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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There also was a 1940 story that showed Batman wielding a .45 automatic pistol in the splash panel on the first page, but nowhere else in the story.

That said, I think a half-dozen (at most) instances of Batman using guns in 1939 and 1940 is far, FAR oughtweighed by thousands of stories since 1940 that declare Batman doesn't use guns, and that it's terribly important to him that he does not.

In short: The second-most fundamental thing about Batman -- after the bat-motif, of course -- is that Batman does not use guns.

Batman does NOT use guns.

Batman does not use guns.

It always struck me as very fitting that Batman doesn't use guns. It makes great sense since at such a young age he saw his parents shot down in front of him. There are many other heroes who don't use guns but Batman has a clear reason for it. I know the single Silver Age example from the New Look Batman was a flub for which apologies were made.

Richard Willis said:

It always struck me as very fitting that Batman doesn't use guns. It makes great sense since at such a young age he saw his parents shot down in front of him. There are many other heroes who don't use guns but Batman has a clear reason for it. I know the single Silver Age example from the New Look Batman was a flub for which apologies were made.

What he said.   photo thumbup.gif

I think turning a blind eye to shown history speaks volumes, too.

Earth-1 Batman never used guns.

Earth-2 Batman did briefly then quit.

That's the way I see it. There's an untold story showing why Earth-2 Batman suddenly stopped using them.

I've read the reason for Robin was to make Batman stop doing things that could get National in trouble...like shooting people. Seems strange they got that many complaints because he shot a couple of vampires. Perhaps the biggest objection came from the fact the Monsters were described as being completely harmless until Hugo Strange mutated them, and Batman was killing people with the reasoning capacity of a five year old, effectively shooting children. Wasn't that around the time they brought in William Marston? Perhaps he was the one that said stop giving Batman guns. 

Of course, he had a thing about spanking...

The link I posted had several modern day stories of Batman using a gun. Now, English says "using a gun" is not the same thing as "killing people with a gun".

And despite what may be believed, I actually like a gunless Batman because it gives the character 1 - depth and 2 - ingenuity, which he wouldn't have if he was carrying a gun.

BUT DC has allowed his depiction with a gun, pretty much from day one to the present (remember, he fights crime multi-media style these days, so (unfortunately) movies, TV and radio count. And the link I posted showed more than one time when Earth-1 Batman did. Also shows several examples where it wasn't him, but there were some.

Again, not saying I think it's a good thing, but to see people just blatantly saying it never happened...sorry, but history deniers really rub me the wrong way.

I'd say any Batman after Crisis isn't Earth-1 Batman. That's not him in Dark Knight, for instance, that's merged mutiverse Batman, not quite the same animal.

Batman's method of fighting criminals using acrobatics and fisticuffs is one of his key traits. I think it's part of the formula that made the character a success. DC's decision to have him not use guns, and his later ideological rejection of guns, emphasised it.

Dan Long said:

The link I posted had several modern day stories of Batman using a gun. Now, English says "using a gun" is not the same thing as "killing people with a gun".

And despite what may be believed, I actually like a gunless Batman because it gives the character 1 - depth and 2 - ingenuity, which he wouldn't have if he was carrying a gun.

BUT DC has allowed his depiction with a gun, pretty much from day one to the present (remember, he fights crime multi-media style these days, so (unfortunately) movies, TV and radio count. And the link I posted showed more than one time when Earth-1 Batman did. Also shows several examples where it wasn't him, but there were some.

Again, not saying I think it's a good thing, but to see people just blatantly saying it never happened...sorry, but history deniers really rub me the wrong way.

I'm quite aware of Batman's history; I've frequently cited Michael L. Fleischer's Batman volume of The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes on this site. And that link isn't comprehensive; it is missing at least one story I remember from the '80s -- a Mike W. Barr Detective Comics story in which Batman is in disguise as a uniformed police officer. A scene takes place at the GCPD target range in which Batman is presented with a pistol and asked to participate. The story's narrator tells us Batman has a "psychological inability to fire a weapon" -- so Batman instead tosses his baton at the target, declaring in character to the person who offered him the gun about the value of the old-school ways of policing.

