Warner Bros is going all in on the comic book game. CEO Kevin Tsujihara announced today that Warner Bros will be attempting to release 12-14 movies a year, and “the basis, foundation of those 12 to 14 pictures are going to be coming from DC Entertainment.” With the Hobbit trilogy still in production and the Harry Potter spinoff beginning development, it is probably time for Warner Bros to put out some original content. This does raise the question of whether they are ready to go toe-to-toe with Disney and the Marvel machine. I don’t think it’s a Highlander situation There can probably be more than one studio producing numerous comic book movies, but I’m not sure this is the best time to make that bet.
First of all there is DC’s recent track record of movies that aren’t about Batman. It’s shoddy at best. I didn’t like Man of Stell (at all). Watchmen was pretty good not amazing though. Oh god! The Green Lantern was like sticking hot peppers in your eyes while children make jokes about your life. Even if you hold these films in higher regard than I do, there is still a stunning lack of variety in the structure and imagery of the DC movies. They need to hire someone whose only job is to write cinematic climaxes that don’t level entire cities. That alone would make a huge difference for them.
There is also the growing concern over blockbuster fatigue. Throughout this summer complaints have arisen that it’s all just too much. People can’t sit through this much big budget action every summer, and with the films slated for release the next few summers the inundation shows no signs of stopping. With public disdain for tentpole cinema on the rise, it seems like an inopportune moment to commit to large scale comic book movies. Just to be clear I think Marvel gets a pass on this issue because they established a continuous universe, a consistently excellent one before people started complaining about the overkill.
Last but certainly not least DC the comic book entity is not being looked upon so favorably right now. While the company has always been notoriously conservative, they’ve been particularly awful of late. I’ll let Sam Moggs over at Geekosystem explain. “First, J.H. Williams III and W.H. Blackman – the creative team behind the multiple-GLAAD-award-winning New 52 Batwoman comic – walked off their jobs, after the powers-that-be at DC refused to allow Batwoman to marry her female fiancé. The very same day, the comic conglomerate announced a contest wherein you can audition to be a DC artist by drawing Harley Quinn; of course, one of your Harley panels has to be of her naked, in a bathtub, about to commit suicide.” That is all pretty definitively subexcellent. Pair that with the growing popular consciousness with regards to comic books and you’ve got yourself a recipe for alienation.
How could DC be so out of touch? You might ask me that if you’re a reasonable person. Since you’re being so reasonable, I’ll tell you. The readership of DC’s New 52 is 93% male! They have no interest in courting fanbases outside of that demographic and as such appeal to the lowest common denominators of contemporary masculinity, gratuitous sex and violence (especially at the expense of women or LGBT people). I love me some sex and violence, don’t get me wrong, but to legislate certain types of sex as good or bad (banning the gay marriage plot) and bank on disturbing forms of violence (the Harley Quinn business) speak to a distressing degree of ignorance on the part of DC comics. I think in a society that is growing increasingly aware with regards to sexuality, and mental illness throwing in with DC is not necessarily a great idea. I hope as much as anyone that I’m wrong. A lot of my favorite comics come from DC (Etrigan, Hellblazer, Swampthing), and maybe the movies will handle these issues differently.
All I know is that right now this appears to be a desperate move on the part of Warner Bros to keep up with Disney, and one that may come back to bite them in the ass. What do y’all think? Am I being too hard on DC? Too easy on Marvel? Might this work? This is an important discussion I think. Let’s have it in the comments.