In case you hadn’t noticed, television is currently being invaded by a league of superheroes who are conquering their respective program competitors and paving the way for more costumed champions. Unsurprisingly, this movement began and continues to be largely fueled by cable channels apart from the network “Big Three” where more chances are typically taken and programming is allowed greater latitude in “taking hold.”
The CW continues to lead the charge with “Arrow”, which just completed its second season and spinoff “The Flash” which just aired its first season finale. And, coming next season, fans will see a brand new series begotten of both the scarlet speedster and the emerald archer, “Legends of Tomorrow,” with the Atom, Firestorm and (like the Atom last year), the upcoming debut of a DC Comics character never before seen in live action: Hawkgirl. If you’re an admitted comic book geek like me, that’s a big deal.
So why now? Why such a proliferation of funny paper foes and heroic foils on the boob tube than perhaps ever before? First, if anyone was going to do it, you knew it was going to be DC and the CW, whose “Smallville” ran from 2001-2011 to great fanfare for both its writing and character development. Today’s CW is just as well written and even better acted; the former with continuing nods to comicdom history and lore. Perhaps as importantly, add in superior technology and production values, which have trickled down from the movies with greater affordability and accessibility, allowing Flash to time travel and Arrow to scour the streets of Starling City with a look and feel heretofore only experienced on the big screen. Netflix’s “Daredevil” is also generating rave reviews for its film noir grit and cinematic scope.
I would also add acceptability to the reasons why superheroes are so popular on television today. Put simply: comics are cool to a larger segment of society including coveted millennials. Graphic novels have helped lay that groundwork (including masterpieces from the likes of Frank Miller, who penned “300”, “Sin City” and “The Dark Knight Returns,” from which the upcoming “Superman v Batman” borrows extensively). The wildly popular “Walking Dead” on TNT also paved the way. And have you been to a comic con lately? They are equal parts nostalgia fests and pop culture celebrations for “kids” of all ages. Finally, even the top show on television today, CBS’ “Big Bang Theory” (which will welcome “Supergirl to the network in the Fall), pays consistent homage to the art form – a medium whose time has come, across multiple universes and timeslots.