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Rant Alert: Superman/Batman Movie

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So SDCC is over for another year and there was a lot of great stuff announced that has me really excited: Amazing Spider-Man 2 is looking great, Black Canary will be in season two of Arrow, all of Marvel’s movie stuff- Cap 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Age of Ultron. It was a great weekend. By far, however, for me the biggest announcement was that Man of Steel 2 will actually be Superman/Batman (I’m betting they’ll title it World’s Finest before it’s over).

Yep, that happened. Now I’m going to tell you why I think it’s a brilliant move on their part. It’s not quite how Marvel did it. Marvel built their world up by giving the major players all their own solo movies and then bringing them together for Avengers, and I still think that’s the best way to do it. However, in this case I think doing a Superman/Batman movie first is the right way to go.

First, we don’t need another Batman origin movie. Everyone knows that story. Everyone is familiar with who Batman is. No matter what interpretation of the character you look at, be it the comics, the Bruce Timm animated series (or any of the other 3-4 since), or the Burton or Nolan films that is the one consistent thing- Bruce was a rich kid who watched his parents get gunned down in front of him and he dedicates his life and fortune to making sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else. By introducing Batman in a Superman film it allows them to do a few things that we haven’t really seen before in a Batman movie- Batman as the criminals see him, the urban legend. If the movie, at least the first half, is from Clark’s perspective then we get to be introduced to this version of Batman in the same way that Clark is, and I think that’s a pretty cool way to do it.

Second, if a Justice League movie is going to work, it’s going to have to be built on a foundation and that foundation is Superman and Batman (and Wonder Woman). If you can’t get a Supes/Bats film to work, then Justice League isn’t going to happen. If it does work, then they could do a “Trinity” movie as a follow up to introduce Wonder Woman, and from there do a Justice League. I don’t know if that’s how they’re planning it, I’m just throwing it out there.

Third, it allows them to establish/address a few things that need to be addressed. This version of Batman needs to be the worlds greatest detective. He needs to be the guy that has a plan for everything, and then a back up plan if that plan doesn’t work, and then a backup for the backup. That’s who the Justice League Batman is and it’s the reason why he works as a “normal” man surrounded by a bunch of gods. He’s the smartest guy in the room. He’s the tactician. He’s the guy that found out a way to neutralize not just Superman, but every single member of the Justice League “just in case”. It’s the reason why the Nolan/Bale version of Batman just wouldn’t work. I love those films and I loved Bale as Batman, but that version of the character just wasn’t “that guy”.  Also, they’ve already said they’re going to address *spoilers, but if you haven’t seen the movie by now and you’re reading this you probably already know because it’s been harped on so much all over the internet for a month* Superman killing Zod. Who better than to throw that in Superman’s face than Batman? Superman comes down on him about how he operates, how he uses fear and intimidation, and Batman responds with “But I don’t kill.” That needs to happen.

The version of Batman that they really should be looking to for inspiration is the Bruce Timm version of the character from Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. For me, that is the very best interpretation of the character from any medium, comics included. That is Batman, and he works solo and as a part of the Justice League. In fact, if I could get everyone involved for this movie and the future ones to just sit down in a room I’d force them to watch Batman/Superman: World’s Finest and the entire Justice League/JLU series and then simply say: “Do that.” Seriously, Timm, Dini, McDuffy, etc. already did all the heavy lifting. They’ve already adapted the comics into a damn near perfect interpretation of the characters that works for all ages. JLU in  particular struck the perfect balance between light/dark, kid-friendly and mature storytelling. If DC really wants to have a franchise that can stand toe to toe with what Marvel has been doing they need to use what Timm  and company did on those animated series as their guiding star. Of course this is jut my opinion. Feel free to share what you think in the comments below.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

 

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Rant Alert: Why DC & Marvel Are Royally Screwing Up and How They Could Easily Fix It

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I love comics. I’m a huge fan of both Marvel and DC characters, as they fill different storytelling needs I may crave at any given moment. If I want more character-driven drama I look to Marvel. When I feel like just watching super people beat the snot out of each other while looking badass, I go to DC.

