Make It So – Netflix’s Defenders: Phase Two by Jerry Whitworth
Following the success of Daredevil on Netflix, within two weeks the series already had a second season ordered. Further, it’s a strong start for Marvel’s Defenders subset of its Cinematic Universe on the streaming service (which will, in time, roll out A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and their team-up series The Defenders). Certainly, there’s already a glut of comic book series on television, with Marvel also having Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, and reportedly an upcoming series starring Mockingbird not to mention DC Comics forming its own Television Universe with Arrow, Flash, Vixen, and a team-up series (rumored to be called Legends) as well as Gotham, Constantine, iZombie, Supergirl, Titans, and Preacher (of course, beyond the big two, there’s also The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and Powers). However, the trend shows few signs of stopping so lets speculate on what a phase two of series based on Marvel properties could next come to Netflix.
Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen were a pair of teenage runaways who became friends in the slums of New York. One fateful night, they were kidnapped and used as guinea pigs for a new synthetic heroin by the mob. While other kidnapped children died from the concoction, Tyrone and Tandy survived and transformed into two elemental beings of darkness and light, respectively. Calling themselves Cloak & Dagger, the pair used their powers in a bid to extinguish the drug trade in the city. Unlike traditional comic book stories, rather than face supervillains, their story dealt more with life on the streets and the issues of the kind of culture that breeds drug addiction, children running away from home, homelessness, desperation of the disenfranchised, and apathy to those in crisis. However, they were not without empowered foes. Occasionally crossing swords with some of Dr. Strange’s enemies, the closest the duo have likely come to a nemesis is Mister Jip (and his minions Night and Day). A grotesque looking sorcerer, Jip extended his lifespan across centuries by stealing the lifeforce of others (which twisted his own appearance in the process). The origins of Cloak & Dagger are also tied to the demon D’Spayre. In connection to Netflix’s Defenders, one of the major elements of Daredevil involved the heroin trade connected in some manner to Ku’n-Zi, one of the seven Capital Cities of Heaven.
Once a mercenary in the employ of Raoul Bushman, Marc Spector was beaten and left for dead by his boss at an Egyptian archaeological dig site. His heart stopped as he lay before a statue of the moon god Khonshu, the deity appeared to Spector in a vision and offered to save his life if he agreed to become his avatar on Earth. Accepting the offer, Spector arose and defeated Bushman. Returning to America, Spector chose to become a costumed hero called Moon Knight in a manner reminiscent of the Shadow (so far as even adopting a new identity in wealthy entrepreneur Steven Grant to escape his mercenary past). Joined by the lovely Marlene Alraune (daughter of an archaeologist killed by Bushman) and his best friend and pilot Jean-Paul “Frenchie” DuChamp, Moon Knight combated the likes of Morpheus, Black Spectre, Seth the Serpent God, and former sidekick Midnight (as well as the returning Bushman). The hero would also become an infrequent ally of Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night.
Reacquired from Sony about two years ago, Ghost Rider was the star of two failed films starring Nicolas Cage as the title character. In the comics, there were several Ghost Riders with arguably the most well known being Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch (elements of both forming the basis of Cage’s character in the films). Johnny Blaze sold his soul to the devil to save the life of his adoptive father Crash Simpson from cancer. Simpson, a stunt motorcyclist, died in a crash weeks later leading to the devil trying to claim Blaze’s soul. However, the demon is rebuked by Roxanne, Simpson’s daughter, who proclaimed her love for Blaze (which shields him from the devil’s direct powers). Since then, Blaze took Crash’s place as a stunt motorcyclist while every night he would transform into a super-powered flaming skeleton called Ghost Rider. Over time, Blaze comes to realize the creature he becomes is in fact a separate entity revealed to be Zarathos, a demon attached to him by the devil (who is revealed to actually be Mephisto). As Zarathos tries to take over Blaze’s body, the hero eventually managed to free himself of the demon. Later, Brooklyn born youth Danny Ketch would find a magic motorcycle which seemingly transformed him into the new Ghost Rider and would battle foes like Deathwatch, Blackout, Mr. Hyde, Scarecrow, Lilith, and Blackheart. It was later revealed Blaze and Ketch are in fact brothers who partnered to become the Spirits of Vengeance. Just as the Netflix Daredevil series redeemed the character from his 2003 film, so could a new series redeem the Ghost Rider franchise.
Arguably the most talked about expansion of the Marvel series on Netflix, some fans even anticipated an appearance of the Punisher in Daredevil while rumor has it deals are already in the works to adapt Punisher on the streaming service in the future. Formerly of Marine Force Recon (the Special Forces branch of the Marines), Frank Castle was on leave when his family was gunned down by the mob when they witnessed an assassination. Surviving his life-threatening injuries, dirty cops in the Mafia’s pocket kept him from testifying against his family’s murderers. Unhinged by the experience, Castle started an amoral one man crusade against organized crime as the Punisher. A skull adorned across his torso, the Punisher mercilessly slaughtered criminals with an array of destructive artillery targeting the Mafia, Yakuza, Triads, Bratva, and even costumed criminals. Along the way, Castle would be joined by David Linus “Microchip” Lieberman whose nephew was murdered for hacking into the accounts of the Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk. A certified genius, Microchip was a computer hacker, inventor, and machinist that exponentially upgraded Castle’s operations with advanced intelligence, new tools and weapons, and souped-up motor vehicles. The Punisher accumulated many foes, most he permanently eliminated, as others like Fisk and the assassin Jigsaw became reoccurring threats. Observed as too aggressive by other costumed adventurers, the Punisher has long had an ally-at-odds relationship with the likes of Spider-Man and Daredevil (though they all share Fisk as a common foe). The Punisher has been the star of three failed box office films and about two years ago Marvel reclaimed the rights to the character for film from Lionsgate. In a very real way, the success of Daredevil places the Punisher firmly in the court for similar redemption.
Honorable mentions: Daughters of the Dragon, Sons of the Tiger, Shang-Chi, Runaways, and Deathlok.