The network rush on superheroes intensified today as Fox announced two new shows going to pilot: Hellfire for the Fox network, and Legion to FX. While this may seem like just the latest batch of spandex shows to join Gotham, Agent Carter, and Daredevil, the network press releases mark a milestone: The X-Men universe is coming to live-action TV.
Even though the mutants of the X-Men are a Marvel property, they’re not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—their rights are owned by Fox. So this is a third entrant into the TV superhero world: DC adaptations (Arrow, Supergirl), the Marvel Cinematic Universe owned by Disney (Jessica Jones, S.H.I.E.L.D.), and now Fox’s X-Men. Marvel working with Fox on these series also comes shortly after the news that its television division and movie divisions were separating, suggesting a thaw in the Marvel-Fox relationship—although the lack of detail or mention of the X-Men specifically, mutants, or connections to films leaves many questions unanswered.
The two series are potentially fascinating on their own, beyond the legal ramifications. Legion is the story of an extraordinarily powerful mutant whose abilities are broken into multiple personalities. In the Marvel comics, Legion is Professor Xavier’s son, although this isn’t mentioned. He also has fantastic hair.
What makes this series especially intriguing is that it has Fargo’s Noah Hawley attached as writer and producer. FX’s Fargo is built around atmosphere and style in a much different fashion than any modern other superhero show (save arguably Daredevil). The character of Legion has also starred in one of the more fascinating X-Men comics of recent times, 2012’s X-Men Legacy—which provides a blueprint on how to deal with a character whose massive, confusing powerset can be difficult.
Hellfire is built around Marvel’s “Hellfire Club.” The club is an ultra-rich, exclusive club in New York City run by a group of mutant supervillains who consistently fight against the X-Men. They’re most famous for manipulating Jean Grey into turning into the Dark Phoenix in the comics, and also appeared in the X-Men: First Class film, which could complicate matters.
This is a period piece, described as being set “in the late 1960s and follows a young special agent who learns that a power-hungry woman with extraordinary abilities is working with a clandestine society of millionaires.” There isn’t much detail attached to Hellfire — particularly which characters are its focus. But there’s a lot of potential in examining the secret clubs of the super-rich, which the comics’ Hellfire Club was based on, in a turbulent period of history, and based around villains instead of heroes.
The legal and business wrangling that led to the creation of Legion and Hellfire is fascinating on its own. It would be even better if the shows themselves were even more compelling.