Writer-directors Shane Black and writing partner Fred Dekker have scripted a TV pilot reboot for cult 1960s spy show The Avengers for Warner Bros. – but there’s no indication, as yet, if or when it might get optioned.
Various web sites, including Den of Geek and Screen Rant, have picked up on a mention of a possible new series in comic book fan Fred Dekker’s career retrospective in The Dark Side Magazine.
“It’s The Avengers, with John Steed and Emma Peel,” Dekker told the magazine. “We’re setting it in Britain in the 1960s, and our approach is The Ipcress File meets Doctor Who. At this moment, it’s my favourite thing we’re working on.”
Shane Black sprang to fame with his script for Lethal Weapon in 1987, which Screen Rant notes “combined snappy, quotable dialogue with slick action” – exactly the kind of combination The Avengers fans love about the original show starring the late Patrick Macneee.
Black’s other credits include The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight, before moving into directing later in his career with The Nice Guys and Iron Man 3. He co-wrote 1987’s The Monster Squad with Fred Dekker, who directed the film. Dekker also helmed Night Of The Creeps and RoboCop 3, and after a long break pursuing separate projects, he and Black renewed their creative partnership to pen the script for the new The Predator film. They also co-wrote the pilot for Western series Edge in 2015.
Not to be confused with the Marvel comic or its film series, the original The Avengers began in 1961 and ran until 1969, initially centring on Dr. David Keel (played by Ian Hendry), aided by John Steed (Patrick Macnee). Steed became the character after th first season when Hendry left, partnered by a succession of intelligent, stylish and assertive women – Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) and Tara King (Linda Thorson).
The show was rebooted as The New Avengers in 1976 – 1977, again starring Macnee, alongside Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Gareth Hunt as Mike Gambit. Down the years, there has also been a stage play, a radio show (produced in South Africa), a big screen film starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, which had a much better script than its final cut suggests, which I read when I was editing a tie-in licensed magazine for Titan.
More recently, Big Finish have produced numerous The Avengers adventures, including adaptations of some of the series first spin-off comic strips, and released a collection of two of the strips in 2016.
The Avengers – The Comics
If an The Avengers TV series does go ahead, would a comic be far behind, especially given Fred Dekker’s love of comics? The show has enjoyed a long association with the form.
Published in Diana comic in 1966 and 1967, “Return to Castle De’ath:, “The Miser”, “The Golden Dresses” and The Norse Code were drawn by Spanish artist Frejo Emilio (also known in the UK for his work on “Kit Carson” and “Kansas Kid”) with assistance by Juan Gonzalez Alacreu. (Read our news item on this collection here).
The Diana comics were preceded by an The Avengers newspaper strip featuring John Steed and Cathy Gale, drawn by a Vampirella artist José (Pepe) González, which first appeared in regional TV listings magazines Look Westward and The Viewer in 1964 and was reprinted in the Manchester Evening News.
TV Comic began its The Avengers stories in 1965 until the rights were sold to DC Thomson who published their fondly-remembered and beautifully drawn strip in Diana between 1966 and 1967. (“The Growing Up of Emma Peel” comic strip appeared in June and Schoolfriend in 1966 featuring the adventures of 14-year-old Emma Knight).
The Avengers returned to TV Comic in 1968, just after Tara King debuted on TV, the Tara & Steed strip continuing despite the TV show;s cancellation until 1972.
Other comics include annual stories in various different titles; a 68-page The Avengers comic published by Thorpe & Porter in 1966 featuring Steed and Peel with original art by Mike Anglo and Mick Austin; US publisher Gold Key Comics one-off John Steed Emma Peel in 1968 (subtitled The Avengers on the indicia page, avoiding the use of the TV title because of the Marvel comic of the same name); and a three-issue miniseries entitled Steed and Mrs Peel published by Eclipse Comics imprint between 1990 – 1992, with stories written by Grant Morrison and, later Anne Caulfield, both strips published drawn by Ian Gibson.
Boom! Studios reprinted this series in six issues in early 2012, and later published a new ongoing series written by Mark Waid and Caleb Monroe which lasted 12 issues. Boom! subsequently announced a six-issue follow-up series, Steed and Mrs. Peel: We’re Needed, but only three issues were produced.
• Read the Screen Rant story: Shane Black Has Written 1960s Avengers TV Show Reboot
• The Dark Side magazine is online at thedarksidemagazine.com
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