Archive for June, 2014

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There have been rumblings of a Shazam movie (or Captain Marvel…whichever) for quite some time now. The most prevalent rumor is that Peter Segal (Get Smart, Anger Management, 50 First Dates) would direct and Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson would star (at one point as the titular Captain Marvel and later, rumor has it, as the villain – Black Adam). That version of the film was also rumored to be a family friendly action-comedy, which makes sense given the director and the fact that Johnson often stars in such films.

For those who don’t know who Captain Marvel/Shazam is, he’s a DC Comics superhero dating back to the early 40s (originally published by Fawcett Comics). It’s the story of Billy Batson, a young boy working as a radio reporter who is granted powers by the wizard Shazam. When he speaks the magic word (“SHAZAM!”) he’s instantly transformed into an adult superhero, endowed with the powers of six archetypal figures (consisting mostly of Greek gods and mythological heroes). Together with Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr., his “Marvel Family,” Billy fights a battle against the likes of Dr. Sivana and Black Adam to save the world and such. The comic was a huge success because it was the first time that the hero in question was actually a young boy (the target audience of the time). Even Robin, Bucky Barnes and the other young sidekicks lacked the fantastical abilities of their mentors. Captain Marvel was a boy who became a hero. Very resonating stuff. One can understand where the family friendly action-comedy genre would come into play.

The comic stopped publishing in 1953 following a lawsuit from DC Comics that the character infringed upon Superman, whom was losing in sales at the time. However, by 1991, DC Comics would have accumulated the rights to all of the Marvel Family characters and would once again be publishing them as part of the DC Universe, with Captain Marvel being a frequent contributor to both the Justice League and the Justice Society.

The biggest problem with getting Captain Marvel to film, it seems, is the same problem that got him canceled in 1953: his resemblance to Superman. In 2006, Warner Bros. released Superman Returns in an attempt to revive the 20 year old film franchise and was met, unfortunately, with mixed critical reviews and a general lack of interest in a follow-up. Personally, I loved Superman Returns but that’s neither here nor there. Following the crash and burn of Superman Returns and the overnight drop in Superman’s popularity that even Smallville couldn’t keep on track, there was renewed hope from filmmakers that Captain Marvel (or Shazam!) would finally make it to theaters.

But then 2013 hit with the release of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, followed by the promise of 2016’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Alleged Shazam! director, Peter Segal, had this to say:

“As long as Superman stays hot in the marketplace, there seems like a little bit of a crossover between the two characters. After Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, it seemed like there was a moment where Shazam was going to see the light of day. That’s when you heard those stories. Now that Superman is being invigorated and going up against Batman, I think it’s difficult for DC to figure out how to launch this character in the wake of Superman’s resurgence.”

Of course, despite that, it would seem that there are still plans for young Billy Batson to hit theaters in July 2016. A leaked schedule of DC’s films through 2018 hit the Internet recently and it has Shazam slated as the next film to follow Batman V. Superman. However, there are a number of reasons why I believe this to be a bad idea. I’m going to start with the simple business issues that Warner Bros. would face.

1. Releasing the film in the immediate wake of Batman V. Superman: Despite mixed reviews of Man of Steel, the anticipation of the Superman/Batman mash-up is riding high. So much so that the impact it will have on the box office is very likely to surpass a two month window of revenue. With that in mind, Henry Cavill’s Superman is incredibly likely to overshadow Captain Marvel whom, to be honest, is a lot less known to mainstream audiences.

2. The MARVEL Competition: Along with the aforementioned DC/Warner Bros. release, we also get Marvel’s Captain America 3 in May 2016. Captain America: The Winter Solider has been the biggest success of 2014 and audiences can’t wait to see what happens next. So the 2016 Summer Movie Season is really going to be an all out fist fight between Cap, Supes and Bats. But wait! There’s more! Marvel has an as yet to be announced film slated for July 2016, which would be an even more immediate threat to the untested DC hero. More than likely, too, the mysterious Marvel film will either be the recently announced Dr. Strange or the rumored to be in pre-production Thor 3 (possibly known as Thor: Ragnarok).  Both of which could severely put a hurting on Shazam‘s similar theme of gods and wizardry.

