So, every year I write about every superhero movie that is definitely coming out. This year, since things are probably about to change in a meaningful way 1, I decided to take a look at all the things that I could find that have been announced, no matter how nebulous the announcement or how troubled the production.
TV is in a similar boat. There has been success in the genre somewhat, but the Netflix slate of Defenders shows has been wiped out. Despite a wide variety of quality in the remaining genre shows (Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, Supergirl, Gotham, Legion, The Gifted, Runaways, Cloak & Dagger, etc.), they all remain successful enough to keep them going. So it’s worth taking a look at some things that are going to happen.
WHAT IT IS: An under-heralded masterpiece of superhero storytelling, and a very exciting proposition.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because I just said it was very exciting, duh. Astro City is great, and even though it can be hard to find all of, it’s worth reading any part of, which also means that any part of it that is adapted to television will be worth it, at least from a story perspective.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It’s got kind of a weird tone, and it’s definitely not for everyone 2. Plus it’s pretty sprawling, and while I asserted above that any part of it is satisfying, I’m perfectly willing to accept that I could very easily be proven wrong, especially given how much television, and especially how much adapted television, is complete garbage no matter the source.
WHAT IT IS: OK so, here’s the deal. Some of the television shows, especially, are based around properties that I have basically zero relationship with. The movies have less of this problem, which may be a coincidence, or may be the result of “marquee” super-types getting the full film treatment 3. All of which is to say: I know a little bit about what Batwoman is as opposed to, say, Batgirl, but not very much. It’s a lady in a batsuit.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: It’s coming to the CW, which has yet to majorly bungle one of their DC properties, so it’ll probably be the best possible version of Batwoman, in the same way that Arrow and Supergirl are the best versions of their respective heroes.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Again, I have no idea about Batwoman, and have no idea what I would even expect out of it. Also, while it’s true that the CW’s superhero shows are well-received, and I’ve liked the bits of them that I’ve seen, it’s also true that I don’t watch any of the regularly, and haven’t seen that much of them.
WHAT IT IS: A bunch of superheroes get trapped in a weird pocket dimension place after they defeat a supervillain. I’m unclear on whether the tv show is, like the comic, going to take place largely after said defeat, or if it’s going to chronicle the initial defeat of the villain as well.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, Jeff Lemire created the comic, and he’s a genuine actual genius, so there’s tonnes of good ideas and potential. It’s longish-running and episodic, which lends itself to tv pretty well.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Other than the general “television is awful” stuff that prevents me from getting terribly excited about any television adaptation, I’m not really waffling. I bet this will be pretty good.
WHAT IT IS: A [sighs loudly] grim look at a world where superheroes….aren’t so super after all.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: People love it, so there’s clearly a lot to like there. It’ll star Karl Urban, and he’s pretty reliably great. The non-super-ness in this particular iteration of the “Garth Ennis writes about terrible people” mode has to do with them being changed by being famous, which I guess is an idea.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: call me a cynic, but I see this turning into a lot of “commentary” on the “state of celebrity” with “allegories” and oh god there’s no way this is going to be good.
Chronicles of Amber
WHAT IT IS: I’m stretching the definition again to allow it, but I did so for Bone, so I’m going to do so here, since this is about actual superhumans who fight other actual superhumans. There are a lot of pulpy epic fantasy works in the world, and The Chronicles of Amber are pretty much the best of them.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because it’s awesome? Because the world it draws has basically infinite potential, and there’s enough material in the first five books alone to make for an excellent television series 4
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: If it takes itself at all seriously, it won’t be as good. One of the things that make the books so great is the tacit tonal acknowledgment that the characters are behaving in ways that are, first and foremost, Beholden to Cool Shit, and while there are stakes and well-drawn characters and stuff, it’s still about awesome sword fights and super-cool magic and all that. If they try to turn it into another Game of Thrones, we’ll have a problem.
The Falcon & The Winter Soldier
WHAT IT IS: The MCU’s finest bromance 5 gets a television show.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: More Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie as these characters is more than welcome. It’s also a miniseries, so there won’t be much concern about it going on too long, which is nice.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: The MCU doesn’t a great track record with their actual movie-tied-in tv shows 6, so we still don’t know if they can manage it.
