TV News

Dear Marvel & DC: Please Stop With All of Your Superhero Spin-Off Shows. Thank You.

Arrow was quite good. So, it birthed a lighter, possibly superior spin-off show, The Flash. Good for them. That’s how it’s supposed to go.

Agents of SHIELD is apparently still too big to fail for Marvel and ABC, and luckily once The Winter Soldier untied their hands the show got a lot better down the home stretch of the first season and throughout the second season. Then it so happened that Marvel had produced a short film about the post Captain America life of Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter from the film Captain America: The First Avenger.  People seemed to really like it, and ABC was looking for female-projects as well as “bridge shows” which could be aired during the winter hiatus of another show as a way of avoiding having to air lowly rated reruns.  Put two and two together and you get Agent Carter, a bridge show airing in the middle of SHIELD‘s second season.  Good for them. Way to think outside the box, and although the ratings weren’t amazing they delivered a high quality show that was connected to SHIELD but still mostly worked as being its own thing.

Now, Warner Bros. Television and the CW want to cherrypick both Arrow and The Flash for a mutual spin-off show starring some of their notable supporting players, Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer and Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance from Arrow and Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold, Dominic Purcell’s Heatwave, and Victor Garber’s Dr. Stein from The Flash and team them up with a bunch of new-to-live-action DC characters, including the time traveller Rip Hunter (played by Doctor Who’s Arthur Darville) and the reincarnated warrior Hawkgirl.

Atom-Martin-Stein-Captain-Cold-Canary-Spinoff-570x285Now, according to Deadline ABC and Marvel want to take two of Agents of SHIELD’s newest cast members, Adrianne Palicki’s badass Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird and Nick Blood* as her endearingly snippy, British ex-husband Lance Hunter, and put them in their own Mr. and Mrs. Smith-esque spin-off.

They do a good job of hiding their height disparity on the show

On top of that, if rumors are to be believed ABC and Marvel are working with American Crime’s John Riddley to develop a bridge-show about the Kamala Khan version of Ms. Marvel (aka, the first Muslim superhero), intended to air ala Agent Carter during the winter hiatus of Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood’s show? Even if that rumor is crap, Riddley is definitely working with ABC and Marvel on something, and that “something” is not the Mockingbird/Nick Blood Agents of SHIELD spin-off which is actually being developed by two of SHIELD‘s writers.

3580100-all-new+marvel+now!+point+one+001-032Um, wouldn’t Arrow and Flash be better served working as a pair with occasional cross-overs? Isn’t it a little too soon for another spin-off? Aren’t you going to have to bend over backwards in credibility-breaking ways to explain how Caity Lotz is back even though her character was dead, dead, dead the last time we saw her (quietly chant: Lazarus Pit, Lazarus Pit, Lazarus Pit)? Is it really the best idea in the world to take away Captain Cold, the leader of The Flash’s Rogues, and put him into a different TV show after just one season?  And what story reason are you going to come up with to explain why a resurrected Sara Lance, two of Flash’s Rogues, a billionaire superhero, one-half of a split-personality superhero (Firestorm), a time traveller, a reincarnated ancient warrior, and who the heck else are in the same show together?  Spinning Flash off from Arrow made sense.  What you’re doing now, though, is a bit difficult to understand, at least until we hear an official explanation of the show’s premise.

And wasn’t one of the consistent criticisms of Agents of SHIELD’s first season that it didn’t have a particularly compelling ensemble cast?  Hasn’t the second season been such an improvement at least partially because of the way the new additions to the cast have rounded things out?  Why would you then want to take away two of those big new additions?

As for Ms. Marvel…actually, I have no problem with that. Sure, if you know your Marvel canon the idea of a Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel TV show arriving a couple of years before the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel movie is quite confusing since they would be arriving in the reverse order of how it happened in the comics. The REDDIT-generated rumor argues, “Well apparently the current plan is to slow-burn her origin into actually being Ms. Marvel over time a la Daredevil (or at least in terms of her taking that name, I don’t know whether or not she’ll have her costume from the start or wait it out). The series will focus more on her fascination with superheroes in general, while balancing issues of religion, racism and Islamaphobia along with her crime fighting.” I like the idea for the same reason I liked Agent Carter on concept alone: it’s a female-fronted project that does not detract but instead adds additional shading to the show from which it would originate. In other word, a mini-series or bridge show does not seem like it would be stretching a cinematic universe too thin in the way that a full-fledged spin-off does.

