Universe Lost: Conclusion

This is the final installment of “Universe Lost.” I’m working on a new feature, “Mapping the Multiverse,” which will begin in two weeks to coincide with the season premiere of CW’s The Flash. I’ll also post a couple of standalone entries to fill the gap between now and then.

I’d really like to hear what readers think of the blog so far! You can contact me directly via the form at the end of the post or get a conversation going in the comments section below.

From 1978 to 1997, four Superman movies and four Batman movies grossed a total of $1.7 billion, giving DC Comics a virtual monopoly on successful super-hero film adaptations.

Now let’s compare that run to feature films adapting Marvel Comics characters to the big screen between 1978 and 1997.

There was only one: Howard the Duck.

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Universe Lost, Part 9: Not the Hero We Needed

NOTE: I originally planned for this to be the final installment of “Universe Lost,” but I wrote more than usual and can’t cut it down! So I’ll wrap up the series on Wednesday. After that, I’ll start a new feature on the Flash and the DC Multiverse, so stay tuned!

Last week, at Variety‘s Entertainment and Technology Summit in Beverly Hills, Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment since 2009, stated that there were no plans to connect the film adaptations of DC properties with their TV adaptations.

To regular readers of this blog, this should sound like a foregone conclusion on the part of DC and its parent company, Time Warner. Continue reading

Universe Lost, Part 5: A Bad Time to Be Successful

If, between 1940 and 1970, you were adapting a DC Comics property for radio, film, or television, you would have to answer to DC’s editorial director, Whitney Ellsworth. DC made sure that every adaptation of their characters into other media received personal attention from the publisher’s creative top dog.

Captain-america_serial_posterIn 1944, when Republic Pictures started production on a movie serial featuring Marvel Comics’ breakout character, Captain America, Marvel editor-in-chief Vince Fago was not quite as attentive.

All that Republic Pictures apparently got from Fago was a handful of sample pages from Captain America Comics that they couldn’t make heads or tails of.

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Tales to Astonish: The Origin of a Blog

I’m traveling right now, so my writing schedule is a bit off. As I work on the next installment of “Universe Lost,” I thought I’d fill the gap with some remarks on why I started this blog.

In May 2008, just days after Iron Man‘s US premiere, Marvel Studios announced its plans to produce a cycle of films that would lead into 2012’s The Avengers (originally slated for a 2011 release). The news astonished me. Previous cinematic adaptations of super-hero comics had always dealt with individual characters in isolation from one another, even when they were close associates in the comic books.

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Universe Lost, Part 4: Family-Friendly Vigilantes

Part 4 of a series. Catch up on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Tracing the histories of comic book companies in the 1930s and ’40s can be difficult for a number of reasons. Virtually all the first comic book publishers emerged from the business of pulp fiction – cheaply produced, illustrated periodicals that contained serialized stories in a variety of genres, most often science fiction, fantasy, horror, westerns, and detective thrillers. The genres represented in pulp fiction hardly counted as respectable literature, and the people who ran the pulp publishing companies were rarely respectable people.

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Universe Lost, Part 3: Visions of Clowns and Demons

Part 3 of a series. Catch up on “Universe Lost,” Part 1 and Part 2.

When Warner Brothers hired Tim Burton to direct the first Batman feature film in 1986, he had only directed a single motion picture for theatrical release, 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, a whimsical low-budget vehicle for an off-beat stand-up comic. It was the work of a director who already had a singular visual style. Burton was capable of producing images that imprinted themselves upon the subconscious of the audience (as young Superadaptoid’s vivid memories of “Large Marge” can attest), so certainly he was well suited to work on a character who, in one of his earliest appearances, described himself as “a creature of the night, black, terrible….”

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Summer Sight and Sound: “Batman Forever” But Not Really

While I’m examining the background and broader context of comic-to-film adaptations, Same Page Team is looking at the same movies one-by-one. Recommended.

Same Page Team

By: Daniel Reynolds

To see all of the Same Page’s Summer Sight and Sound series–a look at the biggest films of each decade from 1975 on–check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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It was inevitable for comics and movies to come together. That’s obvious now in 2015 with comic book-based film plans stretching on into the next decade. Studios want to invest in projects that guarantee a solid rate of return, and comic books are happy to provide both an endless stream of content and an audience. But, it was not always this way. There was a time when pursuing comic book brands as a means to financial success was a risky career move in film. (It’s risky today too–as the Fantastic Four can attest.) It was long believed that many of these stories just didn’t, or couldn’t, translate into film.

With the release of 1978’s Superman, and then…

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Universe Lost, Part 2: Abandon All Hope, DC Comics

Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has succeeded in transforming little-known comic book characters into billion-dollar franchise tentpoles, Iron Man being the single clearest example of this. This success has prompted Marvel’s chief publishing rival, DC Comics, to capitalize on its corporate relationship with Warner Brothers to produce a film using two of DC’s much better-known properties, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which they hope will anchor a shared universe of super-heroes drawn from DC Comics titles.

Even the Star Wars franchise, now owned (like Marvel) by Disney, has been reformulated along Marvel lines: a central “spine” of Star Wars movies will run concurrently with “anthology” films spotlighting the secondary characters of the franchise. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is changing how films are conceived and marketed across the board.

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Universe Lost: The DC Super-Hero Movie Franchise that Never Was

In the upcoming 2016 Warner Brothers release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck will become the latest actor to play the role of Batman on the big screen. This comes not quite four years after The Dark Knight Rises, in which Christian Bale wrapped up his three-film portrayal of Gotham City’s resident vigilante.

What distinguishes Batman v Superman from prior Batman films is that it is both a reboot of the Batman film franchise, as well as a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, which was itself a reboot of the Superman franchise. Thus Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be the first time that Batman and Superman, without a doubt two of the most venerable and recognizable characters in popular fiction, have met on the big screen.

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Super-Adaptation

A-Kirb-Kin-Adapt-cover

Tales of Suspense #84 (Dec. 1966), art by Jack Kirby

“You know why I like plants? Because they’re so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.”

— John Laroche (as played by Chris Cooper), Adaptation

In the movie Adaptation, Nicolas Cage’s screenwriter character has to figure out how to adapt a nonfiction book about flowers into a Hollywood movie. He has to somehow transform the story of a horticulturist’s passion for rare plants into something that a movie studio will want to spend millions of dollars on, in hopes that they can then make those millions back – and then some – because people will want to watch that story while eating popcorn in the dark.

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