Batman v Superman turns into a Batman movie

So when did Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice turn into the newest Batman movie?

Warner Bros. came out with its final trailer for the movie that’s intended to launch a “shared universe” of characters from DC Comics. However, from the looks of the trailer, it looks more like a new Batman movie with an expanded cast. Or, put another way, there’s a reason Batman gets top billing in the title.

This trailer opens with Ben Affleck, the newest incarnation of the Bob Kane-Bill Finger character, in action along with an assist from the new Alfred, Jeremy Irons.

More importantly, it ends with a shot showing a surprised Superman (Henry Cavill) when an armored Bats is able to block a punch. Somehow (Kryptonite, anyone?), Batman has found an edge in what logically would be a rout.

If 2015 was “The Year of the Spy,” then 2016 is “The Year of the Superhero,” as Warner Bros. ramps up its output against rival Marvel/Disney. Warners and DC have had common ownership for decades, but DC now is directly a part of the studio. DC even moved from its long time home in New York to Warners’ digs in Burbank, California.

The studio has a lot riding on Batman v. Superman, especially after a sour 2015 at the box office.

Warners originally scheduled Batman v. Superman for July 2015 but delayed it to May 2016. But the studio slotted it for the first Friday in May, a date Marvel/Disney has owned more or less since 2008’s Iron Man. Marvel didn’t back down. It went ahead and scheduled the third Captain America movie — now Captain America: Civil War, which is more like The Avengers Part 2.5 — into the slot.

So Warners rescheduled again, moving Batman v. Superman to March, not your typical month for a blockbuster “tentpole” (in studio speak).

One shouldn’t read too much into trailers. Yet, it appears Warners is playing the Batman card heavily. From the trailer, it also looks like director Zack Snyder owes more than a little to Frank Miller’s 1986 The Dark Knight Returns comic book.

Bill Finger to get credit on Batman adaptations, THR says

Gotham promotional art

Gotham promotional art

Bill Finger, widely viewed as the co-creator of Batman, is to get a credit for his work on Batman-related adaptations, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER SAID.

Finger will begin receiving a credit on the Gotham television series “beginning later this season,” according to a statement from DC Entertainment published by THR. Finger (1914-1974) will also get a credit in the 2016 film Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice, DC said in the statement.

Bob Kane has received sole creator credit for Batman since the character debuted in 1939, including seven Warner Bros. movies released since 1989.

Finger’s contributions to the character include major revisions to Kane’s original costume (such as the cowl and gauntlets as well as a dark color scheme), the Bruce Wayne true identity, Bruce Wayne back story, the original Robin, the original Robin’s back story, etc. Finger wrote the first Batman story published in Detective Comics No. 27 and many other early stories.

In 2014, illustrator Ty Templeton did a cartoon showing what Batman would have been like without Finger’s contributions.

DC said in the statement published by THR it and Finger’s family “reached an agreement that recognizes Mr. Finger’s significant contributions to the Batman family of characters.”

In addition to Batman, Finger also co-created the original version of Green Lantern, which debuted in 1940. Finger also co-wrote a two-part story in the 1966 Batman television series.

DC has long been owned by the various parent companies of Warner Bros. DC now is part of Warner Bros. and moved to Burbank, California, from New York, the comics company’s long-time home.

‘Mr. Warner’ and creator credits

Sam Rolfe, circa 1964

Sam Rolfe, circa 1964

Fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series, for the most part, weren’t happy to see that Sam Rolfe — the major creator of the 1964-68 television series — didn’t get a credit with the movie that debuted this month.

Rolfe (1924-1993) created Illya Kuryakin, Alexander Waverly as well as the U.N.C.L.E. organization and format. The main element he didn’t create was Napoleon Solo, which had been hashed out by executive producer Norman Felton and 007 author Ian Fleming.

Felton (1913-2012) did receive an “executive consultant” credit in the U.N.C.L.E. film.

The series didn’t carry a formal creator credit. Instead it was either, “Developed by Sam Rolfe” or “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Developed by Sam Rolfe,” depending on the season of the show.

While Rolfe not getting a mention is understandably disappointing, Warner Bros., aka “Mr. Warner” on this blog has an interesting history.

