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'm shocked--shocked!--to hear that could be the case. How could DC create a super-hero who was unlikable? I can't imagine how that could happen.

It'd be cool if they made a Supergirl movie with a version of the animated one, where--once again--they created a good version of the character. Yeah, I bet that's what they do.

-- MSA

According to yahoo, if the cancelled 90s Superman movie had been made Jim Carrey might have played Brainiac. Perhaps it's best that movie didn't get made.

Richard Willis said:

Spider-Man’s famous mantra about how great power brings great responsibility almost makes his super-powers seem like a curse.

Over the years this phrase has crept into our culture. People use it or variations of it all the time without realizing where it originated.

As an aside, in the movies it doesn't make sense for Uncle Ben to say this to Peter, who as far as he knows does not have great power.

I believe it was in Spider-Man: the Rockomic, a 1972 vinyl LP, that the phrase was first attributed to Uncle Ben. I often wondered why Uncle Ben would say that. When did he ever have great power?

If you've never heard the LP, it's on YouTube. Skip to Part 4, to the 0:50 mark, if you just want to hear Peter quote his uncle.

Welcome to the Round Table!

The "With great power...." statement actually first appeared in a caption at the end of his first story in Amazing Fantasy #15. If they were going to follow this they would have needed a narrator in the movie, which apparently is frowned upon.

It only makes sense if Ben knew or suspected Peter had changed. Which might make an interesting story bit, that he knew but was waiting for Peter to tell him about it.

That's the record with the Hey la Doctor Octo...Doctor Octo...Doctor Octopus song with Stan explaining it's a nightmare and Ock saying he's going to make superheroes dance for him? A few of the songs are on youtube but not the entire album.



Ron M. said:

That's the record with the Hey la Doctor Octo...Doctor Octo...Doctor Octopus song with Stan explaining it's a nightmare and Ock saying he's going to make superheroes dance for him? A few of the songs are on youtube but not the entire album.

Different album. In this one, the Kingpin kidnaps Aunt May to force Peter to take a picture of Spider-Man with a lethally gimmicked camera. After flashing back to his origin, Peter resolves to rescue Aunt May, and joins forces with Dr. Strange to do it. The music is actually pretty good, and Peter is voiced by a very young Rene Auberjonois. And the whole album is on the YouTube playlist that I linked to.

He had several around that time. There was also one made up of several short stories that I believe were also released as 45s, possibly by Power Records. There was also a Conan album of four 45s. The last one eventually appeared in the comics.

YOUR Batman does NOT use guns. But over the years, the character has. Several times. Historical fact versus what you want the character to be.

Which Batman? 1939 original Batman used guns until Robin showed up.

1939 Batman used guns a total of two times. Two. Once to kill vampires, and once to kill mutated mental patients.  There seems to be this fallacy that he was dealing out death constantly back then, but it's just not true.

He's also shown wearing a gun holster on one cover, although the gun was erased.

And then there's this cover:

 

http://sacomics.blogspot.com/2005/08/batman-and-guns.html



Randy Jackson said:

1939 Batman used guns a total of two times. Two. Once to kill vampires, and once to kill mutated mental patients.  There seems to be this fallacy that he was dealing out death constantly back then, but it's just not true.

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