DC FanDome Brings The DC Universe To Fans

 

We were robbed of Comic-Con this year thanks to the ongoing pandemic (the less said about their virtual convention, the better). However, comic book and DC fans were entreated to the virtual event DC FanDome which showcase all that is going on with the DC Universe in comics, film, TV, video games and much more.

There were many highlights in the virtual event and many avenues for fans to explore. Visiting the website, one could see there were different sections to view such as the Hall of Heroes, WatchVerse, KidsVerse, InsiderVerse, and so on. The most talked about highlights of course were the exclusive looks at the upcoming DC films and TV shows seen in the Hall of Heroes. For example, we were treated with a new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 and a glimpse at Wonder Woman’s chief villain, the Cheetah (a bit too CGish but that’s fine). Other clicks revealed the first look at the re-designed Flash suit for the upcoming film of the Scarlet Speedster. Looking at the sleeker suit, it is obvious the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) version of the Flash was clearly inspired by his brief encounter with The CW version of the Flash as seen in his cameo in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” TV crossover event. Frankly, the new suit is a great improvement as it looks more aerodynamic and befitting of the character.

There also was a lively panel of The Suicide Squad hosted by the film’s director, James Gunn. For the first time the roster of supervillains was revealed and what a motley crew! Leave it to Gunn to pick some of the most obscure and goofy villains for The Suicide Squad. Comic book speculators and collectors will have their hands full trying to hunt down the comics that debuted the likes of the Polka-Dot Man or the Weasel. The panel itself was quite funny and gives fans who were disappointed by the previous Suicide Squad that the sequel will be injected with James Gunn’s humor and be reverant to the original comic book as he promised in the panel.

The suicide squad panel

Director Zack Snyder presided over a presentation of his original vision for Justice League. Featuring appearances from the film’s stars like Ben Affleck (who made news recently when it was revealed he would reprise his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming film, The Flash) and Henry Cavill, who looked really buffed out–a hint that he will return to the DCEU as Superman? After taking questions from fans who championed for his original cut, Zack Snyder unveiled a teaser trailer for Justice League. What stood out is the huge amount of original footage including a new and better version of Steppenwolf, Darkseid and Superman in his black suit. With a running time of four hours, the original vision of Justice League promises to be a true superhero epic.

The other big movie news was the premiere trailer for next year’s film The Batman. What can be said that has not already been written online about this first look at the new Batman film? As it has been said everywhere, this film looks awesome. Easily one of the most anticipated films next year, The Batman seems to be a spiritual successor to the Christopher Nolan Batman films, especially Batman Begins. The film looks gritty and promises to be more of a crime thriller peppered with intimidating scenes with the Caped Crusader.

Aside from giving us previews and first looks at upcoming property, DC FanDome was a celebration of all things DC. The event showcased brilliant and imaginative fan art and cosplayers, which captured the spirit of past conventions. Visitors got to see how influential and widespread DC was as videos showcased fans and creators from all over the globe. The Celebration of DC Pets was really cute, by the way. It was impressive to see how DC captured our imagination. DC FanDome also took time to celebrate the rich and vast history of DC with clips and images from past incarnations of its superheroes and villains.

On a technical level, there were the usual technical glitches that we are all experiencing these days with our Zoom meetings and other video calls, but for the most part, the event went off smoothly and was slickly produced. Their online store, there should have had more variety of merchandise because the only thing on sale were different kinds of t-shirts. But fans were able to read online comics and check out all the things related to DC, whether it be the latest with the DCEU or the thrilling video game Gotham Knights.

The DC FanDome was a great success and was actually better than what could have been done at Comic-Con. For a long while, Comic-Con was too exclusive as tickets to the yearly event were rare and expensive and frustrated nearly all of the fan community who were not privy to view first looks at trailers or concept art. We were forced to scour online for amateur videos taken at Hall H for just a glimpse or an upcoming film. The way DC FanDome was done should be continued in the future and can be done by other companies (hint, hint Marvel) as a way to better reach fans.

Michael Keaton Returns As Batman?

Well this is a big surprise: Michael Keaton is in talks with DC and Warner Bros. Studios to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne aka Batman in the upcoming DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film The Flash. Even more surprising is that this version of Batman will be the same version seen decades ago in the original Tim Burton films, Batman and Batman Returns.

