Sometime in the last couple of weeks, I got to see The Flash and Green Arrow team up. There was playful banter, crossing of super hero teams, and clashes in physical and mental approaches to situations. In the big crossover event between CWs The Flash and Arrow, I got to see in live action what I’ve only seen in animated movies and comic books for DC characters. Marvel has been dominant with their franchise so far. They were first to get a team of heroes all on one screen to fight a larger threat and it was freaking awesome.
And I’m saying that as a DC fan. Since 2008, Marvel Studios has hammered down their connected universe and are even backed with Marvel movies from Fox and Sony. Even though not all of these movies are true cinematic gems, I still watched them, I probably enjoyed them, and then they all made lots of money.
So where’s DC in all of this? 2008 was the latest highpoint in the DC cinematic universe with the release of The Dark Knight. We got Green Lantern, The Dark Knight Rises, and Man of Steel, but let’s be honest, no one holds a close enough candle to say Avengers, Captain America 2, and more recently Guardians of the Galaxy. And comparitively, Marvel and the affiliated studios have been releasing up to three movies a year vs. Warner Bros./DC’s 1.
So all in all the cinematic candle won’t come close until 2016 when DC finally kicks off its connected cinematic universe with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And they still might not come close. But action stews further away from the silver screen. But what about the smaller screen candle?
DC has taken to television before. Besides animated favorites like Justice League, Teen Titans, and Young Justice, shows like Smallville, The Flash (1990), and Birds of Prey were somewhat popular. But now in this age of where superhero and comic book based media isn’t lame anymore, DC has really let their shows fly and their audiences with them.
The CW Network aka The DC Channel
Flash and Arrow have exploded in popularity. Arrow took a risk in trying to be a grounded, melodramatic, superhero show with emphasis on their beautiful cast and reliance on love triangles. The show really started coming into its own after the first half of season 1 and really became an exciting powerhouse throughout season 2. The show started to leave its grounded nature as it dove into supernatural elements that you wouldn’t have imagined they would eventually arrive at kept at the season 1 track.
Queue the entrance of Barry Allen, known to many fans as The Flash. Sheerly introducing him, audiences put a great emphasis on whether or not he would have his powers, fully realizing that Arrow is not set in grounded realistic universe the popular Nolan movies are set in, but rather the full blown comic book universe. And when Mr Allen was struck with lightning at the end of the first cross over episode, the internet exploded. It exploded so much that The Flash pilot was ordered after overwhelming popularity.
And then the pilot was leaked and everyone was shocked with the technical achievements so many were skeptical of. Barry’s speed was natural and convincing, the villains had (expensive) powers of their own, and we got to see a them fight. The world was unsure if the series could keep up the massive budget they laid out for themselves, but here we are after an amazing midseason finale where The Flash fought Reverse Flash, Firestorm flew, and time traveling is a perfectly acceptable answer for questions we’re posing. What a time we live in!
And we’re certainly not sourly spoiled with superpowers and metahumans. While Arrow is still fairly grounded in it’s own universe, that doesn’t stop the hammer from dropping hard in its own right. Arrow’s tendency to absolutely KILL it during their midseason and season finales was not haltered this midseason finale, even though you’d imagine Barry Allen fighting at 700+ mph with another speedster would take the cake. In season 3, introducing the likes of Ra’s al Ghul, the Lazarus Pit, and concepts of immortality are perfect for Arrow’s fine line between grounded characters and supernatural elements.
The Underdog Constantine
On NBC, we have Constantine, focusing on the fan favorite, chain-smoking, British anti-hero who fights demons. There is already a fair share of occult tv shows like Supernatural, Buffy, and Charmed. I’m not very experienced in these types of shows, but I’ll be honest and say that I’m very much enjoying what Constantine has had to offer so far. And the internet it behind me when I say that. NBC hasn’t treated Constantine kindly in the first half of the season, placing it in a dangerous time slot and cutting the episode number to 13, but the network has heard the outcries of its fans and have placed it in a new time slot in 2015, in hopes of reinvigorating the numbers.
It’s not a popular opinion, but I rather enjoyed the 2005 movie rendition of Constantine. And I’ve heard that it’s not uncommon to those unfamiliar with the source material. Occult types of things always interested me, but I never got into shows like Supernatural or Buffy simply because the episode number was overwhelmingly high. I was able to get a good start with a fresh tv series that just so happened to be based on a DC/Vertigo comic book.
