Will Black Widow turn up in Netflix’s Daredevil TV series? She almost did in the 70s…

After all, she’s quite important to the Daredevil comic strip.

Black Widow and Daredevil meet The Avengers

Probably not, though. I mean if they couldn’t get Scarlett Johansson for Marvel’s Agent Carter, which actually had the entire Black Widow programme’s back story in it, what chance a Netflix TV appearance, no matter how good it might look?

Back in 1975, things might have been different. Angela Bowie acquired the TV rights to both Daredevil and Black Widow for all of a year and tried to create a TV series based on the two characters. That got as far as a photo shoot with actor Benny Carruthers as Daredevil and Bowie as Black Widow.

Angie Bowie as Black Widow

Angie Bowie as Black Widow, Ben Carruthers as Daredevil

However, it was considered too difficult and expensive to film, so nothing happened. A shame or small blessings? You decide…

PS I should probably say “Next time, baby” for the full Iron Man effect. It’s not really me, though.

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  • Gareth Williams

    Ah, Daredevil. I'm pretty sure that 1981 (the year Frank Miller took over writing duties) will be considered year zero for the show, which will enable them to kick Black Widow to the curb. Miller and Denny O'Neil (along with Neal Adams) are mostly responsible for the modern day Batman and Daredevil mythos, at least in my thinking; The Hand et al are really a rip-off of Ras Al Ghul, and modern Batman is still built upon 'Year One.' If this series isn't my favourite programme of the year, and I even liked the Affleck film, then I'm going to cry real tears.

  • I suspect they'll reference Black Widow somehow, but I doubt she'll be in it, unfortunately. The trailer references both Iron Man and Thor, so it would odd if they didn't avail themselves of the opportunity for a namedrop if both Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter managed it.

  • JustStark

    Oh, right, I didn't watch that one. All I know about what happened in it is what was in Marvel's Agents of SHIELD.

    Well there you go then. Super-secret spy thing blown.

    (Does she have a superhero schtick without the super-secret spy thing, or is she now just basically Emma Peel wit a dye job?)

  • Might do. But different audiences, long tails, different release windows, blah blah blah. I imagine there'll be fewer successes but it'll keep going for a while, as long as the scripts are good enough for the audiences

  • Tis a complicated question, since there's the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) Black Widow and there's the comic book Black Widow and what's established for one contradicts the other.

    Comic book Black Widow is actually almost as old as Captain America, having taken a sort of Russian equivalent of the 'supersoldier serum' that gives her long life, as well as acrobatic skills as well.

    That's sort of contradicted for MCU Black Widow, since Captain America 2 gives her birth date as being in the 1980s. But at the same time, she's also supposed to have been in the KGB, which meant she would have to have achieved super-spy status by the age of about 8. Coupled with the fact that in common with the comic book Black Widow she's supposed to have been brainwashed at some point (scenes in the trailer for Avengers 2 echo the comic book Black Widow's back story), and it's entirely possible it might turn out that MCU Black Widow has the same backstory as the comic book Black Widow but may not remember it at the moment.

    Generally, though, super spy in terms of skillset and acrobatic martial arts abilities. No super, super powers like Thor and co, though.

  • JustStark

    No super, super powers like Thor and co, though

    And not even a schtick like 'archery'? Poor her.

  • She's good at all weapons, not just archery, as well as martial arts, which makes her less one-note.

    Plus there's the spy thing, too – the middle section of Captain America 2 is effectively a Black Widow spy movie, since it's all about her using her skills to protect CA, find out what the baddies have been up to, capture the baddies, interrogate the baddies, and so on. Subtler skills, but if you compare with Iron Man 3 and Tony Stark's spying skills, you'll see who has the edge…

  • JustStark

    Hm, I'm not sure anybody goes to see superhero movies for the scripts…

    But anyway, looking at past performance I reckon there's an audience for about four of what I'll call 'blockbuster superhero' movies in a year: these are ones where the primary draw is the effects, and they are based on either known properties with a long history that non-geeks might have heard of at least in passing (your Captain Americas, your Thors, your Spider- and Batmen) or which are promoted by tying into one of those kinds of franchises (but basically the only one in this category is Guardians of the Galaxy).

