Inhumans on television? Great!

Why the Inhumans not being a movie is the best thing that could have happened to them

The Answer-Man Muses:

The news has come across my desk this morning that Marvel will not be making a movie starring their wonderfully eclectic, near-mutant stand-ins, but relatively unknown characters, the Inhumans.

I am a fan of the Inhumans since they first met the Fantastic Four in issue #45 (1965) and have followed them whenever Marvel saw fit to put them on the page. Their publication history has been sporadic, reappearing for brief periods before vanishing back into their secret city of Attilan. In recent years, writers have refined the original stories and underlying mythology of the Inhumans and have managed to take them to new fame in1999, Inhumans vol. 2 won the Eisner Award for “Best New Series.”

Why do I think television is the best thing to happen to the Inhumans? The one thing movies don’t do better than television is to develop character. A two or even three hour movie may be great for a single individual to do their thing, but when your superteam has eight or ten members, each gets much less time to develop and become interesting. The Inhumans are interesting, and would be so much more so, if they had the time to develop. The kind of time they can only get from a television debut.

In their listing of movies for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Inhumans had originally been slotted to appear in 2017. It would appear that idea has been laid to rest, most likely due to the assumption no one knew who the Inhumans were. This is not a groundless fear, given the cost to produce Marvel’s cinematic extravaganzas.

The question was: Would it possible to make a movie where no one knew who the characters were and have it be successful?

Absolutely. Witness the Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) which has gone on to be a runaway success in theatres earning $500 million dollars worldwide. There is even a sequel which should be close to if not already in post production.

But I think (and rightly so), Guardians of the Galaxy was an isolated case (right place, right time, right music) and Marvel’s executives decided to take the Inhumans along their secondary path to production and expand their television lineup.

In the television world, Marvel hasn’t experienced the overall adoption that DC’s television heroes have with a wider demographic possibly because Marvel’s offerings have been more oriented toward adult viewers. There’s nothing wrong with Marvel’s preference for the adult demographic, by the way, it’s just a different way of producing television. DC’s television offerings have been more integrated and have a more family-friendly orientation.

Marvel’s three Netflix offerings, Jessica Jones (2015), Daredevil (2015) and Luke Cage (2016) have done fabulously in their entire season distribution, streaming model and all three are slated for a second (or third in the case of Daredevil) season. Marvel will also be producing an Iron Fist (2017) series and combining all four of them into a possible one season extravaganza called The Defenders.

Marvel’s two television series in the standard network format, Agent Carter (2015) and Agents of SHIELD have struggled for ratings. Agent Carter was shuttered earlier this year. Agents of SHIELD has picked up steam in its last two seasons and is doing well in the ratings with the introduction of the newest bearer of the infernal title “Ghost Rider,” temporarily, among their ranks.

Who are the Inhumans? (their comic origins)

At the beginning of the Kree-Skrull War, millions of years ago in Earth time, the alien Kree established a station on the planet Uranus, a strategic position between the Kree and Skrull empires.

  • Through their work at this station, they discovered that sentient life on nearby Earth had genetic potential invested in it by the alien Celestials. Intrigued, the Kree began to experiment on Earth’s then-primitive Homo sapiens to produce the genetically advanced Inhuman race. Their goal was apparently twofold — to investigate possible ways of circumventing their own evolutionary stagnation, and to create a powerful mutant race of soldiers for use against the Skrulls.
  • Although their experiments were successful in creating a strain of humanity with extraordinary abilities, the Kree abandoned their experiment because a genetic prophecy had predicted that the experiments would eventually lead to an anomaly who would destroy the Kree Supreme Intelligence.

The Kree Supreme Intelligence, a conscious, living supercomputer

  • Their test subjects, the Inhumans, went on to form a society of their own, which thrived in seclusion from the rest of humanity and developed advanced technology. Experiments with the mutagenic Terrigen Mist (a process known as Terrigenesis) gave them various powers, but caused lasting genetic damage and deformities. This led to a long-term selective breeding program in an attempt to mitigate the effects of these mutations.
  • Even without using the Terrigen Mist, the Kree modifications, combined with centuries of selective breeding, have given all Inhumans certain advantages.
  • Their average lifespan is 150 years and an Inhuman in good physical condition possesses strength, reaction time, speed, and endurance greater than the finest of human athletes.
  • Karnak and other normal Inhumans who are in excellent physical shape can lift one ton and are physically slightly superior to the peak of normal human physical achievement. Exposure to the Terrigen Mist can both enhance and in some cases reduce these physical capabilities.
  • Most Inhumans are used to living in a pollution-free, germ-free environment and have difficulty tolerating Earth’s current level of air and water pollution for any length of time.

