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Sunday, September 11, 2016

6 Questions about New Warriors

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Edited by Robert Beach

Something peculiar about the story of Marvel Studios, the little comic book company that dreamed of making movies, is how well they’ve managed to wipe clean people’s memories of their failures. As far as the general public is concerned, Marvel has never failed, more or less cemented themselves as an unstoppable blockbuster juggernaut and America’s cinematic guardian. This takes a lot of mental editing when you take into account how often Marvel has let us down. And nowhere has that been more evident than in their many botched attempts at Network TV. 

After three seasons of diminishing viewership, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needed to bring in Ghost Rider to resurrect season 4. Their Most Wanted spin-off fell through, and most of Marvel’s “in the works” TV projects seemed to have stalled. This all got so bad that Marvel allegedly met with ABC about what their future in television held. It seems we now have our answer in the form of The New Warriors and also Squirrel Girl.

For the uninitiated, the New Warriors could be considered a discount version of the Teen Titans if we're generous. They’re one of a handful of Marvel superhero teams made up of teens that don't have a direct connection to the X-Men. The New Warriors are mostly notable for being the most visible and successful of their various teams, mainly thanks to their key role in the Civil War comic. Since then, some version of the team has always managed to be alongside other Marvel teen teams like the Runaways, the Initiative, the Young Avengers, and even more recent groups like the Champions.

Speaking of mutants, I suspect they’re one of the two key factors in the New Warriors' scoring a show in the immediate aftermath of the Runaways also getting an adaptation. See, Marvel has been desperate to figure out a way to do X-Men without the X-Men because they know the core concepts of the X-Men are lucrative, but the rights to adapt the characters remain with Fox.  

Their initial attempt at this was to up-jump the importance of the Inhumans in the MCU canon, but that didn’t take. With the recent movies/TV divide formed, it’s pretty clear that the Inhumans film is never happening.  Rather than try to recreate the mutant phenomena, Marvel has settled instead on recreating the super rebel teens aspect through shows like New Warriors and Runaways. 

The other big reason I think ABC sat Marvel down and demanded something in the New Warriors vein is how much the superhero TV landscape has changed in the last three years.  Remember, when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hit the air, its only competition was Arrow, specifically Arrow season 2 (the most garbage season).  

Years following, however, we’ve had The Flash, Supergirl, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Legends of Tomorrow, Gotham, Powers, and Preacher as Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Defenders, and Black Lightning are all on the horizon.  My point is that a handful of humans dealing with low-level sci-fi hooliganism no longer cuts the mustard. People want superheroes.  That’s the ‘why’ of the New Warriors show, so let’s get into the ‘How’ of things.

Technically speaking, only one hero is confirmed for the team roster. Given the history of the New Warriors and the individual baggage of the various heroes, we can be sure about at least three of them.  The confirmed hero is Squirrel Girl, an absurdist parody superhero that the Internet fell in love with because the Internet has low standards (Editor's Note: Someone doesn't like fun.)

Okay, that was mean, Squirrel Girl does have some charm to her; it’s just not charm I’ve been won over.  Her shtick is that she’s got the proportional strength of a squirrel and can also speak to them, which exists to set-up zaniness and slapstick more cute than funny.  

Overall, she’s a lot like Deadpool in that she works better as a supporting character rather than the star, which makes her place on a team a good move. As for the rest of the team, the one guy that pretty much HAS to be there is Speedball.  

He’s a teen hero with kinetic energy powers, specifically the ability to generate and manipulate kinetic energy to make him and other objects bounce around at high speed.  He’s a big, goofy bundle of energy that’s always served as the heart of the New Warriors and their defacto leader. Also, his cat as kinetic energy powers too. 

Then there’s Marvel Boy AKA Justice, who may be a bit of a gray area. He’s a psychic superhero with a strange origin story in the books. In the comics, the Guardians of the Galaxy didn't start as a contemporary group. They started out as a team of freedom fighters thousands of years in the future opposing an alien galactic dictatorship. 

These Guardians are led by Vance Astro, a Captain America-esque astronaut from our time in a hermetically sealed suit that’s kept him alive till the future. However, that’s only one future. In the main timeline where Vance didn’t get shot off in the future, he became a teen superhero named Justice.  Given other future guardians like Yondu have been dropped in the present, I think Marvel Boy’s probably just going to get a streamlined origin.  

Rounding out the trio of heroes we almost certainly will see is Night Thrasher. Night Thrasher is one of a handful of black superheroes in the Marvel universe. Even more specifically, he’s a black vigilante, which is pretty rare. That status is a good indicator of his viability for the team, though he also has a long history of appearing throughout the many incarnations of the New Warriors.  He’s their lone human guy, basically making him the black Daredevil of the group, which seems like an easy sell for a TV show. 

This is the big problem with doing a New Warriors show. Most of the heroes you might want for the team have a ton of in-universe baggage that needs to be explained to the audience. What’s more, this is where you get into the issue of rights and crossover problems. Starting out simply, a founding member of the New Warriors is one Firestar, a superhero with flame powers.  