3. Who the hell is Captain Marvel?!: As noted above, the mainstream audience has no idea who Captain Marvel/Shazam is. Marvel Studios has often said they took a huge risk with launching their Marvel cinematic universe with the untested Iron Man. But he at least had the benefit of most people knowing who he was, whether it be from a long, steady history in comics or the popular Iron Man cartoon from the mid 90s. Guardians of Galaxy currently has the same stigma going against it. Your average viewer has no idea who they are but that film has, at least, been supported by a brilliant marketing campaign that showcases popular stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and John C. Reilly. Captain Marvel is a cultural enigma who’s biggest claim outside of comics is being a second rate Superman. It would have to take one hell of a marketing campaign (bigger that GotG‘s) to get this film out there over the competition it would likely be facing from Marvel Studios. 

4. The Tone: It’s been rumored that, with the obvious involvement of Peter Segal (it’s currently unknown if he’s still attached), that the film would be a comedic action film. However, with the tone established by Man of Steel, a family-friendly action comedy just doesn’t fit. It’s a sad day in and of itself that a Superman movie (of all things) established a universe that is dark, grim, violent and all together unpleasant, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt for better or for worse. Suddenly tossing in a comedic pop corn flick just doesn’t mesh and can unravel the already chaotically woven web.

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Those are the major business and financial reasons as to why I think Shazam is a poor decision to launch as a movie. But now I want to touch on some points that are more in line with some of my previous romps through the world of DC Comics cinema. These are specific reasons why I think Shazam would make a great television series.

1. The Story Is Too Big: This is a huge point that I pushed in one of my previous blogs. DC Comics superheroes have the drawback of having stories and backgrounds that are just too big for film. You need to explain how they got their powers. You need to explain where those powers come from. You need to demonstrate the negative impact those powers have on them to help introduce conflict outside of the typical villain. And more importantly, you need to set up a strong emotional story because that’s what makes a DC superhero resonate outside of the beat ’em up action stuff. It’s just not as simple as Tony Stark taking shrapnel to the chest and realizing that he’s been a dick his whole life.

2. The Story Isn’t Shazam. The Story Is Billy Batson: It’s easy to think that the thing to be most excited about is the character of Shazam, his powers and how cool a super powered smack down would look between him and Black Adam. But you’d be wrong. What attracted people to the character back in the 40s, to the point that he outsold Superman and Batman, was that underneath it all he was young Billy Batson. The story of a young boy (let’s say high school age for the sake of the show) suddenly getting powers and dealing not just with the responsibility and the consequences but also with the genuine “cool” factor is a topic ripe for television (especially on a network like the CW). It’s tough being a kid and a social outcast in one life but a powerful beyond belief hero in the other. It’s a fine line that 2 hours of film, mostly catering to the high spectacle action, just can’t capture. Story point: Imagine Billy dealing with a bully at school and NOT being able to call on the power of Shazam because he knows that would not only expose his secret but also hurt the bully unnecessarily. That’s not CG action that people pay 15 bucks for. That’s life drama. That’s TV. 

3. Relationships: Yes, all heroes have their significant others. Lois Lane. Pepper Potts. That SHIELD Agent that lives across the hall from Steve and had that scene where she was doing laundry (yes…I know…that was Sharon Carter…but my way was funnier). However, Billy’s relationships are a little harder because he’s a kid who turns into an adult. Physically he’s a 30-something bruit with strong chiseled features like Superman. But inside, in heart and mind, he’s still a kid. That’s touchy stuff. Geoff Johns wrote a fantastic storyline in JSA where Billy (as Captain Marvel on the team) developed close romantic feelings to young Courtney Whitmore (Stargirl). Courtney, of course, knew who Billy really was which helped in her feelings being mutual. But nobody else on the team knew that Captain Marvel was really a 15 year old, so to them it just looked like a super powerful, adult male crushing on a 16 year old girl. It brought the highly controversial story of pedophilia into play (which of course was not really the case) and that’s something that would need to play out continuously over episodes. It doesn’t have the same affect if it’s summed up quickly over a couple of minutes in film and moved on from. More than likely they would scrap it all together and just have him crush on someone and not take it anywhere for the sake of “appropriateness.”

