The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) sits at the number one spot on the list of highest grossing movie franchises ever. The heroics of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Dr. Strange and The Guardians of the Galaxy have resonated with people all over the globe. And even as more heroes head to the big screen there is a group of characters literally waiting to be unleashed! They come from a land where monsters dwell, roaming the dead of night. These supernatural, strange, astonishing tales of monsters on the prowl are dying to bring you…The Marvel Creature Universe!
Ever since Buffy The Vampire Slayer arrived on the small screen, the horror genre has risen to take a place alongside sit-coms, police shows, and medical dramas on mainstream television. Previously, horror shows were few and far between and horror was mostly represented in anthology shows such as The Outer Limits, Tales From The Darkside, and Night Gallery. Horror shows outside of the anthologies were extremely rare. The most notable horror dramas were 1960’s Dark Shadows and the 70’s The Night Stalker, both produced by the master of the macabre, Dan Curtis (who also gave us the unforgettable Zuni Warrior doll in Trilogy of Terror). Dark Shadows ran for five years on ABC daytime. A lavish revival of the show that recreated the first year and a half of the soap was made for prime time on NBC in 1991 starring Ben Cross (Chariots of Fire) as the cursed vampire Barnabus Collins. An important footnote: before Dark Shadows vampires had always been portrayed as monsters. They were never characters people would identify with. They were mean and they killed to sustain their life. Barnabas Collins was the first vampire portrayed as a sympathetic character. He was a tortured soul…cursed to be a vampire by the evil witch Angelique. He was saddened and repulsed by the acts he committed. This change in the portrayal of vampires altered the mythology forever. The tortured soul vampire became the new norm. Morbius The Living Vampire is an example of this new type of vampire. Both Anne Rice (Interview With the Vampire) and Charlaine Harris (The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries aka True Blood) cite Dark Shadows as an inspiration.
In the early 70’s, a TV movie called The Night Stalker became the highest rated movie of it’s time and it spawned a sequel, The Night Strangler which also did very well in the ratings. A series followed which lasted just under a season. When the FOX network arrived in the eighties to challenge the Big Three networks, one of their first series was a half hour drama called Werewolf which starred Eric York and Chuck Connors. While the werewolf looked pretty neat, its mouth was fixed open and after awhile looked rather silly. The show came and went and is hardly remembered today. The first sign the tide was changing for horror TV came on another FOX show, The X-Files which was inspired by The Night Stalker according to creator Chris Carter. The show was a hit and featured terror tales and monster chasing mixed in with alien abductions. Then as the century was winding down, the fledgling 5th network, The WB, took a chance on a serious toned remake of a comedy called Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Written and directed by the original movie’s creator Joss Whedon, Buffy The Vampire Slayer became an enormous hit that nobody saw coming.
Buffy was a breath of fresh air. The show was able to pull in younger audiences and old alike and that hardest to please group: the critics. It was a horror show, a super hero show, a drama, a comedy…it covered it all. One of the best episodes was “The Body” in which Buffy must deal with the death of her mother. There were no vampires or werewolves or monsters (except a 10 second spot at the end) and played out strictly as drama. They even had a full musical episode…probably the best of the mini-trend of musical episodes of television series. After season 3, Buffy begat a spin-off, Angel which ran for 5 seasons. The WB, seeing success with vampires and a loyal young adult audience decided to give witches a shot with a show called Charmed (which is among a plethora of old shows being resurrected this fall even as a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer series is in the works). At long last Horror had found its niche and networks were willing to give horror shows a shot. Mostly these shows thrived on the newcomer networks like FOX, The WB, UPN and The CW. The longest running horror series ever, Supernatural, is now in its 14th season on The CW. But we’ve reached the point where some of the monster shows have begun to wane. The Vampire Diaries (eight seasons) and its spin-off The Originals (five seasons). Teen Wolf howls no more. The Exorcist only scared up 2 seasons and Sleepy Hollow is gone after 4 seasons.