In the early days of Warner Bros. television, the real-life Mr. Warner (Jack) had an aversion to bestowing a creator credit. Roy Huggins didn’t get a creator credit for either Maverick or 77 Sunset Strip. Charles Larson (the person who most likely deserved one) didn’t get a creator credit for The FBI, a co-production with Quinn Martin. On the other hand, When Maverick became a Warner Bros. movie in 1994, Huggins did get on-screen recognition.

Warner Bros. also controls DC Comics. The studio gives credit for movies based on DC characters where it has an obligation. Superman movies, for example, have a creator credit for Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Warner and DC only agreed to that in the 1970s as the first Superman film with Christopher Reeve was being prepared and there was a big public relations campaign for Siegel and Schuster.

Warners also gives Bob Kane the creator credit for Batman, although there’s evidence that uncredited Bill Finger really did the heavy lifting. In 2014, cartoonist Ty Templeton drew what a Batman without Bill Finger would look like. Anyway, Warners/DC also credits Charles Moulton (real name William Moulton Marston) for Wonder Woman.

Other than that, though, no creator credits. The 2011 Green Lantern, for example, movie didn’t credit John Broome and Gil Kane. The current Flash television series doesn’t credit Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino.

Put another way, Sam Rolfe — who wrote the U.N.C.L.E. pilot and produced the show’s first season — has plenty of company. Also that “developed by” credit probably gives the studio legal leeway in not including Rolfe in the movie’s credits.

Will creators be remembered for 2014 comic book movies?

John Romita Sr.'s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 121, written by Gerry Conway

John Romita Sr.’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 121, written by Gerry Conway

There’s a spoiler concerning Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the post below.

April 4 is the start of the comic book movie season with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The presence of SHIELD, Marvel’s spy organization, merits inclusion of the subject here. The film’s arrival raises the question how much recognition those who created the original source material will receive.

Movies made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios have settled into a pattern. The comic book creators aren’t included in the screenplay credit. But, for the most part, they show up in the long “crawl” of the end titles. Those who did the original comic story get a “based on the comic book by” credit and later there’s a “special thanks” credit for those who worked on stories the film’s writers used in crafting their story.

Example: the first Captain America film in 2011 had a credit for Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who wrote and drew the original 1941 comic book. The “special thanks” credit included Kirby and Stan Lee, among others, who did various stories that helped form the final movie.

Meanwhile, movies where Marvel licensed characters haven’t even done that much. The X-Men movies and the 2003 Daredevil movie released by 20th Century Fox never mentioned the comic book creators, for example.

For that matter, DC Comics-based movies only reference comic book creators where Warner Bros. is contractually obligated to do so. So you’ll see Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s names on a Superman film as well as Bob Kane on a Batman film. But you won’t see Bill Finger, Mark Waid, John Broome, Gil Kane or others who did comic book stories that the movies used. Jerry Robinson got a consultant credit on 2008’s The Dark Knight that didn’t say he actually created The Joker.

Which brings us to Amazing Spider-Man 2, which Sony Corp. will release early next month, having licensed Spider-Man from Marvel. The Spider-Man movies released since 2002 do include Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the original creative team on Marvel’s most successful character.

Gerry Conway, who wrote Spider-Man stories in the 1970s, has taken to HIS TWITTER FEED to let folks know one of his stories — arguably his most important Spidey tale — figures into the 2014 movie.

I see in Entertainment Weekly that Spider-Man 2 is, in fact, based partly on my Amazing Spider-Man 121. Waiting for invite to premiere.

The Los Angeles Times noticed and a post on its Hero Complex blog. Conway’s original story included the death of a major character and there have been hints that will replicated with the 2014 movie.

In any event, many millions of dollars are riding on all this as Disney/Marvel, Sony and Fox all come out with superhero movies this year, with more scheduled for 2015 and 2016. None of those films would be possible without the comic book creators who, for the most part, aren’t with us. The likes of Kirby, Simon, Kane, Finger and others have died. Creators, such as Lee (91) and Ditko (86), are at an advanced age.