Except for lately. Both companies have been really hit or miss for a while now, particularly in the past few years.

Marvel

With Marvel, we have event after event that just ends up not meaning much or having any lasting consequences in the long run. Often they’re not even finished with one event before they’re already hyping the next. That’s not even counting the deaths, which mean absolutely nothing at this point because everyone knows it’s not going to last more than a few months at most (DC does this too). It’s exhausting, pointless, and by Fear Itself I’d completely lost interest and stopped bothering to follow much of anything… except for Amazing Spidey, but then they went and did it there too. Don’t get me wrong, they do have some solid books. I love Waid’s Daredevil. I was totally on board for Slott’s ASM until this whole Superior thing happened, and while I read the first few issues and understand where Slott was going with it, I just didn’t care much.

The movies are awesome. All of the MCU movies have been just pure joy for me, even the ones that didn’t execute as well as they could have. *cough*IronMan2*cough*. I’m thrilled that Whedon pulled off Avengers as well as he did and that it became a redonkulous success.  They deserved a big win. It was an amazing accomplishment. The problem, now, is that Marvel is trying so hard to bank on that that it’s affecting, in my opinion, all their books. How many Avengers teams are there now? How many members? Why is being an Avenger special if EVERYONE is an Avenger?

Now they’re doing their Marvel Now! thing, which they insist isn’t a reboot, and that’s fine. But let’s be honest: it really is only going to be same crap, different day in the end. There’ll be big events back to back to back. People will die, only to be brought back in a few months. Nothing will really change.

DC

Yep, New 52. Pretty much says it all for most fans. I have to admit when they first announced it I was completely on board. I loved the concept and I was ready for them to make a change and make things fresh again. I bought just about all 52 first issues, and followed at least a majority of them for their first story arcs. Wonder Woman was great. Batman was amazing. Green Lantern was virtually the same as it’s always been. But something became apparent very early: they, as a company, had no freaking idea what they were doing. They had no long term plan. They didn’t think things through. A reboot like they were talking about is something that has to be meticulously planned, mapped out, and then replanned. You need to know EXACTLY how the timeline works for everyone. Especially with the half-assed way they cherry picked continuity because they were too afraid to pull the trigger on a full reboot. As a result we got an even bigger mess than what we started with, and books like Batman and Green Lantern (whose continuity was basically untouched) adopted problems because now 40+ years worth of stories were expected to be fit into 5 years of continuity. That means Bruce was running through Robins faster than a fat kid goes through gummy bears. Then there’s Superman, who needed a solid reboot more than anyone else. They can’t get a decent foundation for that character for anything, which is sad because Superman is THE superhero. But everything they’ve done with him solo has just been a hot mess. I’m really hoping that Snyder/Lee can pull off a good book because Superman deserves one, and I desperately want one.

Ultimate Multiverse

This is entirely subjective. It’s just my opinion. But this is so freaking obvious to me, and it has been for years, that I’m amazed that the “big two” hasn’t realized it yet. Marvel has already set the stage for how they can fix a lot of this mess, but even there I don’t think they fully grasp just what they have.

I’m referring to the Ultimate line of books.

I love the Ultimate Universe. That’s not to say that I think it’s solid gold all the time or that I’ve loved everything they’ve done. Far from it. I love it because everything matters. They have fresh takes on the characters and storylines we all love. Some work. Some don’t. But everything matters. Everything they’ve done, regardless in what book, has a lasting consequence for everything else. It is very much a shared universe. Peter Parker dies (in a very beautifully written way, I might add). Two years later and he’s still dead. There’s a new Spidey and I love reading him as much as I did Peter. It’s just a well written story. Reed Richards….well I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t been following, but they do a complete 180 with his character. It was unexpected, creative, and I loved it.

There are no reboots. Events actually have weight and consequence. Deaths stick and have meaning. This is they way comics should be, because I actually care. Even when the story itself is utter crap *cough*Ultimatum*cough* I still care because what happens will have lasting repercussions, and ten years worth of continuity without a ton of reboots is a hell of a lot easier to get into and follow than 40+ years of whacked out resetting.