Marvel Comics had had a long history of creating fascinating and original horror characters. Once the Comics Code lessened some of its restrictions in the seventies — previously, comics were forbidden from using the undead, vampires, zombies (which Marvel skirted around by calling zombies “zuvembies”) — Marvel came charging out with Werewolf By Night, Ghost Rider, Son of Satan, the Living Mummy, The Golem, It! The Living Colosus and the award winning Tomb of Dracula which introduced Blade The Vampire Killer who went on to star in a trilogy of films which were precursors of the super hero wave that began in 2000 with The X-Men. But the only other character from Marvels vault of horror characters to make it to the movies was Ghost Rider who had 2 films starring Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze. Most recently after the poor box office returns on Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance, the rights to Ghost Rider returned to Marvel and another incarnation of The Ghost Rider, one who drives a car, joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (along with Marvel’s own Necronomicon, The Darkhold).
The time is ripe now for Marvel to unleash their legion of monsters on the small screen!
Werewolf By Night a perfect show for the Freeform crowd and fans of Teen Wolf. Jack Russel discovers he has a lycanthropic heritage when he turns into a wolf man on his 18th birthday. In his search for a cure Jack can run across demonologist Daimon Hellstrom, do battle with the Frankenstein Monster, team up with the Ghost Rider or go head to head with Moon Knight. As he learns the origin of his curse, the Darkhold can be brought into the picture leading into the spin-off…….
Darkhold: The Book of Sins Victoria Montessi is tasked with the safe keeping of the Darkhold. When danger comes calling, she decides to smuggle the book out of Europe and engages the help of defrocked priest Gabriel and his charge, a young empath named Topaz. The trio plus S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Frank Drake take refuge in Citrusville, Florida, the last place they think anyone will look for them and a place whose mystical essence Victoria hopes will mask the energies of the Darkhold. This series could have the legend of the Man-Thing looming in the background but keep the creature unseen except brief glimpses spread throughout the show until down the line they do a full Man-Thing episode (keeping him in his comic book form!). This series could serve as a hub where other supernatural characters can guest star such as Daimon Hellstrom. his sister Satana, the Scarecrow painting, even the Living Mummy or The Golem. By making Frank Drake a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent a solid link to the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be established but the monsters can remain in the shadows. Also with Drake, they can expand on rumors of Dracula and, eventually, just like the lead up they had to The Avengers, Marvel can adapt…..
The Tomb of Dracula While the best way to adapt Tomb of Dracula would be to stay as faithful as possible to the Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan comic, we’ve seen Marvel isn’t much into staying faithful to the comics with their TV shows. One acceptable change would be to somehow get Dracula set in the United States. That should reduce production costs. They should keep the cast the same although if there were to be the Darkhold series as outlined above a suitable replacement for Frank Drake would be needed, We’ve been caught up in a very long run of beautiful, virulent vampires so a return to the vampire monster should be kept as this was how Dracula was represented in the comic. Set Dracula up in a grand estate where he can begin a quest for the Darkhold. Reintroduce Blade the Vampire Killer but keep him a little more close to his roots as opposed to the Wesley Snipes version. He could be a recurring guest star but not a series regular. The Lord of the Vampires can have flashbacks to the 500 years of his existence. With so much time to work with, introducing the Frankenstein Monster, the Living Mummy and the Golem would work well in this series. Most important: keep the traditional vampire mythology which means no walking around in sunlight with or without magical rings. Marvel could actually revive the golden age of the Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s. In our current time the old would be new again and Marvel has already shown they can pay homage to the early days of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Mummy with their vault of horror comics that were so popular in the 70’s.
So, there you have it….three shows that could form the basis for a Marvel Creature Universe that could showcase so many monstrous characters and expand the Marvel Brand. Now is the time to strike and unleash Marvel’s Legion of Monsters!
MCU…Marvel Creature Universe
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