Explain Like I’m Cool: Superheroes, on screen and off the page

Well folks, we&rsquo;re right in the midst of summer, which means that it&rsquo;s juuuust about time for yet <em>another </em>superhero movie. Now if you&rsquo;re a massive comic book nerd like me, this is endlessly exciting, but otherwise, I can understand if you&rsquo;re feeling superhero fatigue. I mean, this week we&rsquo;re getting a film about a dude who&rsquo;s superpower is shrinking down to the size of an ant &mdash; even I have to admit it&rsquo;s a little ridiculous (or ridiculously awesome). With so many different TV shows and movies about superheroes, it can be a little complicated to keep track of all the continuities and what relates to what, so today I&rsquo;ll break down the major players.</p>

Marvel Studios

Known for: The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Daredevil (Netflix series), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ant-Man

Marvel Studios are the main offender when it comes to the superhero movie craze. As the holder of the film rights to most Marvel universe superheroes (not surprising, given that Marvel made them), they usually put out two or three superhero movies every year as part of their evil/ beautiful plan to inundate moviegoers with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In addition to their films, Marvel has a bit of a TV presence, with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter airing on ABC. Unlike any other TV series, Marvel’s shows are actually directly related to films, to the point where AoS’s plot is affected by events in the films, and vice-versa.

Finally, Marvel made their Netflix debut earlier this year with Daredevil, and has plans for at least three more series over the coming years, in addition to a second season of Daredevil already in the works.

Warner Bros.

Known for: Man of Steel, The Dark Knight trilogy, next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

While Marvel has a much bigger presence in the cinematic world, in terms of comic books, DC Comics is just as big of a name, and all their films come through Warner Bros. Most Warner Bros. movies have been relatively self-contained or at least focused on just one superhero (Superman Returns, Green Lantern, The Dark Knight, etc.), though WB is taking the Marvel Studios approach and making an entire universe to contain all of its superheroes. With WB recently releasing their plans for superhero movies straight through 2020, rest assured: even if you don’t feel overwhelmed by DC superheroes yet, you will soon.

In terms of TV, Warner Bros. doesn’t have a very large superhero presence, but debuted the prequel series Gotham last year, which features the eponymous hometown of Batman years before he put on the cowl.


Known for: Every X-Men movie, Fantastic Four, that not-so-great Daredevil movie from 2003, next year’s Deadpool

Both Fox and the next entrant nabbed the film rights to certain Marvel superheroes at the turn of the century (back when Marvel could barely scrape two pennies together — how ironic), and are making the most of the superhero craze hitting. While the quality of Fox’s movies can be pretty hit or miss, they’re certainly doing their best to make sure you don’t forget that they have superheroes too, with the reboot of Fantastic Four dropping this August, and X-Men: Apocalypse and Deadpool coming next year.


Known for: Every Spider-Man movie

Even though Sony really only has the rights to one superhero, they’ve certainly done their best to capitalize on him. There have been five Spider-Man movies since 2002, making him one of the more prominent movie superheroes. However, Spider-Man movie productions have also been riddled with trouble. The new announcement of Tom Holland as Peter Parker marks the third actor to play Spidey in the last decade, and previously announced plans for a Sinister Six and Venom movie are up in the air in light of the recent Sony/Marvel deal.

The deal, for those not in the know, involves Marvel and Sony sharing one Spider-Man. While Sony still produces individual Spider-Man movies, but he’ll also be appearing in Marvel Studios’ movies, starting with next year’s Captain America: Civil War.


Known for: Arrow, The Flash, this year’s Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow

Finally, we come to CBS and its sister network the CW, which have had success lately featuring superheroes on the small screen. Starting with Arrow in 2012, which featured well-known DC hero Green Arrow, the network has increased its superhero density recently, with The Flash premiering fall 2014, and both Supergirl and DC crossover show Legends of Tomorrow releasing in the coming year. Even though the television depictions have no overlap with the planned DC cinematic universe, they are still regulated by Warner Bros.’ rules: big superheroes like Batman or Superman are a no-go, and certain characters like Deadshot and Harley Quinn were noticeably phased out of the shows in preparation for upcoming DC movies. 


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