DC and Marvel taking over television

By Cory J. Willey


It would be an understatement to say superheroes have been successful in their recent jump from page to screen. The past seven years have seen these modern myths rise to the top of the box office time and time again. Marvel and DC are now looking to capitalize on the popularity of their characters by producing a multitude of TV shows. As with their recent cinematic ventures, Marvel seems to have a clearly connected plan for their small screen expansion. DC, on the other hand, appears to be creating more of a confused mess rather than one cohesive universe.

Recently, Marvel has made headlines with their unprecedented deal with Netflix that will result in the creation of four new live action series focusing on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. These four series will eventually culminate in a team-up called “The Defenders” which will act as a small-screen version of the Avengers, bringing the four characters together. It’s safe to assume these series will exist in the Cinematic Universe in some capacity. Indeed, Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC has set the precedent by being directly involved with MCU films and their events; an episode of “AoS” has already dealt with the aftermath of the recently-released “Thor: The Dark World.”

If these new television series are successful, it could benefit the genre as a whole. We could see something that mirrors the current system that comics follow. Individual characters in comics have their own separate storylines, which are then coordinated into larger arcs called “events.” With that in mind, if these shows work out well, they could be used to set up larger cinematic events that could culminate on the big screen. Importantly, this would give characters more room to develop on their own. That way, character development wouldn’t be sacrificed to make room for the overarching plot of the film.

However, due to their focus on the short term, DC is unable to create such an interesting multi-medium spanning universe. Currently, DC is playing catch-up with Marvel at the movies. Their wildly popular “Dark Knight Trilogy” has ended and is not connected with their only other established film property, “Man of Steel,” which will purportedly be used as a foundation to introduce the rest of their stable. It’s already been confirmed that the “Man of Steel” sequel will feature a new iteration of Batman, and recent rumors suggest that a few other major characters such as Wonder Woman, The Flash and Nightwing may appear. These stories seem to indicate DC is looking ahead to a Justice League movie to compete with Marvel’s Avengers films.

Until DC confirms or denies the rumors circulating around their upcoming projects, it is difficult to say how much they have actually planned, though their recent announcement of several upcoming television series have only added to the confusion. This past September, the company reached a deal with Fox to produce “Gotham,” a series following Detective Jim Gordon’s early career in the Gotham police department as he defends Gotham before Batman shows up. But whether “Gotham” will connect with Affleck’s Batman has not been announced.

These potential canonical conflicts have only intensified after the announcement of a new series based on The Flash. This show will be a spin-off of the CW’s “Arrow,” which is itself based on the Green Arrow character from the comics. But there is no indication that Stephen Amell’s version of Oliver Queen nor Grant Gustins’ take on The Flash will join Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in “Batman vs. Superman.”

Recent rumors of the introduction of Nightwing to this universe continue to muddy the waters, as it’s looking more and more likely that different actors will be portraying the same characters on Arrow and in “Batman vs. Superman.” If that’s the case, DC has really missed a golden opportunity to create a contiguous world across their film and television properties that could’ve directly competed with Marvel. It also could’ve freed up the screen time it will now take to reintroduce these characters’ film iterations amidst the multitudinous members of the Justice League.

Comparing Marvel and DC’s very different approaches to creating an on-screen universe, it seems as though Marvel is on track to create a sprawling, multi-medium canon. DC is harder to figure out, as it appears they have no plan at all. They are racing toward their own team-up film and in the process missing the boat on creating their own epic cross-platform world. It will be awhile before we see the two play out, so final judgments must be reserved. All that said, one thing is clear: the era of the superhero is certainly upon us.

Cory Willey can be reached at [email protected]