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9 Ways DC can catch up to MARVEL

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Post  webhead2006 on Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:33 pm

Ways for DC to catch up with Marvel:
9 Ways DC Entertainment Can Catch Up to Marvel Studios by Edward Douglas July 05, 2012 Share this story

Moving past Batman and Superman to create a full superhero universe

Since we're just one week away from Comic-Con and two weeks away from the release of The Dark Knight Rises, this seemed like as good a time as any to look at the Distinguished Competition to Marvel Studios and see where they stand when it comes to bringing the fans of their comic books to movie theaters and turning moviegoers into fans of their characters.

Roughly three years ago, DC Entertainment launched with plans to push the DC Comics characters into movies, television and other media and two years ago at the Las Vegas exhibitor's convention ShoWest, Warner Bros. President Alan Horn said that the company hoped to have the DC Comics characters pick up the slack after the end of the "Harry Potter" movies. So what happened? A little over a year later, we got Green Lantern, a disappointing movie on so many levels, both in terms of quality and its box office take, reportedly costing $200 million and grossing only $220 million worldwide (not enough to pay the production costs). ShoWest is no more, replaced by CinemaCon, and where is Horn? He just became the head of Disney, the parent company of Marvel Studios.

Meanwhile, Marvel's The Avengers has become a huge worldwide hit, completely spanking the records set by Warner Bros.' biggest superhero hit The Dark Knight. Sony has just launched a second successful Spider-Man franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man, Fox is trying to do the same with their Marvel characters and Marvel Studios is already planning for the next two years of movies.

Warner Bros. and DC still have Batman and Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" movies, which while hugely successful, will be coming to an end with The Dark Knight Rises. They have the Superman movie Man of Steel in the works for next summer, and they've announced a bunch of other movies.

As you may know from reading Spencer Perry's reviews, DC Comics proper has been killing with their line-wide New 52 reboot since last August/September showing that you could reinvent something and bring in lots of new fans without losing those who already love the characters. We look at the New 52 as one of the smartest moves done by a comic book company in decades, but then we look at what DC Entertainment has done outside the comic books and cartoons since its inception and we aren't nearly as impressed. The success of Marvel Studios as well as other movies based on Marvel characters has put them far ahead of the competition and one wonders whether there's any chance for them to catch up.

You wonder where all the optimism Horn had for DC Entertainment keeping Warner Bros. afloat over the next decade and beyond has gone and whether it was somewhat misplaced. Sure, it may seem somewhat harsh to call out DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. in this way--after all, they're about to have an enormous hit with The Dark Knight Rises--but I promise that all of the suggestions I make come from a love of the DC characters and a desire to see them being taken as seriously by moviegoers as Spider-Man, Wolverine and The Avengers.


One of the reasons why Marvel Studios has been so successful is that they have one man who has acted as a conductor or an orchestrator for the past six years helping to pull things together and give Marvel Studios its own identity after the Marvel movies made by Sony, Fox and Lionsgate. Feige has had the foresight to hire the likes of Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnston and Joss Whedon to direct movies based on their comic characters and who else would ever have seen the potential in the likes of unknown actors like Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston to play Thor and Loki? He also has put together a crack production team to make all the productions go smoothly.

Warner Bros. certainly has lots of experience with film production and they've done a fine job over the years, but if they really want to make a serious effort making movies based on their comics, they need someone who knows as much about making movies as they do comics. Geoff Johns would be the obvious choice since he's done such a masterful job guiding the DC comic book universe over the last few years, but he hasn't produced as many movies in the same way as Feige. (And maybe we're selfish but we wouldn't want Johns to have to give up writing the comics to have the time to produce movies.)

You'll still want creative individuals like Johns and Jim Lee involved every step of the way if you want to make a movie that lives up to the comics, but you also need bonafide filmmakers, those who know what works for the audiences sitting in theaters. You also need someone who can navigate the ins and outs of film production (Johns' background is television), and this means that Warner Bros. needs to find someone they can trust to take the reins of the movies and make them happen. In the time since leaving Warners, Lorenzo di Bonaventura has proven he can do this so we can only imagine that other forces were holding him back when it came to doing comic movies at Warners. (Although to be fair, Catwoman and Constantine were made under his watch.)


