You know the rules. There must be one new comic-to-TV adaptation per week, every week, lest Superman come down from his throne on high and smite us with his cool Superman powers. Two weeks ago, we were given Supergirl. Last week, (Teen) Titans. And for September 14–20, our weekly allotment is Lucifer. Deadline tells us that Fox has a put pilot commitment (that is, “shoot a pilot and air a pilot, or face a severe fine”) for a Lucifer series, based off the DC/Vertigo comic of the same name.
Lucifer is basically who you think he is – big guy, red skin, horns, jumbo pitchfork. Except in the DC comics chronology, he’s rocking a more angelic look, as a stately blonde fellow in a suit with a large pair of wings. This Lucifer first popped up in Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman,” (the same “The Sandman” that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is so interested in adapting), as a demon bored of the whole Hell thing and looking for a new gig. Eventually he moves out and opens a piano bar in L.A., which would become the setting for his eventual “Lucifer” spin-off comic, and also this Lucifer show.
Tom Kapinos will be the showrunner for Lucifer, which feels like a good match. He also created Californication, where a malaised David Duchovny wandered about the glitz of L.A. Lucifer is the same thing, give or take a pair of six-foot wings.
That another superhero show is in the pipeline is perhaps the least surprising news in human history (Superman and his quota, after all). What’s surprising is that Fox is adapting this particular comic now. Titans and Supergirl are jumbo, TV-ready properties (also: Gotham, Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Constantine, The Flash, Daredevil). Lucifer is not. He’s a villain from a comic book that’s already getting a movie and who people might confuse with Constantine, given that the 2005 Constantine movie had a very prominent Lucifer (the new NBC series does not).
Depending how Fox plays its cards, Lucifer might not even scream “comic book.” Which might be in the network’s best interests. Granted, comic book adaptations are a hot sell right now, and Fox could litter the show with Sandman tie-ins, keep a constant DC Comics logo watermarked over every frame, and probably coast on those laurels alone. But if they stick to the source material – distinguished demon gentleman moves out of Hell, plays piano, debates the concept of free will, occasionally takes on other angels in bloody combat – it might resemble something like Forever (CSI with an immortal being) or Reaper (lovable schlub works as Satan’s bounty hunter) more than it does Constantine. Less life-and-death superhero struggle, more slice of life. Especially with Kapinos at the helm.
And when this comic book fad runs dry (it is going to run dry at some point, right?), shows like could be just as viable as they were during a time when Superman’s quotas were law.
It’s worth mentioning that this stuff is starting to eek through already. WGN has iZombie (zombie police procedural), and Syfy is working on DMZ, set during a future second American Civil War. Neither are particularly superheroed, but neither seems to have the potential of a Big Four network series – no offense to Syfy, but outside of Battlestar Galactica, they’re not a huge original series player. And iZombie has potential (Rob Thomas of Veronica Mars potential), but it was bumped to a midseason premiere and has been recasting out the wazoo. We’ll see how that one goes. There’s also The Walking Dead, but that one seems to be its own entity, existing outside of the current comics craze bubble.
Lucifer could be the big hit that solidifies the non-comicky comic book series. And at that point, it’s all fair game. “King City” (people who use cats as living swiss army knives). “Army@Love” (armed forces soap opera). Anything. We’ll still live in an age where 60% of all media is adapted from a comic book, but at least we’ll have some variety in there.