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9 Signs That Marvel Television Was Dead

Find out all the signs that Marvel Television was going under. Marvel Television is gone, but its death has been a long time coming. Recently news broke that Marvel Television is closing down and the projects folded into Marvel Studios. For many, it was a shock. But the signs have been there all along.

What is Marvel Television?

Once upon a time, someone decided to create TV shows based on Marvel comic book characters. Marvel licensed a few characters out to different networks under the Marvel Entertainment Group (MEG). Starting way back in the 70s the shows had varying levels of success. The animated shows did better than the live-action ones. The Incredible Hulk ran for five seasons and spawned several made-for-tv movies. Others like Spike TV's live-action Blade starring rapper Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones sputtered and died after a single season in 2006.

The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment in 2009. The next year Marvel Entertainment launched Marvel Television. The division was intended to bring all the live-action and animated television shows under one banner. All under the control of Jeph Loeb. Loeb was a comic book writer who had turned to the world of television. He had hit shows like Heroes, Lost, and Smallville under his belt and was given a huge task. Loeb would oversee the development and distribution of live-action, animated and direct-to-DVD series.

1. Agent Coulson

Movie still of Avengers (2012) Coulson death / Clark Gregg

All seemed well and everyone was excited about the possibilities. Marvel Studios had a hit with Iron Man a few years before and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was coming together. In 2012 ABC greenlit Agents of SHIELD continuing the adventures of the top-secret spy agents featured in the movies and comic books. The show included the surprise appearance of Agent Phil Coulson played by Clark Gregg. Surprising because he had just been killed by Loki in Marvel's The Avengers that same year.

It seemed like the first chip in the show's tagline "It's All Connected". Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed Marvel's The Avengers was one of the showrunners, directors, and writers of the series agreed. But even he agreed that the television division was only loosely connected to the movies.

"The Coulson thing was, I think, a little anomalous just because that really came from the television division, which is sort of considered to be its own subsection of the Marvel universe," Whedon told Mental Floss. "As far as the fiction of the movies, Coulson is dead."

So from the beginning, Marvel Television was considered a "subsection" of the MCU. Not a full-fledged member.

2. Few Movie Actors

Another big sign that the shows weren't tied closely to the shows was the guest stars. Fans expected to see the movie actors on the show, but that never really happened. In season one four big stars cameo on the show Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández), and Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander). It was a good start although Fury only shows up for a few minutes in two episodes. Probably all they could get for a television budget.

Season two had another handful of fine but less-well-known actors with the exception of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) who would go on to star in her own ABC series. But Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan (Neal McDonough), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi), and Doctor List (Henry Goodman) were there.

After that, the number dropped to zero with the exception of President Matthew Ellis (William Sadler) in season three.

Meanwhile Agent Carter, the spin-off of Captain America: The First Avenger and had three guest stars from the MCU. Anton Vanko (Costa Ronin), Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan (Neal McDonough, and Arnim Zola (Toby Jones).

It seemed the shows just couldn't bring in the star power fans of the movies were expecting. But then it got worse.

3. MCU Storylines

At first, the Marvel Television shows were considered to be connected to the movies. The first season was heavily influenced by the events in Avengers and the alien Chitauri battle in New York. When Thor: The Dark World was released they did a special episode acknowledging the characters and storyline from the movie. But that shifted after Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

After Winter Soldier the show had to shift to the reality that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been dissolved and banned. Jed Whedon and Jeph Loeb acknowledged it in an interview saying that they couldn't be slaves to the MCU timeline. "In Season [one], when we first started, we could not say the word Hydra," Whedon told Entertainment Weekly. "We were forbidden to say Hydra because Hydra was hiding in S.H.I.E.L.D. We had bad guys happening, and we had what looked like a bunch of different things going on, but we were not allowed to say was the word Hydra, until after Captain America came out."

By the time Avengers: Endgame was released they decided to bypass the storyline altogether. By the sixth season, Whedon called it a "liberated feeling" to be able to tell stories without connecting to the movies.

So Marvel Television went from "it's all connected" to "it's not connected, thank goodness".

4. Inhumans

One of Kevin Feige's biggest planned projects was Inhumans. The comic book characters are people who have ancient genetic markers. People with that genetic code are given superhuman powers when exposed to "Terrragon Mists".

