Does DC have a TV and movie “Crisis” up its sleeve?

This past week the powers behind the DC Cinematic Universe revealed that the upcoming Flash movie (to be released in 2018) will be using the Barry Allen version of the character. This, of course, is the same version of the Flash that is starring in the eponymous hit TV show. The movie and TV universes will reportedly not be crossing over. The two Barry Allen/Flash characters will be played by completely different actors.

Could this be the beginning of an Earth-One/Earth-Two separation? DC Comics created their multiverse during the 1970s as a way to separate stories from the Golden Age characters from the more modern Silver and Bronze Age stories featuring the same characters. In the mid-1980s, they created a huge crossover event called “Crisis on Infinite Earths” to bring all of the continuities together into a single universe. During this “Crisis” they destroyed Earth-Two, killing several redundant characters notably including Supergirl. Yes, the same Supergirl who will be starring in her own TV show this fall.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOAMGpRilnI]

DC Entertainment/Warner Brothers has kept its Cinematic Universe plans much closer to the chest than Marvel has. While Marvel makes huge announcements detailing all of their plans for the next five years, DC quietly releases their movie plans at a stockholders meeting. So far the Justice League movies are the most ambitious projects they have on the slate, but could there be something bigger that just hasn’t been announced?

As DC’s TV universe continues to grow in both quantity and popularity (with ArrowFlash, and Gotham, soon to be joined by Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl), the future of a “Crisis” will likely depend entirely on the success of the movies. So far, buzz around Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad has been mixed. Personally I am fairly optimistic about both of them. (I also like Man of Steel.)

If the quality of all of their upcoming movies can stay as high as the quality of Marvel’s movies, the fans will be begging for a huge crossover movie. What better way to accomplish this than to use the granddaddy of all huge crossover comic book stories?

What do you think? Could this work?

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What’s wrong with the DC Cinematic Universe?

Now that Avengers: Age of Ultron has opened to rave reviews, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has moved one step closer to world domination. This leaves many commentators wondering, “Can DC Comics ever hope to catch up?”

Man of Steel, the first film in DC Comics’ shared universe, was released in 2013 to mixed reviews—some fans loved it, some didn’t. Later that year, the sequel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was announced, with more heroes added as time passed. The full DC Cinematic Universe release schedule was announced on 15 October 2014.

So far fans and critics have been somewhat skeptical of news from the DC CU’s upcoming films: from the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman to the non-traditional look of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman to the strange appearance of Jared Leto’s Joker. Each new bit of information has both supporters and detractors, but every one has been controversial.

After the overwhelming praise for Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, why are subsequent films being received so much more coldly?

There might be a few reasons:

Most of the DC characters have been around longer, and are better known, than Marvel characters.

Superman and Batman are among the most recognizable fictional characters in the world, crossing all international borders. Superman has appeared in multiple movies, television shows, and cartoons over the past 75+ years. The general public has expectations as to whom Superman is and how he is portrayed, whom Batman is and how he is portrayed.

The same can’t be said for even the most popular characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (possibly excepting the Hulk). Iron Man, Hawkeye, the Guardians of the Galaxy? General audiences had never heard of any of these characters before the movies made them household names. This means that there are no expectations for the movies. People can’t be let down when they have a blank slate.

Batman is dark in the popular imagination. Tim Burton’s Batman has for the most part replaced the 1966 TV show as a cultural reference for Batman. So Christopher Nolan’s dark-toned Batman trilogy—supported largely by strong performances from Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Heath Ledger, Tom Hardy, and the rest of the cast—did not constitute a major departure from what movie-goers expected.

On the other hand,  Superman is still a more positive, upstanding character to most casual fans. Some generations may remember the Christopher Reeve movies of the 1970s and 1980s or the Super Friends cartoons. Others might think of Smallville, or more recent cartoons. Zak Snyder took Superman into the same sepia-colored dark world that Nolan’s Batman inhabited. Could the general audiences used to the benevolent “Man of Steel” handle a Superman who kills?

Marvel Comics characters share the same world, our real world. DC Comics characters inhabit a fantasy world.

Spider-Man swinging between the Twin Towers pre-9/11 is an iconic image that planted him square in the heart of New York. No one has ever been to Metropolis or Gotham (at least not the ones that hold Superman and Batman).

DC heroes didn’t start out in the same world. This started years after Superman and Batman first appeared, and it always seemed forced. Just how close was Gotham to Metropolis, anyway? DC had no connected universe or continuity, which is why the whole thing had to be “rebooted” in the 1980s with Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Marvel’s crossovers came more naturally. A lot of these heroes lived in parts of New York City. It is only natural that at some point they would bump into each other, fighting the same bad guys in the same city.