Only Stan Lee, with his gift of self promotion, is remembered by much of the population. Outside of comics fans, not many are aware the likes of Kirby, Finger, Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s brother), Don Heck, Dave Cockrum, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe, etc., etc., etc., created the characters that are the foundations of the movies.

It’d be nice if that changed in 2014. But don’t count on it.

UPDATE (April 3): Gerry Conway says on Twitter he has been invited to the premier of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Happy 100th birthday, Bill Finger

One of a number of productions that would have been impossible without Bill Finger

One of a number of productions that would have been impossible without Bill Finger

Feb. 8 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of comic book writer Bill Finger, who probably should be credited as the co-creator of Batman. Without him, a number of productions, including 2012’s Skyfall, the most recent James Bond movie, wouldn’t have been possible.

Artist Bob Kane had an idea, of a Bat-themed character. But it was Finger who, among other things, changed a plain mask to a cowl, devised the Bruce Wayne true identity, the Batman back story, the Robin back story, and….well, you get the idea. It was Finger who devised much of the Batman mythos.

Without Finger, there wouldn’t have been Batman serials in the 1940s, no Batman television series in the 1960s, no Batman movies in the 1980s, ’90s and 21st century — at least nothing remotely in the form that people know them.

Indirectly, the 007 film crew also owes Finger a debt. Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, is on record as saying 2008’s The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, inspired elements of the 2012 007 film. That extends to Thomas Newman’s score, which in places sounds similar to the Batman music Hans Zimmer produced for Nolan.

Thus, without Bill Finger, there’d be no Nolan Batman movies and Skyfall wouldn’t be the same film fans remember today.

Finger, who died in 1974, less than a month before his 60th birthday, still doesn’t get officially credited as creating Batman. (Although there is a campaign to try to change that in time for Batman’s 75th anniversary.) But there’s little doubt Finger’s impact lasts long after his death.

Two questions to pass the time

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

The dog days of summer have arrived, so here are a couple of questions to pass the time until actual news pops up later.

Will Ian Fleming get some kind of credit if the U.N.C.L.E. movie gets made?

Ian Fleming’s contributions to the final version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. aren’t that many, but he did co-create the character of Napoleon Solo with producer Norman Felton. Still, the movie is to be made at Warner Bros., which often doesn’t give out credits unless it’s contractually obligated.

For example, since 1989, Warners has made seven Batman movies. Each carries a credit that Batman was created by Bob Kane. But it’s pretty much established that writer Bill Finger contributed at least as much, if not more (changing Batman’s mask to a cowl, the Bruce Wayne secret identity and the Bruce Wayne back story, among other things) to the Batman mythos.

Nor does Warners credit artists and writers who created other characters or stories that figure into the films. One semi-exception was how artist Jerry Robinson, the creator of the Joker, got a consultant credit in 2008’s The Dark Knight (it doesn’t appear until about two hours and 31 minutes into the movie). The 2011 Green Lantern movie didn’t credit John Broome or Gil Kane, who in 1959 that version of the character. The ’59 version, in turn, was based on a different character with similar powers created in 1940 by Bill Finger (him again) and artist Martin Nodell.

On the other hand, citing Ian Fleming might be an interesting talking point for marketing, even though Fleming wasn’t mentioned in the original show. But Fleming’s heirs don’t have a financial incentive because Fleming, under pressure from Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, signed away all his U.N.C.L.E. rights in June 1963.

The odds would appear to be against a Fleming credit in an U.N.C.L.E. film. In 1983, The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie had credits for Norman Felton (“based on the series originally presented by”) and Sam Rolfe (“based upon the series developed by”), the latter who created most of the show’s format.

Will Disney/Marvel blink and move Ant-Man’s 2015 release date? Walt Disney Co. and its Marvel unit were the first to claim the Nov. 6, 2015 release date in the U.S. for Ant Man, the first Marvel film to come out after The Avengers sequel in May 2015. Earlier this month, however, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures said Bond 24 would make its U.S. debut on that date, two weeks after it comes out in the U.K.

Disney doesn’t normally back down but Ant Man isn’t the most famous Marvel character with the general public by a long shot. Does Marvel really want Ant Man to go head-to-head with James Bond? You have to wonder if Disney and Marvel will have second thoughts.