Building a Comic Book Universe

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avengersOne of the things you may have noticed while visiting this blog is that I love Superheroes. In just about any shape or size. I’ll watch any film or TV show about them, and though I haven’t had the opportunity to do a lot of comic book reading, I am currently working my way through quite a bit of Marvel’s back catalog via their Unlimited service (which I highly recommend if you’re interested in reading a lot of the older comics).

One of the things I love most about Marvel films is the joined Marvel Cinematic Universe. When I first started realizing it was happening, I was so excited about the originality of the idea. To take so many different franchises and combine them into one universe – it was unheard of, yet made so much sense. I loved watching the films and picking out all the Easter Egg-type references to the other characters and movies. It also amazed me how long Marvel must have been planning this in order for it to work.

The world building within the MCU is one of the reasons large team movies like The Avengers are able to work. The audience has already been introduced to most of the characters in their separate movies (except for Hawkeye and Black Widow; when is that happening Marvel?) so there isn’t a lot of time needed to explain who these people are and where they’re coming from. Under normal circumstances putting that many stars and that many characters together shouldn’t have worked so well, but it did.

This is also one of the reasons I’m so nervous about the DC Universe films. They’re attempting to build their Cinematic Universe the exact opposite way and throw as many characters as they can into Batman v Superman and see what happens; the cinematic version of throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. Even Suicide Squad could benefit from having a few of those characters show up in other films before all coming together at once. That’s a lot of stories to explain in just a two-hour period. I have some definite concerns about how it’ll all balance out.

flash arrowHowever, while I have concerns about DC’s big screen universe, they’re small screen universe on the CW has been expanding and appears to be doing everything correctly. While the MCU is definitely winning at the Box Office (in my opinion) I think they could learn a thing or two from DC as far as television goes. Don’t get me wrong – I love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, but I love them in a completely different way from the way I love The Flash and ArrowS.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, while good shows, don’t necessarily feel like comic book shows at all while The Flash and Arrow are terrific examples of a comic book show done right. With the introduction of Daredevil on Netflix, I think Marvel is finally starting to learn what makes a good comic book show, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the Netflix shows fit together, and how they interact within the larger MCU.

I love The Flash and Arrow, because they understand the concept of how building the stories separately makes it that much better when the heroes do come together. One of my favorite aspects of these shows is how connected they are – and I’m looking forward to seeing the overlap with Legends of Tomorrow next year as well. So often when a show is spun off from a series you can easily forget that they’re technically still a part of the same world. I think there was one three-way crossover between CSI, CSI:NY and CSI: Miami in the entire time they were all on the air together. That’s boring. I want to see these characters talking to each other once in a while, consulting on cases, etc.

The team behind CW’s DC Universe understands this. There’s frequent reference to each other, and frequent crossover, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. I also loved the episode of The Flash when Joe and Cisco went to Starling City. That rarely happens in other crossovers. In the CSI franchise, on CSI the Miami team would come to Vegas and then on the next episode of CSI: Miami, just Grissom would go to Miami. I’ve never seen any of the Chicago shows, but I suspect they have a much better understanding of the crossover than CSI did as well. When shows are from the same world, you want to see them interacting and living in that same world, not just going through the motions.

With the introduction of Legends of Tomorrow, they will probably be going in reverse and taking already existing characters to create a new show, but that’s okay. Because those characters have already been introduced individually elsewhere, so like Avengers the show will most likely be focused on te team coming together. I suspect we’ll be seeing even more groundwork laid for the show throughout next fall, before the series premieres midseason.

I haven’t heard anything yet about crossover potential for Supergirl and the CW DC shows, but since they’re all DC and produced by Greg Berlanti you have to consider the possibility (also, CBS and CW are owned by the same company). I think it would be fun to see Barry Allen show up in Supergirl, or vice versa. I’m also extremely disappointed we’ll never see that Arrow/Constantine crossover that was supposedly being discussed by producers and writers. I think Gotham should remain it’s own entity, however. Partly because I was extremely disappointed in that show and felt it didn’t live up to it’s potential. It’s probably the weakest of the DC properties on television, in my opinion.

If DC took it’s time and built their Cinematic Universe more like they’re building the television universe, I would be a lot more excited about their upcoming slate of movies.

3 thoughts on “Building a Comic Book Universe

    swanpride said:
    May 20, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I am not really convinced of DC’s TV-verse. Like with the movies, Marvel has a clear plan. ABC for family friendly shows which play in the “big league”, Netflix for the gritty, street-level heroes. Or, ABC for Shield and Netflix for the defenders. DC is kind of a mess. The CW verse is coming along nicely (even though the “CW-ness” of those shows is putting me off) but then there is Gotham which is apparently not connected to anything, Supergirl which might or might not be connected…it is confusing. I am also not convinced that the CW concept will work with the common CBS audience.

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      CJ Dawn responded:
      May 22, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      This is why I focused mainly on the CW shows, because they’re the ones that are connected and what they have done so far with that has worked very well. I don’t think the shows are too “CW.” In fact, with the exception of Supernatural, Arrow is probably one of the most mature shows on the channel. While both have good-looking casts, I think they do justice to the stories they tell without catering too much to CW’s stereotypical audience. As for Supergirl, I’m not sure there will be a direct crossover, but since Berlanti is producing it I’m sure there may at least be a few easter eggs to suggest it’s in the same universe as the CW shows.

      Don’t get me started on Gotham. It was a mess and I was extremely disappointed it did not live up to it’s potential. I still haven’t decided if I’m even giving it a second chance next year. Though with Fish gone, I might since hers was the storyline that seemed the most random and disconnected from the rest of the show.

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        swanpride said:
        May 22, 2015 at 3:37 pm

        After the pilot I suddenly realized that I don’t even want to know more about the batman villains.

        When I say “CW-ness” I mean love-triangles (in Arrow the love triangles have love-triangles), melodrama and at least one useless characters who is just there as love interest. Smallville had Lana Lang, Arrow had Laurel, Flash has Iris. Flash has waited longer for a lover-triangly scene than I thought they would, but that’s mostly because Barry isn’t the type for sleeping around. But Arrow? In this show the love triangles have love triangles. Oliver has a love triangle with everyone on the show with the exception of relatives and Diggle.

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