You may have heard that Warner Bros. has introduced a new policy to their future DC Comics universe, summed up in two simple words (that, we assumed, were delivered while yelling and slamming one’s hand on a table): “No Jokes.”
That’s what Drew McWeeny says, over at Hitfix. Warner and DC are looking at the success of stuff like The Dark Knight and Man of Steel, and the abysmal failure of Ryan Reynolds’ goofy Green Lantern, and making an executive decision. Two rights + one wrong = stop that laughing. From now on, all future DC Comics movies will be grim and dark and gritty and gritty and serious and dark: watching any future DC film will be like chewing a mouthful of gravel while your dad says you were an accident that he never loved.
You may have then heard a few other sources call foul on this report. Forbes delivered a scathing debunkment; Seth Rogen yelled “this is bullshit.” Both are valid critiques. But we here at FSR aren’t interested in all that drama-only drama. What we want to know is what the DC Cinematic Universe would look like if all laughter is banned forever.
How will it affect those comic book properties that thrive on all things comic?
As an answer, we’ve made a quick mockup of some future DC Comics films to see how they’d fare with a script devoid of laughter, along with a quick official synopsis for each. Take a look below, but be careful, DC has eyes everywhere. One minute you feel a chuckle coming on, the next you’re in an unmarked room being waterboarded with a Batman Batcopter Water Blaster.
The Captain Marvel Family
It’s all but confirmed (seriously WB, just confirm it already and end this madness) that a Shazam film is coming. And that it’ll star Dwayne Johnson, in some shape or form.
But Shazam is more than just a movie. Like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice pretends to be about Batman or Superman, but is really just here to unleash a plague of Justice League heroes on an unsuspecting audience, Shazam can serve as a launching pad for the entire Captain Marvel family. Who typically include:
Captain Marvel: Intrepid orphan boy reporter Billy Batson, who can transform into the heroic Captain Marvel by speaking the magic word “Shazam.”
Mary Marvel: Billy’s long-lost twin sister, with a similar set of powers.
Captain Marvel Jr.: Freddy Freeman, a friend and classmate of Billy’s, who was mortally wounded by a supervillain and given a portion of Billy’s powers to help him not die.
Uncle Marvel: A doddering old man who pretends to be part of the Marvel family, wearing a handmade Marvel costume under his shirt. Every time the others transform, he’ll hide in an alcove, tear away his civilian clothes and come out proclaiming “Aww, yeah that transforming stuff, huh? So cool. I’m totally a real superhero you guys.”
Tawky Tawny: An anthropomorphic talking tiger with the class and dress sense of a college professor.
Naturally, those last two have the potential to bring laughter to children, so let’s go ahead and nip that in the bud. Uncle Marvel can still be everyone’s uncle, but let’s say… he’s a dangerous abuser. And Tawky Tawny can be the pet tiger he keeps chained up in his filthy apartment, that will eventually break free and maul him to death. Also, we’ll play up the “Billy is an orphan” angle, because that isn’t funny in the slightest.
Laughing now? No? Perfect.
“When an ancient evil awakens from a 3,000-year slumber, Earth needs a hero to combat it. And because the six heroes in Dawn of Justice are all extremely busy for reasons we’ll handwave away later, a new legend is born: Billy Batson, orphan boy with the incredible power to become the hero Shazam.
Struggling to survive on the streets with no food or shelter, abused every time he tries to sleep, Billy can’t face this threat alone. So he’ll recruit a family of heroes to stand in evil’s path — his sister Mary and his best friend Freddy Freeman, both given the same miraculous powers. Together, they’ll grimacingly stand against the brutal forces that threaten to destroy us all (but again, not so destructive that the Justice League would have to get involved).”
Lobo‘s name is on every “DC Characters Who Need Their Own Movie” list in existence. Eventually, WB will be forced by an angry mob to just adapt him already. And for a studio that’s putting the kibosh on anything funny, Lobo looks perfect on paper: a superpowered space biker with a foul mouth and a fondness for dismembering people.
There’s just one problem. Lobo is kiiiind of a parody of Wolverine (the whole “badass loner who doesn’t play by your rules” thing), and his trademark constant disembowelment of others is usually played so over-the-top that it comes off as hammy. He’s the last surviving member of his planet, but only because he killed everyone else himself. That kind of thing.
