“We look at it as the multiverse. We have our TV universe and our film universe, but they all co-exist.” – Geoff Johns.
Some years ago, when Marvel was still at Paramount and before Thor had even been cast, I got to take a tour of their facilities, from an art department designing MIckey Rourke’s then-unrevealed Whiplash costume to the actual gym set in Tony Stark’s house. We already knew Avengers was the big plan, but Kevin Feige had something else in mind as well. He wanted, he said, to let filmmakers with unique visions “play in our sandbox,” going through the list of C and D-list Marvel properties to see what they liked, eventually making smaller, more personal features that weren’t obliged to connect to the main Avengers narrative.
The first of those? Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man.
I don’t claim to know what happened along the way, but the best evidence suggests that the Wright-less Ant-Man will in fact be connected to all the bigger Marvel movies, will not be as idiosyncratic as Wright might have made it, and certainly won’t be low-budget. Having seen that even relatively unknown characters like Guardians of the Galaxy can yield the biggest movie of the year, Marvel simply has no incentive to make unique, quirky movies out-of-universe. Besides, they have Netflix.
DC has been playing catch-up, recently announcing grand plans that sound like they’re copying the Marvel template. And yet the one thing Marvel has not done yet – nor have I heard rumors for any plans in that direction – is the Multiverse.
I’m not just talking about having a different Flash on TV than in a movie. And nor is Johns, who, in the Buzzfeed interview the quote up top comes from, also says, “Maybe one day we’ll link a show to a film if it makes sense, but the creative process we’re going through right now is to let the stuff live and breathe and be its own thing and own it.”
To be clear, I’m not suggesting Ezra Miller needs to show up on the CW’s The Flash. What I am suggesting is that a plot point of the Justice League movies should involve a villain powerful enough to cause rifts between universes. And show us that every DC interpretation to date has been valid, by the fact that each exists in its own reality.
From there on, we’re not just talking about movie heroes showing up on TV. We’re talking a Gotham by Gaslight movie. A Red Son movie. A World War II Wonder Woman. Kingdom Come. A good version of Jonah Hex in the Old West, and another where he’s in the future. Let’s get even weirder – what would you pay to see a take on Batman Beyond set in the campy world of the ’60s series, with Adam West as old Bruce Wayne? A Superman vs. Superman movie with Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill? How about a movie where Mr. Mxyzptlk sends Superman into the Robot Chicken DC-verse just for shits? Characters like the Sandman or Spectre could regularly cross dimensions and appear in movie and TV continuities.
Because once you establish a Multiverse, ALL takes are valid. And if a one-shot catches on, it can become its own franchise. This is an idea that wouldn’t make quite as much sense for Marvel, as their best characters to play around with in that regard – Spider-Man and the X-men – are owned by other studios, and Marvel live-action projects prior to the current wave leave a lot to be desired (Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk has the most nostalgia love, and he’s no Adam West Batman).
This is not an unprecedented concept – the Ninja Turtles and Batman have already done that sort of thing in animation. It’s time to go for it in a bigger way.