Daredevil: A Reconstruction of Superhero Storytelling

[There are no spoilers in this post.]

Things have changed. I will not say irrevocably so, but for the time being, things have changed. At 2:59 AM Eastern Time on Friday morning, the landscape of superhero media was very clear. Marvel did really good light movies. DC has done one mediocre dark movie. Marvel has willed one really light show along, throwing in enough comic easter eggs to keep the junkies happy, and throwing enough characters on the wall that they have had a few stick. They also had one miniseries that for some reason people were afraid to criticize for the mediocrity that it was. DC has one good dark show that is living in the shadow of its second season, one light show that is dreading the day they actually have to show more of a CGI gorilla, and a failed show that was actually pretty cool, but got screwed by the Friday night graveyard shift on NBC. Both are doing their own thing in comics really well right now by restarting everything. All was in perfect balance. But, that was at 2:59 AM Eastern Time on Friday morning. At 3 am, we saw, or freaky saw-by-hearing a massive shift.

The highly anticipated Daredevil Netflix series has now been out for 4 days, and it’s about time to figure out what this means for our other TV superheroes. You can go anywhere to hear about how amazing this show is. It has it all. Amazing fight scenes, a great story, a well-developed villain, great production design; I could go on, and many have. However, this show doesn’t just have implications on the ever-expanding Marvel universe, Daredevil has proven that movie-caliber material can be produced for a TV show, something that has yet to occur and a fact which even the most hardcore Olicity fans won’t argue — I hope. I want to be clear that I do watch Arrow, Flash, and Agents of Shield. I watched Constantine and I powered through Agent Carter. I will continue to watch these shows and for the most part, I am fine with what they provide. I get a glimpse into the world of superheroes while I wait for the movies to come out. However, Daredevil is not just a placeholder. And there is the dilemma: I’ve tasted the filet, and I don’t ever want to go back.

The series gives us a dark glimpse into the world of a conflicted man, one who has to become the harbinger of justice. Daredevil proves that Marvel can do dark, and they can do it better than DC. The only thing DC has put out in the past decade that holds a candle to what this show accomplishes is the Dark Knight trilogy, and even that style is refined by this 13-episode season. Obviously DC has yet to put out any other movies within the Man of Steel universe for comparison; however, Daredevil sports the tone of Winter Solider and the apparent weight of Age of Ultron, proving that Marvel is not scared to make dark material. They are just also able to back it up with the charm and wit of properties such as Guardians of the Galaxy and the yet unproven Ant-Man. That’s a dangerous combo.

However, the real value of Daredevil is not in the fact that it makes Arrow, Flash, and Agents seem at least a little pedantic, it is in the shocking truth that this might be one of Marvel’s best properties and he perfectly exists within the TV show format. The Netflix binge-machine helps make it feel more continuous than what other shows can offer, but we get a chance to have a complete look at all of the major players in this show. Marvel never would have been able to develop Fisk, Foggy, Karen, Claire, Urich, and so many other characters along with Matt Murdock in a movie. All of a sudden, stakes that seem dwarfed compared the to the destruction of worlds or the execution of millions of people, have more meat that makes the tension just as high. As I was about seven episodes into the show, I began to think, “Why aren’t we seeing all of our superheroes introduced like this.” Apart from the fact that Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner are simply too busy for it to work, why couldn’t we have a Black Widow or Hawkeye show?”

Avengers: Age of Ultron comes to theaters May 1st. Early reviews have shown that Hawkeye and Hulk receive a bulk of the focus in this go-around, and it will be nice to have those characters developed more. Unfortunately, I also want to be able to focus on Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Vision, Ultron, Claw, and any other characters that they are including in this movie. As we have more and more solo franchises, the team-ups become more and more crowded, and it is hard to choose who to focus on. What if we didn’t have to worry about this because each of these characters had been doing their own thing in their own Netflix-run show for the past year, and now we get to tie all of that characterization up with one big movie. I know that we are still a far way from this happening, but does Daredevil not begin that transition? Marvel will be releasing similar shows starring Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist within the next year and a half. If we get three more amazing successes, why not begin to focus more on this.

Honestly, the biggest reason is probably money. I have no idea what kind of profits Marvel is getting for having this show on Netflix, however, I guarantee it’s not as much as they would have made if they had just made a two-hour Daredevil movie. Part of me is very happy that they chose to forgo the extra cash to do this hero justice, but how long will they allow successful franchises to draw in fractions of their potential?

As amazing as Daredevil is, this is the problem that it will cause. Fans are going to want more content then what they are getting now. Fans are going to want better TV than what they are getting now. Fans want more of their heroes to be depicted. The giants of Marvel and DC will want to make more money in a genre that has shown no signs of slowing down since the first Iron-Man flick in 2008. They will want to continue to grab actors and actresses of the highest prestige to jump on board. And nothing sells merchandising better than tracking for the biggest opening weekend for any movie in history. These goals don’t necessarily lead down the same path. Perhaps this will be the unexpected cause of the downfall of the superhero genre. Or perhaps I’m wrong and nothing changes expect for a steady increase of millions this industry is making for those on the top. Either way, watching Daredevil isn’t a bad way to mull the problem over.

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Bennett Garland is a student at Georgia Tech. Despite attending what is far and away the best school in the state of Georgia, he has far too much time on his hands and consumes video media at a ferocious pace. We don’t know how he finds time to watch all three dozen super hero movies that come out every summer while also watching every SyFy showing of Sharknado and Sharknado 2, but he does and writes about his adventures in film and music.

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