Of course, the big question among fans is how is this possible? There is already a Batman (portrayed by Ben Affleck) in the DCEU that does not mesh with the continuity of the Burton films. The best and most likely answer has to be the appearance of the Keaton Batman must be due to the Flashpoint event shown in the DC comics and The Flash TV show where Barry Allen aka the Flash runs fast enough to time travel and changes history, In this story, Barry Allen prevents his mother’s murder and his reality changes. This event led to last decade’s reboot of the DC Universe, the New 52.

This event could be used to allow the Flash to travel through different realities or the multiverse as shown in the Arrowverse crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, which aired earlier this year and where the TV version of the Flash met the DCEU incarnation played by Ezra Miller. There are already rumors the film will show that encounter from the viewpoint of the Miller version of the Flash. In fact, the Burton Batman universe was briefly seen in the crossover event during a montage in the first episode. Perhaps the Flash will be visiting other multiverses in a much higher scale *meaning a larger production budget that can afford cameos by A-list actors) than seen in the TV event. It is unknown what will be the extent of Keaton’s appearance but it’s unlikely he will have a huge role but will hopefully be more than a glorified cameo. This also gives validity to the fan theory that The Flash will be used to rewrite the DCEU and replace certain actors and retcon what has happened in previous DCEU films, just as Flashpoint rebooted the DC Universe in the comic books.  However, there are also rumors that the Keaton Batman will appear in other DCEU films in a similar connecting fashion as Agent Coulson or Nick Fury did for the MCU films. Exactly how this will pan out if this Batman will be the original Keaton Batman remains to be seen.

On the other hand, this may not come to pass and either the Keaton Batman will play a small role in an altered reality that mentors the Flash or Michael Keaton may change his mind or someone else will be tapped to fill in the role. Is Christian Bale willing to talk to Warner Bros. about this? Even seeing George Clooney as Bruce Wayne for a cameo would be awesome! It would be terrific if other big name actors who played DC heroes in the past could appear in The Flash. This would be perfect for Ryan Reynolds to come back as Green Lantern and leave a better impression with the role or if the film could somehow incorporate elements from the Christopher Reeve Superman films. 

The important thing to remember is that this is supposed to be a film about the Flash, not the DC multiverse. As long as director Andy Muschietti keeps the focus on Barry Allen and his story (and if the film actually gets made) then the film will be a phonemenal presentation of the Scarlet Speedster as he meets the other wondrous characters in the DC multiverse.

 

Crisis With The Arrowverse TV Shows

Lately, headlines announced some issue or another befallen one Arrowverse TV show after the other, and this gives the impression that  the Arrowverse TV shows are in trouble. It seems collectively, the superhero shows hit their peak earlier this year with the crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, and things largely went downhill from there.

This is just a broad generalization, some of the Arrowverse TV shows are doing fine, namely Black Lightning and Stargirl, but there is a sense that these superhero shows have run out of steam and feel dated.

The Hood

Arrow, the show the live-action DC superhero TV universe is named after, concluded its eight-season run earlier this year, just as it had found renewed energy. The reason the show ended was because the main actor who played Green Arrow, Stephen Amell, wanted to leave to resume a more normal life. For anyone, who doesn’t know, these shows are filmed in Canada, which requires the cast and crew to be away from their families. Arrow was justly celebrated when it ended, but there were questions of how the the Arrowverse would continue without its flagship show. Other shows like The Flash have eclipsed Arrow in terms of popularity and ratings, but the Arrowverse still seems empty without Green Arrow stalking around in the dark alleys telling bad guys “You have failed this city!”

Older, remaining Arrowverse shows such as The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl are running low on creativity. For the most part, the episodes and scripts are bland and uninspiring. The Flash ended its season with its main character no longer having his natural powers and his wife trapped in another dimension. But it was so dull and shrug inducing. The Flash has had problems in recent years with coming up with engaging villains and story arcs. For too long, the show relied on evil speedsters, but the new batch of villains are just blah. Then there is the undeniable fact that the actors seem bored and going through some drama, which will be covered shortly. It is just a shame, given the excitement most fans felt for the show and its lead character after the thrilling encounter between the TV version of the Flash with his DCEU counterpart during “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. The crossover event was supposed to provide a new spark of creative energy but very little has happened aside from some Flash villains being reimagined and not very well; although Lex Luthor’s revamping in Supergirl was interesting.  At the very least the meeting between the two Flashes rekindled interest in the upcoming movie version of the Flash.

