'Daredevil' Is Set to Expand Disney's Marvel Universe on Netflix

Marvel's Chief Creative Officer recently discussed some of the plans for "Daredevil," the first original show from a five-series Disney/Netflix deal. How will it tie in with the rest of the Marvel universe? And can it interpret the character better than the original "Daredevil" film?

May 7, 2014 at 6:45AM

Last year, Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) announced a first-of-its-kind deal that would bring four TV series and one connecting miniseries from Disney's Marvel universe to the streaming service. While the first of these shows, "Daredevil," isn't slated to premiere until next year, speculation has been flying as the show gets closer to production.

Marvel Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada was a recent guest on director Kevin Smith's "Fat Man on Batman" podcast, primarily to discuss and promote Captain America: The Winter Soldier. During the interview, however, he revealed a few details about "Daredevil" and how it and the other "Defenders" shows will fit into the larger Marvel universe.

#Itsallconnected
In the lead up to the Winter Soldier tie-in episode, ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." began using the #itsallconnected hashtag in its ads and other promotional materials. While the hashtag was meant to encourage people to talk about the show on social media and to hint at how the show would be directly affected by the events of Winter Soldier, Quesada's podcast comments showed just how connected events in the various parts of the Marvel universe really are.

Regarding whether the Netflix shows would be separate from the film and television universe, Quesada said, "They will exist within the cinematic universe again, so this is all the same world as 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' and The Avengers. There will be some interconnectivity, much like the movies."

While this doesn't come as a surprise, it's good to know that there's an active connection to the larger universe as scripts are being written. If "Daredevil" and its sister shows prove popular, it also opens the door for cross-promotional material related to Marvel's films and TV shows, as well as cameos and additional connections in future seasons.

Marvel noir
Quesada also indicated that "Daredevil" and the other "Defenders" shows would feature a grittier, film noir-like feel (though he stressed that they would still be "Marvel" shows, as opposed to the "gritty realism" that appeared in movies like The Dark Knight and Man of Steel from Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX) Warner Bros. studio). He said, "This is the street level, noir side of the Marvel universe, probably more ground level than you've really seen in any of our Marvel movies."

This approach makes sense given that the shows will focus on characters like Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones. These characters don't fly around, fighting villains, and saving the day with a smile. The characters come from places like Hell's Kitchen in New York, and are much more vigilante-style characters than Iron Man or Captain America.

The darker theme also helps explain why the shows will appear on Netflix instead of Disney-owned ABC. As Netflix doesn't have to curb its content based on FCC regulations, the characters can be more violent or crude as needed without worrying that complaints will flood the FCC offices because Daredevil broke someone's nose during prime time.

Will it work?
The big question, of course, is whether "Daredevil" and the other shows will find an audience on Netflix and share in the popularity of the Marvel films. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has notoriously struggled for much of its first season (though I believe it will be picked up for a second season regardless). If "Daredevil" stumbles like "Agents" did, it might leave viewers wondering whether Marvel is best left to the big screen.

In all likelihood, however, "Daredevil" will be a hit. Despite the poor reception that the Ben Affleck Daredevil film received, the character himself has a lot going for him. As a street-level crimefighter, Daredevil can be ruthless in his attempts to keep the streets safe. In his alter ego as blind attorney Matt Murdock, however, he's a fairly likable character with a lot of heart and fierce loyalty both to those he cares about and seeing justice done in the courts. Quesada described the scripts for "Daredevil" as being "pretty fantastic," saying that they were "very emotional, very original. But at the same time, it is Daredevil; it is Matt Murdock." While Quesada isn't likely to badmouth the series during a promotional stop, the emphasis on both aspects of Daredevil's character does sound promising.

Final thoughts
Since the Netflix deal covers four shows and a miniseries, even if "Daredevil" flops, Disney will still have a chance to build up steam in the shows that follow. Given the popularity of other Netflix original series offerings, it's likely that "Daredevil" will see significant binge-watching statistics soon after it airs. There's likely being a lot of effort poured into the show since it will set the tone of the "Defenders" universe, so it will likely be closer in feel to the Marvel films than "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

That's not to say that the concept couldn't bomb, of course. Both Netflix and Disney are hoping for a success that will not only drive subscribers but also open up additional licensing opportunities, but even with the Marvel name, nothing is guaranteed. In the worst-case scenario where all of the shows are poorly received, it's unlikely that Disney would attempt similar series deals for a while. The characters might appear again in future "Avengers" installments or as guests on shows like "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," however, so even if the Netflix shows go south there will still be ways for Disney to leverage the properties.

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John Casteele has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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