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We Need To Know: Are There Too Many Superheroes on TV? 

Photo Credit: DC Comics
Photo Credit: DC Comics

We already knew we were getting a series based on The Flash, spinning out of Arrow. Now with the news that FOX has ordered Gotham, a series based on a young Jim Gordon in the Gotham P.D. AND an NBC series based on Justice League Dark member John Constantine, it makes you stop and wonder. Is the market being flooded with too many superheroes? Well…yes and no.

Superheroes are here to stay.  It’s just an undeniable fact. With the massive success of The Dark Knight and The Avengers, the major studios are convinced that comic book adaptations are their golden goose. The problem becomes oversaturation. How much of a good thing is too much? Take a look at Batman as a character in pop culture right now. He has five current monthly comic books, an animated series (Beware the Batman), he’s going to be featured in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel (rumored to simply be called Batman vs Superman), and now a live action TV show (yes he won’t be in it, but it’s focused on the world of Gotham and most likely will feature Batman-centric villains).  What once was a special treat to see Batman on the big screen or on TV has now become, sadly, pretty commonplace. 

Photo Credit: DC Comics
Photo Credit: DC Comics

I don’t think the problem is so much that there are too many heroes on TV so much as it is choosing the right characters to bring to the small screen. The key to doing superheroes on TV is to diversify.  Television and film, as similar as they may be, are very different mediums and allow for different ways to tell stories. So why not use television to elevate the status of a comic book character that may not necessarily warrant a movie? With Constantine we got a god awful movie out of it (sorry Keanu) but we never really got to explore the complexities of the character that make him so unique from all of the other DC anti-heroes. I think the character is perfectly suited for television (albeit I’d rather he be on HBO than NBC) and goes along with my idea of elevating second or third tier characters, so I have no issue with that being a series. A year ago nobody knew who the hell Green Arrow was and now he’s been shot up the ranks of popularity thanks to the CW show. I guess that’s my problem with Gotham. We don’t need to be pushing any Bat-related characters anymore because we have enough of it. Part of Batman’s appeal is the mystery surrounding Bruce and his relationship to Batman which is almost all but sucked dry thanks to an over indulgence of Bat-mania. What is left to explore in Gotham city? What facets of Gordon or Bruce’s psyche are left for you to show me? I’ve seen every interpretation there is. Gotham to me seems like another cash-in on the Bat name; an instant success that doesn’t have to really try if it doesn’t want to.

Photo Credit: ABC/Bob D'Amico
Photo Credit: ABC/Bob D’Amico

I suppose I have the same issue with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., another cash in to The Avengers franchise. Instead of focusing on the WEALTH of characters Marvel has at its disposal, they’ve decided to cash in on the success of The Avengers and use the goodwill they’ve earned on the Marvel Cinematic Universe to coast through a full-fledged TV series. While the premiere was a ratings success, a lot of fans (myself included) were not necessarily pleased with how the show turned out creatively. Instead of using the television medium to launch a new property, they’re trading in on The Avengers name and hoping that it’s good enough to get people to watch.

Ultimately it comes down to quality over quantity. If you can put out 50 superhero shows and they’re all amazing shows, then do it! But if you put out 50 superhero shows and 45 of them are Batman and The Avengers, of course the quality is going to suffer because people are going to grow tired of seeing the same characters over and over. I’m not saying a Batman-centric show can’t do well (Although Birds of Prey was so bad it’s said that was the tipping point for Christopher Nolan to ask WB not to use any Batman characters on TV until he was done with The Dark Knight Trilogy), I’m just saying that there’s a time and a place for Batman and he doesn’t need a TV show. Nightwing on the other hand…

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