Updating Lobo under a “No Jokes” policy is an easy feat, though. Remove tongue from cheek, but leave the dripping face wound that remains. For an easy origin story, go with “The Last Czarnian,” a Lobo book where he’s tasked with shuttling a prisoner across the galaxy- his old fourth grade teacher (this existence of whom proves he is no longer the sole surviving member of his home planet, Czarnia). In the process, he’ll cut off her legs and eventually kill her to keep his origin story intact. Remove the jokes, and it’s basically torture porn.
“After years of waiting, cult antihero Lobo finally joins DC Comics’ pantheon of film heroes!
Having masterminded the destruction of his homeworld, Czarnia, Lobo retreats to the backwaters of the galaxy, plotting his next move, while bringing down death and destruction on any unfortunate soul that passes him by. But when a single survivor comes forward- Lobo’s old teacher, Miss Tribb- she’ll be set on a collision course with the galaxy’s most remorseless genocidal maniac. A first for the superhero world, Lobo is a bloody look into the inner workings of evil, and the warped mind of a cold-blooded sociopath.”
Krypto is a comic mainstay. He’s Superman’s dog, with all the same powers as his Kryptonian master.
Making a dark and edgy Krypto film is far easier than you’d think. The secret? Blatantly lift the story from other dog-based media. A little Incredible Journey here, a little “We3” there, and you’re good.
Dog movies, of course, are often heartwarming. And we all know that a warm heart is the gateway drug to a chuckle, and then to a belly laugh. This will not stand. So let’s make sure Krypto is the darkest, edgiest damn dog in film. Cold. Hungry. Howling into a pitch black thunderstorm for a master who, in all seriousness, should probably be able to hear him. But he doesn’t.
“Abandoned on his home world of Krypton, Krypto the Superdog is the best friend Superman never knew he had. But reuniting with has master is no easy feat. On his journey, Krypto will face coldness at every turn, from the depths of space, to lonely nights on the street, to the sterilized metal tables of those who would pick him apart in the name of science. But Krypto will push onwards (and maul the shit out of anyone in his way) on the quest for a friend.”
Ambush Bug is one of comics’ more sparingly-used heroes, usually relegated to cameo appearances or background gags in books that are not his own. But in twenty years, when Warner Bros. have chewed through the popular stuff (a situation Marvel is fast approaching), Ambush Bug is going to be lookin’ real good.
He’s not a difficult guy to nail down. Ambush Bug wears a bright green insect suit and he has the power to teleport. Also, he cracked through the fourth wall years ago and now lives comfortably in the realm outside it. Ambush Bug’s biggest power is that he’s insane, and thus totally aware he’s in a comic book.
Does breaking the fourth wall count as something humorous? It’s not totally clear. House of Cards says “probably not,” but just to be safe, we should go ahead eliminate every single aspect of Ambush Bug that remotely resembles humor. He can still think he’s living life outside the fourth wall, but in a “No Jokes” universe the fourth wall is 100% not a real thing.
“Ambush Bug doesn’t know his real name. He doesn’t know where he came from. He only knows two things: he’s been blessed with the power to teleport himself across vast distances, and that he thinks he’s a character in a comic book.
In the tradition of past classics like Requiem for a Dream and American Psycho, delve into the mindset of the mentally unsound as Ambush Bug’s reality comes crashing down around him. What can the superhero community do when one of their own is deteriorating before their very eyes? The answer is paved with hardship, self-mutilation and other things that will leave an audience completely stone-faced and needing a bath.”
Think of Plastic Man like Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four. He’s got the Stretch Armstrong thing down, but he can take things a step further and mold himself into whatever he feels like — car, convection oven, Mt. Rushmore, pterodactyl… you get the idea. The only downside is that Plas (as he’s known to his friends) tends to wield his powers in a zany, Looney Tunes fashion. That may be construed as humorous to some.
So to enforce a policy of zero comedy, Plastic Man will follow Phil Foglio‘s 1988-’89 comic miniseries. It’s close to his first origin (two-bit criminal “Eel” O’Brian, dipped in “chemicals,” gains powers, turns to heroism), but takes things just a shade darker. Foglio still gave Plas a sense of humor (we’ll reprimand him for that later), but it was a sense of humor based around black comedy. All we need to do is get rid of the “comedy” part.
“‘Eel’ O’Brian is not a decent man. He’s a petty thief and a violent criminal. But after his gang guns him down and leaves him for dead, a freak accident gives O’Brian unbelievable new powers — the ability to mold his body into any monstrous shape he chooses. Hunted by the authorities as an abomination and racked with thoughts of suicide, O’Brian will face down his inner demons to become Plastic Man, a hero who can stand tall even if those around him just see a monster.”
What horrifically dark DC comic movie do you want to see?