4. The Marvel Family: Every character has their supporting cast or someone who helps them out in a jam. Whether it’s Rhody Rhodes, Bucky Barnes, or Black Widow. There’s always someone there. Those characters are also interchangeable. They can pop up if needed or be absent all together. Sometimes the same situation can be resolved with anybody inserted into that role. Black Widow was a huge part of Captain America: The Winter Solider and her involvement served as a means of keeping it connected with the larger scale of the Avengers universe. But would the story have played out any differently if, instead of Black Widow, we were given a larger role for Sharon Carter? Hmmm? Hot female SHIELD Agent. The distrust of whether or not she was Hydra. Think about it and be honest with yourself.

Now, the Marvel Family, well they are just that. A family. Mary Marvel is Billy’s twin sister. Freddie Freeman (Captain Marvel Jr.) is Billy’s best friend. And so on and so forth. It’s a regular cast of characters with a family dynamic that makes for great television. Very few action film franchises continue with the same cast throughout it’s run but with the Marvel Family there’s no way around it.

 

But there you have it. If there was any truth to the leaked film schedule then I’m sure there’s no stopping Shazam from gracing the screens. And if so, hopefully it’s a fine, enjoyable film. I just wanted to throw my two cents out there that it would, in fact, make for one hell of a television series and would clear room in the film slate for characters with less back story and/or social struggles.

It only makes sense, right?

 

 

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Greetings again and welcome back! You may have seen my previous blog here about how the CW television series, Arrow, and it’s forthcoming spin-off, The Flash, have saved the DC Universe for media outside of comic books. The two have crafted a strong, believable and fun universe that is both refreshing and honorable to its source material. Now, I’m here to tell you that it can go so much further.

Obviously I’m not saying that the entire network needs to be devoted to DC Universe programming. You don’t need a different superhero show every night of the week starting in the Fall. There are ways to expand this new and amazing universe without having 10 full 22 episode seasons each year.

Obviously you have the option of guest appearances. This is an area that Arrow has been particularly strong in – having brought in the likes of The Huntress, The Royal Flush Gang, Barry Allen (now spinning off into The Flash, of course), The League of Assassins, Deadshot and the Suicide Squad. So it would be easy for Arrow and The Flash to introduce more DCU characters for single or recurring guest appearances to help expand that world.

Next you have the seemingly lost art form of the TV movie. Not every movie needs to appear in theaters or direct-to-video. Years ago it was common practice to make movies for TV, either as stand-alone entities or to test the waters for a potential TV series. Back in the day they were often referred to as Telefilms and Marvel was a big proponent of them. Generation X was a popular use of this medium, which was supposed to lead to a TV series on Fox but the plug was pulled on that effort at the last minute. You also had Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, starring David Hasselhoff, and a proposed (but never produced – at least to my knowledge) She-Hulk film with female body builder, Cory Everson. A produced, but never aired, pilot film for Justice League of America was made for CBS back in the mid 90s, as well as TV movies for Vampirella and Painkiller Jane, just to name a few. The most recent uses, I’ve seen, of the TV movie format intended as a potential TV pilot (without necessarily needing to go to series) was the WB TV movie for The Lone Ranger in 2003 and NBC’s pilot movie for it’s reboot of Knight Rider in 2008.

Lastly, the third viable option as opposed to a full, 22 episode TV series, is a format that has had a resurgence as of late – the 12 (or 13) episode Maxi Series Event. Popular shows like American Horror Story have started using this format for self-contained “seasons” and 24 recently came back with the 12 episode “Event Series” 24: Live Another Day. Marvel will soon be launching Agent Carter as a 13 episode event set to air during the Winter hiatus of it’s core series Agents of SHIELD. This is a great format for shows that don’t necessarily need the time, talent or budget committed to a multi-season ongoing story. It’s much more cost effective and can be aired during the Winter and Summer months when viewers, frustratingly, don’t have their regular shows to watch.

So where am I going with this? Well I’ve devised a Top 5 list of concepts that I think could work to help build the DC Universe on television using the above three formats as well as the traditional, ongoing series. Check them out below in no particular order:

Metropolis

METROPOLIS (Ongoing Series)

The Adventures of Superman. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Superman: The Animated Series. Smallville. It can’t be denied that the Man of Steel has had a very successful run on television over the years. Maybe the Internet is to blame, but the only Superman film to not receive a significant amount of nerd rage was Richard Donner’s original Superman: The Movie. Last year’s Man of Steel had the most controversy of any Superman property, and quite possibly any comic movie to date, but it’s what they have now and dammit they’re going to see it through! Hey…more power to them. But that doesn’t mean there can’t also be a great, new Superman series on television. Smallville being on the air didn’t get in the way of Superman Returns. The two don’t have to compete. After all, as I said in the previous blog, the Arrow and Flash universe should remain separate from the Justice League films (I know…I once thought otherwise but things have changed) and build their own world. And what is a DCU world without Superman?

