Comic Fodder

Unsolicited Advice on the (Possible) JLA Movie from a DCU Geek

As reported here by intrepid Fodder Correspondent Shawn, Warner Bros. is slated to put together a Justice League of America film at some point in the future.

Even now one can detect the scent of a million keyboards melting as the Mom's basement dwellers rise from the futon to their PC's. Discussion Boards will light up like a Christmas Tree as comic dorks from around the world ponder the imponderables of putting such a project to the screen.

As DC is now adopting the format of television writing and creation to bring weekly comics to the direct market, so could Warner Bros. television and film production learn a thing about how to manage a franchise in the fashion etched out by comics. After all, they HAVE managed to churn out comics featuring the same characters for 70 years.

WB didn't get the colossal response to Superman Returns that they'd envisioned. The movie squeaked in at literally a few thousand dollars over $200 million. The next Batman feature film will have fairly predictable box office based upon the receipts for Batman Begins. Surely WB realizes that a Wonder Woman movie is a gamble. And while there have been rumors of a Green Lantern TV series, that's got to be a little dicey as well. After all, for every Ghost Rider with a $44.5 million opening weekend, there's an Elektra.

Concern over team movies has to have evaporated a little with the success of the X-Men franchise, with Ratner's color-by-numbers X3 pulling in more money than Superman or Batman on the strength of the first two films. And, of course, Fantastic Four pulling in respectable amounts (over $150 million) despite a fairly cheesy take on the material.

Keep in mind that Fantastic Four and X-Men were well known in geek circles, and may have had some cross-over appeal, but prior to their big-screen treatment both X-men and the FF were certainly not pop culture staples in the manner of Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman. And don't discount the recognition factor for Aquaman, Green Lantern and The Flash. That's a commodity.

Put all of these heroes into one movie, and you will sell tickets. Put a little thought into your script and you'll have that cultural phenomenon you were looking for in Superman Returns.

Spider-Man seemingly broke the curse of the bad bad super movie which had plagued super movies for over a decade. Batman Begins cemented the idea that DC heroes could be treated with respect as well (especially on the heels of Catwoman).

You can't go wrong with a classic approach
Note how many of these characters you can name or who seems sort of familiar...

My advice:

-I don't care who the two folks are who are writing the first draft. Ditch them. You need someone who knows how the characters work, why they work, and doesn't require a crash course in DCU to tell a two-dimensional JLA story with nothing but a passing resemblance to the characters. There are many DC writers who write stories for a living. They love it, and they know more about the DCU than their own bosses.

-There's no obligation for respect to the characters or stories when writers wholly unfamiliar to the material decide they want to put their own creative spin on things. Note how well Superman, Batman and Spider-Man work when they stick to the basics of the character and don't re-imagine them. A re-imagining never goes well.

-Read some of Morrison's work, some of Meltzer's and some of Waid's. Then start digging through the Silver Age collections.

-Hire DC writers to pitch ideas and treatments. First as individuals, then in teams. Include Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns.

-Keep one or two of these guys onboard for the duration as a consultant. Then LISTEN to him or her.

-Watch "SuperFriends". Note how all of the elements are there, but nothing seems to ever gel or click? Don't do that. Watch all of "Justice League" and "JLU". See how well JLU works? Do that.

-Do not refer to campy TV shows from 40 years ago. This goes for everyone from costume designers to hair-stylists. And especially for actors.

-use The Original 7. If you don't know who they are, and your writers don't know, put everything on hold until you know who they are, and why they are. We do not need Vibe, nor Gypsy, nor any C-Lister (God love 'em all).

-Learn something from the JLU cartoon. Is there really anything cooler than dozens of Superheroes lined up to fight the good fight against the unstoppable forces of evil?

-If you can, cast the current Superman and Batman.

-I only now forgive the creators of the Justice League cartoon, but the DCU is crazy with would be world-dominators, nihilistic alien terrors, transdimensional New Gods and vile, creepy human menaces. Do we really need a generic alien threat?

-Think BIG. Do not think "a fun romp". Think epic and glorious. Think of the first time you saw Star Wars IV. Think massive, universe bending thoughts. The JLA is not a team of spandex clad do-gooders protecting the city. They're Myths of the 20th Century who can shake the Earth with a single punch and who face threats even greater than their combined might.

-Whatever the threat is, it faces the whole planet.

-And explosions. Lots and lots of explosions. Preferably in slow motion.

-Respect the heroes. Respect the characters. Respect the 70 years of their existence. Find something to believe in with each member of the JLA. Find out why that character has been around for so long. If you can't imagine a brass orchestra playing as they assemble, something has gone terribly wrong.

If this goes well, Warner Brothers is in a unique position to create the tent-pole of tent-pole pictures with a central film franchise to support several other spin-off and ancillary projects, from movies to TV to cartoons. Well managed, it may be a unique and extremely profitable opportunity for WB.

Superman took 10 years to come to the screen the last time. Let's hope that we don't have to wait quite that long. But, in the meantime, let's also hope everyone keeps their heads screwed on right. One more Superman film, one more Batman film, and hopefully a Wonder Woman picture. Then, maybe, the studio will have properly gotten their ducks in a row.

Dreading a JLA movie? Love the idea? Want to pick out a an actor for Ray "The Atom" Palmer?
Questions? Comments? Come on, I can take it.