May 28, 2023

DC Studios head James Gunn recently turned heads and got people talking with comments in an Empire interview regarding whether or not a crossover between big-screen Marvel and DC superheroes was in the cards. Gunn noted such a concept was years away from ever becoming a reality, but did note that some conversations had occurred over the topic and, given his extensive experience in both companies, it was an event that was more possible than ever before. A project that allows Spider-Man and Superman to crossover and shake hands would undoubtedly make Disney and Warner Bros. executives both do cartwheels in joy. However, it’s doubtful that colliding these two disparate universes would result in anything that would be less than a big o’l mess.

Why DCU/MCU Crossovers Are a Problem

Image via DC Studios

James Gunn himself openly noted one issue, at least for now, with doing this crossover when he talked about this subject in the first place. Specifically, Gunn mentioned that his DC Universe still needs time to find its footing and establish to audiences what exactly it even is. There are a lot of negative perceptions around the idea of DC blockbusters floating around in the public consciousness and, for good and for ill, the shadow of previous DC projects helmed by directors like Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan loom larger over future Superman and Batman titles. Gunn and fellow DC head Peter Safran, not to mention the various writers and filmmakers tasked with handling these iconic crime fighters, have got their work cut out for them in making sure the DC universe doesn’t just feel like a rehash of the past.

Gunn’s clearly conscious of this issue, though that problem still doesn’t erase the fact that even acknowledging or having conversations about the subject of a Marvel/DC crossover still feel incredibly premature. Let’s see if we even want to experience one solo outing with the new Supergirl or Booster Gold before trying to contemplate how those iterations of those characters would fare tangoing with Deadpool. There’s so much work to do in the DC Universe that the very idea of entertaining the concept of a Marvel/DC crossover feels like trying to imagine a sprawling shopping mall when you’re still trying to get your lemonade stand off the ground.

However, the issues here with this potential crossover go way deeper than just issues plaguing the DC Universe in its gestating state. The idea of Marvel and DC characters crossing over also feels like the absolute worst concept for this moment in superhero movie history. As these projects get bigger and bigger, to the point that an Ant-Man movie is now a grimmer action-heavy affair emulating the Avengers features, these productions need to slim down and get in touch with reality to make their stories worth investing in. Throwing scores of superheroes into one movie just to realize a branding executive’s dream would be the total opposite of the proper response to this genre’s current scale problem.

RELATED: James Gunn Explains How ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Is Different From the Previous Movies

Even in the Comics, Marvel/DC Crossovers Haven’t Been Instantly Iconic

Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man comic
Image via Marvel and DC

Marvel and DC characters crossing over is nothing new. In fact, it’s happened quite a few times over the years in the comics. Throughout the 1990s especially, characters like The Punisher and Batman would duke it out in one-off comics while a series of Marvel/DC showdown comics even offered fans a chance to vote for who could win in the various bouts between Spider-Man and Superman. These various comics, unfortunately, offer further insight into how Marvel/DC characters converging into one movie just wouldn’t offer much in the way of substantive or even entertaining storytelling.

For starters, there’s the little fact of how many of those Marvel/DC comics duels were decided by readers, not writers with distinct creative visions for how these fights and interactions should go. There was an acknowledgment here that fans would become so innately irritated by any outcome that didn’t fit their headcanon that there could be riots in the streets. There’s just too much in the way of fan expectations to ever make these kinds of crossovers anything remotely interesting artistically. The very concept of Batman and Wolverine shaking hands is meant to placate geeks and generate online discourse rather than take these fictional heroes in exciting new directions.

Meanwhile, none of these crossover comics have ever really become that famous or iconic. Compared to the Civil War storyline over at Marvel or the Blackest Night saga over at DC, both of which have lots of fans, the various Marvel/DC crossovers in the comics aren’t especially famous or groundbreaking. There aren’t dialogue or action beats from these comics that have become seminal and even the artwork from these various crossovers didn’t do much visually with the idea of colliding two disparate universes. Green Lantern and Silver Surfer teaming up to fight baddies should’ve been a momentous event that echoed throughout the halls of comics history. Instead, it’s just faded away into an oddball trivia item.

Studio Politics Would Undoubtedly Play a Role in a DCU/MCU Crossover

Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014 (1)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The precedent set by the comics for this crossover just not being as exciting or momentous as it should be is already intimidating. But it also can’t be ignored that various studio politics would undoubtedly get in the way of making a Marvel/DC crossover even worse than the comics version of such a mash-up. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery own Marvel and DC respectively, and these companies would inevitably get into all kinds of skirmishes, ego duels, and everything else in the pursuit of a movie that united their disparate characters. Trying to navigate all that red tape, not to mention fan expectations, would inevitably create a suffocating creative environment for such a potential project. Who could even come up with fun ideas of how Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel could be buddies with such looming problems?

There’s no end to the potential problems created by a prospective Marvel/DC crossover movie. While there were also endless issues to crafting classic superhero movies like The Avengers and The Dark Knight, the difference there was that those were, in many ways, underdog titles. Nobody had done a superhero crossover film like The Avengers before and who thought it would be possible to translate The Joker into the world of Michael Mann’s Heat before 2008? By contrast, a Marvel/DC crossover movie is much like how Steven Spielberg described the possibility of directing the original Harry Potter films: just guaranteeing a bunch of money in your bank account. That kind of creative security, not to mention all the other problems interwoven into the very fabric of this enterprise, should ward away people from pursuing a Marvel/DC crossover even if, now that James Gunn is handling DC Studios, it’s more possible than ever.

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