By now, you’re surely aware of Warner Bros.’ decision to move the Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman crossover sequel to MAN OF STEEL from its July 17, 2015 release date to May 6, 2016. As always, the online reaction has been extreme, but it really shouldn’t be. Like Warner Bros., we all need to stop and survey the situation before rushing in blindly. Continue reading
A couple days ago, I was driving home from work and participating in my normal routine of contemplating my favorite superheroes and their films. I can’t be the only one that does this, right? Please say no, so I don’t feel as weird. Anyway, I was thinking about this rapidly growing cast for the MAN OF STEEL sequel, aka BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN, or aka JUSTICE LEAGUE, when I had what can be only described as an epiphany. I *think* I’ve figured out the “why” behind DC and Warner Brothers’ current course of action related to their superhero TV and cinematic properties.
There’s a semi-famous saying of “What’s in a name? Everything!” There’s no doubt that the folks over at DC/WB know this all too well. It’s barely arguable that Batman and Superman have two of if not THE most recognizable names in our pop culture dominated world. It’s extremely difficult to find people in the world who have never heard of either of the world’s greatest superheroes. From a business perspective it makes sense that these two characters would eventually appear together in this current golden age of superhero cinema.
The folks over at Marvel have done a phenomenal job establishing their characters and shared universe. There’s no doubt that they are the current kings of the superhero film genre. Other studios are slowly making their attempts at building their own brands, but it’s mostly a slow moving process. Fans of the genre that still hold to the belief that there’s an actual competition between the studios and their films are just simply out of touch. These films do not release on the same day, and frankly there’s enough money to go around. Great superhero films, regardless of what studio they come from, only benefit the long-term strength of the genre. Marvel should also be commended for accomplishing what they have with the characters they’ve had to work with.
Just a decade ago, you’d have a difficult time trying to find average mainstream moviegoers (who always account for the vast majority of box office totals regardless of genre) who had heard of Iron Man, Hawkeye, or Black Widow. You’d find more that had heard of Thor thanks to his Norse mythology roots and Captain America thanks to his long-standing history in the comics. But even those who were familiar with the shield and hammer were few and far between. X-Men and Spider-Man were significantly more popular at the time thanks to recent films and impressive comic book sales. Basically, THE AVENGERS, the film that broke countless box office records and changed the status quo of the superhero film genre forever, was made up of mostly second- and third-tier characters. That is impressive.
The “Marvel Method” of building up a shared cinematic universe with one film at a time for each of its main characters and culminating with the team-up film was proven to be extremely successful to the tune of $1.5 billion. However, I don’t believe they had any other choice. When you’re dealing with characters that the majority of audiences probably haven’t heard of, you need to be patient, you need to cast extremely well, and you need to be confident. The greatest casting Marvel studios will probably ever have will be Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. He and Jon Favreau took the character of Iron Man, who was lucky to be third-tier at the time in terms of comic book sales, and firmly cemented him among mainstream audiences. Robert Downey Jr. WAS Iron Man, and the world knew it.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER and THOR didn’t benefit from leading men as recognizable or as beloved as RDJ, but the films held their own and continued to push the shared universe forward. Thanks to a cameo in THOR and a substantial supporting role in IRON MAN 2, Hawkeye and Black Widow’s presence was made aware to audiences. The table was finally set, and characters that weren’t well-known among mainstream audiences became a little more familiar. The anticipation grew at a frenzied rate as Marvel was attempting to do something that had never been done before. May 4, 2012 finally arrived, and the rest, as they say… was history. Not only did Marvel need to make those individual films first for financial reasons, but they needed to do it to introduce mainstream audiences to their cinematic brand. Marvel Studios was and is only in the superhero film business, and business is good.
Warner Brothers has always had a different approach to their superhero film properties. They are a movie studio first. They make films throughout the year that fall into every possible genre. Aside from the occasional superhero film such as THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY, SUPERMAN RETURNS, GREEN LANTERN, or WATCHMEN, there hasn’t been much superhero live-action coming out of the WB lot. Throughout the production of MAN OF STEEL, the film was referred to as the first piece of a new shared DC Comics cinematic universe. Back in August 2012, my friend Bill Ramey published an article that stated WB wanted a JUSTICE LEAGUE film with their newly rebooted Superman in the lead for the 2015 summer blockbuster season. For those keeping score at home, that was at least ten months before MAN OF STEEL debuted in theaters. A few months later, another rumor surfaced that WB was offering Chris Nolan and Christian Bale a pile of gold that would make Scrooge McDuck blush, to team-up their Batman with Henry Cavill’s Superman. I think we all know how that rumor turned out, but one thing was consistent – Warner Brothers wanted a JUSTICE LEAGUE film in the summer of 2015.