Again, like I said previously, the biggest problem facing DC superheroes on film is the lack of time. 2 hours (or less) isn’t enough to build a story, establish the necessary character drama AND show tons of quality action. So, essentially, METROPOLIS would act out what Man of Steel tried to be. Ideally, as well, without altering too much of the source material. Kryptonite would still be a major obstacle. The Fortress of Solitude (as oppose to the randomly still functional 19,000 year old space ship) would become a set piece and, best of all, he wouldn’t cause wide spread destruction or murder anyone!

The first season would follow Clark Kent coming to the big city and getting a job at the Daily Planet (much like he did in Lois & Clark) and saving people on the side as needed while he searches for information on who he is. He wouldn’t wear the suit in the first season. Instead, with only a limited knowledge of his origins, he’d have an S-emblem t-shirt (similar to the events of Action Comics in DC’s The New 52). Hard-hitting investigative journalist, Lois Lane, would be assigned with tracking down leads on this mysterious savior that has popped up, as well as stories on any and all Meta-Human activity. And it would actually take her most of the first season to track him down. Real investigative grunt work. Not three of minutes of montage based entirely on a falsified job application. I mean, really, what the hell Man of Steel?!

Rounding out the series would be shady business man Lex Luthor and his lethal bodyguard, Mercy. Youthful and optimistic young photographer, Jimmy Olsen (yes…Jimmy Olsen! Not random intern Jenny Whatshertits) and veteran editor Perry White (side note: how great would it be to get Bill Paxton as Perry White? Seriously…say “Great Caesar’s Ghost” in your head right now with Bill Paxton’s voice! AWESOME!!!). Also, since the show is called Metropolis (and not Superman or Daily Planet), another core character would be Detective Maggie Sawyer, recently appointed as head of a new Meta-Humans Task Force.

Obviously, there’d be plenty of room for a rogues gallery of threats, too. Appearing over the course of the series would be fresh new takes on: Metallo, Brainiac, Gen. Sam Lane, Bizarro, Parasite and so on.

I don’t know about you, but I smell one hell of a series.

 

BlueBeetle

BLUE BEETLE (Recurring Guest Appearance/TV Movie)

As I pointed out before, Kord Industries has been referenced numerous times on Arrow. It seems only appropriate to finally introduce Ted Kord as a character. In the comics, Ted Kord is kind of like a Tony Stark without the heart problem or the alcoholism. He’s a genius level billionaire that heads up a technology company and invents his own gadgets to use as a crime fighter after inheriting the Scarab (later learned to be an alien artifact) from former Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett. In the comics, Kord was often depicted as goofy and met with ridicule from both fans and characters within the DC universe. He found brief redemption in 2006 when he uncovered the Brother Eye/OMAC threat as perpetrated by Maxwell Lord…just before getting shot in the head.

I think it would be fun to introduce Ted Kord as a young, socially awkward and idealistic billionaire who, inspired by the exploits of Starling City’s Arrow, decides to take up arms against corruption in his city. Obviously, a course of events would lead him to Starling where he’d meet up with Team Arrow. Events would unfold that make Ted realize he’s in over his head and give up. But much in the way that Oliver had inspired Barry Allen, he too would help inspire Ted Kord to find his way and place amongst the symbols of hope in this brave new world.

Blue Beetle could be a recurring guest star on Arrow and maybe even cross over into The Flash once or twice. If his episodes test well then it would be interesting to see what the character has in terms of his own TV movie. Perhaps even with Maxwell Lord making an appearance that could also help segue into…

 

Checkmate

CHECKMATE (Ongoing Series)

Amanda Waller was introduced in season two of Arrow as the leader of ARGUS and the founder of the Suicide Squad. In the comics she’s also the White Queen of the meta human spy organization, Checkmate. Maxwell Lord being one of the Kings (up until his death in the comic series). Other notable members include the Black Queen, Sasha Bordeaux, and the Black King, Taleb Khalid.

