four first met the Inhumans in 1965. Over the years, this royal family of superpowered human/alien hybrids have fascinated readers as they filtered through various Marvel titles and occasionally their own monthly comic. Living in the secret city of Atillan, Black Bolt rules over a rigid caste society, preventing it from being discovered by mankind. He also contends with the occasional coup attempts staged by his brother Maximus the Mad.

The Inhumans were expected to appear in their own 2018 Marvel Studios film just as the word “Inhuman” began to appear on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Five years after the feature announcement, they find themselves on ABC as the power struggle between Black Bolt and Maximus begins anew. The program is not considered a spin-off of S.H.I.E.L.D. or a replacement for the film, but does exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like Defenders, it will run eight episodes. Anson Mount stars as Black Bolt, while Serinda Swan plays Medusa, and Game of Thrones vet Iwan Rheon returns to familiar thematic ground as the would-be usurper Maximus. According to showrunner Matt Buck (Iron Fist), the series will be a “family drama” with superpowers.

For Fans Of: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Suggested Reading: Inhumans by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee; Fantastic Four #45, 46, 47 by Lee and Kirby
Premiere Date: In IMAX theaters on September 1; September 22 (ABC)


The Gifted 74%


Television history is littered with the carcasses of failed attempts to bring the X-Men to television. Some even survived a couple of seasons in relative obscurity (sorry, Mutant X fans). But 2017 brought the staggeringly strange and wonderful Legion on FX, and Fox is poised to back it up with a broadcast cousin in the form of The Gifted. Executive produced by perennial X-Men director Bryan Singer, the show will be a more straightforward take on Marvel’s Merry Mutants.

Centering on the Strucker family — with Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker as the parents — as they attempt to save their mutant children from a world that fears and hates them, the program will also feature classic X-Men characters like Blink (Jamie Chung) and Polaris (Emma Dumont). It also plays on the very same fears and concerns which inspired X-Men creators Kirby and Lee and subsequent teams like Chris Claremont and John Byrne. But for showrunner Matt Nix (Burn Notice), the series offers the opportunity to take a seemingly ordinary family and push them into the world of the X-Men.

For Fans Of: The X-Men in any form or format
Suggested Reading: X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson
Premiere Date: Fall 2017 (Fox)


Marvel's The Punisher


Jon Bernthal amazed viewers with his intense and sympathetic take on Frank Castle in season 2 of Marvel’s Daredevil. The character has a rich media past, appearing in two dodgy Punisher films (the first starring Dolph Lundgren and another starring Thomas Jane) and the vastly underrated Punisher: War Zone. As a guest character, he was a great foil for Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page — who will appear in the series — and the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. But as the movies have proved, it is much harder to center a story around him. Will Marvel and Netflix back up Bernthal’s performance with a compelling story? Ben Barnes (Westworld) joins Bernthal and Woll as Billy Russo, a character who may end up as the disfigured Jigsaw by the season’s end. Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Girls) will also appear as Micro, a former NSA analyst who may end up outfitting the Punisher with his gear.

The Punisher will run for 13 episodes; just enough time for Frank to kill all the bad guys in New York.

For Fans Of: Death Wish (but not its sequels)
Suggested Reading: The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Premiere Date: Late 2017 (Netflix)


Black Lightning


Tony Isabella’s Black Lighting has been waiting for this moment for decades. A stalwart member Batman’s outsiders, he was always just on the edge of stardom. He appeared as Black Vulcan on Superfriends — to sidestep some legal issues with Isabella — and was famously spoofed by Sinbad during a Saturday Night Live sketch. But as re-imagined by show creators Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, and executive producer Greg Berlanti (Supergirl, Arrow), Black Lighting finally gets his moment to shine.

Now presented as a retired hero, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) lives a quiet life as a high school principal looking out for his two daughters (China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams). But when a local gang’s activities become too much to bear, one of his daughters encourages him to take on the mask and use his electricity powers again.

Unlike Berlanti’s other CW superhero shows, it is expressly not telling an origin story, which a bold choice. It also stands apart from the Berlantiverse shows in another way: It takes place on its own separate Earth and will not be part of any upcoming crossovers. Of course, such notions mean so little to Barry Allen, but one hope the series will have time to establish itself before Earth-1 invades.

For fans of: Arrow, Luke Cage
Suggested Reading: Black Lightning Volume 1 by Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden
Premiere Date: Early 2018 (The CW)


Marvel's Cloak and Dagger


Not to be confused with the 1984 Dabney ColemanHenry Thomas film or the Atari video game based on that film, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger first appeared in 1982 and lived on the Marvel Comics periphery ever since. Their original premise focused on teen runaways Ty and Tandy. In New York, the duo are exposed to a synthetic heroin that activates their apparently mutant powers. Ty could engulf people in darkness, projecting them into a dark dimension, while Tandy could project daggers of light. The pair vowed to use their gifts to end the worldwide drug trade.

