Classic comic book characters conquer the small screen.
The annual geek-fest known as Comic-Con International: San Diego wrapped up last month, and as usual there was plenty of eye-popping, head-bursting news about comics and movies. But what stood out this year were the comics properties coming to or already on television.
Here’s a quick guide to the most-anticipated shows.
In the comics: DC’s John Constantine, introduced in 1985, is a wise-cracking, blue-collar Englishman whose “super-powers” are fast-talking and extensive knowledge of the occult. Constantine doesn’t befriend many people, because he has a habit of getting his friends killed. The character appears monthly in Constantine and Justice League Dark.
In the trailer: It appears that much of Constantine’s comic-book backstory is included, mainly a terrible mistake he made in a town named Newcastle that sent an innocent soul to Hell – which damns Constantine also. He was locked up in a looney bin for a while after Newcastle, which is included here.
Bonus: In the Comic-Con version of the trailer, we see the Helmet of (Dr.) Fate, a sorcerer hero in the comics, and Constantine’s only pal, taxi-driver Frank “Chas” Chandler.
Fun Facts: Constantine, the 2005 movie starring Keanu Reeves, was also based on the DC comics, but failed to deliver much of what made the character popular.
In the comics: DC’s first Flash appeared in 1940, but it is the second Flash, who debuted in 1956, who is the most famous and is the star of the TV show. Barry Allen is a forensic scientist with the Central City Police Department, and also the Fastest Man Alive, thanks to being connected to the mysterious “Speed Force.” The Scarlet Speedster appears monthly in Flash and Justice League.
In the trailer: Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), who first appeared on Arrow, seems very similar to his counterpart in the comics. Some elements of the third Flash (Wally West) are included, in the form of a group of scientists helping the Crimson Comet explore his powers. Also included is a recently added element to the Flash origin, that of Barry’s obsession with finding his mother’s killer. The Arrow cameos in the premiere.
Fun Facts: In the comics, it is a super-speedster villain from the future who kills Mrs. Allen, and in the trailer it is clearly a super-speedster villain who does the deed.
In the comics: DC’s Green Arrow debuted in 1941 as a Batman clone with a Robin Hood motif. He is usually portrayed as Oliver Queen, sometimes wealthy playboy, sometimes destitute urban vigilante, with a passion for helping the little guy. He appears monthly in Green Arrow and Justice League United.
In the trailer: The first half sums up the ending of the second season, which climaxed with a showdown between Arrow (Stephen Amell) and uber-killer Deathstroke. The second half features Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul, leader of the League of Assassins, who on the TV show is revealed as a major figure in the past of both Oliver “Arrow” Queen and Sara “Canary” Lance. We also see sidekick Roy Harper in full gear as the character “Arsenal” (as he is in the comics), Arrow benching created-for-the-show sidekick John Diggle, the arrival of Ray Palmer (who is the shrinking hero “The Atom” in the comics) and possibly a name change for Starling City to Star City (which is Green Arrow’s home in print).
Fun Facts: This is the second CW show, following Smallville, wherein Green Arrow fills the Batman niche in DC’s food chain (since the Dark Knight’s TV rights are tied up elsewhere).
In the comics: Gotham City and The Bat-Man first appeared 75 years ago in DC Comics’ Detective Comics No. #27. Batman appears in a great many comic books every month. You may have heard of him.
In the trailer: The show follows police Detective (and future commissioner) James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as he arrives in Gotham City, partners with Detective Harvey Bullock and is assigned to investigate the murder of prominent citizens Thomas and Martha Wayne. We see very young versions of Bruce Wayne (the future Batman), Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin) and Edward Nygma (Riddler). Most of these characters had different origins and first appearances in the comics, and what little print has shown of Gotham in this period has a different history, but the tone of the trailer is very in keeping with the successful Bat-movies of Christopher Nolan. Plus there are police dirigibles, which is very Gotham City.
Fun Facts: Jada Pinkett Smith plays a character created for the show, gang boss Fish Mooney, who favours a baseball bat as her weapon of choice.
Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In the comics: S.H.I.E.L.D. was introduced in 1965 at Marvel Comics as an international espionage organisation with WWII hero Nick Fury as director. It is still a huge part of the Marvel Universe foundation and background, especially in titles like Secret Avengers.
In the trailer: Comedian Patton Oswalt reprises his role as Billy Koenig, twin brother of the deceased Eric Koenig, now joined by a third identical brother, Sam. They confirm that Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) will now be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which crippled the organisation. The Koenigs also announced that long-time Marvel spy/superhero Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse will join the cast.
Fun Facts: In the comics, Eric Koenig was a member of the Howling Commandos of World War II, a group that appeared in the movie Captain America (without Koenig). The fact that Oswalt keeps appearing in identical roles with different first names suggests that he may be a Life Model Decoy. LMDs are android duplicates that have been part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. mythos since 1965.
The Walking Dead
In the comics: The Walking Dead comic book, following a group of survivors in rural Georgia in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, launched at Image Comics in 2003, and is published monthly.
In the trailer: Season Five will pick up right where Season Four left off, with the bulk of our heroes locked up in a boxcar awaiting execution by the occupants of Terminus (a railway station), who appear to be cannibals. The trailer suggests Rick’s gang will convince the Termites to accompany them to Washington, D.C., as one of Rick’s group claims he knows the cure for the zombie plague but has to get to the capital to implement it.
Fun Facts (spoiler): In the comics, the guy who says he has the cure is lying. – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services