Now, let’s fast forward (by way of rewinding) to July 2013 at San Diego Comic-Con and the announcement heard ’round the world. Coming in July 2015, Batman and Superman would be teaming up for the first time in a live-action film. In an announcement that spanned barely three minutes, Warner Brothers and DC Comics reached out and put the world on notice that their first team-up film was coming. It was barely a month later when it was officially announced that the next actor to be the Caped Crusader was Ben Affleck. Within 90 days of that announcement, rumors surfaced that a short-list of actresses were auditioning for the role of Wonder Woman. Early in December, it was confirmed that Gal Gadot had been cast as Diana of Themyscira aka Wonder Woman. Other rumors have hung around (thanks mainly to bloggers keeping them alive) that The Flash and even Martian Manhunter could possibly appear in the tentatively titled BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN in July 2015. While I don’t believe the rumors about The Flash or Martian Manhunter until actors for those roles are confirmed and cast, it’s fairly obvious, at least to me, what Warner Brothers is doing.
There has been no shortage of criticism from fans and bloggers alike when it comes to the DC Cinematic Universe. I fully admit that I’ve been very critical at times at the lack of movement when it comes to developing superhero films despite the mountain of intellectual property they are sitting on. The official announcement of the follow-up film to MAN OF STEEL, which seems more and more like a JUSTICE LEAGUE origin film, has not earned the studio any reprieve from criticism. Despite the studio having tentative plans since at least the late summer of 2012 of putting out a JUSTICE LEAGUE film in 2015, most criticism have focused on the appearance of rushing the film into production and not following the “Marvel Method” for establishing their shared cinematic universe. When it comes down to it, 99.9% of those who criticize WB’s current plan don’t actually know the full extent or true history of the development for this follow-up to MAN OF STEEL. All we can do is look at how WB’s method compares to Marvel’s. Let’s face it –they are the two most popular studios when it comes to the superhero film genre. Sony and Fox have had notable successes but not at the level of the “big two.”
As I stated previously, Marvel Studios is in the business of only making superhero films. It is their entire business model. The characters that they chose to use in their shared universe were relatively unknown among the general public. They needed to make individual origin stories not only to help build their universe but introduce/re-introduce those characters to mainstream movie-going audiences. Could anyone imagine if THE AVENGERS would have been the first film after IRON MAN? Mainstream audiences had basically just found out who Iron Man was. I don’t think $1.5 billion at the global box office would have been achievable.
There’s no doubt that Batman and Superman are near the top of the most popular fictional characters in the world list and have been for some time. There’s also no doubt that Wonder Woman is the most popular female superhero ever to grace the four color inks of comic book pages. While her comic book sales never really reach the top of the monthly charts, she’s always remained part of the public consciousness. It is the opinion of this writer that WB and DC have decided to let the names of their most popular characters do the initial legwork of building their new shared cinematic universe. Currently, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are all cast and guaranteed to appear in the follow-up to MAN OF STEEL. Other characters are rumored to appear as well, but nothing outside of WB/DC’s most popular three characters, aka The Trinity, has been confirmed.
If you have been paying attention at all to the press coverage surrounding BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN or whatever it will finally be called, you already know that it’s been quite extensive and speculative. People all around the world are anxiously awaiting every single piece of news that trickles out of the proverbial Fort Knox of the publicity department at WB. There is an enormous amount of hype around this film despite principal photography yet to officially begin. Granted, not every official piece of news that has come out has been met with open arms. We all know the ridiculous knee-jerk reaction to Ben Affleck’s casting as well as the less vocal but equally ridiculous reaction to Gal Gadot’s body image once she was announced as Wonder Woman. The bottom line is that all fans, passionate, hardcore, mainstream, and casual alike seem to be already invested in what’s going on with this movie. If Zack Snyder would have just announced a standalone sequel to MAN OF STEEL back in July at San Diego Comic-Con, it would have been welcomed but not necessarily earth-shattering news. Most fans and bloggers expected a sequel was in the works, and all signs at the time already pointed to that being a fact. Very few people, if anyone, were expecting the announcement we received.
