Missed Directions: DC Comics and the Future of Film and Television

From time to time, every decade or so, DC comes out with a decent rendition of one of its key creations in the medium of film or television. But, rarely, both at the same time. Or the same decade.

Now, some will disagree and I will honor that disagreement as a gentleman. Times and preferences change. My enthusiasm for re-runs of the 1960s Batman television series and Tim Burton’s big screen remake in 1989 did not translate into a passion for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins or The Dark Knight (though I acknowledge the compelling storytelling and artistry of both that keep fans wanting more). I even found Batman Forever psychologically compelling. And, yes, like many others I celebrated Christopher Reeve as the big-screen Superman and could even tolerate Brandon Routh in the role in the 21st century remake, Superman Returns. And despite its many, many flaws, I still love the 1980s big screen version of Supergirl with Helen Slater, Faye Dunaway and Peter O’Toole.

So what am I so concerned with the future of DC Comics and how they translate into the mediums of film and television?

The main reason is that it can be a great big or small screen rendition that can lead people back to the comics en masse. A poor rendition can have the opposite effect.

And while I prefer the term ‘remake’ to any of the other new terms that really mean remake, I grow concerned with the rapid pulse of ‘re-imaginings’ in the fantasy and science fiction world–with the exception of last year’s Star Trek. Marvel tried it with the Hulk and despite Edward Norton’s superior ‘reboot’ of Ang Lee’s filmic try (this time titled The Incredible Hulk), it came so soon after the previous reboot that it went almost unnoticed. I hope the same thing doesn’t happen with, say, Superman.

With Geoff Johns now the dominant creative force, for all intents and purposes, behind DC, I urge him and others when making film and TV deals to take into account looking at filmic and television translations of DC Comics properties not just as projects unto themselves, but as avenues for bringing new readers to comics and bringing old readers who have given up, back to comics.

Is the rumored choice of Christopher Nolan the right choice to direct a Superman re-boot? Is it even the right time for a Superman re-boot? Be careful with the live action Green Lantern film as it will come to define the character to the mass of people. I have a list of other warnings on DC properties as the folks at DC consider turning them into film and television shows. But, most of all, I encourage DC to exert as much compassion and control over the future of these most beloved characters as they become new film and television versions as they do over the comics each month. It may seem like it goes without saying, but the main thing is the main thing and the main thing is comics. They must be put first. To not do so would be the worst Missed Direction.