By Abbie Willans
With the enormous success of the Avengers in 2012 and the highly anticipated Superman v Batman coming out in 2016, some people are wondering why there aren’t more crossovers of superheroes in television and movies. The biggest challenge for crossovers of course, is obtaining the rights to use the characters.
DC has gotten a lot of attention recently over the amount of shows it has on the small screen or coming soon: Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Constantine, and a rumored Titans movie among them. With the exception of Arrow and Flash, it is unlikely that any of these shows will have anything to do with each other. One reason for this is content. Gotham takes place before Bruce Wayne became Batman, while Titans will feature Batman’s former sidekick, Robin, who has taken the name Nightwing.
Because DC’s characters are owned by different entities and shown on multiple networks, their stories are unlikely to merge. Supergirl is to become a CBS drama, TNT will be home to Titans, Gotham is on Fox, Constantine is coming to NBC, and Arrow and Flash are on CW, airing a day apart.
Arrow and Flash are the only two so far that have confirmed crossovers planned, a two hour special event after the eighth episode of both shows. While there was a small nod to Arrow in Monday’s episode of Gotham by showing the Queen Consolidated logo in a shot of the city, it doesn’t seem to mean there will be major crossing over of characters or plot lines.
The thing to remember is that Warner Brothers owns DC Comics, but that’s not their only major source of income. With projects like the Harry Potter prequel, the Hobbit films, and standalone hits like Gravity, they are not reliant upon their superhero movies. Disney, on the other hand, would be hit very hard if the Avengers movies stopped smashing box office records because they don’t have as many live action projects to fall back on that would appeal to wide audiences.
Disney has already ran into a few snags regarding their rights to superheroes. Before they were bought out, Marvel sold the rights to many of its characters. Sony currently owns Spider-man and Fox is not about to let go of the X-Men. Things got complicated when the character Quicksilver was announced to be in both X-Men: Apocalypse and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Quicksilver and his sister Scarlet Witch fall into a strange licensing gray area. Quicksilver will be played by Evan Peters in Apocalypse and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Age of Ultron.
DC hasn’t encountered this problem as much as Marvel has because Warner Brothers has the rights to most of its big name superheroes. Marvel did not start out as a film company, whereas Warner Brothers did, so they would not have benefited from selling their rights to characters. However, they don’t seem interested in copying the way Disney has combined so much of its Marvel universe and churns out superhero genre films several times a year. While superhero films are great for selling merchandise, something Disney excels at, Warner Brothers’ strength in live action movies doesn’t solely rest with their superhero properties.
But having so many networks playing shows with DC characters leaves them open to doing different things with them, without affecting the others. “It’s a separate universe than film so that the filmmakers can tell the story that’s best for film, while we explore something different in a different corner of the DC universe.” DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns said, according to screenrant.com. If people like Gotham but not Arrow or Titans, they don’t have to worry about the shows being merged or having to watch one series to understand the other.
“We are creating a Justice League on TV for us…the Justice League elements of it are very present on our shows already,” Arrow’s Stephen Amell said, according to Comic Book Resources. Even if people aren’t impressed with the Justice League and accompanying movies in cinemas, they can still get a similar experience on television.
Will DC’s approach to superhero universes turn out to be successful? That’s up to audiences to decide. As they wait for big upcoming events in theater, fans can explore the evolving DC universe as they please.