Comic book and superhero properties have been dominating cinema screens for fifteen years now, and it’s been a fun ride. It truly has. We’ve seen the X-Men, Batman, Iron Man and many other costumed adventurers have successful film franchises, and we even saw the dawn of the superhero film crossover – something long thought to be a taboo subject – in “The Avengers.” The past almost two decades have been a great time to be alive for comic book fans. We are, however, entering into a new era.
Don’t misunderstand me. Superhero movies have become a cinema staple, and I expect them to stay that way for some time to come. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is still going strong and the DC Extended Universe is just getting started. The new era I’m talking about is the one where superheroes are beginning to dominate television screens as they have cinema screens.
While Marvel has “Agents of SHIELD“, “Daredevil“, and the forthcoming “Jessica Jones,” it has actually been DC Comics characters that have taken television audiences by storm with shows like “Arrow“, “The Flash,” and now “Supergirl.”
Television actually has several advantages over movies, and the folks over at DC Entertainment seem to be capitalizing on these advantages heavily. First and foremost is that television – like the comic books these characters originated in – is a very episodic medium, which allows for much more complex stories, driven more by the characters than the action.
Another advantage that television has over movies is frequency. A Flash fan has 23 hours of The Flash to look forward to every single year, whereas a Captain America fan has only 2-3 hours every 2-3 years to look forward to, if you don’t count that character’s appearances in The Avengers or other MCU properties.
Previously, film had its advantages as well, but these advantages are slowly being closed in on by television as filmmaking technology becomes better and less expensive. “Arrow” and “The Flash” are capable of showing things that even a few years ago were beyond the capabilities of shows like “Smallville.” We had things to look forward to in the movies, things that television just wasn’t capable of delivering. This is becoming less and less the case. The look and feel of television is becoming equal to that of major motion pictures, and even the special effects are becoming more on par with what’s being done in the movies.
The television format also gives fans the opportunity to see many more characters brought to life than they would have had if superheroes were confined only to cinema screens. In the fist season of “The Flash” alone, fans were able to see almost every single one of Flash’s major Rogues, with Mirror Master being the notable exception. This would never have happened in film format, using one or two villains per film at most. “The Flash”‘s first season was also able to bring in an appearance of Gorilla Grodd, something that would have been impossible on a television budget just a few short years ago. This year fans were teased with an equally well-rendered King Shark, and we can only hope that character is revisited in a more substantial role.
DC’s “Legends of Tomorrow,” which premieres in January, will be the first installment in what Warner Bros. and The CW are planning to be an annual stand-alone miniseries event. While I am excited for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and the upcoming Justice League films, I am much more excited to see what they do with that every year. Characters who may not warrant their own ongoing series can be showcased in this miniseries format, and that gives us the opportunity to see many more DC characters brought to life on television screens.
Either way, whether you prefer the television or cinematic formats, one thing is for sure: this is the best time to be alive for comic book fans. I am very glad that my own kids get to grow up with so many great comic book and superhero movies and television shows; something that I would have killed for when I was their ages.