The State of the D.C. Comics Universe in Televised Drama!
As the landscape of television entertainment evolves, it is obvious the comic book genre continues to impact studio decisions to produce dramas with the vast wealth of content from the medium. There will be no fewer than eight television dramas, based on comic book content, this upcoming traditional fall season. This is a strong reversal of how comic books and graphic novels were viewed and represented within the public and the entertainment industry. Not too long ago, the comic book medium was typically shunned and looked down on.
It is intriguing to note that although D.C. comic book characters have been rather slow to appear on the big silver screen, it is quite the opposite on television. D.C. characters have been appearing for more than a decade in a variety of television dramas to varying degrees of success. One could argue that the era of domination by the D.C. universe based content began with the premiere of Smallville, on October 16, 2001. Smallville ushered in a new era of grounded sophistication that would bring new life to television dramas featuring super powered individuals. Smallville’s impact was even felt within the highly acclaimed original series entitled Heroes, which obviously capitalized on established comic book inspired storylines such as super-powered individuals teaming up to take on a seemingly indestructible adversary and the struggle of these characters needing to keep their super-powered abilities secret. It should also be noted that the very talented Jeph Loeb was a supervising producer on Smallville and later became an executive producer on Heroes, and now he is an executive producer on the current ABC Network series, Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
One of the many D.C. characters introduced to television viewers on the series Smallville was The Green Arrow or Arrow.
[Photo: Stephen Amell (Arrow/Oliver Queen on CW Network’s Arrow) Comic-Con 2014 Entertainment Weekly Red Carpet]
This character was first portrayed by Justin Hartley and introduced an element of darkness to the show. His morally ambiguous stance on criminal activity also provided the writers of Smallville opportunities to explore themes such as loyalty, betrayal, and integrity over the amazing ten-year run of the show. It became evident to the producers of Smallville and to the CW Network that the Green Arrow character was gaining traction as a fan favorite on the series. Smallville ended its ten-year run in 2011, which would leave a void in the CW Network’s content for the immense Fanboy/Fangirl viewer audience. The CW Network looked to the newly popular Green Arrow character and decided to double down on dramatic romance and darker narrative action adventure elements to launch a new series revolving around the celebrated D.C. comics character, now entitled Arrow.
Arrow had its debut on October 10, 2012 to the highest ratings that the CW Network had experienced in five years. Stephen Amell was cast as Oliver Queen, whose sometimes secret identity is known as the Arrow up to this point in the series, which has recently been renewed for a third season. The producers have opted to give this series a completely different look from that of the bright sun drenched world depicted in Smallville. The world depicted in Arrow is dark and dangerous. Fans around the world of the popular televised drama where shocked when Oliver Queen’s mother was brutally murdered by the crazed villain Deathstroke. The show has begun to follow the game plan of Smallville by introducing several well-known D.C. comic book characters such as: Canary, Huntress, Amanda Waller, The Flash, Deadshot and The Bronze Tiger.
This game plan has prompted the CW Network to unveil a new look at the classic D.C. superhero The Flash , which will debut on October 7, 2014. Based on the reception that actors Grant Gustin (Flash) and Jesse L. Martin received at Comic-Con 2014, it is a safe bet that The Flash will be a big hit!
[Left Photo: Grant Gustin (The Flash/Berry Allen on CW Network’s The Flash) Right Photo: Jesse L. Martin (Detective Joe West on CW Network’s The Flash) Comic-Con 2014 Entertainment Weekly Red Carpet]
One of the biggest gambles for a network this upcoming fall season will be the new series entitled Gotham.
The television show will air on the Fox Network beginning September 22, 2014. The decision to concentrate on James Gordon’s rise to become the Police Commissioner in Gotham City is a rather risky one for viewers who wish to see super heroic acts carried out by Batman against classic antagonists such as The Riddler, The Joker, Cat Woman, The Penguin and others. Gotham is created by Bruno Heller (Rome, The Mentalist). James Gordon is played by Ben McKenzie (Southland, Junebug).
[Photo: Ben McKenzie (James Gordon on Fox Network’s Gotham) Comic-Con 2014 Entertainment Weekly Red Carpet]
Although Bruce Wayne/Batman and many other famed comic book icons are part of this drama, it appears that the creators of Gotham have decided to do a classic television procedural crime drama. This will on occasion hint at what is in the future for the much beloved Batman D.C. characters. Will this approach work? It is a fascinating question and one that will test the loyalty of fans everywhere.
