How TV could still become the best format for comic adaptations

Illustration for article titled How TV could still become the best format for comic adaptations

There have been plenty of successful comic to movie adaptations, but finding the right balance for a TV series has been a little trickier. Still, TV adaptations of comics have a lot of potential.


In response to a post on the lessons Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D could learn from Star Trek: The Next Generation, commenter lightninglouie mapped out some of the potential pitfalls of adapting a comic, and looked at some of the ways that a TV-adaptation of a comic could still succeed in ways beyond movie-adaptations:

The big problem fans have with AoS is that they were hoping for a real, honest-to-Uatu weekly Marvel series, and what they got was an espionage show with sci-fi elements in which the characters occasionally interact with superhumans or alien technology. This is an acute disappointment, because the weekly TV serial format is ideal for comic book stories, much more so than movies because it's so much closer to a monthly comic series. You can develop characters and their worlds so much faster, and in greater detail, without having to wait two or three years for the next installment.

The downside of that is that TV, while much more sophisticated and deeper than it used to be, is still constrained by budgetary concerns, even with the backing of a giant conglomerate like Disney. You really can't do superpowered characters zooming around every week, and a giant Avengers-style battle is out of the question. Even a single shot of Iron Man flying over L.A. is probably more expensive than the average episode of AoS. On the one hand, not being able to do huge fireworks every week is a major benefit to stuff like worldbuilding and characterization, which can be hard to squeeze into a two-hour movie. But not having access to that kind of spectacle means inevitably that the show will fall back on familiar plots and storytelling.

So far, AoS has had a handful of episodes with characters who could develop into full-fledged superheroes or villains. But for the most part it's relied on tried-and-true plots reminiscent of spy shows like Alias, or weird science/MoW series like X-Files, Torchwood, and Fringe. I suspect this was deliberate, because of budget restraints, but also because TV tends to be conservative, and often you have to soft-sell stuff before it can get good or interesting, lulling audiences into a false sense of calm. Lots of people who hadn't read George R.R. Martin assumed that Game of Thrones was going to be all about Ned Stark until the end of the first season. I don't expect anything quite as severe — though the events of Winter Soldierportend some pretty dark, heavy stuff for SHIELD and the MCU — but it seems to me that sometimes you have to go through periods of necessary boredom and experimentation before the writers figure out what really works, and then know which buttons to push. TNG is a good parallel. It started out as a beige shadow of the original program, but once the writers and performers had laid some basic groundwork (and there'd been some shuffling around on the creative level), it could start to get good.


So, what do you all think? Should we expect a golden age of comic-adaptations on television anytime soon? And what would it take to get us there?

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This thing lasted for 10 years (for better or for worse) with pretty damn decent effects (and a liberal use of offscreen whooshing to avoid overspending).

So, I say bollocks to that reasoning.