I’m not speaking to my usual readers tonight, but if you’re among that count please stay around. The goal here is to attempt (success rate to be determined) to end a bit of internet strife and promote creativity rather than tying it down in the usual Twitter drama. No, I’m sending this out to the so-called “Snyder Bros”, the fans of Zack Snyder, the ones demanding that the “Snyderverse” make a return.
First, let me say that I’m not here to slam you or get on your case if you liked Snyder’s take on the DC Comics characters. I’ll leave that to whatever Warner Brothers is called this month. For the record I do not agree with you. Explanations are coming, but I would also like to propose a counter solution, one that if I’m right not only would give Snyder fans what they really want to see but would allow those of us who are fans of DC Comics and the proper DC universe (which I haven’t seen since Dan DiDio took over and doesn’t seem to be reforming now that he’s gone) a chance to see what we love properly adapted while having yet another option for superhero movies. Sometimes you want something light and fun, and sometimes you’re into something darker and serious.
This will require me to go over why classic DC Comics fans like myself have issues with Snyder’s take on these characters. I ask that you keep an open mind, hear me out, and if you still don’t like my proposal that’s fine. We don’t have to all have the same tastes and opinions…which is actually part of my thesis tonight.
Let me go over my history here so you understand at least my position. If you just want to get to the proposal scroll down until you see the Watchmen movie poster
I was a kid in what is known as the “Bronze Age” of comics. Some of the sillier aspects of the famed Silver Age were still there, but unless you’re a comic fan you may not know the Bronze Age, which took on some more serious storylines as well. For example, and my regular readers have heard me praise this comic to death (no pun intended), my first Batman comic was a story involving someone killing the homeless with poisoned coins. In a modern comic that probably would involve blood oozing out of every orifice or something but here she just falls dead. I was young enough to read this comic without being traumatized, grossed out, or having nightmares because back then all-ages meant all-ages. Point is the Bronze Age is one of the the things that instilled who DC superheroes and supervillains are in my mind, and if they hadn’t been I wouldn’t have been a fan because of my tastes. I became a DC fans because it was what I liked, not because it changed what I like. Even for kids that’s not possible. You have to conform to your intended audience, not the other way around.
Admittedly Saturday morning shows also played a role in what I enjoy in an action show as well as the primetime action shows. Whether it was reruns of early shows where you got away with a bit more or shows I grew up with where they had to get creative, the DC Universe was always the lighter, more fun of the Big Two. While they could get serious (again, murdered homeless people and also look up the Super Powers Team episode “The Fear” sometime) it also was willing to play with the more fantastical elements. The other comic I got the same time (it was a three pack of random comics, which they had in the 70s and 80s) was an issue of Justice League Of America where the League goes up against a mutant shark man looking to make more of his kind while the resident sorceress teamed with a robot and a stretchy detective to solve her amnesia and find her father. It takes both ideas seriously, just not itself. Meanwhile I’m watching Superfriends, reruns of older Superman and Batman material, and getting into it. It was my escape from the bullying, my own poor social skills, and would create an outlet for my overactive imagination. Whatever you may think of it, it had a major impact on me at a time I desperately needed it.
Now I’ve seen numerous interpretations over the decades. Some weren’t for me, some were totally for me, and some seemed made for me personally. This is the nature of adaptation. Heck, I’m not even as big into Superman: The Movie as most fans are, but when I watch it I do see Superman and his friends on that screen. There’s a term my readers see a lot out of me when I talk about adaptations: “multiversal continuity”. In short, these are certain aspects of a character and his/her fictional world that tells me this may be a new interpretation but it’s the same cast and concept. Certain things are different but these aren’t adapting a particular comic issue (although there have been some in recent years). It’s adapting the character conceptually but still through a particular lens based on the writer or director. I can accept that so long as I see that multiversal continuity in this alternate interpretation.
And I’m sorry, I don’t see that in Man Of Steel.
If you watch my v-log on the movie from the Walmart-sponsored early showing you will see I did not hate this movie. As a superhero origin movie I actually thought it was rather good. It had some good action, it’s not a bad journey for our hero, and the threat is significant, plus the locals get to help out in saving their planet. The acting is really good, I rooted for the side I’m supposed to, and in the end I’m glad I saw it.
It is not, however, a good Superman movie.
