Panels and Screens

This Friday, Iron Man 2 will begin showing in thousands of movie theaters across the U.S. and will continue its run abroad. This installment may be the 2nd of this specific series, but it actually the 3rd in what will be a 6 film Marvel Universe series by 2013. These plans have existed since the early stages of Iron Man’s development and are part of Disney/Marvel’s plan to dominate the genre in film. Though it is yet unconfirmed, recent reports also indicate that the upcoming Batman, Green Lantern and Superman films (all of which to also be released by 2013) may follow suit, creating a film DC Universe as well. There are two questions that must be addressed. First, is it possible to create such a universe and have it be cohesive enough to function and second, is it a good idea to create such a universe. I admit, this won’t be based on much information, just speculation, but if there is any type of story I have a firm grasp on, it’s these. That said, LET THE SPECULATIOOOOON BEGIN!

So, in the first 2 films in the Marvel Universe series (Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk), the following seeds of this film universe were planted:

  1. Both films made heavy references to the existence of “super” tech in World War II, in the Hulk film, they even acknowledge the super-soldier program which Captain America would have come out of.
  2. Both films acknowledge the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D., who, in this universe, are seeking out super heroes for an “Avengers Initiative” which is named specifically in Iron Man.
  3. Nick Fury briefly acknowledges that there are other superheroes in the world in Iron Man.
  4. The military uses Stark technology to fight the Hulk.

Though it does not seem like much, points 1 and 2 will serve to unify both the existing and future stories, and admit to a world that is not our own. This hopefully will reach the audience as this admittance is essential to any expansion of these ideas, the expansion that will likely happen in The Avengers film scheduled for 2012.

DC is a lot rougher, the 2 Batman films which would potentially be part of this continuity were not written with other films in mind. That said, there are some thematic elements that a writer could exploit. The aforementioned super tech exists in the Batman films, and has been used by hero and villain alike. You could always say that Luthor had been competing with Wayne or that Batman got his new Bat-Wing from Ferris aircraft. It’s not much, but it is something. Additionally, the transition from traditional crime to “super crime” has already occurred, Gotham has at least 2, though some claim 3, super villains alive and active. A writer could easily make Batman the first public superhero and therefore spin the occurrences in Gotham into a global phenomenon.

While both of these universes seem feasible, there seems to be one character in each that will be a challenge. Marvel’s basic continuity at this time revolves almost exclusively around military technology. This has already worked for Iron Man and Hulk, and is tailor-made for the upcoming Captain America film. With Thor…not so much. It should be very interesting to see how they intend to present a story of hammers and sorcery, and then ask the general public to accept him fighting along side a human jet and a super soldier. DC’s problem is Batman. As acknowledged before, the first 2 films were not written with any acknowledgement of a bigger universe. More importantly, it is going to be very hard to convince the audience that Batman can exist with Superman across the country, not to mention The Green Lantern, The Flash and Ambush Bug…nobody? It might even take a direct explanation, like Batman being all angry and not wanting Superman in HIS city. Regardless of method, it has to be addressed.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten obsessed with thinking if we could, let’s slow down and think about if we should. Movies are very restrictive for comic book characters. Not only does the origin need to be told before moving on, but time restrictions have a huge impact on the stories that can be told. The best example of this is The Dark Knight. Even at a running time of just over 2 and a half hours, the film barely squeezes in what would be a standard comic book story arc. This has a lot to do with how comic book stories are structured. Instead of a standard 3 acts, comics have multiple, escalating climaxes. This forced the writers of The Dark Knight to give the film a frantic pace, one that I am sure would not work with a lesser director. Not only this, but as my friend Bob has pointed out, the story they are able to tell is pretty mundane as far as most comics are concerned. The reason I explained this structure is because when you are creating a film universe, you are implying that the types of stories executed in comics will now be executed in film. The problem I see with this is that comic books allow for the character to develop on there own over long periods of time. Rushing them into encounters with other leads may not allow for this development and ultimately leave the character in a sort of weakened state (yeah, I just called Hollywood a bunch supervillans who steal powers). Part of the reason the comic book Batman can stand next to the comic book Superman is because he is such a strong, well developed character. The powers of Superman do not detract from what that media’s audience already knows about Batman. Though there are plenty of people who do not need justification, either out of indifference or knowledge of the source material, it may not be responsible story telling to throw Captain America in with Thor the second time you see either of them.

Regardless of how this all ends up, I have faith the journey will be fun. A lot of very talented people are working on all of these films and I will certainly get to see some moments I have been imagining in my head since I was 8. Please share your thoughts on this topic. This entry was originally intended to be much shorter, but I didn’t realize how much thought I had already put into it. Oh well.

I am Iron Man,




Filed under Comic Book, Film

2 responses to “Panels and Screens

  1. Vinny,

    This is eerily similar to an article I am writing this month for the magazine and film series that I work for. When the article/magazine is published I’ll send you a copy.

    That being said, I think DC has a far tougher job to do than Marvel. Marvel characters, by and large, are people first and superheroes second whereas. This will allow audiences to connect with the characters better and be more willing to go along for the ride with all the super heroics leading up to the Avengers. DC has a long way to go and I am not entirely sure Chris Nolan would want to tie his series in with the other heroes… however his godfathering the Superman reboot may change his ideas a bit.

    One thing that DC/Warner has is Geoff Johns who I trust with making the DC Universe more accessible to new readers. Plus, you could speculate that Green Lantern may be DC’s real push to mimic Marvel. Hal Jordan and Tony Stark have a wealth of character similarities, specifically their humor, cockiness, impulsiveness all make them enormously relatable because they exhibit very human flaws. These traits I think could win over audiences and be the start of a JLA team building.

    The real question is how DC will bring everyone together… Marvel has Nick Fury and SHIELD… DC has Wonder Woman, Batman, and Supes calling the shots. I think how they tie everyone together without a film from any of those 3 setting things up will be DC’s biggest challenge.

    As far as Thor goes, I read an interview with Kenneth Branagh where he said that he is using Wings of Desire as an influence on how to bridge the gap between two very different worlds in the Thor movie. I don’t know about you, but that sounds ridiculously promising. Plus, I am sure that the film is going to borrow a lot from Ultimates. Perhaps few in the real world will think he is really the God of Thunder as was the case throughout much of Ultimates and especially Ultimates 2. My guess is Fury will recognize the potential, or at least SHIELD will, that no matter if he is superhuman or an actual god, SHIELD could use him. Just something to think about.

    At any rate, I am very excited by all of what Marvel is doing. And Joss Whedon directing The Avengers seems like a dream.


  2. thevinnym

    I guess great minds think alike Rob. The one thing I disagree with is your proposed order of command ( that’s the best way I can think to put it at the moment) in the DCU. I’m actually going to discuss that (amongst other things) in my next piece on here as the types of characters moving around the DCU are inherently different than those in the Marvel U.
    Thanks for commenting!

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