The comparisons between Marvel and DC will never stop, moving from the panel and page world to film and television as the two companies increasingly launch their characters toward a greater swath of the pop culture pie with movies and TV shows.
But while Marvel has flourished over the last decade and change – launching their own movie universe alongside successful Spider-Man and X-Men franchises over at Sony and FOX – DC has delivered only a new and regaled Batman franchise beside the twin failures of the Green Lantern and Superman Returns. That was before the financial success of Man of Steel and the buzz-making return of the DCU to TV with Arrow on the CW, though, and now it appears as if DC’s parent company, Warner Bros., has finally found (or, re-found) an eagerness to play catch-up.
Last week, we told you what Warner Bros.’ CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s said about the latest incarnation of the Dark Knight in the upcoming Batman/Superman film during a presentation at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference, but he also spoke about DC’s overall place in Warner’s business plan and specifically called the Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman.
“We have Batman Vs. Superman coming out in 2015, but there are going to be in the coming months a lot of announcements regarding the future movie, television, games and consumer product pieces that are going to be coming from DC. […] DC really does touch a lot of parts of our business and is an important part of the strategy in how we are going to grow going forward,”
The knock against Warner Bros. has always been that they aren’t ambitious enough with regard to their use of the potential cash cow that is the DC roster while they happily take risks on films like Sucker Punch and Jack the Giant Slayer, or they cling to the security blanket that is the Harry Potter franchise, so this is good news – assuming it comes to pass.
The sad fact is, that while Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash all pose their own unique batch of risks and rewards, for the most part, Warner Bros.’ development of those characters on screens big and small has been filled with public starts and stops (various Wonder Woman projects, back and forth over the Justice League project, etc), promises, and disappointments over the years.
One could choose to believe that the Batman/Superman team-up film signifies change with regard to the DCU; a bit of ambition that shows us that there is, in fact, a plan. But as much as adding a “tired and weary” Batman into the mix seems like a step towards a Justice League film, it’s also a bit of reinforcement to make sure that Superman stays off the ground.
The same thing can be said about the decision to add The Flash to Arrow. The latter was CW-successful, but not generally successful, and it gets a lot of buzz because anything comic book related usually does, but is Barry Allen coming to Star City along with a few DCU spare parts in an effort to convert that buzz to viewers, or is it that and DC’s attempt to build a blended and wide world for DC characters on television? Right now, we don’t know, because DC won’t even fully commit to making The Flash a standalone series in 2014.
We want to believe that it will be, and that Warner Bros. is world building and that they are finally ready to fully utilize this amazing resource that they have at their disposal; but that history of teases, whispers, and starts and stops damns them. Marvel gets away with teasing us because we know that eventually, they will deliver. In many ways, DC has yet to establish that.
The funny thing is, TV isn’t even that much of a risk (comparatively speaking). With Arrow and Smallville (which was also CW-successful) there is an established audience, and if a show fails, it’s a slight black mark on the chin for DC properties, but it’s not as steep a financial hit. Besides that, Warner Bros. could easily use television as a proving ground, joining their televised world and their film world in the way that Marvel is trying to do with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., only DC could do it with their superheroes, doing it in a way that would surely be more cost effective and a boon to their shows.
Maybe one of those upcoming announcements that Tsujihara teased will be something along those lines or a director and a roster for the Justice League. Maybe they’ll emulate Marvel and put their own Whedon-like all-father in place to serve as the connective force within a movie and TV universe that they are truly and publicly committed to. Maybe they’ll gamble on themselves as Marvel does, but until they do, a lack of faith begets a lack of faith.