I’ve Got a Plan, Pt. 1
Hello Reader! I read an article today on Wired about Marvel studios‘ awesome, standard-setting approach to creating a movie continuity out of their comics franchises. It was a great propaganda piece for Kevin Feige, who by most measures deserves all the praise he can get. It was also a hard look at whether or not DC can do for its properties what Marvel has done for characters like Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America.
Suffice to say, the article came up with no good answers other than: we’ll have to see. Which sucks, because I’m a rabid DC fan. I grew up on the Bruce Timm, Paul Dini cartoons of the ’90s and early ’00s that made Green Lantern synonymous with John Stewart and the Joker with Mark Hamill’s laugh. Those weren’t just ordinary cartoons. They were mythic stories, embodying the true strength in DC’s pantheon of heroes. They also won Emmys, which is really freaking cool.
What’s really shitty is that WB, the studio in charge of DC’s movie ventures, hasn’t really gotten its act together when it comes to putting all that beauty on the big screen. Granted, it’s not necessary to do so. Despite my distaste for Man of Steel, I already have the best rendition of Superman I could ever ask for. But television isn’t as grandiose as movies are. And DC’s heroes are the very definition of grandiose. Their stories are baroque in nature. You don’t hear Spider-Man yelling, “I’ll do what I can to plug the hole in forever!” Only Superman can yell that without you going, “That’s stupid.”
So with all that off my chest, I wanted to have a go at creating my own DC movie universe. Not because I think I’m better than Warner Bros. I’ve just had these ideas swirling around inside my head, most of them popping up while I’m taking a shower. And I really didn’t know what to talk about concerning my novel today. I’m almost done editing it. I’ll be querying soon. Yadda yadda.
Now be warned. This is going to be a long post. I’ll be writing up until the first Justice League movie. I’ve got plans for after that, don’t you worry. But I figured it’d be best not to hit everyone on the head with too much early on. As I’m going through each film, I’ll also write the film titles I’ve got, the plot, and why I made the creative decisions that I did. All of this is also posited on the, in my opinion, fact that Superman vs Batman will be a complete flop – thus requiring a reboot of the Superman movie. If you want an incredibly articulate reason for why Supes vs Bats could flop, click here. Okay? Okay. Then here we go.
Superman: Legacy of Krypton
Basically it’s the Brainiac arc from the Bruce Timm animated series in the ’90s: Krypton’s destruction is actually Brainiac’s fault, Superman is jettisoned to Earth as a baby, and he grows up here. The film starts however with Superman an already established hero of Metropolis – albeit untested when it comes to supervillains (an example of this is Superman’s easy defeat of Intergang as exposition). Brainiac changes that, but doesn’t introduce himself as an antagonist. He gives Superman an opportunity to learn more about his home planet, an opportunity he didn’t have until now. Clark is suckered into being Brainiac’s biggest defender against circumstantial evidence that Lois Lane has gathered accusing Brainiac of draining the planet’s energy – just like he did with Krypton. In the end, Superman sees Brainiac for what he is, avenges Krypton and saves Earth. As an easter egg for fans, and a nod towards the future, Superman saves the bottled City of Kandor before Brainiac’s ship explodes at the end of the film.
End Credits Scene: At the Daily Planet, Clark Kent is alerted to Lex Luthor’s imminent release from prison.
Why’d he do that??:
I made the choices I did for several reasons. One, the movie is a different take on the origin story we keep getting shoved down our throats time and time again. Everyone knows the gist of Superman’s origin. What we don’t know is WHY he chooses to be Superman, rather than something like Zod. Man of Steel tried this, but ultimately fumbled the ball. So this movie’s story serves not as an origin story of Superman, but of Superman’s raison d’etre. Two, Superman actually does have a decent rogues gallery. Time to use it. Brainiac is the shit. He’s just as powerful as Superman, but he also tests Superman’s smarts too. So the end battle won’t just devolve into two superbeings bashing each other and killing hundreds of thousands. Three, the bottled City of Kandor will hold a very special resident for Superman’s future. Comics geeks, go apeshit.
I honestly don’t care. It’s really easy to create a Batman movie. He’s got an incredible rogues gallery, Nolan already showed us how to do it right, and audiences love the guy. But the main thing to include is Batman’s acquisition of LexCorp because Luthor was put in prison by Clark Kent (not Superman) offscreen, before the films. Maybe this’ll allow Penguin to be a major villain, pivoting this Batman film more towards the detective and less towards the super side of his character. Either way, Bruce Wayne‘s acquisition of LexCorp allows him to investigate some of the shady research Lex was involved with. One of these projects leads him to Coast City – but he can’t figure out what’s really going on just by himself. This is, of course, a subplot to the main one of Batman battling Penguin in Gotham. We need these to be stand alone films after all.
End Credits Scene: Batman goes to the one place where he knows he can get the kind of help he needs to figure out why Coast City is a site of heavy-duty LexCorp research: Metropolis.