Who are the Inhuman Royal Family?

Medusa (lower left), Black Bolt, Quicksilver, Lockjaw, Gorgon, Triton (upper right), Karnak, and Maximus

  • Black Bolt rules the Inhumans with the help of his royal family including his wife Medusa, whose prehensile hair has superhuman strength.
  • He is supported by Gorgon: whose cloven hooves can create terrifying controlled shock-waves.
  • Karnak the Shatterer: whose power allows him to see the flaw in anything, logic, matter, even reality itself, and pierce that flaw destroying even things that were thought to be nigh indestructible.
  • Triton: capable of breathing underwater and swimming at superhuman speeds
  • Crystal: who has power over classic elemental forces of air, earth, fire and water. Under duress, she can perform even more amazing feats.
  • Maximus the Mad: genius, inventor, creator, madman, he, when he’s had his medication is the technological genius of the royal family. Off his meds, he is just as dangerous to the Inhumans as any other threat with an intimate knowledge of the Royal Family to boot.

Inhumans on Television?

Introducing the Inhumans as a television series could be a great boon to the opportunity for character development. Since they are not as well known, there may be the opportunity to experiment with new ways of storytelling, featuring characters whose powers are less extreme and would require lower-cost CGI.

A good writing team (especially now since Agents of SHIELD has finally figured out their secret sauce) could learn from the mistakes in the earlier seasons of Agents of SHIELD and tell stories which appeal to the same demographic audience and could expand and connect between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the television audience.

Marvel could treat the Inhumans like the unofficial bridge between all of the Marvel properties:

Since the Inhumans can be actively super-powered like the Avengers, the air of the fantastic is already inherent in the show. Agents of SHIELD has already set a bar for the capacity for superhuman ability, working out how to create such capacity on a budget. I think the Inhumans would work best if it didn’t highlight the metahuman aspect of the Inhumans but instead focused on the history of the Inhumans, about their past and present challenges they had over the centuries — think of it as the best of time travel stories and the history channel with superheroes.

When the budget allows you create limited stories where superpowers play large and keep such shows to a season finale or start of a new season. Television CGI has gotten better and more affordable. I can imagine it only continuing to do so as computing capacity grows and expertise is found.

The Inhumans deal with the same issues mutants did. They are both challenged to deal with being outsiders, having abilities and appearances which can set them apart and the fear which such differences promote. The Inhumans, like mutants, embody that political fear of the Other, the same way being LGBTQIA or other minorities do in modern society and are likely to receive the same type of social responses.

The Inhumans must remain secretive like the Agents of SHIELD, investigating and discovering where potential threats to their existence may lie and eliminating them (preferably with non-violent means) when possible. They may even have a group whose job it is to interact with, investigate and eliminate problems to the Inhuman society as well as finding new Inhumans due to the Terrigen event which created new Inhumans in Human societies. Of course, we have already seen how the Inhumans try to do this within Agents of SHIELD and it can get out of hand.

Ultimately, I believe the Inhumans will become protective of each other like the Defenders are slated to be, supporting each other, and becoming larger and more effective together than apart. Since the Defenders will operate outside of the official confines of government and social constraints, it is possible the Inhumans will create a group which behaves much like they do.

I see the Inhumans the same way their creators did, a portion of the Human experience which embraces the different, the unique, and redefines what is beautiful in a society with no objective standard. The Inhumans are a culture steeped in traditions, with their own fears and reasons for continuing their existence in opposition to anyone who would attempt to stop them.

Will we get an Inhumans similar to their comic appearances? That’s anyone’s guess at the moment. We have no indication of the Royal family from the Agents of SHIELD appearances but when they appeared on AOS the Inhumans we saw we appeared to be a splinter group and could have not ties to the official Royal Family as we know them. As the situation develops we will let you know more.

More on the Inhumans:

The Answer-Man’s Archives are a collection of my articles discussing superheroes and their powers in relationship to their respective universes.

We deconstruct characters, memes, profiles and how superheroes relate to real world culture. You can find other Archives on Quora and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange or at The World According to Superheroes.

Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller. You can follow him on Twitter or support his writings on Patreon.