    In years where there are more than that is where you start getting flops.

    Now so far there hasn't been a big, tentpole, superhero movie flop. The ones that have had massive amounts of money sunk into them have always managed to make it back. Sometimes many times over Avengers Assemble, sometimes only just (Man of Steel, the second of the new Spider-Man cycle) but the only ones to really flop have been the ones that were already considered risky and so didn't have huge budgets: the Green movies of 2011 (Lantern and Hornet).

    So anyway looking at the release schedules, I think that the studios have noticed this too (and that's why Spider-Man is currently on hold and its spin-offs have been cancelled).

    But it looks like the real crash is going to come in 2017, with no less than five tent-pole superhero movies announced (according this here web page what I am reading): The Wolverine 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Wonder Woman, Fantastic 4 2* and Thor 3.

    I predict that at least one of those will flop big, and that will cause all the studios to suddenly re-assess the amount of risk a superhero film is. At the moment I think they are perceived as being essentially zero risk (ie, will always at least make their money back) provided you pick the right budget level for the cultural penetration of the property (ie, don't spend the budget of The Avengers on Ant Man), but once that changes — and all it will take is one big flop — expect to see a sever reigning-in of the superhero fad.

    * Not to be confused with the superhero sporting movie Fantastic 4-4-2

  • JustStark

    She's good at all weapons, not just archery, as well as martial arts, which makes her less one-note

    Yes, but a superhero needs a thing, don't they? A schtick. A high, as it were, concept. A way you can explain them in one short sentence that indicates why they are unique.

    (It doesn't have to be their super-powers, either; for Captain America it's just basically there in his name: he's, you know, Captain America, all patriotic and truth-and-justicy and stuff.)

  • I think the scripts do matter. That's the reason why Spider-Man 2 and Man of Steel didn't do great – largely, people didn't like the stories. Those are both not Marvel films, too, and the reason Spider-Man 3 is on hold is that Sony, which had the rights to the character, basically gave them back to Marvel in exchange for a chunk of future profits, on the general grounds that they didn't know how to do the character properly, whereas Marvel did, and would therefore be more likely to create a good (ie profitable) movie. That's why Spider-man is going to be in Captain America 3, possibly The Avengers 3/4. I forget where the solo movie might then come in the schedule.

    Green Hornet and Green Lantern were both DC, too, of course. And were terrible movies, both in and of themselves but also as superhero movies.

  • Something unique? Like 'Russian super-spy master of disguise'? Unless you can think of another one, of course.

    Captain America's stick is also essentially Superman's stick, of course, but that's DC vs Marvel, for you. (cf Wonder Woman and Thor)

  • JustStark

    Something unique? Like 'Russian super-spy master of disguise'? Unless you can think of another one, of course

    I can if you take out 'Russian' (the Scarlet Pimpernel, or anybody from Mission: Impossible, for example) and to be honest I didn't even know the character was Russian until you just told me; she certainly doesn't have an accent in any of the films I've seen with her in.

    I'm just saying that as a superhero she's quite hard to get a handle on*; of all the ones in Avengers Assemble, for example, she's the one where you can't grab an obvious unique concept and go, 'oh yes that's her “thing”' (unlike, say, 'Norse god', 'high-tech armoured suit', 'bow', 'turns into a monster, and, as mentioned, Captain America).

    (And even 'bow' is pretty crappy, now I come to think of it.)

    * no don't go there

  • “I can if you take out 'Russian' “

    So don't take out the Russian. It's kind of why I put it in there. Of course, if I took out from Captain America that he was American and a Captain, he wouldn't be, well, anything, would he?

