When NBC put the kibosh on the once seemingly invincible Heroes, one might have thought that the peacock would be inclined to shy away from prime-time dramas riddled with superheroes. Well, last summer, when we got our first look at this January's The Cape, it's clear that they're more than ready to step-up to that plate once again. However, the pitfalls left from the once mighty Heroes in its period of decline were pretty clear. (First and foremost: Use your super powers to stop the Writers Guild of America from going on strike!) One person who's definitely looking to take those lessons to heart, is the creator and executive producer of The Cape, Thomas Wheeler. ComicBookMovie's Ed Gross managed to catch up with the man, now hard at work on the series, and he discusses how the storyline will root itself in realism and genuine drama, despite being set against the thin line of camp that a show focusing on a costumed superhero would walk. It's quite a good glimpse into the mindset of the upcoming mid-seasoner's inspiration.
According to Wheeler:
"It's not at all campy. We're having fun and occasionally our hero has a self effacing aspect where he's learning what he's doing, he's figuring it out, but the stakes are absolutely high and what the family's going through is very real and the loss and need to reconnect is also real."
The show's premise seems to be a more comic-traditional interpretation of a "second chance at life" redemption story like The Crow, with elements that focus more on conventional values. The main character, Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is unjustly framed for a crime and believed to have been killed in a devastating explosion. Content to protect his family by allowing them to believe he's dead, he falls in with a mysterious group of Carnies, headed by Max Malini (Keith David,) who becomes the Obi-Wan to his Luke, teaching him the mysterious art of stealth combat and providing him with a costume and all sorts of cool weaponry. Taking the guise of The Cape, his son's favorite comic book character, his new life as a costumed vigilante becomes a tribute to his estranged family. Of course, with the help of a nosy, but sexy blogger named Orwell (Summer Glau), he'll have to contend with a villain named Chess (James Frain) as well as the other undesirable elements of his fictional home of Palm City.
The drama from The Cape, will therefore center on the painful gap left in the life of Vince/The Cape as a result of the conspiracy which separated him from his family and set him on his path. While it may at times look to draw the emotions of the audience through the desire for revenge, it may also be a story about the protagonist's ascension to a level of greatness and idealism that once only existed in the pages of his son's comic books. By making that concept real, his quest becomes just and it makes the anticipation for a reunion with his family all the more exciting. Nevertheless, there is a fine dramatic line to walk when approaching costumed heroes. Hoping to avoid the obstacles traditionally put in the way of comic superhero vehicles, Wheeler explains:
"We're looking at those possible dangers all the time, there's a certain departure point where escapism has to take hold, but I definitely believe, particularly how sophisticated this stuff gotten now with superhero stories, people expect a lot realism like the stuff Christopher Nolan has done, and we embrace that."
Adding: "There's going to be an ensemble element to it that will be a lot of fun. But the grounding of this thing, the realism of the family, and how these characters operate in this world can verge into camp if you're not doing what we're doing, which is focusing on character."
It will be interesting to see if this cast can gel the way Wheeler intends. At the risk of looking back Heroes again, you can recall that it was also an ensemble cast. However, with each of the members spread so thin on separate quests, there seemed to be very little attempt to reconcile why it was germane to the underlying plot. While it worked in the first season, since it built-up to an ultimate union of the cast, the magic could not be replicated. Moreover, this method denied the show of steady interactions between the cast, which did not allow for the chemistry found on most better shows to brew. In its structure with the events surrounding one main hero, there at least seems to be potential to allow the supporting cast to grow strong enough to keep things afloat. (And finally find a stable vehicle for the lovely Summer Glau.)
The Cape premieres on Sunday January 9, and will then move to its normal time slot on Monday nights at 9 PM on January 17.
Are you guys looking forward to The Cape? Or has your threshold been reached for superhero drama?