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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Warner Brothers Doesn’t want Humor in its Superhero Movies- WTF?

According to a report, Warner Brothers says that there won’t be any jokes allowed in their DC Comics Supehero movies.


Let me this straight: Warner Brothers doesn’t want any jokes in their DC Comics Superhero movies.

Er…The root word of comic book is Comic. And Comics books were originally designed to have jokes in them.

Superheroes come from comic books. And comic books were originally designed to be FUNNY.

But Warner Brothers wants to make movies because in the minds of their dysfunctional executives everything has to be “real” and “serious”.

Good Gravy.

One of the four elements of comic book storytelling is humor. To take the humor out of an adaptation of a comic book such as a movie is taking ¼ of the story away from the audience.

And one of the core elements of Fantasy and Sci-Fi storytelling is humor. Every sci-fi and fantasy series ever produced from Star Trek, Star Wars The Six Million Dollar Man, Xena: Warrior Princess, Planet of the Apes, Knight Rider, and He-Man and She-Ra and Transformers has humorous elements in them. It’s an essential part of the story model for the genre.

Humor is used in Sci-fi and Fantasy storytelling to give the reader or the viewer a break from the seriousness of the storyline. To allow them to breathe. To keep them from becoming overwhelmed by the world that’s being built around them. A laugh allows the reader or the viewer to relax and not take the reality of the fantasy they’re reading about or watching too seriously.

I’ve seen fantasy such as Star Wars Episodes I-III, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (later seasons), Star Trek Voyager Star Trek Enterprise, and Man of Steel that didn’t utilize jokes and humor in their stories. And all of them were frustrating to watch because they were so technical and so focused on presenting the minutest details that they became overwhelming instead of enjoyable.

I found myself feeling frustrated and even annoyed watching films in Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. It was just too serious. It took everything too literally. Same thing with Man of Steel. Just too serious. In both cases the world being built became so ENORMOUS that the characters in them became insignificant in them. Instead of us seeing Batman and Superman, we were drowning in the worlds of Gotham City, Metropolis, and Krypton.

Good Fantasy storytelling isn’t about building worlds. It’s about telling the stories of PEOPLE. And part people’s LIVES is LAUGHTER.

Humor allows the audience to laugh. To have fun. To find some humanity in the fantasy. To find something real in the imaginary world that relates what’s going on in the book or the movie to their lives. When there’s humor and jokes, we see the characters in those worlds as people. And those people in those worlds become our friends.

Warner Brothers is afraid of “Camp” of the 1966 Batman TV series. Not understanding that the Adam West/Burt Ward Series was following the spirit of the Silver Age Batman to the letter. It was a faithful adaptation of that era’s Batman. From 1945-1968 Batman was campy and silly in the comics. And the show followed that formula to the letter.

Instead of learning from the mistakes made in the 1995 Batman Forever and 1997’s Batman & Robin that made those films bad, Warner Brothers is insisting on throwing out the baby with the bath water and forbidding its writers from using a core element of storytelling that can make a superhero film adaptation entertaining and enjoyable to the audience.

What’s interesting Marvel Studios uses humor in all its superhero movies. And all of their movies are hits. They’re literally comic books come to life onscreen and capture the spirit of comic books in film.

If one looks at the humor used in movies like Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, the laughs made us relate to Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. It made us see those characters as people. Instead of us seeing characters, we saw friends we wanted to hang out with.  

I use humor all the time in all my fantasy novelettes like the Isis series, The E’steem series and fantasy novels like TheTemptation of John Haynes. Even though the stories are serious I make it a point to put in humorous moments to give the reader a laugh and to humanize the characters and make them and their stories relatable to the reader. When I used jokes and humor, readers saw the characters as people and identified with their experiences and were so entertained by the stories that many came back to buy and read more stories.

I believe the problem at Warner Brothers is that they don’t have skilled writers, directors, producers and artists who truly understand the genres of Comic Books, Science Fiction or fantasy or the story models used in them. Which is why their movies don’t connect with the audience the way Marvel Studios do.

If we look at the employees at Warner Brothers and DC Comics currently no one has a clue on how to produce comic book or comic book related adaptations. Dan Didio has no publishing experience. And his Co-publisher and Jim Lee came into the industry during the 1990’s where many comic book writer and artists did not learn the CRAFT of storytelling in these three genres. And film Producers and screenwriters like Chris Nolan and David Goyer are so used to modernized versions of urban characters they have no understanding of the nuances, techniques or concepts applied in the genre of comic and fantasy storytelling since the inception of the genres.

As a fantasy writer with 30 years of experience, and 15 years of experience writing fantasy characters, I know humor has been a core element in comic book storytelling since the creation of the first comic strip. I know it’s been a core element of storytelling in science Fiction and Fantasy fiction since the creation of the genre. And any adaptation of a comic book, science fiction or fantasy story must have jokes in it for the audience to connect with the characters and relate to the story. What Warner Brothers is doing by telling their screenwriters to NOT put jokes in their stories is going to prevent them from producing the best quality superhero films for their DC Comics properties and will alienate most of their core audience.

Most of the executives, producers, directors and creative people at Warner Brothers need to understand that Comic books are NOT that serious. This isn’t art. This isn’t the great American novel. Or Great American film. It’s a Superhero movie; entertainment plain and simple. And the goal of a good superhero movie that entertains the viewer is to get the audience to connect with the characters in that story, not build a world where they get lost in it. Sometimes a joke can make the audience see people like Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince and Clark Kent and see what makes them and their story special. 


  1. I never really got the worldbuilding thing. Whenever I try to write a story, it's about what the characters are going to do in the plot.

  2. I don't get it either Ad.
    But some fantasy writers say they have to build the world first and put the characters second.

    For me the characters always come first. They are who the world revolves around in the story.