    The Russian bit is pretty integral. As is the spying. The master of disguise bit you could probably lose, but it's an epic bit of Captain America 2 so I don't want to.

    “I didn't even know the character was Russian until you just told me”

    You didn't realise that she was Russian? Natasha Romanoff? Who in Iron Man 2 is said to speak Russian? Who speaks Russian during the entire interrogation scene at the start of The Avengers? Who says to Loki “I'm Russian… or I used to be” later on in the same movie? Who used to work for the KGB, worked in Afghanistan, knows Soviet rifling marks and who has former colleagues in Kiev in Captain America 2?

    Okey doke.

    As for lack of accent, she was a sleeper agent trained from childhood to speak with an American accent cf Marvel's Agent of Carter. She'd be a crap spy for the KGB if she sounded Russian…

    But yes, she's not as 'High Concept' when standing next to Thor, Iron Man et al. But it's a lot clearer what her High Concept is in Captain America 2 since it's largely a movie that contrasts her with Captain America, showing her ruthlessness, willingness to kill, fighting style, spy skills, duplicitousness, MCU youthfulness, etc, with Captain America's clear cut morality, soldiering skills and so on.

    Avengers 2 is supposed to do similar things and expand her character more. But that's only a month away, so we'll see if that's true or not very soon.

    Of all the Marvel Avengers movie, Captain America 2 is my favourite. It's not flawless, but it's a really different beast from the other movies, a lot harder edged. That's the reason the Russo Brothers are being lined up to direct Avengers 3/4.

  • Gareth Williams

    Are Thor and Iron Man mentioned? I don't do trailers. Spoilers. I find that a little odd, I thought the Netflix shows were going to be self-contained.

  • JustStark

    Right, but all that is the sort of thing you already have to be into Marvel movies to know. It doesn't help people who don't follow Marvel movies that closely (who don't watch all of them, and who don't necessarily pick up on every line of the ones they do see) work out what her deal is.

    Whereas, you don't need to have seen a single Marvel movie to get 'he's Thor, ie Norse god of same name' or 'he wears a suit of high-tech armour with lots of built-weapons'.

    And the successful non-Marvel superheroes are just as easily explainable: 'he's really strong and he flies', 'he climbs walls like a spider', 'they're a metaphor for gay people'.

    (The only one that's really hard to explain is the Batman; 'billionaire who dresses up in a bat costume to fight crime' just isn't that instantly-gettable a concept. I think, frankly, that the success of Batman as a franchise is pretty much down to cultural memory of the '60s TV series, with Tim Burton giving it the booster shot and not the high concept of a Batman movie is not so much to do with the character as the tone, 'this is the dark angsty superhero', which is instantly gettable (and note that despite Batman being possibly the highest-earning single superhero, Marvel haven't tried to muscle in on that tone, possibly because they know that that ground is already occupied).

    Like I say, it's not a problem unique to her: 'he's really good at archery, no, like really good' is pretty crappy too, though at least that's something to get a grip on.

    Why does it matter? Well, because people's decisions as to whether to go see a film can't (kind of by definition) be based on stuff that is in the film, they have to be based on what they hear about the film beforehand (from publicity, reviewers, friends) and so a superhero or superheroine who doesn't have an easily-explainable high concept is not going to be as easy to sell to people (which is probably why films like Green Lantern (too complicated to explain) or The Green Hornet (I still have no idea who he is) are the ones which flop.

    Ant Man will be an interesting test case: obscure character, but really easily gettable high concept.

  • JustStark

    Not by name, just 'the guy with the magic hammer'.

  • 'Maybe if he had an iron suit or a magic hammer, that would explain why you keep getting your asses handed to you.'

