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Monday, March 14, 2016

Will Powerless include the Global Guardians?

Edited by Robert Beach 

One of the bizarre paradoxes of superhero adaptations seems to be that the fewer major properties a studio owns, the better their work turns out.  For instance, DC/WB has owned the rights to all of their characters from the word go, and they’ve yet to churn out a good non-Batman movie this century. Conversely, Marvel, who lacked access to either of their major franchises, turned a handful of B-list heroes into the biggest multimedia franchise on the planet right now. 

The same seems to be true in the world of television where the fractured rights landscape of DC has rendered excellent hits like Supergirl, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow while Marvel has the disappointing Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. Now DC/WB is back at the act with weird and fractured comics rights with the new NBC comedy series Powerless, the first set photos of which have just premiered.

From all accounts, Powerless is set to be an office comedy set in a world full of superheroes, magic, and aliens. I’m not entirely sure how that will work if the idea is that the office workers have super powers in the vein of’s Anti-Heroes, or they’re just replacing generic Office-style shenanigans with time travel, super villain schemes, and alien invasions. I’m tempted to think it’s the latter of the two, treating the boom and bombast of standard superhero adventure with the banal attitude of classic mundanity has always been an easy path to hilarity.  

Stuff like The Tick, Formerly Known As The Justice League, and the collected works of Brian Michael Bendis have all mined this lucrative vein of nerd comedy to great success in the past. In either event, the world of Powerless will still require superheroes if it wants to sell its general idea of being in a superhero universe and that’s where things get weird.

Unlike Marvel, who own all of their TV rights, DC’s television adaptation rights are incredibly fractured. That’s why Arrow and Flash are on CW while Supergirl is on CBS, Gotham is on Fox, and Constantine was on NBC. This means even if NBC wanted its superhero universe to feature big-name heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, they couldn’t get the rights.

However, DC still has an incredible backlog of characters that have never even come close to a live-action adaptation and work perfectly to fill the ranks of Powerless background players. This lets the writers of the show avoid having to come up with new heroes week to week, welcomes nerd viewership by NBC slapping a big DC Comics logo, and get free publicity from blogs like this one. Hey, everyone likes sausage, but no one wants to know how it gets made, right? 

In any event, the first two heroes to appear on Powerless have been announced and we’ve caught a glimpse of one of them. The heroes are Crimson Fox and Jack O’ Lantern. Both of whom I was already thoroughly familiar with long before this announcement because, as established, weird comics and I go together perfectly. Crimson Fox makes a decent amount of sense for an addition as her powers and design are pretty well suited to a quick and easy adaptation. What’s more, she’s only about D-list as far as things go. Though she’s never made it to a multimedia adaptation, Crimson Fox was a member of the Justice League for a time.... sort of. 

After DC rebooted their universe for the first time in 1986, one of the caveats going forward was a brand new Justice League that would feature a whole host of new, internationally themed characters. Thus was born the Justice League International along popular spin-off comic Justice League Europe. Crimson Fox joined as a member of the JLE during the mid point of its very respectable and thoroughly enjoyable run.  

She was a French superhero who had super pheromones in addition to some enhanced physicality, and a costume that looked absolutely nothing like a fox. Eventually, the multi-Justice League era imploded under the weight of other spin-offs like Justice League Antarctica and Justice League Task Force. After that, Crimson Fox dropped off the map for years and years before reappearing in the Global Guardians.

That brings us to the second hero: Jack O’ Lantern.  Jack O’ Lantern was a founding member of the Global Guardians, a weird substrata of the DC universe in its own right. The Global Guardians popped up in the early ‘80s as a direct response to the various characters added to the Super Friends TV show to increase diversity. The idea of the time was to be a version of the Justice League on a Global scale, emphasizing diversity and international cooperation. As such, they had members from England, Brazil, Germany, Australia, Israel, Japan, Greece, and even Native Americans. 

The team were more or less forgotten after their brief initial run, save for members Green Fire and Ice Maiden; they went on to join the Justice League International. The team was revived during Crimson Fox’s tenure as a kind of international superhero watchdog force as a way to curb American metahuman activity. The new team featured mostly new members as most of the original heroes became part of yet another international superhero force: The Ultramarine Corp.

So what does all this actually mean? Well, maybe nothing, yet maybe that the world of superheroes we’re about to see on Powerless is meant to be one of broader diversity and international action. The vast miasma of heroes from across the Global Guardians and Ultra Marine Corp are more than enough to fill out the background ranks of a superhero universe while also giving the proceedings a unique style and look.  

Additionally, most of the costumes required for the various characters would be pretty easy to put together, and none of them boost super powers that would be too difficult to replicate. I don’t really know why the makers of Powerless would settle on this particular route, but it’s not a terrible idea to say the least. Provided the framing of their universe isn’t about a background tapestry of interesting and diverse heroes used to back-up a collection of dull white office drones, that’d be a pretty terrible misstep. 

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