WHAT IT IS: Harley Quinn gets back to her roots in an animated series.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The first time Harley Quinn was a cartoon character, it was in the greatest superhero cartoon ever devised, and she was a big part of why. The voice cast (Ron Funches! Natalie Morales! Lake Bell! Diedrich Bader! 7 Tony Hale! Christopher Meloni! Alan Tudyk! Wanda Sykes! Jim Rash!) is beyond compare, and the trailers look plenty cool.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Her legacy hasn’t exactly been untarnished by careless handling, and I have no idea how Justin Halpern (the Shit My Dad Says guy) is going to handle it here.
WHAT IT IS: It’s alleged to be a passing-the-torch tv show, where Clint Barton gives it up to Kate Bishop.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The last few years of Hawkeye’s comic books have been stellar, especially the Kate Bishop stuff. I also do genuinely like Jeremy Renner, for what that’s worth.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: The last few years of Hawkeye comics are the exception to a lame, unspectacular career of superheroing. The MCU hasn’t done much with the character other than give him a family which could be imperilled (with which they have done basically nothing, in the process completely wasting Linda Cardellini), so this would be, basically, a first step for the character. That’s not super-promising.
WHAT IT IS: It’s the Robert Kirkman comic book that should have taken over the world in the manner of The Walking Dead, as it’s much better. It’s also a “superheroes maybe aren’t so super” revisionist take that’s also great, which makes it worth its weight in gold.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because it’s a complicated, well-rendered story about the burden of superpowers and family and real life, and it’s also zippy and fun and not overwrought and operatic.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: I have no faith in the Television Powers that Be to allow it to continue to be not-overwrought and operatic.
Judge Dredd: Mega City One
WHAT IT IS: A television adaptation of the 2000 AD comic that has been a movie twice already.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because if it’s faithful to the comics, it’ll be an arch satire with a bunch of cool action scenes.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: That’s not going to happen? I mean, the movies have proven that people don’t really know what to do with it. Alex Garland did better than Danny Cannon, but the former was weird and action-y without being at all funny, and the latter was funny without meaning to be, and not-at-all smart 8
WHAT IT IS: The hunkiest of the MCU villains (or antiheroes, at this point) has adventures. That little scamp.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, Tom Hiddleston is great.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: I dunno, it’ll probably be fine, but this seems a little bit more like “we’ve got Tom Hiddleston so let’s just do the thing” rather than something with any real compelling reason to exist.
Marvel’s What If?
WHAT IT IS: An animated series based on one of Marvel’s weirder titles, in which famous events in the Marvel Universe are reimagined 9.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The comic was fun, and a way to think about comics history a little differently, and there’s enough history between one thing and another that they could stick only to the aspects that had been adapted and still have plenty of material to work with.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: The comic book required a rather deep knowledge of the source material to really get the whole thing, and was a kind of reference-heavy bit of business that can be fairly irritating when it’s translated to the screen.
WHAT IT IS: A series about the city in which Superman did the bulk of his work, without Superman. Just…a big city. And the stories therein.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because Gotham was well-received, and people manage to like Krypton, so it stands to reason that shows about the places where things happen might be interesting.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, Gotham City is full of colorful characters even without Batman, and Commissioner Gordon is a pretty good character to follow. Krypton is about an alien planet full of superhumans, and so has some kind of interest there. Metropolis has, what, Jimmy Olsen? Lois Lane writing newspaper articles? I dunno, man, I don’t think this one has the same magic.
WHAT IT IS: This is a weird one, because it’s meant to include TV shows and movies, some of which are already in development, and some of which are possible. It’s in this cateogry because I didn’t know where else to put it, but it’s a series of Netflix Programming Blocks that are based on the comic-book work of Mark Millar.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Man, people love Mark Millar. Some of it is arranged well for episodic telling. It’s a pretty wide array of things that they’re dealing with, so some of it is likely to be good.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: There’s a lot of work in Millarworld, and some of it is inspired, but a lot of it is kind of pointless, and even the best of it never manages to get its head above the pack. I dunno. Maybe the cast(s) will be incredible or something, but I’m not really spending much of my time looking forward to this one.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
WHAT IT IS: A little girl and her pet dinosaur make the world a better place.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The current run of the comic book is quite good, and it’s a pretty great premise for a tv show.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It could easily run to the cutesy.
