Superman, Thor (Comics)

Marvel Enterprises, Inc., DC Comics

So, if you're Superman, and you heard this week that Thor—Thor!—got a release date for his movie, do you wonder what on your adopted planet you have to do to get on the calendar?

The answer might be: Be a Marvel character.

This week, hot off Iron Man's $102-million opening weekend, Marvel issued a "partial" list of eight upcoming superhero movies, everything from Iron Man 2 to Thor. All but Ant-Man had scheduled release dates.

Meanwhile, rival DC Comics' characters, from Aquaman to Wonder Woman, and with the very large exception of Batman, remain in various stages of, if you'll pardon the vulgar Hollywood expression, development.

"I really don't see a big difference between the potential of Marvel versus DC characters on the big screen," wrote Mike Voiles, editor of Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics, in an email interview.

Well, actually, there is one big difference, as comic experts like Voiles are quick point out: Marvel is its own entity, cutting its own deals, and even financing its own movies. DC Comics is a subsidiary of Warner Bros.

"Even higher profile DC properties have to fight through other Warner priorities and projects to get made," Voiles wrote.

To Jim Littler, webmaster of, the long-planned Wonder Woman movie is a prime example of the superhuman challenges a DC superhero can face.

"Warner Bros. was able to get Joss Whedon at the helm—AND THEN THEY REJECTED HIS SCRIPT! Joss Whedon of Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more!" Littler wrote in an email. "I'll bet the DC people were crying when that fell apart."

More than a decade ago, it was Marvel heroes who were having all the rotten luck in Hollywood. Spider-Man wasn't much more than a 1970s TV washout. The Fantastic Four were fit for an unreleased Roger Corman B-movie. Captain America was singed in a direct-to-video bomb.

Now, it's DC's turn. While the comic giant's characters continue to be huge small-screen players, on Smallville and in various animated series, they're getting swamped by Marvel's gang at the multiplex. Superman vs. Batman was scrapped. Justice League of America fell apart. And all sorts of cape- and tight-wearers are cooling their boots—even Superman, who's doesn't yet have a definitive start date for his next movie, two years after Superman Returns grossed $200 million.

According to Littler, DC's troubles have nothing to do with DC's characters.

"Many comic fans think DC has a much stronger lineup than Marvel does," Littler said. "I can think of at least three or four more franchises that they haven't even touched yet that could be as big as anything Marvel has put out."

Few, in fact, expect any comic-book movie to be bigger this summer than The Dark Knight, starring DC's own Batman (with an assist from Christian Bale). Filmmaker Christopher Nolan's much-anticipated Batman Begins sequel opens July 18.

Even in star-crossed times for his JLA colleagues, the Caped Crusader reigns. "I've never run into any comics fan who doesn't like Batman," Littler said.

Now, if only some of his mojo could rub off on the Green Lantern.

Here's a look at some of the upcoming Marvel-based movies, and their scheduled release dates, per the company:

  • The Incredible Hulk (June 13)
  • Punisher: War Zone (Dec. 5)
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1, 2009)
  • Iron Man 2 (April 30, 2010)
  • Thor (June 4, 2010)
  • The First Avenger: Captain America (working title) (May 6, 2011)
  • The Avengers (July 2011)
  • Ant-Man (no announced date)

And here's a look at the statuses of some of the planned DC-based movies, per

  • Aquaman: "According to Comic Book Resources, the producers want to make a screwball comedy of it."
  • The Flash: Wedding Crashers' David Dobkin was signed to direct last year.
  • Green Lantern: Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters, Eli Stone) is writing a script; Jack Black won't star—at least he promised as much back in 2006.
  • Justice League of America: "Tabled."
  • Superman: The Man of Steel: Director Bryan Singer's on board. Superman Returns star Brandon Routh's on board. Filming might begin "early next year," per Routh, who admittedly doesn't have the power to schedule such things.
  • Wonder Woman: "Sitting uncomfortably on the backburner."
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