Legends of Tomorrow is a mere shadow of its initial premise: C-list superheroes who time travel to get some respect. That is still there somewhere but it has been buried lately in these nonsensical magic-related plots and most of the original cast is gone. Some of the replacements are not very compelling, though to its credit Legends of Tomorrow does a decent job of being goofy and funny. Some episodes are very humorous and the show wisely figured out long ago not to take itself too seriously and embraced its comedic tone. However, other shows like Doom Patrol overshadowed Legends of Tomorrow by being quirkier and more insightful superhero shows.

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Arrow Hits Its Mark

“My name is Oliver Queen. I was stranded on an island with only one goal, survive. Now I will fulfill my father’s dying wish to use the list of names he left me and bring down those who are poisoning my city. To do this I must become someone else. I must become something else.” — Oliver Queen’s opening intro to Arrow, first season

The long-running superhero TV series Arrow just aired its final episode “Fadeout” on the CW. As series finales go, “Fadeout” was surprisingly well put together and a fitting conclusion to Arrow. The series had its ups and downs during its eight-season run but generally was a solid superhero show that introduced a larger DC universe that was appropriately dubbed the Arrowverse.

When Arrow premiered on October 2012, there was some trepidation over it. Some saw it as a weak version of Batman, specifically the Christopher Nolan version because of its initial grounded feel. Others unfairly complained Arrow’s version of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow was not the one played by Justin Hartley in Smallville. Keep in mind, Smallville ended its run a year earlier and it was hoped then that some spinoff would be created from that show. Instead the character was reimagined by Arrow’s showrunners, Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg.

The Hood

However, thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of actor Stephen Amell as the title hero and the shows’ supporting cast, Arrow quickly won over many viewers. Looking back, it made sense that the show had a grittier and less fantastical feel than standard superhero fare. Amell’s Green Arrow (first called “The Hood”) was an intense, no-nonsense hero who took no quarter. This enabled the showrunners to tell solid stories about crime and corruption in Oliver Queen’s Starling City and his quest to save his city.

Establishing A Universe

In many ways the sophomore season of Arrow was among its best with its ongoing story of Oliver Queen’s confrontation with Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, who was so well played by Manu Bennett. A distinctive feature of Arrow was its use of flashbacks in most episodes that interwove or were relevant with current storylines. The flashbacks during the show’s early days focused on Oliver’s adventures when he was marooned on the island Lian Yu. This structure paid off handsomely in the second season as we saw him first meeting and befriending Wilson on the island and how the two became bitter enemies. Meanwhile, the current storyline in the second season featured the return of Deathstroke and his machinations to destroy Queen and his city.

Naturally, as the show found its footing and gained in popularity, the DC universe was introduced. To Arrow’s credit this was done organically and not rushed. It started with blink-and-you-miss-them Easter eggs and the introduction of more superhuman-related plot devices like the strength-enhancing drug mirakuru or characters like Huntress, Deathstroke and later Barry Allen/The Flash. This introduction of the larger DC universe, as well as its driving plot lines helped propel the show’s popularity late into its first season and during its second.

While the show introduced viewers to the Flash (who was soon spun off into his own series), it also featured other distinctive DC Comics characters like Black Canary, Wild Dog, Ragman Batwoman, and Supergirl, who were often introduced in series crossover events or became important supporting characters.

One outstanding character was Queen’s confidante and best friend John Diggle (David Ramsey). Although Diggle was an original character, many speculated he was a stand-in for the Green Lantern, John Stewart. The showrunners teased fans with cloy Easter eggs throughout the show’s run such as the revelation that Diggle’s stepfather’s last name was Stewart. Finally, in the last few minutes of “Fadeout” it was shown that Diggle was on his way to becoming Green Lantern to the delight of many. However, do not expect more to be made of this. Even though Greg Berlanti is developing a Green Lantern series for the upcoming streaming app HBO Max, it is doubtful Ramsey will continue to play the role or that the show will be part of the Arrowverse. The best we can hope for is that Ramsey will reprise his role as Green Lantern in other Arrowverse shows like The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow. Incidentally, John Diggle is slated to appear in an upcoming episode of The Flash this season, but he won’t be Green Lantern.

