ByCoopacabra, writer at

In 1989 my dad took me to the movies to see Batman, just the two of us. This was a special event for a few reasons. Number one, he was gone a lot, so we didn't get to do much that was just the two of us. Number two, sci-fi and superheroes are pretty much the opposite of my dad's taste. Number three, I got a Batman hat from the lobby (and I have worn one ever since). It would be a gross understatement to say that I'm a fan of the character.

The reason I bring this up is because I feel like DC, in their rush to compete with Marvel, is blundering about aimlessly in their on-screen universes. As one of, if not the, most popular character in their stable, Batman is woven through all of it.

Here are some of the ways in which DC may have set itself up for failure:

There are going to be at least three alternate realities being produced at once, possibly more.

Up front I want to give you the abbreviations I'll be using, so you don't get confused later. The AU is the universe in which Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow operate. The GU is the Gotham narrative universe. The CU will be how I refer to the cinematic universe.

The CU stands alone, that much they've said. That's going to be Suicide Squad: We're Pretending Captain Boomerang is Cool, 2 Man 2 Steel: You're Watching It For Batman, and Justice League: Of Course We're Making Justice League as well as any future live-action films they go forward with.

There is also Teen Titans and Supergirl that we have yet to place, though. It wouldn't make any sense for either to be related to GU for one simple reason, Gotham is a prequel.

The Teen Titans with no Justice League (Batman being a founding member of the League is a HUGE deal, they won't do that without him) makes little sense, many of them were in some way mentored by League members. Likewise, Supergirl's pilot episode makes multiple annoying references to Superman and features a Jimmy Olsen who looks to be around 30. Batman and Superman are contemporaries, but if Supergirl was meaningfully tied into Gotham, Superman would be in his forties by the time Bruce Wayne (hereafter referred to as B-Dubs) really starts Batmanning.

Putting them into the AU is tricky mainly due to overlap. Either ARGUS really dropped the ball on the events of the Supergirl pilot, or CADMUS has dropped the ball by not looking into 3 years of metahuman activity wreaking havoc in Starling City and Central City. As far as Teen Titans go, the main question would be who would they fight? Oliver Queen has already dispatched a few of their more mainstay villains in the AU. Additionally, it might strain credibility to believe that Rip Hunter's future is one where Captain Cold is a legend, but no mention is made of, for example, Beast Boy or Raven.

This leaves us with four to five live-action continuities at minimum, all running concurrently (which wouldn't include Constantine, the Nolanverse, the Burton/Schumacher startedcoolbutendedupembarrassingverse, or the more than 5 different Superman universes). Each would have its own versions of the same characters who have their own backstories, unique looks, quirks from their respective actors, etc. While alternate realities are nothing new to the comic book crowd, this many of them can be daunting to the uninitiated that will be so key to the success of these shows and films.

DC is confusing 'dark' with 'deep'

Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was a turning point for DC's film prospects. While they have been much slower in releasing new media than Marvel, what has come out is undeniably influenced by his gritty and more real-world take on the Dark Knight. That can work, but it can't work for everyone.

It works for Batman because he is a human being, fighting other human beings. The Green Arrow for most of his history has been like an Elseworlds story, “What if Batman was a Raging Liberal Who Was Into Robin Hood?” Even though he was a bit more cheery in the funny books, there was still a darker element to his stories. He took down drug lords, arms smugglers, rapists, and murderers. And, as a human being fighting mostly human adversaries, gritting him up in many ways improved his character, enough that the comics have started to reflect Arrow's style more and more.

The problem is that they seem so intent on making their new films more like the Nolanverse, they never sat down to think of the context in which it worked. When Batman and Superman team up, it works because of how they compliment each other. Batman is the darkness, he is at home in the underworld shadows that sparked his creation. Superman, like the S (obligatory “it's not an S”) on his chest is hope. He's the light in that darkness. He's the one that will believe until his dying day that man is good.

DC's metahuman heroes have always been ideals. They are the best we have to offer in terms or character and morality. They work like that. After more than 75 years, it's become an essential part of who they are. Adding darkness and moral ambiguity to them, from a storytelling perspective, won't automatically make them better.

DC is so focused on catching up to Marvel, they have failed to build their world

The great thing about a TV show is that you have 13-25 episodes per year to create the background for your characters. A series of movies, on the other hand, gives you maybe 2-4 hours per year. This would be a daunting task for any storyteller, but becomes far more challenging when you start adding in character development and backstory.

DC gave us their latest version of movie Superman two years ago. It is only now releasing a sequel, in which it will have to introduce three new heroes, make us care about them, and unite them against a common enemy, in around two hours. Suicide Squad is supposed to take place in the same continuity, but won't be about any of those heroes (aside from minor possible Bat-involvement).

To put it into perspective, since 2013, when Man of Steel was released, Marvel has put out six films. They have a grand total of twelve as of this year, and have planned out the future of their franchise for years to come. Marvel took the time to establish their heroes, the values of each, and the galaxy they all shared. When Marvel teamed everyone up for Avengers, we already knew who they were and how they'd act. DC wants an Avengers, but isn't putting in the work to get there. If they have a plan, nobody seems to know what it is.

I'm not saying DC needs to copy Marvel. Their stable is both unique and enduring, their films should reflect that. I am saying, however, that they could stand to take a lesson as far as the narrative structure of these films currently appear to the audience.


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