Agent Carter Agents ShieldThis is the part where I acknowledge the reality of the situation which is that not a single one of the proposed spin-offs I’ve discussed has officially been greenlit yet, and Ms. Marvel could simply be the product of the internet’s hive-mind rumor mill. Most shows never make it out of development, and even those that get a pilot have a minimal chance of getting picked up. Relatively recent TV history saw Aquaman (as a Smallville spin-off) and Wonder Woman (as a David E. Kelley project) pilots fail to make it to TV.  However, the reports are that both the Arrow/Flash spin-off and direct SHIELD spin-off would go straight-to-series.

This could also be the part where I shake my fist in the air in righteous indignation at Hollywood’s lack of creativity and use phrases like “comic book saturation” and “Blah, blah, blah, too many spin-offs, remakes, reboots, blah, blah, blah.”

Yeah, that’s not really where I’m coming from here. I am looking at the possibility of an Arrow/Flash spin-off and two Agents of SHIELD spin-offs and stepping back to wonder if the center will be able to hold. Or, to put it another way, I like Arrow, The Flash and Agents of SHIELD. I’m worried that the planned spin-offs will weaken those shows, not simply widen their respective universes. I don’t want to see Mockingbird and her ex out on their own; I want to see them bickering in front of the rest of the SHIELD team. I don’t want to see Captain Cold mixed in with a completely throw-a-dart-at-the-wall collection of other heroes and anti-heroes; I want to see him serve as The Flash’s noble adversary. I like the idea of Ms. Marvel, although I’d really rather get a second season of Agent Carter. But I mostly want the people who make these shows to not overextend themselves and simply focus on making sure that what they have remains strong (or, in the case of Arrow, rebounds from an extended slump).

On the opposite end, I should have more of an open mind, especially since I am one of those fools who preached doom and gloom about Guardians of the Galaxy and just couldn’t quite picture Grant Gustin as Barry Allen.  And maybe losing Mockingbird and Nick Blood would allow Agents of SHIELD to just straight up become the Inhumans TV show it kind of wants to.  Marvel has proven it’s pretty good at what it does, and WB/DC already did a great job of spinning The Flash off of Arrow.  Agent Carter was an experiment worth repeating, proving that these people can think outside the box.  These are still the early days for all of the proposed spin-offs.  However, as someone who believes that Arrow has suffered from several of its producers focusing more on The Flash I dread the possibility of that happening to The Flash and Agents of SHIELD next season.

*Am I the only one who didn’t actually know Nick Blood’s name until now? I assumed “Nick Blood” was some comic book character I’d never heard of before when the name popped up in the headlines about the Agents of SHIELD spin-off.

**Just so it’s clear, none of what I’ve said is meant to apply to what Marvel has going on with Netflix and Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.


  1. The really big problem with an increased number of spin-offs is that, eventually, the universe will crash under its own weight. It can’t keep getting bigger forever. That’s why comics reboot themselves every few decades. And we don’t want that to happen in movies/televison, at all.

  2. I don’t see the logic with making an Agents of Shield spin-off show, when the ratings for AOS have been horrible this season, The Flash sometimes even gets better ratings than AOS and that’s on the CW! Although I do love their characters, I’m not sure why they think this is a good idea

    1. That does make the agents of shield spin-off more confusing. I was really more wondering if shield had been renewed for a third season yet, and then all of a sudden we are getting reports about potential spin-offs. I know that The Hollywood Reporter and other industry trades usually say that although the ratings are not great ABC is pleased with the gains shield usually gets from dvr in live+3 and live+7. I have just trusted that and not looked up those specific figures. Either way, there are two angles to the shield spinoff discussion: 1. Can the show actually afford to lose key cast members to a spinoff. 2. Is SHIELD even popular enough to warrant a spinoff?

  3. I don’t know…that sounds too much like the “when will the bubble burst” talk I have heard for two years now.

    I admit I was surprised that they plan a Spin-off for AoS, too, even though it is obvious that they see more in those shows than just ratings. But I am not too worried. Marvel is actually doing three approaches at once. They have their own universe within the universe with the Netflix shows. They have shows like Agent Carter, which basically expand on certain characters without being “required viewing”. And then they have AoS which is basically the “connecting” show. We have no idea in which category the spin-off will fell.

