The DC Television Universe

Continuing this week’s theme of DC superheros (read this, this and this), today I’d like to talk about the DC Television Universe. Because this coming television season, we’re going to be treated to a plethora of superhero-inspired television – and it’s not just from Marvel. Indeed, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took its sweet time to get its momentum, whilst DC’s offering, in the form of the CW’s Arrow, had a riveting second season with a welcomed mid-season teaser of their upcoming offering, The Flash.

So what exactly is on offer next season? Along with Arrow season 3, we’ve got Barry Allen’s standalone debut as the Flash in, you guessed it, CW’s The Flash. This show and Arrow will be tightly integrated into what could potentially be a television universe – a rather unique idea considering the current surge in shared arcs for big-budget features by the studios. We’ll get to this later, though. The other offerings are Gotham, an origins tale of sorts for the villains of the Batman world. Incidentally, Bruce Wayne won’t be prominently featured in this series; it’ll revolve around a young Commissioner Gordon and seems like a crime-noir tale, rather than a vigilante/superhero one like Arrow.

Gotham isn’t going to integrate with Arrow and Flash. It’s a standalone series. But with the tightly-connected arcs of Arrow and Flash, here’s what I’m hoping for: that this is just the beginning of a much wider, richer television universe. One where other DC characters (perhaps minor ones) begin to populate the world. Arrow has proven that DC can make a decent television series with their properties. And with an established fan base for the show, there’s an existing market that would be eager to consume more of this world.

What’s interesting to see is how these shows react to the emerging DC Cinematic Universe. Will we see Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow join the Justice League alongside Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman? I, for one, would welcome this. I think it’d be awesome to see these minor JL characters fight the bad guys alongside these superstars.

We’ll most likely find out how the current television universe fits into what seems like a rather comprehensive cinematic universe from DC, at this month’s San Diego Comic Con.

Along with The Flash getting his own show, and interacting with the Arrow universe, I’d like to see a Nightwing series adaptation. Arrow, Flash and Nighwing could form a potent triad of heroes that cement the DC flag in a medium fast-outpacing the cinematic facet of the entertainment world.

Next season will be the reign of the superhero series. Based on how it fares with audiences, we could very well be on the brink of seeing the television landscape becoming saturated with the superhero obsession much like what’s currently happening in film.

Could DC Make “Superman: Red Son”?

2493286-Superman_RedSon_Hardback_cover_by_DevilpigSuperman: Red Son is a curious rendition of the Superman tale. It provides an alternate reality, where Superman lands on Earth a handful of hours earlier, ending up in a collective farm in Ukraine rather than Kansas during the reign of the USSR. The story aims to answer a simple, intriguing question: What if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union? He grows to become Stalin’s golden son, spreading communism throughout the world and becoming the United State’s chief enemy. This plot is, of course, in direct contrast to what we know the “normal” Superman to be. However, it makes for extremely compelling reading, and at times is quite fun to notice how this alternative tale diverges from the orthodox rendition of the Man of Steel.

DC is about to breathe life into their highly-anticipated cinematic universe. And whilst we know that it will draw inspiration from some interesting sources – for example, the new Batman is inspired by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns book – wouldn’t it be incredible if they chose to make a film adaptation of this particular Superman tale?

Superman is seen as the colourful contrast to Batman’s monochromatic portrayal. He provides hope, serves as humanity’s beacon and supposedly guides us into a more enlightened future. Red Son, by contrast, still maintains Superman’s powerful moral compass whilst set against the backdrop of communism, an idea that is incredibly controversial in contemporary society.

Yet Red Son makes for an enthralling story, one where there’s plenty action, suspense and ambiguously sketched characters that provide varied interpretations and thus depth. Perfect ingredients for great story-driven cinema, wouldn’t you say?

The idea for a Red Son adaptation came when I was recently discussing the DC Cinematic Universe with a friend of mine, a veritable comic-book guru (incidentally, he introduced me to Red Son). We talked about how this film could end up being a slight departure from the overall arc of the DCCU, providing an alternative reality – perhaps even a completely standalone film separate from the DCCU. Sure, we need to get audiences acquainted with DC characters, but once that establishing is done, these deeper, darker story lines could be explored.