There is a difference between quality of work, which this movie wins, and quality of adaptation, where this movie fails. Events were set up specifically to make Superman the way they wanted him but in many cases it runs counter to the mythos and multiversal continuity of Superman and his cast. If you’re about to tell me “but we need to see him become the Superman we know” then it didn’t happen in this movie. Why doesn’t Superman kill? Because Jon and Martha Kent raised their son with good morals, to respect life, and that his powers don’t make him better than anyone else. He just can do things others can’t. Superman killed in the comics? He doesn’t seem bothered by it after the initial scene where he snaps Zod’s neck. In the comics the times he did came with repercussions….which he put on himself. In one story he has to come to grips with what he felt he had to do, going on a space pilgrimage to reconnect with his moral center. In other story set in an alternate timeline he strips himself of his powers entirely because nobody with that much power should play judge, jury, and executioner. In other stories even if he’s forced to he’s not happy and still tries to find an alternative until every option is attempted. In Man Of Steel? He screams and then in the next scene drops a satellite drone on the general who set it to follow Superman around, then began his first day as a reporter, a job he only seemed to take because his girlfriend worked there. I could nitpick a bunch of other things as well, and Snyder’s interpretation of Jonathan is an article in itself but I think I made my point.
What we saw in this movie worked for an original character but not as a Superman adaptation because it ignores all the aspects that made Superman a cultural icon. If you changed character names the only thing “Superman” would be the blown up planet and farmland childhood. You know what else had that? Brightburn. Would you call that a Superboy adaptation? I only know the plot and I know that’s not the case. (I’m not into horror movies.) However, if Man Of Steel followed the adventures of Steelman and his lady friend Elaine Johnson would you have made that connection beyond the superficial? That’s the essence of multiversal continuity. Snyder showed he can make a fascinating superhero movie, but Snyder’s own comments in interviews shows that his viewpoint on superheroes runs counter to the DC Universe’s traditional view on superheroes, especially the line about how if you don’t think superheroes would kill you’re living in a fantasy world…ignoring that this is a fantasy world, but I’m trying to segue into my compromise. I haven’t seen Batman V Superman and not having HBO Max I haven’t seen the Snyder Cut of Justice League but I did see the Wheadon cut and my big problem with it was that the two tones clashed horribly as Warner Brothers, hearing from the DC fans, attempted to course correct at the wrong time, then tried to silence the Snyder fans when they objected, ignoring the DC fans who didn’t like the cut either. I did a review of the Wheadon cut when I finally got to watch it and I will agree it’s not very good but not for the same reason as Snyder fans.
Thus I present my alternate proposal to the “Restore The Snyderverse” and the recent “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” hashtaggers. Yes, I’ve heard the latest Warner Brothers rumor about regretting releasing the Snyder Cut, and I do understand why you enjoy the film/miniseries even if I don’t share your sentiments. My all-time favorite movie is The NeverEnding Story, and it turns out was based on a book with an opposite message. I wouldn’t blame the book’s fans for being as upset as the author. Learning this I do actually hope the book’s fans get a proper adaptation, but the original will always be my favorite or at least among my favorites and I couldn’t bring myself to watch a different take. So I do get where you’re coming from, and hopefully you’ve been open-minded enough to see where I’m coming from. Thus I propose this.
Instead of restoring Zack Snyder’s DC universe, would you accept Snyder simply creating his own superhero universe?
Take the ideas for his DC universe that totally doesn’t fit a proper DC universe adaptation and instead create something completely new. Looking over his film history he has done original works among the many adaptations in and out of DC comic properties. He’s doing a new project now with Netflix. It’s not like he couldn’t create his own superhero universe, and given his current “star power” in Hollywood I’m sure he could get it made. Warner Brothers only has an issue with the DC Snyderverse because die-hard DC fans and casual Superman and Batman fans look at what Snyder made and winced. The bright tones, the hopeful optimism, and the fun either aren’t there or aren’t the traditional version of those characters. However with original characters Snyder can do whatever the heck he wants.
Don’t think that could work for some reason? In a way Snyder helped prove it could.
Watchmen was originally a twelve issue limited series, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. The collected trade was on the New York Times Best Seller list for years back when that was trustworthy (there have been reports of companies buying their way onto it), which is rare for any kind of comic, graphic novel or not. However, the characters in that story that made it to Snyder’s film were exactly what I’m proposing to you in this article.
