DC Comics laid down the gauntlet this weekend with their announcement of Justice League. Oh, and Batman.
Unless you live under a rock you undoubtedly know Comic Con was this past weekend, and the annual Nerd Mecca palooza keeps on topping itself, no matter how old it gets.
This years Comic Con had treasures galore: The Wolverine, X-Men Sentinels, The World’s End, and much much more. But you didn’t decide to read this article based on that news. You want to read it because DC Universe finally revealed what we have all been collectively waiting for: MORE BATMAN!
That’s right, the Batman troll is back in full effect, and I am here to help you understand what all this means.
In order to properly lay out what DC Comics is doing and their plans for future releases, you need to understand what the
Chinese err Marvel has been doing quite successfully. Over the years Marvel has been quietly planning world domination via it’s huge catalog of superhero and supervillain characters, in the beginning they did not do so well, the “Hulk” movies were all more or less garbage and it wasn’t until they struck gold with “Iron Man” in 2008 that they finally figured out what to do with themselves.
“Let’s make The Avengers” some nameless person at Marvel said in a development meeting, and now we have had three Iron Man movies, a Thor, Captain America (my favorite Marvel super), with sequels for Thor and Captain America on the way next year. We also have had the first film in the Avengers series “Avengers: Assemble” and another on the way titled “Age Of Ultron”. We also can’t forget the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant Man” films either.. All this means is huge amounts of money for years to come for Marvel and Disney, they have a rock solid structure to constantly keep their universe fresh and exciting as their audiences change and mature over the years.
Now, DC has it’s work cut out for them as they try and capitalize on the same strategy. It all started with Batman Begins (2005), when the Nolan brothers teamed up with David Goyer to bring The Caped Crusader to life, after what Joel Schumacher did to him.. The Nolans made sure to get as far away from the cartoon representation Tim Burton gave, and created a real world idea of what Batman is and who he is. They showed the real struggle within Bruce Wayne, and brought depth and true cinematic grace to a movie where the main character is a rich guy in a bat costume. “Begins” was the first time we had a serious comic book adaptation that was worth every minute, and left people craving.
After the success of Batman Begins, DC took a stab at rebooting Superman for the first time. In 2006 DC releases “Superman Returns” to the tune of $361 Million dollars at the box office, and they were even nominated for an Oscar in the “Best Visual Effects” category. Superman Returns was never a failure by any means, but it was not the Superman film DC or core fans wanted, and ultimately a sequel slated for a 2009 release was scrapped.
In 2008 DC struck gold again, and their tool of choice: The Brothers Nolan and David Goyer. With a budget of $185 Million, they absolutely destroyed every movie ever released with a domestic box office total of $534,858,444 – with the exception of James Cameron’s 1997 smash “Titanic.” They earned eight Oscar nods, including a win for Sound Editing, and Health Leger was awarded a Best Supporting Actor award after his unfortunate passing. DC Comics knew they had it made, as long as they had the Nolan-duo in their corner. Without the Nolans and Goyer, DC Comics has had some pretty bad luck, following the success of “The Dark Knight Rises” DC tried to up match Marvel, and their superhero hype machine, and tap its own extensive backlog of characters. in 2009 they released “The Watchmen” and couldn’t break even at the domestic box office. 2010 gave us Jonah Hex, and honestly I had to look that up because I, and the rest of the world, forgot about this pile.
Finally, 2011 was the straw that broke the camels back, Ryan Reynolds starred in “The Green Lantern” and it broke everyone’s’ heart – like watching a turtle cross a freeway, inevitable it met its grusome demise. Not only did it BOMB the world over, making only $19 Million over its production budget WORLDWIDE. That’s right. If you factor in the massive advertising campaign DC threw at this sinkhole, you are looking at a loss of over $100 Million. So, Not only that, it also murdered what is arguably the second best individual superhero catalog DC has to offer. (We all know Batman is #1, Superman is up in the air for me – send me hate mail.)