Why’d he do that??:
One, I’m introducing Batman as a connective tissue for the rest of the DC universe. Why? He’s the ultimate detective! People forget this because Nolan did too. But he’s really good at figuring ish out. Of course he’d have knowledge of the supers and what they’re up to – as well as his nose in everyone else’s business, super or non-super. Two, I get to introduce Coast City as a plot point! Yay easter eggs! And three, I use LexCorp as the launch vehicle for the Big Bad of the Justice League film.
Superman/Batman: Rise of OMAC
If you’re a comic geek, then the title gives it away. But if you’re not a comic geek, think of the OMAC project as the ultimate organic android: super strong, super smart, and invulnerable. I’m playing around a bit with their origin though, in order to streamline the continuity of the film. Anyways, at the beginning of the film Superman’s identity is figured out by Batman – whose own identity is deduced by Superman. Sufficiently stalemated, the two agree to help each other as they investigate just what Lex Luthor was developing in Coast City. What they find is the OMAC project, a defense project funded by the US government’s own research arm, Cadmus and protected by its most elite squadron of supers: Checkmate. What does all of that mean? It means Superman and Batman have to face off against Captain Atom and Deathstroke, the latter two being employed by Checkmate to protect the OMAC project. NINJA SAY WHAT. This sets off a detective chase on Batman’s part that requires him to go ask help of The Question, and eventually try to take down the project. What this does instead is blow up Coast City.
End Credits Scene: Coast City is the hometown of Green Lantern legend Hal Jordan, who is name-dropped a few times throughout the film and established as its protector. We pan to see him arguing hysterically with the Guardians of the Universe to save his town. They shut him down fastquick, because they’re heartless, unemotional bastards. He walks out, beyond disgruntled, then turns to face the camera with murder in his eyes. Cut to black, and screaming.
Why’d he do that??:
One, I finally reveal the big bad of the Justice League film. The OMACs, who are more than a match for our supers. Two, I let Superman/Batman think they’ve won when they blow up Coast City and “destroy” the OMAC project. Except, this win isn’t to Superman’s taste. He doesn’t like that innocents have died. While Batman makes a strong argument for the necessary cost, it creates tension in their relationship that deserves to be there. Three, I introduce Checkmate and pit Cap + Deathstroke against Supes and Bats. HOW COOL IS THAT?! Four, I introduce the downfall of Hal Jordan, which allows a better Green Lantern movie to be had. Five, I get to have the Question in a movie. Manic detective who believes Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster are part of an Illuminati conspiracy? You KNOW that actor is going to steal the show.
Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn
Let’s start off with a LOTR-esque exposition detailing Hal Jordan’s legendary exploits and then his fall from grace. Then we cut to one of the Guardians of the Universe, the little blue leprechauns that tell the Green Lanterns what to do, falling to Earth with the last Green Lantern ring in his hands. He lands in front of Kyle Rayner, giving the ring to him and then disappearing. From there, we follow the basic premise of the original comic – with a few important changes. First off, his girlfriend does not die unnecessarily and then get stuffed into a refrigerator. She’s an agent of Checkmate who is torn between reporting that her boyfriend has become a super, and protecting him from what she knows will be torture. Of course, she chooses the latter and they both learn from each other throughout the movie as they try to escape Checkmate’s long reach. In the end, she dies saving him. But it isn’t in vain. Rayner escapes, and is introduced to true Green Lantern mentors: John Stewart and Alan Scott.
End Credits Scene: In Boston, MA a strange cargo is being airlifted into a secret government facility. Captain Atom and Deathstroke meet with a woman named Amanda Waller, Lex Luthor, and a mysterious man named Max Lord who all unveil the new OMAC machines.
Why’d he do that??:
One, turning Hal Jordan evil and reducing the Green Lantern Corps to one person fixes the biggest problem of the first Green Lantern movie: overdone fanboy indulgence. No need to introduce Kilowog, no need to introduce Tomar Re or any of the other kooky Green Lantern sidekicks. Just focus on one person, just one, using his willpower alone to carry the GL legacy forward. That’s dramatic heft, especially for Kyle Rayner who is pretty much a loser before getting the ring. Two, Kyle Rayner is my favorite Green Lantern. He isn’t brash and cocky like Jordan, or a dick like Guy Gardner. He’s young, earnest, and extremely creative. He’s also super brave to carry on the legacy of such a historic organization all by himself. Most importantly, he also gives me the opportunity to break the black/white mold of superheroes – he’s Latino! Three, I really, really hated how underused Rayner’s girlfriend was in the comics. Her misogynistic death even spurred the creation of a movement – “Women in Refrigerators”.
Putting her in a position of power to teach Kyle how to be a hero is more important than using her as a catalyst for his decision to become one. It lets Green Lantern be what it’s always been: DC’s version of the monomyth. She’s his mentor, his Obi-Wan, who eventually dies after teaching him all he needs to know. Four, I get to use John Stewart – we can take out Alan Scott for all I care – and not in a fighting role. I always thought he’d be a great teacher, and it’s another great way to expand the racial make up of the DC universe. Five, I introduce Max Lord. He’s the superhero turned supervillain who uses the OMAC project in the comics to break the back of the supers.