This should be a general rule for comic book and superhero movies, but one of the biggest problems with Hollywood is that it's still very star-driven and it's well believed that attaching a star to your big budget movie makes it more likely it will bring in audiences enough to be profitable. Sure, this is usually true for the likes of Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but the key to selling a movie superhero is that people have to believe him or her as a character they've been reading in comics or seeing on cartoons for years.

The problem with casting Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern was that it was casting done because he was a big name rather than because he was right for the role of Green Lantern, and it was hard for many to get past that after seeing Reynolds in all sorts of other movies and in the tabloids with his Black Widow wife, Scarlett Johansson.

Marvel Studios has done a good job mixing and matching, starting with the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark—Downey may be a star now, but let's not forget that he went to jail and was nearly persona non grata in Hollywood before Iron Man. They then went with a complete unknown like Chris Hemsworth to play Thor and had Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson offer more star power for Iron Man 2, though in both cases, the casting fit the characters. Chris Evans had already established himself both as an actor and among comic fans before being cast as Captain America, and then they hired Oscar nominees whose prominence was growing in Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo, both who helped make The Avengers one of the most popular superhero movies in years.

Warner Bros. is going the non-star route with the Man of Steel by casting Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman, although that's also what Bryan Singer did with Superman Returns in casting Brandon Routh, who played the character for just one movie. If Cavill works as Superman, it may be easy enough to have a few better known actors playing the rest of the Justice League, and mixing and matching like with the Avengers, but the most important thing is to get actors that can lose themselves in the role and deliver characters that look and act like their comic book counterparts.


As we mentioned earlier, the New 52 has been a great case study on how to relaunch a comic book line and reinvent popular DC Comics characters in a way that can appeal to new and modern readers without losing the fans who made them so popular in the first place.

There's a lot of great material in what DC has been doing over the last 9 months, and a lot of why the New 52 has worked so well is because they put together great creative teams who in some cases went back to the drawing board to reinvent the characters and many of those great new ideas could be translated into movies without much difficulty. For example, what Geoff Johns and Jim Lee did in their first story arc on "Justice League" could easily make a great movie with a couple of small changes. Even beyond that, DC Comics has a long publishing history that has allowed very talented writers and artists to create some great stories featuring their characters that rivalled what Marvel has done, so there's a ton of source material from which to draw.

It's also important that anyone who likes the movies can go back and pick up the comics and not be completely lost. That was the case when Fox released X-Men in 2000 and there wasn't a single X-Men comic that mirrored the movie whatsoever. Marvel has tried to make up for it in recent years with The Invincible Iron Man, which fans of the movie can pick up fairly easily, and more recently, with Avengers Assemble, a comic that's closer to the movie than the regular Avengers books.

It's a very important two-way street where the comics should inspire the movies and the movies should convince those who may not normally read comics to check some of them out, but to do that, the people making the movies and those doing the comics need to communicate, and that's a big part of what's made Marvel Studios' movies work so well.


Part of what worked well with Nolan's Batman movies, Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man and at least five of the six Marvel Studios movies was their basis in the real world so that it was easier for non-comic book readers to relate to the characters and the situations. In some cases (like Lobo), there's only so much realism possible, but something like the Flash or Wonder Woman need to be placed within the real world in order for the more incredible aspects of their origins to be believable. Green Lantern kind of ignored that, going for something fantastical because so much of it involves outer space and alien races, and that ultimately lost many moviegoers.

If moviegoers who don't read comic books can't understand where these characters are coming from in a simple, easily-explained origin story that takes place in a world we can relate to, there's very little reason for them to care. Although Captain America: The First Avenger and X-Men: First Class both defied the odds by taking place in the eras in which the characters were created and were done as period pieces, they still maintained some sense of realism when it comes to America during World War II or during the early days of the Cold War. These were fantastical movies set during times that have been well documented in history books, and they maintained the realism of what people learned in school as a background for superheroes. It was a brilliant move and it's one Warners needs to mirror whenever they approach other DC Comics characters.


We've already hinted at the importance of this in the last few suggestions because sometimes the best superhero movies don't take a traditional approach to the characters and don't strive to make every beat of the movie be something that was taken directly from the comics.

As mentioned earlier, Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class is a great example of taking an unconventional route to telling a superhero origin story by using the ‘60s environment to its fullest. The Dark Knight took a similar approach by moving even further away from the comics while continuing a path set up by director Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins, and in many ways, that's become a model for other franchise movies (like Casino Royale and Star Trek), replacing the model for comic book movies originally created by Tim Burton with his 1989 Batman.