  • The idea of the 'one line high concept that explains the character' isn't without merits and does have lots of followers – the recent reboot by Brian Azzarello of Wonder Woman to make her the daughter of Zeus and the Amazon queen Hippolyta, rather than magic clay endowed with powers by five Greek gods and goddesses and given the soul of the unborn daughter of the pre-reincarnated Hippolyta is founded on that very idea that a character needs that simplicity to become well known and understood.
    However, it's not one that works well necessarily with movies – or at least not in the same way. People didn't go to watch Iron Man in their droves because it was 'billionaire builds himself a flying metal armoured suit to fight terrorists'. They went because it was Robert Downey Jr. in that suit and being entertaining. People _didn't_ go to see Thor (or even Thor 2) in their droves at all because Thor was Chris Hemsworth who isn't quite the screen presence of Downey, and because the scripts and action weren't as good.
    Same with Captain America. And how many people (outside the U.S.) really understood what Captain America was all about as a character? And how about the Incredible Hulk? Easy concept surely yet two failed movies. Same with the latest Spider-man.
    So what's the high concept with a Black Widow movie? Scarlett Johansson playing that character literally hundreds of millions of people already know about, with guns. Should be more than enough if you believe Luc Besson and Lucy seems to have proved the point. But add on a decent Marvel script and we venture into even higher concept.
    I share your concerns about Ant-Man, but Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and a decent script might help a lot there. Dr Strange has got Benedict Cumberbatch and magic.
    TBH I think that the success of Guardians of the Galaxy (does that even have a high concept?) only shows that you don't really need a high concept at all, just a good, fun script and plenty of good action scenes.

  • JustStark

    the recent reboot by Brian Azzarello of Wonder Woman to make her the daughter of Zeus and the Amazon queen Hippolyta, rather
    than magic clay endowed with powers by five Greek gods and goddesses and
    given the soul of the unborn daughter of the pre-reincarnated Hippolyta
    is founded on that very idea that a character needs that simplicity to
    become well known and understood

    I'm not sure that's the same thing exactly: the high concept of Wonder Woman is surely 'the female version of Superman'?

    (To address two points I'm sure you'd make otherwise:

    (a) Supergirl is quite specifically not the female version of Superman, as evidenced by the 'girl' part of her name: she's supposed to be a kid. She's the female version of Superboy.

    (b) Yes, I know that the original creator of Wonder Woman didn't intend for her to be a female version of Superman, and that there have been periods of time when the character has had other high concepts, but nevertheless, now, and in every translation to movies or TV, 'female version of Superman' has been the concept, often even down to giving her a Clark Kent secret identity with glasses).

    Stuff like the background isn't part of the high concept: 'sent from space by his parents when their world was destroyed' is not part of Superman's high concept. 'He's super-strong and he flies' is Superman's high concept.

    They went because it was Robert Downey Jr. in that suit and being entertaining

    I think there's a bit of hindsight blindness going on there. pre-Iron Man, Downey wasn't exactly a Will Smith or a Tom Cruise whose mere presence could open a movie; he was just a jobbing actor, no longer a leading man if he'd ever been one. Clearly once people got through the doors of the cinema and saw him they were charmed by his performance, but that's not what got them into the cinema in the first place.

    (I'm fairly sure most of them went for the special effects. I know I did).

    Same with Captain America. And how many people (outside the U.S.) really understood what Captain America was all about as a character? And how about the Incredible Hulk? Easy concept surely yet two failed movies. Same with the latest Spider-man

    I think there's an element of Spider-man fatigue going on there… but clearly just a high concept isn't enough, but I do think that if a superhero can't be summed up to normal people in a simple image so they 'get' them then your movie is on to a loser. That is, a gettable high concept is not sufficient for a hit but it is necessary.

    Without a high concept that normal people can grasp instantly, you are restricting your movie to people who are willing to put a bit of effort into understanding what it's about, which is to say, the kind of geeks who already buy comic books. And that demographic isn't really big enough to earn back the budget of a big tentpole superhero effects-fest.

