Could HBO Enter the Marvel Game?


HBO is well-known for its original content, a trend that really kicked into gear with Oz. Even though HBO is able to offer fantasy shows like Game of Thrones — effectively reviving the genre — and political comedies such as Veep, it is painfully behind in a very specific area: superhero shows.

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That is to say, HBO has none. Superheroes are everywhere now, with shows on ABC and multiple series on Netflix. Why not HBO? Netflix’s newest Marvel series, Jessica Jones, begins today, and it further cements Netflix’s superhero domination among premium outlets. HBO has never seen all that keen on taking on the superhero genre, and there could be a  few reasons for that.

Marvel’s superheroes follow certain rules. All of the movies must be PG-13 at the most, and even though Daredevil and Jessica Jones are darker, more rough and tumble affairs, they still mostly fit this mold. To see a Marvel property on HBO would mean playing ball Marvel’s content rules, and that may not be something that HBO is too interested in doing.

Speaking to that, there is a place for the dark superhero. The Christopher Nola Batman movies, specifically the final two (yes, yes, I know it’s DC) opened up the modern floodgate for mature and gritty storytelling. The upcoming Deadpool will even be rated R. A hard R, at that. Still, it took a long time to get to this point.

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From Marvel’s perspective, Netflix might just be a more attractive option. Netflix is cheaper than either a HBO cable subscription or HBO NOW ($15,) creating a lower barrier of entry for viewers. The idea, a the end of the day, is to get the show in front of as many eyes as possible. Netflix can, potentially, better facilitate that than HBO.

This doesn’t mean that HBO is out of the genre altogether. There have been rumblings that HBO is interested in a series based on Watchmen, one of the most famous and well-respected graphic novels of all time. The 2009 film, while serviceable, doesn’t fully scratch the itch. If HBO is going to dip its toes into the superhero world, it makes sense to do so with something different that’s not tied up in a convoluted web of existing mythology like the Marvel properties are.

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While it’s unlikely that there will ever be a Marvel show on HBO, their interest in Watchmen makes it clear that HBO could become the place to watch a different sort of superhero series. It’s going to be a long wait to see how this sharks out, but if there is any potential to see other Alan Moore adaptations on HBO, or perhaps old Vertigo titles, HBO could seriously do some damage in this arena.