Diggle finds green lantern ring

Another notable character introduced in the show was Ray Palmer/The Atom, who was played by Brandon Routh. When Brandon Routh was first announced to portray Palmer, it seemed like stunt casting since he portrayed Superman in Superman Returns. This casting turned out to resurrect Routh’s career as he was promoted to the show lead in Legends of Tomorrow and excelled in his performance as the goofy scientist. As many know, Routh’s redemption came full circle when he reprised his role as Superman in the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse crossover event.

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The Fallout From Justice League

Come together

This was not how things were supposed to turn out for Warner Bros. and DC. Justice League, the culmination of the studio’s version of their own shared cinematic universe, is not getting the reception they were expecting. The film’s main selling point was the fact that it featured the long-awaited teamup of DC Comics’ greatest superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. However, its opening weekend take was only $94 million, the lowest for any film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It’s being ravaged by critics and it’s not drawing in the numbers it should be. Now, Justice League’s weak performance brings up a very important question, where does the DCEU go from here?

DCEU’s Uncertain Status

It is foolish to think plans for the DCEU will continue as if anything is wrong. Something has to change. Surely, Warner Bros. executives are taking a long, hard look at their superhero franchise and determining how viable it is. Expect announced films to be canceled, new personnel, and other radical changes to the DCEU, including a reboot.

The DCEU will not suddenly go away. Right now, Aquaman has finished filming and is slated for next year. Then a sequel for the successful Wonder Woman will certainly be made given Wonder Woman is the DCEU’s biggest hit. A Shazam film is also slated to begin filming next year to join the Wonder Woman sequel for release in 2019.

An Aquaman solo film…dig it

After that things get murky. There will be a Batman solo film directed by Matt Reeves, but that has been mired in controversy. Originally, Ben Affleck was to direct and star in The Batman, but the actor/director has had a falling out with Warner Bros. and first it was announced that he would only star in The Batman. That began the Internet rumblings that he would vacate the role, which is too bad since he is quite good as Batman. Adding fuel to the fire are Affleck’s recent statements suggesting that he is ready to move on from the role. At this point, it may be easier for DC and Warner Bros. to set the film apart from the DCEU.

Affleck’s swan song?

To date, there aren’t any solid plans to give Superman a sequel to Man of Steel and it’s unknown if it will ever happen. Henry Cavill, who portrays Superman, is contracted for one more film and it is possible that Warner Bros. and DC may just have him appear in someone else’s film before recasting the role. It is a shame because Cavill, like Affleck, has done an excellent job in portraying the superhero, but it is not the end of the world. As we saw with Spider-Man it is fairly easy to replace actors, though overall, it is regrettable that we may never see a full evolution of Superman into a beacon of hope as shown in the end of Justice League.

Other projects with uncertain fates include Batgirl, Gotham City Sirens, Green Lantern Corps, Cyborg and a Suicide Squad sequel. Given the problems Warner Bros. has had with its core superheroes it may be best to put those projects on hold so they can right their cinematic ship.

A Flashpoint To The Future

On a related note, a Flash solo film has been stuck in development hell for years as writers and directors join then leave the project. Most recently, the film is supposed to be an adaptation of the Flashpoint mini-series where the Flash time travels and resets the DC Universe. Using this storyline would give Warner Bros. a convenient way of rebooting the DCEU, but the story, with its alternate takes on characters and situations, sounds expensive and may go over the heads of casual viewers. It would be easier for the film studio to just do a hard reboot without any explanation. This has worked in the past for other franchises, and the one instance where time travel was used to reboot a franchise was Star Trek and it left fans with a bad taste.

Flash to the reboot/rescue?

One option for the studio is to repeat what happened with Wonder Woman. The solo film was set in the past and largely apart from the DCEU. Reportedly, the sequel will also take place in the past and this example could be a way to ease out of the DCEU. The same thing can be done with Aquaman and Shazam; remove references to the DCEU and focus on the characters. That is why Wonder Woman succeeded. Concentrate on solo films with little to no references to a larger universe and let the shared universe grow organically.

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