    So what's the high concept with a Black Widow movie? Scarlett Johansson playing that character literally hundreds of millions of people already know about, with guns

    That's not the high concept for a Black Widow movie: that's the high concept for any Scarlett Johansson-led action movie, and I wouldn't be surprised if we get one. But I very much doubt that you'd get a noticeably better box office from 'Scarlett Johansson playing Black Widow' than you would from just 'Scarlett Johansson in a random action movie' (and the, from what I understand from people who've seen it unexplainable in any other way given how truly atrocious a film it is, success of Lucy suggests I am right: the draw of a Black Widow movie would be Johansson and only Johansson, not the character).

    Dr Strange has got Benedict Cumberbatch

    Who, remember, could be picked out of a line-up by a number of Americans that is statistically equal to zero. He's not a draw.

    I think that the success of Guardians of the Galaxy (does that even have a high concept?) only shows that you don't really need a high concept at all

    I think the high concept of Guardians of the Galaxy was 'Marvel do a sci-fi action comedy' (which I think it is, rather than a superhero movie, really), and it only really worked because Marvel have built up their brand to the point where people will go see that. If you had released the exact same movie before Marvel had made such a name for themselves — in 2008, say — I expect it would have flopped.

  • “I'm not sure that's the same thing exactly: the high concept of Wonder Woman is surely 'the female version of Superman’?”
    No. The high(est) concept of Wonder Woman is ‘a wondrous woman’. That’s why she’s a feminist icon, on the cover of Ms magazine, on merchandising, etc – it’s not because women wanted Superman in pink, it’s because they want an exemplar of womanhood. It’s one of the reasons she’s so popular with gay men as well. You have mentioned Supergirl, but there’s a reason there’s no Superwoman, and that Supergirl isn’t an icon in the same way as Wonder Woman.

    Sure, there were aspects of Superman in Wonder Woman there in things like the secret identity and the 'unobtainable other’, but not much. Ask anyone what they know about Wonder Woman and it’s going to be ‘golden lasso of truth’, ‘bullets and bracelets' and maybe ‘Paradise Island’, not ‘Diana Prince’ or ‘secret identity’. And none of those things stem from Superman.

    (On a side note, there have, of course, only been two, live-action versions of Wonder Woman on TV or at the movies (that have aired anyway). They both include Diana Prince, but in the first, it’s not a secret identity at all and she doesn’t wear glasses. In neither of them can she fly. None of the animated versions – eg Superfriends, Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, the Wonder Woman movie – have included a Diana Prince character at all AFAIK, Wonder Woman having no secret identity in them. Only in the latter is there a Steve Trevor.)

    I could go on, but I don’t think the Wonder Woman (Greek mythological background with powers given by the Greek gods, Amazon princess growing up on an island entirely populated by women) = female Superman (strange visitor from another planet brought up on a farm in Kansas) concept is sustainable for more than a few seconds’ thought, unless you basically think that ’strong’ is all Superman and Wonder Woman are, at which point you’ve basically shown that any superpowered character of any sex is really just Superman. It’s certainly not the USP you were arguing for as a draw to a movie.

    “Why’d you go to see Man of Steel?”
    Because he’s strong and can fly.

    “Why’d you go to see The Incredible Hulk?”
    Because he’s strong and can jump really high. Like Wonder Woman.

    “Why’d you go to see Iron Man?”
    Because he’s strong _and_ he can fly.

    Not a useful high concept. 'High concepts’ have to be unique and differentiate for them to work.

    (Actually, for both Superman and Wonder Woman, “god-like immigrant metaphor” might work better, although Superman is effectively a naturalised immigrant who defends the values of the society he’s joined, while Wonder Woman is a new arrival, who wants to change those values for the better. It’s one of the reasons that the first Wonder Woman movie with Gal Gadot is (allegedly) going to be set in the 1920s. Again, “Wonder Woman is eternally youthful” is one of those differentiators that doesn’t fit into brief, high concept one-liners, but is still what makes the character different from Superman et al.)

