DC Comics Musing: Why I know better than studio executives

Justice League Tornado's Path

DC Comics has a rich history. The story of each of their wost and least iconic characters contains a story of love, deception, creativity, and almost always sex. While this is true of all the other comics characters DC has done it longer, and more ruthlessly that Marvel or anyone else. Outside of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman the company has a diverse and beautiful variety of superhero and non superhero characters alike. In light of all this, it seems a terrible tragedy the way that their movies and TV shows have been bad with a few exceptions.  The Dark Knight trilogy was awesome, and Man Of Steel was pretty good. But between Christopher Reeves Superman, and Batman Begins there are precious few examples of really great DC movies. I have an idea on how to change this. I think the DC Screen Universe (DCSU) can be as good if not better that the Marvel one, and it would be extremely easy.

Stan Lee Nigga

A legend in our time

To understand how easy it could be you’ve got to know a little about the DC Comics universe. The National Comics company was found in the mid 1930’s but didn’t really take off until a couple of crazy kids came up with this crazy idea about a Jewish man from another planet. They changed their name to match the name of one of their best selling titles, Detective Comics after acquiring some new characters. DC fostered a stable of interesting a diverse heroes and villains from not only National Comics but other companies they’d bought out, Characters like Captain Atom and The Blue Beetle. Some of them awesome and some of them not. Nerds young and old laughed, cried and cheered at the pulp news print pages every single week as their favorite heroes committed new amazing acts of badass altruism. This was true of Marvel and DC however no single character on either side of this rivalry outshone the popularity of Superman. I mean, the logo for a while had the guy’s name was on the logo in the top left of every single comic published by DC. There’s a reason for all this, Superman is awesome. He was the first with a radio serial, film serial, TV show, and blockbuster movie. Soon after DC (and Marvel) would see huge success from their characters in tons of other media outside of comics. The DC universe grew and was given its own style and vitality. Their trademark story system was heavy on action, controversy, morality, but tended to be light on character development and this became their brand. The universe grew, and became more distinct from Marvel. However the home of the Man of Steel, The World’s Greatest Detective, The Scarlet Speedster, and an Amazon Princess had a problem that only got worse as time went on. To keep up with times the characters would be reinvented, also known as being rebooted or retconned. Fans wanted to know what was happening to those old versions. Sure, Superman can fly now instead of “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” but what happened to the leaper? The explanation was hinted at for a while throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s. This answer was that those old characters lived in different universes than the new ones. So Batman is both a dark brooding figure in the new comics, and the silly pseudo child molester in the old ones. Although there were suggestions of the Multiverse, it was fully introduced in the 1985 “Maxi-Series,” Crisis On Infinite Earths.

This series was very well written, extremely intelligent, beautifully drawn and colored, and hugely groundbreaking for comics. In discussing the DC Universe it is still customary to call a story arc either “pre-crisis” or “post-crisis.” A fan of comics at this point will be rolling their eyes, because they already know all of this, so you know it’s not like I’m tapping into the annals of unknown history. However Crisis is important to keep in mind in terms of the DCSU.

Superhero movies are pretty popular right now. Between both Spiderman Franchises, Wolverine/The X-Men, The Dark Knight trilogy, The Avengers and all of the characters in that movie, not to mention all of the successful cartoons and TV shows. The problem with DC is that most of the more successful superhero film franchises are properties of their top competitor. DC is slow to bring out new movies, and so far they’ve been extremely hit-or-miss outside of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. Man of Steel was alright, but most people got tired of the non-stop big budget action around the fortieth minute, myself included. Marvel has a new movie out every year, and DC hasn’t kept up. While one is preparing a phase 3 of interconnected movies the other is trying to scrape up a coherent first phase.

As it stands now, DC has made plans to expand their screen universe. They’ve recently announced a show based on The Flash, and a movie to go along with it. The assumption is that the character will be played by the same actor in both the movie and show. Barry Allen (The Flash) is going to be introduced on The CW’s Arrow. Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen has been extremely successful with new young viewers. By 2015 there will be a new Man of Steel movie featuring Ben Affleck as Batman. A lot of people believe this to be the precursor for a Justice League movie, which could potentially bring in characters like Wonder Woman (A rumor has circulated for years about giving her a new TV show), The Martian Manhunter, Shazam, and even a possible new Green Lantern. As a side note I think they should hire Ryan Reynolds to play the Green Lantern again, he was charismatic and charming as Hal Jordan and it wasn’t his fault the script was written by the students of Mrs. Westcott’s 3rd grade class in Cold Springs, Michigan.