At first, I was someone who admittedly was uneasy with how I felt about the thought of a MAN OF STEEL sequel being “hijacked” in favor of a team-up film. I felt that Snyder, Goyer, and Cavill deserved another chance to further this new Superman’s cinematic career. Part of me was hoping that in addition to a sequel to MAN OF STEEL being in the works that a Wonder Woman film and a Batman film would be put into production as well. After all, how else could they build their shared universe for the eventual JUSTICE LEAGUE films? Without realizing it, I basically wanted WB to copy what Marvel was doing. As a lifelong fan of these characters, is it really fair that I demand or even expect a studio to bow to my whims or ideas for how they should build their shared cinematic universe? Not really. At the end of the day, every single fan just wants to see quality movies. However, my uneasy feelings were predicated on the assumption that the studio, and not Snyder and Goyer, had no initial intention of putting Batman and Wonder Woman in their next film. However, there’s evidence to suggest that expanding the superhero roster in the next film was in the works before MAN OF STEEL even hit theaters. I don’t know about you guys, but doesn’t that sound exactly like what WB had been planning on all along? While the follow-up to MAN OF STEEL seems like it will have the majority of the focus on the initial meeting and relationship between Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman will also play a significant part. My guess to the size her part will be mostly in the third act resolution. From what I can tell about this film, I’m getting a significant IRON MAN 2 vibe. Let’s just hope this film is considerably better.
I do believe that WB has a plan for their superhero cinematic properties. Obviously, their plan is significantly different from Marvel’s. WB has always been slow to announce plans beyond the very next film. They take these properties one step at a time. Now, because they are not using the “Marvel Method,” does that mean they are doomed to fail with building their universe via BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN? No, it doesn’t. Does not using individual franchise films to build your shared cinematic universe put more pressure on this film? Absolutely, it does. It’s clear (to me, at least) that WB and DC are going to play their best hand with this film. While there will always be Batman and Superman films that can be made, they want to make this new shared universe work. They’re going all-in with BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN. They’re attempting to give fans something they’ve been demanding for years. They are taking the two most popular superheroes of all time and the most popular female superhero in history and finally putting them in a movie together. At this point in the superhero film genre, it doesn’t get bigger than that.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to see the future and find out if this enormous gamble will finally pay off for WB. I’m not sure how you can consider yourself a fan of the genre if you hope this film becomes a failure. While the fan in me is excited at the potential for this film, my concerns and worries won’t be completely answered until July 17, 2015. The film has the potential to further galvanize the superhero genre’s permanent presence in the cinematic landscape for decades to come. THE AVENGERS changed the landscape of the genre in 2012. BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN has the potential to do it again. While the “WB Method” has yet to be proven successful, I do wish them the most sincere luck. If Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can’t do it, I’m not sure a shared cinematic universe will ever happen for fans of DC.
Good luck, Warner Brothers. The world will be watching.
If rumors are true, Wonder Woman is headed to the big screen for the first time ever in 2015, sitting third chair behind the pairing of icons Batman and Superman in Warner Bros.’ upcoming MAN OF STEEL sequel. If those same rumors prove to be false, the Amazon Princess will probably still debut in a film prominently featuring her male counterparts in DC Entertainment’s Trinity. Warner Bros.’ lack of confidence in the character’s ability to carry her own film has allowed a brand new heroine to usurp Wonder Woman’s place in pop culture- Katniss Everdeen of THE HUNGER GAMES, a character rapidly ascending to an iconic status of her own. There is much Wonder Woman’s handlers can learn from “The Girl On Fire.”
Conventional Hollywood wisdom maintains women are not reliable leads for action-heavy franchises, which most superhero properties tend to be. ELEKTRA, CATWOMAN, and SUCKER PUNCH are popular examples used to uphold this idea, but there’s little talk of how the quality of those films, all of which were panned by critics and general audiences, had a far bigger adverse impact on box office results than the gender of their respective stars. Whether or not the success of THE HUNGER GAMES, now having posted back-to-back domestic openings in excess of $150 million, disproves that theory is a matter for debate. Even if such a rule exists, we now know there are exceptions at the very least.
