From Page to Screen: The Defenders by Jerry Whitworth
Recently it was announced Marvel has inked a deal with Netflix to produce four series (thirteen episodes to a series) on four street level super hero characters. Series in the deal will be based on Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones culminating into a crossover mini-series called The Defenders. In the comics, the Defenders was known as the “non-team” generally featuring the most powerful heroic characters at Marvel (founded by Doctor Strange, Hulk, and Namor the Sub-Mariner with Silver Surfer soon after) who found it challenging to work with others that were joined by characters that generally were not at that time in the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, or Champions (like Nighthawk, Hellcat, Valkyrie, Son of Satan, Luke Cage, and Daredevil). What seems to be suggested, however, with the upcoming Defenders is something more akin to the Marvel Knights, an imprint at Marvel that generally focused on street level characters and has been used by fans to describe such heroes (like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Wolverine, Punisher, Luke Cage, and Moon Knight). Lets take a look at the four characters from the upcoming Defenders and what we may expect in their series.
Undoubtedly the star of the four series in terms of notoriety and fame, Daredevil was a fairly bland character that fought the likes of Kingpin, Bullseye, Electro, Mister Hyde, Owl, Jester, Gladiator, Mister Fear, Purple Man, Death-Stalker, and Stilt-Man whose publication held on by a thread. Everything changed when artist/writer Frank Miller was given free reign with the title introducing the assassin (and former love of Matt Murdock) Elektra and the ninja organization the Hand. Daredevil was revised as a ninja with super senses (to compensate for his blindness after exposure to radioactive waste) whose quest for justice after the death of his father led to tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. The character would be the star of his own feature film starring Ben Affleck as the hero adapting very much the zenith of Miller’s run only for the work to be generally panned by most viewers. The rights would revert back to Marvel from Fox which led to his availability for such a deal. It’s likely the Netflix series will focus on the Brian Michael Bendis run of the character (considering Miller’s vision, for better or worse, has already been widely interpreted). Within this run, Daredevil’s identity is outed to the public as the hero’s relationship with his law partner Foggy Nelson is tested. After so many destructive relationships with the likes of Karen Page, Elektra, and Typhoid Mary, Matt Murdock finally found love with someone strong and outside the costumed world in Milla Donovan (who he eventually weds).
One of the first African American superheroes, Luke Cage was born Carl Lucas who fell in with the wrong crowd as a youth only to escape that life as a man. His past would come back to haunt him when he was found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit and was sentenced to prison. Therein, he becomes part of a super-soldier experiment that gives him incredible powers (super-strength and super dense skin). In wake of this, he breaks out of jail and adopts the name Luke Cage the Power Man, Hero for Hire. Willing to help out people who need to be saved for a price, Cage starts to make enemies with the likes of Diamondback (the man who framed him), Gideon Mace, Chemistro, Discus, and Stiletto. When sales of Luke Cage’s title began to slump, it was decided to save it the book would merge with the recently canceled Iron Fist to become Power Man and Iron Fist (as the Heroes for Hire), forming one of the longest lasting partnerships in recent comic book history (reminiscent of when Green Arrow co-starred in the Green Lantern series). Marvel would regain the rights to Luke Cage from Sony making the Netflix deal possible. Isaiah Mustafa, one time spokesperson for Old Spice, would star in an audition video for Luke Cage two years ago.
Orphaned when his father tried to take his family and business partner Harold Meachum to the mystical land of K’un-L’un, Danny Rand was adopted by the monks of that land and taught the ways of the martial arts. After slaying the dragon Shou-Lao, Rand was marked by the symbol of the dragon on his chest and earned the power of the Iron Fist, able to strike with superhuman strength and nigh-invulnerable hands. Returning to New York, Rand sought vengeance against Meachum who murdered his father only to instead feel pity for the man when he found him legless from the journey that changed both their lives. Rand then decides to use his powers for good, often partnering with the private detective duo Daughters of the Dragon (falling in love with member Misty Knight). Iron Fist would make enemies with the likes of the Steel Serpent and Master Khan, later joining up with Luke Cage to form the Heroes for Hire. The Heroes for Hire would work as Matt Murdock’s bodyguards when his Daredevil identity was made public and Iron Fist would act as Daredevil in order to help lend doubt to Murdock’s super heroic occupation. For over a decade, Marvel has tried to produce an Iron Fist film generally featuring action star Ray Park (Darth Maul in Star Wars, Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe) as the lead character.
Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos for the adults-only series Alias, Jessica Jones was a classmate of Peter Parker who gained super powers in an accident and was inspired to become a hero after witnessing a battle between Spider-Man and Sandman. Acting as the heroine Jewel, Jones would be mind-controlled by the villainous Purple Man who used the girl in his perverse sexual acts torturing her psychologically. When Jones broke free, she chose to abandon her superhero identity and operate as a private investigator. Along the way, Jones began an intimate relationship with Luke Cage eventually bearing him a daughter and taking his hand in marriage. The four series are intimately connected in the comics with Jones married to Cage, Iron Fist as Cage’s best friend (the latter naming his daughter after him in Danielle), and Matt Murdock as Jones’ lawyer (Murdock the attorney of several heroes in his career). Historically, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Moon Knight, and the Heroes for Hire have worked together off-and-on (again, informally referred by fans as Marvel Knights in recent times) over the decades of their existence.