The series follows a UN sanctioned world security spy force that uses the balance of meta humans paired up with normal human counterparts. The size of the organization would make for an interesting formula of alternating the roster from episode to episode instead of featuring a core cast of characters. Also, the concept of a spy organization set to the backdrop of a superhero universe would make for some great competition on the part of DC and Warner Bros. against Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. I use the term “competition” loosely because if Checkmate even partially resembled the quality of Arrow then it would blow SHIELD completely out of the water.

In this new world of vigilantes and meta humans, the UN decides it needs a security force that can deal with these unprecedented situations across the globe. Enter Checkmate. But who makes up this organization? Who has their own agendas? In a game of Chess the two sides fight each other and somebody has to come out the winner. Now THAT sounds like a compelling drama that I would love to see unfold!

Plus, with Amanda Waller as one of the core characters, you’ve opened up the opportunity to see more from the Suicide Squad on occasion outside of Arrow.

 

Titans

TITANS (Maxi Series)

With Roy Harper now making some headway to becoming Arsenal on Arrow, we can easily have other vigilantes and meta humans his age slowly introduced. Maybe there’s a sort of backdoor pilot episode where Roy goes off on his own excursion to Bludhaven and meets a young street tough named Dick Grayson and together they prowl the streets and bring some “young justice” to the street thugs and riffraff of Starling’s sister city. Also, there was an episode in season one of Arrow where Slade Wilson reveals to Oliver that he has a son named Joe. Any DC Comics fan knows that Joe Wilson is the Teen Titan known as Jericho. Plus, Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke) was one of the lead villains of the Teen Titans for a number of years. Another Titan villain, Dr. Light, was teased in the season two episode, “The Man Under The Hood.” I mean, come on, this series is building itself right before our eyes!

You don’t want to take Roy Harper away from Arrow indefinitely, which is why this would just be an event series. Roy’s storyline is getting too good! Thea just left him, which means (God willing) he’s going to spiral into a pit of depression that sends him into the “Roy Harper, Junkie” storyline. Holy shit that’s going to be great TV! I really hope that’s what they do and I can’t wait to see Colton Haynes play it off. He’s a talented young actor and that’s just going to be a hell of a few episodes if the show goes that route.

But back to TITANS! I’m not sure if this would work best as a straight 12-13 episodes or if it should be divided up into two 6-episode mini series (one in the winter and one in the summer). I guess it would depend on what works best with the Roy Harper character’s role in Arrow. Either way it would be two major story lines. The first half would be an introduction of any major Titan not backdoored in Arrow as they team up to fight Deathstroke, who inevitably gets released from the ARGUS prison and becomes a mercenary/assassin following his loss of the Mirakuru abilities. The team would likely consist of Harper, Dick Grayson (Nightwing) and Joe Wilson (Jericho) as previously mentioned, plus Victor Stone (Cyborg – a STAR Labs experiment, as that facility is heavily involved in The Flash), Rachel Roth (Raven) and Tara Markov (Terra).

The back half of the series would be an adaptation of the popular Teen Titans story, “The Judas Contract” as they learn that team member Terra is actually a spy planted by Deathstroke to help bring the young team down.

 

Society

SOCIETY (Maxi Series)

Finally, we come to a 12 episode Maxi Series event called SOCIETY! What’s it about? You guessed it…the Justice Society of America! There’s a couple of great things that I particularly love about Arrow. One is that it has a terrific balance between the present day and what Oliver went through during his time on the island. The story correlation between the two time periods makes for incredibly entertaining television. Another is that Geoff Johns (arguably one of the best writers DC has ever had) is an active writer and producer on both Arrow and The Flash. He’s also responsible for the best run in comics the Justice Society has ever had. I would love to see Johns tackle this material as head writer and executive producer with the amazingly talented Joe Johnston serving as showrunner and developer. Johnston, of course, directed Captain America: The First Avenger and The Rocketeer and is the absolute best at telling superhero stories set during 40s and 50s time periods.

The show wouldn’t be entirely based in the 40s and 50s, though. One of the great things about Johns’ run of the JSA books is that it featured the old team mentoring the next generation. So what you would get is an intriguing storyline with the old Justice Society coming out of retirement in light of a new age of heroes emerging with a storyline that ties directly into events they faced 50+ years earlier.