Wonder Woman is certainly not a sure box office bet. Most superhero properties are not. The harder truth that longtime fans do not see, or would rather not acknowledge, is that Wonder Woman’s mainstream relevance has lapsed. She is an image, a mascot even, but her character and the ideals she represents have long been forgotten by those who do not make trips to the comic shop a weekly errand on Wednesdays. A great many people who actually make those Wednesday trips and cry out for a movie end up leaving Wonder Woman comics off of their pull list. Warner Bros. must think this is the case, if casting rumors are to be believed. Gal Gadot and Elodie Yung are supposed finalists who offer supermodel beauty and action movie experience, but have nothing in their filmographies that hints at representing a strong, feminine ideal that women of all ages can and should be able to rally behind.
Many of the inspiring qualities for which audiences might look to Wonder Woman can already be found in Katniss Everdeen, as written by Suzanne Collins in her young adult novels and portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence on screen. She is strong, fierce, protective, caring, and independent. When needed, Katniss Everdeen is also lethal. For a generation of young adult readers and moviegoers, she is Wonder Woman. That’s not to say Wonder Woman should hang up her Lasso of Truth and call it a career before she ever gets started on the silver screen, as there is certainly room for more than one female action hero on film. Rather, Warner Bros. should study Katniss’ rapid rise in relevance to see what lessons can be mined and then applied to make Princess Diana’s cinematic debut as culturally and financially impactful as possible.
Given that Warner Bros. has shown remarkable patience in developing a modern, live-action Wonder Woman, there ought to be no need to rush her into a MAN OF STEEL sequel that will inevitably spend the majority of its focus establishing a new Batman and his rivalry with the Superman we just met last June. There are so many critical elements that should factor into the casting, characterization, and handling of Wonder Woman. The importance of all those elements is fixed, not varying at all based on the amount of screen time the character will receive. Even if Wonder Woman only has a cameo in the MAN OF STEEL sequel, the actress Warner Bros. casts is obviously intended to play the character in more robust on-screen appearances including a third film in the crossover series and, Hippolyta willing, a solo adventure.
Warner Bros. has one shot to get this right in the foreseeable future. If that means taking even more time to setup a proper debut now that the studio knows what cinematic universe Wonder Woman will call home, so be it. Waiting is not necessary, but it would probably help if Warner Bros. gave DC Entertainment the time to get Wonder Woman back in the public conversation by reaching out to an untapped audience of young women who prefer their stories without pictures. Katniss, along with Bella Swan (TWILIGHT) and Beatrice Prior (DIVERGENT) are the superheroes of a new generation. DC Entertainment, with the support of Warner Bros., should be trying to introduce Wonder Woman to that generation in their medium of choice.
Marvel has already made such an attempt, publishing THE SHE-HULK DIARIES and ROGUE TOUCH earlier this year. DC could make this look like a toe being dipped in the water by jumping all the way in with a series of young adult novels introducing Diana to girls in that genre’s targeted demographic while also passing the smell test for adults, like Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES. While I’m giving out free product ideas, title first book THEMYSCIRA and make that the banner for the whole series. Earn the love and admiration of new fans ahead of time instead of just dropping a name that may or may not matter to them. Do not expect the world to swoon at a costumed image on that inevitable Entertainment Weekly cover.
Of course, none of that is likely to happen. Warner Bros. could take a shortcut, however, and arrive at a similar destination via effective casting. The smartest thing to do, as Mark Hughes of Forbes has brilliantly suggested, is to wait for Jennifer Lawrence to finish saving Panem and then offer whatever it takes to get her to come over to Themyscira. Lawrence, already an Academy Award winner, is building a rabid fan following and already has a high level of credibility with moviegoers of both genders and all ages. The news of her being cast as Wonder Woman would generate more immediate buy-in than any other actress Warner Bros. could pursue. Regardless of how the mainstream audience feels about Wonder Woman, they would eagerly lineup to watch Jennifer Lawrence show them why they should care.
Assuming Lawrence would not be available or interested, Warner Bros. still needs to make sure the actress they cast understands the responsibility that comes with the role and is able to gain advanced support of people other than horny men. Case in point, when Olga Kurylenko (OBLIVION) emerged as a rumored favorite for the role last month, many of the articles on the subject commented on how hot she was while using near-nude photos from her modeling career instead of shots from her movie appearances and an analysis of her acting ability. In the process, some female fans already felt alienated and questioned the motivation behind the potential casting. None of that is Olga’s fault, obviously, but it is something Warner Bros. has to be sensitive to when making this casting decision and announcing it to the public.
