The appeal of a shared comic book universe is obvious: buy a movie ticket, or turn the channel to your favorite comic book story on TV, and squeal with delight at the mention of another hero’s city, adventures, or simply their name. Recently, fans have praised Marvel’s Daredevil series for hinging its plot on the fallout of The Avengers‘ big screen debut. Meanwhile, The CW has sent the cast of The Flash and Arrow back and forth (and joining forces in crossover events); however the divide between DC Comics’ movie and TV universes means their hands are undeniably tied.
Yet we have to wonder: will the split between the DC Movie Universe and its TV counterpart(s) prove to be as much of a problem as some fans fear it to be, or are there benefits fans have yet to consider?
This is a difficult question to answer, or even discuss. Zack Snyder’s Justice League universe may be crafted by a team of executives and creatives, but the variety of heroes and networks on TV has implied an ‘every man for themselves’ mentality.
That all changed when DC heroes like Supergirl (Superman’s cousin) and Robin (Batman’s sidekick) were announced to be coming to TV (in Supergirl and Titans, respectively). The line between Warner Bros.’ TV and film mythologies was instantly blurred, making it hard to view them as cleanly divided. Superman will be present in Supergirl‘s mythology – and he will appear in the show’s pilot; despite the Dark Knight’s presence on the big screen, the TV Robin is also rumored to be a former protege of Batman, making Batman an established character in the TV universe, as well.
Assessing where the DC TV universe stands in relation to the movie universe is confusing – but perhaps not as confusing as it may seem at first.
Iconography: The DC Advantage
The global awareness surrounding icons like Batman and Superman can’t be understated; not only does that cultural capital allow the introduction of an older Dark Knight in Batman V Superman (everyone knows Bruce Wayne’s origin story), but also makes it possible to draw upon the fictional figures without specifying a particular version. Yet if TV characters are inherently linked to big screen heroes, like Robin to Batman, but denied existence in the films, how can TV writers and networks keep confusion at bay?
The simplest answer may be the best one: for Titans, it’s as easy as confirming that Dick Grayson has parted ways with Batman. Which Batman? Simple: the Batman this version of Robin was trained by.
That may seem a cop-out, or a continuity problem worth writing off a TV project over. But FOX is already telling a Batman origin story as we speak, crafting new tales with Bruce Wayne and his stable of villains at their core, avoiding confusion by setting the events in a version of Gotham seen decades before that of feature films (more or less).
We would now point out that such a divide between DC film and television is the only thing which makes a creatively open-ended show like Gotham possible at all, illuminating another thought to keep in mind: Claiming that Titans‘ Dick Grayson was Batman’s sidekick isn’t the same thing as saying he was the sidekick to Ben Affleck’s Batman.
Similarly, CBS’ Supergirl may be Superman’s cousin – but not the one seen in Man of Steel.
Is Robin Really Robin Without Batman?
When word broke that the “Teen Titans” were coming to TNT, it was assumed a young crop of DC Comics heroes would star – but surely not Dick Grayson a.k.a. Robin a.k.a. Nightwing. Why? Because Batman is off-limits to TV, so adapting a character so deeply rooted in his mythology was the kind of confusion WB was likely trying to avoid.
The question few asked at the time is at what point Batman’s absence from TV was equated with Batman ceasing to exist in any capacity or continuity outside of WB’s movie universe. Gotham is granted freedom to draw from the same pool of source material, so why couldn’t Titans do the same with a sidekick absent from the film universe?
Similar assumptions had fans wondering how CBS would introduce Superman’s cousin without any mention of Superman (it’s on TV, where Supes isn’t allowed). The solution would be simpler – re-tell the classic origin with Kara as the lead – but a Supergirl series is obviously intended to capitalize on Superman’s popularity, not erase any link in the pilot episode.
With Greg Berlanti (executive producer of The Flash and Arrow) overseeing production on Supergirl, and bringing Flash showrunner Andrew Kreisberg on board with him, the pair’s commitment to DC Comic canon makes it hard to believe that removing these characters from their place in DC history is the best course of action. If that is the case, why would these properties be attractive for adaptation in the first place?
“You can definitely adapt the story of Batman’s sidekick…except you can’t mention or allude to Batman…or his villains…or that Robin was ever his sidekick. Fans will love it.”
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