    As you’ve pointed out with Batman, he doesn’t have a _very_ simple high concept; Superman only gets a simple one by virtue of people being familiar with him, but if you actually had to tell someone who knew nothing about him why they should see a Superman movie, you wouldn’t get very far with “strong and can fly” – you’d probably have to throw in “strange visitor from another planet”, “truth, justice and the American way”, “heat vision”, “bullet proof” and so on. All those things are his USP, but they’re not necessarily simple to explain.

    So high concepts only go so far. They work in pitch meetings, they’re the foundation for initial marketing concepts, but everything has to build on top of them to make the characters into something they want to see.

    “They went because it was Robert Downey Jr. in that suit and being entertaining
    I think there's a bit of hindsight blindness going on there”

    If I’d said they went because it was Robert Downey Jr in that suit and left it at that, you’d have a point. But I didn’t.

    People went because it was Robert Downey Jr in that suit and he was being entertaining. To think that people went to see Iron Man because of Iron Man's USP is to have hindsight blindness, because almost no one except comic book fans knew about Iron Man before the movie. It was a huge gamble by Marvel, something on which the company’s entire future lay. They could have led with more famous characters with much more obvious high concepts, such as Captain America, The Incredible Hulk and Thor, by your argument, but chose not to and all those movies did worse box office than Iron Man ($370m, $263m and $449m versus $585m respectively).

    Marvel went for Robert Downey Jr because he would give the right performance and Jon Favreau to make sure the script and direction were suitably _fun_ and _human_. Originally, Tom Cruise was up for the part in what would effectively be the Iron Man 2 script, for star power, but Marvel wanted someone more relatable in a script that was a lot lighter and free of alcoholism.

    Then, because of the performances, a decent script, good special effects and all the other innumerable things that go into making a good movie that people love, good word of mouth and good marketing helped to bring in additional audiences. I don’t think Iron Man is perfect and in many ways it’s quite formulaic; it’s what idiosyncratic about it and that make it different from other movies, especially Downey, that made it become the success it was.

    It’s very much hindsight blindness to believe that superhero movies are some sort of audience catnip. Look at what there was in the decade or so before Iron Man. The big sellers were Batman Begins, the first two X-Men movies and the first two Spider-man movies. In the “utter shambles” pile, there was Superman Returns, Elektra, Daredevil, Hulk, Catwoman, Spider-Man 3 and The Punisher. What was the problem with the latter set, since they all had their own USPs and there was familiarity with the characters in most cases? They had poor scripts. Or lack of spectacle. Or lots of other things.

    “So what's the high concept with a Black Widow movie? Scarlett Johansson playing that character literally hundreds of millions of people already know about, with guns That's not the high concept for a Black Widow movie: that's the high concept for any Scarlett Johansson-led action movie, and I wouldn't be surprised if we get one.

    You see that bit in the middle about “playing that character literally hundreds of millions of people already know about”? That’s the bit you appear to have overlooked there. I also gave you a USP with “Russian superspy master of disguise”. Or I could give you “Marvel does The Bourne Identity”. All of those are readily understandable and fit the very broad definitions you suggest for USPs.

    “I think the high concept of Guardians of the Galaxy was 'Marvel do a sci-fi action comedy ‘“

    Well, that’s not really a high concept at all, is it? If someone uses that to recommend a movie to someone else, they’re almost certainly a movie geek, not a regular person, at which point all requirements for high concept are off, aren’t they?

    Guardians of the Galaxy has no high concept USP. It’s fun, it’s “group of misfits get together in space”, but that’s basically it. Groot has a high concept: he’s a tree who only says one thing – no one’s going to watch a movie based around that. Other than that, there’s a mean raccoon; there’s a slightly inept hero; there’s a kicky woman painted green. Not USPs. Not high concepts.The movie’s success is a simple testament to the virtues of good direction, a good script, good production values, et al.

    But you suggest that now Marvel can stick its name tag on anything and people will watch
    it no matter what, in which case, hooray, there’s no need for anyone to have a high concept definition for characters any more and we can just roll out the Black Widow movie anyway.