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Nerditorial: The Superhero Speculation

So, a couple of days ago, I was asked what I thought about the upcoming inclusion of Spider-Man into the Marvel Movie Universe. Okay, as you all know – I tend to be an opinionated bozo when it comes to my beloved comic book movies so I immediately thought it was time for a Nerditorial. It’s been a while since I did one of there.

I thought that I’d cast the net a little wider though and take in not only Marvel but DC and I’ll take a speculative look at where the plots might be headed if the comics’ continuity is followed as well. So, I guess if you don’t read the comics, there MAY be spoilers – but if I’m wrong, there won’t be. This is speculation so treat this warning as you wish.

Let’s start at the next film up – Avengers: Age of Ultron.


This is going to be a confusing slap in the face to anybody who doesn’t read The Avengers. As a team, The Avengers regularly change their line-up. When the title started, the Hulk was only around until issue 2. A little over a year later, Iron Man and Thor left, leaving Captain America in charge, with the rest of the team made up of a brother and sister from Magneto (yes, the X-Men villain)’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and a second tier Iron Man villain – Hawkeye. (Originally, Black Widow was ALSO a foreign agent enemy of Iron Man). The brother and sister are of course Quicksilver (think Marvel’s version of DC’s Flash) and The Scarlet Witch who can warp reality with her mind, who will be introduced in Age of Ultron. Probably as a threat to begin with, gradually becoming allies. Whether their overt incestuous relationship in later years of the comics will be addressed is unknown but unlikely –but yeah, that happened.

Audiences will already have seen that Iron Man and Hulk battle from the trailer. I’d lay down good money that the end of Age of Ultron will see The Avengers as we know them split up. I’ve heard that Hulk and Thor will be heading off to other adventures. It’s confirmed that Captain America 3 will feature the Civil War storyline. I’ll go in to more detail on that later.

Ultron itself has undergone a change. Originally created by Henry Pym, who you’ll meet this summer, the artificial intelligence took on a life and consciousness of its own and became on the biggest threats in the Marvel universe. From the trailer, we see that Ultron is now the creation of Tony Stark, which comes back to haunt him.

So who’s Henry Pym?

Henry Pym was another founder member of The Avengers. His super hero alter ego is Ant Man (when he’s small) and Giant Man when he reverses the process and becomes…well, a giant. Pym became a conflicted, insecure fruitloop in time – returning to the Avengers as Goliath, then as Yellowjacket. His relationship with his partner Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp) was rocky and abusive. In time, a small time crook named Scott Lang became the new Ant Man when he stole Pym’s size changing technology. I’ve no idea how much of this is going to carry over to the Ant Man film later this summer – but the movie is one that I have high hopes for. We know that Michael Douglas appears as an older Pym and that the Ant Man of the title is Scott Lang. I’m thinking (or hoping) that after a probably downbeat Avengers, Ant Man will be lighter in tone.

Okay – back to The Avengers – Hulk may well be off-Earth for the Planet Hulk storyline, while Thor will return to Asgard to set up Thor 3 – Ragnarok which will feature the fall of Asgard (Yep, that happened too) – but both will be back for the third and fourth Avengers films (it’s a two parter) which will be an all-out smackdown of gargantuan proportions as they take on Thanos (the ridge chinned, purple faced guy we saw at the and on the first Avengers film and during the Guardians of the Galaxy).

So what’s a civil war?

In the comics, the government brought in a superhero registration act, requiring all superheroes to reveal their identities, become licenced agents of the government, paid and (incredibly) eligible for paid time off and pensions. Yep, they became civil servants. Some characters agreed and obediently signed up, others rebelled. The rebels were led by Captain America, who basically told S.H.I.E.L.D who were enforcing this, to shove it. Those who registered were led by Tony Stark, which led to an epic battle between Iron Man and Captain America which is why you may have seen teaser posters like the one below.

 

But, following this struggle, again, it’s understood that both characters will be fighting alongside each other for the final two Avengers films. We can only speculate whether the teased Iron Man 4 will carry on the Civil War storyline or whether it’ll all be sorted in Captain America 3.

Spider-Man will be in all this somewhere, but where and how?