3rd-grade-class

The one in tie-dye is in charge of continuity

With all these big plans, the DCSU seems like it’s going to be fine without my advice. That’s where you’re wrong. I think that Warner Bros. and DC are going to forget something extremely valuable. Crisis on Infinite Earths. While Batman and Superman appearing on screen together for the first time is a big deal, the rebooting of Bruce Wayne seems like an odd choice. And, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Not even close. While the average audience member will understand a film reboot at this point, it may still come off as confusing to have an all new Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and so forth. How can they explain the new faces on these iconic characters? Arrow has the answer.

In 2011 DC Comics rebooted their entire comic line. In an unprecedented move, the publisher ended all of their ongoing comics series to start 52 new ones, fittingly called The New 52 (52 is a number commonly seen throughout the DC universe, there was one year or 52 week story line called 52. It is also the number of weeks in a year as well as the number of cards in a deck, and they play on these two facts a lot). The New 52 has changed the images of a lot of characters including both Batman and Superman, but has also helped to popularize characters like The Green Arrow and Animal Man. It is at least partly responsible for the creation of Arrow, because of the characters emerging fan-base. The Green Arrow show is a little like Smallville with less melodramatic writing. Stephen Amell plays Oliver Queen, a young attractive Billionaire and super assassin bent on fixing the poverty problem in his home of Star City (it’s Starling City in the comics but let’s not split hairs). Amell has not made it a secret he wants to be the Green Arrow forever. He was the voice on video game Injustice: Gods Among Us and has recently publicly alluded that he wants to be in any potential Justice League movie. So how does this show tell us anything

Other than the fact that he and Barry Allen are going to form some type of relationship that could carry over into The Flash movie, there have been clues to Amell’s importance in the coming DCSU. The show also has minor references to The Blue Beetle and The Atom. In Crisis The Flash is central to the plot because the Cosmic Treadmill He uses it to jump between universes and (spoilers) dies using it to save the multiverse. That now iconic yet ridiculously named treadmill has already been casually mentioned in on Arrow. However a bunch of details have been changed around on that show to keep it interesting to new views as well as comics veterans, so it may turn out that the treadmill is just the way Barry Allen will become The Flash. I think  Arrow has already told us that the treadmill will be central in the coming future of the DCSU.

Throughout Arrow the number 52 is seen in the background. One of the main characters is a cop and his badge number is DC52, Queen Consolidated main building is on 52 Wells Street, a villain leads Oliver Queen to an abandoned apartment whose number is 52 and so forth. Also, a lot of the names of characters and locations are allusions to famous comic writers and artists. But, that number is everywhere. I believe this is a reference to Prime Earth. In a recent New 52 storyline, the Justice League finds out that they exist within a multiverse and is forced to create a new earth to defeat a villain. This place is called Prime Earth and has subtle differences to the current DC main Earth (called Earth One). Prime Earth seems to share a lot of the details of Earth One, except for minor details like Starling City now being called Star City. I am not alone in my thinking that Arrow takes place on Prime Earth (add link). Is the number 52 a reference to The New 52? Almost definitely. If that’s true, Does Arrow take place on Prime Earth? I say, yes.

So what does it mean if Arrow takes place on a planet that was only just invented in the comics? It means that all the DC screen universe is interlocked and completely connected in a way Marvel can only stand in awe and applaud at. The biggest reason for this is that Marvel Studios does not own the film rights to all of its characters. Notably, Spiderman, Daredevil, Wolverine and the word “Mutant” and all related X-Man are all property of other studios. Warner Bros. on the other hand has all film rights to every DC character. This gives them a huge edge over their Disney owned counterpart. Arrow may very well be the first key in a series of locks that will lead to one hell of a reveal. Because, the DCSU may be its own multiverse. The key to the multiverse has always been that certain characters are radically different, and some are exactly the same. So what if Oliver Queen looks the same on every single earth, but Batman and Superman look a little different? In one movie Batman can be a dark gritty hero of the future, and in another he can be whatever the fuck George Clooney was. DC could essentially say, “no we didn’t replace Superman because George Reeves died, or because Christopher Reeves got old, we did it because we switched universes without telling you.” Every single reboot, and failed attempt as well as unbridled achievement like The Dark Knight can be cannon within the DCSU. They all matter. If this is where DC is going, they could blow marvel out of the water. It could be made to seem like this was the plan all along, and The Avengers could look like they copied off DC’s brilliant endgame.

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