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 thought Hackman's Luthor was fine. I thought Lex Luthor in no power suit was a horrible choice for a visual medium. It's a movie. There is a HUGE visual component to a movie, and Lex Luthor, with no power suit, doesn't cut it.

That may be the main reason Warner Brothers keeps making average to poor super-hero movies because it doesn't want them in the suits. There are plenty of links to articles on here that show various producers and directors didn't want Superman in the suit, so they certainly couldn't have wanted anyone else in one. BUT the costumes, the suits, are part of the story. Would a Superman movie work if he was in jean and a t-shirt? (Movie! not a tv show interpretation; I liked the last 9 seasons of Smallville, but it wasn't sold as a Superman TV series.) If I remember correctly, the biggest complaint about Lois and Clark was the lack of Superman (or at least rarely used) in it. But I digress...

Movies are big events. At the most, we're going to get six of the same characters (at least at this point). So each movie gets one shot to get it right.

That means your super-hero needs to be in costume (they are at Marvel), the bad guys need to be in costume (again, they are at Marvel, even in the bad movies), and there has to be something worth it (do I really need to reference Marvel again?).

In "Man of Steel" we got 2 1/2 of those (Superman - in costume; Zod - in costume; and wanting to save Krypton...) It's the destroying Earth to save Krypton motif/theme that bothered me about "Man of Steel." For the motivations given at the beginning of the movie, they didn't quite seem to match the end of the movie. Zod, world conqueror, to me, would have played better than Zod, savior of Krypton. I also couldn't conceive how if you had Superman's powers, and could master them as swiftly as Zod did, why would you want to turn Earth into a non-powered Krypton? It was as if someone had offered a person a million dollars, and Zod said, "Na. I'd rather live in squalor."

Hackman & Spacey did what they could with what they were dealt, but "real estate scheme" Luthor never existed before the Donner movies, and doesn't quite line up with any incarnation of comic book Luthor (actually, the "Arms dealer" Luthor of Superman IV was not entirely unlike the Golden Age Luthor, and even used Silver Age Lex's super-science to create the Nuclear Man, but that was too little, too late, and still a crummy movie).  Just think of what Superman Returns could have been if Lex had used the "combined knowledge of the 28 known galaxies" to build battlemechs and terrible weapons instead of an astonishingly ugly island!  I mean, the Superman & Lois stuff still would have sucked, but at least there'd have been some fun action scenes!

But Lex's downfall has always been his short-sighted hatred. Why use knowledge to fight when he can kill Supes? The action sequences that existed in Superman Returns were fine. It was the character stuff inbetween them that fell short, short, short.

Golden and Silver Age Lex (what little I've read of those) has always seemed more interesting. It was after he was changed into an evil business owner, post-1980s-Crisis, that he turned deadly dull. I could just see him staring down Superman and saying, "Go ahead, alien. Get me on tax fraud charges."

I stick by my point of movies are visual, and Lex-sans-suit is not.

I stick by my point of movies are visual, and Lex-sans-suit is not.

Lex in his power suit was never my concept of Lex, which was created in the SA. He's the antithesis of the hero--drab gray prison uniform (versus bright, primary color costume) and a genius who could break out of a jail cell with a transistor radio (versus the most powerful man in the universe). The suit make Lex into an action figure who's fighting power against power. Lex will lose that.

The revamp made him legitimate, so he wasn't always shooting at Supes from his jail-cell window (why do you put Lex in a cell with a window?) and hiding in his elaborate hide-outs. He could be in the open and have an explanation for where the cash came from to create all his toys. So it kept that original antithesis idea.

It sounds like you first encountered Lex when he had his power suit, and that may seem like his natural milieu. To me, it was out of character for Lex to get that physical with Supes.

-- MSA 

Should Luthor be shown in his garish power suit or battle armor from the comics in the movies? Of course not but he should have some sort of armor at least for a climatic scene. Luthor was always using gadgets AND experimenting on himself. One time he injected liquid kryptonite into his body! So Lex is always willing to risk his health and well0being to take out Superman.

Mr. Silver Age said:

Lex in his power suit was never my concept of Lex, which was created in the SA. He's the antithesis of the hero--drab gray prison uniform (versus bright, primary color costume) and a genius who could break out of a jail cell with a transistor radio (versus the most powerful man in the universe). The suit make Lex into an action figure who's fighting power against power. Lex will lose that.

The green and purple outfit came along when I wasn't reading the Superman books. As you said, he's gonna lose against Supes in a physical battle. When I was coming up he was always in his prison grays, no matter how long it had been since his break-out. Did he know he was going back real soon? Did he make a vow to take them off only after killing Superman? Did Mort ever address this question?

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

I guess it all comes down to the question of whether the villain is menacing with or without powers. The Joker has no powers but he's menacing.

I told a friend that the Joker's power is he doesn't give a %#$* about anything or anybody. When somebody really doesn't care they can do a lot of damage.

The difference is that Lex doesn't get his hands dirty. He doesn't punch--he's sitting inside a robot that punches, or he sends out remote-controlled machines. Even injecting himself with kryptonite is a passive way to kill Superman.

The only time he worked up a sweat fighting Superman was on Lexor, where they were equals--and Lex came across as a brawnier brawler there than he usually was made out to be. I'm kind of surprised Lex is as formidable of a physical specimen as he's always shown to be, especially on the animated shows. I would think they'd emphasize his power isn't physical at all.

