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Yesterday, [profile] kadymae and I co-moderated a panel about live action adaptations of comic books on TV, which is a huge trend that shows no sign of slowing.

All four major English-language networks are airing or have commissioned comic book shows. Cable, Netflix and even the Playstation Network are developing comic book shows.

We looked at a list of current and upcoming live-action shows based on comics:

and a liist of all TV shows based based on comic books:

We found many differences between earlier TV shows, which are more serialized and produced by people who are producing comics today, have previously worked in the comics industry, or are longtime fans of comics and familiar with the canon.

Some points that were raised:

  • As the Comics Code Authority loses its cachet, changes in what comics can show reflected in what TV can show.
  • The Feels: you used to watch TV for episodic plot, and movies for emotional resonance, but now TV shows convey that sense of intimacy
  • The technology has improved for special effects and costumes.
  • New shows produced from a place of love and respect for the material, not from a place that is just using the brand.
  • Shows are remixing the source material and they are conscious that audiences are aware of the remixing.
  • This remixing adds a Shakespearan dimensionality to the shows: we're watching how these characters are being interpreted by this particular production.
  • There are now shared universes on TV and also with movies, whereas older shows were stand-alone.
  • There is a seriousness to the characters, as we take comics seriously -- in contrast to campier interpretations in the past.
  • Television producers are now expanding out to feature lesser known characters, like Arrow and Agent Carter.
  • Agent Carter was great at showing attitudes to women in the 1940s, but it missed out on commenting on the whiteness of the office.
  • Comics and shows based on them can help us look at things that make us uncomfortable, such as sexism and the long-term effects of PTSD.
  • You get families on TV, much more than in the comics.
  • You now see consequences of actions, even several seasons from the initial incident.
  • There are a lot of ensemble shows.
  • Some stories deal with how we relate to veterans: we say they're heroes, but we ignore them.
  • Heroes can be something other than purely good. Sometimes they're rat bastards, creating complexity in the characterization.
  • There is more diversity now.
  • Diggle is good with being Diggle, wasn't impressed with being Arrow
    Defenders will be diverse and slashy

Hopes for the future
  • Hoping they don't all copy each other.
  • Hoping they continue to reflect the diversity source material.
  • Hoping the Netflix series are more arc-oriented.
  • Hoping the shows on cable, Netflix and smaller networks can survive because they don't need huge Nielsen numbers.


    [profile] kadymae wore a t-shirt that says "I read banned comics," which is from the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund. For information about the CBLDF banned comics, visit:
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