Jaime Alexander (THOR) is a good choice to solve this equation, having already played the Wonder Woman-like Sif in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What she currently lacks in general audience awareness can be compensated for with her genuine passion for the character and all that Wonder Woman represents. It is interesting to wonder if any actress alive would care more about getting it right than Alexander.
The field of potentially great candidates to play Wonder Woman is certainly larger than two. To its credit, Warner Bros. has a fairly good track record in the superhero genre by way of the aforementioned Batman and Superman. Similar success with Wonder Woman cannot be assumed, though, and has to be earned. The journey begins with preparation and study of what it takes for a female character to succeed in an arena presumably built by and for men. Katniss has shown the way. Now, Wonder Woman can start a fire of her own.
In just about ten days, everyone’s favorite archer (sorry Hawkeye), will make his return for the second season of ARROW on the CW. As someone who significantly enjoyed the first season, I’m very excited to see what’s in store for “The Hood.” Given the already announced casting news of Grant Gustin as TV’s Barry Allen aka The Flash, the scope of what we can expect in this new season seems to be growing exponentially. For all intents and purposes, ARROW seems to be leading the way in expanding the DC Universe among mainstream audiences.
As a lifelong DC Comics fan, I’m excited that WB seems to be finally moving towards the aggressive side of exploiting their IP, albeit on the small screen. Recently announced GOTHAM and CONSTANTINE are further evidence that the recent leadership change at the studio may end up proving fruitful for the studio and fans alike. While TV is not always the first preference when it comes to comic book/superhero properties, I do appreciate the initial planning and effort that is being put forth. Only time will tell if these small screen endeavors increase the chances of big screen franchises in the years to come.
When it comes to Oliver Queen and the return to the earthquake-ravaged Starling City, the future in uncertain but exciting. DC/WB are being aggressive in their planned expansion of the DC Universe. There are a few ways that this can be viewed. I love the idea of expanding the universe in which the Green Arrow exists, but I hope it doesn’t come at a cost to the integrity of the show. Seeing other recognizable characters from DC Comics in a live-action TV show has the potential be a great thing. However, the title of this show is ARROW. It’s not the DC Universe, it’s not Justice League. I don’t have an issue with using ARROW to launch THE FLASH for next year, but expanding the DC Universe should never go past a couple episode guest spot.
During its later years, SMALLVILLE nearly went full-on Justice League with their story lines. Some would argue that those were some of the highlights of the entire series and I enjoyed those stories quite a bit too. However, I never really got on board for a “JV” Justice League. These weren’t fully formed characters but they were already marching towards what we knew they would eventually become throughout the preceding decades of comic book stories. In my opinion, there are just certain aspects of the comic book/superhero universe better suited for the multiplexes.
Many fans, including myself, are disappointed at the possibility of the delayed cinematic version of The Flash now that the character has been repurposed for The CW. I think the idea to spin his show out of ARROW is a pretty inspired and smart idea. Unfortunately, I know that Barry Allen will still not be getting the full canvas of storytelling that only a movie screen can offer. I have no reason at this time to doubt that THE FLASH can be a compelling weekly story to tell on TV, but it’s going to need to go above and beyond what ARROW does consistently to be considered a true hit. The landscape for storytelling changes when you have main characters with superpowers. Not only does this elevate expectations for itself but it does for ARROW as well. And therein lies the heart of my concern.
I’m a firm believer in the mantra of the story comes first. On one hand, it’s obvious that DC/WB are pushing to expand the reach of their IP. On the other hand, they are directly using an existing show as a springboard. Was this a studio mandate or did the writers of ARROW in the early stages of working on season two come up with a great reason to bring Barry Allen into the same world they created for Oliver Queen? As of right now, I don’t believe the latter is true. For those of us who prefer to see our favorite DC Comics characters on the silver screen, what happens in season two of ARROW could be a double-edged sword. If the appearance of The Flash and subsequent spin-off TV series end up being a significant success, fans of DC Comics may be in for the long haul in front of their TV screens if they want to enjoy those characters in a live-action format. Outside of Batman, Superman, and possibly Wonder Woman, the shared DC Cinematic Universe could be on the way to becoming the DC Televised Universe.
Now would probably be a good time to insert “beggars can’t be choosers” into my concerned stream of consciousness. And yes, that’s true. I know films are expensive and come with a much greater risk versus the potential return on investment. I know that over time, TV shows can reach a far greater audience than a movie ever could. But I don’t want the live-action DC Universe to grow just because of a executive mandate. I want the push to expand to come first and foremost from the heart of creativity.
