Comics on Film: This Is the Way the 'Worlds of DC' Could End

Comics on Film: This Is the Way the 'Worlds of DC' Could End

Sep 14, 2018

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Fictional worlds, particularly shared universes, are built by the wide resonance of so-called anchor characters: the big guns you know, and the ones you always want to be able to see. In the realm of characters based on DC Comics, the primary anchors have always been what fans call "the Trinity": Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

It’s only within the last couple of years that all three characters of the Trinity have shared the same screen space at the same time in single films. Regardless of how the final product may have ended up turning out, you can’t really argue how momentous it was in the final minutes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice when we got to see these three characters on the same screen at the same time.

Now, though, the shared world recently rebranded as the "Worlds of DC" is on fire. Yes, we still have movies with beloved characters to look forward to over the next 14 months, but the fact that two-thirds of DC’s Trinity have such nebulous mystery surrounding their cinematic futures is disconcerting – to say the least – if you’re a fan of the heroes of DC Comics.

 

What a Difference Two Years Can Make

Justice League

As a longtime commentator on the matters of masked men and women on film, it's strange for this writer to gauge the current state of affairs with cinematic DC characters because it's very much a first in the long history of DC Comics adaptations. This column has even lamented in the past that Warner Bros. Pictures always seemed so unwilling to create anything outside the relative "safety" of movies featuring only Batman or Superman (more especially the former), always reticent to dive into the larger catalog of wonderful characters granted to them by the DC Comics intellectual property.

Where do we stand now? Well, while we know that a new Batman movie is in development, that's about all we know. A new Superman movie seems like a distant possibility, presuming it's even being bandied about at all in the WB offices in Burbank. Instead, we await the release of Aquaman this December, Shazam! next April, and Wonder Woman 1984 next November.

In a lot of ways, this is exactly what a lot of longtime DC fans have wanted for years: finally, at long last, the studio taking a chance and elevating characters who haven't had nearly as much limelight as Batman or Superman, the "World's Finest" heroes.

So…why does it feel so wrong, now?

 

(Not) Having Cake, and (Not) Eating It, Too

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

This won't be a universal truth among all DC fans, to be sure, but chances are that DC fans didn’t necessarily want to have to take the brand's two biggest, most recognizable heroes completely off the board in order to get the chance to see some other characters on the screen. Most probably assumed that Batman and Superman's places as the two biggest superheroic movie stars at WB wouldn't ever be in question – and perhaps they aren't, at least internally – but the surprising lack of confidence in making public, definitive plans for two of popular culture's biggest icons is a bit troubling.

As most people on the internet are likely aware, this week a story was published in one of the Hollywood trades making a rather definitive, declarative statement contending that Henry Cavill's time as Superman had come to an end over a disagreement to reprise the role in a cameo in next year's Shazam!

The larger reaction from fans was pretty swift, with a lot of people – this writer, included – lamenting that Superman was being put on the back-burner by WB yet again, a position he's been in pretty regularly at the studio for far more of the past 30 years than he's actually been in play. Add to that the general uncertainty clouding Ben Affleck's perilous possible future as Batman in future films, and the general health of the Worlds of DC can very easily be called into question by fans and industry observers alike.

 

A Potential Solution Is on WB’S Lot Right Now

DC Films Intro

Mistakes have been made. Movies that had a lot of resources put into them ended up being disappointing, both critically and commercially. That part is easily understood, but what's baffling is that Warner Bros. seems to be having a Green Lantern-esque reaction to their two biggest characters. They will continue to behave like this until they actually install people who have both the reverence for the characters' material and the power to put that reverence into actual studio practice.

The stories about Cavill's and Affleck's futures as Superman and Batman, respectively, are continuing to play out. It doesn't seem like they're over. Things may end up swerving in a different direction, but until then, let's just hope Warner Bros. doesn't arrive at the incorrect conclusion that Superman and Batman are somehow box office poison.

You guys have an army of creators at DC Comics – on your own lot, no less – who have better, more pure and correct perceptions about what makes superhero stories not just good, but timeless. USE THEM. These are the people who have been responsible for creating stories that work, on an ongoing basis, with these characters for the better part of a century, and some of them there now have been responsible for the characters for multiple decades on their own.

If DC Comics characters continue to be a larger conundrum you feel you’re yet to "crack," maybe it's time to actually integrate a committee of solid DC Comics storytellers into the creative decision-making process. It seems to be just about the only thing you haven't tried yet, so why not give it a shot?


Chris Clow is a comics expert/former retailer, and pop culture critic/commentator. He hosts two podcasts: Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek Podcast and Comics on Consoles. Find his column "Comics on Film" weekly at Movies.com, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

Categories: Features, Geek
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