Trouble in Gotham
Over at Fox, we have Gotham. Gotham is normally labeled as the Batman show without Batman. Focusing on younger renditions of Batman’s infamous villains gallery, Gotham is a show that holds promise. And right now that’s all it really does. It has yet to deliver on promise and every episode feels as though it’s 50% adequate cop drama at best and 50% blunt foreshadowing. The first 50% follows a young James Gordon, Batman’s future in at the Gotham Police Department, as he tries to save Gotham via procedural cop drama. You’ll find your standard “solving cases against police chief wishes”, “older cop telling him he can’t change the system”, and “pretty wife gets abducted for being stupid”.
The other 50% will be constantly reminding you that this is a Batman based story. We’ll have a younger Catwoman trying to be seductive (which is a little unsettling for newcomer 15 year old Camren Bicondova), Edward Nigma aka The Riddler, having various question mark paraphernalia and speaking in riddles, and a young Bruce Wayne who you can’t possibly believe becomes one of the most iconic and badass characters in comic book history. But he’ll constantly remind you that he wants to learn to fight and that Gotham is worth trying to save. Most of these characters are written so bluntly, that it’s barely fun to point out the obviousness of whenever we see Harvey Dent’s profile half obscured by shadow. Of this half of the show, the silver lining seems to be Robin Taylor Lord’s The Penguin, whose motives and actions are so unpredictably fun, that it actually brings new life to a rendition of Penguin we’re not normally seen (what comes to mind is Danny Devito’s grotesque version).
Though as I mentioned it shows promise, and it might be the most popular show of these versions, despite being my least favorite. People can’t stop watching it for some reason. And I hold onto it showing promise is because it might be like Arrow. Stumbling with it’s initial direction, but still setting up enough excitement where it has the ability to drop the mic when it’s ready.
Lack of Connected Universes
Unlike Agents of Shield, all of these television universes have been (mostly) confirmed to not be linked with the DC Cinematic Universe. Ezra Miller’s confirmed casting of the Flash mostly debunked the theory, along with testimonies from the cast of Arrow. But how cool would it have been if during one of Arrow’s episodes, the Zod speaking to Earth scene through televisions, was included. Like the whole gang suddenly gets their stuff hacked and Michael Sheen’s “You are not alone” monologue started. Yeah that would have been absolutely crazy! But it’s not the case. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Let’s take a look at who Oliver Queen of Arrow has been able to fight with or against: Deathstroke, Huntress, Amanda Waller, Ras al Ghul, Katana, Solomon Grundy, Wildcat, Arsenal, and so many more! What if a planned TV connection had to hold these characters back. What if Arrow was forever banished to fighting C or D-list villains because Warner Bros said, Ras al Ghul is going to be saved for Batman one day. Without a shared universe, Arrow can write for stakes as high as any Hollywood movie using any beloved TV villains.
Now I don’t watch Marvel’s Agents of Shield, but I generally get that it follows Agent Phil Coulson as he leads Shield from within. And I’ve heard that events from Captain American 2, Thor the Dark World, and Avengers 2 will play significant roles and that’s a really cool notion! I’ve heard that it was a big deal for Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Jaime Alexander’s Lady Sif, and Cobie Smulders’s Maria Hill were big cameos/guests for the show…Now Nick Fury is a big deal, but let me say that again, Thor’s back up girlfriend and lady Nick Fury were also headliners as guest stars…these aren’t exactly game changers by any means. Maybe A.O.S. can muster from the depths compelling, fan-favorite, villains that wouldn’t be reserved for the high profile movies and that’s great if they’ve been able to do that in their 2 successful seasons so far. But I enjoy the fact that I’ll know CW’s The Flash won’t hold back on showing us Flash’s best villains like Gorilla Grodd and Professor Zoom simply because they’d make good movie villains first.
There are several other DC shows down the pipe. Syfy is coming up with a prequel Man of Steel show, Krypton, based on the Superman’s home world before it blows up with the birth of Kal-El. CBS has a Supergirl tv show in the works starring Kara-El, Superman’s pluckier and more angsty cousin. And TNT has Titans in the works, a show circling around the Teen Titans, an organization of superhero side kicks and youngsters with powers. Even Marvel additionally has a Daredevil show and Powers show in the works. How will all these shows fair? I don’t know, and maybe the network is becoming over saturated with superhero TV…Oversaturated to casuals for sure. But to someone like me, I’m living in an absolute dream. Here I am writing about 10+ simultaneous television shows based on comic books or superheroes. What a time to be alive in.