I’m a huge comic book fan. I grew up with a constant excitement for anything related to Superman, Batman, and other members of the Justice League. DC Comics was home for me, but I often ventured into the Marvel world. I always loved how Marvel handled crossovers and team-ups. The Avengers and the X-Men are two shining examples of Marvel’s ability to unite disparate characters into a unified vision.
That was DC Comics’ weakness. While I loved reading Justice League stories, I was never quite convinced that these characters belonged together the way the characters in The Avengers did.
That’s what made Joss Whedon’s film, The Avengers, so good. Marvel Comics has always made superhero team-ups a priority. It’s built into the characters. From day one, Marvel Studios planted Iron Man firmly into a world where the rest of the Avengers would not only be plausible, they would be expected.
Each and every movie in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (and not just movies, either; short films and television series are also included in the “MCU”) plays its part in building the larger world that houses the various characters.
After hearing the news that DC/Warner’s Man of Steel would be the film to kick off a shared universe for the Justice League characters, I was initially excited; but that excitement quickly gave way to a sense of concern. I’m unconvinced that Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can coexist in a film.
Why do I think that?
Each of these characters is far too big to fit into a film together. It’s a testament to the characters’ creators that their respective mythologies are so vast and elaborate, but it also makes combining the characters into one coherent story a hell of a lot more difficult to do.
That’s not to say it can’t be done, however. While I’m skeptical, I have to say that I’m intrigued and hopeful about what I’ve seen from the Batman v Superman film production so far. The news, leaked footage, and released images indicate a potentially excellent film.
Despite that, I’m still unconvinced that Man of Steel was the best set-up for this universe. It’s a Superman origin story. Not a terrible one, but certainly not one that makes me think, Hey, I know what the sequel needs! Batman and Wonder Woman!
Am I against a Justice League film? Not exactly. But I wonder if DC is going about it properly. While Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman form the foundation for Justice League in the comic books and Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe, I’m not sure that’s the best place to start in a live-action DC world.
Like I said earlier, these characters are far too developed individually to necessitate a Justice League. There isn’t enough room for their stories, but more than that, there isn’t a need for any of them to show up in someone else’s film.
However, there is one place I think could be a good starting point: Arrow.
Television lends itself well to DC Comics team-ups. Arrow has already begun the trend by introducing Barry Allen and then spinning him off into his own TV show: The Flash. Arrow seems to be a great launching point for other potential Justice League characters. We’ve already been introduced to Ray Palmer (Atom), Roy Harper (Arsenal), and Laurel Lance (Black Canary) in addition to the Flash. Whether any of these characters will get their own TV series or films remains to be seen (and it’s probably unlikely), but it’s worth noting the potential in building the Justice League out of Arrow.
This isn’t the first time Justice League members have been introduced in a television series either. In the early 2000’s, Smallville introduced us to Kara Kent (Supergirl), Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), John Jones (J’onn J’onzz, aka Martian Manhunter), Dr. Emil Hamilton, Arthur Curry (Orin, aka Aquaman), Bart Allen (Impulse), Victor Stone (Cyborg), Dinah Lance (Black Canary), Zatanna Zatara, Courtney Whitmore (Stargirl), Booster Gold, Kent Nelson (Doctor Fate), and Carter Hall (Hawkman). That series even went as far as naming their team-up episodes “Justice” and “Absolute Justice.”
Here’s the drawback to launching the Justice League via Arrow: Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen in Arrow is eerily similar to nearly every incarnation of Batman we’ve seen since 1989. While it’s certainly not impossible for them to exist in the same universe, it might be asking a bit much of audiences to watch two brooding, orphaned billionaires leading double lives as masked vigilantes enforcing their own brands of midnight justice in the same film. Now, if we had Justin Hartley’s version of Oliver Queen from Smallville, I’d be more inclined to see him share the screen with the Dark Knight. Then again, brooding is chic these days—even Superman is doing it to some degree—so it might not be too far-fetched to add yet another gloom-ridden superhero to the screen.
Of course, I’m speculating with all of this. I haven’t even dabbled in Fox’s Gotham television series yet, so I’m pretty much just spit-balling. That said, I really do believe that Marvel Studios has the upper hand in the superhero world. DC/Warner has a lot of catching up to do.