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How Dark Horse's New Comic Show Beats The MCU In One Crucial Way

Netflix's announcement they have green-lit a Grendel adaptation ensures Dark Horse's latest comic show beats the MCU in one crucial way. The streaming giant has the first refusal to adapt Dark Horse comic titles following their previous collaborations' favorable critical reception in 2019. Gerard Way's The Umbrella Academy and Jonas Åkerlund's Polar are the most notable Dark Horse adaptations so far, with Grendel looking to emulate their success.

The original Grendel superhero comics from independent creator Matt Wagner introduce dashing master criminal Hunter Rose before financial issues for original publisher Comico ended his story prematurely in 1982. Dark Horse stepped in to revive the Grendel comic series in 1984, releasing 40 issues and allowing Wagner to cleverly re-write Grendel's origin story. In the Dark Horse publications, a brilliant young man named Eddie creates two identities: one as a reimagined Hunter Rose and the other as Grendel, a masked assassin making waves in New York's criminal underbelly.

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Despite the Netflix Grendel project being in its infancy, Dark Horse's new comic show beats the MCU in one crucial way. Grendel's comic being creator-owned not only ensures that the Netflix original will be an accurate adaptation of Wagner's vision, but that Matt Wagner himself will be fairly compensated for his superhero story. The MCU has previously been in hot water regarding the remuneration of Marvel comic writers, which is an issue the Grendel project looks destined to avoid from the off given the simplistic structure of its intellectual property.

Grendel being a creator-owned comic is an anomaly in the modern superhero genre, which is currently dominated by the ongoing success of the MCU. Marvel casts an ominous shadow over projects that hope to exist outside of its universe, with studios hesitant to sanction superhero stories that do not follow its wildly successful formula. While the MCU is guaranteed box-office, its stranglehold on the superhero genre ensures a landscape bereft of fresh stories, with events in the MCU largely predetermined by their comics' source material. Grendel is an opportunity to move away from this tedium, with its creator overseeing the Netflix adaptation as executive producer. Wagner reshaping his original story some 40 years after its inception ensures Grendel will not be an attempt to emulate the MCU blueprint, with the creator himself stating Grendel's intent as a "provocative adaptation that will bring my characters and concepts to an all-new audience."

Yet where Grendel will truly trump the MCU is behind the scenes, where Wagner is sure to be well compensated by Netflix for his new TV show and existing IP. Marvel has drawn prolonged criticism for its handling of source material creators, with a raft of claims made in the public domain from disgruntled comic writers who say they are grossly underpaid for their work. Multiple sources state it is common for Marvel to send comic creators whose ideas they use in the MCU a $5,000 cheque and a movie premiere ticket, with no additional compensation. This is particularly galling for blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame, which grossed over 1 billion dollars on the back of Marvel comic writers' concepts. Grendel will bypass any compensatory issues of this nature, with Wagner retaining the rights to all of his bankable characters. While the MCU movies have been an irrefutable success since its inception in 2008, Grendel may yet prove a new watershed moment for superhero series as it looks to redefine the genre both on the screen and behind the scenes.

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