TV and Film are and always will be a business. But people don’t purchase movie tickets or program their DVR’s just because something new is coming. They do it because they want to be entertained. They want to escape. They want to connect. It’s great to have variety and so many choices for entertainment. But there are far fewer choices that ever stand the test of time. So many pilots and films come out each year and are quickly forgotten. But every once in awhile a team of creative people come along and produce something that you will never forget. It doesn’t matter if it’s a TV show or a film, the right experience can stay with you.
My only hope for season two of ARROW is that this time next year, I’ll be reminiscing about how great the stories were and not about how many characters I recognized from the DC Universe.
Keep your browsers locked on Modern Myth Media for our upcoming coverage of ARROW season two!
Last week, some guy decided to publish an op-ed he wrote as a $2.99 ebook on Amazon in which he cited unnamed sources from Legendary Pictures who told him Warner Bros. was going to, or had offered Christian Bale $50 million to reprise his role as Batman in the “Man of Steel” sequel. Several sites ran with the report despite the gross lack of pre-established credibility from the ebook’s never-before-heard-of author. Who has time to scrutinize such stories or at least warn readers of the 10-pound bag of salt with which such a huge rumor from such an unknown source should be taken when there are hits to attract?
As our readers may have noticed, we did not run with this story at all on MMM. We posted no articles about it and did not discuss it in our weekly podcast. As much as we love our fellow fans, we couldn’t treat a glorified message board post from a fantasizing fan as news just because he decided to charge everyone for it. In the video above, John Campea of AMC Movie Talk does a much better job than I am of explaining exactly why a non-story like this should have never received the traction it did and how it makes all of us in the online film community look bad. Really bad.
We all need to try harder.
Over the past five days, Batman-On-Film has been running a multi-chapter op-ed dispelling the myths and false assumptions so many fans have about comic book movies. BOF founder Bill “Jett” Ramey was kind enough to ask for my input and I was happy to participate along with fellow BOF/MMM alumni Chris Clow and Mark Hughes. You can check out each of the five parts to the op-ed at the links below.
Article written by Robert Reineke
With “Man of Steel” looking to open big and open the door for more DC superheroes, the question of what next is looming. Obviously, Wonder Woman has to be one of the properties that Warner Bros. is considering. With that in mind, and to facilitate a conversation, here are ten pieces of advice for Warner Bros. and their creative team.
Part 1. What Warner Bros. Needs to Do
1. Define the Sandbox
Somebody has to make a decision on what WB is willing to accept in the big picture. A creator may have a great idea for an “Avatar” inspired reimagining of the Amazons as exotic, savage warriors, Wonder Woman as a Young Adult character, or of Wonder Woman as a kick-ass Disney princess, but if WB isn’t open to takes radically different than the comic books they’re just wasting the time of everyone involved and creating a bunch of noise to sort through. Most past Wonder Woman proposals have never gotten past this point, precisely because there’s never been any consensus reached on what the studio is looking for.
Are you building up to a Justice League film? If you are, then creators have to know up front and you have to find people that will work together. There’s no point in hiring someone who has a distinct creative vision for Wonder Woman if your goal is to work in a collaborative process.
2. Pick a Creative Vision with Passion
There are many ways to make a movie. A screenwriter can write a screenplay and a director can be hired later in the process. A director can be hired upfront and help pick the screenwriters. You can have a strong producer heading things up or a producer that’s more of a facilitator for the creative team. Ideally you want people with talent and passion to develop your project. Maybe that includes David Goyer. Maybe that includes Nicholas Winding Refn. Maybe that includes people we haven’t heard rumored yet. But Wonder Woman is not a slam dunk, otherwise there would be a Wonder Woman movie by now, and requires a vision to pull off. There’s no reason to settle for someone with no passion that’s just looking for a paycheck.
3. Be Consistent
Obviously Warner Bros. will be involved in the development of the project; they own the character and are going to spend upwards of $100 million on the project. They will have final approval and greenlight authority. It’s their right and responsibility to protect their property and investment.
However, the last Justice League script was reportedly sunk, at least in part, by characters being added and removed at the whim of the studio. Nobody can do good work when that work can be completely undone the next day. That’s especially true when you consider the major issues of character, theme, plot, and structure. Decisions will be made, but when they are, they shouldn’t be revisited randomly and work should be allowed to continue. Dithering and backtracking is no way to make a movie.
