Comic book summer may be over, but comic book fall is just beginning, thanks in part to the success of the Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS)hit Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The next big property to air: Arrow. The season 2 premiere airs tonight at 8 p.m. EDT on Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX.DL) CW Network.
History says fans will tune in. Season 1 drew between 2.5 million and 4 million viewers per episode, ranking Arrow just behind The Vampire Diaries. But for Time Warner and its DC Entertainment subsidiary, there's more than just ratings at stake. Executives see Arrow as a launching platform for new properties.
"The title of episode 201 is 'City of Heroes,' and that's really what this season is about. It's really about Oliver becoming a hero and going from the Arrow in season 1 to being the Green Arrow in season 2," co-creator Andrew Kreisberg said during a San Diego Comic-Con panel discussion.
The transformation doesn't end there. Time Warner has also hired Glee star Grant Gustin to play the Flash. He'll appear in several episodes of season 2 in preparation for what the studio hopes is a successful spin-off.
How soon all this happens is a matter of conjecture, but as a fan who also happens to be a Time Warner investor, I'll be looking for two things in tonight's season 2 premiere:
1. New characters
Gustin doesn't appear until episodes 8 and 9, while the backdoor pilot for a Flash TV series doesn't come till episode 20. The good news? Fans will have plenty to process in the meantime. Tonight's episode should introduce fans to Summer Glau as Isabel Rochev, a ruthless businesswoman who, in the DC Comics universe, wants to see Oliver Queen dead. Hoo boy.
2. References to forthcoming tie-ins
Marvel and Walt Disney wasted no time in establishing connections between Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the wider cinematic universe in which the show exists. Rumors are already flying that actor Clark Gregg, who stars on the show as Agent Phil Coulson, could at some point assume the role of the superhero known as the Vision and beef up the backstory for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. How and when Marvel and Walt Disney execute these sorts of tie-ins matters since they could impact the box office performance of the Phase 2 movies.
DC and Time Warner haven't been as ambitious with Arrow. Instead, the writers have made tongue-in-cheek references to a wider world, like when guest star Alex Kingston makes an offhand remark about leaving for Central City and that she'll be home "in a Flash." (Central City is home to the Flash in the DC Comics universe.)
This season, all signs point to Kreisberg and co-creators Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti getting more aggressive with how they incorporate the DC mythos into the development of Stephen Amell's vigilante-cum-superhero. If I'm right, it'll be a huge win -- and not just for fans, but also investors.
Now it's your turn to weigh in. Will you be watching tonight? How well do you expect the show to fare in the ratings? Leave a comment to let us know what you think.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney and Time Warner at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of 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.