Doc Sees Hellfire In the Near Future

“Dear Doc Curmudgeon” is a column by Clint McElroy made up of completely fabricated responses to mostly fabricated questions. But you knew that due to your discerning nature and brilliant mind which would never fall for a columnist trying to butter you up…unless you’re into that.

Dear Doc Curmudgeon,

A bunch of us were sitting around the station yesterday laughing about how you used to buy two TV Guides every week. You’d store one copy and use a highlighter on the other one to know what shows you were going to watch and record to watch later. Ha-ha-ha-ha! That was the funniest thing EVER! You’re not still doing that, are you?


The Rockin’ Jocks of the WKEE Morning Carnival

Go ahead. Laugh it up. When Armageddon breaks out and the devastating EMP’s render all of your fancy-schmancy electronics useless, you’ll all come crying to me to find out what Shonda Rhimes has up her sleeve.’

It is true, I have a vest TV Guide collection and have saved them all. I feed this addiction with a subscription and as soon as it hits the mailbox at the Curmudgeon Compound I read it cover-to-cover.


In the most recent issue, cover-dated October-26 through November 8th, 2015 (With Melissa Benoist on the cover as Supergirl), Michael Schneider has a troubling story about negotiations to bring the X-Men to television. At least, it is troubling to me.

Schneider describes more than a year of “painstaking back and forth talks between Marvel and 21st Century Fox”. The end result being the announcement of two X-Shows: ‘Legion’ for FX, and ‘Hellfire’ for Fox.


‘Legion’ tells the story of David Haller. Well, it tells A story of David Haller. We know David/Legion as the Omega-Level son of Charles Xavier. In the reality we are familiar with, he became a God-like psionic with Multiple Personalities, and the personalities had powers of their own. You know, the kind of character you build a 12-issue arc about. This TV version sounds a little different.

We’ll come back to that.


‘Hellfire’, not surprisingly, will be about the Hellfire Club.

The Hellfire Club and Legion? Really? At last count there were about seven and a half ba-jillion characters in the X-Men Universe, and those were the ones they chose?

Because they don’t want to do “Comic Book” shows.

Just because they are taking the inspiration from comics doesn’t mean they are crafting a series of stories that look, feel, or are told like comic book stories. Take it from a wise old sage like me, TV and movie studios haven’t always stormed the gates of comic publishers to get these characters.

And most of the time, when they did, they went to great lengths to shoehorn the characters and stories into loafers they understood and were familiar with.

The Marvel Phase One movies changed that. These were true comic book movies. The term ‘comic book’ was a derogatory term for a very long time, equating them with childish, over-the-top storytelling. When “Iron-Man’, “Captain America”, and the Avengers movies came out, (or more accurately, the box office receipts from those movies), that derogatory term transformed into a phrase on every studio suit’s lips, as in: “I don’t care what it is, get me a comic book movie!”

Movies and TV shows based on comics became uber-important.

And that should scare you more than anything else.

I am afraid I see the closing of the brief window where the people making comic book movies and shows…Got It. I think we are shifting back into a period where studios and networks want comics-inspired shows…but they don’t want them to feel like comic books.

Schneider reports that the writers of Hellfire are a couple of guys who worked on ‘Star Trek 3’, Patrick McKay and JD Payne, and the showrunners will be Evan Katz and Manny Coto from ‘24’.

Four extremely talented folks. However,  I’m not seeing a lot of comic connections there (other than the fact that both Star Trek and 24 have been adapted into comics), but I suppose, at least, you could make a case for them being genre-adjacent.

As for ‘Legion’ Schneider says FX wants Noah Hawley (Who adapted ‘Fargo’ into the current series for FX) to ramrod the series about David Haller. Hmmm, interesting choice. Especially when you read this quote in the Schneider piece, by Noah Hawley–

“I’m not a huge comic person.”

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m sure these shows will be good. Hell, they’d have to be better than “Dr. Ken” and “Big Brother” (Unless you combined those two…hmm..). But I predict we are getting into a period where Networks and Studios are going to take titles and as little characterization and plots as they possibly can from the comics and produce shows and films in genres they understand like cop shows, medical shows, dramas, etc. They’re all about control.

I enjoy ‘Gotham’. It has an amazing cast, good writing, and spectacular production values. I watch it because I enjoy a good cop show. That’s what it is. A good cop show. Maybe I am piling blasphemy upon blasphemy, but using character names and locations from the Batman Universe, doesn’t mean you are telling Batman Universe stories. And maybe that’s okay.

Are you a Bat-fan? I’d really like your honest opinion about Gotham. Post a comment below, because we WILL talk about this again. This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  (Says the gloomy Gus)

Look, Curmudgeonites, I love this era of television and film because for most of my life I would have killed for a real TV show about comics that told stories the way I read stories in comics. It never happened. Sorry Adam West “Batman”. Sorry Linda Carter “Wonder Woman”. They were fun shows, but never played like comics. Now comics are finally seen as the kind of epic, mythic source material they should have always been, and technology has caught up to tell the stories they way they deserve to be told.

But, I worry. I worry that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming locomotive..and it’s coming fast.