The Watchmen characters’ inspirations came from a recently (at the time) purchased superhero pantheon from the folding Charlton Comics. Moore wanted to use them to tell his darker “real world” superhero story but DC wanted to use their new properties in the regular DC universe, and a story like the one Moore pitched would have messed that up, especially for characters new to the DC readership who didn’t read the Charlton versions and more so for the readers that did. Thus Moore used those characters as templates for a new superhero story. Rorschach was originally going to be a character called The Question, Owlman may seem like a second rate Batman but he’s based on the second Blue Beetle, and Doctor Manhattan was a huge change from Captain Atom. The list goes on but the point is that these new characters were given a new setting, a world with a hugely different timeline where superheroes aged and created a new version of world history based around their interference in various wars and other historic events, some of which no longer happened because of their presence or at least didn’t happen the same way.
This turned out to be the best thing for Watchmen. When you take on an existing property, be it adaptation or continuation, you also take on their fans. Otherwise the thing was a failure and you wouldn’t be adapting or continuing it. Nobody’s asking for updates of Sonic Disruptors and if you have to look that up you just proved me right. Popularity breeds continuation and adaptation. If you don’t think fans of the Charlton Heroes wouldn’t have been piiiiisssssssssseeeeeeeeeddddddddd to see what Moore would have done to their favorite heroes the moment they already made a worrying move to a new publisher that didn’t have the same history with them, imagine another Zack Snyder movie, Sucker Punch, given a bright and colorful makeover. Heck, since we’re talking Watchmen, imagine if this had actually been made.
It’s funny because it never really happened…but it could in theory. You would have hated that show, and I’m not sure I would support it…and I defend Rambo: The Force Of Freedom. Not James Bond Jr. though. Let’s not get crazy. Moore was free to set up a whole alternate universe and do whatever he wanted with and to the characters because there was no history to ignore or existing fans to get angry. The end result is one of the most beloved stories in comics with a large fan base…some of whom became writers who didn’t understand why the story worked but that’s a whole other rant.
So imagine if Zack Snyder had the same freedom to tell his superhero story. Give us Steelman, Dark Crusader, Princess Blade, Speedster, The Cybernetic Man, and their battle with Demonian and his invading army fighting over the Compubox. Yeah, we’ll know where they came from or maybe we won’t. Not everybody made the connection between the Watchmen and the incoming Charlton heroes because Moore went so far different with their characters and Gibbons designed characters and gear with little to no link to those heroes’ iconic looks. As far as anyone knew these were new characters. I mean, by now Superman’s power set is so used that it’s no longer special. It’s what he does with those powers and his view on humanity that separates Superman from…say, Omni-Man or Homelander. Snyder’s superhero view may not be a good match for the DC Universe but it was perfect for the Watchmen Universe and that movie gets a lot more praise than any cut of Batman V Superman or Justice League. Now consider what he could do with something completely in his control.
So maybe instead of restoring a movie universe that is only popular with Snyder’s fanbase and those whose tastes run the polar opposite to the source material, let him create his own universe. Many DC fans do enjoy Watchmen because it isn’t destroying their favorite characters and can be interested in more than one take on superheroes in general, just not those specific characters. Sometimes you’re in the mood for something different, and a completely original Snyderverse will end up bringing more fans rather than the current division between Snyder’s fans and those who love the characters as they already existed. Not every director is right for every project just because they’re good in their chosen area. Imagine a rom-com by Clive Barker or a blacksploitation movie directed by John Hughes. Odds are they wouldn’t be as good to fans of those genres. Snyder rejects the DC Universe that DC fans want but those same fans liked Watchmen and the only adaptation complaint I hear is that the squid was replaced by Doctor Manhattan. I hear the home video version includes animated sequences based on a part of the comic that wouldn’t have fit in the theatrical run. (Snyder does a lot of director cuts, doesn’t he?) This is total freedom without any of the baggage of an existing property. DC fans get their universe adapted the way they want (hopefully), Snyder fans get the Snyder-type superheroes they want, and people on both parties might better enjoy the other.
Of course if you’re one of those people who thinks everything needs to reflect your tastes and it’s garbage if it doesn’t, I will mock you as the “everything for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” crowd. I didn’t need MY version of my favorite movie but I still love it without shame, so I’m not coming down on you for preferring Snyder’s “DC Extended Universe”. The problems made are not Snyder’s alone and Warner Brothers should just start over. By going original Snyderverse instead of DC Snyderverse the options are much greater with a much greater chance at reward. At least give it a thought before you reject it outright.