With the Avengers laying absolute waste to box office records around the world, it got me thinking about superhero crossovers in general. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by them, no matter how bizarre or arbitrary they may seem to outsiders. For the Avengers, Marvel had an advantage: for decades, characters like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor have existed predominantly side by side. Over years, Marvel also placed threads and characters who would reappear throughout film after film to ease and massage the eventual transition. So what could have seemed like a clumsy pairing of wildly different personalities and skill sets came off as natural and organic.
The big question now is whether DC comics will attempt a similarly complex and lengthy gambit, or rush to get a Justice League movie up on its feet. As much of a fan as I am, I certainly hope they take their time. They ought to follow the example Marvel set, and try to reestablish (or even introduce) some of their major characters, particularly in context to one another. Besides a casual reference to Gotham City in Superman Returns, DC and Warner Bros. have been far less aggressive in linking the worlds of their beloved characters, and rightfully so. Christopher Nolan’s especially “gritty” and “realistic” depiction of Batman and his universe doesn’t exactly lend itself to the occasional interjection of colourful, super powered personalities.
At the very least, the emergence of a DC universe on film would call for a drastically different depiction of our beloved Dark Knight. It seems a little blasphemous considering how successful on so many different levels Nolan’s films have been, but all reports point to the series coming to a close this summer, anyway. That being said, why mess with what’s worked? While some (the uninitiated, I’ll call them) resist the notion of people like Batman and Superman crossing paths, to me they’re essential to one another. They’ve grown together side by side for decades, defined and focused each other by contrast.
Superheroes appeal to us losers and outcasts because they are bold, distinct individuals accountable only to themselves. They romanticize solitude, imbue loneliness with dignity and nobility. It’s no coincidence that we come upon them in our youths when we struggle to define ourselves. Guys like Batman and Superman make being alone seem okay, like it’s merely the tragic, universal burden of the truly exceptional.
But just because it’s tragic doesn’t mean it’s true. The most beautiful, comforting, important truth of the world is that we aren’t alone. No matter how strange, alien, and unique we may be, we have like minds out there. If we look, if we are willing to open ourselves up, we all have peers to be discovered. People to lean on, people who can make us stronger. Even when we have nothing, we always have each other.
No man is an island. No man needs to be. Not even Superman.