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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but that they slept together after she learned who he was is understandable.

I'd nearly do it myself!

Well, you can't unsee that, although the suit looks like Superman Blue, from the Supes Red/Blue storyline.



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.

Wait, I'm not saying unmarried sex was wrong (Superman II). There was a very strong implication in Superman Returns that Superman was into one-night stands. As you said, for a family movie, it was a poor choice. BUT it's also the example of Warner Brothers doesn't understand its characters. Superman killer in a Kryptonian war audiences could buy. Superman, bed-jumper? Seriously, did no one hear the jokes? For example: "They had to be one-night stands. He really pounded them."

Richard Willis said:

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 didn't get the impression from Superman Returns that Superman was into one-night stands (assuming that night was the sex scene from Superman II), as much as he had to put his relationship with Lois behind him for her own good (not that I agree with that idea).  Lois, on the other hand, clearly had sex with Richard White close enough after that night for all of them to believe that he was the father of her child.  Now, exactly how Superman could have not known Lois was pregnant (the man can hear cells divide) is a poser, but not the biggest one in Returns, since we are told once again that Jor-El has provided Kal-El with the combined knowledge of the 28 (or however many) known galaxies, yet we are asked to believe that until some Earth astronomer found it, Clark had no idea where Krypton had been located?  Wouldn't that have been Fact One in Jor-El's galactic tutorial?  And Superman can't just use his telescopic vision to check the place out, or some high tech monitor that he should have in his Fortress--he has to abandon the Earth for 5 years just to look at some radioactive space debris?  Exactly what did he hope to gain from that that was worth leaving his adopted home world defenseless for so long?  At least if he'd been off looking for Kandor or Argo City, he'd have been in search of something more important than a bunch of deadly green rocks.

It's interesting. When that movie comes on TV, I usually let it play in the background because the action sequences are good; but in all the times I've seen it, I've never caught the part where WHY he was gone, and HOW LONG he was gone were explained. I know there are a lot of articles explaining it, but I've never seen that part of the movie. Of course, the movie does put me to sleep when the action sequences end. I did buy a copy for $1 or 50 cents. Not sure if I still have it or not. Give me a time and I'll toothpick my eyes and ears open to catch it.

Dave Elyea said:

I didn't get the impression from Superman Returns that Superman was into one-night stands (assuming that night was the sex scene from Superman II), as much as he had to put his relationship with Lois behind him for her own good (not that I agree with that idea).  Lois, on the other hand, clearly had sex with Richard White close enough after that night for all of them to believe that he was the father of her child.  Now, exactly how Superman could have not known Lois was pregnant (the man can hear cells divide) is a poser, but not the biggest one in Returns, since we are told once again that Jor-El has provided Kal-El with the combined knowledge of the 28 (or however many) known galaxies, yet we are asked to believe that until some Earth astronomer found it, Clark had no idea where Krypton had been located?  Wouldn't that have been Fact One in Jor-El's galactic tutorial?  And Superman can't just use his telescopic vision to check the place out, or some high tech monitor that he should have in his Fortress--he has to abandon the Earth for 5 years just to look at some radioactive space debris?  Exactly what did he hope to gain from that that was worth leaving his adopted home world defenseless for so long?  At least if he'd been off looking for Kandor or Argo City, he'd have been in search of something more important than a bunch of deadly green rocks.

Not only did Superman Returns get the character wrong in almost every way, it also wasn't a very good movie. The Luthor plot was very similar to his plan in Superman: The Movie, and Kevin Spacey -- an actor I usually enjoy -- seemed to channeling Gene Hackman's Luthor. (Perhaps that's the only Luthor he was familiar with.) So it was a re-run of the worst aspect of Superman: The Movie (which was otherwise a terrific movie.) It's almost like blowing up the Death Star more than once! :)

But one of the biggest stupidities of the movie was that I guessed Lois had given birth to Superman's child almost immediately -- and waited impatiently through the movie for the Big Reveal -- but why didn't Superman know that? He was using his super-vision in his role as Super-Stalker (ugh!), and it didn't reveal the kid he was spying on was his? Bah!

All of it, all of it, soooooo baaaaaaad.

I was really disappointed that after Superman Returns disappointed so many, the makers of Man of Steel declared that this time it will be different, it'll be better, we're starting from scratch, we're breaking away from Superman the Movie -- and essentially remade it, but made it in a worse way! 

Since Superman Returns went to such great lengths to be a sequel to Superman I & II, I have to assume that he'd already left on his wild goose chase to Rao by the time Supergirl arrived from Argo City to find the Omegahedron--the Supergirl movie did mention that Superman was off-Earth at the time.  Of course, we all know that the real reason he left was to keep Superman III & IV from ever happening.

I'd forgotten about the Supergirl movie. Good cast, bad script. Faye Dunaway and Peter Otole and they still made a bad movie! Plus Helen Slater looked the part.

Really? You forgot? I only had to see it once to try to forget it. But it's truly unforgettable in its badness. I can't tell you a thing about the movie other than there was too much hot pink and it was incredibly bad. Maybe if I'd watch it now, I could laugh, but at the time, it was two hours of my life I couldn't get back.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

I'd forgotten about the Supergirl movie. Good cast, bad script. Faye Dunaway and Peter Otole and they still made a bad movie! Plus Helen Slater looked the part.

I actually thought that the Supergirl movie did a decent job of capturing the flavor, if not the letter of the early Supergirl comics: Kara wastes way too much time maintaining a secret identity that she really has no use for or attachment to, she fights villains who don't quite seem to know what they're doing, and she falls in love with some random guy who may or may not have a personality hidden away somewhere.  Still, a bad movie, but I'd take Faye Dunaway's Selena over "real estate scheme" Luthor (either Hackman's or Spacey's) or Robert Vaughn's villain from Superman III.  To say nothing of the Nuclear Man from IV, which is pretty much the best thing to say about him.

And Selena may be better! The bar is very low there. Lex Luthor, evil real estate agent. How can anyone claim Warner Brothers doesn't know its own characters after TWO helpings of that?!?! Did Lex ever try to sell real estate in the comic books?

Maybe I can find a copy of Supergirl around somewhere.

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