by Josh Jennings
In the wake of Marvel’s roaring success in creating a cinematic, and later crossed with a televisual and comic tie-in, shared universe, DC has now picked up the ball and starting running the race as well. Unsurprising, considering the amount of commercial fodder at their disposal with their own equally expansive properties. The commercial (if not exactly critical) success of Man of Steel only served to further cement what looks like an unmissable opportunity. After all, if Marvel can do it, why not them? Which is fair enough, especially considering the one major key difference between the two companies: DC’s studio producers, Warner Brothers, have the legal copyright ownership of all their intellectual properties, whereas Marvel has to circumnavigate Fox and Sony.
This here is the key opportunity within the opportunity, that they can bring all of their properties under one roof in a single cohesive shared universe without having to dodge around armies of lawyers. Leaving aside Man of Steel, they so far have running continuities in the form of the television series Arrow and subsequent spin-off The Flash, Constantine, and Gotham, with iZombie, Supergirl, and Static Shock slated for release further down the track. Obviously the possibility of overlapping continuities has occurred to DC already and according to Geoff Johns, DC’s Chief Creative Officer, they’re not ruling out anything just yet. Furthermore, Guillermo del Toro, who’s been slated to direct a Justice League Dark movie (Dark Universe), has gone on record stating that said movie won’t conflict with the current Constantine series and that he’s happy to consider meshing it with the film and/or casting the same actor depending on the direction of both.
So it’s not by any means out of the question, no, the question is simply whether they will do it or not. And they should. At the moment, the idea being floated around is having different universes stacked against each other and all concurrent within a single multiverse. Which while perfectly workable, is neither necessary in itself nor particularly desired by the fan base. The multiverse idea is great for the comics because they are a sprawling set of kudzu vines endlessly growing and expanding and tangling together in a mash of stories and characters. Eventually it even got the point where they had to take a nuke to most of it, in the form of Infinite Crisis in the 70’s, just to simplify things again.
And that’s fine. It’s great. But it’s not needed for the screens, big and small. Having a vast array of characters and stories all growing and spiralling off in every direction is not practical outside of comics, books, and games. And even if they kept it small, having a universe crossover worthy crisis is going to require a villain or villains of epic proportions, something along the lines of the Anti-Monitor or Parallax. Whose focus is then going to extend far beyond the two or three universes that the audience has been watching and identifying with this whole time. I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but it is going to be a big leap from just some Earth based shenanigans mixed with various aliens to cross-universal level threats spanning all of time, space, and reality everywhere. Even Darkseid is too small for that (almost).
Plus, it’s simply unnecessary, when you take what’s come out so far into consideration, specifically that none of it really contradicts any of the individual continuities. Gotham’s even set in the past (kinda, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it’s set but it’s presumably before everything else). Arrow and The Flash already openly share a continuity, which just leaves Constantine. But Constantine mostly operates throughout the American Midwest it seems, while Starling and Central City are east coastally based or close to. Plus Constantine’s happenings are fairly low key and not widely publicised, the supernatural being treated as, well, supernatural (i.e. not real to the unexposed). Even Flash up until very recently was still technically largely an urban legend more than anything else, leaving only Arrow publicly acknowledged as being real.
There’s also no reason as yet that young Bruce from Gotham can’t grow into Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’s eponymous character, and if Man of Steel is simply set further into the future than all of the current TV series, then you have a perfectly workable shared continuity. The only potential spanner in the works is the upcoming Supergirl series, as she sort of makes an appearance in Man of Steel in regards to a stasis pod having opened by the end that is alluded to as belonging to her. Something that’s then further complicated by it being dated as 20,000 years old, which makes it difficult to imagine how she’d be his cousin in any capacity. Still, if Krypton’s destruction occurred 20,000 years ago as measured on Earth, with Kara’s colonist group leaving sometime beforehand, then a simple matter of time dilation (20,000 years passes relative to Earth but it only seems like say a week or so using the transdimensional phantom drive) fixes the problem.
But only inasmuch as the series recognising the events of Man of Steel having occurred, because if it doesn’t then the only way around it would be Kara waking up out of suspended animation prior to both the series and the movie, closing the lid of the pod, coming back for something post Man of Steel, and subsequently leaving the lid open this time. So I wouldn’t let it be everything getting too much further along or even Geoff Johns’ skills at unravelling continuity snarl-ups won’t be able to make it work.