While the proliferation of superhero movies on the silver screen continues (with Marvel leading the charge with the upcoming The Wolverine and second Thor flick), DC Comics is looking toward the smaller delivery format – television – where it continues to generate success; sometimes against all odds.
No one, for example, expected the CW Network’s Arrow to be a 2012-2013 season sleeper hit. After all, the “emerald archer” had never been a headliner in any media incarnation, funny books or otherwise. And, if the success (or lack thereof) of Ryan Reynolds’ 2012 celluloid space age Green Lantern was any indication, the earth-bound playboy turned Robin Hood stood nary a chance of catching on. Wrong.
TV has been an interesting place for the masked avenger genre, in particular early on. The Lone Ranger and Green Hornet caught on from radio while Superman and Batman made a successful transition from the Saturday morning theater serials. Batman’s “Technicolor” success in the late 60s would also spawn a series of tongue-in-cheek imitators (remember, for example, Mr. Fantastic, the gas station attendant, who by taking a magic pill and turning his jacket inside out to reveal a shiny cape fought evil to a canned laugh track)? The 80s would see The Greatest American Hero, the 90s a Danny Elfman scored The Flash and Superman revival Lois & Clark.
Perhaps the most successful and certainly longest running superhero TV show has been Smallville which helped establish, appropriately enough, a once fledgling network, the CW. And, it is the CW that is now looking at a potential Arrow spinoff of The Flash (after he appears in the upcoming season), announced today at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. Other Justice Leaguers – from Black Canary to Batman could also make Arrow appearances and cameos in the not to distant future. Next, it is further being reported, a Wonder Woman television program is being prepped for development.
It is said there are only so many great ideas and that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It is also said by some that Hollywood has lost its creativity and is too risk averse. I would argue that the time-tested stories of good over evil can never go wrong, especially when enacted by heroes we grew up with and are ingrained in our American pop culture.