DC’s Film and Television Universe will Not Connect
August 13, 2014 By Trevor Richardson
Last month, Geoff Johns, writer and Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics, stated that the DC television shows, unlike Marvel, would not connect with the highly-anticipated Batman vs. Superman and other future Justice League-related film titles. Arrow writer and executive producer, Andrew Kreisberg, stated on Collider:
“Yeah. There really aren’t that many characters that we’ve asked to use, that we haven’t gotten access to. Fortunately for us, with Arrow, we were able to bring on Deathstroke and The Huntress, and this year we have Katana. It was actually DC comics’ idea for us to use Ray Palmer/The Atom. On The Flash, with Geoff Johns, our partner, we’ve carved out this whole world of characters that we have access to. There are the big ones that fit into the Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman mythos, but since we’re not using those characters, their subsidiary characters don’t really feel necessary to us. We never feel like we’re confined. We’re more impressed that we get to play with as many characters as we do. By the end of this season, on both shows, we’ll have Green Arrow, Black Canary, Katana, The Atom, Firestorm and The Flash. We’ve got a pretty good chunk of the Justice League, on both shows. We never look at ourselves as limited. We just look at ourselves as blessed that we get to play with as many of these characters as we do. You always want your lead to be the coolest character on the show. If you’ve got Green Arrow and The Flash, why would you want Batman and Superman around? I think we’ve figured out how to do those characters really well. There’s something very distancing about Superman and Batman that I think works so well in the features, but that I’m not sure would necessarily lend themselves to a weekly series. We’re very happy with the characters that we have.”
A lot of things about this quote should be exciting for superhero fans, the arrival of new characters such as The Atom lets us know that the initial realism of Arrow is evolving into a fully-realized world with superpowers and bigger possibilities. The choice to add more traditional comic book elements incrementally rather than at the outset is an effective choice, allowing for explanations of origins to take on a more logical purpose than what had formerly been random chance and accidents. However, what goes unaddressed is the matter that Geoff Johns had previously shut down in the media: the television Oliver Queen and Barry Allen will not be making any appearances on the big screen.
This is a double-edge sword. On the one hand, it means the stories told on the CW shows are not constrained to the events of DC’s movie titles. This means they can do whatever they want and not have to worry about continuity with what is going on in the world of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. On the other hand, it also means that DC is allowing Marvel Comics, once again, an opportunity to outpace them. Marvel/Disney is expanding their universe into multiple mediums every year, from books to movies to broadcast network television and, now, to streaming television via Netflix. Moreover, these stories all interconnect, allowing potential to tell partial stories in one movie that can be completed in other franchises or even on TV. This has already had the effect of getting comic fans to tune in to “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” even when initial reviews and ratings were not so promising. We kept showing up because we wanted to see what the SHIELD agents might have to say after the events of Thor 2 or Captain America: Winter Soldier.
Connecting the franchises and the film and television universes creates cross-promotion. In no small way, the success of one boosts the success of all of the other moving parts. In terms of marketing, branding, and finances, it is a stroke of genius. From a storytelling perspective, it is groundbreaking. Questions you have from the Avengers cut-scene of Thanos can only begin to be answered by watching Guardians of the Galaxy. Fan theories about the other Infinity Stones now established by Guardians are looking back at prior movies rather than ahead, suggesting that we may have already seen two of the Infinity Stones in the shape of Captain America’s “Tesseract” and Thor 2’s “Aether.” The latter part of Marvel’s first television offering, Agents of SHIELD, picked up the story of Hydra infiltrating American government where Captain America: Winter Soldier left off.
In short, the potential is limitless because concepts can be shared across weekly televised broadcasts, internet shows, and multiple movies debuting annually. And what does DC do to stay in the ring? They cut the ties between Arrow, an already successful television program with an established following, its already anticipated spin-off, The Flash, and the movie everyone is talking about: Batman Vs. Superman. This means that while Marvel can build a singular fanbase, collected around a network of entertaining franchises webbed together as one unit, DC Comics and its many moving parts will have pull double duty, ensuring the success of its movies AND its TV shows separately.
Kreisberg says they did not see Batman and Superman working on TV. However, you never see Captain America or Ironman on “SHIELD” and the show still works. The reason it works is because it follows along in the wake of these larger than life heroes, showing you the cleanup or the aftermath of their battles. The potential for DC to take a few pages from their playbook could have shown Green Arrow and The Flash protecting the “little guy” from these heroes that, as seen in Man of Steel, rather mercilessly pummel cities for the sake of their own grudge matches. Arrow never needs to come face to face with Batman in order for the story to work, rather just having a few choice words about what their antics are doing to the people on the ground and picking up the baddies that maybe slink out of the motion pictures and onto the small screen could have been some inspired television.
One has to speculate on what the motivation for this would be, beyond just a resistance to mimic the competition. It may be possible that, to the writers, Arrow and The Flash are not on the same timeline as Batman and Superman, perhaps beginning earlier or much later than the Caped Crusader and the boy in blue. It may also be possible that they simply do not see the quality of the shows holding their own with the work being done on the upcoming prelude to The Justice League, although that seems unlikely.
No matter the reasons, we are free to speculate on who may appear in Arrow and The Flash now that they’re not joined at the hip to their movie cousins. Although the producer is currently saying otherwise, it may not be impossible to expect a future appearance from such lofty characters as Lex Luthor, Catwoman, and more. Still, this writer can’t help feeling concerned that DC might be thinking too small even as their nemesis has taken things to a galactic level.
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