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Marvel is expanding its reach to cable and a second broadcast network.
The comic book powerhouse is teaming with FX and Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley to produce Legion, a pilot based on the comic character of the same name. Additionally, Marvel TV and Fox have put in development Hellfire, based on the Marvel comics group ‘The Hellfire Club.’
The Legion pilot introduces the story of David Haller, a man who may be more than human and who has has struggled with mental illness since his teenage years. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. But after a strange encounter with a fellow patient, he’s confronted with the possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees might be real. In the comics, David is the son of X-Men founder Charles Xavier (aka Professor X) and Israeli Holocost survivor Gabrielle Haller. The character first appeared in New Mutants #25 in March 1985.
Legion hails from FX Productions and Marvel Television, with FXP overseeing production. Hawley, who has an overall with FXP, will write the pilot and serve as an executive producer alongside Lauren Shuler Donner (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine), Bryan Singer (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Superman Returns), Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Martian) and Marvel Television topper Jeph Loeb (Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil) and Jim Chory (Daredevil). Fargo‘s John Cameron is also on board as an exec producer, via his overall deal with FXP, marking his and Hawley’s latest collaboration after Golden Globe-winning anthology Fargo.
“Legion is just the sort of ambitious story that Noah excels at,” FX original programming president Nick Grad said. “His adaption of Fargo for television was one of the most acclaimed television events in recent memory. It’s also an honor to partner with Marvel on Legion and to enlist such an accomplished team of executive producers to create this pilot.”
For FX, the Legion pilot comes as the company is exploring the comic book landscape for the second time. The cabler produced multiple pilots based on Powers before ultimately passing on the project. (Sony’s PlayStation subsequently picked up the show and renewed it for a second season.) The cabler on Wednesday also announced that it was adapting one of the most critically acclaimed comics — Brian K. Vaughan‘s Y: The Last Man — as a potential ongoing series. Should Legion go to series, it would put FX on the map with fanboys in a big way as the cabler looks to compete with AMC comic series Preacher, due next year, as well as The Walking Dead and its spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead.
Meanwhile, Fox’s Hellfire — which previously was considered a live-action X-Men — follows a young special agent who learns that a power-hungry woman with extraordinary abilities is working with a clandestine society of millionaires — known as “The Hellfire Club” — to take over the world.
The Marvel Television and 20th Century Fox TV co-production is co-created by 24‘s Evan Katz and Manny Coto, and Star Trek 3 duo Patrick McKay and John D. Payne. McKay and Payne will pen the script for Hellfire, based on a story by Katz, Coto, McKay and Payne. Donner, Singer, Kinberg, Loeb and Chory will executive produce alongside Katz and Coto, who will serve as showrunners.
In the comics, the Hellfire Club often comes into conflict with the X-Men. The group first appeared in Uncanny X-Men in January 1980. Members of the Hellfire Club previously appeared in 2011’s X-Men: First Class, led by villains Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost. They’ve also appeared on the small screen in a pair of X-Men animated series.
“We are thrilled to partner with Marvel to bring this world to television and build upon the vibrant mythology that has captivated fans for years,” Fox Broadcasting Co. president David Madden said. “These powerful and dynamic characters are complicated and larger-than-life, the pace and visual imagination are unrelenting and the story takes place during one of the most explosive eras in recent history. We are so looking forward to working with this incredibly talented team.”
Added 20th TV’s president of creative affairs Jonathan Davis: “Hellfire is a unique opportunity to be able to go deeper with some of these extraordinary characters, but to also dramatize new characters and give TV viewers a chance to experience this expanded world in an explosive way that everyone will be talking about. The action at the center of Hellfire will be dynamic and will satisfy the rabid fans, but that said, newcomers will surely be addicted too!”
Should Hellfire go to series and Fox renew Batman origin story Gotham for a third season, the network would have dramas from both DC Comics and Marvel on its air.
For Marvel Television, meanwhile, Legion and Hellfire help the company grow its small-screen foothold beyond ABC and its Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. While ABC parent Disney owns Marvel, the deal excludes pre-existing licensing deals that allow Fox to produce X-Men feature films, among others.
The Marvel expansion comes as comic book fare continues to be in high demand on broadcast and cable. In addition to Marvel’s pair of ABC dramas, DC Comics adaptations are seemingly everywhere: The CW has Arrow, Flash and Legends of Tomorrow; CBS has Supergirl; Fox has Gotham and the upcoming Lucifer; Syfy is developing Superman prequel Krypton from David Goyer and TNT has Titans, among others in the works.
Marvel, meanwhile, is also teaming with ABC for an Agents of SHIELD spinoff pilot called Marvel’s Most Wanted starring Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood, a comedy called Damage Control as well as a mystery drama from American Crime‘s John Ridley.
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