How DC Could Actually End Up Topping Marvel Studios

Justice League - DC/Warner (Artwork by Alex Ross)
Source: Alex Ross, DC Comics

Most everyone knows that Marvel has an ambitious five-year plan for its slate of movies. After the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron this May, the next steps include releases in 2016 for Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, followed by 2017’s sequels to both Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor, as well as the first Black Panther movie. Then comes part one of the next Avengers movie in 2018, closed out by its sequel a year later. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, and represents an unprecedented amount of planning for a franchise of movies. But given that Marvel’s not the only game in comics, it begs the question: Where is DC in all of this? The answer: Light years behind.

That’s not to say that DC and Warner don’t have their own thorough slate of movies laid out over the next five years. The only real difference is that their timeline got started well after Marvel’s. By the time the two-part Justice League movies are released, Marvel will have had four Avengers films on the books already. DC’s schedule for the rest of that period echoes their competitor’s plan from three years ago:

  • 2016: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad
  • 2017: Wonder Woman, Justice League
  • 2018: The Flash, Aquaman
  • 2019: Shazam, Justice League 2
  • 2020: Cyborg, Green Lantern

By 2020, DC will be all the way through what amounts to its “Phase 1″ of films. Comparatively, Phase 1 of Marvel’s release schedule wrapped up in 2012, and Phase 2 will close out with Ant-Man’s release this summer. It’s miles ahead in its film universe, along with two successful television counterparts in Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. DC has seen a groundswell of support for shows like Arrow and The Flash, but bafflingly made the decision to keep their TV universe separate from their movies, with plans in motion to recast every hero The CW has featured.

But even with the DC/Warner Phase 1 coming into the game late, this all could end up working in their favor. Whether it’s two, three, or five years from now, eventually people are going to get bored with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU kicked off way back in 2008 and despite the devotion of comic book fans, modern audiences are mercurial at best.

Come 2020, Marvel will be clamoring for ways to keep their old properties fresh and exciting, all while DC is just getting started. Warner will have at least six to eight standalone sequels ready to roll out should they so choose. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios will already have had three (maybe four) Iron Man films, another three from both Thor and Captain America, and a devotion to not allowing the Hulk to carry his own series of movies ever again. Eventually, Marvel will be forced to fall back on their secondary heroes, and by then DC will be in the prime years of their franchise (think Joss Whedon’s Avengers circa 2012). As long as audiences continue to flock to theaters for superheroes, it’s a strategy that favors DC in the long run.

Of course Marvel Studios won’t slink away quietly. It has a huge team of creative minds devoted to keeping its insanely lucrative franchise afloat for the indefinite future. On the other side, the DC universe is less than perfect, possessing a history of flops in movies like Catwoman and Green Lantern that few will let them forget. But it has a successful model to follow moving forward, thanks in large part to its direct competitors. The only question now is whether it can capitalize in the same way.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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