Friday, September 3, 2010

Expanding Comics | Small Screen Infusion: StreetHawk

There have been a lot of comics made from television series. Can it go the other way successfully? We think so, we've written about two all ready here & here.

StreetHawk - an all terrain attack motorcycle designed to fight urban crime. Capable of incredible speeds up to 300 miles per hour, and immense fire power ranging from machine guns, to a particle beam, to a miniaturized missile launcher.

Ok, I'm not going to pull any punches here. Unlike Wild Wild West & Burn Notice from our previous posts the StreetHawk television series wasn't executed well at all and quite frankly it showed in more ways than one in nearly every episode but the first three (which seemingly were finished before the producers realized how damn expensive the show would become).

The concept, similar to that of Knight Rider & Air Wolf, is sound. It's so sound in fact that this same concept is successfully re-envisioned in the late 90s with shows like Cobra and Viper. In a nut shell crime is running rampant off the charts so the government has signed off on a state of the art attack motorcycle to fight crime up close and personal.

StreetHawk is intended to be a scalpel, where the regular police are a bit more hammerish, and strike at the heart of the problem. The designer of StreetHawk hand picks his rider but unfortunately he's stuck with Jesse Mach (Rex Harrison - pictured) who's a bit too reckless and has a serious problem with authority but always manages to get the job done. Which is exactly what the StreetHawk program needed.

As I stated above, a sound concept wasn't enough for StreetHawk to survive. The bike, which looked extremely cool (particularly all lit up at night) Was actually really heavy (extra batteries for all of those lights and gadgets), slower than it should be, off balanced, and had such a small fuel tank (reduced in size to make room for batteries) that they had to refuel after nearly every take.

The costs were cutting into profits in a big way so the producers re-tooled the show. They shoved StreetHawk to the "4th reel" (meaning they only brought him out in the last 15 minutes of each episode) so that their pretty boy star with the recognizable face could have a lot more screen time to make the ladies swoon. In addition they stopped all night shooting and did everything they could to reuse the motorcycle footage they'd all ready banked instead of shooting new stuff.

All of this, on top of the biggest slap in the face to the creators of the show: refusing to let them cast an unknown by the name of George Clooney (he plays the antagonist, hired to kill StreetHawk in episode two) as their star must have caused too much grief off camera and the show was canceled just before the first season ended.


We can rebuild it. Faster. Stronger. Better. Armed with a controlled budget, and learning from the past, the StreetHawk comic would be different. The bike is still state of the art (and by today's terms now with new features like satellite uplink, EMP pulse, etc etc) and one of the kind. The rider? There is a team of them all continuously jockeying for pole position (he/she who gets to ride StreetHawk the next time it's called upon) all of the time.

When not in the field dispensing justice or saving innocents atop the bike agents (riders) of the StreetHawk program would be performing other duties such as research, testifying in front of finance committees, going under cover, and exchanging briefcases with foreign dignitaries in shadowy places.

We'd run the comic with three issue story arches capped off by done in one issues in between to allow for easy jumping on points (and easy trade collection) for new readers and creative teams.

Done in the DCU the StreetHawk program would always be in danger of being folded into the Suicide Squad because Amanda Waller thought she could modify it to take down FLASH if she ever needed too. It would be a constant fight to appease the government so that the program would stay afloat independently without DeadShot being placed as a high level member of the organization.

Done in the Marvel U the StreetHawk program would have been an early prototype of SHIELD that was rescued from mothballs by some enterprising eager beaver senator who'd wanted it for his own reasons. It would be a constant fight to serve and protect the public, always fighting "mutant extinction" orders being issued by peoples unknown.

I'd do everything I could to sneak in other famous vehicles from other television show's without really naming them. You know, an attack helicopter where the pilot and co-pilot wear gray jump suits with smoke glass lenses on their helmets. A lone man with a black Trans-Am with a crazy red light running across the front. A wild eyed punk and an old man crammed into a beautiful red T-top with Coyote on the license plate. All just for the fun of it. :)

Have a great weekend.



JimShelley said...

Caine! I love the ideas of the other 80's cameos in your comic book version! That's just brilliant!

I also like the Marvel and DC takes you came up with. The DC take seems to work better in my mind. It just feels like it would mesh better with some of the other DCU organizations (Checkmate, Suicide Squad, STAR Labs)

Anonymous said...

I like the Street Hawk show, and I like your ideas for it, although personally I'd keep it away from established universes and have fun building a universe of its own based on the cameos and such that you mention... I've actually always thought it would be doable to make a coherent universe out of the works of Cannell, Bellisario, and various other producers of the "vigilante/man of justice" sort of programs. Aside from money and licensing headaches, there's no reason why many of the properties of that sort couldn't co-exist.

International appeal could be an important factor in a comic like this. Many of these action-adventure shows had large audiences outside the US--Street Hawk was big enough in India that the company Funskool made a few recycled GI Joes in its image, for example. A comic that combined some of these properties could find instant audiences (and thus high sales) around the world.

As for Street Hawk itself, I'm sure you're aware of the recent DVD release? Also, there was a very similar show a few years later called Super Force. The concept definitely has some popularity and potential.

MattComix said...

Glad I'm not the only guy on the planet who remembers this show existed.

I'm not sure about the team concept. They attempted to do that with Knight Rider during the 90's (and to a lesser extent in the failed 2008 revival) Also there's a ton of team books in superhero comics so having more solid solo hero books with interesting supporting casts that aren't getting killed off or gaining super-powers would be nice to see. Maybe make the scientist character female this time.

Speaking of getting killed off that's probably as good a reason as any to not make him part of one of the big 2 universes. He'd end up on an editorial hit-list and get knocked off in the next big, bloated crossover killfest.

JimShelley said...

@lukeblast - SuperForce? Man, I've never heard of that one! Thanks for the tip!

JimShelley said...

@MattComix - good point about the Editorial Hitlist. It's like the big two can't just be content with letting characters sort of sit on the shelf. It used to be that if you were a character like, say, The Creeper, you would be safely tucked away in the DC universe as a side character. Now it's like: " one likes the new Atom. Guess we should kill him!"

Caine said...

Thanks man

I agree with you about keeping him away from established universes, I was just spit balling there in case anyone from Marvel or DC was reading :)

I too would have loved to see a cross over between the characters in the Bellisario, Cannell, and Larson shows.

There's no reason why Micheal Knight couldn't have shown up in Hawaii or NCIS couldn't run into a long rumored renegade Alpha Unit of soldiers operating in the L.A. underground.

I meant only a team of operators for the one solitary motorcycle so only one true "StreetHawk" would be out at any one time. The other members would be doing other stuff.

Thanks Guys

Anonymous said...

@Jim - Here's the Wikipedia entry on Super Force:

I remember the motorcycle being more prominent than they credit in the article. I've been looking for it in any form, but as near as I can tell, it hasn't been on television since the original airings and there's not even a homemade DVD or torrent.


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