Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

In the name of the family: a comment on Ms Marvel and page-to-screen

This is a brief article about the Disney MCU Ms Marvel series that just finished airing. There will be spoilers. There will be adaptation decay. You have been warned.

I’ve done a couple of articles called ‘What I Like About You’. They’re reserved for the best-of-the-best, my favourite comics ever, the ones that fill me with the love of the medium; but also slightly obscure ones, which haven’t been covered 100,000 times on comics sites (so no Claremont X-Men or Wolfman / Pérez Teen Titans). I haven’t done one in a while, but the next one would be (will be?) ClanDestine by Alan Davis.

I don’t think it’s ever occurred to me to think about whether they would ever appear in the MCU. Last night (for me, a few weeks ago everyone else’s time), they did.

The problem is, this is among the worst cases of adaptation decay I’ve ever seen. They were barely ‘in name only’.

This is what the ClanDestine actually looks like.

In the comics, they’re all the sons and daughters of one man and one djinn; their parents met during the Crusades, and are still producing offspring (who get raised by their older siblings as if they’re the parents). Each has a distinct power set and look.

In the show, they’re a group of people who got powers from a djinn. (And Ms Marvel finds out she’s a djinn and gets hunted by drones; I ordered my djinn with no chaser, please!) They have some sort of vague, ill-defined powers, and all look normal. I don’t even see them being distinctive (is this The Deviants all over again?). Some of them (one of them) looks cool, and it makes sense that most of them are Middle-Eastern , but they’re not The ClanDestine as they are in the comics.

I just think this is a really good look – though it was probably anachronistic in the 40s.

Importantly, in the comics: they’re not villains!!! (Well, one of them. Maybe.)

And now that name has been taken, and can’t really be used for the proper family. (Maybe? À là Mandarin?)

Ironic twist: the comic is about two characters who went from believing they were mutants to finding out they were ClanDestine. The show is about a character who went from believing she was a ClanDestine to finding out she was a mutant.

Anyway, rant over. You can go about your business. Move along.


  1. jccalhoun

    I’m behind on Ms. Marvel so I didn’t know they went with Clandestine. Ms. Marvel has got a pretty good reception but they also totally changed her powers and origin so it isn’t surprising they would change other things.

    1. Le Messor

      Yeah – she has the negabands, which ties in with Marvel Boy, so it carries the name through.

      Clandestine are so obscure I wouldn’t even expect most people – even comics readers – to know them.

      1. I learned a new phrase! To be honest, with the MCU and Warner/DC there’s massive ‘adaptation decay’ from page to screen, far too much for my liking.
        John Byrne said it: The general Hollywood mantra of “what can we change?” when it comes to adaptations seems to be the main mission statement on comix properties.
        A general following of Davis’s career since his 2000AD days is the only reason I’m aware of Clandestine.
        The Brother Power The Geek movie/show isn’t too far off!

        1. Le Messor

          The amount I can handle adaptation decay 😀 depends on how attached I am at to the original. And how much decay there is.

          I haven’t followed Davis that long, but I love his work – which is how I got into ClanDestine.

          1. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

            Which is fair…but is also why I really like the idea, from an adaptational standpoint.

            Most comic fans under-30 have never heard of the ClanDestine…which makes it really easy for the writers to transfer the “NuHuman” political status quo from Wilson’s MM run to the ClanDestine, allowing minimal changes to the story as a whole while avoiding the stink of Perlmutter’s Quixotic Inhumans nonsense.

          2. Le Messor

            What you say makes sense, Carlos The Dwarf, but at the same time they’ve taken that name and made it pretty much unusable for the actual ClanDestine. They could’ve come up with something else, or just thrown a random name at it. Or just said she’s djinn without calling it anything else.

            I think we’re coming at it from the opposite angle – I’m coming at it from a fan of the comic, and you as a watcher of the MCU.

          3. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

            Yep. They’re absolutely burning the concept as a whole in order to dump Inhumans from Ms Marvel.

            I understand why you, as someone who cares about the concept, are upset.

            …but as a comics fan born in the last 35 years, I’m just happy that they found a burnable concept that works with Kamala’s backstory.

          4. Le Messor

            Well, I wouldn’t say I’m upset so much as mildly annoyed. It’s kind of a waste.

            I also don’t think they needed to change Kamala’s backstory, whatever the reason.

