Comics

Why All The White Guys, DC? The Batverse Edition

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Part Two of an ongoing look at DC Comics’s upcoming television shows — and how they could be improved upon.

Really, why all the white guys, DC?

A question that could easily be asked of any facet of DC/Warner Bros superhero projects to be sure, but one aimed specifically at their live action film and TV divisions. They currently have Arrow on the air, with the white actor Stephen Amell playing the lead role of the traditionally white character Oliver Queen. Five more live action TV shows have been announced, all of which will star characters who have traditionally been portrayed as white and male except the getting-a-pilot iZombie, which stars a female lead. Oh yeah, and she’s white.

Contrawise, Marvel has one live action TV show on the air (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), that despite being an ensemble show still stars a white guy heading up a mostly white team. But their four recently announced made-for-Netflix series will have one show starring a woman (Jessica Jones) and one starring a black man (Luke Cage)…and two starring characters who are traditionally portrayed as white guys.

Regardless, I am very glad to see Marvel finally inching their recent progressive streak in the comics out into their burgeoning Marvel Cinematic Universe. Which makes it all the more perplexing and aggravating that DC seems to be choosing any white guy possible to star in their projects. This limits not only the stories you can tell and the perspectives you can tell them from, but also denies vast swathes of people the ability to see themselves reflected in the media as anything more than a supporting character in Dudey McWhitebro’s story. So let’s look at some women and people of colour DC has in its library that could easily be leveraged into workable TV shows.

Catwoman, Because Of Course

Catwoman

Catwoman

This is both the most likely and the surest bet. Exactly how DC’s various TV projects and films fit into each other remains to be confirmed officially, but the evidence seems to point to them all being part of a massive shared continuity a la the MCU. As such, Catwoman serves double duty as a big name character to draw in viewers and a way to establish the tone and characters of Gotham City before Batman inevitably has to undertake a film there.

It would also serve as a great companion piece to the Commissioner Gordon centred series, providing they both take place in the same time frame as the rest of the DC Cinematic Universe. But with the Gordon show set in the least possible interesting time, it’s not desirable. There would also be carte blanche to go crazy with some of the more colourful D-Z listers of Batman’s Rogues Galleries, and you could even make characters like the Riddler and the Penguin (both of whom became mostly reformed neutral parties in the Pre-New 52 comic continuity) recurring stars.

The most obvious narrative through-line of the show would also help fix one of those unfortunate implications of the character’s common story. Namely, that a large portion of her post-origin redemption and character development is often driven by her complicated romantic relationship with Bruce Wayne instead of due to the catalyst coming from Selina Kyle’s own personal experiences or morals.

The Catwoman mythos already has the character of Holly Robinson, a precocious young teenager that Selina Kyle looks after. I’m not the hugest fan of “surrogate motherhood taming the wild criminal” as a plot or relationship dynamic. But the idea of a female lead live action superhero show with its emotional core as the complicated relationship between two disenfranchised women struggling to survive one of the most cartoonishly crime-ridden cities ever devised is appealing and could offer a basic framework from which to start.

We’re Not Done With The Bat-Family Yet

Love or loathe his obsession with comic book minutiae, Grant Morrison has leveraged some older, seemingly hokey ideas into genuinely game changing plots for the not-so little Batverse. The biggest is without a doubt the idea of Batman fathering a child with Talia al Ghul, the daughter of one of his greatest enemies. Unfortunately, the multi-racial Damian Wayne isn’t well suited for his own TV series tone-wise if Man of Steel and Arrow are anything to go by for the simple fact that the character is just ten years old. Well, that and the fact that if it skimped on Damian’s history of preference for lethal force against his foes it would neuter pretty much his entire central conflict with Batman and basically just leave the two to wallow in their massive daddy issues.

His other big revival does leave us with a great number of potential characters to either helm their own show, team up in an ensemble or test the possibility of creating films or live action shows specifically for international markets. Just what is this cornucopia of too-good-to-be-true intellectual property? Why, Batman Incorporated of course! Long story short, Grant Morrison had Bruce Wayne publicly announce that he’d been funding Batman all these years, and was now expanding that to invest in costumed crime fighters across the globe who’d adopt the Bat-branding and technology.

So you could make up anybody you want, give them a Batsuit and sign them up for a Netflix exclusive show. An Aboriginal Australian? Sure! There’s also the pre-existing characters in the organisation like Nightrunner, the Batman of Paris, a Algerian Sunni Muslim man who is an exceptional free runner. Literally, the guy can free run on the roofs of moving cars. It doesn’t take a genius to see that funding a low budget French action film starring Nightrunner could prove a profitable venture, and could even be the launching point for a whole slew of films like this around the globe.Batwing

But by far the most promising are Black Bat and Batwing. Both are established characters who’ve lead comics before. Black Bat is really Cassandra Cain, a young woman of mixed Asian and Caucasian ancestry with a very troubled past and formerly the second Batgirl. After various writers and editors screwing up her character and plotlines for years, DC benched her until Grant Morrison revealed that she was now serving as the Batman of Hong Kong. China is the growth market for both movie investments and movie ticket sales, so having a Chinese-targeted Hong Kong action film that you can also repackage for other markets as a spinoff Batman flick is pretty much the best idea nobody’s using right now.

Batwing was the sole member of Batman Incorporated to get a solo book, and it’s not had the smoothest of rides. But the pitch is dead simple. David Zavimbe is a man from the Democratic Republic of Congo who is basically wearing a Batman-branded Iron Man suit. He fights crime. It could provide a great way for writers and directors tuned in with African cultures, history and current events to properly represent modern Africa. There’s also an established supporting cast and backstory for David which any creators attached to the property could utilise.

And it’s not just the extended Batman mythos that DC could mine for innovative shows and films that could offer some more progressive representation than their current fare, though I imagine that idea will come more as a shock to DC/Warner Bros execs than it will to you. Come back soon for a look at other great women and POC lurking in the wings, just waiting for a chance at stardom.

A good chap who frequently gets tea leaves stuck in his eyebrows.

2 Comments

  1. Michelle

    December 4, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    I would pay with my life for a Batman, Inc. show. Imagine all the places they could film and all the characters they could incorporate! Team-ups around the world! References to the state-side Bats, though they’re rarely/if ever on screen! I am drooling a little just picturing it.

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