The same thing extends to the cinematic universes. Honestly, it has seemed weird that Spider-man, and the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers have all been in the same city and not run into each other. (OK, well licensing rights might prevent that from being fully realized, so let’s use Iron Man and Captain America as the examples.)

When DC throws Superman and Batman into the same movie, you have to wonder how they coexist in the first place. Why does the almost god-like Superman spend all his time in Metropolis, and Batman spend all his time in Gotham? What was Superman doing during the events of The Dark Knight Rises? It seems like they could have used his help. He could have ended the whole thing in 20 minutes.

And I think that might be the clincher. This “kitchen sink” approach to throwing every superhero they have into Batman v. Superman seems forced.

Personally, I am still looking forward to the movie. I really, really hope it is good. It does, at least from what I have seen so far, remind me of Frank Miller’s 1986 Dark Knight Returns—if it can pull that off, I think I’ll be satisfied. As for the rest of the films, let’s hope that they are more Batman and less Green Lantern.

Top 10 Baddest Bad Guys (of all media)

When Michael Jackson (RIP) sang, “I’m Bad,” he couldn’t touch these 10 big bads. This list is not just about who was the most evil or who were the most hated bad guys. These villains all also hold the distinction of being crazy cool!

10. Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982; Star Trek: Into Darkness, 2013)

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“I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you.”
(Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

Star Trek had some “bad” aliens (racists), but there was really only one true bad guy. And he was baaaad: Khan! He is such a great bad guy that he is the only character besides the crew of the Enterprise to appear in all three incarnations of the original crew: the original 1960s series, the 1980s movies, and the recent J. J. Abrams reboots.

9. Tony Montana (Scarface, 1983)

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“So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you.”
(Scarface)

Tony Montana, the Cuban-born Miami cocaine kingpin with the “little friend,” just won’t die in the film-ending battle royale. He finally goes out in a blaze of glory after several minutes of taking out dozens of cartel hitmen. Only film buffs know that this Scarface was itself a reboot of the 1932 Paul Muni vehicle of the same name. That “Scarface” was named “Tony Camonte,” an Italian-American bootlegger during Prohibition. The end scene is much different, with Camonte giving up to the cops in the most cowardly manner. He was also loosely based on the original “Scarface” Al Capone, who died of complications from syphilis. Al Pacino’s Montana was definitely the baddest of the Scarfaces.

8. General Zod (Superman II, 1980; Man of Steel, 2013)

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“Kneel before Zod!”
(Superman II)

It’s a good thing that 1978’s Superman was a hit, eventually grossing over $300 million worldwide. That movie began on Krypton, with Super-Man’s father banishing General Zod and his two henchmen to the Phantom Zone (a spinny mirror place). He wasn’t seen again until the 1980 sequel. And he was awesome: imagine a cold, calculating warlord with Superman powers, except cool with an awesome black uniform and goatee. (We won’t mention the deep V-neck; it was the late ’70s, after all.) Plus, Michael Shannon’s 2013 take on Zod in Man of Steel might have been the coolest thing about that movie.

7. Venom (Spider-man comics, cartoons, and movies, 1988–present)

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“We are Venom. We know the evil that men do.”
(Iron Man, vol. 1, no. 302 [1994])

Venom started out as a costume change for Spider-Man introduced in the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars crossover mini-series, became an evil alien symbiote slowly draining all of Spidey’s energy, and then became the absolute best thing that Todd McFarlane ever did (with the debatable exception of the independently published Spawn). Sadly, his one big screen appearance somehow featured Topher Grace from That 70s Show as Venom’s alter ego Eddie Brock. Despite this obvious strike against him, Venom is bad enough in the comics to deserve his place on his list.

6. The Predator (Predator movies and comics, 1987–2010)

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“You’re one ugly motherfucker!”
(spoken by Dutch [Arnold Schwarzenegger], Predator)

For the purposes of this list, I will apply the name “The Predator” to any representative of the awesome race of planet-hopping game hunters. The Predator first took out Arnold’s whole team, including Carl Weathers and Jesse “The Body” Ventura, in the jungle. Then he got loose and took out a bunch of people in Los Angeles. Next the aliens from Aliens became the Predator’s victims. Finally, it was back to the jungle, but with a whole bunch of Predators, including some that were even bigger and badder than what we had seen before. Plus they all have dreadlocks. I only hope that we haven’t seen the last of the Predator(s).

