Now that the next few years are promising a box office battle between Marvel and DC's respective film universes, some are already looking to the small screen to see how each studio will best put its characters to use. Though Warner Bros. has gotten a jump start - with Arrow, The Flash, Gotham and more - Marvel is looking to add some compelling dimensions to its shared cinematic universe. The likes of Daredevil and AKA Jessica Jones are heading to Netflix, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. soon to be joined on ABC by the limited run of Agent Carter.
Thankfully, a small glimpse behind the curtain of both companies' work has been offered thanks to THR, who allowed showrunners Marc Guggenheim (Arrow, The Flash), Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas (Agent Carter) to conduct a three-way interview. For the benefit of comic book fans, few topics seemed off-limits - including a potential rivalry carrying over into Guggenheim and Butters' marriage.
The trio's past work may include some varied projects, but their TV experience (paired with the recent surge in comic book adaptations) has them joining the charge on a brand new front in an existing billion-dollar rivalry. We've discussed the emerging differences between Marvel and DC films in the past, but it sounds as if the differences extend into the TV production side as well:
Fazekas: The level of security here is really high — because they don't want any spoilers out there — and as little as you can say, the better it is. They don't want anyone to know anything about it other than what they have to disclose. You're always literally looking to someone saying, "Can I say this or not?"
Guggenheim: DC is actually pretty chill. I will say [Arrow and Flash showrunner] Andrew Kreisberg and I tend to be the gatekeepers in terms of what's a secret or trying to keep spoilers from leaking out. DC never really dictates stuff to us... We're not militant but there are certain things that are absolutely secret.
Guggenheim's comments reinforce what seems to be a fluid relationship between DC's movie and TV projects. With DC Entertainment boss Geoff Johns of the opinion that live-action adaptations, like the comics themselves, exist in a 'multiverse', the showrunner's claim that the writers are generally free to adapt which characters they see fit rings true. With some exceptions, of course.
When Kreisberg stated that classic DC Comics villain Harley Quinn would not make an appearance in Arrow's third season, we speculated that a back-on-track Suicide Squad movie could be to blame. That proved to be the case, but is just one small example of how TV and movie universes must operate side-by-side. For Marvel, crafting a single universe across film, network TV and Netflix means another level of cohesion; and Fazekas reveals just how hands-on things can get:
Guggenheim: How much interaction do you have with the folks at Marvel who make the movies?
Fazekas: Quite a bit. Because Peggy comes from their movies, Louis D'Esposito and Kevin Feige are very invested in this and they've been really collaborative and very generous with their world. Kevin was down here cutting an episode [recently] and he's really good at it, which is wonderful.
Fazekas: Because they're coming from the feature world, they're very surprised at how quickly you have to make your decisions. Jeph Loeb, who's at Marvel TV, is really good at having synergy between our show and Agents of SHIELD. He's such a comic book geek that he's pulling out all these old references from comic books of the past.
Guggenheim: My next question was going to be: Why is Arrow such a better show then SHIELD, but because I actually want to write a Marvel movie, I'm not going to ask that... (Laughs)
Ignoring Guggenheim's claim (confirming that friendly shots between even Marvel and DC employees aren't off-limits), the showrunner goes into detail about exactly how The CW's superhero supervisors get ideas approved by DC. The short version: with Arrow and The Flash plotted out well in advance, there's more than enough time for re-writes, adjustments, or scrapped characters (which sounds rare). Again, not surprising when a 'multiverse' is the overarching philosophy.
It's impossible to bring up the challenges of bringing superheroes to TV alongside one another without also discussing the major benefit: crossovers. Unsurprisingly, it's Guggenheim who seems the most openly enthusiastic about crossovers of any type, with the Arrow/Flash crossover event paying off for both shows. Those who have followed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have already seen bonds formed with Agent Carter, but Guggenheim has a loftier vision in mind: uniting the worlds of Peggy Carter and Oliver Queen.
Will Marvel and DC be crossing over properties any time soon? Of course not. And sure, the pair are separated by the better half of a century. But as fans of the comics and medium themselves, the challenge seems worthwhile to the shows' producers:
Guggenheim: I would love to. I always love a challenge. I love doing something crazy outside the box. I think part of the challenge is the time, but also making the two tones work. It's like super challenging...
Butters: It would be interesting to see Hayley Atwell and Stephen Amell in scenes together because in some ways she would be his most formidable foil.
Guggenheim: [Skeptically] Hmm, that's interesting! Why would you say that?
Butters: Because I feel like he wouldn't know what to do with her. And she would not have any time for his broodiness.
Guggenheim: So no romance?
Fazekas: Look, she was dating Captain America! I don't think he has the pecs for it!
We'll overlook the possible romantic entanglements that would come with crossing (the soon-to-be-married) Peggy Carter and the socialite heartthrob Oliver Queen (whom Guggenheim claims "sleeps with pretty much everything"). But Fazekas certainly has a point - any man will have a hard time following Steve Rogers' act.
Not that Guggenheim doesn't have enough to worry about at the moment, set to bring Firestorm and The Atom to The CW's shared universe as well. So with a small screen Justice League potentially coming to viewers in the near future, and the continued talk of a Supergirl crossover (which Guggenheim confirms "is possible"), DC fans should keep pinching themselves well into next year.
Of course, that includes Guggenheim and his colleagues. And even while making what once seemed a pipe dream come true on a weekly basis, there's on character that he can't help but dream of one day adding to the Arrow universe...
Guggenheim: At the end of the day it'd be so awesome to have Batman on the show. That'd be really cool. I don't think that will be happening anytime soon, but you never know…one day.
One day, perhaps. We'll let the fans decide if it's more or less likely that Oliver Queen will someday share the screen with Bruce Wayne than Peggy Carter - and more importantly, which would draw the biggest audience.
What do you make of Marvel and DC's different approaches to extending their characters into TV as well as film? Are you happy to see more freedom given to DC adaptations, or does the shared fiction of Marvel's Cinematic Universe seem a more satisfying direction? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Agent Carter premieres January 6th, 2015 on ABC @9pm. Arrow returns to air on Wedenesday, January 21 @8pm on The CW.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for more DC & Marvel updates as well as movie, TV and gaming news.
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