4. Be Confident
While a Wonder Woman movie isn’t a slam dunk, there’s no reason to project uncertainty in the market place. Make the best Wonder Woman movie you can and be proud of it. Audiences can pick up when the studio is trying to hide something from them. The mixed financial success of “The Incredible Hulk” and the mixed critical reaction to “Iron Man 2″ didn’t send Marvel scurrying away from “The Avengers,” rather they proceeded like everything was on course and that confidence helped make the following films successful. Warner Bros. needs to do the same. Wonder Woman is one of the most recognizable superheroes on the planet and the preeminent superheroine. That’s a position of strength and good reason to be confident.
5. Be Realistic
There’s no reason to expect Wonder Woman to be as successful as Batman, Iron Man, or Spider-Man at this point in time, so it’s important to set realistic expectations up front. Obviously you need some sense of scale to compete with the rest of the marketplace, but your budget should be more like “Captain America: The First Avenger” or “Thor.” There are projects to be tough negotiators over, and this is one. Continue reading
It seems like modern Superman fans have it pretty hard today. If anyone out there feels similarly, I’m sure you can relate to something I’ve had to contend with: having to defend Superman to a world that seems to appreciate anti-heroes and goofy assassins more than true heroes (I’m sorry guys, Deadpool is NOT a better character than Superman), and having to remind people that the Man of Steel today is actually equipped with well-defined pathos. Basically, having to defend Superman at all, sucks. A lot.
Hopefully, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel will go a long way in convincing people everywhere that Superman’s best days are far from over. Even in comic book stores, it seems like truly good Superman comics are kind of hard to come by on the new release rack, and the sales would seemingly reflect that. While I thoroughly enjoyed Grant Morrison’s recently concluded run on Action Comics, I understand that it’s not for everyone, and it didn’t go quite as far as I would have liked in convincing even other comics fans that Superman was a character to follow.
So, when an issue comes along that has very high potential to be a go-to for the Man of Steel in monthly comics, that’s a feat that definitely deserves both recognition and reward. That issue came out this week, in the form of Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel’s Action Comics #19. I’ve been a fan of Diggle’s for a long time, and while I was sad to see Mr. Morrison leave, I was optimistic about what the future would hold for the title with Diggle at the helm. Although I’ve been critical in the past of Mr. Daniel’s writing on the Batman titles, I’ve never been critical of his artwork. I think he’s one of the best artists in comics today.
So, when hearing about the news surrounding Diggle’s departure from the title, I naturally became worried. Diggle cited “professional reasons” for leaving the title, and though I may be assuming too much, I think it’s safe to say that this falls on the shoulders of editorial interference on the part of DC. More on that in a second.
I went into Action #19 with a bittersweet feeling in my heart. By the time I finished the issue, that feeling grew tenfold faster than a speeding bullet. Unlike the main Superman title and a few one-off appearances in other corners of the DCU, Action #19 felt like the best of Grant Morrison’s early issues of the title, showcasing the fact that this is a younger, brasher Man of Steel who has very little reservations about getting physical if he has to. Mr. Diggle made the modern, New 52 characterization of Superman very clear in the monologue of the first few pages, where he tells us that he’s here to “protect, not to provoke,” and for me this just culminated in chills when Superman says that he never throws the first punch, but he always throws the last.
This is all accompanied by blockbuster visuals provided by Mr. Daniel, who makes even the most bombastically action-packed scenes of Michael Bay’s Transformers films seem tame by comparison. Not only was this the Man of Steel, this was also a man of power. That sense of awe had been missing from Superman in the comics over the last several months, and even the action of Ivan Reis and Jim Lee’s Justice League pencils didn’t help to give as much scale to Superman’s power as Daniel has managed to do in the first few pages of Action #19.
Then, of course, reality sets in. Not only is this just the briefest glimpse of what the run could be, but this is a full third of what was promised to us months ago to be an ongoing endeavor. After all of the publicity from DC and the Superman 75th anniversary interviews Diggle participated in, the whole thing will be over in just a couple of short months.
“Creative differences” is not a new phrase for comics fans, especially for Superman fans in the very recent past. Since the dawn of the New 52 in September of 2011, we’ve pretty consistently heard of creative casualties surrounding creators who’ve worked on the Superman character since the relaunch. George Pérez was the first casualty, the man who began the new volume of Superman when the New 52 first launched.
