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.

Views: 3998

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

The Wayne Boring version of the 50s had a large paunch and was middle-aged and probably significantly older than Superman.(1) Consequently his first couple of Superboy appearances depicted him as older than Superboy. In "Superboy Meets Amazing Man" in Superboy #59 he looked like the adult Luthor of the era. (In the panel I've seen he lacks the paunch, but that may have been due to the requirements of the plot rather than an intentional difference.) In "Superboy Meets Robin the Boy Wonder" in Adventure Comics #253 he's depicted as not yet overweight and balding. The Luthor origin story established them as the same age and the Silver Age Curt Swan Luthor was slimmer (although not as muscular he became when he got his disco collar costume in the 70s). It looks to me like Mike Sekowsky's cover to the above Adventure Comics issue follows the older tradition.

(1) As originally depicted, with red hair, he was of indeterminate age. The bald Luthor was sometimes depicted as elderly, especially in the newspaper strip; but in other stories he was of indeterminate age and apparently fairly robust.

Dan Long said:

the John Bryne version where he killed, in a non-"needed" manor, wasn't that long ago.

Yes, the Wonder Woman comments were hypocritical. She'd killed just a few years before and no one blinked an eye.

I'm not saying any of it's right. I'm just pointing out none of it's new.

I really don't understand how the example of Wonder Woman killing is at all relevant to this discussion nor how it proves anything about how out of character it was for Superman to kill.

At least, in Wonder Woman's case, she has always been presented, from her very first story, as someone from a warrior culture. The surprise, to me, was not that she killed Maxwell Lord, but that she doesn't do it more often. Even so, the story in which she did so presented her acting to end an imminent threat.

As for Superman, it was out of character for him to kill Zod in the movie. I am quite aware that a few Golden Age stories showed Superman killing, but I give greater weight to the thousands of tales over 70 years that say he doesn't, and that it's terribly important to him that he does not. In that regard, Superman is like Spider-Man; it's a defining trait of the character.

Regarding what John Byrne did, well, first, he didn't have Superman kill; he had Superman perform an execution. That's a distinction without a difference, you say? I submit that it is not.

In either case, I thought it was just as out of character for Superman to do so in that story, but I can credit Bryne for putting in a far more persuasive effort to show that Superman was faced with an extreme circumstance and behaved as he did because of it. Mind you, I am not persuaded, but Byrne tried harder than the movie writers did. We're still complaining about the movie because it failed to be as convincing. Instead, they did this:

 writer's fiat photo wfiat.gif 

Man, those smilies cover a lot of ground.

The Byrne story was designed to have him have to deal with needing to kill. The point of the story was the ramifications of what that did to him. The movie had him scream, for whatever reason, and then went on about his business.

Maybe they will deal with it next time, but it didn't seem like a point they were coming back to (unless they do now that everyone has complained about it). If they were going to, I'd think they would've done more with it at the time. If he does bring it up or grow as a result, it would mitigate some of the problem I had. I just hope they don't have him so distraught he abandons Earth for five years.

-- MSA

I guess the way it relates to the original question is what type of heroes do we want in modern superhero movies? The SA heroes who valued even a villains life more than their own or the modern ones who kill casually in combat. During the Avengers movie there was a lot of death, Fury and Hill and even Cap I think on the helicarier, all the aliens. During the second X-men movie Wolverine went through quite a few of the invaders. The Superman movies that I recall didn't show him killing anyone, nor did the Wonder Woman tv show. So which do we want?

Mr. Silver Age said:

He also looks pretty old, but that's always been the case. They should be just about the same age, shouldn't they?

I always thought Luthor was significantly older than Superman until they performed what would later be called a ret-con in his origin story. Even then, my impression was that the newly named Lex was two or three years older than Superboy.

ClarkKent_DC said:

At least, in Wonder Woman's case, she has always been presented, from her very first story, as someone from a warrior culture. The surprise, to me, was not that she killed Maxwell Lord, but that she doesn't do it more often. Even so, the story in which she did so presented her acting to end an imminent threat.

As for Superman, it was out of character for him to kill Zod in the movie. I am quite aware that a few Golden Age stories showed Superman killing, but I give greater weight to the thousands of tales over 70 years that say he doesn't, and that it's terribly important to him that he does not. In that regard, Superman is like Spider-Man; it's a defining trait of the character.

I agree that Clark and Peter (which are their true selves), being raised as they were, will move heaven and earth not to harm, let alone kill, anybody. Endeavoring not to harm others doesn't mean it will never happen.

As I have said before, Wonder Woman's killing of Maxwell Lord was in the heat of battle, and as you pointed out she is a warrior (as is Wolverine). Superman had been turned into a hypnotized living weapon who was about to kill innocent people and destroy the city. Wonder Woman didn't "casually" kill or kill just to save herself. If she hadn't done it the resulting blood would have been or her hands and Superman's hands.

The sanctimony of Batman's not killing the Joker has the unintended result of his future victims being on Batman's head. So instead of being responsible for one death he is responsible for many.