After a disastrous reception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony Films have come to terms with Marvel Films, giving Marvel the rights to include the character in their continuity. Andrew Garfield is gone, so none of the baggage from Amazing Spider-Man will be onscreen. I can’t see this being a reboot, because the origin story has already been told in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). I’m guessing that this recast version won’t need an introduction – maybe a cameo at the end of Age of Ultron (and I’d be surprised if Marvel miss the opportunity to introduce Ant Man in the mix at that point as well) – he’ll already be on the scene and we won’t need to sit through yet another version of a high school nerd bitten by a radioactive spider.

In the comics, he was one of the main characters of Civil War, having revealed his identity on TV for all the world to see. So, he may pop in there was well with some other cameoing characters. Whether it’ll still be a young, just starting out Spider-Man or an older version who’s been around for a while is pure guesswork on my part – but I’m hoping slightly older. It’s worth noting that Spider-Man’s main gimmick as a character when the title was launched, was that he was a high school kid of sixteen – the approximate age of Marvel’s target readership at the time. He was billed as “The superhero who could be YOU.”

That’s the problem with Spider-Man, he can’t be sixteen forever and as he gets older, he slips out of the identifiable realm of new readers.

Somewhere in this mix is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which provides an ongoing link to the films. Despite a very slow and shaky start to the second season after a spectacular end to the first which tied in very well to the movie universe shaking events of Captain America: Winter Soldier, I’ve read that the second half of the season will introduce The Inhumans ( a race of super beings living in a hidden city who were introduced in The Fantastic Four title in the mid sixties) and will also, somehow, build up to and feed into Age of Ultron. I think it has to – the second season will finish just around the time the film is released and they can’t just ignore the split of The Avengers.

I have no idea nor guess what’s going to happen to the Fantastic Four when Josh Trank’s film hits. My guess is Trank will tank and Marvel Films will soon have the rights to those films back again. Trank seems to have the same mind set as Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb and is making a film about beloved, well established characters without reading a single issue of the source material, releasing what he calls “his version” of what he thinks the characters are all about. Essentially a recipe for disaster. I’d love to be proven wrong on this, but I think in this instance, it’s unlikely. The fact the Doctor Doom is reduced to a computer hacker makes me literally shudder.

So, at the moment Marvel Comics rule the cinema – but DC rule TV and they have their eyes on the big screen. What’s the story here, then?

DC have already pulled off an incredible coup in making what I long considered one of their dullest characters Green Arrow an addictive TV series which can’t be missed. Despite what felt at the time a slow, ponderous first season, the second was off the chart while the third, currently screening, is in my honest opinion, the best thing on TV. Launching The Flash off Arrow was a stroke of genius and their crossover episodes have been awesome. Arrow’s world of Starling City is dark and threatening, Flash’s Central City is bright and sunny. Arrow fights gangsters and assassins while Flash battles meta humans and is soon to face off against the super intelligent gorilla, Grodd (incidentally – DC Comics had a city of talking apes before the first Planet of the Apes was ever filmed in case anybody wants to shout “plagiarism” or “rip-off”).

Gotham continues to grow ever more compelling with each episode. At the time of writing, we’re about a week away from the mid season hiatus coming to an end. Yes, it’s a Batman series without The Bat but then, wasn’t Smallville a Superman series without the big blue boy scout?

Add to this Ray Palmer (The Atom) developing his shrinking suit on Arrow (to explain, Ant Man and Atom are the rival companies’ shrinking super heroes the main difference being that The Atom doesn’t get giant sized) and the origin of Firestorm over on The Flash, Supergirl getting her own series and the line-up is shaping up nicely. Now, in the past week there’s been a teased announcement that there might be yet another series, based on the company’s The Brave and The Bold title which featured a team up every issue. (To clarify, The Brave & The Bold usually teamed up Batman with another DC character for a one-off story. The series won’t be that limited as there is no TV Batman. The series will rotate established characters like Arrow and Flash for ratings grabs with The Atom, Black Canary, Firestorm and any others they can introduce.)

Groovy, but how will they compete with all that stuff that Marvel Films are doing on the big screening?

Easy! It all started with Man of Steel. Having seen that film a few times, I can see how it will work.

It’s no secret that I was very disappointed in Man of Steel initially. Superman seemed out of character. He killed Zod. Metropolis was decimated. I mean, WTF?

Whether this was DC’s cunning plan all along, or whether it’s a stunningly clever piece of damage control I don’t know but here’s the story.



