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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Long said:
As for DC only having full control over the comics...well, when DC owned DC, it had total control. They're called licensing agreements and DC made them. Now, it's Time Warner? that owns everything, so IT has the control about how its characters are depicted.
Moderator John Dunbar here.
Before this conversation becomes any further heated, let's all take a breath and be calm.
Batman is a character with 75 years worth of comic book stories alone. Over that span, it's almost inevitable that there will be stories that contradict others. That happens with almost all comic book characters, frankly.
There are a number of stories where Batman carries a gun, and uses it against criminals. mostly but not all set in the Golden Age, and even then, most occur in that brief period between Batman's debut and Robin's debut. There are many, many stories where Batman declares or it is said about him that he does not use guns. I think it is clear that "use guns" is shorthand for carrying a gun and using it against lawbreakers, not against dolphins or target practice at a carnival or what have you. In short, Batman will touch a gun and is an expert marksman, but chooses to not employ guns as a weapon in his war against crime.
I think anyone here who has said, for example, the Earth-1 Batman never used guns is referring to their personal canon, and in that canon, he hasn't fired a gun at criminals. Everyone has a different personal canon. That's a personal choice, not a denial of history.
I see a number of people in this discussion stating what is their personal canon and what is not. When two posters have two canons that differ, that does not in my mind constitute a personal attack. So I will ask as a Moderator that we tone it down a bit.
This has stayed with me since childhood. Batman chose a different path from the Shadow, his thematic father. When he made his decision is open to interpretation. My belief is that he carried a gun early in his career then realized that it was wrong for him, especially with Robin in the picture. He trained himself not to need a gun.
In the Captain Marvel serial Tom Tyler threw a guy off the top of a building in one episode. Then later he made a big deal about wanting to catch the Scorpion alive since killing was wrong.
Captain Comics said:
The Golden Age Captain Comics used twin .45s to keep order on his website, which is what he called the voices in his head!
Sometimes that might come in handy today.
Your head would hurt worse if Nicolas Cage and Jon Peters HAD made their version of a Superman movie.
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 submit Exhibit C. From CBR: "Zack Snyder: Anyone Surprised By Batman Killing Needs to 'Wake the...