5. Hannibal Lecter (Red Dragon/ManhunterThe Silence of the LambsHannibalHannibal Rising books, TV, movies,  1981–present)

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“You will let me know when those lambs stop screaming, won’t you?”
(The Silence of the Lambs)

Sure, he’s a cannibal, but that alone doesn’t give him this high ranking in this list. It’s the psychological games he would play with people. He toyed with minds like Play-Doh. Calm, cool, and collected. But then, just to be sure that he was a true badass, he went crazy psycho cannibal on his guards in order to escape. Then played more mind games with FBI agent Clarise Starling by telephone.

4. Keyser Söze (The Usual Suspects, 1995)

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“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.”
(The Usual Suspects)

No one paid any attention to “Verbal” Kint. To the other members of the makeshift gang of misfit criminals, he was just a handicapped scam artist. To the police he was the stupid pawn of a dirty cop. Yet he manipulated all of his enemies to be in the same place at the same time so he could take them all out in one fiery explosion. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Then he manipulated the police into letting him limp right out the front door. When he was younger, living in Turkey, and rivals tried to control him by threatening his family, Keyser Söze killed his own family first, before killing his rivals, their families, their friends, and basically burning their whole towns to the ground. “And like that, poof. He’s gone.”

3. The First Evil (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TV, 1998–2003)

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“Do you think I’m god?”
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 7)

The only reason that this literal “source” of all evil in existence isn’t higher on the list is that it does not have a physical form. It only affects the world by appearing to individuals in various forms to manipulate them psychologically. This means not only appearing to heroes in different forms to cause confusion or self-doubt, but also doing the same to other (physical) bad guys, like the über-vampire Turok-Han.

2. The Joker (Batman comics, TV, movies, etc., 1940–present)

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“I’m going to kill everyone in this room.”
(Batman: The Dark Knight Returns [comic book, 1986])

“Tell me something, my friend… you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
(Batman [movie, 1989])

The Joker first appeared in comic books seventy-five years ago! For about half that time, he was the “Clown Prince of Crime,” using silly pranks against Batman. He was as campy as he was portrayed in the 1966 Adam West Batman television show and movie. Then came the 1980s. Frank Miller, in The Dark Knight Returns (1986); Alan Moore, in The Killing Joke (1988); and Jim Starlin, in “A Death in the Family” (Batman nos. 426–29, [1988–89]) took the Joker to the next level of crazy, completely redefining the Joker as a truly psychopathic clown. He killed the entire audience in a television studio where he was being interviewed; shot Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon; tortured her father Commissioner Gordon; and then actually killed Robin! That, and he’s a clown, so he’s totally creepy and scary just on principle.

1. Darth Vader (Star Wars saga, 1977–2005)

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“You underestimate the power of the dark side.”
(Star Wars: Return of the Jedi)

Some might question Darth Vader as the baddest bad guy ever. Let’s look at his actions: he killed a bunch of children at the Jedi Temple, killed his pregnant wife, blew up a planet, and tried several times to kill his son. Definitely some serious bad right there, but top this off with awesome body armor, the voice of James Earl Jones, and the ability to choke someone out with his mind via Skype! Some might argue that Vader worked for the Emperor—and that would be valid if this list was based on who was the most evil. The Emperor may have been the most evil, but Vader was definitely the baddest!

Frank Miller to pen Dark Knight III: The Master Race

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Few comic book creators have so clearly redefined a character that all future incarnations could only be seen as derivative. In 1986 Frank Miller wrote and drew The Dark Knight Returns, a four-issue Batman story that changed the perception of Batman from the colorful 1960s-era Adam West superhero to the dark and sometimes twisted Batman portrayed by Michael Keaton and Christian Bale since 1989. (We won’t discuss the Kilmer and Clooney Batmen.)

Scenes from the recently released Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice teaser trailer are strongly reminiscent of scenes from The Dark Knight Returns, which similarly features a fight between Batman and Superman (in the snow rather than the rain). Compare the two images below, from Returns and the new trailer.

Dark Knight Returns

Trailer

DC Comics published Miller’s long-awaited followup, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, in 2001, but it did not achieve anywhere near the critical and commercial success of its predecessor.

Both series featured not only Batman but also Superman and several other DC Comics superheroes, but neither is considered part of the main canonical continuity.

What do you think? With a Fall 2015 release date, are you looking forward to this release? Will this new series recapture the success of the original?