Yesterday we reported that ex-Lost and Smallville writer Jeph Loeb will oversee Marvel's newly created TV division. Marvel hasn't made a live-action show in years, but we may see one, given Loeb's credentials. However, it will be an uphill battle.
Marvel has plenty of animated programming for kids lined up, but there's nary a live-action show on their docket. Of course, this probably has to do with the fact that A.) Marvel's realized that the real money lies at the cineplex (and they're not going to trade their A-listers to the farm team networks); and B.) there hasn't been a lucrative, adult-oriented Marvel show in eons.
Let's recap what Marvel ran with for the last two decades. There was the are-they-or-aren't-they-the-X-Men series Mutant X, that one season of Blade on Spike, and who could forget the Generation X TV movie? And we must acknowledge the apex of civilization, i.e. 1998's Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot that starred none other than the goddamn Hoff.
The point is, Marvel's live-action TV record has been spotty ever since Lou Ferrigno stopped painting himself green. Let's also take into account that Marvel has their big-name heroes tied to movie franchises, and Disney is currently looking for benchwarmers to helm new movie franchises. This leaves producers in an unenviable spot — they're saddled with A.) a 20-year dearth of popular programming; and B.) a mandate to dig deeper into Marvel's history for recognizable characters.
Animated programs don't suffer from this character restriction as they're about the merchandising. Sure, there are paragons of superhero animation that have adult appeal (Bruce Timm's DC stuff comes to mind), but Marvel wants to punch out as many Spider-Man cartoons between films to remind children that Peter Parker (and his Happy Meal toys!) still exist. Live-action TV doesn't have that luxury. Having two Spider-Mans is bad for brand recognition. Let's remember that the foundering Sarah Connor Chronicles were McG'ed into oblivion once Terminator Salvation hit multiplexes.
So who will Marvel go with if they pursue live-action? Spidey, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four are being rebooted. All the Avengers are on lockdown for Joss Whedon. Although not live-action, the snazzy and star-studded Black Panther cartoon never made it to BET. Furthermore, Disney is rumored to have designs for Dr. Strange and Luke Cage. This leaves a terrifically small pool of recognizable heroes to choose from. Sure, you might be able to name all the Starjammers in alphabetical order, but your grandmother thinks Wolverine's skeleton is made of Kryptonite.
If Marvel is to create a live-action program, my guess is they'll eschew overt superheroics and instead go the Human Target route — I could see them tapping Iron Fist for a pulpy romp, resurrect the Punisher on premium cable, or delve into their R-rated Icon imprint. Heck, a Powers show has been in the works for a while.
But then again, the temptation to use their most lucrative superheroes on the small screen may be too great, at which point shit's gonna get Smallville (a.k.a. young superheroes to explain away goofy costumes + lower budgets which cannot support non-goofy costumes). And at this point, we're back to Generation X territory.
Who knows? Marvel might flip the script entirely and give us full-blown Smallville with ultra-obscure characters. Who wants to see Attlian, a series about Black Bolt in high school? He doesn't speak until Season 4.