It’s no real surprise that the DC Cinematic Universe (which isn’t really its name, but it’s all that we have right now) is playing serious catch up with Marvel. While Warner Bros. has next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on tap for a March release, rival Marvel already is in its second Phase, and has laid out massive plans for a third Phase of movies. So when DC did the same, a few of us shook our heads… and one powerful Hollywood creator recently spoke out to voice what several had been feeling in private.
During a South By Southwest panel titled "Creative Activism," The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman was asked about the different approaches Marvel and DC have been taking toward building their on-screen shared superhero universes. And while it’s a bit of a baited question, Kirkman didn’t hold back – though he joked to the gathered crowd (noted by EW) that he’d probably get in trouble for being so candid.
Kirkman’s biggest issue was the timing of the announcement of a Justice League movie, questioning why Warner had to reveal its plans at all prior to Batman v Superman. He said:
"I think [DC] announcing you’re going to do a Justice League movie after a Superman movie, that was neat and had some awesome things in it, but it wasn’t like amazing or groundbreaking. … [The plan] just seems derivative, so it puts them in a backseat position to Marvel. It’s not organic so there’s going to be so much scrutiny on Batman vs. Superman when it comes out. It’s got an uphill battle. If they hadn’t told anybody if the Justice League were going to appearing in that, and they were forming that, it would have been surprising and exciting and weird. People are forgetting how important the surprise is."
This is the Catch-22 situation that DC finds itself in, and I don’t envy the obstacle. They want to make it seem like they are building something similar to what Marvel did with Iron Man, Cap, Thor and the rest of the Avengers, but they can’t take the time to let it happen organically, as Kirkman points out. As a result, they map out plans for several movies between now and 2020, then work backwards to fill in those gaps and HOPE that the finished products are quality.
Robert Kirkman attempts to soften his stance slightly by saying that he liked Man of Steel, and that Aquaman looks great, and probably will be entertaining. But all he’s pointing out is exactly what we knew – that DC was backed into a metaphorical corner, and had to come up with a massive movie plan quick, for fear of getting lapped by Marvel. Was it a wise move? It’s way too early to say. But it’s refreshing to hear someone as experienced as Kirkman coming out and validating thoughts so many of us have had in private.