On Jan. 17, Warner Bros. announced that the debut of the next Superman movie – the one tentatively titled Batman vs. Superman – has been pushed from July 17, 2015, to May 6, 2016. Injuries? Script problems? We don’t know. What we do know is that the highly prized summer release spot was quickly nabbed by Marvel Films – for Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas.

That’s right. DC Comics – through its parent corporation, Warner Bros. – can’t get a Superman movie off the ground for another year. But chief competitor Marvel is ready and waiting to jump in with a new star ... one whose super-power is to get very, very small.

What’s wrong with this picture? Across the Internet, fans whine and wonder why DC has such trouble turning its famous superheroes into successful movie franchises, while Marvel releases four movies a year, and can even build a film around a C-list character who talks to insects.

And that’s with one hand tied behind its back – Marvel Films can’t even use all of the characters from Marvel’s own comic books! The movie rights to Spider-Man are held by Sony. The rights to Fantastic Four, Wolverine and the many X-Men characters are clutched by Twentieth Century Fox in a death grip. Until recently, Daredevil and Ghost Rider were off limits, too.

But so what? Marvel has managed to turn Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man and Thor into solo stars, and their team, The Avengers, into money-making machines. That allows Marvel the luxury of experimenting with lesser lights, like Ant-Man in 2015 and Guardians of the Galaxy this year.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. keeps failing with some of the biggest names in the history of comics. Superman and Batman have done all right, but Green Lantern was a flop; Captain Marvel, The Flash and Green Arrow have never appeared anywhere but the small screen; and Wonder Woman … oh, for Pete’s sake, how can there not be a Wonder Woman movie?

The Internet isn’t shy, of course, in launching lots of theories about why DC seems so incompetent with its own characters. Let’s take a look at a few:

1. It’s not as bad as it seems.

I agree, because nothing is ever as bad as the Internet thinks it is.

Sure, DC looks lame now, but how about Marvel around 30 years ago? DC had the successful Superman franchise in the ‘70s and ‘80s, while Batman was boffo box office in the 1990s, plus plenty of TV shows and serials before that. Marvel had no characters on the silver screen, and what it had done – some cheesy made-for-TV Spider-Man and Captain America movies, and the Incredible Hulk TV show – wasn’t very good. They’ve turned it around, and so can DC.

And, hey, actress Gal Gadot will appear as Wonder Woman in Batman vs. Superman, as part of a three-picture deal. Figuring the second of those movies will be Justice League (scheduled for 2017), the third could well be that elusive WW solo film.

2. Warner Bros. doesn’t understand its own characters.

This actually may be a tiny bit true.

While I was watching Man of Steel, I was stunned to see Pa Kent advising young Clark that maybe keeping his secret identity might be more important than saving the lives of a busload of kids. Before I had time to express my disgust of this fundamental misunderstanding of what Superman stands for, not to mention what Pa Kent stands for, the middle-aged black lady next to me said loudly, “Nuh-UH.” Pithy, and entirely accurate.

And having Superman – the one superhero who famously has a code against killing – break Zod’s neck seemed like it was designed specifically to distance the character from what made him famous for all these years. I expect situational ethics from other characters, especially those like Captain America, who have served in wartime. But from the Man of Steel I expect Super-ethics, because that’s what is so amazing about him – not that he has super-powers, but that he resolutely refuses to use them for his own gain or convenience. Now, that’s super!

Then there’s Batman. In the recent trilogy, the third movie begins with Bruce Wayne having retired for eight years. As every Bat-fan knows, Batman retiring is like Ahab giving up on that white whale. It’s a mission, not a hobby.

3. Marvel characters are just better.

This one I don’t buy.

It is true that Marvel characters were deliberately constructed with internal conflicts that are inherently interesting. Spider-Man’s famous mantra about how great power brings great responsibility almost makes his super-powers seem like a curse. That stands in opposition to DC’s major characters, who are essentially icons more than characters, born of the square-jawed heroism and idealism of the 1940s, something that can seem quaint today.

But, as we like to say on my website, there are no bad characters, just bad writers. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been popular for more than 70 years, so the appeal is there – it’s up to the screenwriters to find it.

4. WB makes movies; Marvel Films makes superhero movies.

I actually kinda agree with this one.

Marvel Films has one job and one job only, and that’s to turn Marvel’s catalog of characters into successful movies. That focus has no doubt meant a lot of man-hours figuring out how to translate the virtues of one medium into those of another – and successfully so. Warner Bros., meanwhile, releases a lot of movies in a lot of different genres every year, and only has to think about what makes superheroes tick every once in a while.

There are more theories, of course, but mostly variations of the ones above. As fans we can only hope that the bad ones are wrong, and that Warner Bros. has a better plan for bringing its characters to life than plopping as many as possible into Batman vs. Superman, followed by a Justice League movie crowded with a bunch of strangers. The characters deserve better than that – and we long-time fans do, too!

If not, there’s always Ant-Man.

Contact Captain Comics at capncomics@aol.com.