WHAT IT IS: A comedy television show based around a fairly-obscure team led by current Marvel Universe delight Squirrel Girl, as played by current regular universe delight Milana Vayntrub.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: My complaint about many of these adapted properties is that they aren’t funny and they should be, and this one is supposed to be funny, which is just ducky. The cast looks pretty good, and the potential is definitely there.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It will probably never come out – its planned existence on FreeForm never happened, and Marvel was shopping it around, but also have not announced any plans to put it up on Disney Plus, like many of the other shows here. So it’s probably never going to exist.
WHAT IT IS: A movie about the background of Batman’s butler.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…….maybe it’s an elaborate prank? That’d be kind of funny I guess.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It’s a television show about Batman’s butler, tho.
WHAT IT IS: Probably a procedural based on a psychic crime investigator person.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Psychics! Procedurals! Wee!
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: I am a fan of basically none of the nouns in the above sentences/exclamatory clauses.
WHAT IT IS: Well, the comic is a pretty incredible examination of humanity and the responsibility of power, and of something inexplicable finding its place in the world.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Swamp Thing is a lot of things, but at its best it’s a sort of reverse-Lovecraft story 10. The fact that in the hands of capable writers (it’s one of the best things that Alan Moore ever wrote, for example) it’s nothing short of a miracle of comics storytelling also leads me to be excited for it, if only because the source material is so great.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Eh. Alan Moore’s stuff doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to adaptation. The jury is still sort of out on Neil Gaiman adaptations also, although the record there is less dire. Also at its best it’s wildly unvisual, and the things that make it cool are unlikely to lend themselves well to televisual storytelling.
WHAT IT IS: A prequel (I think) television series based on Alan Moore’s (see above) finest hour.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, Watchmen itself is one of those things that it’s almost impossible to overrate, so there could be something there, I guess.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Oh, it hasn’t survived anything beyond its original run in the eighties. The movie was whatever the movie was, the Darwyn Cooke-led sequel series was pretty bad, and there’s no reason to believe this is going to be anything other than an embarrassment to all involved.
WHAT IT IS: A spin off series about the totally dead Vision and his presumed wife, the Scarlet Witch.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are very charismatic performers.
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: If the titling was done by the same people doing the writing, we’re already in trouble. Plus there’s basically zero chance this is going to adapt Tom King’s masterpiece run, so I’m already starting out double-disappointed. That stuff aside, I guess this could be fine.
WHAT IT IS: Also not entirely a superhero thing, although it has all the visual and storytelling grammar of one, this is about a demon-hunting swordstress who doesn’t wear a lot of clothes.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, the comic book’s charms were largely prurient, so if that’s the sort of thing you’re into, then you’re in luck. For anyone else uh…the sword is kind of cool?
BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Oh come on, there’s no way this is going to be good.
And that (finally) wraps it up for the forthcoming superhero properties. Tune in next year when I pare it back down to the essentials, and sometime in the distant, nebulous future, when I forget how much work this all is and decide to try to do it again!
- The Disney/Fox merger is going to change the way those two studios, or that one studio as it is now, release movies, and the end of the current version of the MCU is also going to shade that, in addition to the fact that DC’s movies are moving away from the enforced-shared-world concept into a more free-form individual-picture concept. ↩
- although I do wonder if that’s because of the time that it started existing, and if it wouldn’t be more “for everyone” now that the average person’s conception of what can come with superhero entertainment is a little more elevated than it used to be. ↩
- I’m willing to believe the former, but I also notoriously have a terrible barometer of how popular something is, so have no actual idea what “marquee” could even mean, contextually. ↩
- There’s also five more books that aren’t as good, but that are probably more telegenic, as they would lend themselves to a procedural-style drama a little better. ↩
- I’m discounting Thor + Rocket, because Rocket isn’t a human, and so it’s more an Interspeciesmance. Come at me. ↩
- Agents of Shield has dragged along admirably, and they cut down Agent Carter too soon. ↩
- Side note that Diedrich Bader is rarely involved in television shows that aren’t great. It happens, but it doesn’t happen that often, and as a voice actor, he’s top-flight. ↩
- NB however that I like both movies, and would happily watch them again right now. ↩
- i.e. What if the Punisher had killed Spider-Man?, or what if Rogue had the power of Thor?, which are both actual issues. It was weird, I’m telling you. ↩
- i.e. an inexplicable thing from beyond the natural world tries to integrate into the world, and rather than wanting to destroy it, just wants to find a place in it, and in the process to become explicable. ↩