Back in 2011, Feige said the Inhumans were one of his dream projects including the superteam. "Inhumans is cool, they're really great characters," he told Entertainment Weekly. "The most powerful guy is the king who doesn't say a word and if he does — lookout. That's awesome. And the notion of the Terrigen Mists, this notion that you go through and don't know what you're going to be on the other side, is incredibly compelling dramatically. In other words, all the craziness that comes with Inhumans, we've done in the other movies already, but this would have some of the social drama that we haven't really done yet. [Fox's] X-Men, obviously, has been touching on that stuff for a while."

At the time Fox owned the mutants and Marvel decided to use the Inhumans as a way of getting around the rights. A big-budget movie was planned but eventually got moved to Marvel Television for a series. Then it was released and completely bombed. Kevin Feige's dream project became a laughing stock for the company and one of their few failures.

Feige is so upset about it that when a reporter tried to bring it up he avoided the subject by comically pretending the line was bad. Jeph Loeb ruined one of Feige's dream projects and doomed Marvel Television.

5. Ike Perlmutter

Once upon a time, Marvel Studios was under Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter. Feige worked for him and he was over Marvel television as well. They both were under the same umbrella. But all was not rosy. According to several reports, Perlmutter and Feige clashed repeatedly. Everything came to a head in 2016. 

According to Hollywood Reporter Perlmutter wasn't happy with the budget of Captain America: Civil War. The movie has a huge cast and the cost of hiring big-name actors like Chris Evens and Robert Downey Jr was straining the budget. Perlmutter is notoriously careful with money (ie. cheap) and wanted to cut some of the costs of the film down. HR says one insider said, "New York wanted to scale it down." "New York" was code for Perlmutter and his "creative committee."  

Feige got so mad about the tinkering with the movie he threatened to quit. He's responsible for some of the studio's greatest hits and so Disney CEO Bob Iger stepped in and approved a reorganization to have Feige reporting to Disney Studios chief Alan Horn. That reorg set up Marvel Studio's creative disconnect from Marvel Television. They no longer had a reason to use the division to tell MCU stories. 

It was followed in October with Kevin Feige being promoted to chief creative officer for all of Marvel's live-action, television and animation. 

6. Disney+

The biggest sign that Marvel Television was dying was the launch of Disney's new streaming service. Soon after it was announced that Disney+ would have several live-action original servers based in the MCU it became clear that Marvel Television would be redundant.

Soon after that, the dominos began to fall.

7. Netflix Canceled Marvel Shows

Meanwhile, on the streaming network Netflix, several live-action shows were released by Marvel Television including Daredevil and Luke Cage. They were popular and had some connections to the movies. But just like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. nothing that happened affected the movies. None of the characters crossed over to the MCU.

Then seemingly without warning the shows were canceled. Some thought Marvel had pressured them to cancel the shows to make room for Disney+. Jeph Loeb clarified that it was 100% Netflix's decision to cancel the shows.

But why cancel the shows? Because Disney+ and Netflix were now competitors in the streaming space. It didn't make sense to produce content that would be sidelined and usurped by Disney. Plus, the licensing costs for the shows were expensive and Netflix didn't have any ownership stake in any of the six Marvel shows. That was the most immediate sign Marvel television was going down.

8. Other Shows Followed

After Netflix dropped Marvel Television several other shows followed in quick succession. Freeform dropped Cloak & Dagger after season two. FX ended Legion after season three. The planned Ghost Rider series starring Gabriel Luna on Hulu was dropped as well.

The biggest twist on Ghost Rider is that although Luna played  Robbie Reyes on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it was always going to be disconnected from the timeline of the show. Finally, it was announced that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the one that started it all was ending in the sixth season. The division was already being sidelined but now projects were being shuttered.

9. Jeph Loeb Leaving

After ten years running Marvel Television, the studio announced Jeph Loeb would be leaving Marvel Television in late October. Deadline reported several insiders said Kevin Feige's promotion to the chief creative officer for all of Marvel was a "sharp-elbow move" to Loeb. He would now be reporting to Feige and already no creative input on the new Marvel television shows. 

The handwriting was on the wall for Loeb and one insider said, "Jeph has been thinking about making a change for a while, and now seemed the right time to take that step."

A little while after that Disney announced that Marvel Television was being folded into Marvel Studios and existing shows incorporated into the division.

Happy trails Marvel Television. You had grand hopes and dreams for ten years and we hardly knew ye.

About the Author
Maurice Mitchell has been a passionate science-fiction fan of movies, television, books, and comics since age five. He and his twin brother Nigel created the site "The Geek Twins" to share that passion. Maurice has written and created infographics for sites like The Geek Twins and About.com. His work has been featured on sites like Business Insider, io9 Slashfilm and more.
Read more of his posts | Follow him on Twitter @Mauricem1972 

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