But, you might say, there were no superheroes or vigilantes in this TV universe prior to Oliver Queen becoming the Arrow…

Lest you forget, silly person, that Mirakuru dates back to a WWII Japanese Sub! So clearly there was some manner of super powers going on in the 40s. Plus, let’s not forget about good old fashioned nuclear testing! And just because the world didn’t know doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Maybe we learn that the Justice Society was a Secret Society. They protected the world form things it wasn’t ready to know about yet. And now those things are reemerging in the present day and the old team just isn’t what it used to be so they need some fresh, young help.

It’s difficult to say who’d be the best roster for this team. Johns would be the best to determine who works in this established universe. But if I had to guess I’d definitely want to see (in some form or another): Mr. Terrific, Dr. Midnight, Hourman, Starman and Stargirl, The Atom and/or Atom Smasher and Dr. Fate.

 

But there you have it. Five perfectly valid ways of expanding the DC Universe on television without overcrowding the weekly television roster. What do you think? Did I strike gold? Will the writers and producers of Arrow and The Flash read this and heed my wishes? Or did I just ramble on to def ears at the cost of my own time and effort?

Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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I love DC Comics. I always have. Sure, the Stan Lee era of Marvel Comics introduced us to more relatable characters with physical or social flaws in the lives of their secret identities – therefore grounding the medium with a little bit more realism – but the DC lineup has always harkened back to the more fantastical sense of wonder and whimsy that began with the golden age. Yes, they’ve rebooted their continuity a couple of times and cleaned up some of the plot holes that are bound to crop up over the course of 70+ years but for the most part they’ve stayed true to the notion that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That said, DC has had a lot of trouble trying to transpose their material to media outside of comic books. Despite the fact that Warner Bros. has owned DC Comics for a number of years now, they never particularly seemed interested in the idea of a shared universe in film or television. So the result is a series of films and shows of varying creative styles that don’t work together. Mostly to mixed, or often negative, critical results. It wasn’t until Disney bought Marvel Comics and started producing a cohesive film universe around the properties not already licensed to other studios that resulted in the groundbreaking blockbuster The Avengers that DC and Warner Bros. woke up. Now, following last year’s release of Man of Steel – the Superman inspired film from director Zack Snyder – Warner Bros. is building a shared DC film universe leading towards a Justice League film. The next movie slated is the recently titled pseudo sequel to Man of SteelBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The film reunites the MoS cast, including Henry Cavill as Superman, as well as introduces audiences to Ben Affleck’s new take as Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.

But is that enough to build a DC Universe on film? Marvel and Disney released five films over the course of four years that introduced you to characters and built a universe before The Avengers came to fruition. Is reverse engineering really the way to go? Especially with characters that aren’t as well tested with a medium outside of comics? Personally I, as well as many others, thought Man of Steel was mediocre at best and laced with a magnitude of problems. It definitely isn’t the jumping off point that I’d imagine a strong DC Universe sprouting from.

I speak my mind (I’m a blogger, after all) but I’m not one to speak ill of people. So I hope the following doesn’t come off that way. But it seems to me that the biggest problem facing DC and Warner Bros. with their attempts to get stuff off the ground in film and television is the person most directly associated with them: David Goyer.

David Goyer has been attached as writer and producer on many comic film and television properties including the Blade trilogy, Christopher Nolan’s mega successful Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel and next Fall’s NBC series Constantine. As a comic book scribe himself you’d think he’d be more inclined to develop more faithful adaptions of such beloved characters. However, each new film seems to be one controversy after another. The fallout from Man of Steel is still being felt, though it has calmed down considerably in recent months as the Internet’s attention moves on to other material such as Star Wars: Episode VII. Goyer recently gave an interview where he made some rather negative remarks about beloved DC Comics character, The Martian Manhunter, referring to him as “goofy” and saying that he’d re-envision the character as a form of genetic experiment in alien DNA cloning.