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I tried to show that the bottom line isn't necessarily the bottom line when it comes to these franchises. There's also the questions of building a good base to go forward.  I sense hesitation and uncertainty 'in me waters'.  One pointer is that they've decided on a 'crutch' in the next movie of having Batman in it.  Maybe 'more Batman' is just how you make money?  Or they didn't have a plan or a vision in place for a trilogy when they set out to make their Superman movie?  As Mr SA said earlier - how are they going to have countering and complimentary personalities in the lead roles if they've modeled Superman in Man of Steel after Batman?

Another pointer is that we don't have a Superman cartoon or some form of live-action TV show coming out of the movie, as we've had with Avengers, even if it's not a strict tie-in.  How strange.  There's a lack of confidence in the property there somewhere, or an understanding that they've gone over the heads of the key 'kids and teenagers' market, somehow.  Cross-promotion is what these media giants are supposed to be about.

Just little pointers, John...

As Mr SIlver Age also said: "Hopefully, they are taking the nearly universal critique of what the flaws were to heart (and know what to do about it)."


Superman, man of bed-jumping. Yes, that was a TERRIBLE concept for a Superman movie. By the way, he wasn't a deadbeat bad; he didn't know the kid was his. But Superman, sex hound? Proof that the studio doesn't know its characters.


Mr. Silver Age said:

Typically on those big movies, I think the rule of thumb is that the marketing budget is about the size of the production budget, so the movie has to double the budget before it starts to make money. On that basis, Returns wasn't good enough to risk it--and where do you go from a deadbeat Superman and a Lois with a baby marrying another guy? When you're in a hole that deep, stop digging.

Again there, that notion that Superman abandoned Earth and single-mother Lois is raising his baby is so far off the rails, it's just amazing they decided that was a strong platform on which to revive a franchise. OTOH, I've heard some of the other proposals, and it wasn't the worst.

It's like that possibly apocryphal story about Sam Raimi pitching his Spider-Man movie, and the exec says, "I like it--but does it have to be a spider?' Hollywood loses track of what's important really fast with so many people involved who no nothing about the vehicle.

-- MSA

Mr. Silver Age said:

It's like that possibly apocryphal story about Sam Raimi pitching his Spider-Man movie, and the exec says, "I like it--but does it have to be a spider?' Hollywood loses track of what's important really fast with so many people involved who no nothing about the vehicle.

Or the tale of negotiations over a possible film of Terry Pratchett's Mort: "We love it - but can we lose the Death angle?"

One thing that hobbled "Superman Returns" was that about 50 or 60 million dollars of that $209 million paid for abortive efforts that didn't get made -- including paying Nicolas Cage for NOT starring in one, Kevin Smith for a script they didn't use, producer Jon Peters for NOT producing it, etc.

To steal one of your lines, my friend ... my head hurts.

Your head would hurt worse if Nicolas Cage and Jon Peters HAD made their version of a Superman movie.

Details here: "How Producer Jon Peters and a Giant Spider Nearly Ruined Superman"

I submit this as Exhibit A to the proposition Warner Brothers doesn't understand its characters.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com), Superman Returns had a budget of $209 million and a North American box office of just over $200 million. Worldwide the box office was over $391 million. WB President Alan Horn said that the movie should have exceeded $500 million.

Man of Steel had a budget of $225 million and did a bit over $291 million in North America and overall the worldwide box office was just over $668 million.

The Avengers, also according to IMDB, had a budget of $220,000,000 and a North American box office of $623,279,547. In addition to this, it made $895,237,000 more in the rest of the world, according to Wikipedia.

I know some people have a problem with Joss Whedon, but he was able to make a movie that was loved by adults and children and was seen more than once by a lot of people (plus all the DVD and merchandising money).

Figserello said:

One pointer is that they've decided on a 'crutch' in the next movie of having Batman in it. Maybe 'more Batman' is just how you make money? Or they didn't have a plan or a vision in place for a trilogy when they set out to make their Superman movie?

I think the third movie to feature Superman (and Batman) is likely to be Justice League, and that this was probably their plan. First tying Superman and Batman together, followed by tying them together with the rest of the heroes.

Dan Long said:

Superman, man of bed-jumping. Yes, that was a TERRIBLE concept for a Superman movie. By the way, he wasn't a deadbeat bad; he didn't know the kid was his. But Superman, sex hound? Proof that the studio doesn't know its characters.

Actually the unmarried sex between Superman and Lois occurred in Superman II (1980)*. For a movie aimed at family audiences and little kids, I think this was a poor choice. The same mistake, IMO, was made in the movie Batman (1966) when Lee Meriwether's "Miss Kitka" (actually Catwoman) bedded Batman.

* also, making a sequel to a 1980 movie in 2006 doesn't make sense to me.

I'm pretty sure they did not end up sleeping together in that movie, although they did have a date.

Richard Willis said:

 The same mistake, IMO, was made in the movie Batman (1966) when Lee Meriwether's "Miss Kitka" (actually Catwoman) bedded Batman.

I don't recall implied sex in the 1966 Batman movie, either. Of course, I was pretty young the last time I saw it. But still, I think I'd have noticed.

And I have to say there are a LOT of great points being made here. Heckuva conversation, Legionnaires!

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