There have been other superheroes quietly working in the shadows for years. Superman’s city levelling battle with the criminals of the Phantom Zone has blown their cover. Batman, for instance, has been cleaning up Gotham for years and among its citizenry is thought of as an urban legend. The Amazon Princess, Diana similarly has been fighting the forces of evil without anybody knowing she was operating – same goes for the ruler of Atlantis. (I’ve read, and I hope it’s true, that the sequence where Clark Kent has helped out on the burning oil rig and falls into the sea and sees the whales kind of directing him to the surface was Aquaman secretly helping him)

This will be addressed next summer in Dawn of Justice. The film that was going to be Superman 2, then became Batman vs Superman and is now confirmed as being a Justice League prequel. Superman will indeed fight Batman. Wonder Woman and Aquaman will also appear in the film, but all we know for certain is it’s a fight between the Dark Knight and the Last Son of Krypton.


Hang on – he’s Superman for crying out loud. Won’t he kick Batman’s ass?

Ah, you haven’t read Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns have you? In the final part, Batman beats the crap out of Superman by wearing a suit that plugs into Gotham’s power grid, enhancing his strength and he has kryptonite in his gloves.




In fact, it’s established in the Justice League comics that the only person with a strategy to take each member out should they turn evil is Batman. Superman regards Batman as his insurance against turning evil, being the only person who can beat him (carrying kryptonite in a lead lined pouch of the utility belt at all times).

Dawn of Justice will lead us to a full blown Justice League film – but what’s a Justice League???

Like the Avengers over at Marvel, the Justice League is a team comprised of their superhero characters, including most often the core members of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and The Atom. Others were added later, and still later the roster became so large that only members appropriate to the mission at hand were selected.

So, Stephen Amell (Arrow) and Grant Gustin (Flash) from the TV shows are transitioning to the big screen? Ryan Reynolds is returning as Green Lantern?

Unlikely. There’s talk of a Flash movie, unrelated to the TV series with a different Flash. So, how can you have two versions of the same character?

Ah – here I speculate they’ll use the multiverse story device. Over the years, DC have developed a means of explaining how Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman have been around since World War 2, how back then there was a Justice Society of America, with a different Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman etc – how the 1966 Batman existed, all of it – all seventy six years of publishing, coexisting side by side.

We (in the real world) live on Earth Prime. There are other, alternate Earths. One of them is the one where the wartime Superman, Batman and other characters exist, another world is the squeaky clean fifties where Batman regularly fought evil on other planets and his stories had a sci-fi flavour (not my favourite period for Batman) another reality is perpetually the swinging sixties, yet another has the villains as the heroes and vice versa with Luthor heading the Justice League and so on. So it makes sense that if they employ this storyline, the films are one reality unto themselves and the TV series are another.

However, it is rumoured that much as The Avengers will finish up with Thanos and The Infinity War, The Justice League will head into the Crisis on Infinite Worlds storyline which features (and eliminates) some of these alternate worlds. How cool if this were true, and they incorporated footage not only of TV’s Arrow, Flash and Supergirl, but also of Adam West and Burt Ward from the sixties, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman from the seventies, Christopher Reeve as Superman, hell let’s go further back to George Reeves.


But as I say this is all speculation and a fan’s dream.

Remember, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds’ character from the 2011 Green Lantern film which I still believe to be under rated) is not the ONLY human Green Lantern, there have been others - Guy Gardner, a cocky, arrogant younger Lantern and John Stewart – a tough and streetwise older Lantern. The next film could introduce one of these.

We’ve yet to see the introduction of Hawkman, the winged superhero who usually flies into action waving a medieval mace. Now that’s something I’m anxious to see, or the shape changing last surviving inhabitant of Mars, Jon Jonzz the Martian Manhunter. That Justice League movie is going to rock.

Ah, but isn’t the Justice League an Avengers rip-off?

You’re kidding – right? The Justice League is what started the Marvel Comics as we know it off, back in 1960 when publisher Martin Goodman tasked editor Stan Lee with creating something that could replicate the success of DC’s new superhero team comic and so Lee came up with The Fantastic Four which Jack Kirby refined and drew.

Thus was history made.

And there you have it. I look forward to your comments and speculations over on the Facebook page.

 

 

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