Harsh as that may seem to some, it actually raises a point I’ve considered for quite a while. As much as I love DC Comics characters and their golden age backgrounds…most of them don’t translate well to film. Film is a medium where people still expect a certain level of realism. The movies where people are told to “shut off their brains” and just “enjoy the show” are often the ones with the most negative feedback. In movies and television your fantastic worlds of Gods and Monsters still needs to have a grasp on reality or else the whole thing just falls apart. That’s the trap that most DC Comics characters unfortunately fall into.

Does that mean you keep putting your properties in the hands of someone who recognizes this fact and, instead of creatively working with the handicap, persists to shape and mold a new canon to his liking? No. David Goyer is a talented writer and I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work. I like the Blade movies and the first two Dark Knight films were quite good (though I’m aware he only served on the story for The Dark Knight). I’m interested to see where Constantine goes, as well. Though I wish they’d change the name of the series to Hellblazer. There’s nothing profane or inappropriate about that title and it would help sell it to those who disliked the Keanu Reeves film. I feel, though, as a writer he’s better suited for material that he doesn’t find fault in.

There are creative ways to handle what doesn’t work without altering it completely. One doesn’t need to remove Kryptonite or the Fortress of Solitude because they seem dated or corny. There are ways to make them work. And getting back to the main point, writers/producers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim have done just that with one of DC’s most difficult characters, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, with the hugely popular CW television series Arrow.

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Much like other DC properties adapted to film and television as of late, Arrow is a grim and realistic take on what many once called the Robin Hood of the DCU and a cheap imitation of Batman. For years in comics, Green Arrow just didn’t take off with fans as much as other characters. It wasn’t until the mini series, The Longbow Hunters, that he really started to find his footing as a character. Using Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as a template, Berlanti and Guggenheim have crafted a dark, realistic and intriguing world for DC’s emerald archer, which has been captivating TV audiences since day one. And they haven’t done it by throwing away the character’s 50+ year history and starting over. They honor the source material. They keep what works and they find creative ways to work with anything that doesn’t. The result is an intriguing web of justice and revenge with fresh new takes on even some of the most underrated and overlooked characters from across the DCU.

Stephen Amell leads the series as Oliver Queen; a character – previously depicted, dare I say, a bit more flamboyantly by Justin Hartley on Smallville – haunted by the things he had to do while trapped on an island for five years and now driven by the desire to fix the problems in his city as caused by his father and a literal list of other accomplices. Amell’s performance is dark and focused with just enough as-needed naivety to throw the unsuspecting off his trail. It’s a pretty masterful blend of hero and alter ego similar to Christian Bale’s Batman/Bruce Wayne.

Rounding out the cast is Katie Cassidy as Dinah Laurel Lance (mostly referred to as Laurel); David Ramsey as Oliver’s bodyguard-turned-partener, John Diggle (a character made up for the show but who has become so popular it’s my understanding that he’s been introduced to the comics); Willa Holand as Oliver’s sister Thea “Speedy” Queen (inspired by Mia Dearden from the comics). A bit of a departure, yes, but the family dynamic makes for much better drama than Oliver’s awkward mentorship of a young prostitute. Plus Holland really knocks the performance out of the park in the back half of season two when shit gets real; Colton Haynes as Thea’s boyfriend/street thug/super powered apprentice, Roy Harper; Susanna Thompson as Oliver and Thea’s mother, Moira; Emily Bett Rickards as Team Arrow hacker, Felicity Smoak (kind of the Barbara Gordon/Oracle type without the wheel chair); and Paul Blackthorne as antagonizing detective-turned-inside man at the police, Det. Quentin Lance.

The series is beautifully shot for a television show and the action sequences are intensely choreographed, but it’s really the stellar performances all around that make this show what it is. Everybody is top notch and brings their A-game every time. Even when Katie Cassidy’s screen time was sacrificed to advance the overall story in season 2, she did the absolute best with what she had and I now find myself rooting for her again following season 2’s epic finale and I can’t wait to see what happens with her (SPOILER ALERT it looks like she’s finally going to take her place as the true Black Canary).

Arrow has also introduced a wide variety of characters from the DC Universe mythology including classic Green Arrow villains such as Count Vertigo (depicted on the show as The Count, dealer of a deadly narcotic called Vertigo) Merlyn, the Dark Archer (played by sci-fi fan favorite actor, John Barrowman) and Shado. As viewers we’ve also been treated to fresh new interpretations of Firefly, The Royal Flush Gang, Dr. Ivo and an amazing storyline centered around Brother Blood. But best of all we’ve had an ongoing story with Deathstroke, played to a terrific degree by Manu Bennett, that completely overshadows the previous – and very inappropriately cast – version from Smallville (Michael Hogan from Battlestar Galactica).

