The CW has been greenlighting science fiction and fantasy-themed shows like nobody’s business of late, with new shows such as The Tomorrow People and The 100 entering the lineup alongside proven successes such as Arrow, Supernatural, and The Vampire Diaries. Now the network has added another genre project to their development slate: a series based on the 1930 pulp adventure series The Avenger.
The Avenger — singular, not plural — was published from 1939 to 1943 by Street and Smith Publications, the same house that churned out stories of The Shadow and Doc Savage. In fact, the character of The Avenger was specifically created to try and merge the qualities of those two successful properties. The Avenger was really Richard Henry Robinson, a wealthy adventurer who, after his wife and daughter are killed, undergoes a strange transformation. His hair goes white and his face becomes malleable, like clay, allowing him to disguise himself as others. Rather than seeking immediate medical attention, he decides to use his
disfiguring condition new superpower to fight crime. As you do.
The original Avenger books were very much a product of their time, so understandably they’re getting an update from the CW series. Here’s the story synopsis from Deadline:
[The Avenger] tells the story of Alice Benson, a young woman who, in the wake of her parents’ murder, discovers she possesses a superpower as a result of genetic bio-hacking which allows her to transform her appearance at will. Alice will use her face-altering talents to investigate the mystery of her parents’ deaths and uncover the origins of her strange ability.
Well, that’s at least a bit more plausible than “my grief turned me into Clayface for some reason.” The new version doesn’t have an official title yet, so it’ll be interesting to see if they change the name of the show to get out from under the shadow of a certain billion-dollar franchise.
The project is being written by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab, both of whom worked on Syfy’s Warehouse 13. Under the Dome executive producer Neal Baer is overseeing the project, along with Conde Nast Entertainment, which owns the rights to Street & Smith and its catalog of titles.
The Avenger isn’t the only character to get a modern adaptation. Alec Baldwin starred as the titular character in 1994’s The Shadow, directed by The Highlander’s Russell Mulcahy, and they made a Doc Savage movie back in the ‘70s. More interesting than that rather cheesy adaptation is the new version screenwriter Shane Black has been trying to get going for years now. Considering Black cowrote and directed Iron Man 3, which has made $1.2 billion worldwide, maybe Hollywood will finally let him have his way with the Man of Bronze.
Given how reboot/sequel-obsessed Hollywood is these days, it’s great to see something greenlit that’s actually based on a property most people have probably never heard of. If nothing else, that relative obscurity means they’re free to take the core concept and shape a new story out of it, without having to worry whether a group of irate fans wielding torches and pitchforks will knock on their front door.