I hear there used to be a strange time when film and TV adaptations of comic properties existed to boost sales of comic books.
Today, the exact opposite is the case.
Not to say comic books are dying, but the exposure for monuments DC Comics and Marvel Comics these days is coming from the multimillion-dollar blockbusters that dominate the box office every year and the ever-expanding collection of television series based on the properties.
As any passionate fan could probably tell you at length, DC and Marvel are like night and day and have their own distinct appeals (and — for god’s sake — yes, it’s ok to like both). So, whereas the decision to keep TV and film apart may work for one house, it may be the wrong decision for the other.
Marvel needs to come together (right now, over me)
Starting with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2013, Marvel started putting those handy Disney/ABC connections to use with the Joss Whedon-led spin-off and its pseudo-companion piece, Agent Carter.
Even more successful was the move to develop Marvel’s grittier, street-level heroes into their own group of series on Netflix. After the overwhelming success of Daredevil‘s two seasons and Jessica Jones, the Marvel/Netflix team is going full-steam ahead with Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher and more seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, with the group uniting for The Defenders in the middle.
With the exception of the upcoming X-Men show Legion, all of these series have shared one thing in common: they are deeply tied to the Marvel film universe.
The whole hook for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it premiered was the return of Agent Coulson after his demise in The Avengers. The show then went on to base many of its plotlines around the fallout from major events in the films — the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, the Sokovia Accords, etc.
Agent Carter follows a character established from the film sector and lays the groundwork for things to come in the movies, despite the show’s unfortunate cancellation.
Meanwhile, the invasion of New York at the end of Avengers is the catalyst for the criminal turmoil we see in Hell’s Kitchen in Daredevil (referred to as “the incident” by those characters) and plays a big part in the rise of street-level superheroes in the MCU.
The links on the TV side of Marvel to the films are strong. And on the flip side? Radio silence.
Marvel film has done all but nothing to acknowledge what’s happening with TV, much to the annoyance of some of the people working on the TV side.
For all we know, there could have been plans to bring TV into the mix at one point, but the events of last summer presumably halted those plans. Shortly after the release of Ant-Man, Marvel film chief Kevin Feige pulled a coup and split from Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter. The split came after several years of reported frustration on Feige’s end regarding Perlmutter’s well-documented stinginess.
Feige now reports directly to Disney CEO Bob Iger, while Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb is still under Perlmutter.
For now, neither side seems to want anything to do with each other. And in many instances, that would be fine letting each division go their separate ways. But that’s not the case here. Film isn’t reliant on TV but the television side hitched its wagon to the film division, big time. It’s a shared universe between the two but only one side is taking part in the sharing.
I don’t think I’d lose any sleep if nothing in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. matters but it seems like a real waste that great characters like Daredevil, The Punisher, and Jessica Jones don’t get to join the bigger picture just because two studio head honchos don’t play nice together.
Thankfully, we may be on track for a solution, as the Russo Brothers recently spoke about keeping the door open for The Defenders and other Netflix heroes to join their upcoming superhero extravaganza, Avengers: Infinity War.
How they plan to reconcile their brutal anti-heroes with their more wholesome mainstays is the next step, but it’s a much better option to have them appear together than not at all.
The same can’t really be said for the other side because…
DC developed separately.
Smallville was a major, longstanding step in making DC TV a known presence but it was the premiere of Arrow on The CW in 2012 that began DC’s own legitimate extended universe on TV, nicknamed the “Arrowverse.”
Starting with the introduction of The Flash in the show’s second season, the Scarlet Speedster’s backdoor pilot successfully opened the door for the group of interconnected shows we have today.
Around the same time as Arrow‘s premiere, the DC comics film division at Warner Bros. had just finished Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, was still recovering from Green Lantern flopping the summer before, and was waiting with high hopes for Man of Steel to be a smash hit that would launch the studio’s own extended film universe.
In short, they did not have their ducks in a row then. The success of The Avengers that summer made them desperate to try and rush their own connected film universe together, with many failed attempts.
Not that they have shown themselves to be especially well-composed today, but DC film at least has something to work with now and hopes are high they can improve. It only took them four years. The TV side was simply ready much earlier — thanks to actual planning — and made the right call by not trying to avoid the same characters as the films would ultimately use.
By not having any explicit ties to each other, TV and film are free to forge their own paths and don’t feel obligated to cross over with each other. It feels right in this instance to have two different Superman, Deathstroke and Flash iterations (among others) because they can serve different purposes in their mediums.
Plus, on a whole new level of nerdiness, DC has always dabbled in different Earths/realities so it’s only fitting really to think of the DCEU movies as one reality and the shows on The CW as another.
And, on a practical level, the film half of DC could use all the time it can get to relax and figure things out, lest we get another Suicide Squad.