Over the past few weeks we’ve had major announcements from both Warner Brothers regarding their DC properties and Marvel Studios regarding phase 3. And as I and my fellow geeks speculate futher on what these movies may hold for us, I found myself thinking about where we’ve come from and how what’s happening in the cinema has similarities to what happened during the famous Silver Age of comics.
DC started it back in the 50s, when they reimagined The Flash and Green Lantern for the atomic age. They showed us heroes relevant to the era, and gave them pseudo-scientific backgrounds. Warner did that with Batman, rescuing the property from what Schumacher did with Batman and Robin, and gave us a cinematic Batman that belonged in the art house just as much as it did in the Cineplex. Nolan made it real, eschewing hyperbole for a strong, character driven script.
But just like in the comic book silver age, then came Marvel with Iron Man, and a promise of even more to come, a bigger, connected universe.
So now DC/Warner tried to catch up. But their biggest name character, rather than getting a reimagining, stayed clumsily tied to his Golden Age persona. In both cases (comic book silver age and this new movie silver age) I’m talking about Superman. We could have had a Man of Steel 10 years ago, instead Bryan Singer threw it back to the Golden Age of Richard Donner with Superman Returns.
There were further attempts to catch up to Marvel’s tidal wave of success, but much like DC comics, Warner had forgotten that they were the ones who started it all, by green lighting Christopher Nolan to helm the Batman trilogy… Let it be character driven… And in forgetting this, they make the mistake of rejecting Joss Whedon.
Meanwhile, Marvel Studios moved forward with their art house slate of directors, like Favreu, Leterrier, and Brannagh, and then they pull in Whedon. Just like the 60s, everyone wants to work at Marvel.
So if we look upon the Donner Superman and Burton Batman, and television series from the 70s and 80s, like Wonder Woman and The Flash as the Golden Age of superhero entertainment, I think the new line, starting awkwardly with X-Men and Spider-Man in the movies and Smallville on TV, a new generation was introduced to the genre, but with Batman Begins and Iron Man the bar was raised, and now we have 5 years worth of movies slated and promises of more TV shows to come. Will we see an abbreviated Silver Age of movies before we get a “Crisis” level event at Warner and have all the creative talent leave Marvel for the shiny new production company, only to come back after a year or so? I guess only time will tell if history will fulfill this odd repeat. All I can say is, it’s a great time to be a comic book geek.