Why? Because the Justice League is DC Comics' original superhero team. Superman. Batman. Aquaman. Green Lantern. Wonder Woman. The Flash. Martian Manhunter. In the comics, they're all members of the Justice League of America. Three have big-screen backstories -- Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman -- and even those appear to be changing. Christian Bale has no plans to reprise the role of the Caped Crusader; Ryan Reynolds' Green Lantern bombed at the box office.
"I don't think Time Warner has developed the Justice League well enough. Disney had done Hulk, Captain America, and Thor movies almost as advertising for The Avengers," wrote Foolish investor lsr18 in response to a story I wrote about Warner's fast-tracking Man of Steel 2.
Fair point. No investor should want to see Time Warner wasting capital on a quixotic quest to match or even one-up the competition.
Following Marvel's formula for The Avengers at DC puts Justice League in 2017 or later, the culmination of a seven-film series in which each character gets ample solo time on screen. Right now, we have one if you only count Man of Steel, or two if you draw from The Dark Knight Rises and cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Batman.
That leaves at least five films to shoot and show between now and 2015. Only the insane (or suicidal) would try to squeeze all that in between now and then, right? Not necessarily. Arrow offers DC and Warner a way.
The bull's-eye isn't as far away as you think
For those unfamiliar, Arrow is a TV adaptation of the DC Comics character Green Arrow, in which star Stephen Amell plays Oliver Queen, a bow-wielding vigilante who seeks justice for the oppressed in his hometown of Starling City. Viewers like the concept. At one point, the show was doing better for Warner's CW Network than the hit show The Vampire Diaries. Final numbers show Arrow as the network's second-ranked show of the fall season.
A second season kicks off in the fall, and with it the opportunity to introduce new DC characters. Last season brought The Huntress, another vigilante, as well as the villains Deathstroke and China White. All signs point to appearances from Black Canary (i.e., GA's love interest) and Speedy (i.e., his on-again, off-again partner) soon enough.
Marvel is taking a similar approach with the forthcoming show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How far showrunner Joss Whedon takes the concept remains to be seen, but it's easy to imagine any number of heroes or villains guest-starring. Each appearance would expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, in a best-case scenario, create a natural film tie-in. Marvel parent Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) will broadcast Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on its ABC network Tuesdays this fall.
How far will Arrow's producers push into the DC Universe in Season 2? Anything is possible, including exploring the long-standing though sometimes contentious friendship between Green Arrow and Green Lantern.
A wider world -- revealed!
"When you consider the importance that [Green Lantern] Hal Jordan plays in the Green Arrow comics, it's certainly one of those names that we've discussed a great deal. I have Ryan Reynolds' phone number around here somewhere," executive producer Marc Guggenheim told TV Guide in a recent interview.
Consider, too, how director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer introduce Superman in Man of Steel. The story paints him as the world's first superhero. A beacon who makes it safe for others with special abilities to reveal themselves. Introduce a little Man of Steel footage in Arrow -- in a scene where Ollie is watching the news, for example -- and you've opened the show to a wider world.
To be fair, Guggenheim and his fellow producers have promised that Arrow would be a bit more grounded than the typical superhero comic book. Most take that to mean we won't see Ollie palling around with Green Lantern, Superman, or any of the other members of the Justice League.
Maybe that's how it needs to be, but I won't blame investors if they're hoping for more from Arrow. After all, a lot is riding on Warner's ability to get the most out of its DC Comics characters.
Or in terms the Emerald Archer himself might appreciate: Your quiver is full, DC. Take the shot.
Now it's your turn to weigh in. What do you think of Arrow? Should Time Warner use the show to expand the DC Cinematic Universe? Leave your comments in the box below.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney and Time Warner. at the time of publication. Check out Tim's Web home and portfolio holdings, or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
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