The Joke, like Lex, is the antithesis of his foe--he's bright, Batman is gray; he's always laughing, Batman scowls. He wants to create chaos in any form, Batman wants to restore it. The Joker has no power beyond the desire to do whatever he wants to do regardless of who's in his way. He's very physical, Batman is more (but not completely) cerebral. Joker'd walk up to Bats and slap him with a fish or spray something in his face. That wouldn't be Luthor's style.

That's why I always figure Captain Cold, not Professor Zoom, was The Flash's arch foe. The Flash speeds up molecules, Cap slows them down.

-- MSA

Mr. Silver Age said:

The only time he worked up a sweat fighting Superman was on Lexor, where they were equals--and Lex came across as a brawnier brawler there than he usually was made out to be. I'm kind of surprised Lex is as formidable of a physical specimen as he's always shown to be, especially on the animated shows. I would think they'd emphasize his power isn't physical at all.

I think you're referring to Superman #164 (OCT63), "The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman." I remember being surprised that Luthor was so brawny. I'd always thought of him as a thinker only. It kind of made sense that Superman wouldn't be a good boxer because (as far as I know) he had never had to do it before.

That's why I always figure Captain Cold, not Professor Zoom, was The Flash's arch foe. The Flash speeds up molecules, Cap slows them down.

I started reading Flash with #111, and first saw Captain Cold on the cover of #114 (AUG60). I love that cover so much a copy of it is on my wall. Not only were his powers distinctly different/opposite from Barry's, but every time he showed up he had a massive crush on beautiful celebrity. I was never crazy about Professor Zoom. His powers, being the same as Barry's, aren't interesting. I think it's like the Dr Octopus/Green Goblin switch. Doc Ock was always the main villain until Gobby killed someone important. The same with Capt Cold/Prof Zoom.

I always thought Doc Ock was designed to be Spidey's evil twin. (Like Bizarro/Superman, Prof. Zoom/Flash, etc.) Like a spider, an octopus has eight limbs. Like Peter Parker, Ock was a scientist. But in both cases, he was Spider-Man's superior. And even after Amazing Spider-Man #122, I still thought of Ock as Spidey's arch-foe -- abetted by the fact that Goblin kept disappearing for long stretches. A long time (for a kid) passed between Amazing Spider-Man #39 and his return in ... was it Spectacular Spider-Man (magazine) #2, or Amazing Spider-Man #97? I"m not sure which counts. And an even longer time passed between Amazing Spider-Man #122 and whenever it was Osborne came back from the dead (Amazing Spider-Man 400s?) All the substitute Goblins in between -- Harry, the Hobgoblins, Jack-O-Lantern, etc. -- just served to remind me of my initial assessment of the Goblin in the Ditko days: A ridiculous-looking supervillain with a bag full of cherry bombs who was handily outmatched by Spider-Man. No matter how menacing they make Osborn/Goblin, that childhood assessment is always lurking in the back of my mind. I was actually pleased when they retconned the idea that Goblin might have a little super-strength/resilience, because otherwise there's no explanation besides Writer Ex Machina to explain why Spidey didn't easily slap him down at every encounter.

Again, movies are visual. Lex is not.

You're right, I encountered Lex in the mid-1980s, right before the BIG powersuit, when he was in the skintight purple and green suit with the little rockets that let him fly.

 In the comic books, Lex with no power suit works (although a lot of the way he's written is .... well, dull.). BUT this is a discussion about What's Wrong with DC superhero movies.

Lex, with no suit, as an evil real estate agent is wrong. In Superman I, it just barely worked because breaking off California into the sea was evil and Superman was so hopeful, and we all bought it because there was just the right blend of acting and visuals that we all overlooked the campy stuff.

But to turn around and make the same movie again in Superman Returns was too much. It even reused some of the same lines, and the acting was dour.

If movie makers feel Lex Luthor is so important then hire a writer who can do him justice. Make him an actual force to be reckoned with. A good writer could do that without putting him in the suit because Lex often uses misdirection; so while he's doing his evil thing, certainly he'd used a colorful villain to preoccupy Superman while the plot is being hatched. There's your visual.



Mr. Silver Age said:

I stick by my point of movies are visual, and Lex-sans-suit is not.

Lex in his power suit was never my concept of Lex, which was created in the SA. He's the antithesis of the hero--drab gray prison uniform (versus bright, primary color costume) and a genius who could break out of a jail cell with a transistor radio (versus the most powerful man in the universe). The suit make Lex into an action figure who's fighting power against power. Lex will lose that.

The revamp made him legitimate, so he wasn't always shooting at Supes from his jail-cell window (why do you put Lex in a cell with a window?) and hiding in his elaborate hide-outs. He could be in the open and have an explanation for where the cash came from to create all his toys. So it kept that original antithesis idea.

It sounds like you first encountered Lex when he had his power suit, and that may seem like his natural milieu. To me, it was out of character for Lex to get that physical with Supes.

-- MSA 

One could draw parallels betwen Flash/Cold/Zoom and Spider-Man/Ock//Green Goblin.  In both instances, you have the hero, the arch-nemesis, and the other villain that had one of the biggest impacts on their lives.  Much like Spider-Man/Doc Ock, IMO the Flash/Cold storeis were more fun, but the Flash/Zoom stories were more impactful, much like (sadly) the Spider-Man/Green Goblin stories were.

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