Thinking outside the box can mean anything from coming up with different takes on the heroes for the movies, casting unknowns or getting foreign directors who haven't directed any big budget blockbusters to bring their talents to the properties (see how well that worked with Rupert Wyatt on Rise of the Planet of the Apes!)

DC Entertainment has already taken this approach when it comes to their television cartoons, but they need to carry that through to live action movies. What we heard about The Flash, setting it in the world of police forensics, certainly sounded promising, and there are a lot of different ways characters like Wonder Woman and Lobo can be approached that appeal both to fans of the comics and average moviegoers.


Speaking of Wonder Woman, the fact that Warner Bros. has not made a movie based on one of DC Comics' longest-running female characters may be their biggest embarrassment to date. Sure, there are a lot of reasons and excuses including the myth that big budget movies featuring female leads rarely do well - tell that to The Hunger Games, which squashed that one quite readily with its $400 million domestic gross.

There is so much great mythology to this character in the comics and so many different options in which way she can be taken, so it's unfathomable that no one has been able to figure out a way to crack the nut of bringing her to the screen. Personally, we think they should go back to what George Perez did with the characters in the ‘80s post-"Crisis" rather than going for the odd Vertigo-like tone of the current series, but it's still a fairly simple story. You'd just have to introduce Diana as an Amazon on Themyscira Island and their ongoing conflict with the Gods, and then set the other half of the movie in "Man's World" with Diana trying to adjust to that environment. We already know a movie like this will work because of Thor and seeing Captain America adjust to modern day in The Avengers, so why has it been so difficult?

The key to making Wonder Woman work is that you have to make her a character that will appeal as much or more to women and girls than to men, so she can't be overly sexualized. She has to be tough, and you have to get an actress that women can look up to. (Lesson learned from Catwoman: Halle Berry ain't it.) As soon as we saw Steven Soderbergh's Haywire, we thought that they had found the perfect Wonder Woman in Gina Carano (right), and they even made a joke about it in the movie.

Personally, I don't think DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. will convince me they're ready to move forward with other characters beyond Superman and Batman until they deliver a quality Wonder Woman movie.


This may be the most obvious of our tips since it's already something that worked so well with Marvel Studios leading up to this year's The Avengers, and everyone has paid attention.

The post-credits scene in Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson showed up to talk to Tony Stark about the "Avenger Initiative" was a huge moment in comic book movie history because it hinted that they were working up to something big. The company then announced that they'd introduce two more Marvel characters that hadn't been seen in any sort of live action incarnation in many decades. And then the company delivered.

By comparison, Warner Bros. has made a big deal on focusing on their DC Entertainment properties post-"Harry Potter" and they kick that off with the weak Green Lantern that does little to hint at a bigger universe except for maybe the presence of Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller, who most comic fans will know as the head of the Suicide Squad. There was very little purpose of having her in a Green Lantern movie but now that she's out there, Bassett needs to play Waller in any Suicide Squad movie and there has to be some design that a Suicide Squad movie will have a purpose besides being a standalone ala The Losers or Constantine or such.


As Avi Arad told us recently, "Hollywood is a town about announcements," but you can only announce so many movies without moving forward in development before we start becoming dubious these are real movies that might ever happen. The one DC character that's been in talks the longest (outside of the defunct Justice League movie) is a movie based on The Flash, which we heard almost nothing about once it was realized that Green Lantern didn't work.

Recently, it was announced by Variety that DC has movies based on Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Shazam, Lobo and the Suicide Squad in the works, as well as another plan to get going on a Justice League movie. After Iron Man's opening weekend, Marvel Studios went on the record with what they had planned next, even setting release dates for the next few movies years in advance. Then they moved forward, hired directors, cast the movies and actually made those movies and all of them delivered.

Wonder Woman and Shazam! movies have already been in development for years and then systematically stalled and lost their creative teams while Guy Ritchie was going to do a Lobo movie at one point and now he isn't. While we like Aquaman and Green Arrow as characters, we can't imagine that movies based on them would do particularly well, James Cameron's fictitious movie not withstanding.

It's not enough to keep making Batman and Superman movies just because they're such easy sells, so if you're going to decide on making a Suicide Squad movie then figure it out, get a director and cast and make it. If you're just throwing names out there to get the fans excited, then stop announcing so many movies and make the movie quietly and then just let us know when you're ready to release them. (We'll also add that next week's Comic-Con would be a great time to give an update on those projects or announce some creative teams, but we don't expect that to happen.)


