Live-Action Comics

A young man with dark hair facing The Flash and Green Arrow in the doorway of, per caption, 'the Bruce Wayne mansion ... in Gotham City'

I’ve been trying for a while to finish a big piece on the recent flood of comics
being adapted for television and film
. One problem has been that I keep writing too much about a specific movie or show and then spinning that material off into its own review. The silver lining is that the flood is only picking up pace — so even as I constantly kick the metaphorical can down the road there’ll be no shortage of hooks
to keep the subject current.

Yesterday, for instance, I got the press release announcing Riverdale, a live-action
teen drama featuring the Archie gang that if green-lit to series will join the Batman prequel Gotham on Fox’s schedule.

Time Warner’s most recent investors meeting included the announcement of an ambitious slate of films produced by Warner Bros. establishing a shared universe built around DC’s Justice League. It springboards from the 2013 Superman “reboot” Man of Steel, whose Henry Cavill will headline 2016’s ridiculously titled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice with Ben Affleck playing the silver screen’s latest Dark Knight; Gal Gadot will costar as a certain Amazon warrior. Zack Snyder, who directed Man of Steel, is helming Dawn of Justice and set to direct a pair of Justice League movies proper — the first due in 2017, following a solo Wonder Woman flick.

Here’s where I pause to lament the injustice of Wonder Woman finally appearing in movie theaters, for the very first time in a career spanning over seven decades, as CGI plastic in a minor supporting role in last year’s The Lego Movie. Do the character’s contradictions make it hard to present her in a way relevant to today’s world? Maybe. Which sounds to me like great story fodder! Did I enjoy The Lego Movie? Sure. Except for how it marginalized the female characters…

DC is hoping to replicate the success that Marvel’s had in translating its superhero sagas from comics to film. Marvel dubbed the period from 2008’s Iron Man through 2012’s The Avengers Phase One, with Phase Two culminating in next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The first trailer for that debuted on Thursday.

We’re now a couple of weeks into the expansion of DC’s TV universe, The Flash
having successfully spun off from Arrow on the CW network. Those series occupy a different fictional plane than DC’s planned movie universe; neither Superman nor Batman appear to exist in the Arrow/Flash world, although Flash will be a member of the multiplex Justice League — played by Ezra Miller, not CW speedster Grant Gustin. Similarly, Fox’s Gotham is not, as we comic-book folks say, in continuity with either the upcoming films or the recent Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale (or, for that matter, the ABC Batman series that starred Adam West, finally being released on DVD next month).

Such discontinuity is not unusual when it comes to adaptations of pop-cultural phenomena and comics in particular. Superman Returns hit theaters between the fifth and sixth seasons of the WB/CW show Smallville and, to bring DC’s popular animated universe into the conversation, shortly after Justice League Unlimited concluded its run on Cartoon Network.

Not all superheroes are born from the comics, of course — and for darn sure not all comics are about superheroes, even if they and their sci-fi/fantasy or action/adventure brethren tend to get the splashiest coverage. Perhaps it’s proving the rule to mention that a French adaptation of the graphic novel Gemma Bovery, starring by pure coincidence Gemma Arterton, opened last month.

For that matter, as much as I love the pun in this post’s title riffing on the name of
the series that introduced Superman, frames of film are decidedly not analogous to comic-book/strip panels. The former are designed to go by so fast we perceive continuous motion, while the latter are fixed in visual juxtaposition to one another
for us to view and re-view at the pace of our choosing.

I almost forgot to note that NBC premiered Constantine, based on a lesser-known DC character first seen in the pages of Swamp Thing, last night. So if this wasn’t that piece on the recent flood of comics being adapted for television and film I’ve been trying to write, I’ll have to add it to my list.

Panel from Justice League of America #27 © 1964 and characters
TM/® DC Comics. Script: Gardner Fox. Pencils: Mike Sekowsky. Inks:
Bernard Sachs. Letters: Gaspar Saladino. Colors: Unknown.

Related: The Heroic Versus When Barry Met Ollie Panel
to Frame
Hope of Good Capes Doomsday and Gloom

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