When I was a kid, I loved superheroes even before I got into comic books. Two cartoons ignited my love of costumed crusaders: The Super Friends and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. It's hard for kids to understand this now, but with so few shows available, these were my very limited view into the geeky world I would go on to inhabit.
Another gravitational force in my fandom were the first movies about my Kryptonian hero, Superman (1978) and my favorite film as a young kid, Superman II (1981). The next boost to my fandom would come by way of Tim Burton's Batman (1989).
Think about it: entering the 1990s, DC owned the share of mind for superheroes with the two biggest in the world. Spider-Man was also very popular outside of comic book fans, but Superman and Batman were the kings.
Fast forward to today. More kids are fans of Captain America than Superman. The Avengers is the biggest team in geekdom, not the Justice League. It's an absolutely crazy turnaround -- and Christopher Nolan is to blame.
"What? Christopher Nolan is awesome! You're some dude with a blog mostly read by his relatives! How dare you!"
Don't misunderstand; I love Nolan's Batman trilogy. And I'm glad, for the sake of those three films, that he refused to put Batman into a larger, superhero-filled universe. And WB and DC let him, because he was printing money.
But while Nolan's fims made nearly $2.5 billion, they did not build a universe like the Iron Man movies did, leading to additional billions. (For comparison's sake, when adjusted for inflation, the three Iron Man movies and Nolan's Batman trilogy made nearly the same amount.)
Then came Man of Steel (2013). I don't dislike Man of Steel, but it lacks something the Marvel movies had, and that the Superman movies I fell in love with had: a sense of fun. Director Zack Snyder did not copy Nolan's tone, but he stayed pretty close.
And now we sit on the steps of the DC/WB shared cinematic universe. Before we talk Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), let's start with Suicide Squad (2016).
If you haven't seen it, check out the recently released trailer:
This is going to be a completely different movie than any of Marvel's superhero movies. It's going to be dark, filled with villains, and it's going to press buttons in a very different way. Will it be fun? Likely, but not in the glitzy Marvel way. Heck, it may even be rated R (gasp!).
Now check out the newest trailer for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Snyder & Co. are going straight after the biggest criticism of Man of Steel: the seemingly meaningless destruction of Metropolis during the fight between Kal-El and his Kryptonian enemies. And Bruce Wayne is somehow in the middle of it all.
Three or four years ago, I would have urged DC and WB (not that they would ask) to try and emulate Marvel. If they had showed up with a Justice League movie with a fun, lighter tone close to first Avengers, this may have worked. But they didn't, and that window has closed.
What hasn't closed is a path to success. DC/WB are going to make a different kind of superhero movie than Marvel, darker and grittier. Will it work? Yes, if the movies are done well. Will they beat Marvel? Maybe not, because I think Marvel has the higher ground, a formula which appeals to a wider audience.
Marvel is connecting in one way, and DC is trying a slightly different path. One or both of these groups may fall on their face in the coming years, but both universes can exist in our universe, as long as they deliver character-driven films that make us care. When they stop doing that, we'll move on to something else.