I'm guessing this suggestion will annoy and irritate the powers-that-be at Warner Bros. more than anything else we suggested so far, but let's face it, the reason why "The Dark Knight" movies have worked so well is that WB has had enough faith in director Christopher Nolan after Batman Begins to let him do his thing. They hired an intelligent visionary of a director who knows what moviegoers want to see as well as what will appeal to fans of his previous work and he's delivered for them three times now. (No, we haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, but we're including Inception in there.)

Once you have your Kevin Feige, a talented director and cast, then let them do what they do best. A lot of times it's hard for a studio like Warner Bros. to do this because a lot of the money invested into the production is theirs, but if you look at movies like Catwoman and Jonah Hex and even Green Lantern, you can tell that a lot of the problems came down to there being way too many cooks and a lot of that has to do with not having confidence in the directors involved. In two of those cases, it may have been warranted but Martin Campbell is a solid director who probably had a lot of people telling him what a Green Lantern movie should be.

In conclusion, we hope some of the things we've laid out here are obvious enough that Warner Bros. has already tried to implement some or all of these ideas moving forward. Next week, they'll have their huge nearly three-hour Comic-Con panel, which would be a perfect time to reassure the fans that DC Entertainment is working on catching up to Marvel Studios in building their own superhero movie universe and what they show from Man of Steel may go a long way in achieving that.

That's it for now. Let us know what you think of some of these suggestions or offer a few of your own in the comments, even if it's just to say that you think everything Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment is doing is right on the money.
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Post  thecolorsblend on Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:17 am

Singersucker Hype wrote: 2. DON'T JUST CAST BIG NAME STARS
What kind of idiotic bullshit is this? Hancock was a huge success headlined by one of the biggest actors in the business. Popular though Ryan Reynolds may be, he's not a huge mega star like Smith. With respect to Reynolds and his talents, he doesn't belong in the same list as Smith.

Hancock? Huge success. GL? Crashing failure. Plus? Routh, Bale and Cavill were anything but household names before they were cast in their superhero films. It's not like WB is star-obsessed.

Apart from that, is this idiot arguing that Sam Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlet J and Anthony Hopkins weren't stars before they appeared in Marvel films? Ass.

Singersucker Hype wrote: 3. DON'T IGNORE THE COMICS (OR THEIR CREATORS)!

As we mentioned earlier, the New 52 has been a great case study on how to relaunch a comic book line and reinvent popular DC Comics characters in a way that can appeal to new and modern readers without losing the fans who made them so popular in the first place.
I'm seeing little evidence of that. The sales have been trending back to pre-Flashpoint levels and, when all's said and done, may actually be lower because several longtimers have walked away.

A lot of the books I find most interesting nowadays are a lot of Marvel titles as I have a lot less history with them but they have a deep, rich and layered history that spans decades. This "reinvention" shit is everything that's wrong with DC.

Singersucker Hype wrote:There's a lot of great material in what DC has been doing over the last 9 months,
Not the issue. Aquaman has been a blast. I'd been nursing an interest in that character for months before news of The New 52 was released and the subsequent book only stoked the interest.

The beef is that DC essentially threw away longtimers to chase a fickle, borderline non-existent audience of "new readers". Was that their goal? Obviously not. But that's at least part of the outcomes, whatever their good intentions might have been.

Singersucker Hype wrote:and a lot of why the New 52 has worked so well is because they put together great creative teams who in some cases went back to the drawing board to reinvent the characters and many of those great new ideas could be translated into movies without much difficulty.
Like Gale Simone? Ethan Van Sciver? George Perez? Dan Jurgens? Keith Giffen? For every success this guy can name, I can probably come up with two crashing failures.

Singersucker Hype wrote:It's also important that anyone who likes the movies can go back and pick up the comics and not be completely lost.
That. Isn't. Happening. Big budget movie releases don't much translate to monthly comic book sales. I could maybe believe that it could lead to a spike in trade paperback sales but that's it. These days, being a "comic book geek" means watching the motherfucking movies. Whatever. If people want to call themselves that with so little credibility, it isn't my problem. But either way you look at it, ticket sales have yet to translate to comic book sales.