    I enjoy Bobbi and Hunter in interaction with the team, too. But just because they move to another series it doesn’t mean that they are gone for good. Plus, we don’t know what exactly they plan. Perhaps it is an “Agent of Strike” show. If yes, I might get behind it.

    1. Also: If CW wants to built their own little verse, why not? I have stopped watching the shows, but it is a success for the network and they certainly have shown themselves more competent to give their particular viewership what they want. And for them it will work out way better to built on what THEY started than caring what happens with other DC properties on other networks or in theatres. While DC fractured connections between the properties are not ideal, it at least has the advantage that CW can create their own isolated world without having to worry what happens elsewhere.

    2. I’m basically arguing, “Why mess with a good thing?” whereas you’re arguing, “Because that good thing could get so much better” and “Because we don’t really totally know what they’re up to yet.”

      “That sounds too much like the ‘when will the bubble burst’ talk I have heard for two years now.”

      My article title didn’t do me in any favors in that department, but I’m not talking about comic book content saturation. There’s a difference between wondering if there are simply too many comic book films and tv shows, and specifically arguing that taking two good characters away from Agents of SHIELD possibly weakens Agents of SHIELD and taking away one of The Flash’s biggest villains weakens The Flash and resurrecting a long-dead character like Sara Lance stretches the believability of a show’s cinematic universe beyond its breaking point and that throwing her in with a bunch of characters she doesn’t logically belong with raises some fair questions. As I stated in my article, I actually like the idea of bridge shows like Agent Carter, and I applaud them for thinking outside the box. I would absolutely watch a Ms. Marvel mini-series or even a full-fledged series. Based on its ratings, I am a little surprised that they would discuss a direct SHIELD spin-off, but I am open to the idea. I just don’t like taking Bobbi and Lance away because I think they have been a huge boost to the show’s ensemble.

      And, yes, I understand that none of these characters would be permanently removed from their parent shows, Captain Cold still popping up on The Flash, Bobbi and Lance on SHIELD. And, yes, giving them their own showcase show would just mean more of characters we like, but possibly to the detriment of their parent shows.

      Ultimately, as you said we don’t really have enough information to make complete conclusions. Literally in less than 12 hours since I wrote this article I saw a rumor that the Arrow/Flash thing could actually be more of an anthology-like show in which the characters aren’t some weird team but instead float in and out for their own showcase stories, possibly building to a team-up at the end (ala Netflix’ model with Marvel). That may be 100% wrong, but it would be interesting. And we are less than 48 hours into the possibility of a Mockingbird/Lance Hunter show and less than that for Ms. Marvel.

      1. We’ll see.
        The thing is: As much as I love Bobbi and Hunter, I see a problem in the future to balance all the characters in AoS. Some of them have to go, and while Bobbi and Hunter gave the cast a boost at the start of season 2, I don’t think that they need it any longer. Fitz’s recovery arc has made him easily my favourite character of the show. Letting Simmons run on her own for a while did a lot to flesh her out and I adored her more with every single episode…at this point even more than Bobbi. I developed an understanding for May, who already takes the place of the “fighter” in the group. Coulson has his snark back. And even Skye is no longer plain annoying. And now that Ward comes back, who is certainly way more interesting as creepy messed-up character, there will be even less room for the new characters.
        The thing is, there is a limit how many characters AoS can juggle. I am frankly quite impressed that they managed so well so far. But there are a lot of things to considers. Actors won’t be satisfied with a permanent guest character status, and having everyone as a regular is not really an option because, like I said, there is a limit. With a second show they can bind the actors to the project, ensure that they are available for the main show and make the world of “SHIELD” so much bigger.

        Like I said, it all depends on their plans. But in their place, that’s what I would do with the show, making Shield “bigger” and ensuring that both shows have a large “extracast” which they can use.

      2. I had wondered about the contractual status for the actors. I was unclear if Bobbi and Lance were considered regular cast members or continual guest actors. I also wonders about Brett Dalton’s status since Ward has been such an infrequent player this season. So, yes, there is a practical consideration here, although since this is Marvel we’re talking about I mostly assumed they practically owned all of these actors for at least 6 years. I agree about the ways all of the characters have improved, especially Fitz, Simmons and Skye. If Ward is back and his new girlfriend survives and death lock sticks around then they probably are getting to the point of having a scarily sprawling cast.

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