As a comic expert my friends regularly ask me about the WHYs and WHOs in superhero movies and about stuff they didn‘t understand. That’s fun! I can explain something, my friends learn and maybe eventually get interested in the comics. The other day one of the kids (12 years old) that are regularly attending the playroom in our local comic shop asked me, if I could help him finding the right Batman comics for him. He saw The Dark Knight Rises and now wants to find out more about the comic characters. It was hard for me recommending him the right Batman series. I am not into Batman that much, because I find him a bit boring. HUH, look at me, I wear a black suit and dress up as a bat! CROISSANT! Additionally he is only 12. Telling him to read Detective Comics where the Joker cuts off his face in the end of issue #1 didn‘t seem suitable to me at all.
After all German New 52 Batman is a special case. The US has like 3 major Batman series: Batman, Detective Comics and The Dark Knight. PANINI decided to release Batman and Detective Comics in one ongoing series. They started with the first 8 issues of Detective Comics (two US issues in each German issue). When the first story arc will be done, German Batman issue #5 released in October will bring the first two issues of Batman. And that’s what I recommended to my young friend.
Some days later PANINI twittered that they had to reprint the first German issue of Batman. They were really happy about it because it’s the first time that a single floppy had to go into a second printing because of a high demand.
I see two reasons for that risen demand:
1) The New 52: Even German comic book retailers sell more DC books than ever. With the rebooted universe everybody can easily get into the comics without knowing pretty much anything about the characters. I regularly see that in our local comic shop. Not that they didn‘t sell any US comics before. But I see more US comic books there than anytime before.
2) Secondly and I guess the most importantly: The Dark Knight Rises. People are into Batman more than ever. Batman is cool and kickass again. So people want to see the original material! And the reboot makes that very easy. I think it is a fortunate coincedence that the new Batman movie and the new Batman #1 were released around the same time.
It is the same with the Avengers. When we went seeing that movie in the end of April my friends asked me about the comics. They immediatly noticed that there was no Green Hulk on the current comic team anymore. They got confused by General Ross aka Red Hulk a lot. I explained that the comics were much more advanced in story and universe building and the movie was just the start to create a movie universe that doesn‘t have to do anything with the comics. In October Germany also will get the new Avengers comic book called Avengers Assemble which focusses on the team featured in the movie. I pulled it and even made a friend of mine to pull it, too! He started reading comics through the Avengers. He also reads the German run of Avenging Spider-Man because of the Avengers that appear in the series. So the superhero movies also create customers for the comic market.
But what do we have on DC’s side of the movie market: Nolan’s Batman (3 movies), Green Lantern, a cheesy Superman and another one that will be a reboot. DC was planning to do a JLA movie now and then and after the Avengers movie blasted through the roof they sort of eventually decided to go into production… sometimes in the future. Comic fans all over the world argue that you can‘t make a movie containing characters only known by comic geeks.
I think DC and Warner Bros. have two ways they could go here:
1) Slowly start making movies about different members of the JLA: Movie goers have to be introduced to Wonder Woman, Flash and the other guys in order to understand the DCU. But that means DC has to give people time seeing and sort of digesting their superhero movies. Marvel started with Iron Man many years ago to slowly build up their movie universe. I don‘t think that DC has that much time left to do that. The next Avengers movie will be released around 2015 and by that time DC needs to have their JLA movie done to be competitive. So they could also use the second way.
2) Introduce the other characters on the fly. How? Everybody knows Superman and Batman, some saw the Green Lantern movie. Some even might remember Wonder Woman. But just somebody ask who Aquaman or the Flash are. Print a picture of the Martian Manhunter and show it to your friends. They will go like, Stop showing me your weird alien hentai! Even the existence of 4 (soon even 5) human Green Lanterns distracts my friends. So I keep explaining the difference between Hal Jordan and for example Guy Gardner (which I had to do while reading the first trade of Justice League International in the comic shop). Even here we have two different ways:
2.1) They could use a rebooted Batman movie and a second Superman: Man of Steel movie to lead into a JLA adventure. They could hide hints to other JLA members in those movies by talking about them. Maybe by cameos or by showing a news item in the Daily Planet talking about for example the Flash. I don‘t think that a whole movie about the Flash would attract enough movie goers. I actually think Flash is one of the most boring DC characters ever. So people seeing the JLA movie might have already heard about him and the others when they are finally shown.
2.2) Another way would be a brief introduction of each hero in the JLA movie itself. There is a animated feature from 2009 called Justice League: Secret Origins which does it that way. I think it was a TV special for the animated TV series Justice League: Unlimited. The movie is about an invasion by White Martians that Superman and Batman are dealing with. Quickly the rest of the JLA joins them and everybody gets a brief introduction. Wonder Woman is shown taking her costume and armor on Themiscyra, Green Lantern (John Stewart) and Hawkgirl (who are a couple in the animated TV series) arrive together, J‘Onn J‘Onzz is kept in a secret government prison and Superman frees him. The whole introduction takes the first 30 minutes of the movie and is done alongside the first big battle. So it happens really naturally. Superman is handicapped through the lack of sunlight and Batman vanishes for a longer time so the other members of the JLA get enough screentime to be presented. All further introduction is done by dialogues between the characters. So for example Hawkgirl explains her origin to Superman while they are fighting in an alien base.
To fit the movie to the New 52 they should change the team a lot: So John Stewart should be replaced by the already introduced Hal Jordan, Hawkgirl should be replaced by Cyborg and they need to add Aquaman to the roster. I could even imagine an Aquaman movie to be released before the JLA movie. I didn‘t read any of the New 52 Aquaman comics, but the series got great ratings by both readers AND critiques. Add some Fourth World stuff and you would have a story close to the first JLA comic arc! Justice League: Secret Origins is only 60 minutes long. Nowadays feature live-action movies are more than two hours long, so they would have enough time to introduce all characters, develop some relationship between them, show some arguement and a decent story.
There are rumors that Ben Affleck is about to direct the JLA movie. I don‘t like him neither as an actor nor as an director. But at this really early moment it’s pointless to talk about a director for a JLA movie. It isn‘t even fully sure if DC and Warner are actually doing this movie. But they should use a combination of ways 2.1 and 2.2 to do it. Marvel is one movie ahead and is even going to expand their movie universe with at least (Gi)Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Deadpool is rumored to come soon. So DC has to hurry.
But they have to dare to do it. DC and Warner are much better in doing animated Direct-to-DVD/Bluray movies. Marvel tries doing that from time to time but their big feature movies are much better at this moment of time. The New 52 has shown how much potential the new DC stories have. DC always had the better stories, while having the lamer heroes, at least in the opinion of most Marvel fans. A series of awesome, connected DC movies could change that opinion.
Follow the little tasty CROISSANT!!!