Wonder Woman: (Untitled)
With tragedy befalling the world of man (Coast City’s destruction) Diana is sent as an emissary from the Amazonian island of Themyscira to offer aid. She arrives in Boston, where instead of being an amabassador for goodwill between the world of man and the Amazonians, she’s turned into a celebrity by the press. This subplot is quickly subsumed by the overarching plot of Giganta wreaking havoc in Boston. Once she’s subdued by Wonder Woman’s powers, Diana learns that Circe is actually behind Giganta’s recent string of attacks. Circe is a powerful witch, for non-comic peeps, who is a constant pain in Wonder Woman’s side. But this time, it’s worse because somehow Boston is a center for magical energy – kind of like a hellmouth. And Circe’s trying to unleash it. Wonder Woman stops her, with the timely help of Black Canary, and at the same time sheds the celebrity/debutante shtick that the media had forced on her.
End Credits Scene: Batman and Superman meet with Wonder Woman as part of their investigation into Cadmus’ activites in Boston. Here, they learn that other heroes are also investigating the phenomenon: namely Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onnz.
Why’d he do that??:
One, Wonder Woman gets back to her Greek roots. And by get back to her Greek roots, I mean she will not WILL NOT wear that stupid bondage outfit with stars and stripes. When she fights, she fights in Greek Amazonian garb. Hell even something like this will look better. She’ll also be taller than most of the men in the movie. And she’ll be very, very aware of how awesome she is. Two, this self-confidence is shattered by the sheer weight of patriarchy in our world – as represented by the media’s portrayal of her as a hottie with a body instead of an ambassador for peace. It may be a subplot, but it’s the true grinder that Diana’s character is put through in the film. Three, I get to introduce another femme fatale of the DC universe who is too often short-shrifted. Black Canary is a badass. Everyone should know this. She can hold her own with Wonder Woman, not because she’s powerful, but because she’s a human who knows martial arts like Stephen Hawking knows black holes. Four, I introduce magic into the world of the DC universe. It isn’t going to pay off until much later, but who better to do it with than Diana? Five, Martian. Manhunter. = noir. detective. YES.
Justice League: Attack of the OMAC
Every story needs a character who can relate to the audience. This is especially true for stories like Justice League, where multiple heroes with little exposure outside the world of comics are coming together and vying for screen time. The Flash is that guy. He’s funny, he’s affable, and the Wally West version is the perfect conduit for all of the audience’s snarky, nagging questions: who calls themselves Black Canary? Why does Batman dress like a bat? How does J’onn J’onnz find skin cream? He finds himself in the middle of a chase throughout Boston to find the OMAC HQ where Cadmus is preparing to unleash their monstrosities upon the supers. He fails, the OMACs are unleashed, and it’s up to the Flash to not just unite the Justice League but also convince them that they are all worth each other’s time. Meanwhile, Kyle Rayner – whose been tracking Checkmate since his own movie – is a vengeful SOB who nearly blows up Boston out of rage. The Flash becomes the glue that binds all of these people together, and eventually they take down the OMAC threat and defeat Max Lord.
End Credits Scene: Deep, deeeeeeeep in space we find a lone man glowing with green light pounding away maniacally at an enormous, overwrought wall. A spaceship appears behind him, and it opens up revealing Lex Luthor and another man in spacesuits. From the hatch of their ship, the mystery man says with a slow drawl, “I know what you want. And I want it too. Now, Mr. Jordan, let me show you how to get it.” Hal Jordan, now the villain Parallax, turns around with a gleeful, manic smile and takes the hand of the mystery man. Comics geeks will see from the way the man looks that he is Vandal Savage. BOOM.
Why’d he do that??:
One, VANDAL FREAKING SAVAGE. Why not?! Vandal Savage is everything Max Lord was trying to be in the comics – except immortal and way cooler. He’ll also be revealed as the primary benefactor of both Lex’s escape from lifelong imprisonment and Lord’s OMAC research. What exactly he wants to do with the OMACs is another thing entirely. Two, we revisit Hal Jordan and see that he’s trying to break through the Source Wall – that giant wall in space. I’m messing with canon a bit here, but the Source Wall in this series of films separates us from the New Gods on Apokolips and New Genesis. For non comics geeks, think of Thanos – and then imagine two civilizations worth of Thanos’ waging war against each other for centuries. Three, dude, who doesn’t want to see the Flash be snarky and make jokes at Batman/Superman’s expense? Four, the Flash and GL need to be buddies. And the way they do it is Flash helping GL through his pain and need for vengeance. Five, having Black Canary be a part of the Justice League makes more sense than Hawkwoman because we need more normal humans – I know she has supersonic bird cry, but otherwise she’s same as Bats – and I don’t want useless, limp Aquaman cramping everyone else’s style.
Okay, it’s over now.
I hope you enjoyed what I have to offer. It’s a lot, I know. I have too much time on my hands probably. That, or I’m irrationally obsessed. Either way, I think this is a much more cohesive, ambitious, and ultimately rewarding set up for a DC movies continuity than the current plan. It allows us as the audience to view some of these characters in a different light. It allows creative talent to ask new questions of old heroes. And it allows DC to break the mold of racial, gender, and thematic stereotypes that are currently plaguing comic book movies. At least, that’s my opinion. Until next time then.