Red Son is indeed controversial material. Communism seems to be a touchy subject in popcorn cinema, but I feel that a story of this caliber could transcend mere popular cinema and launch a niche in the superhero film obsession – one where there’s a deeper sense of story permeating the flashbang nature of these sci-fi-action-fantasy flicks. Red Son would seriously challenge DC’s prime competitor, Marvel. It would provide the battleground for the serious era of superhero films.

In reality, could Red Son be made? Could we seriously see Ben Affleck as “Batmankoff”, Henry Cavill as a Russian Superman, Jessie Eisenberg as a positive Lex Luthor trying to fight the spread of communism that’s accelerated by Superman’s rise to power? In today’s world, realistically, no. DC is laser-focused on getting their Cinematic Universe started-up, and such a film would be a sidetrack, with too limited an audience appeal at this stage. Hopefully in the future, when we’ve exhausted the conventional story lines, producers will begin to delve into these fascinating conceptions of some of our most beloved heroes.

The Next Cinematic Universe: Batman, Comic-Con and Beyond

superman-vs-batman-movie-2016

Comic-Con San Diego is next month, and even though I’m not attending (since I live on the other side of the world…) the inner nerd in me is going mental with excitement. Warner Bros. and DC are expected to make the biggest announcement in superhero cinema history since the reveal of the Avengers film.

Shooting for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is currently underway, and there are rumors abound of a possible clip from what’s been shot that might be shown at the Warner Bros. panel. This would be the first time we see Superman, Ben Affleck’s Batman, and possibly Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman sharing screen space.

The other major rumoured reveal will be a staggering three-film-a-year announcement, stretching from 2016-2018, including the fabled Justice League ensemble film, as DC plays catch-up to Marvel’s spectacularly successful cinematic universe.

For us cinema fans, this is welcome news. It means we’ll get more superhero movies released, and a wider variety of heroes, settings and story lines. For Marvel, it will finally be serious competition, and they will be forced to up their game as we enter Phase 3 of their Cinematic Universe, helmed by Lord of the Nerds Mr Joss Whedon.

DC’s possible cinematic universe will not be the first time that a studio other than Marvel attempts to craft a successful, shared-story arc that binds multiple films, characters and creative talent. Fox has attempted this with the X-Men franchise to a large degree of success, and there’s talk of Sony expanding the Spider-Man world. However, whilst Marvel has split licensing agreements across various studios, only being able to craft their Cinematic Universe with Avengers heroes (and why we won’t see any X-Men or even Spidey show up in a MCU film), DC has the advantage of owning some heavyweight titles – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman – that, if put together thoughtfully in a shared story world could be potentially amazing.

What’s remarkable, if the rumour is true, is the incredibly tight time frame that DC plans to unleash this plethora of films chronicling the adventures of some beloved heroes and villains. They’re not doing a slow-burn build-up to an ensemble film. Batman v Superman, the next outing with our new Henry Cavill Superman, already has the three heavyweights sharing screen space. Dawn of Justice will undoubtedly build to the next possible film, Justice League. This is unlike Marvel’s process with Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America preceding Avengers. I guess Warner Bros. is feeling the heat, and needs to get their “DCCU” up to speed as soon as possible. I just hope they don’t rush things – the last thing we want is for the highly-anticipated Justice League to be a total let down.

It will also be intriguing to see whether they choose to integrate their existing television shows into the new universe. Arrow and Flash will be sharing a common universe next season, and there’s the premiere of Gotham that could provide a back story to the events of the DCCU.

Other rumoured films to round-out this other Cinematic Universe will be a standalone Aquaman film… and the film many have been waiting for for a long time: Wonder Woman. It is said that the Dawn of Justice release date was pushed back to 2016 to allow for script adjustments to accommodate a proper cinematic universe that would see this Wonder Woman film delve deeper into Diana Prince’s backstory and build-up to her famous super-guise. This, along with the Justice League ensemble feature are what I’m looking forward to most in the new DC Cinematic Universe.

We’ll have to wait until San Diego Comic Con next month to truly find out what Warner Brothers and DC Comics have up their sleeves. One thing’s for sure: it will be super.