The Answer-Man’s Weighs in: Superheroes on TV
The verdict is in. The DC Extended Universe, the DC Universe’s attempt at replicating the highly success implementation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is on life-support. DC’s been getting its ass handed to it in the superhero movie arena, as the DCEU appears to be dying on the vine.
Let’s be clear: DC hasn’t lost money in their movie endeavors. Their total box office receipts total $4.8 billion. In comparison, Marvel’s movie earnings, just shot upwards of $14 billion dollars since the MCU started and pushed over was lifted over that mark by the fantastic success of the Oscar-nominated phenomenon, Black Panther (2018). Watching the two companies it’s been a race between Usain Bolt and Stephen Hawking. Marvel’s movies were fun, easy to follow, with strong characterizations on the part of its actors. They have become synonymous with their roles.
DC’s movies were trying to be smarter, darker, more cerebral, but ended up being cinematic, stylish, but muddled, more than a bit confusing with the uncharacteristic representations of the icons. A Superman who doesn’t smile or inspire, a Batman who enjoys maiming, killing and contemplates killing Superman. Seriously. A Wonder Woman whose charisma stole Batman v. Superman’s thunder, leaving them guest stars in their own movie. Thank god, they got one of DC’s Comics heroic trinity right. The DCEU has become a movie Universe which has become synonymous with a bunch of handsome actors wishing they were somewhere else. With a few getting their wish.
Fresh off their recent financial successes of Wonder Woman (2017) and Aquaman (2018) and despite the overall performance of Zack Synder’s Man of Steel (2013), Batman v. Superman (2016) and the rushed CGI debacle that was Justice League (2017) showing just how premature the movie truly was. Adding insult to injury, the movie spent spent $25 million dollars digitally removing Cavill’s mustache he was contractually obligated to maintain for his role in Mission Impossible 6. For the record, Mustache-Gate didn’t sink Justice League. The blandness of the movie’s CGI villain, Steppenwolf, and the overall catastrophe of a script bear the real weight of this failure.
With the questionable future of Henry Cavill continuing as Superman and the career-suicide of Ben Affleck’s Batman, DC is returning to the starting line with their new releases of Wonder Woman 1984 and Shazam! as their next forays into the movie theaters. DC has decided to focus on building strong character’s and leaving the ensemble films to Marvel. Can anyone explain to me why Marvel and DC both have their signature female characters appearing in the 1980s in their respective films. Was that intentional? Was it a freak accident of movie planning? Will they be making cameos in each other’s movies? Yes, I know one character is moving forward in time and the other is being shown in flashbacks, but it just feels weird and more than a bit coincidental.
Sad news: the rumored Batman: Beyond animated movie has been denied by DC Animated. A shame, too, because as tired as I am of Batman in the movies, the wearisome antics of his numerous villains in Suicide Squad and on Fox’s Gotham, Batman: Beyond was a project I could get behind because Bruce Wayne is sidelined while Terry McGinnis puts on Wayne’s newest Bat-suit. Wayne is old, crotchety, snarky and very reminiscent of Alfred, only without the charming butleresque humor.
For the uninitiated, Batman: Beyond was an animated series which was set in a future where Bruce Wayne was unable to continue his role as Batman and using technology guides his replacement into this role in a newer and more dangerous Gotham of the future. One of the best cartoons of its era. Squeee!
On the cable front, the DC Universe streaming service is, like it or not, hot with foul-mouthed, bloodthirsty and grim-dark Titans. People seem to like it. Not to be outdone, the return of Young Justice has electrified the fans with new stories, new characters and some appearances from the Milestone Universe. That’s all you get, watch the show to find out who made the cut! Young Justice remains, as always, the superhero team to beat. Justice League cameos are inevitable. Tolerate them. The upcoming smörgåsbord includes Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and Stargirl on their dedicated channel.
No matter how badly the DCEU is getting stomped in the movies, on the home theater front line, DC reigns supreme. Yes, some of these shows are sagging. Some of them need new writers. A few have actors who look a bit tired. But for most of them, they are still crackling and the loyalty means they get another chance to be in love again.
“The CW has handed early renewals to 10 series for the 2019-2020 season. They include second seasons of Charmed and Legacies, as well as new seasons of Arrow (Season 8), Black Lightning (Season 3), DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (Season 5), Dynasty (Season 3), The Flash (Season 6), Riverdale (Season 4), Supergirl (Season 5) and Supernatural (Season 15).” (Deadline.com)
I admit to watching at least half of this lineup with great enthusiasm and a couple of the old dogs when the mood strikes me. Arrow needs some new writers and new stories. Please. I’m begging you. For the love of GOD!
Seriously this is a testament to the writers of the television shows that have created a lasting television legacy to some of DC’s Finest.
My secret love, of which we can never speak of, iZombie (never speak of this again. I will deny everything) is getting one more season, a finale, where I expect everything to go to hell and love every minute of it. There’s no word on Preacher, and like the literal God in the Preacher series, everyone is out looking for it. Lucifer, died on Fox and was reborn on Netflix, promises us season four at some point this year.
Straight from Prequelandia (a neologism I coined to describe prequels no one ever needed to see) we’ve got the final season of Gotham (How did this show last this long?) Meanwhile, the tragedy that is Krypton was renewed for Season 2 on SYFY. We will also get a new series starring, of all people, Alfred Pennyworth, a formers special forces officer living in London and working for Thomas Wayne. Don’t think about it.
There are rumors of Y: The Last Man (I asked the same question, why?), V for Vendetta (the series?) and the greatest rumor of all time, the creation of Kurt Busiek’s comic signature masterpiece: Astro City. Please God, I haven’t asked for anything since you cured me of cancer, can I please have this…some good writers, decent special effects and I could conceivably die a happy man after ten or eleven seasons.
DC has dominated television with a diverse selection of superheroic and non-superheroic selections. This is what I was talking about after the release of Batman v. Superman (Why Batman v Superman Won’t Make a Billion Dollars). DC’s movie reliance on Batman (7 movies) and Superman (6 movies) almost to the exclusion of everyone else for forty years in the DC stable means they’ve been wasting twice that long of incredible comic characters ripe for exposure. See that picture of the extended Justice League, there have only been six people on that whole page who have been in a movie!
Their CW television and the DC Universe streaming service choices are taking those risks and using more of DC’s history and their catalog of characters. It’s been paying off. They have successfully proven it is possible to do superheroes on a television budget and not completely hate watching them. If you’re not careful, you might tune in again, next week: Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel and find yourself, entertained.
This is the Answer-Man, with dreams of Astro City, signing off.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.