Comic book characters have become essential fixtures of modern entertainment. Movies have benefited the most from this superhero craze, with “The Avengers” making more than $200 million its opening weekend, but TV is starting to capitalize on the trend. From “The Walking Dead” to the upcoming “Arrow,” which premieres this Wednesday, comic books are beginning to realize their small-screen potential.
Translating comics to TV has always been a problem. For starters, many big-name actors are simply not interested in TV. This leaves lesser-known actors, who often have just as much talent but considerably less draw power, with the pressure of carrying iconic characters to the small screen. Thus, many comic book TV shows falter after just a few episodes. However, there are two comics that have the potential to escape this trap and make great TV adaptations.
First, though it may be dark, Marvel Comics’ “The Punisher” would make for terrific television. Frank Castle, alter ego of The Punisher, has all the vengeful spirit of Batman without any of the moral scruples. Castle is a vigilante whose fight against the criminals and mobs of New York City is nothing short of a bloody, one-man war. He murders, kidnaps, extorts and tortures his victims.
Castle is the perfect antihero for cable television and might be a nice fit for HBO. He has a large enough following to attract an audience on his own, and viewers would be able to sympathize with his motivation: his murdered family. “The Punisher’s” story is often portrayed like a crime show, an angle that could be taken in plenty of different directions — from a basic revenge arc to an exploration of the dark psychological contortions of his mind. Castle is a very complex character, and having multiple episodes to fully explore his multifaceted personality would make for very emotionally compelling television.
Another old comic-based show that deserves a reboot is “Wonder Woman.” The show was not a huge hit in the 1970s, but with all the hype surrounding Marvel’s “Black Widow,” this would be a perfect time for DC to take Wonder Woman out of the vault. She has a massive following and a comic book history dating back to 1941. Wonder Woman exudes confidence, strength and moral conviction — a great role model for young girls everywhere. She is independent, loving, fierce, and sympathetic while still maintaining her authenticity. She has the potential to become an inspirational empowerment figure for the modern era.
Many significant comic book characters are too emotionally complex for a movie to fully grapple with in only two hours. Some characters are a better fit for the small screen not because they can’t support their own movie, but because their stories are more intriguing when told over time.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 9 print edition. Laura Wolford is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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