Friday, 13 January 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #836: Green Arrow Misses The Target.

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.


  1. Do you know how Summit got the movie rights to DC's Red?

  2. I think it's a combination of it being published under their Wildstorm imprint, which might involves some sort of partial ownership by the creators, and that Warner Bros. probably thought it was more profitable for them to license the rights than making a movie where all the leads are over 50.

  3. You said Watchmen is 100% owned by DC, but studios played hot potato with that.

  4. Probably because someone at Warners head office in the 1980s-1990s thought it was un-filmable, but noticed that others were willing to pay good money to try.

  5. The rights to the Marvel characters licensed to Fox may eventually end...but likely not in our lifetimes. Desperate for money after gorging themselves on everything in sight (buying a toy company, a distributor, another comic book company), Marvel sold those rights to Fox in perpetuity. Disney lawyers have been using magnifying glasses on the documents, looking for a loophole, but it's doubtful they'll ever find one.

  6. I'm not sure about the fine print, but I understand that if Fox goes for a specified amount of time without making a new Marvel movie, the rights for the characters revert back to Marvel. That's why they started First Class, and are talking about rebooting the Fantastic 4 under the premise that it can't be any worse.

    And never doubt the honey badger tenacity of the Disney lawyers. ;)

  7. As a non-fan of the Green Archer, I guess i don't care much. But surely just giving him a story not based on his comic isn't quite the same as "removing everything that made him the Green Archer". After all, the plotlines of Superman, Batman, and so forth didn't exactly match up with a particular comic sequence.

  8. While Superman and Batman didn't match to any particular comic storyline, they still stayed fairly true to the character. Superman was still from Krypton, Batman was still a rich orphan with psychological issues, etc., etc...

    During development there have been times when they tried to "improve" Superman especially, by making him a normal guy in a robotic suit, a cyborg, and dozens of other insane ideas.

    Their insistence on saying that the Green Arrow series will "not be based on the comics," reeks of what happened to the Catwoman movie. There they started with the character of a sexy thief with a flirty relationship with a certain caped crusader, ran it through 28+ screenwriters and an unknown number of studio executives giving notes, and turned her into a masked avenger with magical cat powers. The movie sucked, fans stayed away, and the movie lost a fortune.

    Plus, it's really obvious that you are not a fan of the GREEN ARROW because you keep calling him the GREEN ARCHER. :P

  9. There is nothing inherently wrong about, say, a masked avenger with magical cat powers. Yeah catwoman sucked, but it did so for many reasons beyond the heroine's lack of fealty to the comic. Plus it's not like a character with the lengthy history of the original Catwoman, ranging from the camp of Julie Newmar to the softcore porn of the more recent DC issues has much of a fundamental nature left.

    In the case of the Green Arch- ... er ... Arrow, while I don't closely follow comics, he would appear to be at best a tertiary level hero. My wife has heard of Spiderman and Batman, for instance. They're mainstream. She sees enough cultural references to have heard of Green Lantern and Iron Man, but Green Arrow and (for that matter) Ghost Rider are incredibly obscure from her point of view.

    The real question is, would a crappy movie which closely adhered to the Green Arrow mythos be better than a crappy movie which ranged afield from the original tales? Since that's the actual choice we are probably being given.

  10. DC's ranking system is something sort of like this, and I'm sure nit-pickers will rush in to correct me.

    A-List- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman.

    B-List- The Flash, Green Lantern, Teen Titans.

    C-List- Green Arrow, Aquaman, Booster Gold.

    D-List- The rest.

  11. Well, they've fubared two comics that Grell has worked on, 'Sable' and now 'Green Arrow'. Why not ruin 'Warlord' next?

  12. Aquaman is the "C-List" Wholly crap what kind of losers inhabit the "D-List"? Magnetic Colon Man?