  2. Jeff Nettleton

    This kind of thing is why my general enthusiasm for comic book adaptations waned in the 90s. The Hollywood attitude has always been and remains, we are superior to all other writers, even though the finished product tends to disprove that. The writer is treated like dirt, in general, in Hollywood, since everyone seems to think they can improve the scene, or have a better idea, or the star won’t do that, or their politics prevent them saying that, or their “character wouldn’t say that” (this to the actual creator/author of said character), etc.

    Since comics have always been treated as bottom feeding material for illiterate children, comic book people get it worse than prose authors (from whom Hollywood is happy to steal, but not so happy to pay, especially their profits from the film). Ge, this comic book thing is popular; but lets throw out the costuming, plot, setting and character traits, because we know better what the audience works. Kevin Smith’s description of working on Superman, for Jon Peters, encapsulates the attitude, well. The good films are more often due to dumb luck than anything else, or a passionate director, like Guillermo Del Toro, on Hellboy. Once in a while, you get someone who knows how to tell a good adventure yarn, like Joe Johnston, who can recognize the adventure beats of the original material; but, they are fewer and farther between, in corporate Hollywood (vs the studio days). Even the Marvel movies suffer from it (though not as bad as recent era DC -based movies). It’s no wonder I find indie projects, like Hellboy, Ghost World, American Splendor or Mystery Men far more entertaining and satisfying than the MCU or something like Shazam. The best I hope for is that they can make the film fun, like Thor Ragnarok or enough of it works that I am entertained for the length of the film.

    I can’t see the Eternals because the trailer showed me it wasn’t Kirby and Kirby’s Eternals is the only form that worked, since he created the concept and characters and mythos. Everyone else tried to turn them into superheroes. It’s why the 4th World doesn’t work, except on JLU and Superman TAS. In fact, The Warner Animation gang are the only major production group that consistently delivered the material that was on the page or better. Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes did a pretty decent job of it, for Marvel, though filtered through the MCU. I can watch Tom Hiddeston, as Loki, because he commits to it; same with Chris Evans as Cap. The actors do more for me than the material. That’s the best I can hope for.

    1. Le Messor

      we are superior to all other writers
      Good as they are, I’m reminded of something in the adaptations of LotR, I think The Two Towers, where the commentary talks about solving one writing problem and then having another writing problem. But the second was caused by the first, and they could have solved both by simply following the book!

      I can understand why it’s enough to put you off the adaptations entirely, but I still really enjoy them. Most of the time, that’s all I ask for in a movie (or comic, or novel).

      I’ve just recently bought the Justice League animated, and I loved it.

    2. mike loughlin

      The recent Kieron Gillen/Essad Ribic Eternals series wasn’t Kirby, but it didn’t make the characters super-heroes, either. I really liked it, although I have no attachment to the original version (and I love Kirby so I need to get to reading it). I recommend reading the first arc of you can find it free or very cheap.

    1. Le Messor

      Makes sense. I got the impression from the closing credits that the movie versions were supposed to be broader than that, but the fact we only saw a couple of them made it seem like they’re just one or two, as you say.

  3. mike loughlin

    I’m a huge Alan Davis mark, and a ClanDestine fan and… *sigh*

    I thought Ms. Marvel was one of the best live-action Marvel projects in recent memory. I get the idea of tying a character of Middle Eastern decent to djinn and using a Marvel property with a djinn character, but the ClanDestines were the weakest part of the show. I would love to see the same writers produce a show about the Davis characters. Rory & Pandora can be the viewpoint characters, Wally the grumpy guardian, Dom and Kay the “cool uncle & aunt,” etc. The show’s strengths lay in family relationships and teen drama. The ClanDestine have those qualities built into their premise. Unfortunately, it will probably never happen. “ClanDestine” goes on the wasted Marvel villain trash heap, along with Taskmaster, Malekith, Kro, Ronan, Flag-Smasher, Crossbones, etc.

    1. Le Messor

      That heap is annoyingly big – but ClanDestine aren’t villains, and shouldn’t be on it!

      And you’re right, there could be an awesome TV version of the family.

  4. Greg Burgas

    I just started watching it, and you skipped over that they ruined Damage Control, too! Dang, just laying waste to minor Marvel properties all over the place!

    1. Le Messor

      I read and loved all of Damage Control‘s original (3) series; I think I didn’t mention it because they actually ruined them in Spider-Man: Homecoming, so I wasn’t as surprised by it.

        1. Le Messor

          In Homecoming, they’re the government department that sets the whole thing off by taking Toombs’ contract away from him.
          In No Way Home, they arrest Peter and his friends.

          I don’t remember if they’re in Far From Home or not.
          Edit: Just rewatched, and they’re not.

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