rainfall: (wink ;; never make that face again)
Libek ([personal profile] rainfall) wrote2013-09-29 09:37 am

Marvel vs. DC: TV Series Spinoffs

So, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD premiered this week, and... damn, it sure hit the spot. In just one episode, we felt the true power of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: there were references to Thor, references to The Incredible Hulk, so many references to The Avengers, and -- perhaps most satisfying of all -- references to Iron Man 3.

AoS was tight, and fun, and funny. Somehow within the span of 45 minutes it managed to:

1.) Introduce five new characters quickly and memorably without reducing any of them to an easy stereotype. Melinda May! FitzSimmons! Ward! Skye! It's a lot of people running around, and that's even without counting any of our returning characters or the probably-recurring guest stars like Shepherd Book Dr. Streiten.

2.) Create and solve a SHIELD-sized superhero problem, thus giving the show a good reason to exist. Several times, we mention that the Battle of New York changed the world, and they're right: we've gone from a basically normal world with a Tony Stark in it to a world that is literally crawling with different sources for superpowers, and maybe soon mutants?!

3.) Handily establish timeline, in this case post-Iron Man 3.

4.) Establish a few neat mysteries for the coming overarching story arc, like oh say Coulson's "survival".

5.) Fix an extremely minor plot hole from The Avengers. I watched the movie perfectly willing to assume that the characters' invisible ear pieces were some form of super high tech, but it bothered other people, and with one line AoS demonstrated its utility yet again. This show is going to have so much more space than any of the movies; space enough to address not only its big sisters' plot holes but also to expand upon their plot points.

(That last one excites me more than might seem rational, but seriously. It's incredibly hard to wait months and years between movies. IM3 left us with so many questions about Extremis that the MCU would have been previously unable to address until The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but now we have THIS. I predict that, in the future, AoS is going to be the glue that holds the MCU together. Filling in all the cracks. Obviously Marvel won't be looking to spoil its future properties, but for the questions that they don't intend to be major mysteries... you can bet that AoS is going to be the place to go for fun, well-written answers.)

So yeah. I'm excited about this one. I'm also excited about the rumored Agent Carter TV show, because boy was that short on IM3 ever beautiful and perfect.

But you know what I'm not excited about?


Have you heard about this one? It's DC's latest obvious attempt at riding coattails idea for expanding their own movieverse. The idea, as it's been pitched, is apparently the police force in Gotham, pre-Batman.


It's not like I don't sympathize with the awkward position DC is in. I completely do. One minute, they and Marvel were pretty evenly matched -- and the next...

Because let's be honest, before The Avengers hit theaters, Marvel's strategy had been incredibly risky and with a very uneven payoff. They had the Iron Man movies, of which only the first one had really been well-received, two awkward and very different Hulk movies, one fairly bad Thor movie, and a phenomenal Captain America movie. Everything but the Hulk movies had managed to bring in enough money, but critics were all over the place, and now they wanted to try to bring all these heroes together? It was crazy.

Meanwhile, DC was sitting pretty atop its very successful Batman trilogy, earning praise from fans and critics alike and proving that you could, in fact, make a hyperrealistic superhero movie For Grownups. They were about to wrap up that trilogy and work had already begun on a similar-in-tone Superman reboot. There was no reason to think that Man of Steel wouldn't be just as successful as The Dark Knight; and there was no reason to think that Marvel's gamble with The Avengers wasn't going to blow up in their faces.

But then The Avengers hit theaters, and the only explosion was an explosion of money from fans across the country as they feverishly gave Marvel everything they had.

The gamble had paid off.

And suddenly, DC's smart game and its smart, focused plans for the future looked positively anemic by comparison. As did the amount of money they stood to make over the next few years.

Of course they wanted to fix that. With the ever-stagnating comic book market, they might even have needed to fix that in order to survive. But man, the way they've been going about it...

Obviously, DC has been watching Marvel closely, trying to ferret out the secrets of their success, but they were in a very awkward starting position to do any of the things Marvel was doing.

1.) Marvel has given each of its main characters one movie. (DC: Okay, we can do this. We have a Batman... trilogy that's over, and a Superman movie coming out, and -- I guess we technically had a Green Latern movie...)

2.) Marvel's movies have all shared a unifying cinematic universe. (DC: Fuck. Okay. Well -- we just have to start Batman over again, since Christian Bale isn't interested in continuing and also that would make almost no sense. Which actor would be hardest to take seriously as Batman? Hire him!)

3.) Marvel had one movie that brought everyone together. (DC: We definitely want to do that and the Justice League is a way bigger pop culture icon than the Avengers, so this should be easy.)

4.) Marvel waited to do that one movie until it had established all of its main players, even slipping Hawkeye and Black Widow into other properties before bringing them in for major roles in The Avengers. (DC: ...Fuck. We can't do that. It would take like ten years to get to our Justice League movie. Let's just do a Batman vs. Superman movie! Without actually rebooting Batman first, so we'll just have to establish everything important about him in this same movie. Wonder Woman? Who the hell is that, she'll just stand around looking hot when we get to the Justice League movie.)

5.) Marvel created a spin-off TV series, about the ordinary people who have been working behind the scenes of the other movies. (DC: Since Batman is the only property we're willing to really do much with, how about the Gotham police force?)

I want to stress that this last idea is probably the best one DC has had since they originally conceived a Justice League movie but were then wayyyy too impatient to actually do it right or ever make it work.


Well, part of the appeal of AoS is the part where these characters are occupying the same world as the other heroes. Although I'm sure they could have made an interesting movie about the time period before Tony Stark was Iron Man, this is much more fun and much more rewarding for fans of the MCU. It builds upon the movies and it will also be in a position to deconstruct them. We'll get to see the civilian's eye view of what our favorite heroes are up to, as well as getting to play with some of the many -- many -- less prominent superheroes out there. Luke Cage and Iron Fist would be a natural fit, for example. And with new MCU properties bringing us Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, mutants are also going to be a topic that AoS could potentially tackle.

A similar show about the Gotham police department only ever catching glimpses of Batman could have been fun, if a little bit -- limited. (I mean, it's called Gotham, not Metropolis, so at best we might have one or two episodes where the Gotham police wander over there, and they definitely can't realistically handle cases from other parts of the country.) But that isn't the show we're being told to expect.

We're being told to expect a show where Batman doesn't exist and the only character we're guaranteed to recognize will be Commissioner Gordon.

Batman without Batman would be fine, since, as has been observed before, Batman himself is often the least-interesting aspect of anything Batman. But before Batman, Gotham didn't really have supervillains -- the point that he has personally created many of his worst enemies and even the others sprang up in reaction to him has been made many, many times by many, many different Batman writers.

So, what would we be left with, exactly? A police procedural with a recognizable city name and a recognizable main character?

And how long can you really spend in the days before Batman? Are we going to wind up in an awkward Smallville place where Bruce Wayne decides to fight crime but spends several years refusing to actually put on the cowl?

It just... sounds like such a mess, honestly.

DC, why couldn't you just make a good Wonder Woman movie? Is it because you would have had to actually call it Wonder Woman instead of getting to hide your goofy superhero fun behind some dark-sounding epithet because Wonder Woman doesn't have any?

To quote the very-astute Chris Hemsworth, "No, we're just winning, aren't we? That's no real rivalry."

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