It’s January, 2016 and you know what that means: season two of Agent Carter is starting this month. If you’re anything like me, you have much hope for Marvel’s foray into network television but you’re also concerned that those in charge will bungle another viable property. It might not seem like much of a problem; after all, mediocre products are routinely made of the Marvel properties we hold so dear—every Fantastic Four movie, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Hulk, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, and X-Men: The Last Stand to name a few—and the Mighty Marvel refuses to lessen its production line’s momentum. So we’re in no peril of missing out on seeing our favourite Marvel properties appear on big and little screens all over the world.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem: because Marvel sometimes lacks a quality filter, we see inadequate versions of these beloved properties pumped out at full throttle. These pale imitations of our favourite characters try to endear themselves to the public, but they lack the draw of the originals because they’ve been put through the Hollywood grinder and have come out as uniformly shaped movie/TV sausages. These easily consumed links are devoid of the extra qualities that made legions of fans salivate for decades, so new fans become fair-weather ones.
The solution to the problem of how to retain new fans, though, is pretty plain. And, conveniently, this solution should also help retain the devotion of tried and tested fans: don’t phone in a project because you think you’ve got a sure thing.
In a world where it’s so easy for any screenwriter to find out about the fictional contexts of these characters, why wouldn’t they? And though it’s not the job of a director or screenwriter to base their work completely on previous incarnations of a setting, such as the shared world of Timely Comics in the ’40s, these tend to be good jumping off points.
So, where are all the Golden Age Timely Comics characters in Agent Carter? In the show’s first season fans weren’t treated to even one appearance of a Golden Age character. In fact, Peggy Carter isn’t a genuine Golden Age character herself, having been inserted into the Golden Age timeline in the ’60s. We saw characters who, like Peggy, have been retroactively inserted into the Golden Age timeline—Howard Stark, Edwin Jarvis, Dr. Arnim Zola, Dr. Johann Fenhoff, the Howling Commandos, and Anton Vanko—but there hasn’t been a single appearance of a Timely Comics superhero like the original Human Torch, Namor, Toro, The Angel, The Hurricane, The Fiery Mask, The Phantom Reporter, the unfortunately named Whizzer, or the original Vision.
Or, if those in charge are trying to push the idea that unpowered women can be just as powerful as super-powered men, why not do a crossover episode featuring the brilliant police work of Betty Dean or the stealthy subterfuge of Lady Dorma? The obvious answer: these properties don’t provide a sure enough thing with which to phone it in. As a congenital true believer, though, I’ll keep watching Agent Carter hoping to see a smoky trail cutting through the sky with a half-naked, wing-footed fish-man tailing behind.