Pérez gave us probably our greatest glimpse at the frustrating process of working on Superman in an interview with ComicsAlliance, where he said, “Unfortunately when you are writing major characters, you sometimes have to make a lot of compromises and I was made certain promises, and unfortunately not through any fault of Dan DiDio, he was no longer the last word, lot of people making decisions, going against each other, contradicting, again in mid story.”
He continued, “ I had to keep rewriting things because another person changed their mind, and that was a lot tougher…They wanted me to recreate what I did through Wonder Woman, but …I couldn’t do it anymore. I did have to tell [Keith Giffen] I can’t wait to get off Superman. It was not the experience I wanted it to be.”
Unfortunately, the editorial decisions wouldn’t be any kinder to Keith Giffen or collaborator Dan Jurgens, as that team wouldn’t last more than a single story arc. Because of these past difficulties relating to the same character, and other similar instances happening with other characters (like Joshua Hale Fialkov’s departure from Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns over those pesky “creative differences”), I think it’s safe to assume that editorial has struck again, creatively choking Diggle and forcing him to feel he had to go. DC’s not commenting about it and both Diggle and Daniel have chosen to remain relatively silent, so until we hear the whole story, I think DC needs to take a hard look at how they treat certain creators, and yes, even how they treat Superman.
We don’t seem to be hearing many complaints about this kind of interference in the Batman office, and I think I know why. In an episode of Kevin Smith’s “Fatman on Batman” podcast, Batman writer Scott Snyder rather appropriately stated that DC “needs him” on the Bat titles to ensure their success. Because of this, I’d think it likely that Snyder is allowed a greater degree of creative freedom in Gotham’s corner of the DCU because A) his early stories (i.e. The Black Mirror) sold well, B) Batman is safer due to his near-universal popularity, and C) greater freedom has likely been a large factor in the Batman title’s high level of commercial success.
If anyone from DC editorial (or higher) floats across this article, maybe you guys should ask yourselves a few things. Are the Superman titles better because of your hard-lined mandates for the character? Or, would a writer like Mr. Diggle, obviously capable given what we’ve seen in his other work as well as his first issue of Action, thrive creatively and commercially if you loosened the leash a little bit more? Are your mandates so imperative that you’re willing to sacrifice potentially higher sales and critical attention that could be yours by, God forbid, letting a team tell a story that might actually resonate with people?
Or, if you editors really are fans, then are you actively doing Superman himself (not the brand, but the man) any favors by potentially limiting his audience in his 75th anniversary year? Trust me, if comics fans (your audience, by the way) hear that Superman comics right now are “same ol’, same ol’” then I can promise you: they’ll put down that issue of Superman or Action and go straight for the latest in a long line of Deadpool gimmicks (right now that’s Deadpool Killustrated). For me, that’s a travesty.
I am a colossal Superman fan, and a comics retailer. This week, I took a great deal of pride in being able to show people an issue of Action Comics that told a new story and could introduce people to a whole new side of Superman that’s been missing from the entire DC Universe line. Because of this one issue, I feel like I not only know the New 52’s Superman a whole lot better, but that I actually like him more and may even prefer him to previous incarnations. Because Diggle has basically been forced off of the book, the tragedy here isn’t as much for him as much as it is for Superman himself.
Yes, the commercially safe Superman Unchained is coming, and will likely be successful (and quite good) with Mr. Snyder’s and Mr. Lee’s names attached to it, but Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel may have been the team to bring Superman back to a level of quality that the Man of Steel hasn’t enjoyed in either of his main titles for quite a while. Even though I feel for Mr. Diggle, I feel more for Superman, and am truly saddened that the company he calls home isn’t treating their flagship character with a greater degree of reverence, and a lot more respect.
Screw convincing other fans to like him, I thought that DC Comics itself liked Superman more than that. Through their actions, though, apparently I was very wrong.
…I just wish DC would let him do it.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” – William Blake Continue reading
Raise your hand if you ever wished you could fly. Now raise your hand if you remember wishing you could fly before you first heard of Superman. That’s what I thought. There are very few people who haven’t at least heard the moniker of the world’s first superhero. The Man of Steel makes his expectantly triumphant return to the silver screen on June 14th. Millions of fans eagerly anticipate the day they will be reminded why there’s nothing wrong with believing a man can fly.