Infographics Special Features

A History of DC Comics at the Cinema: An Infographic

Batman. Superman 2. The Dark Knight.

Woo-hoo! DC Comics movies rock! All-time classics!

Superman 3-4. Supergirl. Steel. Catwoman. Jonah Hex. Constantine. Green Lantern. Batman v Superman. Sadly, Suicide Squad. And, of course, Batman and Robin.

Boo! DC Comics movies suck dirt!

Obviously, opinions differ, but the point is that for a company most known for its superheroes DC Comics movies aren’t always so super. In fact, their success rate is pretty low, as chronicled in this following infographic. This is the company which birthed the superhero in the comics and then on screen. 1978’s Superman made us believe a man could fly. For better or worse, 1989’s Batman completely changed the way films are marketed and distributed. The Dark Knight won a freakin’ Oscar for acting. Try going back to 1951 and telling Superman and the Mole-Men’s cast that someday someone would win an Oscar for making such a movie! They’d laugh in your face, but probably then also ask about your fanciful dress, accuse you of being a no-good Commie and inquire about the strange thing in your hand you call, what was it, a “smartphone.” You know – standard time travel stuff.

Now, the old guard has been surpassed by the comparatively young upstart, Marvel, which also has it fair share of turkeys (e.g., the Cannon Films Captain America, the Roger Corman Fantastic Four) but has enjoyed an unprecedented run of success since 2008’s Iron Man. DC, meanwhile, well they’re stuck in negative feedback loop and perpetual promises of “we’ll get it right this time, we swear” followed by predictable, though not necessarily universal disappointment. Plenty of people love Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, and will love Wonder Woman and Justice League next year. However, a look at the company’s history, specifically their non-Christopher Nolan films in the 2000s, cautions against any optimism going forward, or at least suggests their films will continue to polarize audiences.




  1. I tend to sort those movies not by the Comic company they are based on, but by the studios which made them because, well, this is kind of the more relevant element here. So Warner Bros gets a pass for some of the outings on the list, since they didn’t made them. Still, in those terms, they are only the third best comic book movie creator in the business since I would put them over Fox’s very questionable output, but beyond Sony’s more consistent offers (though Sony doesn’t really have the number of high rated influential movies on their roster WB, it also has way less stinkers). The winner is naturally Disney/Marvel studios. Which, I guess means that you better allow comic book people to make comic book movies?

    1. Agreed. Warner Bros. can’t exactly be blamed for Superman and the Mole-Men. However, they’ve been in charge for long enough now that it really shouldn’t have taken BvS’s failures to inspire them to put Geoff Johns in charge of the films. They trusted Zack Snyder when fan and box office history suggested anything he touched would always be polarizing, and then when they set him loose after Christopher Nolan finally walked they were somehow shocked when the shit hit the fan. It shouldn’t have taken them so long to realize they needed an actual comic book guy in charge, like Kevin Feige or, indeed, Geoff Johns, instead of a mere comic book fan with some deeply unpopular opinions of the brand’s premiere characters. But they are in the widget business, and Snyder had moved widgets for them in the past and now he has infected BvS, Suicide Squad (producing credit), Wonder Woman (story + producing credit) and obviously Justice League. However, if you go even further back I must admit I don’t even know who’s really to blame for Jonah Hex and Green Lantern other than multiple reports from the involved writers and actors citing the standard Hollywood studio idiocy and interference.

      1. Well, to be fair, Snyder is used to be kind of a fan favourite because of Watchmen and 300. Naturally those movies were mostly successful with actual fans because nobody else bothered to watch it (and those who did were way more critical…personally I think that Watchmen is mostly boring and 300…yeah….but the fans eat those up for being so “true” to the source material….) but after Men of Steel they might have wanted to take a closer look. But yeah, they should have done an department specifically for comic book movies before and they needed someone who understands comics to be in charge of it…perhaps paired with a really good writer.

        I haven’t seen Suicide Squad yet, but from what I have heart, they had it backwards. They took the fans saying that SS is the GotG of the DCEU too literal, because they didn’t mean that they expected another GotG, they meant that they expected something off-beat and different (not another story in which some team has to rescue the world, this should have been kept on a smaller scale from the get go). They put way too many members in the team (GotG started out with five team members, one of them being a talking tree for a reason) instead of starting with three to five characters (including the guy warding them) and expanding later on when the first movie is successful. They picked characters based on popularity and then tried to construct a story around them, instead of thinking of a compelling mission and then fill up the team based on abilities. And honestly, the whole thing is not that complicated. Put the team together, start a mission, get to know those characters, kill off one character during the mission in a shocking turn (one the audience actually cares about at this point), have the other characters struggle and improvise because an important piece of the original plan is now missing and they need to fulfil the mission at a certain point or they are ALL dead, no question asked, let them pull this off. You don’t need the team members become friends, because they are villains and have to work together either way, but allow them to get to know each other during the mission, so that the audience can get to know them, too, so that they actually care even though they are despicable characters. End the movie with all of the villains back in prison, but learning that this first mission was so successful, they will required to do more, leaving the audience with the question if it is truly just to send those people in, no matter how bad they actually are.

        Okay, I have written a lot, but I think that is the actual problem at Warner. There is nobody who sits down and thinks about the question “what makes this character or team up compelling to the readers? What is the actual core which draws fans in? And how can I explain and sell it to a general audience?”. Instead they throw together what they think is popular and then go for the most generic plots possible.

        Not that they were ever good understanding those movies in the first place. Considering that the Batman movies are good Burton or Nolan movies respectively, but not necessarily good takes on the character itself.

      2. We can also add that Watchmen and 300 were almost just panel for panel recreations. He didn’t craft a story, he mostly just adapted.

        The failure of Snyder is that he is a fan and at the same time he lacks a writers understanding of the material as not just a comic with pictures you put in the movies but as a story.

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