If you always wanted to know why DC Comics is trailing behind Marvel when it comes to making movie and TV adaptations of their characters this story will explain it to you.
Perpetual baby network, and until recently the home of Smallville, the CW has announced that they're ordering a pilot called Arrow. The show will be based on the long running DC Comics character The Green Arrow, who was also featured as a regular character on Smallville.
Now that little fact alone doesn't explain it, this line from the story will:
I hear that David Nutter will likely direct the project, which takes the comic book character, created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp, and sets him in a new world with an original story that is NOT based on the comics, published by DC Entertainment.*
Yes, that's right, they're going to do Green Arrow, but they're going to get rid of EVERYTHING about the Green Arrow.
Let's see what the character himself thinks about this development:
He doesn't seem too keen about it either.
So why would a TV network go to all the trouble of commissioning a pilot based on a popular comic book character, only to announce that they plan to jettison everything about that character?
It's the same reason why they made a complete dog's breakfast out of the Green Lantern movie.
It's the same reason Warner Bros. wasted 15 years and $50+ million on Superman Returns before a single frame of usable film was shot.
It's the same reason they pissed away millions developing a Wonder Woman TV series with David E. Kelly.
It's the same reason they made that piece of shit Catwoman movie that had nothing to do with the character it was supposed to be based on.
The CW is 50% owned by the Time Warner media empire. This same empire own DC Comics, and all the characters in the DC roster. (There's some complications with Wonder Woman, via the estate of her creator, but I don't have the space to explain its intricacies.)
That's where the trouble begins, and I'll break it down into simple bullet points.
- Warner Bros. is massive operation with multiple levels of management and producers before any project even gets close to someone who can give it a green light.
- Those levels are staffed with people who:
A) Often don't have much in the way of knowledge or appreciation for the source material, and don't really care to learn.
B) Assume that as long as it has the familiar name of a superhero on it, will assume the geeks will buy it, and all the related merchandise like the brainless salivating dogs that they are.
- This leads these executives and producers to assume that they can meddle with the characters any way they want, even if it makes it unrecognizable to the character's core fans. Plus the meddling is a great way for them to justify their existence and their expense accounts whether it's remotely helpful to the franchise or not.
Now it doesn't matter to these people that projects that mangle beloved characters beyond recognition usually fail miserably, and that projects that remain truthful to the source material tend to do well. They will never learn that lesson, because if they did, they might be tempted to NOT meddle, and not meddling is going to pay for their Mercedes Maybach company car.
The only way it seems DC/Warner Bros. can make a decent adaptation is if the project is run by someone with enough testicular fortitude and fan support to stand up to the corporate machine, like Christopher Nolan.
Marvel doesn't have this problem, or at least it didn't until recently. Because they were licensing their characters to the studios, they had the option of raising hell, if the studio bastardized their characters. And since most executives desperately try to avoid trouble, they play along to get along.
DC, which is just a cog in a massive unfeeling and unthinking, machine, doesn't have that option.
Now since Marvel was bought by Disney, and the licensing deals with Fox, Paramount, and Columbia are going to eventually expire, they will probably sink into the same corporate mire that currently makes DC's output so uneven.
*Emphasis added by me for those who can't be horrified by the obvious.