And with WB, it's simply not practical. Marvel comics and Marvel Studios are led by many of the same people. The end products will synergize with each other on that basis.

Oddly enough, DC may as well be selling the rights to their characters to a different film studio for all the control they have over the final presentation. The movie division will do as the movie division will do. If that doesn't work with what the comics are up to (A) fuck the comics or (B) bring the comics in line with the movies in case some jackoff ticket buyer will lose his mind over seeing a non-scarred Joker with bleached skin.

Singersucker Hype wrote: 4. KEEP THINGS REALISTIC

Singersucker Hype wrote: 5. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
But not TOO far outside the box. Wouldn't want to offend your sissy mary fanboy feewings, now would we? Prick.

Singersucker Hype wrote: 6. WONDER WOMAN!
Yes yes yes, WB people have egg on their face for chasing Joss Whedon out... and over to Marvel. It's no longer clever. The simple fact of the matter is that Singerman tanking had a very serious and very negative impact on other irons WB had in the fire. If WB hadn't gotten cold feet about developing other comic book properties after Singerman fell face first, I'd question their business acumen. Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars developing another superhero property when it may very well meet the same fate as Singerman? We can decry that decision from a sheer creative standpoint but not from a business one. I didn't and don't agree with their decision but I'd be lying if I said I didn't see where they were coming from.

Singersucker Hype wrote: 7. BUILD TO SOMETHING BIGGER

This may be the most obvious
No shit. It's also Monday morning quarterbacking at it's worst. Again, it's easy to pick apart WB's lack of a shared universe but they didn't have Marvel's infrastructure until, what, 2009? And it's arguable if they even have it now. Simply falling under the same corporate umbrella doesn't mean that every single company is on the same page with everyone else.

There's coordination that has to take place between production companies, the movie division, the comics division, marketing departments and who the fuck knows what else and this stuff CAN'T be done overnight. It's all well and good for some jackoff with a keyboard to sit there and type "DC should do a shared universe and build toward a JLA movie". Well it's never been so simple as that, asshole! DCE arguably has the mojo now (although my gut instinct is to assume that the head of WB still reserves the right to tell "the comic book people" to go fuck themselves any time he chooses, and twice on Sunday) but that's infrastructure that didn't exist before 2009 (if even then). That leaves a LOT of shit on the table.

And ALL of this is to ignore just how much influence Chris Nolan has over WB, re: superhero franchises. Methinks WB will sooner listen to him than they will Geoff Johns.

Singersucker Hype wrote: 8. FINISH A DAMN MOVIE ALREADY!
You're an exec producer at WB. Some hotshot writer throws you a spec outline for a Smash Man movie. You like what you read so you throw him some bucks and tell him to come up with a treatment.

Four weeks later, he comes back with a 20 page treatment that sounds like it has some decent potential.

So you throw him some more money and off he goes to write a script.

Four weeks later, he comes back armed with first draft. It looks good but it needs some work. Four weeks later, draft #2. More polish. Four weeks later, draft #3.

Hotshot writer leaves to do other projects so you shop the script as is to directors. A hotshot director expresses interest but only if (A) his writer can do a rewrite and (B) production starts within the next eight months so as not to conflict with his schedule.

New writer does draft 4 and hotshot actor shows interest in playing Smash Man. He'll be a big draw at the box office, no doubt about it.

Hotshot director leaves the project anyway, he takes his hotshot writer with him and now hotshot actor, whose participation was predicated on hotshot director's participation, doesn't want to be associated with a project now officially stuck in limbo.

Fix that situation, blog boy.

I won't even bother with the rest of this guy's stupidity.

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Post  webhead2006 on Fri Jul 06, 2012 4:29 pm

Colors you are so right on the idiot stuff the shh arrticle said. Really for me I onlu agrree with the ww/finish a movie and get a kevin feige type guy on board. It just still blows dc can't see this is the way they should go. Not the crap ass decisions they been going and getting no where fast.
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Post  Apologist Puncher on Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:52 pm

The Bros. Warner respond:

9 Ways DC can catch up to MARVEL Twins

Warner Brother: "ey did uze here duh Marbles did makin duh bajillion-kajillion dolers wif der moofies? do u tink we do water day doin to??"

Other Warner Brother: "Durrrrrrr.....nope?"

Warner Brother: "K."

BJ Routh and Bryan Singer WERE the worst thing to happen to Superman since Bepo the Super Monkey.
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