When news first surfaced in March that X-Men 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer was in town directing a pilot for Fox connected to Marvel Comics, the network couldn't deny that it's an X-Men show quick enough.
So when the news broke that the pilot was picked up for a full season, a lot of fans thought the first trailer might explain which of their favorite comic book characters would make the transition from the printed page to the small screen. The trailer landed earlier this week, and while it looks like an exciting action-adventure drama, it only raises more questions.
The trailer for The Gifted — which has already topped 30 million views on YouTube — features a familiar story from the Marvel Universe. Some high school-aged children living the idyllic American life discover that they have mutant powers that allow them to do things like attract metal and move objects with their minds.
The father is part of some fictional government agency responsible for rounding up mutants, created out of mankind's natural fear of others who are different. (Never mind their terrifying abilities.) So when he discovers that his children have mutant powers, he tries to keep them from the same agency that put a roof over his family's head.
So it's about mutants being hunted by the government, just like the mutants in other Marvel stories, and one of the mutant teenagers does mention the X-Men as kind of a legendary, underground militia.
So if it's not an X-Men property, then what is it exactly?
"We've seen this story before," says Clay Harrison, a co-organizer of the Dallas Comic Book Club and a frequent guest speaker at several local conventions. "This is pretty much what X-Men 1 is, where you have moments that are cliche at this point, like the parents who can't deal with [their child being a mutant] or maybe parents who did things against mutants, like we see in X-Men 2."
A press release issued by Fox before the March pilot shoot lists some characters, like Thunderbird (Blair Redford), Blink (Jamie Chung) and Polaris (Emma Dumont). They parallel some characters that have appeared in Marvel comics and some of the movies, says Aaron White, a consignment director with Heritage Auctions of Dallas who specializes in comic books and comic art.
Thunderbird, for instance, first appeared in the comics in '71, as part of a relaunched X-Men team that also brought Wolverine and Storm on board. But Thunderbird died a few issues later.
Blink, White says, was a "pretty popular character" who lived a short life after her debut in the main X-Men story line, and again in an alternative universe X-Men timeline in the '90s, but became a full member of the team in the Age of Apocalypse book and made an appearance in Singer's Days of Future Past film.
Polaris is the longest-surviving character of the three. She first appeared in the comics in '68 and has been popping up in comic panels ever
"It looks like they are kind of mashing up a bunch of different ideas on this one," White says. "You've got a bunch of new characters that they've invented for the show and a handful of other X-Men properties they're throwing in there. I think what this is is they're just using the idea of the wider universe of mutants as a sort of backdrop, and you have a couple of characters who are established in the Marvel Universe, but they also have some original characters as well."
The presence of these characters in the series alone could offer some clues about their fates and the show's direction. Harrison says that in the comic books, Polaris is the daughter of Magneto, the main mutant villain of the original X-Men team.
"She doesn't look like the comic book character because the character has green hair," Harrison says. "I don't think the look on TV is that important. Legion has a style and that style should surpass what that looks like in the comic."
Thunderbird's inclusion could hint at a small-screen debut of the X-Force, a much more militant and violent version of the X-Men. Harrison wonders if the X-Force character's inclusion in the show is an attempt by Fox to set it apart from the CW's lineup of DC Comics-inspired shows by having "a TV universe and a movie universe that's all mixed together."
Harrison also noticed on the show's website that the last name of the series' beleaguered parents — Strucker — matches a comic character named Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, a high-ranking Hydra leader who served as Red Skull's second in command during World War II.
"We've seen him in movies like Captain America 2, so the fact that they are giving him his last name might just be that they're just using this or it may be a way to tie it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the future," Harrison says.
Of course, we'll only know what plans Singer and company have for this latest addition to the Marvel Comics empire after they finish filming in the summer. White notes that lots of fans are going to "put out these guesses about what the shows are going to be about, and then they throw you a curveball."
"You're telling a whole new story, so you can go in any direction you want," White says. "Even when you're telling classic stories like Days of Future Past that are nothing like the comics, but similar enough that you can pass it off as that, and tell it on your own way, comics are always being rebooted and reimagined."
Harrison says shows and movies based on comic properties don't have to be 100 percent faithful to the source material to please the fans. In fact, straying from them in ways that The Gifted might do in its first season can make them more interesting.
"Knowing stories like The Walking Dead and what's happening is OK," Harrison says, "but when a show is really good and you don't have anything to compare it to, you can just sit back and enjoy it."
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