I'd say threat level: orange? Like a deep, Aquaman-style orange? Talk of a Justice League movie — the DC Comics universe's answer to Marvel's The Avengers, only populated with superheroes you heard of before 2008 — has been around in some form or another ever since the Batman movies were resurrected under Christopher Nolan. Now, with The Avengers making the kind of money that every studio salivates over, and with the Superman reboot Man of Steel gearing up for summer, the rumor mill is getting ever closer to that white column of smoke signaling that we have a new superhero franchise tentpole.
Memo to movie-studio types planning to conduct some on-the-DL market research down at the Android's Dungeon: A brand-new, crisply creased Batman T-shirt is not an effective disguise.
Monday, at the comics-news site Bleeding Cool, editor Rich Johnston summarized an encounter between some comic-shop staffers and a group of suspiciously chatty, suspiciously comics-illiterate customers who may have been Warner Bros. employees trying to take the pulse of nerd world vis-à-vis the forthcoming Justice League movie. "They entered posing as fans," Johnston wrote,
" but it was obvious to staff by the time they finished their first question that they were not. And about half way through they abandoned all pretence and were asking questions like “what superhero films have had good Facebook pages?”, “Do you think comic fans would accept a superhero film without [Christopher] Nolan’s involvement, would him serving as a producer suffice?” “What do fans think of Aquaman? He’s lame isn’t he?”, “What is regarded as the strongest lineup of the Justice League and would work as a film?” boiling right down to “What should DC do film wise?”
They asked for comics that best represented how the fans perceived the Justice League. One of them was wearing a box fresh Batman T-shirt — it still had the wrapping crease marks. They knew nothing about comics but corrected a member of staff on the year the Justice League film was due, 2014, not 2013. They mocked the Ant Man movie and looked a bit worried when they were assured by staff it was probably going to be all right.
And they looked glum when they were told DC should “just do what Marvel have done”.
Faster than you could think, I wonder what they're going to do with Batman next as you waited for The Dark Knight Rises to begin this weekend, lo and behold, Warner Bros. beamed a teaser trailer for Man of Steel, the first installment of what the studio hopes to be a rejuvenated Superman franchise, directly into untold millions of reboot-susceptible eye sockets. In case you've forgotten, there's a helpful reminder that MoS is directed by 300's Zack Snyder, whose last two non-Gahoolian cinematic efforts were superboning-to-Leonard Cohen-inside-a-hovering-armored-owl's-head misfire Watchmen, and Sucker Punch, in which Snyder somehow botched the foolproof premise — emotionally disturbed, jailbait she-ninjas fighting giant robots — he burgled from the priapic fanboy collective unconscious. If you want to question this director's ability to resurrect the prematurely mothballed hero based on his recent résumé, we're not going to put on our tattered Superman Underoos, run backwards around the laptop at the speed of light, and make you watch a clip of a roaring Gerard Butler kicking a dude into a bottomless pit to change your mind.
DC Comics confirmed yesterday that the superhero who'll be rebooted this month as a gay character — is "gayboot" a thing yet? — is Alan Scott, the Green Lantern. The reveal will happen in an upcoming issue of Earth 2. That's "The Green Lantern" as opposed to just "Green Lantern." I know what you're thinking — can't we stop labeling people and just accept everybody for the special, shining lanterns they are? Totally. But here’s why the "The" is pertinent.
Over the weekend, from the dais at a comic book convention in London, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio revealed that as part of an ongoing reboot of its entire line, DC plans to change the sexual orientation of a preexisting character. Then, yesterday, the other biggest comic book company on earth, Marvel Comics, announced — on The View, no less! — that their first openly gay superhero, Northstar, would marry his boyfriend in an upcoming issue, because bigfooting the competition in the news cycle makes striking a blow for human rights that much sweeter.
The excellent Alex Pappademas, today on Grantland discussing the deeply strange DC reboot:
What the Joker Was Doing Naked In 1985, comics mostly competed with other comics; the four Batman #1s DC launched in September are competing for the attention of people who like Batman against the latest leaked footage from Christopher Nolan's next Batman movie on YouTube, with Batman games for Xbox and PlayStation, and the DC Universe Online MMORPG featuring Batman, and the Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and also all other comics, and girls, and the outdoors, where it is sometimes sunny. Obviously there are Batman diehards out there with the time and money to blow on all of the above, but the subtext is that DC no longer has the market cornered on the experience of Batman — and that comics in general no longer have the market cornered on the experience of superheroes, and that comics people should maybe be wondering if all these movies and video games and TV shows based on their work are actually making it easier for a generation of potential New Readers to leave comics alone. And yeah, most superhero movies are terrible — but a 14-year-old who digs superheroes these days is more likely than ever to have caught that bug in a way that bypasses print media entirely, and that evolution is only going one way. The New Reader myth says that rising water lifts all Bat-boats and the omnipresence of the Caped Crusader as a transmedia figure will somehow trickle down to comics. But to believe that you have to believe that screens can somehow lure people back to print. But ask anybody who used to work at a magazine how that's working out.
This weekend Warner Brothers will debut Green Lantern, a wildly hyped superhero epic that aims to do for DC Comics what Iron Man did for DC’s blood rival, Marvel: use a lesser-known property to establish a shared cinematic universe that will span multiple films, franchises, and corn chip flavors. The reportedly $300 million (!) movie is a test balloon that, with the right box office, could lead to a Justice League film and, with the company’s bigguns safely squared away in prestige projects, a day at the multiplexes for everyone from Aquaman to Klarion the Witch Boy.