As developed for Disney’s Freeform channel, Tandy and Tyrone (Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph) are a pair of teens beginning a romantic relationship when they receive their powers. Discovering that their gifts work better when they are together further complicates their uncertain relationship. They also appear to have more stable family lives than their comic book counterparts as parents for both characters have been cast. According to Marvel Television chief Jeph Loeb, the series will be a “love story” that fits the demographic of Freeform’s audience. Like the Netflix series Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D., it will also be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

For fans of: Shadowhunters
Suggested Reading: Cloak & Dagger: Shadows and Light
Premiere Date: 2018 (Freeform)


Marvel's New Warriors

Marvel's New Warriors (Freeform)
(Photo by Freeform)

Not content with a teen drama, Freeform will also convert Marvel Comics’ New Warriors into a half-hour comedy series in 2018. As a semi-constant presence in the main Marvel Comics universe, the New Warriors are a team of young heroes usually led or guided by the Batman-esque Night Thrasher. He will appear in the TV series, but the headline here is the inclusion of Squirrel Girl to the roster. Never a member of the New Warriors in the comics — though it was planned at one point — she is an Avenger with the proportional strength of a squirrel and the ability to communicate with the little critters. It sounds absurd, but the character stars in Marvel’s most successful current comedy title, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, where writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson manage to make her powers and optimism hilarious and fun.

According to a USA Today interview with executive producer Kevin Beigel, the character’s wit, optimism, and intelligence are key reasons to bring her into the team. The series will also re-imagine Night Thrasher as a YouTuber and fellow longtime New Warrior character Speedball as an immature lad with noble aspirations. Based on the other character descriptions in the interview, it is easy to see the series as having a single-camera workplace-comedy vibe. Provided that is something the cable channel is interested in.

For fans of: Parks and Recreation (if they’re going for that tone)
Suggested Reading: New Warriors Classic Vol. 1; The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power
Premiere Date: 2018 (Freeform)


Marvel’s Runaways

Marvel's Runaways (Hulu)
(Photo by Hulu)

Marvel’s Runaways has such a great premise that Marvel Studios developed a feature around it with Peter Sollett slated to direct. Instead, it will come to Hulu and tell the tale of a group of superpowered teens who learn that all of their parents are part of a villainous cabal known as the Pride. Absconding from their homes with powers and gear taken from their folks, the group vows to end the Pride and atone for their crimes.

The Hulu series, executive produced by Gossip Girl co-creators  Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, will star Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, and Allegra Acosta as the young runaways — just don’t expect them to ever refer to themselves as such. In defiance of just about every Marvel team trope, they never adopt codenames, costumes, or a group identity, but with backgrounds in magic, time travel, and mad science, the kids will no doubt learn a great deal about Marvel’s other fantastical conventions.

For Fans Of: X-Men: Apocalypse
Suggested Reading: Runaways Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona
Premiere Date: 2018 (Hulu)


Marvel's Jessica Jones 92%

Krysten Ritter in Marvel's The Defenders (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

After a successful first season, writing on the second season of Jessica Jones began in last summer and filming commenced last month. Ritter, Rachael Taylor, and Carrie-Anne Moss are set to return with DamagesJanet McTeer joining the cast as someone who, according to Entertainment Weekly, has “an enormous impact on Jessica’s life.” Hopefully, it is someone Jessica can trust outside of Trish Walker (Taylor). Maybe she is a therapist? But knowing how much Jessica keeps to herself, a genuinely concerned mental health provider could look very much like an antagonist.

Elements of the second season will be set up during The Defenders; showrunner Melissa Rosenberg discussed her plans with Defenders executive producers Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez. Rosenberg also plans to expand the focus to the show’s supporting cast. Whether or not this means Trish will become Hellcat is anyone’s guess. But as fans of Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! will tell you, it cannot happen fast enough.

For Fans Of: Jessica Jones; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Suggested Reading: Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked on a Feline by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams
Premiere Date: 2018 (Netflix)


Krypton

Krypton (Aleksander Letic/SYFY)
(Photo by Aleksander Letic/SYFY)

And while it seems Marvel has cornered 2018 with its new television offerings, DC Comics will fuel one more new series next year: Krypton. Finally emerging from a long development process, the Syfy program will tell the tale of Superman’s grandfather Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) as he attempts to return his house to prominence within Kryptonian society. He will also be in a forbidden love affair with Lyta Zod (Georgina Campbell), a new character with an infamous family name.

For a time, it was suggested that Krypton would be a prequel to Man of Steel, with that film’s scriptwriter David S. Goyer serving as an executive producer. As development continued, it became more uncertain. Also uncertain is the appeal of a Superman series without Superman. Granted, Gotham and Smallville proved you can build an audience around elements of a popular DC Comics character without the character actually appearing fully formed.

For Fans Of: Man of Steel

Suggested Reading: Superman: The Man of Steel Vol.1

Premiere Date: 2018 (Syfy)


Happy!

Christopher Meloni in Happy! (Peter Kramer / SYFY)
(Photo by Peter Kramer/SYFY)

Outside of the superheroes, Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s Happy! also makes its way to Syfy in the next year. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s Christopher Meloni enters the strange and reality-warping world of Morrison as Nick Sax, a carousing hit-man whose life gets a shot of positivity from an imaginary winged horse named Happy (SNL’s Bobby Moynihan). It sounds like one of Morrison’s more straightforward tales.

In the past, he pit supergods against tyrant suns and turned his drug-induced out-of-body experience into an epic treatise on the nature of reality. He also gave Santa Clause a comic book origin and wrote a defining Batman story in which the Dark Knight created a separate and submerged personality — the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh — in the event of a successful psychological attack. He followed this up by sending Batman into the distant past and sinking the universe down a gravity well. Morrison stories tend to be complex and bizarrely emotional.

Crank’s Brian Taylor will be along for the ride as an executive producer with Morrison and director of the pilot. If nothing else, it will burn brightly as Morrison finally brings some of his big ideas to TV.

For Fans Of: Twin Peaks, The X-Files

Suggested Reading: Happy! Vol. 1 from Image Comics

Premiere Date: 2018 (Syfy)

 



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