It's been driving me crazy for years that Batman actually makes efforts far above and beyond the call of duty to save the Joker's life, after every telepath, precog, time-traveler & Spirit of Vengeance has assured him that the Joker can not be reformed or redeemed, and will continue to be a threat to innocent lives as long as he lives.  I actually preferred the concept from Batman Begins: "Just because I won't kill you doesn't mean I have to save you."  Mind you, I'm not a fan of that movie's take on Ra' al-Ghul, who I found even farther afield than "Real Estate" Luthor.

So which do we want?

The value of Superman's code is that it applies to Superman. Others have other perspectives. I don't expect everyone to avoid carrying guns just because Batman has a thing about it. Wolverine, Cap, WW (as she's being directed today) all see the benefits to killing, at least in self-defense--and they very seldom if ever are in a situation where they kill without being threatened first. The only real difference is that Superman doesn't even kill in self defense.

So instead of being responsible for one death he is responsible for many.

I don't think that follows directly. If Batman captures the Joker and takes him to prison and he escapes, why is it on him for doing what he should have done and not on the people who let him escape?

The Joker is a special case that almost has to be ignored--he's killed so many people and escaped so many times (and sometimes just seems to be hanging out with no rationale for why he's not in jail) that he's gone beyond being a character. I agree that Batman going out of his way to save the Joker seems to push Batman's code further than it would be by now.

But then, Batman probably knows it's impossible to kill the Joker, as someone will bring him back. Would you buy an extra-special issue called The Death of the Joker, We Really Mean It?

-- MSA 

 

Richard Willis said:

The sanctimony of Batman's not killing the Joker has the unintended result of his future victims being on Batman's head. So instead of being responsible for one death he is responsible for many.

 

Mr. Silver Age said:

I don't think that follows directly. If Batman captures the Joker and takes him to prison and he escapes, why is it on him for doing what he should have done and not on the people who let him escape?

 photo target.gif

Exactly. It isn't on Batman for "doing what he should have done" -- which, let me state, he should NOT do -- that's on the Gotham criminal justice system, such as it is. If anyone or any institution is to blame, it's the administration of Arkham Asylum, which seems to have as much security as your neighborhood 7-Eleven.

But Arkham Asylum is just too much of a story crutch for Batman writers. Really, with all the escapes of high-profile crazies from that place, and the harm and terror they commit, what would and should happen would be that Arkham would be closed and bulldozed to the ground, and those inmates sent to properly secure places.

Richard Willis said:

Mr. Silver Age said:

He also looks pretty old, but that's always been the case. They should be just about the same age, shouldn't they?

I always thought Luthor was significantly older than Superman until they performed what would later be called a ret-con in his origin story. Even then, my impression was that the newly named Lex was two or three years older than Superboy.

I always thought likewise.

ClarkKent_DC said:

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.

I submit Exhibit B: "Batman v Superman: A First Look at the Batmobile"

I just wrote in another thread that one could do great visual stuff in underwater scenes in a Namor movie. Anything Namor could do Superman can do.

Again, these days Superman could have adventures on a Mort Weisinger-style fantastic world, where he could fight aliens with weapons powerful enough to hurt him. So he could be threatened in the story, just as much as any other hero. This means that the supposed insuperable Superman problem - his invulnerability means he's not putting his own life on the line when he goes into action - doesn't need to be one. Guardians of the Galaxy has been a hit, so I doubt it can be argued that a Superman movie would have to be set on Earth to be a hit with a mass audience.

While I was writing this post, I had this idea for a Superman movie. Superman is contacted by Vartox, a black hero from another, more advanced planet. In his day Vartox was more powerful than Superman, but he's getting old and his powers are fading,(1) and he's just been defeated by a powerful foe. He thinks it's going to take a young guy at his physical peak to defeat him, so he's contacted Superman. Superman agrees and travels to Vartox's planet, which turns out to be an interesting exotic world in the DC Silver Age tradition. He expects to beat the bad guy fairly easily, but gets badly beaten too. Vartox and Superman figure it's going to take the pair of them, so they go off on a mission to restore Vartox's powers. When they succeed he's also rejuvenated. They go off to fight the bad guy, but he now has an army and they have to split their forces. Superman takes on the bad guy, Vartox takes on the army. The audience knows Superman can't win since the bad guy beat him last time. The bad guy hits Superman with whatever he hit him with before, but this time it doesn't work: Superman just walks into the beam laughing. At the last moment before he grabs the guy he rips off a disguise, revealing he's really Vartox. Simultaneously the Vartox fighting the army, who was apparently about to die as they hit him whatever Vartox's equivalent of kryptonite is, rips off his disguise and reveals he's Superman. They both defeat their respective foes.

My point is not that they should make this movie, but that if it sounds like a fun film - and it does to me - making a good Superman movie should be possible. I don't mean this post as a criticism of Man of Steel, because I haven't seen that.

(1) I'm drawing elements here from 70s/80s Vartox stories. He was portrayed as older than Superman and had a greater variety of powers. In his second story, in Action Comics #475-#476, he had the problem that due to his age his powers were fading. I've made him black because the idea of giving Superman a black counterpart of equal standing was what I started with.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2020   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service