Arrow has proven to be so good and a hit with fans that it has left many wondering if Stephen Amell would crossover to the upcoming Justice League film to help round out that roster, as he is already so well established. This has been a very popular notion and I, myself, was even a huge supporter of it. So much so that I wrote a blog completely dedicated to why it should happen here. But then two things happened that made me go back on that notion. 1) season two of Arrow aired and 2) at its conclusion we got the premier of the up-front trailer for next year’s spin-off series, The Flash.

What started off as a self contained family drama with a vigilante punishing those responsible for the corruption of a city quickly became the kick-off point for the most successful adaptation of the DC Universe outside of comic books. Suddenly, with season two, the series decided for forgo it’s humble beginnings of a Green Arrow-centric universe with no superpowers or meta human threats. It introduced the idea of super strength as created from a WWII experimental serum harnessed by the Japanese (not quite the same as the Captain America serum, though the similarities can’t be overlooked). It brought it in Barry Allen and showed the beginnings of his run (pun partially intended) as the Flash with a particle accelerator explosion. That very same explosion is how The Flash justifies the sudden existence of meta humans. It’s a very simple and affective means of writing powers into this established universe that was originally centered around realism. Plus, if you watch the trailer for The Flash (and have read The Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver) then you’ll catch a glimpse of Professor Zoom (aka The Reverse Flash) which even implies the existence of time travel if they stick to that storyline.

Arrow and The Flash are everything the DC Universe needs and they’re not doing it with movies. Television is just as valid of a medium as films and, in my opinion, much more appropriate for the DCU landscape. Movies tell a story in 90 minutes to 2 hours and are predominantly based on flashy action sequences and violence with little to no character development because it just isn’t necessary. That’s why the Marvel movies work so well in that medium. People know the characters. They get – in the span of only a few minutes – that Tony Stark has a heart problem, Steve Rogers is a patriot and man out of his own time, Bruce Banner has anger issues and Thor is…well…Thor. Once that is set up they full embrace the beat ’em up that is sure to follow. Those same physical and social flaws that make the characters so relatable in the comics also help to avoid any time spent on development in the movies. DC superheros don’t get that luxury. They are so fantastical that it’s their personal lives and moral beliefs that make them so interesting.

Green Lantern (ironically also from Berlanti and Guggenheim) had a lot of promise. The story was almost there. But the character has a rich and intricate background. The film needed to be at least 30 minutes longer for story development but instead it was 90 minutes of super stylized action sequences. It just went too fast.  Man of Steel was just action. They didn’t even bother with story. Jor-El fought for god’s sake! Lois Lane discovering that Superman was Clark Kent occurred in a three minute montage of “investigative reporting” even though she had absolutely no paper trail to follow! Then before you knew it half of Metropolis was destroyed.

DC characters need time to develop.

So with that in mind, I propose to you that DC not be so intent on building a shared universe in movies. I mean, yes, the Justice League movie is happening. There’s obviously no stopping that. But don’t try to make that THE shared DC Universe. Especially since it isn’t too likely to go as far or be as intricate as the Marvel films. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be getting Ben Affleck to sign a 6 to 9 film contract as Batman. Go ahead and do your thing with those movies for as long as you can. But let TV be it’s own separate entity. Arrow and The Flash ARE the new DC Universe. Let’s see how far we can take that. Bring in more superheroes for guest appearances and spin-offs. Kord Industries has been referenced frequently. I’d love to see what Arrow does with a Blue Beetle guest appearance. Amanda Waller was introduced in season two and has more appearances slated for season three. Let’s see what a Checkmate series could do and how it’s superhero/espionage activities can stack up against Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.

The possibilities are endless.

The ball is now in your court: Warner Bros., The CW and Team Arrow. Let’s see what you’ve got.

I leave you with this brief look at some of the great characters we’ve been treated to so far with the hopes of many more to come.

DCU-Characters

 

But that’s not all! This blog is…wait for it…

a TWO-PARTER!!!

So in true comic book cliff hanger fashion…

…TO BE CONTINUED…