Yeah, I don't buy that either. But then, I'm not compelled to accept every bad story as canon.

As for DC "allowing" Batman's depiction with a gun, including movies, TV and radio, DC has full control only over its comics. And I'm a journalist and copy editor, so I'm quite conversant with English -- which also says "doesn't use guns" is not the same thing is "has never used guns." Nobody here is claiming it never happened.

I am claiming, and still maintain, that there is a far, far greater preponderance of stories over 70 years that tell us Batman doesn't use guns and that it is terribly important to him that he does not. In defining the character, I give greater weight to the larger number of stories in that category..

By "old school" was he somehow thinking of British bobbies, who didn't carry guns? Pretty sure old school cops in America had them. And I think most people that read that particular story tried to forget it. I'm sure the other cops all thought Batman was nuts.

Ron M. said:

By "old school" was he somehow thinking of British bobbies, who didn't carry guns? Pretty sure old school cops in America had them.

Maybe so; I know one old-school way of catching a running suspect is to slide the baton on the ground in his path, so he trips over it. And thinking of ways to handle situations without resorting to the gun is very old school.

Ron M. said:

And I think most people that read that particular story tried to forget it. I'm sure the other cops all thought Batman was nuts.

I've tried to forget it, but, alas, I have not. I particularly don't like the writer's characterization that Batman is nuts. Batman choosing not to use guns is one thing -- and as Richard Willis helpfully states above, it's fitting that a man who saw his parents get shot to death in front of him would choose not to use guns. But a "psychological inability to fire a weapon"? Stuff and nonsense. 

Actually, go read some of the comments. Some people are.

Glad you're not "compelled to take every bad story as canon"; neither am I.

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.

I didn't say the link was comprehensive.

But I will say this to everyone who has decided I've personally attacked them: if the shoe fits!



ClarkKent_DC said:

Dan Long said:

The link I posted had several modern day stories of Batman using a gun. Now, English says "using a gun" is not the same thing as "killing people with a gun".

And despite what may be believed, I actually like a gunless Batman because it gives the character 1 - depth and 2 - ingenuity, which he wouldn't have if he was carrying a gun.

BUT DC has allowed his depiction with a gun, pretty much from day one to the present (remember, he fights crime multi-media style these days, so (unfortunately) movies, TV and radio count. And the link I posted showed more than one time when Earth-1 Batman did. Also shows several examples where it wasn't him, but there were some.

Again, not saying I think it's a good thing, but to see people just blatantly saying it never happened...sorry, but history deniers really rub me the wrong way.

I'm quite aware of Batman's history; I've frequently cited Michael L. Fleischer's Batman volume of The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes on this site. And that link isn't comprehensive; it is missing at least one story I remember from the '80s -- a Mike W. Barr Detective Comics story in which Batman is in disguise as a uniformed police officer. A scene takes place at the GCPD target range in which Batman is presented with a pistol and asked to participate. The story's narrator tells us Batman has a "psychological inability to fire a weapon" -- so Batman instead tosses his baton at the target, declaring in character to the person who offered him the gun about the value of the old-school ways of policing.

Yeah, I don't buy that either. But then, I'm not compelled to accept every bad story as canon.

As for DC "allowing" Batman's depiction with a gun, including movies, TV and radio, DC has full control only over its comics. And I'm a journalist and copy editor, so I'm quite conversant with English -- which also says "doesn't use guns" is not the same thing is "has never used guns." Nobody here is claiming it never happened.

I am claiming, and still maintain, that there is a far, far greater preponderance of stories over 70 years that tell us Batman doesn't use guns and that it is terribly important to him that he does not. In defining the character, I give greater weight to the larger number of stories in that category..

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