DC has set the stage for the same damn thing with the Multiverse but they haven’t utilized it the way they could/should probably out of some stupid schoolyard bullcrap of not wanting to follow suit on what the other company is doing that works. They do the same thing with the movies and it’s shot them in the foot. I find all of this hilarious since both companies have been blatantly ripping off each other’s character ideas since the beginning, but now when it matters, they refuse. Instead of doing a half-assed not-quite-reboot with the New 52, they could have trimmed off 4-5 of the 15 Bat books, books that aren’t selling well, etc. and just started doing their own “Ultimate” DC universe set in one of the other 52 Earths. New versions of the characters. New Stories. Fresh takes. Relevant issues. No reboot required.

But they didn’t. Instead they made a bad situation much worse.

My Answer

This is going to be controversial, and many fans, particularly old-school comic fans, will probably call me a moron. But this is my answer to the constant rebooting, meaningless deaths, and pointless events- A 30 year continuity for each “generation”. Period.

15 years in you introduce an “alternate” universe (think Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, for example). At the end of the 30 year time frame you phase out the “main” universe, the former “alternate” universe becomes the main, and a new alternate universe is introduced.

This accomplishes a few things:

  • Each generation gets a fresh take on the characters. They become “their” versions of the character. This allows both companies to make sure their characters, stories, etc. all remain relevant and tailored to new audiences each generation without having to do silly reboots or death/resurrections. They’d still have the archives of past “generations” or Earths, or whatever that readers could go back and read to get alternate takes.
  • Everything matters. Deaths are permanent. Events have consequence. There’s no rebooting or backtracking two months later. Readers will be invested in the characters and stories being told.
  • Good storytelling and creativity becomes the focus. When everything matters quality control will have to be much more stringent. Crap that gets through now does so because if it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter. They’ll just retcon it or whatever later. In this way editors, writers, artists, etc. will have to be much more conscious of what they’re doing. That’s not to hinder the storytelling, it just means they actually have to think before they act and it cuts down on doing the money grab crappy stories just to go along with the flavor of the month. It also fosters trying new things with the characters, because there’s no reason to retread on something that’s already been done, unless you can do it differently/better (Ultimate accomplished this with the Clone Saga, for instance).
  • The universe doesn’t have to end, but there can be resolution to characters and stories. More to the point, there can now be a beginning, middle, and end for that version of a character’s story without destroying a franchise. Phasing out doesn’t have to mean nuking, however. The companies would still have the option to go back and visit past universes with new stories through miniseries, specials, events, etc.  But they can try new things with this system without having to throw the baby out with the bathwater and utterly mucking up continuity.
  • More choice. As the cycle progresses readers will have an abundance of choice. They can go back and follow an entire generation’s worth of stories without having to worry about confusing continuity. Don’t like this current version of Spider-Man? You’ll have several other versions to choose from that you might identify with more.

It certainly not a perfect solution, but it’s a solution that I think makes the most sense. it’s certainly better than the constant rebooting and retconning that’s currently going on. But that’s just my opinion. Feel free to sound off in the comments and discuss.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective,  the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1-, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here.

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Rant Alert: Why A Live Action Justice League Movie Will Be An Uphill Battle

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After The Avengers did super-crazy-good at the box office the WB announced that they would have their own big team up movie, Justice League, on track for a 2015 release.  Well, they had someone working on a script but rumor is that’s been scrapped. They haven’t found a director, and now they’re claiming they want to see how Man of Steel does before they move ahead. They also seem dead set on not following the proven track that Marvel has by building the world with solo movies before shoving everyone together. They want to do the opposite because, well, it’s the opposite of what their rival is doing. There have been several articles on why this is a bad idea. Personally, I think Man of Steel is going to do fine. I’ve really liked what I’ve seen so far, and despite fan-geek rumblings on message boards where every quote is taken horribly out of context or blown up to silly proportions (SUPERMAN IS GOING TO BE DARK AND REALISTIC!!!111!!!1!!) I think we’ll get a decent flick.