Comic-Con 2014 also premiered Constantine, one of the most complicated and morally compromised characters that can be found in the D.C. Comics Universe. The comic book Hellblazer was published by “Vertigo” an imprint within the company utilized by D.C. comics. Hellblazer tells the tale of John Constantine who was created by the mind-blowing writer/artist Alan Moore (The Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta) and illustrated by Stephen R. Bissette and John Totleben in the 37th issue of The Saga of Swamp Thing released in June of 1985.
Being huge fans of the English rock music group The Police, and Sting, the legendary front-man of The Police, Stephen R. Bissette and John Totleben started drawing out ideas for a new original character in Sting’s likeness. They shared with Alan Moore, and the three of them became inspired to develop the idea: What if there was an anti-hero supernatural detective character that fought demons, ghosts, and evils beyond the world’s imagination? And what if this detective was Sting?…or at least had the same personality, charisma, and edgy attitude as Sting? The team’s creative results turned into the critically acclaimed comic book hit, entitled Hellblazer, which ended up being Vertigo’s longest running title. John Constantine can be best described as a grifter who is skilled in the dark arts related to magic. He often uses his abilities for the greater good but at prices that have ranged from the death of close friends to his own soul being damned to Hell. The comic book series featured the talents of celebrated writers such as Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan, whose work on the comic book created a continuing sensation upon the release of each issue.
Daniel Cerone (Dexter, The Mentalist ), and David S. Goyer who is best known for his writing/producing work on Christopher Nolan’s Batman: The Dark Knight Trilogy, have now successfully pulled together Constantine the new detective/horror/drama series for the N.B.C. Network. The pilot airs October 24, 2014 – Story by: David Goyer & Daniel Cerone - Teleplay by: Daniel Cerone – and directed by English film director Neil Marshall, who is best known for his 2005 critically acclaimed horror film entitled The Descent. The talent behind and in front of the camera points to a series that will be incredibly respectful to its source material. Fans of Dexter, The X-Files and Supernatural, will be enticed by this new edgy television series.
[Photo: Matt Ryan (John Constantine on NBC Network’s Constantine) Comic-Con 2014 Entertainment Weekly Red Carpet]
Actor Matt Ryan bears an uncanny resemblance to the John Constantine of the comic books; and footage that has been seen by this reporter indicates that the actor is uncannily channeling what makes John Constantine a confounding, yet very grounded human hero. Issues of the comic book have dealt with religious fanaticism, racism, and drug addiction, as well as the consequences, all cloaked in stories that were quite often nihilistic and cynical.
The D.C. cinematic universe has not yet shared and connected their films and television series. Marvel has successfully done this with their many blockbuster feature films and with the hit television series entitled Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and also with the soon to be released television series entitled Agent Carter.
D.C. Warner Bro’s may change this soon. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (Superman) is the first of the D.C. cinematic universe feature films; and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, will be the first sequel installment of this shared D.C. cinematic universe. It has been announced that Zack Snyder will also be directing the third film of this series appropriately entitled Justice League.
Suddenly, right after Comic Con 2014, celebrated fan favorite writer/director/producer Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade 2) is now in development on the D.C. comics’ feature film entitled Justice League Dark, which deals with the supernatural characters of the famous Justice League heroes, featuring John Constantine! Director del Toro has recently stated that he is in development to create a film based on the comic book, and that he would be open to the film being part of a shared D.C. universe utilizing the same actors! It is a potentially ground shaking game changer for the way D.C. Warner Bro’s handles its comic book properties and one that bodes well for not only fans of D.C. comic book, but for fans of epic dramas on television and feature films altogether!
Mark your calendars, program your DVRs, and get ready for an exciting year of D.C. Warner Bro’s television:
Gotham premiers: September 22nd on FOX
The Flash premiers: October 7th 2014 on CW
Arrow premiers: October 8th 2014 on CW
Constantine premiers: October 24th 2014 on NBC
- Oscar Benjamin
Oscar Benjamin has been and is a keen observer of events in the entertainment industry. He can often be found in many events such as concerts, entertainment conventions and awards ceremonies. The moments when Oscar is not writing about the industry he can be found perfecting his professional skills as as photographer shooting events such as weddings, corporate functions and (of course) celebrity functions. You can also follow Oscar on Twitter.
San Diego Comic Con 2014