Now, Firestar is a mutant, which should mean Fox has the right to adapt her on TV, but Marvel has managed to get around that agreement with Quick Silver and Scarlet Witch. Whether or not she’ll show up is a serious gray area. Then you’ve got heroes who are key members, but they probably won’t show up because Marvel wants to save them for future films. For instance, Scarlet Spider and Namorita are both key members of the New Warriors, but they’re intrinsically tied to the Spider-Man and Namor mythos.  Scarlet Spider is a clone of Peter Parker who broke out on his own, and Namorita is the cousin of Namor, king of Atlantis. Adapting them in a meaningful way would require covering all those elements and cutting future films off from access to these heroes. 

Finally, you’ve got folks who run counter to established continuity or would require way too much legwork to make them fit into the MCU’s vision of their mythos. A great example of this would be Nova. Even though the Nova Corp is established in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they 1) don’t have any powers and 2) don’t recruit outside of Xandar. Explaining Nova as a kid from Earth with gravity control becomes its own to do. Not to mention the studio probably plans to give Nova a movie eventually, and you don’t want that to hinge on people having watched some ABC show. 

This question is going to hang over pretty much on every Marvel adaptation from now on, but it’s especially present for the New Warriors. The New Warriors have a very storied history in the comics with their relationship to registration. They position a superhero team with full costumes, and everything brings them a lot more into the registration’s eye than say Luke Cage or Jessica Jones.  

In the comics, it was the New Warriors negligence that led to the tragedy that launched the Registration and the Civil War. It led to a new team of Warriors who specifically opposed to the registration.  That could be the case here, framing the Warriors show as a bunch of teens fighting the system to be super, or I could see the opposite working just as well. 

The other big thing that came out of the Registration was a new team of teen superheroes called the Initiative. They were a bunch of super teens that Tony Stark’s S.H.I.E.L.D. cronies rounded up and set out to train as superheroes before assigning them to each one of the 50 states to protect.  

Given the New Warriors have no history with the registration act, I could see them fitting into that role in the show: a roster of super teens getting trained by the UN or the US government as their own, more controllable, version of the Avengers.  

This is one of those areas we probably won’t have a good sense of till the show comes out. At the very least, we know that registration will matter to Marvel TV as hunting down unregistered heroes is apparently a lynch pin of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4. 

The most obvious crossover potential is with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as they’ll be dealing with the Civil War fallout big time, so a group of super-powered teens in full costume would probably show up on their radar. If Marvel maybe wanted to have Ghost Rider become a New Warrior, that wouldn’t be an impossible transition, even though he’s never had that role in the comics. 

I don’t think we’ll see the New Warriors crossover into any of Marvel’s Netflix series though, given how much darker and grittier that stuff is. There just isn’t place for the New Warriors in upcoming shows like Iron Fist or Punisher outside of a passing background reference. 

That brings us to announced and upcoming projects. I could see the New Warriors fitting into Marvel’s supposedly still happening Cloak and Dagger show, especially that they’re teen superheroes as well. Additionally, Marvel’s Damage Control show could fit the New Warriors in. 

They have a bizarre shared history in the comics. Even though the New Warriors were blamed for the explosion that sparked the superhero registration act, it was engineered by executives at Damage Control, so it’d be cool if they ended up crossing paths on TV. 

Finally, the big question for me is whether or not the New Warriors will crossover with their bizarre doppelgangers the Runaways.  Honestly, there’s not a lot of difference between the Runaways and the New Warriors other than that the Runaways don’t like costumes. 

I don’t necessarily think we’ll see them meet up given that Runaways will be a Hulu streaming show and is going to require a whole ton of reworking of its own (it features two mutants and the son of Ultron.) However, I do think the presence of both these series shows how much Marvel is hedging their X-Men stand-in bets after the whole Inhumans failure to launch. 

All throughout this article, I’ve been making reference to the New Warriors’ role in the start of the comic book Civil War. If you don’t know what that is exactly it’s that, for a time, the team were a superhero reality show cast. The idea was that the Warriors would go around with a camera crew filming them as they went about their various superhero activities.  

In one such instance, the team engaged a team of super villains. Due to the team’s recklessness and hunger for ratings, the super-villain Nitro caused an explosion that took out an entire elementary school. That devastation is what led to the sweeping legislative change that was the superhero registration act. 

While I do think that arc could work spectacularly as a multi-season TV plot, I’m not totally convinced ABC would adapt it out of the gate. What does seem more likely is that they would adopt the superhero reality show set-up as that’s a very solid structure to apply to a weekly team superhero show.  This would work if they wanted to adopt a more comedic touch as would befit a show that features Squirrel Girl as one of its main characters.  That brings me to my other point: The Great Lakes Avengers. 

See, Squirrel Girl was never actually a member of the New Warriors in the comics. Instead, she was part of a superhero comedy team called the Great Lakes Avengers. They were a bunch of superheroes giving it their all despite being stranded in the depths of Wisconsin with their garbage powers.  

While this new show obviously won’t be that, I could see the GLA acting as a major influence on the New Warriors show. Given how much the superhero landscape now favors a lighter touch, adopting a few moves from the Great Lakes Avengers probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. 

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