That said, I think a JLA live action movie is just a bad idea. The Avengers worked for several major reasons. One, they established world building through a series of decent-great movies people generally really liked that linked things together before the big team up. Two, they got a writer/director who knew what he was doing. Joss Whedon knows comics. He knows how to do ensemble stuff well (FIREFLY!!!!). He’s also a pretty great writer. They picked a great person to helm the project. Three, they got the right actors for the various roles. Four, Avengers is just easier to do in live action without it being silly.

Marvel comics have always seemed to be a bit more grounded in reality than DC. DC is more mythological/fantastical while Marvel has always been more sci-fi. Sure Avengers has Norse gods running around, but even that was explained with a more scientific approach- advanced science always looks like magic to those who don’t know what they’re looking at. But all the other members of the Avengers are pretty much just normal humans with sci-fi-explained tweeks that make them superhuman. Stark has a super advanced suit of armor and is a genius. Hulk and Cap have been genetically altered by science. Hawkeye and Black Widow are just crazy good at what they do.Nick Fury is Sam Jackson. See? All their powers are pretty much explained by and rooted in science, granted more sci-fi science, but science none-the-less. It all feels a bit more grounded, enough so when aliens come flying out of a wormhole and Banner turns into the Hulk and smashes the audience goes along for the ride.

With the Justice League you pretty much have a group of gods, and Batman. Sure Flash’s powers happened through an accident and GL is a very sci-fi thing; but you still have basically Hermes who can move at the speed of light and do stuff that just isn’t, as far as we know, even close to scientifically possible and a space cop with the most powerful weapon in the universe on his finger that can make anything he can think of out of pure will. Then there’s Superman and Wonder Woman. You know why Man of Steel is trying to approach the story from the point of view of “how would humanity react to finding out there’s real aliens and they can do all this powerful stuff?” and how Clark comes to grips with who he is? Because that’s more relateable to audiences than a boy scout demi-god flying around in underwear who can do just about anything. Audiences are going to ask “Why does Superman need a Justice League? Couldn’t he just have this whole thing wrapped up in five minutes and have time for a coke and smile before the rest of them even get there?” Wonder Woman is almost as troublesome. She is the daughter of actual gods, after all, and almost as powerful as Superman, depending on which comics you’re going by. Then there’s Batman. The Nolan Batman films played like gangbusters at the box office, and I loved them too. But if we’re honest those weren’t real “comic book Batman” films. They were mob movies with elements of Batman thrown in for flavor. If Batman were a rogue cop and Joker hadn’t had the makeup in Dark Knight you still would have had pretty much the same movie. That’s not the comic book Batman, and it’s certainly not the Batman who’d be running with the JLA. The Batman we’re looking for is the Batman portrayed in the Arkham Asylum games or the animated DC movies and series. Which brings me to my point:

The Justice League Movie should be CGI.

Don’t believe me? Watch this, I’ll wait….

By going the CG route like the example above the WB can avoid a lot of the problems of a live action film and actually make a movie that could still do huge at the box office without being a train wreck. First, people tend to be more likely to suspend disbelief when it’s animation, and you can get by with a lot more without it looking fake and/or stupid. I don’t know a single person who has seen that trailer above, comic fan or not, who hasn’t remarked how completely awesome that was. It was pretty dark, much darker than what they’d want to shoot for with a big movie, but it worked on a level that no live action movie is likely to. In CG the costumes don’t look silly. In live action, they kinda do. In CG you can get iconic voice actors who have been known for these parts for the last 20 years: Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker…basically everyone who did the old Justice League TV series. They would already have the perfect built-in team to handle it: Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Andrea Romano. They’re the DCAU trinity of awesome that has made the last 20 years of DC animated products so freaking good. Let them move up to the big time and handle a big budget movie rather than these 70 minute long direct to DVD things. Pixar and Dreamworks have shown that big budget animated movies can do well. Heck, The Incredibles showed that it can work for superheros and make a movie that everyone loves. Its time for Warner Brothers to wake up and realize that their answer to the Marvel movies is staring them right in the face. That’s just my take on it anyway.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective,  the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, and the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1- all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here.

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