Is Warner Bros. Relying Too Heavily on Batman?
I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for quite a while now, but since recently it came out in the news that next year’s Batman vs. Superman is supposedly even less a sequel to Man of Steel than we initially suspected and is much more a Batman story. But even if you discount the whole Batman vs. Superman issue, there’s still the matter of what they’re doing with their home video releases. This year alone, Warner Bros. have released seven straight-to-video animated movies and one more that’s due before the year’s out. Every single one of them features Batman in some way, shape, or form, and half of them have him specifically in the title of the film as the main character. You have to go back four years to 2011 to find a year where Batman made up less than half of that year’s line-up, having only Batman: Year One released alongside the other actually non-Batman titles All Star Superman, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, and the live action Green Lantern.
Yes, I understand that Batman is still the most popular character in DC. He’s their bread and butter, the money maker, he’s a billionaire for a reason: he makes billions for Warner Bros. and DC. But where is the saturation point? Cinephiles are already claiming that we are reaching critical mass for superhero movies, and while I disagree with that statement, I do think that there is way too much Batman specifically. Even in live action, he’s going to be in two movies next year as the main character in Batman vs. Superman and in a minor role for the Suicide Squad film, not to mention however many more animated films he’s going to appear in. There seems to be a new series of animated titles every couple years now. It started out with just the regular Warner Premier, DC Animation titles that had a mix of superheroes. Some Superman, some Batman, some Green Lantern, some Justice League, and a Wonder Woman. Now the mix has shifted to variations of Batman. There’s the main Batman titles with Damian Wayne, there’s the Justice League titles based on the New 52 which may be going away soon now, but they’ve already got their replacement in the toy-friendly Batman Unlimited series that’s already two movies strong this year. And on top of that, there’s the Lego DC Comics movies that have featured Batman alone as well as the Justice League as a whole. And speaking of Lego, when the theatrical Lego movie came out last year they obviously had access to the DC heroes since it was under Warner Bros. Animation and it didn’t take them long to announce Lego Batman in a stand-alone sequel in the near future.
What is it about this single character that allows for so many different variations? Is he really that much more popular than any other DC hero? Or is it just that by his nature and longevity that he allows for a wide range of takes on his character. Because of his Adam West comedic roots, he’s easily adapted to the parody style with Lego. Because of his dark and gritty Frank Miller and Christopher Nolan variations he can be pushed in that direction in the PG-13 animation and live action. And he can fall somewhere in between in more family friendly, but still action-oriented animated fare. But when you look at the other DC heroes, there’s not quite so much wiggle room. Green Lantern hasn’t fared too well in either animation or especially live action. The animated movies seemed to be favorable to fans and some critics, but they obviously didn’t sell nearly as well as the Batman titles. The same goes with Wonder Woman, which is a shame since it wasn’t really given much of a chance outside of her single stand-alone animated title and various supporting roles in the Justice League animation. She just hasn’t had the chance to find her ground as a lead figure. Hopefully the upcoming DC Super Hero Girls line will include some movies that aren’t overly treacly.
In the long term, Warner does seem to be setting up a few more DC heroes in the live action arena, with Aquaman, Flash, and Wonder Woman finally getting her own live action movie that begins filming in just a couple short months. But that said, it also wasn’t all that long ago that news broke on Warner and DC offering yet another solo Batman movie with Ben Affleck directing. And as much as I think it’s a great choice for a story to adapt, next year brings one of the most anticipated Batman titles to be adapted into animation with Alan Moore’s the Killing Joke, adding yet another Batman title to their line up. Give Cyborg his own film, or even Catwoman. Aquaman and Flash have had the focus in Justice League films, but give them their own totally solo film. Martian Manhunter even. Heck, give Superman a little bit more love, he’s been short on animated stories lately too, though he’s had plenty in the past. There are tons of characters out there besides Batman, so DC: please give them a chance. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.