Over three years, DC had one semi-success and 2 horrendous failures while Marvel was sitting like a giant kid killing ants with a magnifying glass. Marvel takes full advantage of the lull in DC’s success, and goes gangbusters by releasing: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man 2, and Captain America from 2008 to 2011.
Then, 2012. This is a big year for movies in general, and happens to throw Marvel and DC into the “ring” together. DC has been cooking the hugely anticipated “Dark Knight Rises” and has gone back to their only winning combination: Nolans + Goyer = $$$$. Marvel drops The Avengers, which becomes the 3rd highest grossing film of all time, with over $620 Million domestic. The Dark Knight Rises was no slouch, and some would argue that the tragic events during a midnight showing in Aurora, Colorado had a serious impact on the films financial outlook and held it to only $448 Million domestically. I would agree with that to some point, but I also think that either way The Avengers was bound to make more money. Up to this point there has been a huge fundamental difference between the DC and Marvel movies, and it is why Marvel always makes more money – Families.
The Nolan Batmans dive into a darker world, a place where evil thrives and hope is a four letter word. The stories are dark, with amazing depth and a sense that you can get into the character’s head, whether it is the hero or the villain. A formula they also followed with Man Of Steel this year. On the other hand, Marvel is owned by Disney and that automatically puts family at the forefront of your mind, and if I was a parent I know I wouldn’t have a problem taking my 7 year old to see The Avengers or any other Marvel movie, but the successful DC movies have a darker tone that was for a decidedly more mature audience.
So here we are, looking into the future of our entertainment lives, and the paths these comic giants have decided to take. Marvel is working towards their “phase 3” of releases, and DC just set the groundwork for its own future:
2015 – Superman & Batman “The Dark Knight Returns”
I know, they said it’s not going to be called that but that’s fine for now. DC dropped this bombshell on us during the last 10 minutes of its Hall H presentation. Zack Snyder walked on stage, and said the words I’ve been waiting for since Robin repelled into The Batcave. He flashed a cheesy looking logo on the screen, it was a traditional Superman “S” – but this thing had wings! Bat wings to be exact. As Harry Lennix read a passage from Frank Millers “The Dark Knight Returns” the room erupted, it felt like New Years Eve in Las Vegas.
DC is on to something, and they know the base to their success is still the same formula they have been riding for the last 5 years: pay Christopher Nolan and David Goyer as much as they demand, tell people that Zack Snyder is directing (but like Man Of Steel, it will really be Nolan still) and read a passage where Batman basically tells Superman that if he wasn’t honor bound to not kill anyone, The Dark Knight would have murdered the most famous Illegal Alien in existence.
Have no fear, I will stalk this movie and catalog everything and probably ruin it for you all well in advance.
2016 – The Flash
I am seriously excited for this. It’s new, fresh, and The Flash has a great backstory and as long as Ryan Reynolds is nowhere near it – can do quite well. DC just needs to figure out a way to add some realism to his ring, and how to make him fast without being cheesy, hint: Pay Nolan, then relax.
2017 – The Justice League
Honestly, this could be bad timing. We haven’t had a Wonder Woman movie (and shouldn’t), but something tells me we will see her soon. Aquaman doesn’t work in a realistic sense, and I think Martian Manhunter deserves a release first. There needs to be some more teaming up in the DC universe before the Justice League can happen, it’s starting with Superman Vs Batman, and maybe The Flash will have Wonder Woman or the SuperBat movie, depending on how the decide to present her. I just think that 2017 is a rush to get all this together for DC, when they are relying so heavily on the Nolans and David Goyer.
When it comes down to it, DC is not Marvel. They do not have the backing that Marvel does, and they do not have the audience. With careful planning and the proper amount of time DC has the ability to strike gold, but they can also screw the pooch again.
Here is to hoping that DC can trust in its heros, the same way its readers do.