If you loved what you just read, leave a comment, or better yet, send a message to [email protected]. If you didn’t like it, send a message to mxyzptlk@kltpzyxm. Or just follow him on Twitter @doccurm.


Clint McElroy
Clint McElroy

Clint McElroy is a/an (ADJECTIVE) writer with a God-given gift for (NOUN). His favorite activities include (ACTIVE VERB), (ACTIVE VERB), and twisting the heads off of (PLURAL NOUN). He is also rumored to possess an impressive (NOUN).

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Tom Dearing
Tom Dearing
8 years ago

Gotham is a great cop show, but the Batman trappings of it give it a weight that nearly derails the whole thing. As you said, it has all the elements of greatness – great cast, writing and production – but the end result feels incongruous. Sort of like a supergroup of musicians – the sum total is less than the sum of its parts.

The Jerome storyline just about did me in for the series. The actor playing him was fantastic and hammy in the best possible way. But to skirt around with Joker stories only to pull the rug out from under the viewers at the last second. It devalues the “real” stories from the comics and makes the show feel like an empty tease.

However, the Flash is grade-A comic goodness and Agents of SHIELD can be entertaining most of the time. It skirts the same “almost what you want to see” territory that Gotham does, but at least it’s stories are in continuity. Supergirl looks pretty great, too. My daughter is thrilled to watch it. That’s a good thing for a dad to be a part of.

8 years ago

I;m sure that Supergirl cover will sell some TV guides! How many did you buy Doc? Also your madlib bio in the about page had me laughing.

David Harszlak
8 years ago

As a former active collector who quit collecting back sometime around 2001, I have enjoyed many of the adaptations on both TV and in the theaters. One adaptation I did not enjoy too much was Daredevil – the costume was horrible and the scripts were up and down, good one episode, not so good another.

I’ve liked the Flash, Arrow, and now Supergirl because they’ve at least been true to most of the “classic” aspects of the characters, and were they’ve made changes, they’ve been minor ones or dictated by “political correctness’ in order to sell the show (Jimmy Olsen being African American for example), and none of the changes made really hurt those shows.

I disliked the last Superman movie because it was TOO DARK – Superman is not supposed to be DARK! Or GRIMM or GRITTY. The previews for the new Batman Vs Superman look equally as dark, and I get the feeling that I’m not going to care too much for it based on what I’ve seen so far. I got this same feeling with the Fantastic Four movie that recently bombed, so I’m not too optimistic, although I’ll probably see it – I didn’t waste my money on Fantastic Four.

I get the feeling that the people in charge at Warner Brothers are stuck in the late Eighties and early Nineties when comics like the Punisher were all the rage, and movies like Death Wish ruled the box office. Someone needs to tell these people that it’s 2015 not 1985.

Agents Of SHIELD is much like Daredevil, there are as many good episodes as there are bad ones, and it’s connection to the movies gets flimsier and flimsier with each episode. Would it kill them to actually show a costumed hero in a series of episodes? The Marvel Universe is FULL of minor heroes that could appear on this series – example: Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Blazing Skull, Patriot, Spirit Of ’76, Hellcat, Tigra, and Golden Age characters such as Moon Man, Fiery Mask, Phantom Reporter, the list goes on and on. There’s also many other characters that could appear on this series which could also improve it such as Dakota North, Colleen Wing, or Misty Knight. as well. The Marvel Universe is rich with interesting characters, and all we get are second rate C & D stringers in this series. The producers of this series need to watch a few episodes of Flash & Arrow to get a better idea of what this show should be like!

As for Gotham – I didn’t even bother to watch it. Why? NO BATMAN! I don’t give a flying fig about the stupid villains! What’s the point about having a show based in the Batman Universe – IF BATMAN ISN’T IN IT? Oh, we get a pre-teen Bruce Wayne – BIG WHUP! I don’t care about a bratty Bruce Wayne before he became Batman, I want the REAL THING! A TV version of Batman doesn’t have to be campy or even “super dark” like the movies, it just has to be true to the source material – just look at what they did with Arrow – they could do the same thing with Batman! Dark enough to be true to the source material, but not as dark as the movies.

Agent Carter was actually pretty good and entertaining,

After reading the press releases about Legion and Hellfire, I pretty much shrugged my shoulders and said YEAH? So? What’s the point of these shows? I think they will both bomb because they simply are too far out there based on the premises I’ve read. But who knows, maybe at least one of them will be interesting. But I won’t hold my breath on these two shows.

Most of the Marvel Movies have been better than average, with the sole exception of the last two Spider-Man movies. Somewhere along the line the movie studio forgot what made the first trilogy of films work, and it showed in the last two films. Plus: why reboot the series? They don’t reboot the James Bond series every time they change stars do they? It works in the Bond films because the producers remain true to the established mythos, and the audience buys into it. The same thing can hold true for super-hero films and films based on comics characters. All they have to do with the next Spider-Man movie is move forward and act like the previous two movies never happened. As long as they remain true to the established conventions – it will be successful. Deviate from the expectations of the target audience and it will flop (See Fantastic Four).

Well, that’s my two cents worth.