Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Costumes Optional

Now that there's going to be an Aquaman TV series, the only original Justice Leaguers without their own shows are Green Lantern and J'Onn J'Onzz. To me, J'Onn is particularly ideal for today's don't-call-it-a-superhero trend. "Smallville's" motto has been No Tights, No Flights, "Birds of Prey" stayed away from costumes for the most part, and beyond a fondness for orange and green, I don't expect to see the familiar Aqua-duds on the new guy. Again, though, this plays to the Martian Manhunter's strengths as a shape-shifter. J'Onn doesn't need a costume -- his disguise is other people.

Moreover, J'Onn's multiple Earth identities would make a Martian Manhunter show a virtual anthology -- "Quantum Leap" meets "The X Files." Here's an alien stranded on Earth, with all the Superman powers plus shape-shifting, invisibility, and telepathy, and a history of fighting crime "undercover" among humans in the paranoid 1950s. It practically begs to be adapted! Of course, now that I think about it, it does sound like "Something Is Out There" or "Hard Time On Planet Earth," both of which were gone before too many people had a chance to watch them.

Thinking about similar setups, "Quantum Leap" plus "X Files" is probably also a good description of what a "Deadman" TV show would be like, with mysticism taking the place of science fiction. A "Spectre" TV show would be a different kind of cop with superpowers, and might even play up the religious angle. ("Touched By An Angel" meets ....)

Still, why are we not hearing more about adaptations like these? (Because, idiot, similar pitches produced "Something Is Out There" and "Hard Time On Planet Earth," not to mention movies like The Hidden, none of which had any particular staying power?) I don't think producers are particularly scared of being tarred with the "geek" brush if they focus on costumes and powers -- after all, "Lois & Clark" went four seasons, which isn't bad even compared with at least six for "Smallville." Instead, I think it's more budgetary -- costumes and powers are expensive. That's why I think Martian Manhunter, Spectre, and Deadman would make good, economical series. (I'm thinking there was talk of a "Deadman" series a few years ago, but can't remember specifics.) Come on, Warner Bros., prove me wrong!


iamza said...

Now, I love Martian Manhunter. I think he's one of the most under-utilized characters in the DC universe. But a Martian Manhunter TV series would be hard to do, I think, because there isn't as convenient a plot device as meteor rocks to provide both an achilles heel and provide a challenge for the hero in the form of the 'freak of the week'. Sure, J'onn is sensitive to fire, but how many times can one have the episode end with a big fireball to provide a moment of tension before (a) the budget is blown and (b) people get bored?

Just my two cents worth.

Tom Bondurant said...

Well, with a '50s period piece, the antagonists could be UFOs, Communists, anti-Communists, juvenile delinquents, dope fiends, etc.; and the tension could also come from potential exposure of J'Onn's real nature.

Either that or he could have a crush on a whiny pixie who tends to get stomped by horses.... ;)

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you J'onn had secretly fighting the evil White Martians & present them as the actual truth behind the legends of demons, werewolves, vampires & other shapeshifters, you could easily do a TV series along the lines of "Buffy" & "Angel" with their shared weakness to fire tying in quite neatly.